Proven Online Coaching Business Models [how to pick the right one for you]
You can say there are as many different Online Coaching Business Models as there are coaches.
However, when you analyze those who have grown fast and scaled to a 7 or 8 figure online coaching business, these 3 models stand out:
1. Online Coaching Business Model Driven by Ads – The Ascension Model
Facebook Ads (and sometimes Pinterest, Twitter or Google Ads) drive new leads into the business. Often this business model is driven by high advertising spend for fast growth. Often although it’s quite a lean business, it carries little profit.
Live or pre-recorded Courses, Memberships, Group Coaching, Masterminds etc.
This model is based on the ascension model.
Facebook Ads bring fresh leads into the business at the entry-level course/ sales activities like challenges, webinars etc. Then the client is upsold to new programs as they learn and progress.
Known as the ascension model, it works because the ‘client lifetime value’ (or how much a client spends over the time they keep working with you) is higher because of multiple upsells along the way.
The high cost of attracting each lead is justified by the higher spend because a percentage of the clients progress and move to the next program. Very little marketing is required to move an existing client into the next program.
Downside: You need to have money to invest from the onset
Advantage: You can grow a business in a very short time
8 figure coaches who use this model: James Wedmore, Sigrun Gudjonsdottir
2. The High-Ticket Online Coaching Business Model
Organic Facebook/Instagram activities, SEO and PPC Retargeting ads drive new leads into the business. The high-ticket coaching business grows fast due to the fast-cash nature of the programs.
High-ticket coaches often have a small exclusive offering. They create exclusive clubs and memberships and attract highly motivated clients. The goal is to get amazing results so that you can keep upping your prices.
The key to offering a high ticket program is to create a luxury experience. It’s not for every coach and certainly not for every coaching niche, but anyone can find the right way to go high-ticket.
Quality testimonials are key to the high-ticket coaching business model. As is great branding and on-point marketing techniques that create strong emotions and relationships. Everything has to be slick and focused on the type of client that is willing to pay that higher price.
Group Coaching, Masterminds, High-end 1:1 Coaching etc.
This model is based on focusing on creating a high-value experience for the ‘Elite’ customer.
Exquisite branding and highly targeted marketing bring in leads and nurtures them to create a strong desire for the high-ticket offer.
Facebook Ads and/or high-touch organic marketing bring fresh leads into the business. Challenges, collaborations and online communities can contribute to the growth of an organic audience on social media.
SEO helps boost organic reach and reputation – ranking first for your main keywords is a sure sign that you’re a leader in your field. High-ticket coaches and mentors need to position themselves as leaders in order to attract other leaders as their clients.
There is no specific defined model for this type of coaching business. High-ticket coaches can come in many shapes and they are usually experts in their field and know how to navigate that part of their audience that is willing to spend.
Downside: A lot of coaches don’t have the confidence or the testimonials to start off with this
(although a business can ‘mature’ into this stage later)
Advantage: This type of business becomes cash-flow positive in a very short time
8 figure coaches who use this model: Merel Kriegsman, Russ Ruffino
3. Evergreen Online Course with downsells/mini-courses
Organic Marketing such as blogging and podcasting as well as Facebook Ads when launching are the main drivers of new leads into the business.
This is a very simple business model built around one main Signature program. The business is built on selling this 1 one program and focusing on creating content to generate more and more traffic to the course.
The main program runs 2 to 4 times a year (and therefore launches happen as often too). The tutor only turns up for 1 weekly call and the course material is ready recorded (often very high quality – but it doesn’t have to start off that way).
This business model is usually what follows an initial 1:1 coaching model – the Signature program is created as a way to scale. Money is invested into the launches. The money to invest comes from the 1:1 clients that are brought in through blogging and other organic inbound marketing strategies.
Once the program becomes popular, you can abandon 1:1 coaching and keep growing the business by creating other smaller courses that you can sell to the same audience to boost your revenue.
Offers: Courses (and 1:1)
This is a very simple business model that is probably the easiest to replicate on your own. If you get good at blogging (or youtube) and organic marketing strategies like SEO and social media automation you can fill your 1:1 coaching programs.
And then, later, create a course based on the coaching system you use to achieve success for your clients.
This is probably the online coaching business model with the lowest barrier to entry.
Your first leads are created through organic marketing, so it will only cost you a bit of training, and perhaps some coaching but you will then be set to fill your coaching roster with clients.
Once this content and lead generation part becomes a natural part of your weekly routine, and leads are flowing naturally into your business, you can carve some time to create and launch your signature program.
