10 Business Archetypes: How to Choose a Business Model That Makes Sense (and Money)

Most of the people we meet who want to start a blog or podcast or business either have no idea how they’re going to make money or they’re too confident in some vague, doubtful scheme for revenue.

This is fine. It’s how I got started — vague, hopeful schemes. And, to be honest, it’s where I expected most people to start because you learn so much along the way.

But I’ve changed my mind. In the past year I’ve seen how valuable it can be to learn from someone else’s path (even from afar). When you have a little clarity and vision about how you could get started making money your path is more directed, there’s more clarity and focus.

So we created an email series to help people move from “I want to be an entrepreneur” to “I have a real business idea.” A major part of that series became understanding 10 business archetypes, knowing how they work, what the differences are between them and who you can watch and learn from.

In this episode of the podcast we share those 10 business archetypes with some colorful commentary. For many, forcing themselves to choose from this list (even though it is not comprehensive or mandatory) leads to clarity and some new ideas about how to grow into the next stage of their business.

I hope you have a similar experience. Enjoy!

The 10 Business Models

As I mentioned above, this is not a comprehensive list. Your business might fit comfortably into one of these buckets. It might not. This is all for the exercise of making some decisions, getting some new clarity and finding who out there you can learn from (even if they’re in a totally different industry).

I’ve added the timecode for each so you can re-listen to bits and pieces. But do give the whole conversation a go… there’s a lot to pickup from the 10,000 ft. view.

1. The Teacher (11 min) — the teacher researches specific topics, tactics, and strategies to help her customers solve specific problems. Rather than delivering them through freelancing or traditional books, the teacher uses digital products like ebooks, courses, and membership sites. Examples of teachers include Marie Forleo, Nathan Barry, and Jordan Harbinger.

2. The Thought Leader (13m) — The thought leader focuses on spreading ideas and sharing new research through public speaking and books. You can find her on the public speaking circuit or in a local bookstore for a book tour. Examples include Josh Shipp, Brene Brown, James Clear and Josh Kaufman.

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3. The Mediapreneur (17m) — the mediapreneur can take many forms, including podcaster, newsletter curator, or food blogger. What ties them all together is their source of income from affiliate marketing, advertising, donations and sponsorships. In other words, they make money from their content. Examples of mediapreneurs include Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas and David Siteman Garland, Brain Pickings. The audience is the product. Good notes in the conversation on this one.

4. The Freelancer (25m) — the freelancer uses her skills to help others build their businesses. Common freelancing skills include web design, web development, social media, photography, copywriting, and business consulting. Sometimes freelancers will team up with other freelancers to form an agency or firm. Examples of freelancers include Paul Jarvis and John Jantsch.

5. The Coach (31m) — the coach unlocks the potential of individuals. She uses the tools of listening, questioning, and guiding to help her clients reach their goals. This differs from the freelancer in that she exclusively works with individual clients. Examples of coaches include Jenny Blake, Natalie Sisson, Jerry Colonna and Peter Shallard.

6. The Artist (37m) — the artist sells his paintings, photography, comics, apparel or sculptures directly to his customers. These “products” don’t systematically teach things, but, rather, represent creativity, beauty and/or emotional power. Examples of artists include Hugh MacLeod and Austin Kleon.

7. The Maker (42m) — the maker is a craftswoman/man. She makes jewelry in her workshop. He makes furniture in his wood shop. She creates monogrammed linens in her spare bedroom. They use ecommerce platforms to sell their wares directly to customers. The maker differs from the artist in that he makes functional products rather than art. Examples of makers include Lamon Luther, StudioNeat and Andreea Ayers.

8. The Curator (44m) — The curator is much like the maker. However, rather than making and selling her own goods, the curator buys and sells goods from other makers through storytelling and ecommerce. Examples of curators include Need Edition and Kaufmann Mercantile.

9. The Engineer (51m) — The engineer uses her technical skills to build tools for others. She focuses on solving problems through technology. Examples include Studiopress, Buffer, ConvertKit and Gumroad.

10. The Retailer (53m) — the retailer is an entrepreneur who has been around the block and sees an opportunity to lead his industry into the digital age. He is a real estate agent, coffee shop owner, or insurance broker who sees the power of the web to grow his business. Examples of these are a little bit harder to find. Chase’s wife’s Portland real estate team is one we mention.

What else? — Are there others you see as a different business model? I’m curious to hear what you think.

The Questions

1. If you had a magic wand and you would immediately have a successful business, which business model above would you choose? Removing all the obstacles, which one feels like the best fit for you?

2. Who in the same business type as you could you observe and watch and learn from? How would they plan your next business moves? Who are the people in business you admire?

3. Let’s say in 10 years you’ve successfully combined 3 of these business models. Which ones do you want them to be?

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