Paid business coaching VS Free or grant-funded business coaching

Each and every year customers come to us and ask us “what is the difference between paid business coaching vs free  or grant-funded business coaching?”

Now that is a very good question, and it’s easy to see how important it might be to get it right. After all, for most business owners, their company is their most valuable asset, so if you’re going to trust someone to help with it, you want to make the right choice.

At Action Coach, we only have paid memberships, and the truth is, they might not be the best for you. In fact, free or grant-funded business coaching might be just what you need. 

This article is going to explain the pros and cons of both types of coaching programmes as honestly and transparently as possible so that you can make an informed decision.

Let’s start with paid business coaching.

Paid business coaching: An honest review

What’s included?

That’s usually the best place to start. Now if the truth is told, this can vary in a major way in different organisations. That being said, in this article, we’re going to generalise a little bit and give you as much information about the “norms” rather than saying “this is the fixed rule”.

Here goes;

121 Coaching

In a paid business coaching programme, you’ll tend to find that most companies offer 121 business coaching. That can be a really useful tool because it can be made to suit you as a business owner. 121 coaching is perfect when you feel you have a unique goal or challenge. It’s also great for those that don’t like being in a group and prefer a more intimate relationship with the coach.

Strategies are often tailored and if you work with your coach for a long time, you’ll see that they get to really know your business.

Group Coaching

Paid business coaching programmes can also have group coaching programmes. They can run in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes the coach can choose an “open coaching” format. That basically means that the coach won’t present a pre-determined session or training programme. They’ll coach the people in the room on their existing problems and challenges. In that instance, a coach might ask the group what they want coaching on and just coach the challenges that come up.

That’s the definition of “pure” or “open” coaching. It means the coach is less likely to tell you exactly what to do. Instead, they will ask you lots of questions so that the person being coached can come to their own conclusion without lots of judgement from the coach.

Other group coaching programmes work along a fixed programme. So they might have a pre-designed session every time. One session could be on marketing, the next on management. This kind of session can be great to get a well-rounded overview of a business.


Some paid business coaching programmes also build great communities. If you think of companies like BNI or Genius Network, they’ve built a global company on community alone. It can be really powerful. There’s that old saying, you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with and getting involved in a community that’s full of business owners that are all looking to grow and be better can be really rewarding.


Finally, there are paid coaching programmes that include different software. For example, at Action Coach, we have business planning software that includes a financial forecasting tool, and a benchmarking guide to show you what other companies in your industry typically spend on rent, marketing, or make in gross profit.

There are different educational platforms and pieces of software in the marketplace also, they can be great at helping you get the education you need at a time that works for you.

We’ve got to make something clear here though, every single coaching organisation is different so you’re going to want to ask the questions to see if what you want is included in those coach’s programmes.

What’s not included in a paid business coaching programme?

Here’s the thing, most paid coaching organisations are only small. They may only have one coach or the owner may be a solopreneur. That’s not to say that ALL paid business coaching programmes are run by one-man bands, because they aren’t. There are some huge coaching organisations out there, especially in the states.

But as a general rule of thumb, the business coaches you are likely to meet and run into at a networking event, or at an exhibition are usually very small. That means that you are just not likely to have more than one person that can help you.

If your coach is an expert when it comes to marketing and sales, they might not be as strong when it comes to finances.

So what does that mean you’d be missing out on? Experience from multiple different people with different skills.

For most (not all) business coaches at a local level, you have your coach and that’s it.

What about the services?

There isn’t a hard rule on this. All coaches offer different services. Some offer only 121, some groups, some have great digital platforms and some have great communities. It’s then up to you to decide what’s important to you so that you can see which coaches offer what.

Why would I pay if I can get it for free?

There are a few reasons to look at when it comes to making a decision about investing or joining a free programme. None of the decisions are right or wrong, it just depends on which one’s right for you.

The coach and community

One of the most common benefits that our customers talk about is the relationship they have with the coach, and with the other business owners in the group. If you really get on with your coach, and they have a sense of community in their organisation then you might be investing in the people as much as you are in the programme. There tend to be (of course there are exceptions to the rule) fewer strong communities in grant-funded programmes. There are organisations like the chamber of commerce that build community, but they don’t always offer coaching programmes.

