Free Coaching For All!

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If you try to stay on top of the news in our coaching and mentoring industry, then you will probably have noticed that ever since we’ve been affected by Covid-19, more and more free coaching and mentoring is being offered these days.

Of course, there have always been coaches and mentors who will offer a free session (or two) to attract new paying customers or do some volunteering on the side, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We are talking about bigger initiatives that seem to have spread across the globe. Examples of this include the NHS offering free coaching and mentoring to healthcare professionals, banks offering free coaching to businesses and individuals who have gotten into financial trouble, free life-coaching being offered to those who find it mentally hard to deal with our new reality, and universities setting up free coaching centres to support their students in their continued (now virtual) education.

Yet, ICF research published last year showed that most coaches have seen a drop in their income as a direct result of Covid-19. How can that be? Well, we haven’t done any extensive research into this seemingly contradiction, but we have noticed that in some cases volunteers are doing the job, and we also assume that contracted professionals may quote differently for a parttime or fulltime coaching job then for a one-off coaching assignment.

So, is this whole free coaching hype good or bad for our industry? To be honest, we don’t know. There are both pro’s and con’s in this situation.

One the one hand, free coaching and mentoring offered by volunteers, or by professionals at a discount, devalues our service. Many professional coaches and mentors have invested significantly, in time and in money, to become the seasoned professionals that they are. A return on that investment is only fair. There is also a risk that those offering these services without the right background (e.g. experience, training, etc) devalue the services by not delivering quality. And of course, how can a professional coach or mentor still make an income, when others give their services away for free (or at a discount)?

But you could also see this development in a different light. Clearly, these developments are a recognition for our industry as a whole, as coaching and mentoring is seen as a good solution to help people deal with the bigger problems at hand. With more free services being offered, also more people will experience the support of a coach or mentor. If done well, that can demonstrate the value of working with a coach or mentor to them, which positively impacts the reputation of our industry and may lead to more business for all moving forward. And if done not so well, doesn’t that demonstrate that there are benefits to working with a real professional?

As with so many things, it isn’t black or white. But as an industry, we should ask ourselves what we can learn from this, and what should we do with those learning to strengthen our industry moving forward!