Which is the better coaching consulting business model for you: One-to-One vs Group Programmes vs Membership vs Online Courses.

Title reads Which is the best coaching consulting business model for you one-to-one vs membership vs group programme vs online courses. Janine is a white woman with shoulder length mid-blonde hair. She's laughing with her arms down by her side and looks to the left. She wears a denim shirt and bright pink and red lightweight summer trousers and white trainers. She stands in front of a brightly coloured hoarding with giant light bulbs on it.

Let’s say you’re a 1:1 coach or consultant.

Even if you don’t have enough clients at the moment, you’re busy.

You’ve got to keep the marketing up, to prospect, do the admin, keep on top of client work, create the content, share the content, follow up with leads and somehow sleep and eat too!?

Now, if we’re to believe the hype, moving from serving clients from one-to-one to one-to-many should be a miraculous cure-all, right?

Condense umpty-twelve 1:1 client calls into one group call? Yes please!

Make sales oh-so-easy by selling more at a lower price? No brainer!

Future-proof my business with an infinitely scalable business model? Hello uncapped income forever! 

In reality, that’s not how it plays out.

In this blog I’m going to compare the four most business models from the point of view of a coach or consultant.

I’m going to use these four factors as measurements:

  1. Audience size needed to make it a viable option for you right now.
  2. Quick cash factor- in other words, how quickly could you make some decent money if you tightened up your messaging, offer and marketing.
  3. Whether or not it’s adaptable to the client’s needs.
  4. What level of impact you can have on the client with each one.

Here’s the table:

And now let’s go! 

1. One-to-one coaching and consulting

Let’s kick off with my favourite. And, for the purposes of this blog, I’m going to assume that you’re currently earning most of your money from one-to-one services.

The reasons I love one-to-one so much are many-fold, including:

  • They allow you to help your clients the deepest and in the most profound way
  • It’s adaptable to your own favourite work pattern and you can achieve a lot with few calls. Most of my clients see their clients only once or twice a month. This means they can orchestrate one or two weeks away from client work per month to help them focus on visibility and audience building activities like speaking and podcasting.
  • There is no set way to do things- you can serve face-to-face in person, on Zoom, on a messaging app like Whatsapp or Voxer. Or a mixture. It’s up to you and the way you want to work.
  • It allows you to explore other opportunities. Mainly work with solo business owners and then a CEO of an SME approaches you? No problem. You can explore it as a one-off and see how it goes without jeopardising your focus.

Probably the biggest benefit of operating primarily on a one-to-one basis?


Practically every business owner I meet wants simplicity for their business.

Our lives are busy and increasingly complex.

For heaven’s sake let’s make our businesses as simple to manage as possible!

But so many people seem to be pushing the move to a one-to-many model.

While this can be absolutely appropriate for some coaches and consultants, for the majority, they’re just not ready yet.

It’s not about years under your belt or how skilled you are or how much training you’ve done. It’s about audience size and robustness of your sales and marketing machine.

And you can’t build an audience and have a robust sales and marketing machine without nailing your niche, (*shudders* Read about my love/ hate for niching for coaches and consultants here.) clarifying your magnetic messaging and making sure what you’ve got is a sizzling hot offer.

If you haven’t done these things before you launch a one-to-many offer, you are going to find it a total slog.

Audience Size Needed- One-to-One Programmes

Part of the simplicity of running a one-to-one business is the fact that you need fewer leads and you can have a very small audience and still make good money.

Is a larger audience helpful? Of course. The larger your audience, the more in demand you’ll be and the more you’ll be able to charge for your services.

But compared to the other business models, one-to-one is the most forgiving when it comes to audience size.

Quick Cash Factor- One-to-One Programmes

One-to-one services allow you to earn the most in the shortest period of time. FACT.

The reason for that is the price to volume ratio.

Everyone knows that one-to-one services are highly transformational. They’re at the top of the food chain. And so you can charge the most for it.

You therefore only need one or two sales to massively impact your bottom line in any given time frame.

Assume your niche, messaging and offer is clear of course…

Adaptability to clients- One-to-One Programmes

One-to-one is also the most flexible.

Client has a personal crisis? No problem.

Realise that what they said was their problem wasn’t really their problem? You can flex your approach or advise.

Client had an epiphany about their goals and wants to change what you’re working on together? Absolutely fine.

I once had someone change their target audience about two thirds through a group programme I was running before. It completely scuppered all the progress we’d gained so far. Again, this is why I include one-to-one calls in The Freedom Giver.

