trading dollars for hours

What “I Can’t Afford It” Really Means

“I can’t afford it.” I’ve heard and read those words plenty of times in nearly ten years of growing my business, and if you’re offering programs or products in your health coaching business, I’m sure you have too.

What you may not know, however, is that those words are rarely the real reason a potential client isn’t buying from you.

The thing is, your potential client is most likely not going to express her true feeling to you directly. In fact, she may not realize it herself. It is so much easier to just say “I can’t afford it.”

In reality though, it is a very low percentage of people in the US who can’t find a way to raise the money they need for something that’s important to them.

For some people, it’s the latest and greatest TV that they prioritize, and they will open a new credit card to buy it. For your Ideal Client, her health is the priority and she’d be willing to forego the daily Starbucks run, cut back on eating out in restaurants, have a garage sale and maybe turn off the cable, in order to pay for the program or product you’re offering.

There’s always a way, and I’ve seen my clients get brilliantly creative to invest in themselves.

It’s not your job to guess what a potential client can or cannot afford. Only he knows what his priorities are and how willing he is to invest in himself.

Nine times out of ten, if a potential client says “I can’t afford it” the real reason is one of these:

“I’ve bought or signed up for a program or product like yours before, and I didn’t really use it so I’m afraid I’ll be wasting more money.”

“I’m not really resonating with you or your style (but I’m not going to tell you that).”

“I thought I was ready to make a real change in my life, but now that I’m talking to you and get the sense you *really* know what you’re talking about, I’m afraid to make this commitment to myself.”

It’s unlikely you’ll ever hear one of these true reasons. It’s so much easier to say “I can’t afford it” so that’s the main reason you will get when a potential client chooses not to buy from you. It’s important for you to know this.

In the rare case when a client is able to express that she’s hesitating because she’s afraid of making a real change in her life, you might try and walk her through this fear. When she truly sees the value of working with you and feels the very real possibility of huge results, her fears suddenly get triggered. The fear of change, of leaving her old self behind, the fear of really stepping up and having the life she dreams of.

If it feels good to do so, you might share a related story from your own past or about one of your other clients. You can tell her it’s perfectly normal to have that fear, and remind her of the cost of NOT investing in her health.

If you’re hearing “I can’t afford it” too often

Even when things are going well, you’ll still get the occasional “I can’t afford it” throughout your business. That’s OK. Let those go, and don’t even worry about it.

However, if you’re hearing “I can’t afford it” on a frequent basis, I recommend you ask yourself the following questions:

1) Am I really ready to have clients and get paid for my expertise?

It’s very possible that your own money issues are at the heart of this problem, not your clients’. You may be ignoring some of your own doubts and fears, and they’re coming through in the way you market yourself and the way you talk with potential clients.

Check in with yourself about the business you’re trying to build. Are you offering products and services you really love? Are you charging what feels really good to you? How can you clear up your own money issues?

Also notice if you’re saying “I can’t afford it” about investing in your own health, life or business. Figure out the real reasons you’re not investing in yourself and clear that up. When you’re feeling abundant, and prioritizing your money around what’s most important to you, you will attract more of the same in your clients.

2) Are you over-describing the Hows of the work you do with clients?

Many practitioners give too many details on their website and during an initial consultation about all the steps involved in the transformational process they offer their clients. Problem is, doing this can make it sound too challenging or intimidating.

Your potential client only wants to know what the possible results are, and they want to feel comfortable with you. Let the rest unfold after they have chosen to work with you. Keep your early interactions with potential clients – including your website, blog, newsletter, public talks and initial consultation – focused on the challenges they want to overcome and the results they can enjoy by working with you.

3) Are you undervaluing the work you do?

If you don’t fully see the value in your products or services, then your potential clients won’t see it either. If they can’t see the value, no price – no matter how small – is going to be right.

