Transcript: One-on-One Coaching vs. Digital Courses: What’s Best for You?

August 19, 2021

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AMY PORTERFIELD: To offer a digital course and one-on-one coaching, or not to: that's the ultimate question. Well, the good news is that this question doesn't have to be very complicated. In fact, I want to help you break it down and take a little assessment to help you get clear on how these two offers can work within your business. You'll walk away from today's episode with a decision. Will you offer a digital course, one-on-one coaching, or a little bit of both? And be sure to stick around until the end because that's where you'll find the self-assessment, and the last few questions are the most important. So get ready to know what kind of direction you should take on your entrepreneurial journey. 

INTRO: I'm Amy Porterfield, and this is Online Marketing Made Easy. 

AMY: I'm just going to come out and say it. I personally don't think it needs to be a conversation around digital courses vs. one-on-one coaching or consulting. There, I said it. I firmly believe that one-on-one coaching and digital courses can both work in a business. But deciding what route you want to take comes down to two essential things, which we’ll get to towards the end of this episode.  

Today we're going to talk about how a digital course serves both you and your students, the main difference between the two offerings, a few real-life examples of how people have made digital courses and one-on-one coaching work within their busines, and, then, the self-assessment you'll want to take to identify the approach that would work best for you. By the end of this episode, you'll have a clear idea of how you want your business structure to look in terms of offering a digital course, one-on-one coaching, consulting, or maybe a mix. 

It doesn't take much searching to see that a digital course and one-on-one coaching can live alongside each other in great harmony. However, after years of being an entrepreneur and seeing numerous students and my peers structure and run their services in various ways, I will always stand by the fact that a digital course serves you and serves your clients in really big ways, ways that one-on-one coaching alone can't do.  

First of all, a digital course serves you by allowing you to be more selective. What I mean by that is with a digital-course offer, you don't have to take on every one-on-one-coaching opportunity that comes your way. You get to select who you work with and only choose people who you really love working with when it comes to one on one.  

It also allows you to charge more. If you offer both a digital course and one-on-one coaching, your clients will pay more for direct access to you. The one-on-one coaching becomes an elevated offer. While anyone can buy your digital course, only a limited amount of people get the personalized coaching with you, which makes it more exclusive.  

On top of all this, I firmly believe that having a digital course allows you to do more of what you love, what you want to do, within your business. So you get to work on instead of in your business. For example, when you have a digital course, I found it easier to achieve whatever freedom you desire, like generating more revenue, working from wherever, or even having a shorter work week, like my team does.  

Here's what a digital course does for your clients. It opens up the opportunity for those who don't want to do one-on-one coaching, whether it's not how they like to learn, or maybe because right now they just can't afford it, but it still allows them access to your knowledge. And it gives them the opportunity to learn and gain the skills, know-how, or trade that you're teaching. 

Okay. Next, I want to go over the main differences between a digital course and one-on-one coaching. When you are solely offering one-on-one coaching, you’re trading time for dollars. Even if you're doing group coaching, there are truly only so many hours in a week that you can offer for your coaching. I've seen this over and over again with my students. In fact, I felt this way in my early days when it seemed like I went from having one boss to having multiple bosses vying for my attention.  

Burnout is inevitable if you aren't careful with your one-on-one coaching. Did you hear me? I really do mean that because I've experienced it. I believe that burnout comes a whole lot faster with one-on-one coaching if that's the only way you make money versus having a digital course, because, again, a digital course, you start to experience the freedom, like I said, of time freedom, money freedom, focus freedom. It might not come right away, but it does come with a digital course, where you don't always have the opportunity with the one-on-one coaching.  

And because you're capped on how many hours you can offer as a one-on-one coach, you naturally have a ceiling on the amount of revenue you can generate. That ceiling is very real. And I'm not saying that it's not a sustainable revenue. Hear me out here, and I want to make this very clear. I do believe you can make a really great living with one-on-one coaching or group coaching. What I am saying is that when you have a digital course, whether that's in addition or instead of one on one, it's limitless in the number of people it can reach and the amount of money that you can make. 

Another difference is your reach and impact. So when you have a digital course, you can reach thousands—heck, millions—of people. Again, just like your revenue, your reach and impact with a digital course has no cap. It can cross borders, time zones, and continents. Pretty cool, right?  

