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When to choose coaching vs. online courses

Category: Create Your Product

When to choose coaching vs. online courses
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Read time: 5min

To get started in knowledge commerce, you’ll need to decide which knowledge product to sell. Should you sell an online course? Or, should you sell a coaching program?

It can be hard to choose. There is some overlap regarding the outcomes and methods of instruction. In this guide, we’ll share what attributes roll up well with online courses or a coaching program so you can decide which to pursue.

The difference between online courses and coaching

First, let’s compare the two options. 

With an online course, you’ll create all of the content and any assessments first. Students will often work independently, at their own pace, and you can have numerous students at any given time. You can create the content once and continue to offer the course indefinitely. 

With coaching, you’ll work with one person or a cohort of people. These often take place in real-time, periodically scheduled sessions. You may have a fixed number of students and you may take a more active role with them.

Both can be interactive, virtual, and either for a fixed amount of time or go on indefinitely. You can customize the details of your course or program to help craft the student experience you want to impart. 

Now, let’s share some things to consider when choosing which knowledge product you should offer. 

How to know if you should sell an online course

Here are four general indicators that may encourage you to select an online course as your knowledge product. 

Online course can be a “passive” business

One of the most popular reasons people choose to sell online courses is that they are hoping to build some kind of passive income. With an online course, you can create the content once and sell it for years with little to no additional work required.

Often, the course content is self contained, with your students being able to work through the content on demand. Depending on how you structure the course, you could be completely uninvolved. 

One example of a passive course with no guidance from the instructor comes from Kajabi Hero Tucson Art Academy. The Puzzle of Painting provides much of the same content as another of their mentoring programs, but the instructor does not provide feedback. This means Tucson Art Academy can host the course and continue to bring in revenue for years to come. 

Of course, the most successful online course businesses are actively working on marketing, sales and customer engagement. But the product itself can be “create once, sell multiple times.” 

Solid content creation skills

Another critical aspect to offering an online course is to have solid content creation skills. This looks like:

  • You’re good at creating structured lessons
  • Your lessons could be applicable to lots of people
  • You’re comfortable with video or audio production 

To get the passive income like many knowledge entrepreneurs want, it requires an upfront investment of time and skill to produce the courses. 

The topic fits the course medium 

Another reason why you might opt for an online course is because the course format fits the topic best.

For example, if the topic is something that the customer might be doing for a hobby, they’ll likely find the course provides all of the support they need. Kajabi Hero Melissa K. Norris offers courses on homesteading. The topics of canning, food growing, and sourdough bread making align better with an on-demand course than a coaching program. 

Screenshot of six courses on homesteading, including organic gardening, canning, fruit preservation, homemade bath and beauty, and sourdough bread baking

The topic can generate many courses

Another related scenario might be if you can replicate topics easily. For example, fitness coaches can fairly easily create different courses even within one type of exercise with differing difficulty levels or focusing on different areas of the body. You may even be able to batch produce the content for added efficiency. 

If you have many course ideas, you can offer numerous different options to your potential customers. By casting a wider net, you can meet more customer needs, and may be able to increase sales as a result.

Have an existing audience primed to convert

You don’t need to have an existing audience to be successful as a knowledge entrepreneur. But, it really helps to have a pool of potential customers to whom you can market the course. 

If you already have thousands of potential customers in your audience (or more), that increases the chances of a better return on your investment from creating the content. 

Kajabi Hero DJ Willingham is a shoe collector with a substantial YouTube following. He wanted to monetize his audience with online courses. He shares his experience putting his course on pre-order while he was building his first course so he could gauge demand:

How to know if you should offer online coaching

Coaching provides a different experience than online courses. Here are some ways to know if you’re better suited to offer a coaching program.

Curated experience

If you want to provide a curated experience for your clients, coaching is a great option. Because you’re working with clients more directly, you can provide unique supplemental resources, recommendations, or advice to your clients that you likely cannot with online courses. 

If you want to build deeper, ongoing relationships with clients, coaching is a great option. You may work with clients for months or years. 

Higher ticket price

Coaches can often collect more revenue per transaction because the clients are often paying for the provider’s time and attention in addition to the course content. Some knowledge entrepreneurs find it easier to close one higher priced sale than dozens of lower priced sales to bring in the same amount of revenue. Or, if you find it easier to retain clients than continually sell to new clients, this could better support your business framework.

Smaller network 

Coaching may be a better option for those who have a smaller audience or network. Coaches often structure the program to get paid for not only their knowledge, but their actual time. So, it can take fewer sales to see a return on investment.

If the topic requires individualized attention 

Some knowledge entrepreneurs create content that necessitates a high amount of specific feedback.

For example, Kajabi Hero Medical School HQ offers medical school interviewing coaching. In their sessions, they interact closely with the person applying to medical school and provide detailed feedback that can only be gathered by the mock interview. 

If the topic requires in-depth knowledge of the client

If a client’s success or outcome with content relies on them providing in-depth information to the provider, coaching is likely the better choice.

For example, Kajabi Hero Karen Cross of The Hashimoto’s Solution offers a nine week program that requires an initial consultation call. The provider needs specific, detailed health information about each of her patients or clients. This is much easier to gather with a coaching format.

Online courses and coaching in Kajabi

Many knowledge entrepreneurs offer both coaching and courses. They might launch both simultaneously, or get started with one then offer the other as a way to grow their business. Kajabi Hero MJ Harris, a self-improvement and business guru, uses Kajabi to host both. 

Whether you want to offer online courses or coaching, you can use Kajabi to host your digital knowledge products and run your business. 

Kajabi provides you with a website, email marketing, a CRM, and templates to get you started quickly. The best part? It all lives in one place without you needing to code or design anything.

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