Which business model is best for you: one-to-one Vs group programme Vs membership Vs DIY courses.

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Janine is a white woman with chin length brown hair and wears a multicoloured striped jumper. She looks quizzically at the title of the blog. There is a woodland path in the background.

So you’re an established coach or mentor or have recently moved over from a done-for-you service to a done-with-you style service. And you want to grow your business. Those are my assumptions for who might benefit from this blog.

But before we dig in, what business model are you running with at the moment? Is it serving you? 

Allow me to explain what I mean by that in a series of insightful questions:

  • Are you happy with the amount you’re working? Or is it too much/ not enough?
  • Do you feel like you’re being paid enough considering your experience and the value you bring to your clients?
  • Are you clear on how you can grow your business with your current way of delivering your services?

Did you answer no to any of those? Then read on! 

If you answered yes to all of those, then your current business model is probably fine. But read on anyway, I promise to keep it light and entertaining. 

There are usually 3 elements behind the decision to switch business model or add in another service type into your repertoire:

  • How big your audience is
  • Whether you want to scale or not (and if you do, whether your current way of doing things will allow you to do this or not)
  • How urgent your need for a revenue injection is
  • Your capacity to do the actual work; both the time, energy and headspace. For instance, I’ve been told I’m a good writer, but I could never be an actual copywriter- my batteries for writing are quite small and I need to write for my own business. 

So here are the 4 most common business models people plop themselves into:

  1. One-to-one
  2. Group programmes inc. masterminds and accelerators
  3. Memberships
  4. DIY online courses

Each has their own pros and cons, which I’ll run through in this blog. 

Here’s a snap shot to wet your whistle:

There are also a million variations in between; hybrids of each of them. You can have a group programme with one-to-one calls built in. You can have an DIY course that has group coaching calls. I’m going to run through all of the ‘pick ‘n’ mix options in a future blog. Sign up to The Hot List if you want me to send it to you as soon as I’ve done it.

And of course there are other options like intensives, retreats, events, books. I won’t be covering those in this blog either, but they’re all valid ways of getting your genius out into the world and helping those people you want to help most. 

N.B. This blog is mainly focused on the services of coaches, consultants, mentors and trainers.

Some of the concepts do apply for done-for-you service providers like copywriters, social media managers, designers and VA/ OBMs but these business models tend to work better for done-with-you businesses more than done-for-you.

In this blog I’m going to delve into each of the four business model types and run through:

  • What each on actually is
  • What you need to have in place to make each one work 
  • Why each one is good/ not good for you depending on the stage you’re at in business and what your goals are
  • And rate each for scalability, ‘quick cash’ opportunities and impact i.e. how much you can help clients with them.

Let’s dive in! 

1.One-to-one 

Definition of one-to-one work in an online business

One-to-one services are when you work with a client purely on a one-to-one basis. You might meet them in person, online using software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or a mixture of both. The key point is that you’re not dealing with a team of people, it’s just you and that one client.

Green table with info in it: One-to-one services are best for getting high revenue in as soon as possible and if you have a small audience. Impact on clients is high. Scalability is low unless you get associates in to deliver work for you.

One-to-one is best for you if:

  • You’re starting out 
  • You have a small audience
  • You need to get some revenue rolling fast- the sky’s the limit on what you can charge for 121 work. No matter how expensive you feel, there’s always someone charging 10 x more. While not delivering as good a result as you- amiright??

What you must have to make one-to-one work for you

  • A robust money mindset- you’re going to need to charge good money if you want one-to-one work to constitute most of your revenue.
  • Firm boundaries- e.g. how are people going to contact you between calls? Or is that not allowed? Specify a channel, set clear boundaries and enforce it. Lay these out clearly in pre-sale content and in a service level agreement type section in your onboarding agreement.
A word on pricing

If you want to grow your business, you’re going to need to put a chunk of your time aside for things like marketing, sales, admin and accounting. 

Even if you outsource these things you’re still going to have to manage these outsourcers and monitor the results. 

In short, you’re not going to be able to work for every hour of your working week. Perhaps not even half of that time. So you’ll need to charge more to compensate. 

Check out my 6 FAQs about charging more and 5 reasons why now is the perfect time to raise your prices.

One-to-one is not so great if:

  • You want to scale. You can keep putting your prices up, but at some point you’re going to hit a ceiling of how many clients you can fit into your month and how much you can charge them for it. If this is happening to you, you have a choice. Introduce a more scalable option or start getting associates to deliver some of your work. For most people, the scalable offer option is the lower risk and easier to implement option. 
  • You have very limited time and/ or energy. I have some biz friends with chronic illnesses. One-to-one services can’t make up too much of their workload or they’d fizzle out quite quickly. Again, there are other ways to run your one-to-one work so they’re less draining, but if you are trying to be as efficient with your time and energy as possible, it’s worth considering the other options open to you.

