A practice client is someone you agree to coach, usually pro bono, with the understanding that you are going to 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.
Benefits of Working with a Practice Client
Real world practice and application. Working with a practice client is one of the best ways to take the skills that 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 the things 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.
Coaching non-coaches. 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, and working with a practice client allows you to see what it is like to work with someone who is not necessarily familiar with coaching concepts.
Less pressure to be perfect. Having a practice client also lets you try out your new skill set and hone your coaching skills in the real world, without the pressure of having to get everything perfect right away. Because your practice client is not paying you, it relieves some of the pressure to have perfect coaching sessions. This allows you to experiment a little bit, get comfortable with the skills and tools, and figure out what works best and what does not.
See how far you have come. You also realize how far and how developed your skill set as a coach has become, and it is useful to get feedback from your practice client about you as a coach and how the coaching is going. You do not need to be a perfect coach to transform lives, and having a practice client will help you realize that.
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 own 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. If you have a son, daughter, friend, or colleague that you think would be interested in working with a coach from your training program, let the other participants know. 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, people often do not take it as seriously as when they are paying for it. The challenge with offering free coaching to clients is that sometimes, practice clients do not take it as seriously as paying clients. However, sometimes, practice clients do take it seriously, even if they are not paying for it. The difference seems to be in how a coach initially pitches the idea of doing freelance coaching, as well as how much the client actually 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 in order for him or her to understand that, the opportunity should be framed as just that – an opportunity. Let your potential practice client know what you would charge if he or she was actually 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 really experiencing coaching and increase the likelihood that he or she will continue 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 trying to get 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 him or her 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, it is recommended that you work through the 10-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 10 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 are participating 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 actually choose which ones you would like to go over in your coach-client overviews or mentor coaching.