Starting an Online Business: Which Coaching/Consulting Model to Choose

Are you starting an online business and wondering how to structure your coaching or consulting services? Today, I’m going to give you a step by step, foolproof plan so that you can determine which business model you should be using. I’m going to tell you the major mistakes that I see new coaches and consultants making when choosing their business model, and why these are keeping you stuck when growing your business. 

I’m Ina and I help new consultants, coaches and educational creators to start and grow a profitable online business! If you haven’t already, then make sure you check this free 70 minute webinar on my 4 steps to securing paying clients from social media – even if you’re brand new!

I use this model with all of my paid clients to show them how their business is going to grow and progress as they gain more experience, and this is the model that we’re going to dive into today. As you can see, as you ascend up this model the “passiveness” increases, so the input that’s required from you as the coach or consultant decreases. However, the traffic required to sustain this business model also increases. 

We’ll dive into each of these as we go through and talk about it in more detail. 

The “one to one” model

The first step on this model is one to one. You are effectively exchanging your time for money when you work one-to-one with clients. Now, a big mistake that I see a lot of new coaches and consultants making is skipping this step completely, and wanting to run before they can walk. 

If you’re just starting an online business and you don’t have any social proof, testimonials, or real world experience working with the people that you ultimately wish to help, then you should start by working with them one-to-one.

The reason that this is so important is because working with clients one to one is going to allow you to design your offer. Also it’s going to allow you to collect real life data; as you’re working with clients you’re going to see that the same questions, struggles and problems come up again and again. 

What you can then do is incorporate those into your program when you’re designing it. Not only that, but having this real life experience of working with your clients is going to allow you to create a signature framework or a signature offer. 

So instead of just reading about something on the internet, and just building your offer around that, you’re actually building it around real problems that real clients are experiencing. And that is really important if you want to create something that works and get your clients results. 

Nailing your messaging when starting an online business

Working closely with your first few clients is also going to allow you to refine your messaging. What I mean by this specifically is: 

  • How do you talk about your offer?
  • How do you talk about the problem that people are experiencing?
  • What specific words or language do you use that resonates with your audience? 
  • How do you frame what you are talking about?  

Nailing your messaging only becomes increasingly important as you progress to more complex business models, because you’re going to start marketing to cold traffic. Cold traffic is people who don’t already know you, so the way you communicate their problems and your solution is very important.  

If you’re just starting an online business and you’re yet to secure your first paying client, then that’s super exciting! Check out this blog post where I show you the steps to securing that first paying client.

The group coaching model

The next step on this model is group coaching. Typically, you’ll progress onto group coaching for a few reasons: 

  1. You’ve capped out at one to one clients. 

You’ve either got too many clients on the go, and you can’t take any more on, or maybe you’re just feeling a little bit stressed and burnt out from working with people one to one. 

  1. You’ve got the necessary data

You may be feeling like you’ve learned everything you need to learn from working with your clients one to one, you’ve got all of that information and that data that’s going to help you create an amazing offer and you’re ready to scale things up.

  1. You’ve built up enough of an audience 

Again, you might not have booked out your 1 – 1 practice completely, but your audience may be big enough to start taking on group cohorts. Only you can decide when you’re ready for this. 

One really important thing to consider before you start group coaching is that your pricing is going to be significantly lower than it is for your one to one clients. It goes without saying that if your one to one pricing is too similar to your group coaching pricing, that it’s not going to make the group coaching attractive. So bear that in mind! 

Now a mistake that I see a lot of new coaches and consultants making when they move up to the group model is forgetting that you need quite a large, warm audience in order to make group coaching work. So if you’re ascending up to group coaching, then just bear in mind, where are these new clients going to come from? Because you’re going to need a group of them. 

You could also consider not completely stopping your one to one coaching, but just raising the prices slightly so that you only attract premium clients. Or you might want to phase your one to one coaching out gradually, as your group coaching becomes more successful. 

Another challenge when working with groups is maintaining that same level of impact that you have on your clients in a group setting as you would with one to one. Now I’m confident that if you follow this process, and you actually work with clients one to one, you’re going to develop an offer that’s so strong that it will be able to work at scale. 

Not only that, but you’re also going to be able to bake in certain systems and processes that are going to allow you to then teach a group. So if you’re following this process, then you should be okay  but it’s just another thing to bear in mind.  

How does enrolling clients into a group differ from enrolling one to one clients?

Typically, with group coaching, you’ll have a defined launch period. You’ll only really be recruiting clients into the group during that time. You’ll be taking this group of people through the process, so you need them all to enrol at the same time. This is different to when you’re working one to one – you’re likely promoting those spots all year round, when they become available, and there’s no predefined time that people can enrol. 

Another big difference with group coaching is that you’ll have these launch periods, you’ll fill the program (however long that may be, typically 8-12 weeks), and then you’ll start to recruit for the next group. 

If you’re starting on online business, do let me know in the comments below where you are with your coaching or consulting journey right now. 

The online course or program model 

The next step on this model here is the online course or program model. My definition of this is when people are enrolled automatically now without you having to do any live launching. This is where you have all of the program or the curriculum online, and students can enrol and access it at any time of year. 

There are some online business owners who still love doing live launching, and that’s cool. But to me the beauty of online courses and programs is that you can put them on evergreen, and you can remove yourself from the selling of that product completely. Because online courses are pitched as this magical, “passive income” solution, a lot of people jump straight into them when they’re starting an online business. To me that is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make. 

I say this because if you skip working with people one to one, or even group coaching, then your course is going to end up having a lot of holes in it. So there’s going to be a lot of questions being asked by students, there’s going to be missing information that’s needed to actually help your students achieve a transformation. 

At the end of the day, you’re not going to create a really good online course this way. And because the space is becoming increasingly competitive, it’s now even more important than ever to make sure that you’re creating a course that’s actually going to provide a transformation. Whereas in the past it was enough to just collate a load of information, we’re really past that stage now. 

Another reason why it’s not a good idea to jump straight to online courses is because you haven’t proven your offer yet, and you haven’t proven your messaging. So what a lot of people end up doing is actually just spending six months creating an online course that no one wants to buy! 

Through working with one to one clients, you’re already proving and refining your offer. So that when you come to creating your online course, you know that you’re creating something that’s ultimately going to sell.

One thing a lot of people underestimate when starting an online business

The next and probably most important thing required to make an online course work is traffic. You’re going to need a hell of a lot of traffic in order to make it work. So before you progress to this model, I really suggest that you either have a large organic audience, or you have the budget to start investing in paid traffic, because you’re going to need to generate that traffic from somewhere in order to have the volume of sales required to run a profitable business. And if you’re wondering about the investment, it will be somewhere in the $6k – $8k range to give you enough to hire an ads manager or expert, and then enough budget to test with. 

The only time I would really recommend jumping straight to online courses is if you are someone who already has a large organic audience, whether that be on your email list or on a social media platform. But even so, if you’ve never actually launched this service or offer before, then you’d want to at least have a few beta students that go through your program so that you can refine it before you launch the real thing. 

Following this suggested model will ultimately help you to build a sustainable coaching or consulting business without jeopardising the client experience. At this point, I really want to dispel a myth: when you take an online course, if everything is going to be passive, and you can just pi** off and lie on a beach somewhere, it doesn’t work. 

It’s true that you won’t be fulfilling client work if you’re operating an online course business, but you’ll have other things to do in order to maintain growth. The main thing there will be actually generating the amount of traffic required to sell courses. So I just wanted to leave you with that truth bomb in case anyone is selling you the online course dream and saying that you don’t need to do any work whatsoever! 

Lots of love, as always xoxo

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