Quick Cash factor for one-to-one work:

High. If you’re new to business and want to get some cash rolling in asap, one-to-one is your best bet. 

You don’t need much tech to get it up and running. I know people with perfectly profitable businesses based on a one-to-one model without so much as a website or presence on social media- they’re getting all their leads from word of mouth- mainly because they’d worked in corporate and had a solid network to sell into. (Although word of mouth referrals do have a habit of drying up when you least expect it.) 

If you’re not in this lucky situation, it might take you more effort to build up that know, like, trust factor, but nevertheless, if you’ve got one person to know like and trust you, what would you prefer they bought something that costs £3,000 or something that costs £30? 

One-to-one can also be good for recurring revenue. It’s common to present two (or more) ways to pay, either a lump sum or some sort of payment plan e.g. per month. I like the payment plan option because then you have some regular income in for the duration of your time with your client. Of course, this assumes that your one-to-one programme is longer than one month! 

Scalability factor for one-to-one work

Low. Don’t get me wrong, if you still have lots of time in your diary, one-to-one work is the quickest way to grow your revenue, but there is a ceiling for most people.

But you can only keep increasing your one-to-one prices so far until you’ll need to reposition your business e.g. start offering consulting to multinational instead of SME’s. That would be a big change resulting in lots of extra work trying to get in front of that different audience, repositioning your services to appeal to them, possibly changing website copy etc. 

N.B. You can of course get associates in to deliver your 121 workload on your behalf. If you go down this route, you’re moving towards an agency-style business model, which I’m not covering in this blog. Also, it would mess up my beautiful comparison chart.

For a more thorough exploration of your scaling options i.e. earning more for less expended effort, read 4 different ways to scale your business and how to decide which one’s right for you.

Impact of one-to-one programmes on clients

As long as you’re good at what you do (which you obviously are, just look at you!), people will be able to get the biggest, bestest, fastest results by working with you on a one-to-one basis. 

Mainly because you’re able to tailor your every sentence to them and really dig deep into what their goals and motivations are.

2.Group programmes

Definition of a group programme

Group programmes usually consist of taking a group of people with similar goals who are in similar situations through a process (often a training curriculum) to get to an agreed outcome. 

For example taking a group of hairdressers through the latest 2022 styles and showing them how to adapt them to their clients’ different hair types.

Or taking a group of small business owners through the process of writing copy for the 5 main pages of their first ever website.

Or like my Your Sizzling Hot Offer group programme, taking service based business owners through the process of crafting and positioning their signature offer so they don’t have to do laborious bespoke proposals any more and have people try and haggle them down on price.   

Orange table explaining benefits of group programmes: best for your first go at scaling up when you have a growing audience. Good ability to earn money and to scale. Good level of impact on your clients too.

Group programmes are best for you if:

  • You’re starting to get well-known in your space with a reasonable and growing audience
  • You’re at capacity for one-to-one work; you’re having to put people on long waitlists to work with you
  • You’re finding it easy enough to get leads for your one-to-one service

 

 

 

What you must have to make a Group programme to work for you:

  • A reasonable sized audience who know what you do. I’ve made this mistake several times. Trying to launch a group programme first too early after setting up my business; not enough people knew who I was, and I hadn’t established what I wanted to be known for yet. And later when I launched a group programme delivering a result I wasn’t known for yet. 
  • A lot of experience in your chosen area. Clients regularly come to me to set up their group programmes. It’s always easier if they know their ideal client inside and out and have an established process that they always run through with practically every single one-to-one client. 
  • A standardised result/ outcome. There are a lot of ‘done-with-you’ service providers who are still in the generalist phase. People come to them and ask if they can help with something, the coach will then usually say yes and then quote for that work, while telling themselves that they like the variety. In my wide experience of this situation from working with my clients, there’s always something that they’d really love to be known for. It just needs unearthing. If that sounds like you book a call with me and we’ll talk through your options. 

Group programmes are not so great if:

  • You’re finding it hard to sell your one-to-one offers. It’s going to be just as hard to get leads for your group programmes and now you need to find more of them.
  • You haven’t got a specific thing your known for.
  • You don’t have processes that you’ve either devised yourself or been taught by/ licensed from someone else. 
  • People don’t know who you are yet.

Quick Cash factor for group programmes:

Still high. If you design it right, the impact you’ll have on your group programme participants can be huge, the results life changing and therefore the prices you can charge are still high. 

