I wanted to share my take on one-on-one versus group coaching programs, as I recently had a client express concerns about how doing one-on-one coaching cannot help them scale eventually.
When I asked her why she thought this, she shared that she had heard from other business coaches that she follows that you need to start doing group coaching programs, courses, or digital products to scale.
As someone who has run both one-on-one and group coaching programs before, I have a lot of thoughts to share, particularly for those of you who are coaches and are currently running primarily one-on-one coaching programs or are thinking about starting a group program.
It was around September 2020 when I had just started my PhD.
In the weeks leading up to it, I felt pressure to launch a group program because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle my business once my workload increased.
Launching a group program seemed like the solution, as it’s often touted as a way to free up time and scale your business. So, I attempted to launch a group program, which lasted for three weeks, but it ultimately flopped. I had only one sales call, but the person didn’t end up joining.
As of this post, it has been almost a year since my flopped launch. I can confidently say that the key reasons for the failure were the lack of demand for my coaching at that time.
My track record as a coach was decent, and people liked working with me, but I was still growing and hadn’t established my own stance in the industry.
I was barely scratching the surface of my unique thought leadership, and my client results in September 2021 are vastly different from those of September 2020.
Because here’s the thing: clients don’t want to work with an average coach.
They want to work with a coach who knows how to help them get results and is confident in their coaching abilities or the strategies they teach.
They want to work with a coach who is damn good at what they do. And that makes sense.
There’s definitely no shortage of coaches in any niche, but the coaches who stand out are the ones who are at the top of their game and know how to actually help their clients get results.
The reason I know I have completely evolved as a coach since my failed launch in 2020 is because the feedback I’ve received from my clients in 2020 is drastically different from the feedback I’ve received in 2021.
Back in 2020, clients were able to sign their first paying clients, so we were able to meet our program objectives and clients were able to see results in that sense.
However, my clients back in 2020 would usually describe me as supportive, transparent, knowledgeable, informative, and someone who genuinely cares about her clients. But that’s about it.
Fast forward to 2021, my clients are still able to create amazing results, such as creating their first 5k+ months even as a side hustler. But, they would also describe our coaching program together as transformational.
Several of my clients in 2021 have worked with other business coaches or joined a digital course prior to working with me, but they would tell me that my coaching and my program was completely different from anything else they’ve invested in before.
Some of my clients even said that they have become a better coach for their own clients as a result of our coaching together. In fact, I have one client who worked with me briefly in 2020 and recently in 2021, and she said that my coaching has evolved in the span of one year.
Finally, one of my current clients started working with me at the beginning of 2021 and has recently decided to renew our work together because she said that the version of Coach Cheryl in Q1 of 2021 is very different from present-day Coach Cheryl.
But how did my own evolution as a coach happen? How did I get better as a coach and learn to help my clients create even bigger and better transformations and results in their lives and businesses?
The answer is simple. I continued working with one-on-one clients. Client after client after client.
And with each client, I practiced my coaching skills and honed in on specific strategies that I am really good at helping clients with.
For example, I have become really good at helping my clients develop a content strategy that builds demand for their offer and develop their own unique thought leadership to help them stand out in their niche.
In a nutshell, it took time. It took time for me to become the coach that I am today.
Specifically, it took working with many, many one-on-one clients because it’s a lot easier to help clients solve their problems within a one-on-one container than to try to do it with a group.
Not only is the dynamic of the coaching call different when there are multiple people on the call, but you really need to have sharpened your skills as a one-on-one coach before you are able to help clients create results as a group program coach.
One thing I want to mention is that there are many coaches who only teach information and strategies without actually coaching their clients.
In my opinion, if you’re looking for step-by-step information, it might be better to invest in a course that has a proven process rather than hiring a coach.
But if you’re seeking a personalized, high-touch experience where you can have a coach’s expertise on your business or life, it’s important to do your research and find a coach who truly coaches their clients rather than just teaching information that you could have obtained from a course or free online content.
This is also why I will continue offering one-on-one coaching for the time being, until the business reaches a point where it is no longer feasible for me to do one-on-one coaching.
Even though I am a full-time PhD student with many responsibilities, I am choosing to do one-on-one coaching for as long as possible.
Currently, I have finished running the first cohort of the 4-month group program. We are in the middle of cohort 2, and we are launching cohort 3 which will start in October. However, at the same time, I am still working with one-on-one clients.
The reason I am not solely doing group coaching right now is that I want to further master my coaching skills and create even bigger and better client results and transformation before running my business solely on group programs.