So basically, if you really like your coach, or you really like the other business owners, that can be a pretty good reason to invest in a paid programme.


There are many (not all) grant-funded programmes that offer a restricted amount of time for the programmes. For example, you may see a 12-week programme that helps in one particular area. With most paid business coaching programmes, there’s no limit to how long you can receive help and support. Also, because you are usually coached by the owner, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have a new coach after a few weeks or months.

Most of the business coaches in a grant-funded programme are employed, therefore they can change jobs or be moved on a little more regularly.

You’ve found a superstar coach

It might just be that you’ve found a coaching organisation that seems to be at the top of its game. It’s the same in every industry right? And the same in every business.

There’s often good, and there’s often bad. Maybe you’ve just found someone that’s really good. That can often be the case, Verne Harnish, Tony Robbins and Brad Sugars who are considered to be some of the best business coaches in the world don’t work for companies that offer free grant-funded coaching and maybe you want a coach at that level. If that’s the case, you are probably going to have to invest.

What’s great about a paid business coaching programme?

To summarise what’s great about a paid business coaching programme, you’ve probably got to point towards a few key areas.

  1. The versatility and customisation that’s available – Tougher to do with the grant-funded companies because they have more red tape to navigate and more customers to service.
  2. The relationship with your coach – Of course, if you have a great relationship with the coach then you might just want to work with them rather than shopping around for the lowest bidder.
  3. The community – Getting to know other business owners can be priceless as you start to network, learn from each other and build relationships.
  4. Some of the world’s best coaches work in this space – Not many of the elite coaches on the planet tend to work with grant-funded programmes.

What’s not great about a paid business coaching programme?

Here’s a quick summary of what’s not great about a paid business coaching programme:

  1. It can often (not always) be just one coach with no team members – One-man bands are extremely common in the business coaching world. If your coach wants to take a holiday or they get sick, basically, you’re screwed.
  2. The coach you like might be unaffordable – You might really like a certain coach and not be able to afford their packages.
  3. You have to pay – Goes without saying, but it would be crazy to leave this out right?
  4. The coach you like might not offer the programme you want – If the coach you like specialises in group coaching, and you want 121 coaching, this can be a problem. Just like a number of the other problems above, it’s generally caused by the fact that most paid coaching programmes are run by individuals rather than teams.

Free or grant-funded business coaching: An honest review

What’s included in a free or grant-funded business coaching programme?

The biggest grant-fund business coaching organisation in Manchester is the Growth Hub. Fortunately, we’ve got a great relationship with those guys so we can give you a good insight into the kind of work that they do. Some of it’s free, and some of it’s paid, but generally speaking, they provide some great value across the City. If you are not based in Manchester, no need to panic, these kinds of organisations are spread across the country and you’ll be able to find something similar closer to home.

Manchester Growth hub offers help to businesses at all stages of their growth journey with their broad range of services. They offer expert one-to-one and peer-to-peer business support, events, specialist programmes, funding and much more.

Better still, most of their support is fully funded and is provided at no direct cost to your business. 

They provide services that can help you find funding, develop leadership skills, do more with technology and digital, or even improve operational efficiency.

Most other grant-funded business coaching programmes offer very similar services, and they can be especially great if you’re just thinking about starting a business. If you’ve just got an idea but don’t know what to do with it, they have staff on hand that will help guide you, even before you launch.

What’s not included in a free or grant-funded business coaching programme?

It’s rare (not impossible) that grant-funded coaching programmes offer help in a few different areas:

  • Personal wealth – Most of the grant-funded hubs don’t offer any assistance with personal wealth and what to do when your business grows and you’ve got an abundance of income.
  • A sense of community – Most of the grant-funded programmes don’t develop a strong community between the owners. Because they tend to attract customers that haven’t started trading or that are low-income, it would be difficult to find a really strong network with high turnover business owners (like you would get if you joined GeniusNetwork at £20’000 a year). There are some that offer peer-to-peer programmes, which is certainly a step in the right direction. But not many out there provide a community that’s really special or where smaller businesses can mingle with high-net-worth individuals.
  • The very best coaches in the world – The coaches that have built multi-million or billion-dollar companies from scratch, don’t tend to work for the free coaching organisations as we’ve mentioned above. For some, it’s important that they have a coach that’s an actual business owner and entrepreneur themselves so they can relate, rather than someone that’s employed. 