Scalability factor for group programmes

Group programmes are the sweet spot for many business owners. They’re versatile- you could have a group programme with 4 people up to 4,000+ while still delivering amazing results for clients. 

There are some group programmes out there that give others a bad name. Stuffing as many people in as possible without any vetting and even less regard for the final results. This is ‘bro marketing’ territory. And I don’t recommend it if you want to sleep well at night.

Impact of group programmes on clients

Results of group programmes do vary a lot. I’ve been a part of small, very focused group programmes that have moved me forwards enormously, and others…not so much. It’s up to how you design them. It’s your business; don’t just follow what someone else has done with their group programme, go ahead and mix things up a bit. Craft it so that it fits around your ideal clients as well as your life and you’ll be able to maximise the impact you have on people while not sacrificing your evenings and weekends in a bid to grow your business.

3. Memberships

Definition of a membership

Memberships are a way of helping more people at (usually) a much lower cost to the end user. There’s usually some sort of community element e.g. in a Facebook group, Slack or in a community managed on your website. There’s usually some sort of learning vault where people can dip into tutorials or courses. Some have regular guest experts deliver regular sessions and/ or live sessions delivered by the membership owner(s) themselves. 

However, as with all the options described in this blog- you can run it any way you want! I’m in a Liz Wilcox’s Email Marketing Membership (affiliate link) which is pretty much as simple as it gets. For $9 a month you get one new email template to use per week and access to her back catalogue. Perfect when you’re stuck for what to write in your newsletter this week. Not that that ever happens to me of course! She has a monthly group call, but that’s pretty much it. It shouldn’t work, but it does! 

If you don’t have a big, warm audience, you’re going to struggle with this option.

I wouldn’t touch memberships with a barge pole until you have a decent sized audience and you know exactly what you’re doing. From speaking to clients and friends with memberships, they can be very tricky to get right. Many people have chosen to close memberships because they’re nowhere near the passive eutopia that you might be fooled into thinking they are. 

Nevertheless they are a scalable and very valid option for many, especially if the key reason for joining the membership is very clear for example Kay Peacy’s ActiveCampaign Academy. People join for the learning then stay for the community and ongoing support. 

Although you can have a successful membership by positioning it largely around the benefits of having a supportive community as with Claire Ferreira’s Mums In Marketing membership.

A membership is best for you if:

  • You love building communities
  • You want to help many more people 
  • You have the time and energy to pour into your membership

It’s also advisable to make your membership your main focus at least until it’s off the ground and gaining momentum. 

Yellow table summarising benefits of memberships: Best for people with big audiences who love communities, high scalability, low to medium impact on clients and good revenue possibilities if you can get the members in!What you must have to make a membership to work for you:

  • A crystal clear understanding of why your favourite people come to work with you and what results you get from them.
  • A reasonable sized audience. Let’s say at least 1,000 on your email list and growing plus thousands of followers on a key platform plus leads coming in regularly from your main channels. But the bigger the audience the better for this option.
  • The time and energy to maintain it; constantly attracting new members and nurturing current ones.

Memberships are not so great if:

  • You don’t have the energy to be present in the group forum on a near daily basis. Cultivating productive conversation Plus delivering any live material you might have promised. You’ve got limited time and/ or energy because of family obligations or ongoing health issues and don’t want to outsource any of the client interaction.
  • You don’t want to deal with the tech. You’ll probably need to invest in some sort of membership platform either for the community aspect of your membership of for the learning resources or both. This can start to be expensive depending on the complexity of what you want to do. 
  • You don’t want the extra admin. More people means more invoice queries, missed billings, cancellations, onboarding. All of it. 
  • One of the downsides of memberships is that it’s harder to define a precise outcome. The idea of a membership is usually that people will join and hopefully stick around for months if not years. How to position a compelling enough message for people to join is a sticking point for many membership owners. 
  • You like working on a project by project basis. Although you could work it so that you do have that project feeling e.g. if you had a content marketing membership you could working in quarters and have a group call to set goals for the next 3 months and then build in accountability and support with a review at the end of that period.

Quick Cash factor for memberships:

The sky’s the limit on how much you can earn for memberships but they can be deceptively time consuming. The main reason I’ve never even attempted to launch a membership myself is because so many people told me not to because they’ve closed down their memberships for the same reason.

Scalability factor for memberships:

But boy, they can be scalable. This is a container where you can sell as many spots as you like!

One of the most lucrative membership examples that I’ve heard of is Rachel Rodgers’ We Should All Be Millionaires Club. Can you tell why it’s so popular? 🤣 Last time I looked it was $250 per month. So, not particularly low ticket either.

Impact of memberships on clients

As with group programmes- it’s tricky to give a standard answer to this. 

Some memberships are glorified networking spaces (nothing wrong with that, they can be very valuable).