Your timescale, call patterns and approach can adapt from week to week, month to month.

Client impact – One-to-One Programmes

Communicating with people on a one-to-one basis is the path to greatest impact. Nuff said.

2. Group Coaching programmes versus one-to-one coaching and consulting

I think the assumption is, when it comes to launching a group programme, that you can magically smush all your one-to-one client calls into one weekly call and Bob’s your uncle.

I can tell you from experience, that’s not how it goes. 

To make a group programme work, you have to define your niche so sharply that it cuts like Paul Hollywood’s steely gaze through a nervous baker’s resolve not to doubt their choice of flavours. (Never choose matcha, bakers. Never. 🤢) 

Basically, moving to a group format will highlight any woolliness in your current messaging.

And when niching, by definition, you’ll either be narrowing down or pivoting away slightly from your current audience. This means it could take you months to build your authority and audience back up again before those leads start a’flowing. 

Oh and don’t forget the relentless recruitment of more participants while building out the curriculum and doing all the aforementioned BAU stuff simultaneously. #Knackering

Audience Size Needed- Group Coaching Programmes

You could conceivably fill a modest group programme with only a few hundred people on your email list (as long as they’re the right people) and a thousand or so followers on your favourite social media platform (as long as they’re the right people). 

Or, if you’re well networked and/ or frequently appear on other people’s stages e.g. event speaker, podcast guest or guest blogger, you might be able to fill it with no probs. Mind you- it’s harder to control the people who know you through these channels, and you won’t be able to sell to consumers of those pieces of content unless you manage to get them onto your email list…

In my experience of helping a wide variety of coaches and consultants, the ones who are able to fill out their group programmes with ease are those who already have an established and consistent presence with their own podcast, YouTube channel, blog or TikTok account. 

In other words, they have a sizeable, warm audience and have probably managed to hone their niche and messaging through the process of consistently producing content over the past few years.

That said, if you do want to ‘scale’ your coaching or consulting business then launching a group programme is the next logical step. 

My definition of scaling is to give yourself a business model that, in theory, could handle vastly higher volumes of clients with only you at the helm.

My definition of scaling is NOT earning more.

You absolutely can earn more with your one-to-one practice without changing your business model.

For more on this read 6 Ways To Work Fewer Hours And Still Grow Your One-To-One Coaching Consulting Business

Quick Cash Factor- Group Coaching Programmes

If your group programme content is on point and you’re providing enough support, then you don’t have to charge bargain basement prices for your group programme and you can earn some decent revenue reasonably quickly. 

HOWEVER, the majority of coaches and consultants approaching the prospect of filling a programme will be tempted to think: 

“If I sell a group programme, I can charge less per person and then it’ll be easier to sell, so I won’t need all these extra leads that Janine is wanging on about.” 


Selling at a lower price DOES NOT make it easier to sell. 

Write that on the blackboard 100 times and no going out at play time.  

The main impact of charging less is that you have to sell more than ever to make the same money. Which is total pants.

Adaptability to clients- Group Coaching Programmes

Let’s face it, one-to-one is the only way of working with clients that is totally adaptable. You can shift and move to whatever problems or challenges they arrive with. Which is why I included one-to-one calls in The Freedom Giver. 

But out of the remaining business models, group programme is next in the pecking order for adaptability. You get to speak to people directly on group calls and in any community channels you might have e.g. Facebook Group, Slack or Circle. 

The main purpose of the group programme and any curriculum you have created will obviously stay the same though.

Client impact – Group Coaching Programmes

While there’s no replacement for face-to-face deep work, people can achieve good results in a group programme as long as the client-to-facilitator ratio remains at no more than about 10-1. I was in an excellent group programme last year. The lead coach aimed for no more than 40 people in the group and there were never any more than 10 people on a call. 

So If you’re wanting something infinitely scalable, do consider that when thinking about a group coaching model, it might not be the bottomless porridge pot that you think it is. Any more than 15 people in the group and you’ll probably need to recruit some more team members to help facilitate and caretake the group. 

I’ve crafted The Freedom Giver as a kind of group programme hybrid- it includes one-to-one calls to make sure that no one is ever left behind and to make sure the client impact is as high as possible.