Why would I pay if I can get it for free?

This is just all down to personal preference and where you are on the business timeline. The grant-funded programmes are an absolute no-brainer for those that have an idea and don’t know what to do to turn that idea into a business. There aren’t many PAID coaching programmes in the world that would support a business before its incorporation (mainly because they wouldn’t have any money to fund the coaching).

But if you’ve found a coach that you really like and trust on a paid programme, or you want a sense of community then you might prefer to go down a paid coaching membership.

There are other things to consider as well.

If you want a coach that’s running their own business then you’d probably be better placed with a paid programme (although I’m sure some of the employees in free coaching companies have got businesses).

But by all means, if you want a coach that’s genuinely world-class or that has a high profile, your going to have to join a paid membership. Coaches of that calibre and that size just don’t have around grant-funded coaching programmes.

What’s great about a free or grant-funded business coaching programme vs a paid coaching programme?

To summarise what’s great about a grant-funded or free business coaching programme, you’ve probably got to point towards a few key areas.

  1. It doesn’t cost anything – It’s completely free, that’s got to be a big bonus. It really does mean every business in the UK should have a coach. You are certainly going to be in a better position with the extra knowledge and guidance.
  2. There are lots of different courses you’d like to try – A lot of the biggest grant-funded programmes have lots of options with different subjects whether it’s marketing, management or even raising funds.
  3. Help you with grants – A good amount of the free coaching programmes will offer services that help you look at what grants are available. Almost anyone can get in touch to look at the grants, so even if you’re working with a paid coach, it might be worth looking into.
  4. You might have found some of the staff to be really helpful – If you’re working in the coaching industry, the chances are you just want to help people. With that being said, you might have come across the staff at a coaching organisation that you just love.

What’s not great about a free or grant-funded business coaching programme vs a paid coaching programme?

Here’s a quick summary of what’s not great about a grant-funded business coaching programme:

  1. Less versatility – With any big organisation comes rules and structures. A lot of the programmes on offer with grant-funded organisations are one size fits all. In some instances, even the 121 coaching and mentoring can be run with very strict guidelines. That can mean that you don’t get coached on the challenges individual to you and instead you just have to follow the set programme.
  2. You might not like the coach – As you onboard with a paid coach, you’re going to spend time with them so you can learn whether you like them or not and build a relationship. With some of the free programmes, you sign up and then get designated a coach or mentor. That means that you might be paired up with someone that you don’t actually like.
  3. Your coach might not have experience running a business – That’s not the case for ALL the free coaches, but for some of them it is.
  4. They may have run out of space – Some of the programmes they offer only run at certain times of the year, which means they can fill up or it might just be months until they next run the course you want to be on.

An honest summary

When it comes to choosing a coach, it’s all about personal preference.

Honestly, the most important thing is that you like them, trust them, feel they can help and can afford their services.

If you find a coach that ticks all those boxes, then go for it whether it’s a paid programme or grant funded.

However, if you don’t want to invest any cash right now then go for the grant-funded coaching programmes.

Same thing if you’ve found a particular course that you think might be beneficial for you on a free programme.

On the other side of the coin, if you want a sense of community,

Or a coach that’s running their own business, then maybe a paid programme is for you.

Maybe you want a coach with a big profile to give you a sense of security and if that’s the case you’re definitely going to have to join a paid programme.

As a general rule, there’s no right or wrong. It wouldn’t be fair to say that paid coaching is better, or that grant-funded coaching is better. It all depends on what you want. When it’s all said and done, it comes down to personal preference.


Paid business coaching VS Free or grant-funded business coaching

Paid business coaching VS Free or grant-funded business coaching