Determining what to charge for your services is one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make as a professional coach. Set a coaching rate that’s too low, and your business won’t be sustainable. But if you overshoot what your ideal clients are willing to pay, that’s not a long term recipe for success either!
In this article, we’ll explore how to confidently set your coaching fees. In the sections that follow, you’ll learn:
- How to find industry benchmarks and average life coach rates
- Why you need to think beyond an “hourly rate”
- How much YOU need to earn to be viable
- The way most coaches really earn a living
- How to establish a Signature coaching program
Coaching Industry Intel
The good news is that you’re not operating in a vacuum. There are tens of thousands of coaches successfully doing business today, which means we’ve got some serious market data to work with!
There are many sources online that publish life coach salaries. From the Bureau of Labor to PayScale, you’re going to see a wide range of figures. It's not that average coach salary data is difficult to find - the challenge is in deciding which figures are most credible.
In our view, the International Coaching Federations’s ICF Global Coaching Study is THE go-to source for industry information and analysis. Conducted once every four years, this expansive research study analyzes responses from more than 22,000 coaches worldwide. In this article we’re referencing the ICF’s most recent results, published in 2020.
We’ve poured through its contents to simplify what the survey reveals, and how those findings relate to you.
Here’s how the numbers break down by coaching specialty:
- Life coaches average $130 per hour
- Business coaches average $330 per hour
Now let’s check out coaching rates by years of experience:
- >1 year experience = $128 per hour
- 1-2 years = $152 per hour
- 3-4 years = $194 per hour
- 5-10 years = $256 per hour
- 10+ years = $321 per hour
Benchmarking data can be a useful starting point, and for many people knowing the averages can feel helpful. With that said, it’s also only one factor in determining what rate makes most sense for YOU to charge. Let’s take a look at what else you’ll want to consider.
Do you have an Entrepreneur Mindset?
Is starting a life coaching business your first foray into self employment? If so, charging your clients $100 or more for an hour-long session might feel like a big leap at first! Feeling tentative about this is perfectly normal. The important thing is that you don’t transfer that uncertainty onto your clients.
Many who are just starting out wonder, “Am I really worth it?”
If that’s you, chances are you may be wrestling with Imposter Syndrome. If you need some tools to help overcome it, check out this resource: How to Handle Imposter Syndrome (As A Life Coach).
Our best advice? Price your services correctly from the start. For many new coaches, this may require a mental shift from an “employee” mindset to that of a professional service provider.
Here’s a quick example to illustrate the point:
The average annual coach salary in North America is $66,500. If that translated to a standard 40 hour a week job, your “rate” would break down to $31.85 per hour.
So why are even brand new coaches charging 3-4 times that amount?
Simple: for every hour you spend with a client, there are several hours required behind the scenes to run your coaching business. As a new life coach, the way your energy gets divided may surprise you at first!
Many life coaches spend 40% of their time doing marketing, 20% handling business and administrative tasks, and 20% of their time in client sessions. The rest of the time may be devoted to other services they offer.
As your coaching practice and reputation grows, these ratios will most likely shift away from business administration and sales to more direct client hours. Even so, you’ll always need to dedicate a certain amount of time toward running the business and attracting new clients (or hire someone to handle this for you!)
As a business owner, you’ll want to separate the idea of an “hourly rate” from what you charge for a coaching session. What life coaches charge reflects the market value of the coaching services being provided. Your fee should be at a level that ensures your coaching practice is sustainable.
So, with all this in mind - what’s the right way of pricing a coaching service?
What’s Your Ideal Client Willing to Pay?
When it comes to pricing a coaching package, your mindset isn’t the only thing that figures into the equation. You’ll also need to consider the mindset and realities of the clients you are planning to serve.
As you no doubt noticed above, there’s a big spread between what different types of coaches are charging. Can you guess why that is?
A great deal depends on who is paying your fee, what results the client expects from working together, and how they perceive the value of those outcomes.
Business coaches have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line, and can help drive higher performance and earnings. There’s often a clear return on investment from dollars spent on coaching. The benefits of “life coaching”, on the other hand, are equally real… but may not be as easily translated in such quantifiable terms.
If you know a business investment is likely to pay itself back several times over, the cost/benefit is simple to measure. But when it comes to personal transformation, what evidence might your client need to be assured that the investment they are making to work with you will be worth it?
To discover what people might be willing to pay for your coaching services, consider the following:
- What’s the outcome you’re offering, and how can you prove you’re able to deliver it?
- Do you have a sense of how much disposable income your ideal clients might have to work with?
- What are their attitudes and beliefs about making a large financial investment in themselves?
- Is the coaching you’ll provide primarily for personal or professional growth? Will their employer be sponsoring the coaching fees?
Not sure who your ideal clients are? If you haven’t decided what your coaching speciality is, you’ll want to do that! For insight into what’s trending, check out our guide: 20 Hottest Life Coaching Niches.
How to Set Your Coaching Fees
Let's start with some basic math. You may have experimented with some of these calculations already, but if not then now’s the time!