Not in that order. (you want to verify our idea, then launch and create the program later – after you’ve sold it)
Because you already have clients, you just need to put money aside to invest in your launches. Yes – I used the word in the plural because you will need to launch multiple times in order to be successful.
Launching a successful course is no easy feat – you need to know your audience and your strengths – this is why it’s never step one. It also presents a fair bit of risk. You could be spending money on ads and not get enough leads to fill your course.
But again with the right launch coach and a solid 1:1 practice, you can see yourself through this phase.
Downside: It can take 8 to 18 months to fill your coaching roster and have enough clients to live on and make a good profit.
Advantage: You can grow a stable business that doesn’t need much investment upfront – it’s within everyone’s reach
8 figure coaches who use this model: Denise DT and Marie Forleo
As you grow, your online coaching business model will shift – you will become aware of the options at every next stage.
My advice is to really think hard and take no fast decisions when it comes to deciding where you want your business to go.
Keep your values and your lifestyle top of mind.
The key to the game of online business is to make sure you stay in the game.
(don’t take financial risks that might put you out of business or force you to go and get a job you hate!)
When you’re starting out – building your audience AND your cash flow take priority.
(here are some tips to make sure things work out for you and you get to ‘stay in the game’)
Create an evergreen SEO funnel that starts feeding leads/discovery calls into your business.
First, start blogging (ideally on your own website) – learn SEO to get your blogs on the first page of Google. (it’s not hard – although there’s a whole industry out there that would like you to think it is)
Establish yourself as an expert in your field (with blogs) whilst generating leads and booking your first customers. Sharing your blogs on social media and using SEO concurrently is very important. You feed two birds with one seed.
Coaches need authority – this can only be built from the ground up with content Blogging generates leads more easily so start there.
Anyone that can read and speak can write – so just start!
Once you’re in a position to comfortably support yourself with the 1:1 clients you get from your SEO, you want to focus on growing your audience and scaling your business to group programs.
You can do both with one simple strategy.
Creating a free course will take care of this for you.
You will need to spend some money on ads – but at this stage (and with this strategy) it won’t be so expensive.
You’ll need around $300- $500 depending on how good your idea, landing page, and ads are. It’s the same idea as a challenge but positioning it a little differently.
People love challenges!
But they love bootcamps and free programs even more.
Most of my challenges brought in around 100 to 150 people – but my Free course brought in 300 – in both cases around 30% of participants were engaged.
So go ahead and create your own.
But make sure that your free program prepares your audience for your signature program.
Design the program first – then decide what they need to know to be ready to work with you. If this doesn’t sprout any ideas, you can try using the first module of your signature program as the free course.
However – make sure that they have a good reason to continue.
You need to also create the desire for your program and educate them into making the right choice
(it won’t be the next best step for all your audience – and that’s perfectly ok)
But it will be for those who are your ideal clients.
Don’t worry if you find it hard to come up with your idea at first – it took me a few tries to find the right idea that worked for me.
This is why you need to have a regular income when you attempt this. You need to be at a stage where you can still survive if nobody buys – and your Facebook ads budget is wasted.
The most important thing about your business model is not speed – it’s resilience.
You need to make sure you stay in the game. So always think carefully and logically about your next step.
Once you’ve learned how to sell your course, you can experiment with easier ‘free activities’ to get people to buy from you such as challenges, video series, and webinars.
At this stage, it’s going to be much easier for you to do this successfully because you’re now working with your ideal clients in the program and they will tell you exactly why they joined.
You will also get testimonials which will help you give plenty of social proof!
(make sure you have testimonial collection as part of your course delivery process – build this into your
At this stage then, you can look at your programs and decide about your next step – You can pick between ascension or high ticket.
If you go for the ascension method here you could either create a membership site that replaces your free course
You could choose to upsell the people in your program into a Mastermind
You could upsell the people in your Signature program into a 1:1 high ticket experience.
Probably the most lucrative is the high-ticket option.
However not every coaching business can go high ticket so explore that and understand if it’s for you.
If it’s not one or both of the other options are for you.
The easiest way to monetize right away is to create a mastermind and upsell everyone into it. However your audience here is limited to those in your course – so in order to further boost cash flow, you may also want to add a membership site.
If a membership site sounds like too much work. You can opt for a low-ticket product instead (this was my choice)
You can sell your original free program for a small price – this helps you cover your advertising costs when you scale with Facebook Ads.
Are you a new coach starting out? If you want to kickstart your online coaching business with a simple lead generation system that turns organic traffic into coaching clients – quickly, easily, and efficiently then click here to learn more