While others have extremely good training materials on tap with group coaching calls and a supportive community to boot. I’m in two such memberships. One of them is Atomic, check out their free Atomic Starter Plan (affiliate link).

The other is Jammy Digital’s Make Your Mark On Line. I can’t seem to write a blog without mentioning those guys. Why resist! (Also an affiliate link. I don’t affiliate unless I’ve used and loved the service btw.)

4. DIY online Courses

Definition of DIY online courses

DIY online courses aim to deliver a specific learning objective purely through online delivery that the participant can work through on their own.

The size of the final result varies wildly. Anything from how to write the perfect email subject line to how to build a successful online business from scratch. 

Obviously the lower level outcomes won’t command the highest price. 

DIY online courses are usually hosted on your website, on a plug-in like LearnDash or on a standalone learning platform like Udemy or ThriveCart. You can also deliver learning materials, step by step, using email. There’s a specific learning goal on offer and the materials are delivered in whatever format that’s best for your clients; downloadable workbooks, video, MP3 spoken word, written text or all of the above.   

DIY online courses are best for you if:

  • You have a big audience and/ or a way to generate leads on tap.
  • You have an in-depth knowledge of what your favourite types of clients want to learn. This usually only comes after a few years of running your business.

Blue table summarising benefits of DIY online courses: best for big audiences, highly scalable, lower per capita revenue and usually low impact on end clients due to low accountability etc.What you must have to make DIY online courses to work for you:

  • You’re well known in your niche and you’re already getting lots of leads for your other services. 
  • A fully functioning way to generate leads that you can dial up. A lot of people only start dabbling with ads once they’ve got DIY online courses to sell, because you do need to sell a lot more to earn decent money from it. 

 

 

DIY online course are not so great if:

  • You hate tech and don’t want to outsource that side of things either.
  • You’re new to business or your industry. It’s easy to build a course that you think people will want but they actually don’t. 

The way round this issue of not knowing whether a course will sell or not is to pre-sell it.Promote the idea then if you get a critical mass of people signing up to the waitlist then you go ahead and build it. 

Laura Robinson, copywriter and owner of Worditude, did this to great effect with her Say What When course (affiliate link) that’s designed to help you weave messages into your online marketing that prime people to buy your stuff. She promoted it at a ‘pre-release’ price to her email list and Facebook group. Early purchasers then got the first round unedited version of the course as well as access to the final version of the course when it was ready.

This technique can be used for the other options too but instead of taking money for it you might want to take a deposit or simply put people who are interested on a waitlist instead.

Quick Cash factor for DIY online Courses:

DIY online courses are usually priced at the lowest end of anyone’s service offerings but arguably once they’re built the effort to deliver them is next to zero.

However there will still be some admin involved e.g. responding to any log in issues, keeping the course up to date if things change.

The main time drain when it comes to DIY online courses is the marketing of them. You need to be actively selling them constantly or put some money behind ads. (Or both)

Scalability factor for DIY online courses:

Once they’re built DIY Courses are infinitely scalable! That’s why everyone goes potty for them. But far fewer people are actually making decent money from them. 

Impact of DIY courses on clients

It would take a rather remarkable DIY course to come anywhere close to the impact on offer by the other three service options! By it’s nature, a course is standardised. Recorded once and possibly never edited again. However, if the client wants to brush up on something specific in a short time period a DIY course could be just the ticket.

What’s best for you one-to-one, group programme, membership or DIY online courses?

Here’s a handy comparison chart! Who doesn’t love a comparison chart? I do. 

Which business model is best for your online business: comparision table summarising the comparative benefits of one-to-one programmes, group programmes, memberships and DIY online courses

Which do you like the sound of?

As a quick steer, if you’re not yet full with one-to-one work and/ or you haven’t got the lead generation side of things sorted, stick to one-to-one for now. 

In need of someone to take you through the process of positioning your one-to-one offer so they’re perceived as a must-have in the eyes of your favourite types of people? Book a call with me and let’s talk about my Your Sizzling Hot Offer programmes.

If you’re going great guns with your one-to-one work and you’ve noticed themes in the types of work you do and for who, and you’ve got processes you’ve created (or learned) to get reliable results, then you’re probably ready to launch your own group programme. I help clients with this too. Book a call if you want to talk through how I could help you with this.

Absolutely love building a community and have a tonne of people who know and love you? A membership could be right for you.

Got your lead gen down pat and want a more passive existence with your online business? Then DIY courses could be for you.

And of course, you can do all simultaneously! Many people do. And, as mentioned before, you can also pick ‘n’ mix between all four and make your own hybrid service. The choice, as our Graham would say, is yours.