The Ultimate Guide to Building a Scalable Business

How to Build a Scalable Business

So you’ve been exchanging time for money, eh?

And you’ve looked up and seen your business colleagues and friends launching courses and memberships, and you’ve thought to yourself, ‘Now that looks good. I’d love to earn lots of money like that because then I wouldn’t have to work so damn hard!’

We totally get you.

Building a scalable business has huge benefits – not just financial but for your work-life balance too.

But, building a scalable business is, well, tricky business!

A lot of business owners try it, and, unfortunately, a lot of business owners fail.

That’s why we’ve put together this blog post to tell you how you can build a scalable business, what pitfalls to avoid AND the alternatives to courses or memberships that you should DEFINITELY consider.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

What does a scalable business mean?

David from Schitt's Creek

Okay, let’s just take a step back a second so we’re both on the same page.

What exactly do we mean by scalable business?

Because when people think of scalability, they tend to think of memberships or courses. Or perhaps even software, affiliates or teams. And, of course, these things are “scalable”, but this is quite a narrow definition.

To us, scaling simply means increasing your income without increasing YOUR work hours.

As freelancers or micro businesses, we only have a certain number of hours in the day/week/month, right?

We gotta eat, sleep and, ya know, enjoy life.

So, yes, swapping time for money is a way to earn a living, but there will always be a ceiling you hit, even if you raise your prices.

When you scale, you open up a new world of earning more money and gaining more customers but without extra work.

You can scale a little bit or build a fully scalable business that can even run without you. In some definitions, that’s when you become a true entrepreneur.

Building a scalable business should be your ultimate goal either way because it will help you reach more people, have a bigger impact on the world, and will increase your income – not your working hours – so you can live a more enjoyable life.

Yeah, pretty deep!

Hate to break it to you: launching a membership is NOT always the easy Holy Grail of recurring income 🤷🏻‍♀️

One thing we come across DAILY is people wanting to launch a membership, so let’s quickly address this.

We get the appeal of memberships. After all, we run one ourselves and absolutely LOVE it.

But unless you have at least a few thousand highly engaged email subscribers, a membership won’t work out – not right now, anyway.

That’s not to say it won’t be right for you in the future. But let’s paint the picture for, like, 92.3% of you that don’t have an email list of over 2,000 people. (Yes, that’s an exact percentage based on a survey of over 1,000 business owners.)

Here’s why.

Imagine you have an email list of 500 people and launch a low-ticket membership.

Realistically, less than 2% of your email list will join a membership, but let’s be ultra kind in this instance and say 5% of your list will join.

So you have 25 people in your membership.

It’s unlikely those 25 people will give you enough income to replace any 1-2-1 work you’re currently doing. Not to mention claw back the costs of launching your membership (fees for hosting, software, sales page designs, etc.).

So now you have a membership to run for a small number of people, which takes time out of your week.

You’ve got to do community calls, reply to people, deal with tech issues, add new content and answer queries.

As well as this, you’ve still got to do your 1-2-1 work (to earn some money) AND you now have to grow your audience so you have a new set of people to sell your membership to.

What do we see happen time and time again?

Major burnout.

Business owners are constantly split between promoting their 1-2-1 services (to get some cash in) and growing their membership (because that’s what they really want to do).

You also run the risk of confusing your audience, who won’t know if your heart is in one or the other – membership or 1-2-1.

How to test if you’re right for a membership

Firstly, if you do decide to launch a membership, here’s one big piece of advice:

You should aim to launch a membership that immediately replaces the income you get from working 1-2-1 with clients.

Many businesses view launching a membership as an “extra income stream”, but if you want to run a successful membership, you need to view it as your main income (unless you plan on outsourcing it all, in which case the income needs to support a team to run it). So even if you don’t give up the 1-2-1 work immediately, that should be your aim – and fast! Otherwise, you’ll end up hugely overwhelmed.

The way you work out whether you’re ready for a membership is simple.

