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Global Flipchart


March 2017
| Issue #7

So you want to start a facilitation business?

By Barbara MacKay

The very first competency required by the IAF for professional facilitator certification is called Create Collaborative Client Relationships. Being able to do this consistently is the key to building a successful facilitation practice.

It’s how you get clients and keep clients. In this article I’ll share a few tips on this, as well as four more aspects of building an independent facilitation business:

  • Knowing the price of your market
  • Gaining continuous confidence in core facilitation tools and concepts
  • Organising accessible files and bookkeeping records
  • Maintaining and nourishing your well-being on a regular basis.

Getting clients

For someone starting out, this is probably your key concern: “How do I get clients?” The first step is to “show up”. Not just in person, but in a variety of ways. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Attend professional development meetings and seminars
  • Ask colleagues for references and referrals
  • Join LinkedIn groups
  • Set up short coffee meetings with these referrals evelop and distribute a lively and informative newsletter/blog
  • Offer short free or low cost trainings and webinars in your areas of expertise
  • Get savvy with social media postings
  • Form mentoring or support groups
  • Schedule frequent and consistent check–ins with any past or potential clients.

Keeping clients

It is easier to keep existing clients than find new ones. Here are 5 easy ways:

  1. Make sure you produce the document for every client and put your contact information on every page of the document
  2. Leave your business card with more than one person in the organization
  3. Get their permission to add their name to your newsletterlist
  4. Send them helpful links and articles relevant to their business
  5. Call them yearly to see how their plan or decision is going.
  6. Most importantly, do a very good job each time. Give them more than they expect. Really learn what they need and help them get it.


Ask trusted colleagues what they are charging hourly and by-the-job. The rates now (2017) in North America are between $125-$350 US an hour or about $1250-$5000 US per day of delivery. The higher rates include:

  • Contracting
  • Preparation
  • Facilitation for the day
  • Handouts or documentation
  • Follow up meeting

The higher rates tend to be charged by people who have been in the market 10-15 years, are known and respected, and have some unique market edge.

Others charge based on their value e.g. “how much is your help worth to the client?” Some can charge a lot more using this approach.

The bottom line is, you need to cover your costs and make enough profit to live on. You likely want about 6-12 “client” days per month. Devote the rest to marketing, preparation and follow-up.

Gaining continuous confidence in tools and concepts

I cannot overstate the importance of on-going learning in the art and science of facilitation. Choose one or two seminars or conferences per year that intrigue you. Then ask other trusted colleagues about their experience with professional development opportunities - what would they recommend?

I have found that every learning event that I’ve paid for has generated new business for me. There is no excuse for not attending regular learning events - even if you are just starting out. It will also help nourish your spirit.


It is very helpful to have professional help both in setting up your files and maintaining their effectiveness. I’ve found it most helpful to file by client or organization. I set up my paper and e-filing this way:

First level folder: name of the client organisation.

Second level folders:

  • Proposal
  • Contracting
  • Background
  • Information
  • Client
  • Correspondence
  • Handouts
  • Final documents

When I get repeat business with the same client, I add a year (e.g. 2017) as a second level folder and move these folders above into that at third level.

Bookkeeping records

Having help setting up a bookkeeping system is less stressful than doing it yourself. Set up your bookkeeping system using standard file names to categorize income and expenses.

Income: Break your income into each category of business you offer, e.g. training, facilitation, coaching, products.

Expenses: Typical expense categories include: entertainment, owner’s draws, office supplies, rent, professional assistance, accounting, advertising & promotion, license fees & dues, professional development, other professional services, telecommunications, travel, website internet expenses, and vehicle expenses.

Nourishing your well-being

Running a facilitation business can be exhilarating, lonely, overwhelming, and joyous. Here are four ways that you can help look after yourself as well as your business: If you have a habit of always doing things by yourself, ask yourself how you could get some help for tasks that are challenging for you.

Make sure you have two to three friends or family members as your confidants. Seek professional advice when you are not sure. Schedule in regular special time for you! Taking a walk, a yoga session, journal writing, napping, doing a puzzle, music playing, or going to lunch with a friend or favorite colleague are my favorite things.

Please email me if you have more thoughts. Alternatively, you can search for almost any facilitation-related topic in our North Star Facilitators bi-weekly blog (awesome if I do say so myself).