I remember clearly how excited I was to leave my full-time job to go freelance. It wasn’t that I hated my boss or the job or the commute—well, okay, the commute got a little old. But after three years I felt something inside me pull me towards freelancing.
I didn’t know what to expect and that’s what excited me most about it. At first, freelancing was exactly the adventure I had been seeking. Taking on my own clients, working from home and the local coffee shop, making my own hours… Who could ask for a better situation?
But as I continued to work project-to-project, I felt a strangely familiar feeling. It reminded me of my final weeks before I left the nine-to-five a few years earlier.
Once again, I had the itch to level up. I had raised my rates a number of times, but I still felt limited. Billing by the hour meant I could only earn an income when I was working. Vacations were out of the question. Plus, constantly writing proposals and stressing over project deadlines was really starting to get to me.
So I made it my mission to productize my consulting work so that it can scale and keep producing without me, freeing me up to focus on the bigger picture (not to mention, take a much-needed vacation with my family).
Today I’ll share three key lessons I learned while making this transition. If you’re in the same position I was in, then my hope is this might help you envision ways you can level up and productize your consulting.
1. Focus on One Thing
Most consultants offer a wide range of services. As a freelance web designer, I did everything from WordPress theming to logo design to SEO, and everything in between.
Every time I had a new client proposal to write, I custom tailored my offering to fit the unique needs of each individual client. This was a great way to win lots of projects. But it prevented me from building any sort of systems and being able to scale up. More on this in a moment.
So my first recommendation is this: focus. Focus on doing one thing exceptionally well. Focus on serving one ideal customer who stands to benefit the most from your one service.
This will enable you to do two things:
- By focusing on one service, you can find ways to streamline and systematize it to run efficiently with or without you.
- By focusing on one customer, you can gain a deep understanding of who they are and what they need, making it easier to find more of them.
For example, when I productized my web design service and launched Restaurant Engine, I chose to focus solely on building websites with WordPress, with a feature set limited only to the common requirements of a Restaurant. This helped us streamline and automate our production process, while it also helped us market and find more of our ideal customers—restaurant owners.
2. Offer a Compelling Value Proposition
During my days as a consultant, I found writing proposals and doing discovery meetings to be a huge bottleneck.
Every time a client approached me for a new project, we entered into a long, drawn-out discovery process, which included having multiple meetings, doing a needs analysis, writing a proposal, and laying out the costs. In other words, I had to constantly reinvent my service to fit the unique needs of every new client.
With a productized service, you no longer have to get bogged down in the discovery process. Since you’ve defined one service and one customer that you serve, you can offer one compelling value proposition.
By positioning your service as a product, you can offer it in a neatly packaged, pre-defined scope with a set price. Rather than reinventing your offer for every client, you simply need to attract enough of your ideal customers who see your offer as a no-brainer value proposition.
So how can you make your offer so valuable that it’s a no-brainer? Here are three tips:
- Offer a “Done For You” service. As a productized service, your unique differentiator could simply be the “Done For You” aspect. By focusing on one service, you not only help the client benefit from the results, you also save them the time they’d otherwise have to invest in doing it themselves (or learning how to do it themselves).
- Offer unique value-adds. Find unique and creative ways to bundle even more value in with your service offering. Maybe it’s some extra educational content, or detailed monthly reports, or a monthly strategy session to help customers continue to be successful.
- Value-based pricing. Rather than billing by the hour, with value-based pricing you can price your service based on the value of the results your client receives. In a productized service, this should be one set price. From your ideal customer’s perspective, this price should be low in comparison to a typical ROI, making it a no-brainer.
For example, let’s look at Nick Disabato’s productized consulting service, Draft Revise. Every month, Nick runs a new A/B test on his client’s website, testing one variation against another to see which results in higher conversions. He then implements the winning result and begins the next A/B test.
It’s a “Done For You” service, because the client doesn’t have to fiddle with A/B testing software or come up with strategies to test. Nick handles all of that for them. The client simply benefits from increasing conversion rates.
The price is a set monthly fee, which given the types of businesses Nick focuses on serving, is a fraction of the ROI they receive, making it truly a no-brainer value proposition.
3. Scale up with Systems
When I teach consultants about productization, I often say that you can design your service to run with or without you. It simply depends on what your personal goals and preferences are. But the methods are the same.
In Nick’s case, he prefers to work solo and focus on what he does best: Running strategic A/B analysis and implementing website changes to boost conversions. By delivering his service in a predictable way, he minimized or eliminated all of the extra tasks and side services he used to offer, making it much more enjoyable for him and more valuable for his clients. A win-win.
In my case, I chose scale up and grow my team, so I can remove myself completely from the service aspect and focus on the bigger picture. Even though we manually setup and service every client’s website, we’ve built predictable systems to streamline the entire process. This allowed me to delegate these tasks to my (amazing!) team, so I can focus on improving the product and our marketing.
At a high-level, here is my three-step strategy for systematizing your service:
- Make your service more predictable. By positioning it as a product, focusing on one service for one customer, you can build predictability into your process. Then you can document procedures and find other ways to streamline how you deliver the work.
- Hire and delegate (or eliminate). Once you’ve productized and refined your process, you can begin removing yourself from the tasks of servicing clients by hiring key roles and delegating those tasks. Or, if you prefer to stay small and work solo, you can find ways to eliminate or automate the unnecessary tasks and side-services that don’t add value.
- Leverage your time effectively. As you systematically remove yourself from the service tasks, you must make the most of your freed up bandwidth. How will you spend your time if you’re not bogged down in day-to-day service work? Perhaps it’s pushing forward a new marketing initiative to grow the business. Or perhaps is gaining a deeper focus on your craft.
Free Crash Course in Productization
If you’d like to learn more about productizing and the methods that have helped me and others transition to a more scalable business model, I created a free email crash course on how to Productizing Your Service.
And of course, leave your questions and comments below and I’ll do my best to discuss further.