Firstly, calculate how much you need to earn every single month to pay your salary, all your business outgoings and tax – and some for savings.

Let’s say this comes to £5,000 per month.

Now, divide that by what you plan to charge for your membership. For example £30 per month.

You’ll then know exactly how many members you need. For this example, that’s 167 members.

If you imagine 5% of your email list sign up to your membership (which is super generous), then you’ll need an email list of approximately 3,500 engaged subscribers.

Note that this is email subscribers, not social followers – it’s harder to sell a membership on socials.

Of course, there are exceptions to this, but this is a good general rule of thumb.

If you like, you can also do a simple validation test to see how many people would sign up to a waitlist. Try to get over 100 before launching.

Work out the maths, and if the numbers don’t add up, don’t do it!

Newsflash: there are other ways to scale

Part of the problem is, many business owners think that launching a membership or a course is the ONLY way to scale their business.

But that’s far from the truth.

In fact, we recently helped one of our Rebels members work out a way to scale their business. They initially wanted to launch a membership (as this was the only scaling method they could think of), but, together, we worked on a programme that brought £10,000+ per month extremely quickly.

It’s also more impactful, easier to sell than a membership, more enjoyable and more rewarding to deliver. It can also be highly scalable beyond £10,000 months going forward.

Sometimes, you really do just have to think outside of the (membership) box.

And that’s what we’re going to help you do right now. We’re going to go through the three phases to scaling, giving you new scalable ideas that can skyrocket your business success (without major burnout!).

The three phases to scaling your business

1. Non Scalable: Swapping Your Time For Money

At first, you’ll likely offer 1-2-1 services.

Sales might be sporadic, and that’s okay because your primary focus at this phase of your journey is finding your feet. By that, we mean:

  • Making sure there is demand for your offering
  • Getting sales
  • Understanding your audience
  • Understanding yourself and what you enjoy
  • Building your reputation and testimonials
  • Testing offerings
  • Building a following
  • Creating your own methodologies and processes.

This is all necessary stuff to figure out on your journey. For some people, this takes a long time, whilst others just seem to nail it all pretty quickly.

The danger zone!

At this point, many business owners want to launch a scalable offer because they get fed up with “doing the client work” or writing bespoke proposals … and they believe they’ve hit a ceiling with A) the number of hours they work and B) the amount they can charge.

They think the key is to launch a course or a membership.

As we explained before, they probably don’t have enough of an audience or the time to launch properly. And they will still have to continue doing 1-2-1 work anyway.

We’re going to show you a much better and faster way to scale your income higher, with what we call “semi-scalable” offerings.

First, though, here are four CRUCIAL things you need to be doing (and should never stop doing) at this phase in your journey to grow 1000x faster.

1. Charging more
Keep charging more, increasing your prices incrementally. Push till you get no’s. If you don’t charge enough, then you’ll have to work longer hours to make as much money – meaning you’ll have minimal time left to work on business development.

2. Making business development time crucial
This is one of the most important points ever, so pay attention. You absolutely must have non-negotiable time in the diary to work on business development. That’s things like proactive sales, creating time-saving processes, guest reachout, etc. They’re things that grow your business.

If you don’t have this time in your diary each week, then you will ultimately fail.

Got it?

The more, the better, too. Build this allocated time up continuously as a few hours isn’t enough. Aim for at least a day each week, then add more and more as you become more scalable/processed.

3. Getting good at outsourcing
When you outsource a task, you make more money. Simple as that. Outsourcing is not a cost. Essentially, if you outsource something for £50 that takes you two hours a month, and you charge £100 per hour, you’ve just made £150.

Your habit from hereon in should be: experiment with something that will help you increase your income/save you time. If it works, outsource it and reallocate that time saved into experimenting with the next thing that’s going to make you money. Repeat and grow.

If you can get to the stage where you’re also outsourcing the client work you do, even better. You make less profit per client, but you can take on way more clients, so you make massively more profit overall.

