Growing your business when your schedule is full can be harder than it was when your coaching business has spare capacity. However, you have already passed the first hurdle just by reading this article. Many coaching or consulting businesses stop trying to grow when they have a steady flow of business to rely on, especially when further growth involves rethinking the very business model that created a successful business in the first place.
Still, further growth is possible -- even dramatically scaling your business -- and our survey of industry experts as well as successful coaching businesses on the awarenow platform revealed four major strategies that can help.
1) Digitalize Your Products and Services as Much as Possible
Digitalization is fundamental to scaling. You can serve significantly more clients without each client being an increasing demand on your time. CareerSidekick.com founder Biron Clark explains his strategy:
“Consider adding digital products like e-books or video courses to your offering. These can scale much more easily than services because while they require a lot of time to create initially, each additional sale requires almost no time on your part. Digital products can also make a great down-sell for those who aren't quite ready to pay for your high-ticket coaching. For example, if you're a career coach who charges $275 per hour, you could create a career development course costing just $249 for lifetime access. When someone tells you that they're not quite ready to pay your consulting fee, you could point them toward your course and still earn revenue.”
In other words, creating digital products out of your service offerings can not only allow you to scale but also to serve more price-conscious customers. Some of these customers might also upgrade to higher-priced offerings once they’ve had a chance to get to know you and your work.
Even when dealing with clients one-on-one, there’s also productized services, which Biron Clark had personal success with:
“Productized services are pre-packaged coaching or consulting solutions to address a specific problem that your clients have. If clients come to you with the same problems over and over, then this is a great approach to consider. You'd create templates and standard operating procedures ahead of time so that you're better prepared to help each new client that signs on, which means you can complete projects faster and earn more revenue, while still delivering great results for your clients.”
Digitalization has never been easier (one way in which technology is changing coaching) and can take a number of forms ranging from static products like e-books or instructional videos to more individually customizable offerings like e-courses. These are all supported and made easy on the awarenow platform.
2) Schedule Management
Prune your schedule. This comes in two ways. The first is to remove non-core activities from the schedule that could otherwise be spent coaching or in business development. One shocking study showed that over 85% of coaches spend less than half of their time actually coaching.
That report found that, in particular, administrative processes like billing and scheduling drew away a great deal of time away from value-added activities. These can easily be eliminated by using a business management platform like awarenow or reduced (at extra cost) by using virtual assistants. If you go the latter route, SEO Consultant Itama Blauer recommends training your assistants with “video tutorials, which can eliminate the need for further feedback and save time for the consultant/coach.”
In the pre-COVID world, travel was often a major silent time-killer, so much so that Michael Sena, founder of spreadsheet consultancy Senacea, recommends only “admitting clients online or in the office” since travel time can easily kill the economics of a coaching engagement or client relationship.
The second way to liberate time is to apply a stricter filter to your sales and marketing process. Digital Strategist & Marketing Consultant Hyun Lee recommends coaches “sort out who are their ideal customers” and pre-qualify leads before setting up an introductory call or session. Why spend time on a lead if they wouldn’t be a good fit as a potential client?
3) Expand Your Practice or Franchise
If your schedule is truly optimized and you’ve pushed digitalization to its limits, it may be time to consider more traditional ways of expanding capacity, by bringing on new coaches into your organization or by franchising your brand.
Entrepreneur and Business Growth Coach Shawn Johal describes his success in using “junior coaches” to add leverage:
“Hiring more junior coaches to handle specific elements of the business, along with some ‘smaller’ clients, could provide a busy coach with more flexibility. For example, having a dedicated ‘People’ person who is focused exclusively on talent development as a coaching expertise could go into business and provide added revenue quickly.”
Coaching or consulting businesses can also get leverage by outsourcing client work to other providers. This can take the form of franchising, white-labelling, or referrals. As per Managing Director Milosz Krasinski of Chilli Fruit Web Consulting:
“I started doing some serious networking to find like-minded people in the same industry as myself. I built up relationships with some of these people which provided me with an extended ‘team’. Although these people weren’t my employees, I was able, when necessary, to outsource work to them as I’d taken the time to get to know them and their work and, therefore, trusted them with my client’s projects.”
Similarly, Biron Clark advises companies to consider outsourcing specific functions of the coaching business funnel if doing so gives you more leverage for what you do best:
“By creating an agency and hiring other staff or freelancers to do some of the core work, you can scale beyond the limitations of your personal time. This also allows you to focus only on what you do best. For example, if you dislike sales but enjoy fulfilling the work, you could begin by hiring one or two sales representatives. With this approach, you can outsource your weaknesses and play to your strengths.”
However, these are not “magic pill” solutions. Interviewing and vetting potential coaches to work within your organization or to act as franchisees is very time-consuming if done well, and it’s not worth the risk to your brand to not do it well. On the other hand, a coaching organization creates significantly more opportunities than would be available to a pure solo coach.
Building a coaching business by hiring more coaches or by franchising your brand will be the topic of a future article on this blog, projected for November 2020.
4) Use Pricing Levers
There are many approaches to the question of how to price your coaching services. A simple model is to apply lessons from supply and demand curves. If you are getting more leads (demand) than you have time to fulfil (supply) then you need to ration that supply in some way. By default, this would be “first come first served” and when your schedule is full, you’re at capacity and unable to take on more clients without changing your service offerings through digitalization, by expanding your practice, or by making referrals.
Obviously, “first come first served” is not the best organizing principle for handling excess demand. Instead, you can allocate your time based on who is willing to pay the most for it (assuming all other factors are equal, such as your desire to work with a particular client). While it would be cumbersome for you and off-putting to potential clients to set up a formal auction for your time, you can achieve similar results simply by gradually raising your prices to reduce demand until supply and demand are more in balance.
This model can optimize the value of you or your company’s coaching time either as a standalone measure or as a temporary salve while you increase capacity through the other processes, such as digitalization and outsourcing, noted above.
A schedule full of paying clients is a victory for a new or growing consulting business, but needs not be the end of the road. Looked at in another way, a full schedule is a signal and an opportunity to change your business structure to create additional value beyond the hours in your day that you can sell by using the tools described above - digitalization, schedule management, expansion, and changes to pricing.