The mechanics of "choose your own price"
Inquiring minds wanted to know how I run my coaching calls, so here's a deeper dive!
A few weeks ago, I did a post about why "choose your own price" coaching calls are extremely rad. Since then, a handful of people have asked me about the mechanics of my approach. How do I frame it? What tools do I use? What's the signup and payment flow like? Etc etc. This is the post where I answer those questions.
It's worth noting that my current approach is pretty slick and systematized, but it didn't start that way. Back when I did my first few calls in 2021, I was winging it and had no real systems in place. In the two years since, and after 120-ish calls, I've learned a lot and have slowly evolved into the system you see before you today. All of which is to say, best not to overthink it at the start. Just put in the reps and make improvements as you go.
Pre-framing and sign-up
For anyone considering an unconventional pricing strategy like this, I think the most important thing you can do is communicate, as precisely as possible, what the expectations are. Offering services this way is not the norm, and if you don't clarify exactly what's going on, people will come into the call with all sorts of funky assumptions, which will cause unnecessary friction. I learned that lesson the hard way quite a few times during my Gift Economy experiment.
In my signup flow, the first place people usually land is the coaching page on the Ungated website. This is where I clarify what I do and who I do it for. I'm filtering for the type of people I'm excited to work with, and who I'm most suited to help. If these calls attracted internet marketers who just want to 10X their funnels or whatever, I would hate it, and so would they. So I use all sorts of values-coded language to make it clear what types of games I'm playing. That way, I mostly attract people who resonate with me and the Ungated philosophy, while repelling people seeking easy answers and transactional or manipulative approaches.
Then people land on my signup form, which accomplishes two things. First, it lays out exactly how the pricing works. I mention that the market rate for these calls would be $150/hr if I were selling them up front, but that people have paid anywhere from $40 to $350 for them. I also mention that I've been known to barter services and products with people, and that if they feel the call sucked, that they are under no obligation to pay anything. Lastly, I mention that I'll follow up after the call with an email containing the "choose your own price" checkout form.
After that brief intro, which is itself another filtering mechanism, I have a super simple intake questionnaire. I ask why they're booking a call and what they'd like to talk about, and what it would look like if the call exceeded their expectations. I also have a field for any links or additional context they wanna share. Once they hit submit, they're redirected to my scheduling tool, and we're off to the races.
The call and post-call workflow
The coaching call itself is whatever it needs to be. Sometimes I consult, offering practical and strategic solutions for whatever they're working on. Other times I coach, asking questions and listening and reflecting back the psychological and emotional patterns I'm noticing. Usually it's a bit of both. I'm becoming more of a shape-shifter, as I've acquired lots of different coaching tools and mindsets over the years.
When the call is coming to a close, I quickly remind them that I'll be following up with an email soon, and then we say our goodbyes. The email I send is also super simple, and I have a basic template that I customize for each person. Usually the template is enough, but sometimes I'll include other stuff, like links to resources we talked about, or a reminder that I'll follow up with them on a certain date if they asked for accountability.
I once did a call like this as a client, where at the end they gave me the checkout link, and walked me through the payment process in real time. And frankly it was uncomfortable and pressuring as fuck. It felt like they didn't trust me to do it myself, and there was a patronizing feeling to their whole "I'm going to hold your hand and walk you through this" approach that left a bad taste in my mouth. My default here, as with everything in non-coercive marketing, is to trust people fully and give them plenty of space to reflect and make their own empowered decision. And though a handful of people have not paid over the years, that is extremely rare and not worth stressing over.
One other interesting thing I do, with my checkout form, is offer The Frontier membership as a potential alternative to paying for the call as a one-off transaction. Many of the people I coach are a good fit for the membership, and would benefit from my various courses and workshops and such. So by planting that seed in the checkout form, I'm giving people another option for going deeper into my world and getting more resources, while also helping my membership grow, which is my most important priority at this moment.
As for technology and workflow stuff, let's start with the onboarding questionnaire. For this, I've been using Tally Forms for the last six months and really like it. The free version is more than enough for my needs, and probably will be for like 98% of people reading this. 10/10 would recommend.
After people submit the onboarding questionnaire, they're redirected right to my SavvyCal scheduling page, which I LOVE and which is superior in every conceivable way to Calendly. Plus it comes from a cool indie developer who's building this thing with the sensibilities of an artisan, so it makes me want to give them money. However, it's a paid tool, so if you need a highly-capable free option, I recommend Cal.com.
There's one other thing happening here which no one sees but me. I have a Notion dashboard connected to Tally, so whenever someone submits the questionnaire, their info is piped straight into the database I use to keep track of all things coaching. That way, before I do a call, I can easily see their answers and info in one place, and get myself prepared. And after the call, once I send them my follow up email, and then move them to the "call archive" status. And if they're interested in a longer-term coaching arrangement, I'll move them into the "potential long-term clients" status. The Notion dashboard has really helped me be more organized and intentional with this stuff.
In terms of payments, I currently use ThriveCart to handle all my checkouts. It's a fine tool, with a ton of customizability, and has been a steady workhorse in my business since 2017. But, my time with them is coming to an end, because as a company they do not share my values in the slightest. They are a company by hardcore internet marketers, for hardcore internet marketers, and I hate recommending them, knowing that whoever encounters their sales page is going to get hit with their hardcore "lifetime offer is disappearing soon" countdown timer bullshit. I fell for it back in 2017, thinking that the end of their lifetime deal was imminent. Six years later, the lifetime deal is still going strong lol.
If I were starting today, I would be using Lemon Squeezy instead. I'm slowly working on moving my entire payment infrastructure over to them, but for now I'm sticking with ThriveCart as LS irons out some features and customizations that I want. But make no mistake, ThriveCart's days are numbered for me, because being in integrity with the tools I use and the companies I support is increasingly important to me.
So yeah, that's all I can think to share in terms of details. If you've got any other questions, lemme know and perhaps I'll do another follow up post!
Rob's Daily Invitation
The Frontier is my happy place. It's the corner of the internet where I feel most at home. The place where I never feel rushed or pressured into strategies that aren't a good fit for me or my business. My goal is for it to feel that way for everyone who joins. So if you're on a similar journey, and starting to walk your own path, it would be an honor to explore these new frontiers together.
this was a super valuable read for me, thanks for sharing it Rob!!