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When clients can’t afford you

stockvault-man-shaking-a-piggy-bank127892What does it mean when clients “can’t afford” you? This is such a powerful learning, when you finally get it…

“Can’t afford” to hire you means they don’t want you enough. That’s all. The bottom line is if someone doesn’t hire you, they don’t see the value you give as worthy of the sacrifice. That doesn’t mean you don’t provide great value. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be well paid. They just don’t see an urgent connection between what they want and what you offer. Either you aren’t giving them what they perceive they need, it’s not important enough to them, they don’t really believe in their own potential, or you’re offering what they need but you’ve dropped the ball in communication.

When someone tells me she “can’t afford” me, I always take the opportunity to point out that it’s more powerful–and honest–for them to say, “It’s not an economic priority for me at this time” instead of “I can’t afford” it. I’m totally cool with not being an economic priority! Nothing wrong with that!

As a coach, I feel it’s unethical to allow (even prospective) clients to relieve themselves of responsibility for their choices. I will not collude with their dis-empowerment. It is PROFOUNDLY disempowering to make money or time a scapegoat, an excuse for not doing something. This doesn’t serve them. And it can be quite LIBERATING to be given total permission to say “No. Other things are a higher priority.”

At the same time it takes enormous self-management to hear someone talk about having trouble coming up with money for food or rent. Everything in me wants to say, “Don’t hire me! You can’t afford it!” (And I’ve done that, much to my regret.)

It is ALWAYS their call to make. To give a discount, to give it away for free, or tell someone they can’t afford me is, essentially, saying “You don’t have what it takes.” Ewwww.

As my good friend Christopher Howard likes to say, “The problem is never a question of resources. It’s a question of resourcefulness.”

The people I take on as clients want me so badly that they’ll do whatever it takes to hire me, and they thank me. The moment I find myself trying to convince someone to hire me, I need to pause and acknowledge we probably aren’t a good match for coaching at this moment, and say so.

Ironically, this hands off approach (trying to “overcome objections” tends to bite me in the a**) is often enough to motivate people to come back and hire me. And if it doesn’t, we weren’t a good match, and I have no problem with that.

I’ll add one last word: I find it helps to be CRYSTAL CLEAR about what results a client will get, how they’ll know, and when. I never promise “you will make money,” but I can tell them precisely what I can guarantee. And I stay absolutely in integrity about what I can promise and what I can’t.

  1. Col says:

    Awesome insights! I *love* the phrase, “It’s not an economic priority for me at this time.” Not only is it so much more accurate but what a great energy-shifter too, for the person saying it. Much more empowering than the “a” word, which always gave me the creeps 😉

  2. Moria says:

    What a Great read!

    I agree with Col, it really Is an energy-shifter.

    That’s how one should frase it when it comes to Anything they feel they can’t afford.


  3. Maria says:


    I love your tips and insight. I run into this all the time and your perspective really helps me align mine. Since I have been reading your tips I have also had more clients that don’t even question the money 🙂

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