Practice Clients

A practice client is someone you agree to coach, usually pro bono, with the understanding that you will be trying out different coaching concepts as part of a training program. 

The following gives information and tips on how to find and effectively coach a practice client.

Real World Practice and Application

Working with a practice client is one of the best ways to take the skills you are learning in your coach training and apply them to working with actual clients. Reading about tools and skills is important and necessary when you are first learning about coaching. However, you gain so much value from applying what you are reading about in class to actual clients in the real world. This process will begin to show you the depth and usefulness of the life coaching skills you are learning, and you will develop more and better questions during class and when certain situations arise.

It can also be easy to get used to practicing your coaching skills within your training program with the other coaches. However, the real world of coaching can be much different from what goes on in your training sessions. Working with a practice client allows you to see what it is like to work with someone not necessarily familiar with coaching concepts.

Tips on Finding a Practice Client

The first step in finding a practice client is knowing where to look. It is not recommended that you coach your friend, family member, or someone else that you know fairly well. This means that you need to look a little further to find someone to work with.

Depending on which 1.0 Coach Training Program you are in, certain places may be better than others to find a practice client. Here are some potential ideas and places to look:

  • Your fellow coaches. No matter which 1.0 Coach Training Program you are in, EVERYONE in your class will need to find a practice client. Let the other participants know if you have a son, daughter, friend, or colleague who you think would be interested in working with a coach from your training program. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask the people in your class if they know of anyone who you could work with.
  • Friends, friends of friends, and everything in-between.  Use your network, and share what you are learning in your training with the people in your circle. You never know, Susie from down the street might have a friend from church whose daughter really needs some help getting through the end of the school year. Or, you just might bump into Kathy at the gym who has a friend that is struggling with her current weight loss plan and does not know what to try next.

Ironically, when people are offered something for free, they often do not take it as seriously as when they pay for it. However, sometimes practice clients do take it seriously, even if they are not paying for it. The difference seems to be how a coach initially pitches freelance coaching and how much the client wants to do the coaching program for themselves. Here are a few tips for talking about coaching and asking someone to be a practice client:

  • Avoid asking for a favor. You are providing a great benefit to your practice client, and for them to understand that, the opportunity should be framed as just that: an opportunity. Let your potential practice client know what you would charge if they were paying for the service, and reiterate the value they will get out of the coaching.
  • Treat your practice client like any paying client.  Although your practice client will not be paying, it is important to maintain the same level of professionalism and use the same type of process for following through on leads as you would with any paying client. Once you have a lead on a practice client, do an introductory interview and follow the same initial steps as you would with any client. This will make the practice client feel like they are experiencing coaching and increase the likelihood of continuing with you. 
  • Talk about the problems you solve, not what a life coach does. This applies to any client, practice or paying, but it is one of the most important things to remember when encouraging someone to sign up for coaching. Trying to explain what a life coach does or what life coaching is will not benefit you when talking to clients. Instead of explaining what a life coach does, explain to your potential client what types of problems you can help them solve. 

Using Practice Client Sessions for Overviews and Mentor Coaching

It is helpful to work with your practice client through a set number of sessions. For those coaches in the 1.0 Academic Life Coach Training Program, we recommend that you work through the ten-session Academic Life Coaching Program and Workbook with your client. For coaches in either the Executive or Wellness 1.0 Training Programs, you must complete at least ten sessions with your practice client. 

Once you have started working with your practice client, you will need to record AT LEAST three sessions for your coach-client overviews and to complete the certification requirements for your 1.0 Coach Training Program. If you participate in additional mentor coaching, you will need to record more sessions with your practice client or with additional clients. It is recommended that you record all, or close to all, of your sessions with your practice client. That way, you can choose which ones you would like to go over in your coach-client overviews or mentor coaching.

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