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What to do when a client asks for a refund?

Seven tried and true strategies to help you navigate an uncomfortable situation as you are building your coaching business from scratch.

True story. I had a coaching client, and we were halfway through our coaching agreement.  One day, out of the blue, I received an email from him. It said, “this isn’t working out for me. I thought I would be farther along…I’d like you to send me a refund.”

I was stunned, I thought what the heck? WTF? Really? How dare he? Instantly I went on the defensive and donned my battle gear. I thought about all my clients who are very pleased and swear that coaching is the thing that moved them from stuck and overwhelmed to centered and confident. I thought about the number of referrals I receive from satisfied clients. But still, my back was up. WAY UP. I was insulted, I was hurt, I spun this around and around and damn it all I was RIGHT.

My mind chattered away for the rest of that evening. There was lots of “how dare he” and justification “I’m a great coach, look at all the people I’ve coached who are happy". Then for some unknown reason, I paused for a second. I realized I had just spent an entire evening justifying, self-defending, excuse making and not taking personal responsibility for my part of this situation.

I know, it’s not pretty to hear all of what went through my mind.

But I’m committed to being present and honest and transparent with you, so I’ve got to lay it out there for all to see.

You may or may not know this about me, but I meditate. Every. Single. Morning. And I’ve had this practice for four years at the time I'm writing this.

And when I paused something shifted, something clicked.

I realized a couple of things:

First, I had been surprised that he wanted to coach with me in the first place. During our initial sample session, I hadn’t enjoyed speaking with him, and my gut had said: "not this one". My intuition told me we were not a match for coaching. But I let my ego get in the way, and when he said he wanted to hire me, I overrode my better instincts.

Plus, I realized that I hadn’t enjoyed coaching him either. Not one bit. You see, I love individual, one on one, coaching and usually the time flies. But with this client it was different. I didn't enjoy the coaching, I checked the clock every 10 minutes and was happy when the call was over.


I was out of integrity.

As a coach, I could say, well perhaps he got scared and decided to back away from his personal development. I could guess at his motivations, but those would all be fictitious reasons because I couldn't know his truth. There is no way that I can feel or unpack his thought process, and it wasn't any of my business to do so.

I was pleased he had voiced his concern and I too could be at choice.

Even though I have a no refund policy which forms part of my coaching agreement (contract) with my clients, it is my business, and I could choose to do what I want. 

When I realized I get to choose how I respond, I realized I could choose to be in integrity, and I could decide how I want to be.

I asked myself, a few simple questions:

Question: How do I want to feel?

My Answer: I wanted to feel at peace.

Question: What do I need to do to feel the way I want to feel?

My Answer: Forgive. When I think of this word forgive it always reminds me that it is “for -  give”. What do I need to give to have peace?

Question: How can I have freedom?

My Answer: I could dissolve our coaching agreement and move on.

Question: How can I be in integrity?

My Answer: Remember my original gut instinct and follow what it tells me.

What are the lessons that I want to share with you?

I had learned that I could choose to listen to my gut the first time. This awareness, showed me if I had said declined that client in the first place I would have been free to help other clients who are my perfect match. I would have had that time back. And, I would have freed him up to find a different path.

I learned that when I create boundaries in my business, I get to choose which limits to develop and which conditions I can shift when they serve.

You may choose to use these too when you are faced with an awkward conversation while becoming a life coach.

Why do I tell you this?

First, I want you to know I'm human and I've experienced many of the emotions and fears you may encounter as you build your business. I've been there too, and I've learned better. In a nutshell, you are not alone.

Second, I want you to know that it’s crucial for you to be true to yourself when you’re building your business. If I had listened to my gut, I would have referred him to another coach, someone who could have served his needs and supported him better.

In the end, I gave him the refund and wholeheartedly wished him well. And then I let it go. I slept soundly that night, and I was at peace.

In summary, here are seven tried and true strategies to apply anytime you’re faced with an uncomfortable situation when you are building your coaching business from scratch.

  1. Listen to your gut.
  2. Decide what you need to do to remain in integrity.
  3. Ask yourself, “Do I want to be right? or Do I want to have peace/freedom/contentment/feel good?”
  4. Make sure your policies are in place and that they are clear to all clients. (that way you can still choose to be flexible if and when you want to)
  5. Act don’t react. The best way to do this is to pause and give yourself some time to decide what you want to do, then do it.
  6. Once it’s over, let it be over, don’t stew on it after the fact.
  7. If you didn't listen to your gut the first time, do it now. Don't renew with that client, have the uncomfortable conversation. It's worth it.

My goal is to help you, have your dream coaching practice. How’s it going? Is it everything you hoped it would be?  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stuck or discouraged. and you are thinking of working with a coach, schedule a Clarity Session with me at this link HERE

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