When it comes to community, having a digital-course community is one of my most favorite parts because community is so much bigger than you and so much bigger than me. And the wonderful thing about that is that your students have more people from various backgrounds to connect with, say, like, for accountability partners or people to troubleshoot with or people to be inspired by. One of my most favorite things in my Digital Course Academy community is that when somebody launches and they share about their launch, it inspires all those others who haven't yet launched, but they've got their eye on the prize, or even better yet, those that have kind of fallen off the digital-course wagon, they got distracted, they got frustrated, they got busy, and then they see somebody else launch their course for the first time with success, and it reignites them. They're like, “Wait a second. If they can do this, I can do this.” So community and the inspiration within a community when you have a digital course to me is everything.  

And there's just a higher chance for your students to find their own community within yours and create lifelong friendships and connections and so much more. You don't know how often somebody will come up to me in person, like if I'm at an event, and they'll say, “Oh, my gosh, Amy, two years ago I was in an accountability pod with so-and-so, and now our families are vacationing together,” or “Now we created a mastermind together,” or whatever it might be. I live for those moments. If you have a community in your digital course right now, you're shaking your head, I bet. You're like, “Yep, Amy, I get it.”  

And then I briefly spoke on this earlier, but when you have a digital course, if you choose to offer one on one as well, you can charge more for those services because those who opt for your one-on-one offer are getting direct, exclusive access to you and knowledge and expertise and input that they wouldn't get from your course by itself. So your time becomes more premium when you have a digital course. Did you hear that? You're one-on-one time, no matter what, like, it's a fact. I'm telling you right now, whether you're charging for it or not, you're one-on-one time becomes a premium when you have a digital course where others are learning from you through a digital course. That is a fact. 

Okay. So now let's take a look at a couple of ways you can structure your business so that you can feel confident in crafting your offers. So the first option is that you offer just a digital course or multiple digital courses. So this is exactly how I structure my business. I don't offer any one-on-one coaching or consulting. In fact, at the time that I'm recording this, tomorrow I'm doing a full-day, one-on-one coaching with a student. What? I just said I don't offer that. Well, once in a while we do contests, and I'm sure we're going to do one in the future again, so look out for it. But we did a contest around my podcast. And this woman that I'm going to be meeting with tomorrow, she won. And I'm spending the whole day with her in Nashville, where we're just going to dive into her business. And I’m bringing along Jill, who is a content manager on my team and has been with me for many years, and Jill's coming along, too, to offer her support. So she gets both of us for the whole day, and it's something that I do not sell. So it becomes a really great thing to give away during contests and during giveaways, and I do it very sparingly, but when I do it, it's extra special. So, I don't know. Something to think about. But again, I don't charge for one-on-one coaching or consulting.  

Now, I do group coaching within my programs, so via Facebook Lives or Zoom. But in terms of just coaching someone individually, I don't do that. So when I say I do group coaching, so I'll do a lot of Q&As and hot seats within my paid programs. So that has more of a coaching feel. I did one on one right when I became an entrepreneur, like right out of my nine-to-five job into consulting/coaching. And really, I say it was coaching and consulting, but I feel as though I was really a service provider because although I would coach and consult on people’s social-media plans, I also did social media for small businesses. So it was really a mix of coaching, consulting, and service-based providing.  

Okay. So, but in that moment, that brief-but-felt-like-forever two years of becoming an entrepreneur, my first two years, I hated it. It wasn't good for my personality. I didn't like the one on one as much as I loved to teach within a program. And I think my strengths are definitely more in creating curriculum, teaching step by step, building communities within my digital courses, these are all things I love to do. I didn’t particularly love to do the work for small businesses. So I'm so glad I made that shift. But I learned a lot through those two years, so I'm not going to knock it, by any means. But it is my personal preference to not do coaching or one-on-one consulting.  

So as you might know, I have a signature course, and it's called Digital Course Academy. And then I have two spotlight courses, List Builders Society and Systems that Scale. And then I also offer Momentum, and Momentum is a membership experience only available to those who have gone through Digital Course Academy. So this has allowed me to build a multi-seven-figure business by only promoting digital courses. 

Now, I also do a few little things on the side that supplement that revenue, but they're all tied to my digital courses. So I'm a huge fan and an actual user of Kajabi, and so I promote Kajabi and get a commission off of that. I only, only, only promote what I love and what I use. And then ConvertKit. It's another one that I tell all my list builders. I think ConvertKit is the best email-service provider, so I promote that. And there's other different programs and products that have to do with what I already teach that I promote. It's not a huge revenue generator, but it does contribute to my revenue. So that would be, like, a second tier. If my first tier is all my digital courses, that would be, like, a second tier of a revenue generator. And I encourage all my course creators to find products, services, resources they can promote for a commission that is in total alignment or a complement to what they are teaching in their digital courses. 

