What To Do When People Want Free Help – But You Want To Be Paid

How to get paid as a coach

Here’s a note I got recently in response to a survey I did about one of my products: “I only want this if it’s free. You need to give it away – otherwise I don’t want it.”


The changes in the interwebs over the last few years have been awesome for those of us trying to reach and help more people, but also EXHAUSTING.

What To Do When People Want Free Help - But You Want To Be Paid

People are so used to getting so MUCH for free.

And that’s a problem when you are running a real business.

So, whether you are a new coach who has friends and family constantly asking you for advice or help that you’d rather be paid for (because it IS your new business), or an old hand that is experiencing the free-drain on your business, I think we should chat about it today :).

When friends and family constantly want your help

The first thing any coach experiences when going into business is your friends and extended community asking again and again for your time and expertise.

For example: “Oh that’s great that you are doing health coaching, can you tell me what I should be eating this week?”


“I’m so glad you are doing career coaching! Can you help with my resume?”

And while a big part of you wants to help (you are a coach after all), another part of you is kind of annoyed. This is what you do for a living people! You don’t have time to do it for free!

In the beginning: What to say to those love you (and those you don’t)

In the beginning, you are often asked for help face-to-face, because the people in your community are the ones who know about your new coaching endeavor.

And it’s super awkward.

Why? Well, it’s beyond hard to say no to people you like or love, especially in an area where you KNOW you could help them. So instead of getting all anxious or tied up in knots, here’s some ideas and scripts to make it easier on you!

If you can’t help or choose not to help, keep it simple. Say something like: “In another situation I’d love to help – but all of my spare time goes to my new clients right now, I know you understand.”

If you do decide to help make sure that they understand that this is more than a friend helping a friend. Instead remind them that this is real help that people pay for and therefore they should value your time.  So, say something like: “Normally I’d charge someone $200 for this, but I love you so I’ll help you for free for an hour.”  Make sure you put a time limit or boundary on what you are willing to do!

If someone you don’t know well corners you at an event or out and about, consider saying this to them: “It’s difficult to comment on your situation since I’m not your official coach. However, if you want to coach with me I’m happy to send information about how I work and how to schedule a consult with me when I’m back in my office.”

Another way to go when someone hits you up for a freebie is to say this: “I’m so sorry I can’t take on any more free clients, I’ve used up my pro-bono hours for the month already.  I’m happy to send you details about my rates and packages though – just let me know!”

What to do when people want free help, but you want to be paid!

When you get hit up on email and other channels as your business grows…

I get asked for free advice and free coaching help all the time via social media, email, and all of the other channels out there. I’ve got 40,000+ people in my community and on my email list.

When people ask me for help, my team and I simply refer them to a blog or one of my free resources, because after you’ve been around for a bit, you’ve usually answered all of the big questions in writing, so it’s easy to send them there for help.

If you are new and don’t have a blog, consider finding a few articles from other coaches you respect or admire, and send them there instead.  It’s also a great way to build your own network, because you can then reach out to the coach you admire and show them that you are helpful and worth their time: “Hi coach-I-admire, I love your stuff so much I’ve been sending some people in my community over to read it regularly!” and it gives the person in question some immediate help.

If the person reaching out to me needs a LOT of help, my team might also refer them to one of my products (naturally!), but only if I think that they are ready for that.

I also run a large free Facebook group for my career community, and people enter that group and then often send me emails because they don’t want to post publicly – but they still want free help.  In that case I take a page from Denise Duffield over at LuckyBitch and say something like this: “I only answer questions in the Facebook group where everyone can benefit from both the question and the answer.  I know that if there’s something you are struggling with, someone else is as well.”

So, I’d love to know: What’s your experience with handling requests for free help and free coaching? What are your go-to answers when someone hits you up? Let us know in the comments!

And – need more help starting your amazing new coaching business?

I have a totally practical and really fun 25 page FREE guide to help you start your coaching business from scratch and *actually* make money!  We’ve been told it’s better than The Prosperous Coach and several other books out there on the market, and it’s entertaining to boot. You can grab it right over here.