4. Building an audience
Finally, you should be continuously building an audience (ideally, an email list) so you have more people to sell to. This will be your best source of new sales in the future, so don’t regret not putting time into it now. We wrote a step-by-step guide on how to do this here. We can’t stress the importance of this.

By the way, if you want training on how to do these things in depth and support to pull the trigger, our ATOMIC growth membership can help with this. 😉

All these things are going to help you, and you should never stop doing them, but launching a more scalable or a semi-scalable offering will help you too.

A more scalable offering enables you to outsource easily because a lot of the processes are repeatable.

It also helps you reduce the time spent doing client work so that you essentially get paid more per hour you work – and more time to spend on business development and growing your audience.

BOOM!

So what is phase two, and what are these magical semi-scalable offers we’re talking about?

2. The Semi-Scale

Sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it?! 😂

But the semi-scalable service, or offer, is perhaps one of the most overlooked but profitable (and enjoyable) ways of scaling your business.

You’ve just struck internet information gold.

Unlike something fully scalable, like a course, a semi-scalable service still needs some of your time, but you can easily work fewer hours AND increase your revenue – which is always nice!

Moreover, unlike a course or a membership, you don’t need to have thousands and thousands of email subscribers or a HUGE social media following to launch a semi-scalable offer and see success.

The more known you are, and the bigger your audience, the easier your life will be, of course. Nevertheless…

You can offer these semi-scalable offers at any point in your journey. We’d recommend doing this as soon as possible.

There are three types of semi-scalable offers, from least to most scalable.

3 types of semi-scalable offers – with examples.

1. Package up your process

The problem with a lot of done-for-you services is they take A LOT of time because they’re bespoke.

When you’re working 1-2-1 with a client, it can take weeks or months to finish a project (just ask any website designer), which is why one of the first easy ways to become a tiny bit more scalable is by packaging up your services.

This means selling the exact same service each time. Not bespoke.

What’s an example of packaging up your process?

A great example is from ATOMIC member Cheryl Laidlaw, who offers a Website in a Day service. Check it out, she’s awesome!

Essentially, she gets the client to prepare in advance and then they meet up virtually or in person and build the website exactly how the client wants it that very day.

It’s very effective, and the clients love just getting it done with the website designer by their side.

Why is this semi-scalable?

It saves time:

  • No more time-consuming bespoke proposals.
  • No time talking to clients about all the different options, it’s just all on her webpage.
  • Most website designers have a capacity of around four websites max a month. Cheryl can do way more because it gets done in a day.
  • The prep work can be outsourced and processed.
  • She can use templated emails for a lot of the back and forth and even automate more things.

Won’t clients prefer a bespoke service?

Not necessarily! Bespoke 1-2-1 services can feel overwhelming and expensive, so having the option to buy into a process and get something they want in return is extremely appealing!

It also shows confidence. If you’ve done the same thing for lots of people with success, then it must be good!

Also, it doesn’t mean you can’t do something bespoke on request, and at least you have a starting place.

Won’t you earn less money?

Nope.

The process is efficient and repeatable which means two things…

Firstly, you have a higher capacity to take on more clients in less time.

Secondly, it means it works and has testimonials. Bespoke doesn’t always mean better. So you don’t have to charge much less because although it takes less time, the value is actually higher.

2. The Done-With-You service

A done-with-you service is where your client does the work, but you teach or coach them as they go through the process. You pass on all your knowledge and expertise to the client and keep them accountable for taking action.

It’s more scalable than done-for-you because, simply put, you’re spending less time coaching a client than you are doing the service.

But don’t you have to charge less for done-with-you?

Not necessarily.

Imagine you’re a LinkedIn expert for a second, and you offer a done-for-you service.

Now imagine you offer a done-with-you service to corporate clients, where you teach their staff all about LinkedIn, imparting all your knowledge and experience.

That’s worth a heck of a lot to them as a company, which means you can actually charge MORE for a done-with-you service (if you want to).

It’s that old proverb: Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.

When you offer done-with-you, you can feed your client for a lifetime! So you can justifiably charge more.

