Potential clients generate over 1.5 million monthly internet searches for life coaches, business coaches, and executive coaches. With such high demand, becoming a coach is an excellent business choice, without a doubt.
However, there are various coaching models to choose from, and each model has distinct advantages and disadvantages. And the perfect business model for you will depend on your personal circumstances and goals.
In this article, we’ll break down the popular online coaching business models and provide tips on choosing the right one for you.
Let’s get started.
1. One-on-One Coaching
One-on-one coaching is the most intimate of coaching models. Though it can look like mentoring, apprenticeship, or therapy, it’s none of these—and all of these.
- Like mentoring, a coach may guide clients through a predetermined process or help them solve their most pressing issues.
- Like apprenticeship, a coach can assign practice and offer expert feedback. This is especially present in skill-focused topics like musical instruments, sports, or writing.
- Like therapy, coaches often discuss the barriers that interfere with results by identifying and rooting out old, broken thought patterns, something coaches get great at.
One-on-one coaching is the easiest to get started because it involves just two people. Moreover, you don’t need a lot of tools. You can do this via voice calls, video calls, or even texting apps. You only need the time, a client, and a way to communicate.
While one-on-one coaching services don’t require a lot of tools or systems to get started, over time, some tools and systems will support you and your clients better.
For example, you can use an online coaching platform that offers access to audio and video sessions, payment processing, and client scheduling all in one place.
Pros of Individual Coaching:
- Highly personalized for clients
- Ideal if you’re starting out
- Reach your revenue goals with fewer clients
- Requires few online tools or systems
- Flexible as you develop your signature approach
Cons of Individual Coaching:
- Time consuming and difficult to scale
- Generally, the priciest for clients
- Income can fluctuate greatly
2. Group Coaching
Group coaching resembles a traditional classroom with one teacher and many students. It is an excellent business model if you want to help more people in less time, which obviously makes it more scalable than individual coaching.
Though there’s incredible power with community, it also adds complexity. With one-on-one, it’s just you and your client and that weekly or monthly call. In group coaching, you must coordinate schedules and foster the right environment.
Membership sites assist with the added complexity. They can ease communication and create a space for collaboration and encouragement.
While group coaching has many benefits, one of the most remarkable is witnessing clients help each other. When you see this, it can demonstrate how well they understand the knowledge and skills you’ve taught.
For example, if you’re teaching about Facebook ads and one client asks for feedback, and another offers comments, you now have two opportunities for feedback. Both the poster and the commenter benefit from hearing what they did well and where tweaks would be beneficial.
Group coaching opens options reserved for groups, like celebrations, retreats, or workshops. It can foster friendships and accountability, and a healthy group ensures no one feels excluded.
However, many coaches admit that they miss working one-on-one with clients. For this reason, some continue to offer both group coaching and one-on-one coaching or private sessions. Check out these coaching website examples to see how different coaches split their efforts between personal and group coaching.
Pros of Group Coaching:
- Usually less expensive for the client than one-on-one coaching
- Adds a group dynamic
- Allows for accountability and peer-to-peer learning
- Easier on your schedule
- Easier to scale
Cons of Group Coaching:
- Coaches often miss the one-on-one relationship
- Requires online tools or systems that can be costly and may involve time to set up and learn
3. Coaching Team Model
Another option for coaches is to become part of a collective or coaching team. In this model, a group of experts offers their combined services to clients so clients can get the expertise they need from a variety of experienced sources. This is similar to hiring a legal team rather than one lawyer.
In this model, a client hires a team to provide service and receives coaching and consulting in return. The team could be two coaches with different strengths, a larger collective, or even a married couple like Todd and Leah Rae Getts.
From the client’s perspective, it’s a bit like having a team to help you build a foundation of skills and then letting you loose. From the coach’s perspective, it’s like working with a team to meet your client’s needs. This means you don’t have to feel like you have the answer because you have access to other experts too.
Marketing Essentials is an example of a business that offers a team of coaches to help clients establish their marketing presence using various tools. This approach means each coach focuses on specific expertise.
Pros of Coaching Team:
- Highly personalized for clients
- Increased flexibility when life happens
- Allows for collaborative problem solving
- It provides a sense of team
- Easier to scale
Cons of Coaching Team:
- Less autonomy
- Coordination and communication required
- Greater need for project management skills
- Greater need for defining specific roles
4. Online Courses
While courses aren’t technically coaching, there’s a lot that you can do to provide content that feels like coaching or augments your other coaching programs. Once you increase your group size, you can create an online course and transition into the “one-to-many” model.
There are two basic ways to deliver an online course: cohort-based courses, in which a group completes the classes together, and self-paced courses, in which individuals complete courses independently.
- Cohort-based courses. These can take place in a live class or in prerecorded content that’s dripped. Your direct live presence, either in the class or in the community, is required for the success of a cohort-based course. Read this article to learn more about creating a cohort-based course.
- Self-paced courses. These have greater flexibility because your students can access these anytime and consume them at their own pace.
