Here’s the business model that I use, and recommend for all clients to consider.
It’s meant for those of us who wish to earn a living as solopreneurs, helping others with our wisdom and skills.
This business model offers complete location independence, so you can create an income anywhere you live, rural or urban, as long as you have a stable internet connection most of the time. You could also apply this to a local business, although it’s geared primarily for online businesses.
It’s important for each person to set the boundaries of what they will allow for their customers at varying levels, and that’s how this model has been designed.
It starts with you at the center of your business: your presence, your knowledge, your creativity. These are the core assets from which your services and products are developed.
The main success factor at this level is your joyful productivity. The more of it you practice, the more successful and fulfilling your business will be.
These are people who have direct access to you through scheduled 1–1 meetings. Ideally, video chats or phone calls. Alternatively you could meet clients in-person, but that requires you to live where there are enough people, and where it’s easier for clients to get to you. For 10 years, I have met with all of my clients online (video calls). This allows me location independence.
1–1 clients are inner circle, so they get the most access to you. You have the most responsibility for their results, and they also pay you at a higher rate than other levels in your business model.
You can only allow a few 1–1 clients at a time. If your full-time income depended 100% on 1–1 clients, the maximum I’ve seen from businesses is 22–25 hour-long appointments per week. More sustainable is around 15 per week.
The success factors of your 1–1 appointments include how effective you are in sessions with clients, and your system for following-up with clients.
Ideally, you could supplement your 1–1 work with services/products from other parts of this business model. This brings us to the next level up: working with groups.
A group coaching or mentoring program may have anywhere from a few people to a few dozen.
My authentic business mentoring group has 50 members, which is large enough to provide a diversity and dynamism that benefits everyone, and yet it’s small enough that I can still track and support every individual through the various features of the program.
You’re welcome to borrow any aspects of my group program to structure your own.
Each of your group members has less access to you than your 1–1 clients. This means you have less responsibility for the results of each group member. They also pay less than 1–1 clients, of course.
The success factor of your group program will depend on your ability to bring together people of similar values and energy, and your systems for tracking each member’s progress.
Whereas a group program must have a limited number of people, online courses are totally scalable. Whether 10 people or 100 people buy your course, it doesn’t really take you more work.
If thousands bought your courses (and I hope you’ll get there eventually), you’ll certainly have more student questions to answer, but it’s still much less work to have one additional student, compared to one additional group member or one additional client. This is what scalability means.
Compared to having clients or group members, you have less responsibility for each student’s results since they have even less access to you, and are paying you less than a group member would.
It’s important to set clear boundaries of access to you in your business so that you can remain a healthy solopreneur.
For example, my students (George Kao’s Authentic Business Courses) are limited to asking me targeted questions inside the Resource Document for each course. Or, they can come to my Bonus Q&A call once a month. If their question in the Document is more than I can concisely answer, I ask them to attend the monthly call. This is how I maintain healthy boundaries, while providing enough of my presence to still help my students and provide the value they paid for.
Books (e-books, printed books, audiobooks) are even more scalable than online courses. Millions of people can buy your books, and readers don’t expect that the author will necessarily answer their questions.
If you’ve read any of my books (George Kao’s Books) you know that I always have a Reader Survey in each book. In that survey I allow the reader to ask me one question, to which I’ll respond via email. This has been a sustainable way for me to provide some support to my book readers.
Compared to all previous levels (clients, group, courses) you should feel even less responsibility to your readers’ results — you can’t make anyone read, nor implement, your book’s advice… much less implement it in the right way.
Yet, you can serve many more people with your books (since they cost less) compared to your online courses or other services.
Finally, the outermost level, where you can reach the most people, is with free content — articles (blog posts), videos, podcasts, images.
It doesn’t cost you anything to have millions of people view your Youtube video or Facebook post. And, if any of your posts go viral and gets lots of views, people don’t expect that you’ll be able to respond to every comment.
At the level of free content, you have the least responsibility for any one person’s transformation, and they also expect the least access to you (since it’s free). Yet, you can reach the whole world.
Should you start with 1–1 or with books? If you are needing to make income quickly, getting clients 1–1 is probably what I would recommend. If you’re not in a hurry to earn income but are building this in your spare time, for the long-term, then I’d recommend going from free content, moving gradually inward towards 1–1 clients if you wish.
As you study this business model and implement it according to your energy level, you’ll figure out, over time, how many people you can allow in at each level, and therefore how much you need to charge for each product or service.
Since this article is free, I can’t customize the model for you, but you are always welcome to engage with me at other levels. For example, take one of my online courses and you’ll get access to my Bonus Q&A call where we can discuss in real time your specific situation.
You’re also welcome to comment with any questions and I’ll respond when I can. May this simple model help you plan your business going forward!
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For more than 10 years, George Kao has been training and mentoring entrepreneurs to build authentic businesses that bring fulfillment, freedom, and contribution.