3. Memberships versus one-to-one coaching and consulting

It feels like memberships have been losing favour recently as a business model. Noone sees them as ‘passive’ income any more. It’s quite obvious how much work they entail. But watch as I try and stay objective when weighing up the pros and cons of the memberships business model! : )

Audience Size Needed- memberships

Memberships are much more scalable than a group programme. In theory, you could have hundreds of members. It does make it harder to keep on top of who everyone is and, if you get that big, you’ll probably want to hire a community manager or two, but scalable it most definitely is.

And with higher volumes of clients wanted comes exponentially more leads and therefore more people needed in your audience. 

The people I’ve spoken to who have memberships (many of whom have subsequently closed down their memberships) find the constant recruitment of new members and stream of people leaving each month a bit of a grind. 

But if you’re a natural community builder with a big audience, a membership could be the perfect business model for you.

Quick Cash Factor- memberships

I don’t know many (any?) people who’ve managed to stuff their pockets full of cash within a few months having launched a membership. This is a long term commitment and it’ll take consistent promotion and caretaking of your members. 

Adaptability to clients- memberships

In one way memberships are not at all adaptable to your members. The structure is there. The point of focus is set. But, you can cater to the changing needs of their members over time e.g. adding new courses to the vault or getting different guest experts in to speak in response to feedback from members. 

Client impact – memberships

Generally speaking, memberships are much lower impact than group programmes and working with people on a one-to-one basis.

However, I will say this- the networking opportunities can be worth the price of the membership alone if you’re a skilled ‘connector’. 

And of course there are some memberships whose sole purpose it is to meet other likeminded people. 

So if that sounds like you, and you want to move away from coaching or consulting, a membership could be a good step for you. As long as you’ve got the big audience and energy to keep the membership going long-term.

4. DIY courses versus one-to-one coaching and consulting

Last and probably least, we have DIY courses! No sorry, I shouldn’t say that. It’s a perfectly viable business model. 

But the people I know who have DIY courses at the heart of their business have been building an audience for years and have a network of courses that all support each other. 

Also, they’re not coaches or consultants as a rule. 

Audience Size Needed- DIY Courses

The cheaper the thing you sell, the more you have to sell and therefore the bigger your audience needs to be! 

Therefore, out of all the business models, DIY courses would require the biggest focus on audience building. And the greatest likelihood of using advertising. 

Nothing wrong with advertising! 

But you know what you need in place to make advertising work?

Crystal clear messaging and a compelling offer! Which is why it’s advisable to nail your one-to-one service first before exploring bigger volume options.

Quick Cash Factor- DIY Courses

You can of course charge whatever you like for your courses- they don’t have to be cheap. I once spent £500 on a DIY course. I still didn’t finish it! : ))

But we’re usually speaking much lower costs per sale versus the other options in this blog. Therefore you’d need a whopping great big list of people hungry for what you have to sell for you to make quick cash from DIY courses. 

Adaptability to clients- DIY Courses

By their very nature, DIY courses are not adaptable to clients. Although you can absolutely create a DIY course in a short amount of time in reaction to something your audience is experiencing or struggling with. So in that way, they can be quite nimble and quick-to-market.

Client impact – DIY Courses

For most 1:1 coaches and consultants, the low completion rate of courses coupled with the lack of support given to students means that their ‘making a big impact on clients’ box doesn’t get ticked.

I have tonnes of courses that I’ve bought and that I haven’t finished.

And others that I’ve finished. But haven’t implemented.

I have however seen some course sellers run live run throughs of their courses so people can get support while running through the course but that’s the exception rather than the rule. 

Another value all of my clients share is simplicity. They don’t want an overly complicated business. Complexity takes up headspace and energy. Often time and money too! 

So, on that basis, it only makes sense to start adding DIY courses to the mix when their one-to-one service has been nailed. 

Their one-to-one service is their ‘one thing’. 

Their Rome. 

Get that sorted first, then you can build the roads that lead there i.e. courses lower down in a value ladder, lead magnets and content.

Which business model is right for you? 

Depending on where you are in your business with regards to audience size and how much you value simplicity and client impact, there’s a business model for you. 

And hopefully, if you are a coach or consultant mainly working with clients on a one-to-one basis, you’ve been reassured that you can earn more from your 1:1 services without jumping ship to a more complex business model. 

Want to take it one tiny step further?

Book a free 15 minute gameplan call with me and I’ll apply my Sizzling Hot Offer Creation Process to your business so you come away with your next 3 steps to allow your 1:1 work to bring you more income, without knackering you out and without compromising results for your lovely clients. 

At the end of the call, if you want to hear about working with me, we’ll book a separate call to talk about that.