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SSK #42: How to scale a service-based business

3 WAYS I CAN HELP YOU

Read time: 6 minutes.

How to Scale Your Business: From Service-Based to Knowledge-Based

Consultants, freelancers, and agency owners face a common challenge - scaling their business without getting overwhelmed.

If you are still trying to scale your consulting business by working with more clients, you are selling time for money, and it's a one-on-one game.

But in order to truly scale and maximize your income potential, you need to transition from a service-based model to a knowledge-based one.

Below, I am sharing the strategies and steps you can take to make this transition and achieve sustainable growth and impact.

The Problem with Time-Based Scaling

When you're trading time for money, you're capping your income potential.

There are only so many hours in a day, and only so much you can charge per hour. Your business growth becomes limited by your availability and energy levels.

Instead of working harder, you need to work in a way that allows for sustainable growth and impact.

The Transition to Knowledge-Based Scaling

To truly scale your consulting, agency, or freelancing business, you need to transition from selling time to selling solutions and insights. This requires finding ways to package and deliver your expertise to a wider audience.

Why You Should Transition from Services to Knowledge

  • Unlimited Income Potential: Overcome the finite nature of time. Package your knowledge once and sell it repeatedly to a global audience.
  • Increased Impact: Reach and empower a far greater number of people with your expertise.
  • Work-Life Balance: Reclaim your time and energy as you move away from 1:1 client work.
  • Legacy Building: Leave a lasting impact as your knowledge products continue to benefit people long after their creation.

Practical Strategies for Building a Knowledge-Based Business

Here are proven methods to shift your business model. Each includes a framework to get started.

1. Create Digital Products

Develop online courses, e-books, or templates that distill your knowledge into a consumable format. This allows you to reach a global audience and generate passive income.

To get started, identify a specific and valuable skill that you have mastered, and validate it with your target audience.

Then, create a comprehensive and structured course that provides step-by-step guidance and actionable insights.

Framework:

  • Identify Your Core Expertise: What are you most known for, and what results do you help clients achieve?
  • Market Research: Are people already searching for guidance on your topic? Look at online forums, competitor offerings, and keyword research tools.
  • Choose Your Format: Online courses (video, text-based), e-books, workbooks, templates, etc. Consider what fits your teaching style and learners' needs.
  • Develop and Launch: Use dedicated online course platforms or your own website with a membership plugin. I use Membervault and Notion to store my programs.

Market Validation (Before Creation):

  • Keyword Research: Use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to find relevant search terms and gauge search volume for potential product topics.
  • Survey Your Audience: Ask your existing network (email list, social media followers) about their biggest pain points and what learning resources they'd find valuable.
  • Analyze Competitor Offerings: Identify gaps in the market where your unique expertise can shine, as well as what pricing models competitors use.

Choosing the Right Digital Product Format

  • E-books: Great for in-depth exploration of a topic in a text-driven format. Consider lengths that range from shorter reports (20-30 pages) to more comprehensive guides (50+ pages).
  • Online Courses: Ideal for step-by-step instruction, combining video, slides, worksheets, and interactive elements. Determine complexity: mini-courses might focus on one specific skill, while signature programs offer a broader transformation.
  • Templates: Save your clients time and effort with pre-designed spreadsheets, checklists, slide decks, or social media graphics aligned with your area of expertise.
  • Stock Photography or Design Elements: If you have creative skills, license your photos, illustrations, fonts, etc., on marketplaces like Creative Market.
  • Audio-Only Products: Audiobooks or guided meditations (if aligned with your niche) can be a convenient option for on-the-go learners.

Production Considerations

  • DIY or Delegate?: Are you comfortable creating the entire product yourself, or do you want to outsource parts like writing, design, or video editing?
  • Software Tools:
    • Course Platforms: Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, Membervault
    • Design: Canva, Adobe Suite
    • Screen Recording: Loom, Camtasia
    • Editing: Descript (great for both audio and video)

Pricing & Packaging

  • Tiering: Consider offering a free "mini" product (short e-book, webinar) to attract leads and build trust, then offer more in-depth paid options at different price points.
  • Bundling: Bundle complementary products for a higher-value offer and increased convenience for your customers.

