ONLINE COACHING: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

I’m often asked, ‘how much do you charge for online coaching?’ Or ‘what can I expect to get from an online coach?’ The answer is an annoyingly vague ‘how high is up?’ I thought I’d put together an overview of the costs involved, what you can expect and what you should look out for when taking on an online coach. The following is based on my own experience and knowledge, some coaches may run their coaching differently, but this will give you some insight into the industry.

What is an Online Coach?

An Online Coach in health and fitness is someone who can, using an online medium, impart the necessary knowledge and develop the life skills to effect meaningful change and produce the desired results for the client.  It is not simply someone who can email you a random exercise programme or eating plan. It is a skill that requires a thorough understanding of exercise and or nutrition and most importantly, human behaviour. An online coach requires finely tuned instincts, since they usually have little or no physical contact with their clients, and therefore a limited feel for what the client is capable of doing, particularly when it comes to exercise. The success of any online coach lies in his or her ability to teach their clients the skills necessary to bring about lifestyle change. Good coaching is about fostering relationships, appreciating people’s uniqueness and creating a plan accordingly- it takes a pretty special person to get this right!

Costs involved

There are 3 primary factors that any coach needs to consider when pricing his/her online coaching programmes:

  1. Time:-

Coaches/trainers are in the business of selling time. The time that it takes to coach a client includes the following factors:-

–  Gathering and processing information including exercise history, medical history, goal setting, liaising with the client’s physician, gathering and processing assessment data and personal information.

–  Designing a custom exercise programme and eating plan based on the information obtained.

–  Creating the coaching plan/strategy which may include:- Telephone/Skype consultations bi-weekly, weekly or monthly depending on the client’s needs; implementing accountability measures eg food and training diaries and techniques to foster new habits; email support; tracking progress and making ongoing programme adjustments; providing access to resources etc.

The extent of the coach’s involvement and the degree to which the coaching process is customized to the needs of the client will determine the time demands placed on the coach and he/she will charge accordingly.  You can expect to pay anywhere from R400-00 per month to upwards of R4000-00 per month depending on the coach and coaching package you opt for. In addition creating the initial exercise and eating plan may incur a once off set-up cost.

  1. Software:-

Many coaches use licensed software that gives their clients access to a private coaching portal and smart phone app through which clients can communicate with their coach, view their training programmes and eating plans, track progress etc. There is a fee for this software, (albeit small) that needs to be factored in to the cost of coaching.

  1. What is the price for results?:-

Coaches have a value. There are coaches out there that charge what they like! They have a reputation for producing results and therefore price themselves according to what they perceive their value to be, based on what people are willing to pay to get results. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are any better than someone who chooses to charge less (and some are just chancers), but I have no problem with anyone placing a high value on themselves (especially in an industry that is largely undervalued), provided they can put their money where their mouth is. So some coaches will charge 4 to 5k plus per month because that is what people are willing to pay for their services.

Note:- some online coaching  providers also offer onsite assessments and medical check-ups from  within their network of service providers eg  biokineticists, specialist doctors, dieticians and the like, as an add on to their package/programme, usually charged for independently of the coaching programme. This is a valuable service, particularly if you have medical problems or an exercise history that requires specialized attention and a team approach. A well networked coach who makes use of their resources for the improvement of the client is of great value.

 

Why is this information important to you, the consumer?

  •  It is  important to you if you are looking for an online coach for a number of reasons:-
  • Not all online coaching programmes are born equal. You will have a budget in mind based on what you can afford or are willing to spend. If that budget is say R400-00 per month or less, the chances are that the coaching you receive will be fairly generic (or even group coaching). Your programme will probably be assigned from a programme template designed by the coach for anyone with broadly the same goals or chosen from the exercise library of the coaching software programme with one or two modifications (unless you paid separately for a custom programme set up). Similarly, your eating plan will be more of a guideline than a custom solution. You may receive email support and coaching that tends to be more systematic and generic than specific to your needs. Finally, any highly customized support will be shown in the first month or two, after which time correspondence may die down a bit once you find your feet.

 

This is not a critical review, this type of coaching works well for some people. Furthermore, some coaches and coaching programmes manage to strike a good balance between automation and live interaction with the client.  Just know what to expect, because it is a practical reality that a coach cannot afford to devote several hours to each individual client for R400-00 per month-it’s simply not sustainable, and hence a more generic service is offered. If you are generally healthy, have some experience and understanding of exercise and nutrition, are relatively disciplined but require additional input, motivation and support from a professional you trust, then this type of coaching may work very well for you.

  • If you have little or no exercise experience, or any medical condition/pathology, a R400-00 per month online coaching programme is probably not best suited to you! In this case, it is always best to adopt a team approach towards your health and fitness, in which exercise and medical professionals (if required) work closely together to design and supervise your training. Exercise should preferably happen on a face to face basis, at least initially, ie not online (or a combination of online coaching with one-on-one training may be a good alternative).

If you opt for online coaching, a skilled exercise professional may conduct exercise sessions via skype in which he or she can guide you through each exercise and correct your form as you go, whilst gaging the extent to which you are coping with the volume and intensity of exercise. Skype/ video training works most effectively with home based exercise programmes requiring minimal equipment. In addition, coaching behaviour change and implementing client accountability measures should form a part of the offering. Due to the level of attention required, and relative skill level required by the coach, expect to pay upward of R1500-00 per month for this service.

  • You may be new to exercise or an old hand at it, but lack the skills to build any kind of consistency in your attempts to change your lifestyle. Many people fall into this category. If you do, you need the mentorship and guidance of a good coach not only to create custom exercise and eating plans, but someone who understands behaviour change who can help you formulate healthy habits and coping mechanisms according to your unique set of circumstances. This is probably the biggest area of need amongst people. This too requires a customized approach, ongoing communication, accountability measures and even consultation time via skype or in person. It is therefore also not a budget offering. These are typically your coaching programmes that range from R1000-00 to upwards of R4000-00 per month.

What Should You Look For In A Coach?

  • Someone who has the skills and credentials to safely and effectively help you get the results you’re looking for. Key amongst those skills is the coache’s ability to teach you the life skills required to bring about meaningful behaviour change.  Ask for testimonials of previous clients. Remember, you pay for what you get-the best coach in the world cannot deliver results on a R400-00 per month programme for a client that needs a higher level of intervention. Remember too though that some bad coaches think they’re good and charge an arm and a leg for very little value.
  • Ask them about their processes, methodologies and some of the services I’ve outlined above.
  • Any coach willing to take on a client with a medical history or injury history without further investigation and consultation with the relevant medical professionals is in my opinion acting unprofessionally. Expect a good coach to contact your medical doctor or ask for clearance before you exercise when indicated, they are only acting in your best interests.
  • Choose a coaching package that is going to work for you. Buying something that will not adequately address your needs just because it is cheap is a waste of money. There are plenty of free exercise resources on the internet that will serve you just as well.
  • Finally, be open with your prospective coach about your needs and your budget. A good coach will likely exercise a degree of flexibility and tailor a solution that may not be perfect, but will be an excellent alternative or starting point given budget constraints. Ultimately, good coaches are passionate about helping, and whilst they should never be expected to shoot themselves in the foot to help you, or undervalue themselves, you can almost always create a win-win solution with a bit of openness and creativity.