Okay. So the next option, something I actually don't do, is to offer only one-on-one coaching. So this is pretty straightforward, right? You do one-on-one coaching or consulting, whether that's online or in person. Now, this completely works for some people, and there's nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with structuring your business this way. If you love it, then you do it, for sure.  

However, what I will say is that if you do have one-on-one coaching, if you have that be your bread and butter, that is your business, then you already have a roadmap that could lead directly into a digital course. Okay. I can't help myself. I cannot help myself. But I have to say this. If you do one-on-one coaching, you have a system, you have a model, you have a framework that if you want to teach that in a digital course, you are leaps and bounds ahead of most of us, who started from scratch with a digital course and didn't have a framework at first. So, I don't know. There's something to be said about that. 

And I know, I know what most one-on-one coaches will say when I say that. Are you ready? “But, Amy, if I offer it in a digital course, no one's going to want to pay me for my one-on-one coaching.” That is wrong. That is actually not the way I want you to be thinking about this. You know that there are some people that prefer the one on one, very personalized, very exclusive access to you or to whatever it is they want to learn or be a part of. There are some people that they’re like, “I don't care how much it is. I'm paying for it. I want that one-on-one attention.” And then, there are most other people, because the majority of people will take you up on the digital course. You can't have hundreds and hundreds of one-on-one clients for yourself, right? So it's exclusive in its model. And so that's why I think the two go hand in hand. 

Okay. So that actually leads me to the last structure I want to talk about, and this works really well for entrepreneurs, and that's offering a digital course alongside one-on-one coaching. There are so many ways to do this, so keep an open mind, and let's talk about just a few successful approaches that I've seen work.  

So maybe you offer a digital course and coaching right alongside it. One of my students, Rhea Baliwala, did this with her digital course, Legal English Academy. They get all of the goodies of a digital course—the videos, PDFs, audio, roadmap—and then they also receive four one-on-one sessions with Rhea. So I love that model. 

Now, I've offered that in the past, in my early days, and that was considered the VIP. So I would do independent study, and there was no access to me, and then I would do VIP, where they got, I think in my case, it was, like, a one-on-one coaching session before the course and a one-on-one coaching session after the course. This is when I had a smaller audience, and so I was able to fill up, let's say, ten VIP spots. So that is something I used to do, and it would bring in more revenue. So I love that model.  

Another option is to offer a digital course or one-on-one coaching, where you charge more for the individual coaching, but you bring them through the same roadmap that you offer in your digital course. So I just talked about that. Remember I said you already have a framework if you're doing one-on-one coaching.  

So my student, Darcie Milfeld, she does this with her program, Financial Wellness Foundation. She offers her one-on-one offer, which is more expensive, and she's upfront that she can only take so many clients, which is essential when you do this type of structure. Scarcity is key because it's alive and well. It's very real. And then, she also offers the digital course, and she says that this is an on-demand program to walk you through the exact-same process that I use with my one-on-one clients, which I think is a really great way of ensuring those who purchased the digital course that they're getting just as high-quality content as her one-on-one clients. I love that. So don't be afraid to do both, but we've already talked about that.  

Now, another way is to offer one-on-one coaching after your client goes through your digital course. People do this to help their clients get the basics of whatever they teach so that they can dive in with them on a deeper level in their one-on-one coaching. One of my students, Lianne Kim, actually does this in such a cool way. She offers one-on-one coaching but has a wait list that is almost always filled up. So she gets the people on her waitlist to work through her digital course so that by the time they're ready to work with her one on one, they’ve worked through the basics of what she teaches, and they can dive into focusing on specific things in their business.  

Okay. This is big because—come back to me if you’re multitasking. You’ve got to hear this—if you're a one-on-one coach or thinking about it, or you do group coaching, consulting of any kind, isn't it sometimes so frustrating when you have to, like, go back to the basics with your student, or with your client, I should say, the one you're doing the coaching with, or you have to, like, constantly repeat yourself or just teach stuff that you'd rather not teach because you want to get to the really good advanced stuff. Like the way you coach or consult, you're like, “Holy cow, I could change xyz in a minute if you only had this foundational piece first.” And it feels almost, like, so redundant for you as the coach, but also just takes time to get them to a place that you could really dial them, in. And so imagine if you had a digital course that they first went through to get the foundation, to get the basics, that they could refer back to again and again and again, and then you pick up where that course leaves off. That, to me, is powerful. And I think it really speaks to a lot of you who are very good at what you do, and you're passionate, and you want to go deep, but you're like, “Oh, but I got to go through the basics with them again.” There's a digital course for that, my friend.  