Courses are a natural scaling tool for coaches who’ve perfected their process and are ready to automate their most valuable and practiced content. Most coaches can point to specific talks that they regularly have with clients.
Those talks are valuable assets. They are perfect for converting to courses you can sell online.
Nancy Duarte is an excellent example of converting a powerful talk into a course. After years of coaching clients through creating presentations that transform audiences, she delivered her secret structure of great talks on a TEDx stage. She captured the essence of her coaching in a course she offers on her website.
Pros of Online Courses:
- Clients have complete autonomy
- Least-expensive option for clients
- Requires less time from you for cohort-based; no time for self-paced
- Potential for generating a steady income
Cons of Online Courses:
- Not as personalized
- Requires more digital tools
- Requires more time to set up
- Requires research (experienced coaches will have this)
Choosing the Right Online Coaching Business Model
So how do you know which of the four online coaching business models suits you? While you can find general guidelines on the best way to start and the best time to scale, it varies from one individual to the next.
Some of the factors that determine the best model for you include your experience and expertise, the coaching niche, your familiarity with your audience, your goals, your communication skills, etc.
As with most models, there’s no one-size-fits-most option. Instead, you’ll need to review these tips and trust your gut.
Assess the Program Goals and Objectives
Clients care most about results. They want to know what they will get from your coaching program. Your goals and objectives help you clearly define what the client will receive from your program.
For example, if you’re a dating coach, your clients may want to find someone special or go on ten dates in the next six weeks. If you’re a weight-loss coach, you might specify pounds (or kilograms) lost or pants sizes dropped.
Knowing the goals and objectives of your program can help you select the best model for it.
For example, gaming coach Mr. Meister helps his clients progress in Valorant, a popular online game. In the benefits section, he identifies the program goals and objectives. His coaching helps his clients succeed in gameplay by improving in aim, positioning, and movement.
Those results are best delivered using five-hour, one-on-one sessions where he can watch clients perform and offer specific feedback. In the same way, the benefits of your program can help you decide which model is most suitable for the results you promise.
Consider Your Target Audience and Niche Market
When you consider your clients, it will help you decide which online coaching model works best. Often, you can determine this by assessing their budget, time, and priorities, or a combination of those factors.
If your target audience tends to be budget conscious, choose a model that allows for scaled pricing. Time-conscious clients benefit from the one-on-one model.
Consider these questions before choosing your online coaching business model:
- How much do my clients value their time?
- How much money do my clients already spend to solve this problem?
- How soon do my clients need to see results?
- What’s the consequence of failure for my clients?
Evaluate Your Resources and Time Commitment
Just as your clients need to consider their budget, time, and priority, you do too. Your lifestyle, your familiarity with tools and processes, and your preferences can play a big part in your choices.
For example, coaches who split their time between their business and the needs of their small children may feel burdened by the inflexible demand of a one-on-one coaching schedule. On the other hand, they may share childcare tasks with their partner and love supporting one-on-one sessions. Check out our group coaching vs individual coaching article to find out which one suits you better.
Consider these questions about your budget, time, and priorities:
- What systems do I already have in place?
- Is my process or approach finalized or still in testing?
- How much will it cost to support the model I’m favoring?
- How much time do I have to invest each week?
- What are my short-term and long-term goals for revenue and work-life balance?
Analyze Your Competitors’ Strategies
There’s no need to start from scratch. Do some research to figure out what others are doing in your coaching niche. This research can inspire you to do something similar, but with a twist that’s entirely your own.
Search the internet and social media to find what online coaching business models others use. Examine their pricing and structure and check out their reviews.
You can also ask your friends and family who they might recommend and why. Pay attention to what stands out about their models to see if you can deliver what people love about those programs (while avoiding the pitfalls).
Test Different Models
Once you make a decision, run a test. For example, tell your friends that you’re thinking about applying your experience in homeschooling to coach homeschooling parents. You already have expertise! So even if your experiment fails, your test clients will benefit.
Start by testing the one-on-one model and then a group program. Or start with a small group program and find a few ideal clients for one-on-one coaching. The choice is yours and will often depend on what opportunities you have. Ask for feedback from your test participants to help you further craft your model.
During or after testing, ask yourself the following questions:
- How well did the clients’ progress during the sessions?
- Did clients believe the program helped them achieve their goals?
- How did you feel before, during, and after your coaching sessions?
- Are you delighted with the tools that support you? Or do you want to make changes?
- Does the demand for this program work with your current lifestyle, or will you need to change the program or your life to accommodate?
- What questions do clients tend to ask? Do I need to address these in greater detail or with greater clarity?
- Is this program worth pursuing? Or do I want to test another idea?
Online coaching has the potential to generate income and benefit others.
Whether you excel in writing music, writing code, or writing jokes, somewhere, someone genuinely wants to know what you know.
We hope this article has given you the necessary information to start exploring different online coaching models and decide what works best for you.
Which of these online coaching business models have you seen or participated in? Which one are you leaning toward?
Please leave a comment and let us know.
Please leave a comment and let us know!