FORMULA: Desired Net Income + Expenses + Taxes ÷ Annual Hours = Hourly Rate
Here's how to get to the numbers you'll plug into your formula:
- What’s your desired NET income? (How much you’ll "take home" after taxes & business expenses)
- Estimate your annual business expenses. (Website, scheduling tools, software, equipment, space, insurance, etc.)
- Identify a flat tax rate based on your personal situation. (28% is a standard place to start if you’re not sure)
- What’s the number of hours you want to work? (Include however many holidays, “paid vacations, etc. you want so you can calculate the actual number of days you intend to actually work per year!)
- I want to earn $75,000 NET
- I think my expenses will be around $8,000
- I'd like 10 national holidays, plus 4 weeks of vacation
- I plan to work 5 days a week, with 4 billable hours per day
This comes out to 230 days of work, which translates into 920 billable working hours.
Now let's plug those numbers into the formula to calculate the hourly rate you'll need to average in order to meet your net income target:
$75,000 net + $8,000 expenses + $21,000 taxes/ 920 = $113/hour
Know How Coaches Really Make A Living
Remember that ICF coach salary survey? It reveals another fun fact that’s useful to know as you're considering how to make a sustainable living in the coaching industry. Check this out:
More than half the coaches surveyed have more than one income stream.
In other words, the majority of professional coaches are doing something in addition to working with clients in one-on-one coaching sessions.
Other income pathways include:
- Group Coaching
- Membership Programs
- Guest lecturing
Combining 1:1 coaching with other offerings doesn’t just increase your annual revenue. Diversification is also a smart strategy for buffering against the natural ebbs and flows in your coaching roster. Sometimes you may be working with 15 clients at once. Other times, you might have just 2 or 3 people on the books. Having multiple revenue streams can help even out that ride.
Many of the "other services" that coaches offer act as a pipeline for attracting new 1:1 clients. One or two low priced entry offers can lead to high ticket coaching package sales down the road.
Points of entry services include e-books, pre-recorded classes, online workshops, webinars, and membership programs. Done well, these products can provide you with “evergreen” income while also building an audience for your other services.
Looking for other ideas on how to put your coaching skills to work? Check out Careers in Life Coaching: Options and Opportunities. This handy guide includes a list of companies that hire life coaches.
How to Create a Signature Coaching Package
Beyond bundling coaching packages into sets of 5 or 10 consecutive sessions, a “Signature” coaching program offers participants a clearly defined experience. We're talking now about programs designed to help clients achieve a particular outcome. Your Signature offer is about guiding people through the process of transformation within your particular coaching specialty or niche. For this reason, Signature programs command a premium price.
So how do you create Signature coaching services?
1. Define the result
What will you help your ideal client achieve? To create a coaching program that sells, begin by identifying the transformation participants can expect from your program. Ideally, this is clearly stated in 12 words or fewer, using language that resonates for your potential client.
Sample offer statements:
- “I help women overcome stress and anxiety, naturally.”
- “I help singers transform into extraordinary artists.”
- “I help professionals and businesses break through career plateaus.”
- “I help exhausted women take their energy back.”
- “I help LGBTQ+ folks become rejection proof.”
2. Develop the structure
Consider what components you plan to include in your program, and how long will it take to achieve the desired results. 8-12 weeks is considered the “sweet spot” for many coaching programs. That's generally long enough to achieve results, but not so long that people begin to lose focus and momentum.
Come up with your weekly themes or topics, along with exercises and homework that will stay constant for all participants. Throughout the program, expect to also layer in action steps that are uniquely tailored for each client.
Decide what the experience looks like inside the program.
- How will the weekly lessons be delivered?
- Is it a live experience, or will you be providing a pre-recorded online coaching course?
- Will it consist of 1:1 sessions with you, or group coaching?
- Is it meant to be an individual experience, or will there be a community component such as group calls or an online discussion forum?
- Will you be enlisting other experts to contribute content and add to the overall experience for your clients?
Remember that whatever you come up with today isn’t set in stone. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and make changes to the program as you go.
Transformation has value, and a Signature program that delivers on the promised results is worth more than the sum of its parts! In this sense, there isn’t a standard formula for figuring it out. Programs in the 8-12 week range are priced anywhere from $1,000 - $5,000 (and beyond).
Some factors to consider when setting your price point:
- What expertise do you bring to the table?
- How much experience do you have coaching people within this niche?
- Is your program still in BETA testing?
- Do you have a track record of helping clients achieve the transformation you’ve described for the program, along with testimonials to back it up?
If you haven’t already done so, consider doing some market research at this stage. Are there similar services out there in your niche? What do they entail, and what’s the pricing look like?
Adding It Up!
Whether you're delivering one on one coaching, or plan to offer a Signature coaching program, remember that your initial pricing isn’t set in stone. This is one reason why some coaches choose not to publish coaching rates. As you learn, adjust and grow your approach or program, and accumulate client success stories, you may quickly decide to adjust the price.
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