Another way of looking at it is, yes, it may be cheaper, but my 1-2-1 prices are now even higher. Therefore, you raise your 1-2-1 prices significantly, NOT offer your done-with-you service at a lower rate.

An example of a done-with-you offer

One of our Rebels members, Kylie Lang, has a great example of this with her done-with-you VIP quiz funnel day.

Kylie gives the participants the tools they need to build the quiz themselves. All she does is have an initial call with her client, where they flesh out the quiz, and then her team builds the quiz once the client has written everything.

Kylie’s clients get immense value without taking much of her time.

Another wicked example of done-with-you offers is what we call “guided courses”.

Here’s how it works…

You get access to a course, then get extra support to keep you on track. We know someone who sells a 6-month course for £4,000. Here’s what you get from them:

  • The roadmap course to get them a specific outcome
  • An initial 60-min kick-off call
  • Access to three weekly Q&As (one with them, and the others with their team)
  • Slack group support
  • A dedicated facilitator

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? But the whole thing is hugely scalable … they only have to show up once a week for an hour’s Q&A. That’s it.

The capacity is around 50 to 100 clients with this model. And being only 6 months, that’s a max of 200 clients a year, equalling £800,000 annually.

Not bad!

We think guided courses are going to become much more common, as people realise the value of them.

3. The Done-For-You service (with a team)

Did you know that you can run a scalable and profitable business that offers 1-2-1, done-for-you services WITHOUT burning out?

Yes, it does exist, and you can do it successfully by simply charging more and growing your team.

If you bring in team members to deliver the client work, then you’re able to scale immediately as you can take on more clients.

The tricky part is obviously bringing in the right people, making sure you train them properly and keeping up the quality. But it’s not as hard as you think and often what we see is that there are amazing people out there who can do things just as good as yourself, if not better.

This model is essentially 100% scalable. However, your role does morph into being managerial until the point where you can onboard a manager. Hence why we still class this as semi-scalable for now.

An example of a done-for-you service with a team

Rebels members Martin and Lyndsay at Jammy Digital launched their blog management service in 2022. When they first started the Rebels programme, they were limited to their own capacity. There are only so many blog posts you can write each month!

Since giving them the encouragement to adapt to this model, now the number of clients Martin and Lyndsay take on is limitless. While their specialist writers, designers and technical assistants are carrying out their respective services, Martin and Lyndsay are spending their time with clients on strategy.

This immediately increased their income tenfold and also helped them enjoy their work more.

‘We honestly didn’t think it was possible to run a done-for-you service without working so many hours! But since joining the Rebels programme, we’ve learnt how to hire the right people and only focus on doing the stuff we love to do in our business.’ – Martin and Lyndsay

3. The Full Scale

The Full Scale is simple: it’s selling something that doesn’t need any (or very little!) of your time and energy – apart from the initial set-up.

Once it’s up and running, you will probably have to (at least) do admin tasks around your fully scalable offer, such as replying to emails. But you can hire someone to do this for you.

You can sell as many of these as you like – there’s no ceiling you hit – which is why it’s called The Full Scale!

Fully scalable offers can be bloody brilliant. They give you the chance to make infinite amounts of money without putting in any extra time yourself. BUT, as we’ve said, to see success with this, you need to have a big audience/traffic/budget and be well known in your industry.

It can take years to get to that point.

Also remember that even if you do have a big audience and email list, you will have to continuously market your scalable offer – you can’t just go to your audience once.

That means you have to continuously promote your offer to your current audience AND grow your audience, too.

Yes, this can be outsourced and processed, but it does take time to get to that point.

Here are some examples of a fully scalable offer:

1. The digital product

This is often overlooked, but a digital product makes a great fully scalable offer (and it can be a nice lead in to your other services, too, if you have them!).

It’s usually a one-off price and helps your audience achieve a specific goal.

A lot of people think that digital products have to be cheap, but they really don’t! It comes down to whether you’re solving a real problem for your audience, how much they will pay to have that problem solved for them, and your messaging around the product.