And then one more thing I want to add. Many of you that are listening right now are multi-passionate. You have so many different interests and desires and things that you just want to share with your audience. It is okay to do one-on-one coaching in one area, but create a digital course in, let's say, a different area or topic. Now, I don’t mean for a totally different audience. You could do that, but that's a whole conversation for a different day.  

I mean, let's say, I'll use a weight-loss coach. So let's say that you are a weight-loss coach, and you teach one on one. You teach your own style of healthy weight loss. But also, you always are asked about meal prepping. What does it look like? How do you put together a shopping list? What containers do you use? How are you cooking this stuff? How many days do you food prep? How do you plan it? That's a whole other conversation that's always happening. And sure, you can talk to your one-on-one clients about it, but there's a lot of people who won't do one-on-one coaching with you, but they would love to know how to do this meal prepping. And let's say it's even, like, at a $197 price point or $97, so it's not even anything extravagant they have to invest in. It's almost like if it’s $97 or less, it’s typically a no-brainer. Like, “Oh, I could do that. I want it. I'll get it.” And so what if you had something running in the background of your business that's evergreen. So you sell it every day with evergreen webinars. This is something I teach to my students. So every day you can be bringing in, let's say, just a few hundred dollars every day with your evergreen meal-prepping course, just a one-on-one meal prepping kind of course, and then you do your coaching and consulting. How cool is that? And as a little added bonus for those who do coaching and consulting with you, if they don't already have your meal-prepping course, you give it to them for free. But that meal-prepping course, you can plant seeds that you do one-on-one coaching, and you've got a waitlist, and they can get on the wait list.  

Am I blowing your mind? I hope so. I hope there's some light bulbs. I just envisioned a bunch of you, like, light bulbs going off, like, “Oh my god. I could do this side course, and it could possibly bring in more clients, but also it could just bring in more revenue, and I’d reach a bigger audience.” I hope you're getting excited. Digital courses are magic.  

All right. Now for the moment you've been waiting for. Let's talk about a self-assessment so you can feel confident in the type of business structure you should have. Also, stick around for the last question, because that's the biggest deciding factor in what you'll offer your customers.  

Okay. Are you ready? Question number one—and we'll put these in the show notes as well, if you don't have time or you're not in a place you could write them down. But I want you to answer them. Like, I want you to do this homework, okay?—question number one, and this is one of the most important questions, do you have information, know-how, or a skill set that could be turned into a digital course? Do you have information, know-how, or skill set that could be turned into a digital course? Be honest with yourself, because I'd put money that you can answer yes to this question, like, almost every single one of you. What I really want you to understand is that no matter what you currently teach or what you have knowledge around, even if you haven't started sharing it with others yet, it can be turned into a digital course. Believe me when I say that there's always someone who wants to learn what you've mastered.  

Next question. Does what you teach have steps or a roadmap of some sort, or could it be turned into that? So, for example, let's say you're a photographer, and you've cracked the code for editing images quickly. You can turn that into a digital course. You can offer it as a one-on-one service or both. A great example of this is from the girls from Light & Airy Photography. They have a digital course called the Phone Photo Course, which teaches non-photographers how to take and edit beautiful images with their phone. So good, right?  

Okay. Next question. Could what you teach be taught to more than one person at a time? For example, let's say you're a marriage coach, and you bring your clients through a three-month program. You could use that same framework and offer it as a digital course with just little ways to personalize it within your program. You could even offer one-on-one coaching alongside it if you want, or after it if you want. So, for example, my friend Brooke Castillo, she turned her life-coaching roadmap into a huge company, using a digital course to train other coaches how to use her model. Now she offers multiple courses. So something to think about.  

And some of you—I've got to stop here. If you've had the thought at any time during this episode and you said, “Yeah. But Amy, what I teach one on one will never translate into a digital course. What I teach one on one is really personal, and my responses to them depend on their responses to me. It's a conversation. I ask questions. I learn more about them. Then, I adapt to all of that, and I create a program for them,” or “I give them feedback or advice based on what they tell me.” I understand that is how you work in one-on-one coaching, but that doesn't mean that underneath that—and give yourself credit for this— lies a framework. There is a way to take that very personalized one-on-one coaching, and, yes, you need to make it more general. Yes, you do need to tweak it so that it will serve more people. But what you do is important. 

