It’s a Win-Win!
Length of coaching calls…not the most interesting topic for an article, right?
As usual, it’s about much more than that.
Today’s inspiration started with some criticism about the length of my coaching calls, then a self-doubt spiral, a conversation with my coaching supervisor, then back to reassurance and confidence. And when a cycle like that happens, I know it will make a good topic for an article. You’ll get a taste for what goes on in my brain when making decisions like this, and some ideas for how to thoughtfully question your business practices as well.
Let’s dive in!
It’s unlikely you’ve spent as much time as me thinking about the length of calls, but you probably have put a lot of thought into whatever service you provide. For some of you this kind of thinking comes naturally, but for many of you putting together the details of a service can be challenging. No matter what you create it may need client-by-client customization, and it certainly isn’t going to be a perfect fit for everyone…not even all of your ideal clients. There are lots of factors at play like time, price, deliverables, effort, energy expenditure, and so much more that changing just one thing can set off a cascade of changes. It’s easy to see how this can be overwhelming.
The hardest part is there isn’t a right answer. You could compare yourself to others who do similar work to you and find that although there may be typical offerings, there are still a wide variety of potential services. The best thing to do is ask yourself:
What is my version?
When it came to assessing the length of my coaching calls, I answered this question for myself. I know I like 50-minute calls, so I used that as a starting point for my exploration.
How do 50-minute calls benefit my clients?
- My best clients are busy business owners who are already overscheduled, so they don’t want to try to fit long calls into their day. They might even be delivering hourly services themselves, so I don’t want to throw off their schedule to try to accommodate mine.
- There’s a time and place to ramble on forever, and sometimes clients need that, but most of my clients have tried that to no avail. They want someone who can keep them on task and stay focused. They want to see change happen quickly, not spend months explaining themselves to me. The length of the calls is spacious enough to go deep, but constrained enough that we must get to the point. They can get results quicker because I don’t let them ramble.
- Clients can trust that I stick to my schedule because I reliably end our sessions before the hour is up. They don’t have to worry about being late to their next commitment.
- My neurodivergent clients are already overscheduled and double-booked, not to mention they need more support staying focused, so 50 minutes lets them see what’s possible in a contained period.
- The coaching approach I use is solution-focused, which allows us to make progress in a short amount of time.
What about 50-minute calls works for me?
- I have no problem with back-to-back calls, and I can keep my energy high for many calls in a row. I prep for all my calls at the start of the day, so I don’t need time in between calls to prep. As long as there’s enough time to refill my water and open the next client’s folder I’m good to go.
- It makes no sense to me to book a call for the full hour. If you think back to University or College, they never booked classes for the full hour because students needed to walk from one class to another. Just because we’re doing calls instead of meeting in person doesn’t mean we both don’t need transition time.
- I don’t need a lot of context to be an effective coach. I don’t need the client to share their whole backstory to get to the heart of what’s really going on. If I need more I’ll ask, but for the most part I can work magic with a client in a short period of time.
- Since the calls are typically every other week, we don’t need extra time to catch up. We can pick up where we left off and keep on going without much updating time. If there’s more to update me on, I encourage clients to email me ahead of the call.
- I like the efficiency of my time and I don’t like small gaps of unplanned time. If I had 30 minutes between calls, I would absolutely just waste that time flitting from one thing to another. I would lose my focus and it would take me more time to get in the zone for my next call. Plus, I want to work as few days as possible, so more calls in one day is good for me.
- 50 minutes feels generous and abundant, but yet not so long that I start to feel bored and like we’re filling time. It’s my job to keep us to time, but I don’t want to feel stressed about it.
As my coaching supervisor said, it’s about finding a balance between what brings out the best in me, and what supports my clients. I never want clients to feel rushed, and I don’t want to be watching the clock the whole session. 50 minutes is the perfect amount of time for me to get to what’s going on and help my clients move into action.
Does that mean that there won’t be exceptions? Of course not! I’ve previously done laser coaching with clients (15- or 20-minute calls which are more about accountability), and I also love much longer calls (my Deep Dive Calls are 2 hours where we really roll up our sleeves and get some work done). Both of these options work for different clients at different times, and I enjoy them too.
How can you question things for yourself?
Is there something in your business you just do because it’s the way it’s always been done? Would you like to be more thoughtful about it? What’s interesting about this process is maybe nothing will change, but you can stand by your decision with more confidence that it’s the right thing for both you and your clients. When I did this, I actually changed my calls from 45 to 50 minutes because even though it made only a small difference time-wise, it shifted my perspective a lot.
So here are some questions to get you started. You’ll notice I always start with the big picture, then we can look at the little details.
What lifestyle do you want?
Does the decision align with your values and desires?
What fits your business model?
How do you do your best work?
Is it sustainable?
What works best for your favourite clients?
What do you like about it?
What do you dislike about it?
What would you like to change, if anything?
Give them a try and let me know how it goes!
Takeaways and Next Steps:
- You can have your business and services in whatever way makes sense for you and your clients. Just because they aren’t the norm, doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
- Balancing how you do your best work and what is most supportive for clients is the key
- If there’s something in your business you’d like to reconsider, use the prompt questions above
- Whatever you decide now doesn’t have to be permanent or work for 100% of your clients. It’s okay for things to shift as your business model shifts.
Looking for an alternative to the mainstream business advice you read online? Stephanie gives you practical guidance to do business on your own terms. No nonsense, thorough, and immediately useful, these weekly emails cut to the chase of what you really need to succeed without compromising your values or working yourself into the ground. To get articles and behind-the-scenes business insights delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to her weekly Permission Slips here.