Sell before you build! Stop building products nobody wants. It's time to reverse the order of operations. Follow this process:

  • Pre-sell your vision.
  • Get 5 customers.
  • Build with them.
  • Deliver 10x.
  • Ask for referrals.
  • Rinse & Repeat.

Now you have product-market fit. Go build!

2. Offer Group Coaching

Consider running group coaching programs instead of working with clients one-on-one. This not only leverages your time more effectively but also fosters a sense of community among participants. To get started, define your program's structure and objectives, and set up a system for enrollment and payments. Encourage engagement and participation from your group members, and provide personalized feedback and guidance.

This is a model I have implemented in my business a couple years ago and I never looked back. Here's what happened when I transitioned from 1-1 to group consulting:

  • Almost immediately I went from working 40 hours per week with 8 clients to working 8 hours per week with 8 clients
  • I was able to scale my business 5x in 90 days, since I now had capacity to do so without the need to hire or outsource my work
  • My revenue went up significantly

Transitioning from 1-1 to group setting isn't easy, but it's worth it!

I now help my clients to go through that transition. Before you say "my business" cannot be transitioned, let me tell you that I've successfully done it with 100+ clients from a variety of industries. It can be done. 

Framework:

  • Signature Program: Repackage your 1:1 service into a structured group learning journey with specific outcomes.
  • Cohort Model: Foster community, collaboration, and accountability among participants. This reduces your 1:1 time investment.
  • Leverage Technology: Use webinar platforms, online community tools, and learning management systems for a streamlined experience.
  • Niche Clarity: Start with an ultra-specific niche. The narrower your focus, the easier it is to attract an ideal group and demonstrate your unique value. For example, instead of "leadership coaching," hone in on "leadership coaching for first-time tech startup founders."
  • Outcome Focus: Define a clear, measurable outcome your program promises to deliver. This ensures alignment among participants and allows you to design your content and curriculum with precision.
  • Program Structure:
    • Duration: 6-12 weeks is a common timeframe, providing enough time for transformation without losing momentum.
    • Session Format: Live group calls (biweekly or monthly) often form the backbone, supplemented by asynchronous learning components like pre-recorded content, worksheets, or community discussions.
    • Themes & Modules: Break down your outcome into smaller, sequential steps. Each module tackles a specific challenge or learning objective.
  • Group Dynamics:
    • Size: 5-15 participants allow for a balance of individual attention, shared learning, and community intimacy.
    • Intake & Screening: Use an application process to ensure participants are a good fit, motivated, and at a similar stage in their journey.
    • Community Management: Facilitate a safe, supportive space for sharing. Set ground rules, encourage participation, and moderate when necessary.
  • Accountability & Support:
    • Implementation Focus: Don't just deliver information – design assignments and activities that encourage application and real-world results.
    • Peer Support: Facilitate peer-to-peer encouragement and the opportunity for participants to share wins and troubleshoot challenges together.
    • Individual Check-Ins (Optional): Consider limited 1:1 touchpoints (e.g., one short session per participant) to provide personalized guidance.

Additional Factors for Group Coaching Success

  • The GROW Model: This classic coaching framework is ideal for group sessions. It stands for:
    • Goal: What does the participant want to achieve?
    • Reality: What's their current situation and challenges?
    • Options: Brainstorm potential paths forward.
    • Way Forward: What actions will they commit to?
  • Experiential Learning: Incorporate role-plays, exercises, case studies, and participant-led discussions to make learning engaging and actionable
  • Pricing: Group programs are typically priced lower than 1:1 coaching but higher than self-paced courses. I recommend keeping the same price as your 1-1 consulting. Consider factors like your niche, expertise, program length, and included support levels.

Example: Group Coaching Program Outline

  • Niche: Career transitions for women in tech
  • Outcome: Land a fulfilling new role within 3 months with clarity and confidence.
  • Module Themes:
    • Week 1: Mindset Shift & Values Exploration
    • Week 2: Identifying Transferable Skills & Ideal Role
    • Week 3: Networking & Outreach Strategies
    • Week 4: Crafting a Compelling Resume & LinkedIn Profile
    • Week 5: Interview Prep & Salary Negotiation
    • Week 6: Onboarding & Setting Yourself Up for Success

3. Build a Subscription Model

Create a membership site or a subscription-based service where people can access your expertise on an ongoing basis. This provides recurring revenue and a more predictable cash flow. To get started, define the benefits and features of your subscription, and set up a user-friendly and secure platform for members to access your content and resources. Engage with your subscribers through live events, Q&A sessions, and community forums.