The truth is, one of the biggest marketing strategies for your business is your clients’ results. The more client results you create, the more demand you will build for your business.
The core of any coaching program, whether it’s one-on-one or group, is the coaching calls with the client. Everything else is a bonus and optional. This includes messaging support, client portals with resources, worksheets, or a curriculum.
At the heart of it, you need your brain and coaching skills to guide your clients towards the outcomes promised by your program.
I also want to discuss client portals and resources that coaches create for their clients. I created my first client portal in January 2021, which includes pre-recorded videos and step-by-step worksheets.
It took me almost two years to create the client portal because I needed to understand my clients’ needs and determine the most effective strategies for them. Working with numerous one-on-one clients allowed me to understand what to put inside the curriculum.
Right now, it’s September 2021 and we’re revamping the entire portal. In the past eight to nine months alone since I created the client portal, I have learned a lot about my clients, and as a coach, I have also evolved so much.
I have developed new concepts, frameworks, strategies, and approaches to business, and the original client portal is now outdated.
This is why starting in October 2021 and throughout Q1 2022, I will be hosting numerous exclusive workshops for my clients to teach my new strategies and approach to thought leadership, authenticity on social media, selling online, and more.
I’ll also be creating new guides and resources, such as roadmaps to your first high-ticket client and your first 5k month.
I cannot wait to offer so much amazingness to my clients!
Now, once you have a client portal because you’ve mastered your own process and strategies for helping clients, that would actually be a great lead-up into a group program.
When you’re working with several clients at once, it often doesn’t make sense to teach step-by-step information on the group coaching call because that would take up a lot of time from providing personalized coaching and strategy for each client on the call.
Instead, if you already have a client portal built, you can easily refer the client to specific trainings from your client portal between the calls so that on the group coaching call itself, you can coach the client.
This means analyzing what’s working and what’s not working, providing specific coaching or action items, and so on. And this way, everyone can benefit from listening in on each client’s coaching.
But if you spend most of your time teaching a particular concept on the call, for example, then 1) the clients could have just bought a course instead, but also 2) the clients won’t be able to actually get coached or receive super specific and personalized feedback, strategy, or a deep dive into their thoughts or business.
Here’s how I personally structure my one-on-one versus group coaching programs.
Currently, My 6 month one-on-one program includes:
On the other hand, as of right now, my 4-month group coaching program includes:
There’s nothing too drastically different about the two programs besides 1) the duration of the program and 2) whether the coaching calls are one-on-one or in a group setting.
Whenever someone asks me which program is a better fit for them, here’s what I usually say: If you want to talk to me and only me for 6 months, the one-on-one program is for you.
If you want to be part of a small community and make new friends, the group program is for you. The goals of both programs are essentially the same, which is to help you consistently sign clients in a way that doesn’t feel like a second full-time job.
The core difference really only lies in the program structure itself.
For me, personalized coaching and personalized action plans are essential.
This is precisely why I intentionally keep my group programs small compared to other business coaches who have 10 or 20 people inside the group, or even more than 20 sometimes.
This makes it easier for clients to take advantage of multiple touchpoints to get personalized support.
Alright, let’s talk about scaling your business.
Here’s the thing: you have options, but you will only have options when you are really, really good at helping people get results.
Because if your clients’ results are mediocre, the demand won’t be there, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re selling one-on-one or in a group. The demand won’t be high for either when the quality of your clients’ results isn’t there.
Once you’ve really mastered working with one-on-one clients, that’s when you have options.
First, you can create a group program because now you’re in a much better position to facilitate a group of clients at once and hold space for several people at the same time.
Second, you can raise your prices for your one-on-one program because people see that you’re able to help them, and thus the demand is there.
Third, you can create digital products like a course because at this point, you likely have a proven process that works.
But none of these options are available to you if you’re still struggling to help clients in a one-on-one setting.
The key point here is: don’t rush into group coaching. Don’t let your ego get in the way, and don’t let your assumptions lead you astray.
I find that a lot of people rush into group coaching when they’re not ready yet, either because they don’t have the demand for a group program or because they have not yet fully honed their skills as a one-on-one coach.
Many people worry about not being able to handle a certain number of clients before even reaching that number. They fear getting booked out when they are far from their capacity.
If you are unsure about your capacity, start by looking at your calendar and determining your availability for coaching calls. If you are not yet filling all those available time slots, then you are not booked out yet.
Of course, take into consideration time for rest and other commitments as well.
But, it is your responsibility to fill up all the possible time slots that you can hold coaching calls for, before worrying about being booked out.