You have to see the value of your work, and charge accordingly. Contrary to what you might think, people are more likely to choose an expensive option over a cheap one if they see its value. The higher price tag creates the feeling that they’re getting the best (even though this is not always the case, unfortunately).

So don’t set out to undercharge or downplay the value of what you offer. Do the opposite. Make it clear how valuable your programs and products are, and then lower the price as a discount, if that feels good to you.

4) Are you asking for the sale and making it easy for your potential client to say yes?

This can sometimes be a communication issue or a tech issue. First get clear about exactly what you want to charge for the product or service you’re offering, and what payment options you will accept. If you’re comfortable offering a payment plan, be ready to clearly describe how that works, what each payment is and when each is due.

I strongly recommend you accept credit cards (PayPal is the easiest way to get started), as that’s the easiest way for your clients to safely pay you during a consultation, make a purchase from your website or even set up their own financing plan to pay for your high-end service.

Practice the money conversation with your coach or a friend, so that it flows off your tongue easily when you’re speaking with a client. Practice asking them directly if they want to enroll in your program or buy your product, and describing the price and how to pay. If you’re describing payment options in writing on a salespage, have your coach or a trusted colleague review it for you. Simple and clear wins when it comes to talking money.

5) Are you clear who your Ideal Clients are?

Health coaches often forget to add “She’s ready to change her life” to their Ideal Client description. And this shows up in the way you market your services, and who you’re marketing to. Get clear that your Ideal Client is ready to invest, ready to do the work and excited about making a transformation. Think of a former client, or friend, who fits that description, and be sure to write every word of your website content, newsletters and social media posts, with her in mind. Speak to those people – not the many unsures out there – and you’ll attract more of them to your initial consultations, thus eliminating the “I can’t afford it” excuse that’s masking the “I’m not ready” reality.

How to respond to “I can’t afford it”

When a client says “I can’t afford it”, don’t be tempted to start lowering your prices for them. Your program or product will only lose value in his eyes if you suddenly drop the price. Chances that he’ll buy from you at the lower price are extremely slim. Chances that you’ll feel good about it and enjoy working with that particular client are also slim.

You don’t have to do anything, or even respond, to a client who says “I can’t afford it”. You could say “Thanks for letting me know” and wish them well. Or, if it feels good to do so, you could consider one of these other options:

If you already offer a smaller version of the program or product your client was considering, you might offer her that as an alternative. Point out that the results will be different, but the price tag might be easier for her to commit to.

If you’re comfortable accepting a payment plan for your larger service, you can offer that as an alternative to your pay-in-full price.

Otherwise, let her know she can contact you when she’s ready to invest in herself, and until then stay in touch via your newsletter. That’s it. You don’t need to do anymore, or try to persuade her to work with you. Keep your focus on clients who are ready to work with you.

If you’re ready for more support

Knowing the real reasons behind “I can’t afford it” can shift your perspective on what’s really happening in your business. Your personal money issues might be the bottleneck, the way you over-describe your services or you might simply attract too many potential clients who aren’t ready to do the work.

If you don’t have a business coach to help you dig deeper into these questions and show you how to translate this new knowledge into effective website content, get in touch with me today. Start with an Awesome Business Breakthrough Session now and save $20 with coupon code HCW20 at

To you and your awesome business,

Heather Cottrell

Heather Cottrell shows coaches, bloggers, wellness pros and other mompreneurs how to grow your business online. Get expert support and coaching around content creation, social media strategies and digital marketing specially designed for creative professionals with a mindset for success. Find Heather Cottrell Business Services at and on Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | LinkedIn.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Heather - July 31, 2014

Great article Geoff! Heather is a wealth of information and a wonderful person to work with!

    Geoff Young - August 1, 2014

    Thanks Heather!

    Heather Cottrell - August 1, 2014

    Thanks Heather! It’s a pleasure to coach an awesome person like you. 🙂

Appul - August 21, 2014

Superb article, it’s always a matter of priority, whether you want to increase the inches of your tv, or you can improve your health.

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