I created a Revenue Masters Mastermind, where I meet with my clients once per week on a zoom call to chat through their questions and help them grow. They also have access to me on Slack where we can continue the conversation between our calls.

Expanded Subscription Model Framework

  • Value Proposition:
    • Ongoing Problem Solving: Is there a recurring challenge your ideal clients face that a subscription can address? (Ex: Content ideas for busy marketers, monthly legal templates for small businesses)
    • Exclusive Content: Offer members-only access to resources, templates, tutorials, or insights.
    • Community: Create a valuable space for peer support, networking, and access to you as the expert.
    • Convenience: Provide packaged, streamlined solutions that save your members time and effort.
  • Content Delivery:
    • Variety & Consistency: Offer a mix of formats (written, video, audio, templates, live events) to cater to different learning preferences and keep engagement high.
    • Schedule: A predictable content delivery schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) builds trust and anticipation.
    • Drip Content: Consider releasing content in a sequential "drip" format to guide members through a process or maintain momentum over time.
  • Platform Considerations
    • Ease of Use: Choose a solution that's easy to manage and navigate for both you and your members.
    • Membership Features: Payment processing, member management, content organization, and community features are essential.
    • Popular Options: Membervault, Memberful, Patreon, Circle, Podia, Mighty Networks, and even custom solutions built on platforms like WordPress.
  • Pricing & Tiers
    • Research Your Market: Look at what similar subscriptions in your niche charge.
    • Value-Based Pricing: Price according to the transformation your membership delivers, not just the quantity of content.
    • Tiers: Offer multiple tiers with varying levels of access, features, or support to appeal to different customer segments (e.g., basic vs. premium)

Keys to Subscription Model Success

  • Niche Clarity: Target a specific audience with clearly defined pain points and needs.
  • High-Quality, Ongoing Value: Consistently deliver content and resources that exceed expectations and justify the recurring cost.
  • Community Engagement: Foster a vibrant, interactive community space to encourage active participation and member retention.
  • Retention Strategies: Proactively address churn with email sequences, re-engagement campaigns, and special offers for long-term members.

4. Monetize Your Content

Turn your expertise into a revenue stream by monetizing your content. Create a content library with valuable and actionable insights, and offer exclusive content to your paid subscribers. Utilize platforms like Substack to distribute your content and build a loyal subscriber base.

5. Create a Scalable Service

Automate and systematize your consulting services to scale your business and reach a wider audience. Identify common challenges and pain points that your clients face, and develop a structured and repeatable solution. Utilize tools and technologies to streamline your processes and deliver consistent results.

I use Notion as a knowledge base and my clients can search it for all the answers without asking me a single question.

By implementing these strategies, you can transition from a service-based to a knowledge-based consulting business and achieve sustainable growth and impact.

Remember, the goal is not just to work harder, but to work in a way that allows for sustainable growth and impact. 

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p.s are we connected on LinkedIn or Twitter?

...and whenever you're ready, here are a few ways I can help you. If you're still trying to figure things out, I'd recommend starting with an affordable course:

1. The World Domination Strategy Game: a comprehensive tool for online entrepreneurs designed to simplify the process of creating a business strategy. A distillation of the best coaching exercises derived from working with over 800 online entrepreneurs. It provides clear, step-by-step instructions across 14 modules, supplemented with 20+ videos, exercises, files, and templates. The game can be used individually or with a team. The users are given access to additional resources like 40 pages of instructions, assignments, techniques, motivation.
https://mikekoziol.com/strategy-game/

2. The Marketing Agency Scaling Roadmap:Introducing: the 9 CRUCIAL categories and 27 power activities you need to focus on at each stage of growth: $5k-$25k/mo -> $25k-$50k/mo -> $50k-$100k+/mo. 5 Modules. 4 hours of ACTIONABLE content. Milk, honey, butterflies and rainbows and so much more...
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3. LinkedIn Prospecting: In this training, I'm giving you the nuts and bolts of what it takes to make LinkedIn prospecting a success. I'm peeling back the curtain to show you exactly how I utilize it, while also sharing my personal insights and experiences from leveraging LinkedIn to secure leads and clients.
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