That’s why having set, regular meeting times with clients is crucial. I used to make the mistake of giving clients a calendly link to book whenever they wanted. However, that messed up my schedule and drained my physical and mental energy.
I started enforcing this boundary with my clients only in mid-August and I wish I had enforced this boundary sooner.
Another piece of advice I can offer is that while you’re filling up those available time slots in your calendar with clients, pay attention to your energy levels.
Because a really good indicator of when you are reaching the point of being booked out is when you’re starting to have thoughts such as “OMG, I really don’t think I can physically or energetically handle taking on another client.” That is a really good indicator as well.
For example, I used to think my max capacity for one-on-one clients was five clients at a time. Turns out, a sweet spot for me is around ten one-on-one clients at a time.
But I remember that I used to have so much mind drama about “OMG, I need to launch a group” when in fact, I wasn’t even near my cap for being booked out. I still had so much room for growth as a coach AND I also still needed to build demand for a group program.
Finally, let’s talk about some things to consider if you are ready and committed to running your own group program.
In this case, how can you ensure that your clients stay accountable to their goals and actually see results?
Or perhaps you’re considering joining a group program yourself. If so, how can you make the most out of your investment?
I know that this is a hesitation a lot of people have about joining a group program because they often don’t know whether they’ll be able to achieve the same level of results or experience as they would in a one-on-one coaching program.
Firstly, it’s important to include personalized touchpoints inside a group program, which I find isn’t necessarily offered in many group programs.
For example, inside my group coaching program, clients receive one-on-one support and personalized feedback on their business, but it’s not in a private setting.
When clients in my group program ask a question or get coached on our group coaching call, it’s a one-on-one conversation that occurs during a call with other people or inside a private Slack community where I directly answer their question, but others can also benefit from seeing their question and the response to it.
Many people may have concerns about how honest and vulnerable they’re willing to be when there are other people in the group call or inside the community messaging channel.
Still, it’s crucial to recognize that everyone is inside this group program to work on a similar goal that is promised by the program.
Whatever you’re going through, it’s highly likely that someone else in the program is going through or thinking about it as well. This also means that others can share their perspective and suggestions for your situation.
This is where anyone joining a group program must do their own decision-making and determine whether they are comfortable with receiving personalized feedback, coaching, and support for their goals in a non-one-on-one setting.
Depending on how the coach runs the program, there are some who follow a curriculum, for example, where everyone gets the same action plans, lessons, and strategies every week, so the degree of personalization is a lot less.
It’s important for the person to decide whether they prefer a one-on-one container and want the coach’s complete attention, eyes, brain and focus on their situation, such as their business.
Second, it’s important to set clear expectations for group program clients to hold them to their highest standard and help them see results.
For example, pay attention to your best clients and see what characteristics they possess. If they are someone who instantly acts on the strategies provided, ask for feedback on their implementation and include it in the expectations.
If they are someone who does their own self-coaching frequently, that is something to include in the expectations.
If they utilize messaging support and communicate often between coaching calls, state that in the expectations.
It is the client’s responsibility to hold up their end of the stick, regardless of whether they’re in a one-on-one or group program. If they aren’t implementing what you suggest or if they go silent between calls, the coach can’t support them further unless they share what’s going on.
Therefore, clients need to ask themselves how accountable they will hold themselves to the program. If they want more support, they need to show up so the coach can show up for them as well.
The coach can’t do the work for the client, provide feedback if they haven’t done anything, or coach them without any context or information.
The client needs to hold themselves accountable, and the coach needs to clearly state expectations and explain how clients can maximize their experience inside the program.
Ultimately, your clients’ results and experience matter a lot.
Running a one-on-one coaching program versus a group coaching program requires you, as the coach, to operate differently in order to facilitate results and transformations even in a group setting.
This is why I often caution coaches to not rush into launching a group program.
First, you need to ensure that you are able to consistently get people results in a one-on-one setting, and second, you need to have sufficient demand to sell a group program.
There are many coaches in the online space, but far fewer who can deliver an exceptional client experience and help clients achieve fantastic results and transformations.
I really want all of us here to be known for our client results, rather than a coach who is really good at marketing and selling their programs only.
Therefore, I would rather see us take the time to hone our coaching skills and build our demand, rather than rushing to scale our businesses by launching a group program. Especially if you’re a coach.
Remember that our end goal is not only to meet our financial and business goals, but also to coach our clients and help them achieve results. So take as much time as you need to improve your coaching abilities and help your clients succeed.
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