 Imagine if you go from serving twenty people a year, or thirty or forty, however many you serve in your one-on-one coaching per year, to thousands. If we're just looking at it from a heart-centered perspective, you are serving more people. If you're willing to expand your mind and say, “Okay. I know my one-on-one coaching is personalized and very special and very intimate in the way I work with my clients. But what if I made some changes to it to generalize it just a bit in order for me to serve more people and help more people?” What if we looked at it that way? Because I know it feels very personalized what you do, but there is a way to tweak that, and I have so many stories of my students who took their one-on-one coaching because they were tired of it, they were burned out, they didn't want to do it anymore, so they had that, like, huge desire to make a difference, so they had that fire in them to say, “I'm going to figure this out,” and they did. They did. And so can you. You don't have to hate your one-on-one coaching model to want to add a digital course, but many of my students did get burned out there, so they felt that fire to change it, and they proved to themselves and to all my other course creators it can be done. 

Okay. Let's keep going. Next question. Could your area of expertise be taught via video or audio? So I think COVID helped us to realize that almost anything can be taught online through video or audio. Can I get an amen? Now, take, for example, my student, Jane Monteith. She ran a mural-design business for ten years. That means she was showing up at locations, and she was painting murals.  

Now, traveling started to wear her down, so she wanted to find a way to take her knowledge and share it online. So she thought, “Okay. I can teach what I'm doing here.” And she brainstormed, and she thought, “I could actually go an extra mile.” So she landed on creating a mixed-media digital course. And it was something that she loved to teach, and it was based on a desire to get off the road. I think some of you can relate to that as well.  

Okay. So I'm hoping you answered yes to all of those questions, because if you have something to share, then you can create a digital course. So now that we all are on the same page and know that you have the knowledge, the know-how, or skill set to create a digital course, answer this final question. This is the big one. This is the one that I've mentioned twice now to wait to the end because the most important question is coming up, and here it is. Are you ready? Do you enjoy one-on-one coaching? You either do or you don't. The beautiful thing is that if you enjoy it, you have so many options for still offering it, even with a digital-course offer. But you have to decide if you like it or not. That's really what it comes down to.  

Look, my preference is that one-on-one coaching does not coexist with digital courses in my business because I don't like it. But remember Darcie from earlier in this episode? She loved one-on-one coaching and the connection it provided, and that's why she offers one-on-one coaching inside her digital course.  

Now, you have to ask yourself if you enjoy it. If you do, then keep on doing it, boo. And if you don't, it's that simple.  

Here's what I want to leave you with. It's not all or nothing, but at the end of the day, a course will make you more money, keep your business more sustainable, offer more consistent revenue and more security and definitely more freedom. But before we wrap up, I want to say that maybe you don't feel you're ready for a digital course. Maybe you have yet to set up an email-service provider, and you're just getting your feet wet, and you're just starting out; or you're still in the nine-to-five, and you're listening to this on your commute, and you're not read to jump all in. Just know that if you don't feel ready right now, that doesn't mean you'll never be ready. Maybe you stick with one-on-one coaching for a bit longer, set up your email-service provider, get more clarity on your roadmap. There's nothing wrong with that either. Gaining experience with individual coaching can be extremely beneficial when it comes to creating a digital course in the long run. So if you enjoy it and you're doing it, well, then, keep going, my friend. A digital course may be perfect for you right now or in the very, very near future or in the distant future. My goal is to just remind you that you do, my friend, have a digital course in you.  

All right, my friend. Are you ready for your action steps? After an episode like this, you now have a much clearer picture of what you’d like to offer in your business, and that's excellent. However, you might still be thinking, “Okay. I know what I want to offer, but what's next? Where do I start?” And truly, the answer depends on your unique goals and personal experience and audience and where you are right now in the vision you have for your business, which is why I decided to create an in-depth, personalized assessment to give you the answers to this big question, where do I start? Honestly, it will take you about two minutes to fill out this very personalized quiz I've created for you, but it will give you an individualized path to creating your profitable digital course. And if you're not ready to create a digital course, the quiz will actually tell you that as well and tell you what to do instead. So that's your action item for today's episode. Head to to take that assessment. Easy as that. You're two minutes away from getting a step-by-step, personalized path for creating your business, whether that's offering just a digital course or a hybrid of one-on-one coaching and a digital course. I can't wait to see what you create. So thanks for being here today. I'll see you next week same time, same place. Bye for now. 

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