The beauty of this product is once you’ve done it once, you won’t need to do anything again.

An example of a digital product

ATOMIC members The Two Lauras launched their hugely successful The Social Media Managers Toolkit for $499.

We love this product because it solves a real problem for a niche audience, giving social media managers all the tools/resources/templates they need to grow their business and saving them years of time and effort.

2. The course

The trusty course is probably the most common way people think they can scale their business. And we get why! You can set it and forget it. Once it’s done, all you need to do is sell it. (Well, kind of!)

It’s also easy to do. Yes, there’s a lot of set-up in terms of creating slides, recording and putting together worksheets or workbooks, and even though that’s time-consuming, it’s not overly technical. Especially if you’re using software like Thinkific to host your course.

Even though it’s a positive thing that setting up a course is easy, it does mean that selling courses is quite competitive. It helps if your course solves a specific problem for your audience and that they understand the value in it.

Like digital products, you don’t have to charge a small amount for your course – you can go big! Offering a premium course may work out far better than a cheaper one.

An example of a successful course

One of the most well-known courses EVER is probably Marie Forleo’s course B-School. Marie describes this course as a 6-week training programme, where trainings are released in weekly modules.

What makes Marie’s course quite different is there is a time limit for going through the course together. That’s great accountability for getting the course done and getting results.

Marie also only allows people to sign up to B-School at certain times of the year, meaning she has periods of high sales before she closes the doors. It’s a good incentive to buy.

Again, guided courses are the way to go.

3. The membership

Membership is usually seen as the Holy Grail of scalable offers, which is weird to us as running a membership actually takes more ongoing time than, say, a course!

But, we get why people love the idea of a membership. And it’s the same reason why we love running one – because you still get to work with people! You get to see a transformation in your members and you help them overcome their problems.

A course can sometimes feel a bit cold, whereas a membership is all about growing a community of people who are striving to do one thing. And you get to be part of that, which is very special.

An example of a membership

Okay, okay, yes, we’re going to mention our membership, ATOMIC, here. BUT, that’s because we have first-hand experience of running a membership and all the highs (and lows) that come with it.

As we’ve said, without an audience, you will struggle to see success from a membership.

We’ve had over 1,000 people join ATOMIC over the years, and we’ve only managed to do that because we’ve focused on growing our email list and building our authority.

If you’re thinking of launching a membership, make sure you’re super clear on who you’re targeting. For example, in ATOMIC, we help small and mighty business owners who want to grow their business and build something they love.

4. The rest

There are other ways to scale, of course, but this blog post is already getting too long and many, like events and software, have bigger barriers to entry.

Combining 1-2-1, semi-scalable and scalable offerings

We know businesses with both 1-2-1 and semi-scalable offerings, or even all three offerings. Often, your cheapest offering (which is typically your full-scale offering) will feed the rest.

For example, you could have a digital product for £99, a group coaching programme for £250 per month and then give people an opportunity to work with you 1-2-1 for £5,000.

All three can work in tandem but you can’t launch all three at once. It’s much better to work your way through the 1-2-1, the semi-scalable then the fully scalable offerings – putting in a HUGE amount of effort at each stage. That means coming up with processes, SOPs, getting clear on the audience, outsourcing tasks, etc. Always just do one thing at a time till it’s delegated.

So what do you think? Did this give you food for thought on how you scale? We’d love to know in the comments if this has helped.

We really believe that what your business model is and what you offer largely defines your income, and many people choose the wrong offers at the wrong time.

If you need help deciding, let us know in the comments with some context and we’ll try to help you figure it out.

If you want to know where your weakest areas are and what’s holding you back from growing, take this free assessment. You answer the questions and it will show you what to work on next for rapid results.

If you want an exact roadmap to scaling and figuring out what to do at each stage of your journey, check out the ATOMIC Growth Club membership. Inside, you get the roadmap to growth and a supportive community to help you take action.