If you’re anything like me, you set up your solo venture motivated by one driving force: freedom.
I’m not a corporate girl. Spending hours and hours sitting behind someone else’s desk in someone else’s company, slaving away to drive up someone else’s profits was a soul-sucking experience I’m keen not to repeat (and I had my “dream” job in the exact industry I’d always wanted to work in).
Like all of us in this community, I love working for myself. I love the freedom, the creativity, the opportunities, and most of all the knowledge that even on my worst days in business, all my hard work is going into building something for myself, from the ground up. Every ounce of effort I put into my business is worth it, no matter how hard it gets (and it does) – talk about motivating!
Selling time for money eventually puts limits on both
But, a couple of years into my solo venture and with an amazing client list, I’m still selling my time for money. With this structure, as the profits go up, the freedom that I fought so hard to earn goes right back down. At the end of the day no matter how great your service is, you’re going to hit a revenue ceiling unless you can find a way to scale and reclaim some of those hours.
It’s completely possible to make a good living as a service provider – I’ve done it for two years now – but if you do decide you want to grow, I’ve found you have three main options.
You can raise your prices, which might allow you to take on fewer clients but will eventually have its own limits; you can hire and grow a team; or you can look at other ways to generate revenue alongside your services.
I didn’t want to hit my clients with ever-increasing prices, and managing a team feels like another big time commitment, so I focused on the third approach.
How productising your services can help you reach new people
Lots of highly successful entrepreneurs talk about standardising and packaging services, and avoiding custom work. I’m a copy editor, so my day-to-day work is highly specialised and tailored to each individual client. I thought about packaging and creating products out of my services, but for a long time I couldn’t see how to make this advice fit for me and my business. I thought I just didn’t fit the mould.
Until suddenly something clicked. I realised both me and my clients shared two problems:
- Some people can’t afford constant professional editing
- There are only so many hours in the day (and they were all filling up with my clients)
The concept for my product, Conquer Copy Editing, was born.
How creating a course has helped me grow
I didn’t want to write an e-book because as a consumer I’m guilty of starting them with the best of intentions and never making it to the end. Creating a course was the right choice for my business, because it’s allowed me to pack in far more value using videos, workbooks, cheat sheets, and quizzes.
I’ve been able to expand my audience (AKA my customer base) because I’ve designed my product for people who don’t want to work directly with an editor or outsource this step – they want to BE the editor and do it themselves to ramp up their own businesses and projects.
I’m productising in a way that doesn’t directly compete with the services I currently offer, but expands on them instead. My course complements my services and fits perfectly alongside the things I already do.
My business can now cater to a whole new target market, while still allowing me to do the fun 1-1 client work that was the reason I set up shop in the first place.
What’s the takeaway for your business?
If you’ve hit a wall in your service-based business and aren't quite sure how to make product creation fit into your business, give some thought to developing a course or programme to teach what you know.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are there people who can’t afford you but still need what you offer?
- Are there people who want to do what you do?
- Can you teach what you do? (No excuses, of course you can!)
- Are your experiences valuable? (Hint: You already know they are because your service clients love you.)
If you answered yes, creating a digital product could be the ideal way for you to grow. Daniel Priestley, entrepreneur and author of Key Person of Influence, says that a product has three benefits:
- Establishes you as an expert
- Allows you to scale
- Frees up your time to focus elsewhere
I knew all of these things to be true (I was even watching other people grow by putting it into practice) but it took me a long time to figure out how to apply it to my own service business.
And don’t just take my word for it; you don’t have to look very far in the online business world to see entrepreneurs making these principles work with amazing and inspiring results.
Leah Kalamakis is a web designer and course creator who’s utilised her expertise to help her clients develop effective behind-the-scenes systems in their businesses through Stress Less & Impress.
Indigo Colton is a virtual assistant who created her signature course, Hire Your VA in 1 Week, when she found it hard to hire her own VA, and knew that her inside knowledge could simplify the process for others.
Like me, both Leah and Indigo still provide their core services and haven’t turned their businesses upside down, but by adding these digital products we’ve all successfully done one thing: scaled our service offerings and created more time to spend doing what we love – whether in our personal lives, our businesses, or both.
What product could you create to scale your service-based business, reach new audiences and provide high value to people who otherwise can’t afford you or want to do it themselves? Let me know in the comments!
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- How to Scale Your Service-Based Business and Reclaim Your Time - March 1, 2016