7 simple steps to creating a profitable productized service

Kyle’s note: Making the transition from a freelancing service to a productized service is the goal of many entrepreneurs. This gives you more control over your business, makes you less vulnerable to “feast or famine” situations, and is often a key element to scaling a business. This this post Vic Dorfman breaks down each step to transition out of freelancing and creating a productized service.

If you’re a freelancer, productizing your service might be one of the best business decisions you ever make. It will allow you to earn more money, free up more time, and focus on building real business assets instead of trading your time for money in a never-ending cycle.

And I’m about to show you how to make it happen in one week!

7 simple steps to creating a profitable productized service Click To Tweet

Is my service productizable?

Indubitably! Whatever your service is, it’s productizable.

My service was setting up and providing technical support for WordPress membership sites. This encompasses such a wide variety of tasks that it’s actually a terrible candidate for productization.

But that’s OK because your service doesn’t have to be scalable for you to productize it. Even an imperfectly productized service is better than pure freelancing because it will serve as the springboard for you to do something that CAN be properly automated, delegated and scaled.

The 7-step productization framework

Step 1 – determine the most common issue your clients ask you to solve for them on a recurring basis

As Dan Norris pointed out when we chatted on my podcast, you don’t actually productize your service. You productize a solution to a problem that your clients are willing to pay for on a recurring basis.

The keyword here is recurring.

Even if the majority of your business comes from one-off jobs, it’s still quite likely that there’s a segment of folks who need your services on an ongoing basis. And if you’re good at what you do there are definitely people who value you highly enough that they’re willing to pay on a monthly basis if that’s the only way to get access to you.

So the first step in productizing your service is to take stock of your clients’ most common, recurring problems. Then pick the issue, or range of issues, that occur most often, and position your new service as the solution.

It may not be realistic to “niche down” with your service and offer only a small subset of the full rainbow of tasks that you normally do for clients in a freelancing context. So it’s perfectly fine to offer the entire range of your hourly services but to charge for them on a monthly basis, rather than per hour or per project. That’s exactly what I did with my unlimited membership site support service, MemberFix.

The trick to making this work is to compose some mutually favorable terms, which I’ll show you how to do shortly.

But first let’s take a gander at some real-life examples of service providers who took common, recurring problems in their markets and offered high-quality productized solutions to address them.

WP Curve

Problem: Website owners don’t want to do the little tasks that come along with running a WordPress site themselves.

Is this problem recurring? Yes. There are always plugins and themes that you need to update when running a WP site, and there are always various small issues that come up.

Solution: Offer unlimited WordPress fixes and tasks for a flat monthly fee.

Design Pickle

Problem: Companies need graphic design work at a reasonable price.

Is this problem recurring? Yes. Companies need to produce various kinds of graphics on a consistent basis.

Solution: Offer unlimited graphic design for a flat monthly fee.

MemberFix

Problem: WordPress-based membership site owners need tech support, fixes, and guidance on best practices.

Is this problem recurring? Yes. Running a membership site is more technically intensive than a standard WordPress site, and it often requires various maintenance long after the initial setup is complete.

Solution: Offer unlimited WordPress Membership Site Support for a flat monthly fee.

SellingYourScreenplay.com

Problem: Aspiring hollywood screenwriters need to get real work in the screenwriting world.

Is this problem recurring? Yes. The more scripts a screenwriter can option and/or sell, the better his career trajectory becomes. Unless you’ve “made it” and have people banging down your door for a script, you need to actively hunt for work.

Solution: Provide leads for legitimate, paid screenwriting jobs on a regular basis.

Testing.Agency

Problem: Businesses need to run A/B tests to optimize their conversions. But actually setting up tests, especially the more complicated variety, can be prohibitively complex and expensive if attempted in-house.

Is this problem recurring? Yes. Savvy businesses understand the value of constant testing and set aside a budget for this important ongoing activity.

Solution: Set up and run A/B tests for businesses.

In each of these examples, the service provider took a common, recurring problem and offered a productized solution to it.

But bear in mind that our focus today isn’t to start the next WP Curve; it’s to transcend your current situation of trading time for money in order to free you up to start the next WP Curve.

Because let’s face it, as a freelancer your schedule doesn’t afford you the time or mental bandwidth to make a serious dent on anything outside of your freelance engagements.

Step 2 – setting your terms

Now you’re probably wondering how the heck you’re going to service a full roster of clients while earning significantly less money per hour than you would with freelancing. And if you’re a one-man team, how is it even possible to provide an ‘unlimited’ amount of your service?

That’s where your terms come into play. Your terms define the conditions under which you render your service.

For example, the five main terms of my MemberFix service are:

  1. You may submit unlimited requests, one at a time.By requiring your clients to submit tasks one at a time you’re able to throttle the amount of work that comes in at once. This allows you to complete the work in manageable chunks.
  1. Each request must take no more than 60 minutes for me to complete, given your best honest ‘guesstimate’.By setting a 60 minute cap on task completion time, you kill two birds with one stone. Primo, this forces your clients to make their requests specific and definite. Secundo, this prevents clients from requesting longer tasks that are better suited to hourly work.
  1. I will complete requests within 2 business days or sooner.This time frame is generally acceptable to clients and it gives you time to complete tasks at a reasonable pace. If you were to offer 24 hour turnaround, this would be very hard to deliver on with a full client roster. There’s nothing wrong with an ambitious turnaround time, but I’d rather that you underpromise and overdeliver to your clients, which is easier to do when you bake extra buffer time directly into your terms.
  1. I don’t work on requests over the weekend (Saturday & Sunday).If I could pick just one term that I *know* you’ll be darn glad you set forth in your business, this is it. I firmly believe that weekends should be a time of rest and rejuvenation. Occasionally it’s fine to honor a request over the weekend if it’s an emergency. But otherwise, this is your time.
  1. No contracts, cancel anytime.This point is largely self-explanatory.

Obviously, these terms apply specifically to my MemberFix service, and may not realistically translate to your service. Rather than duplicating my terms word for word, I suggest that you adhere to the following guiding principle instead:

Create terms in your business that throttle workload yet still allow you to deliver a ton of value to your clients, even when you have a full client roster.

Create terms in your business that throttle workload yet allow you to deliver a ton of value Click To Tweet

If you find you’re giving way too much and getting back way too little, that’s a sign that you either have good terms but you aren’t following them, or that your terms aren’t giving you a reasonable amount of value in exchange for what you’re providing to the client.

Your terms needn’t be set in stone. They’re going to evolve over time as you receive feedback from your market, anyway. So the goal isn’t to box your clients in with a bunch of rules, but rather to arrive at a mutually satisfactory value exchange.

(Obviously, if you’re operating at scale, like WP Curve, Design Pickle, et al, then you have to be very strict about your terms. But that’s a different situation entirely.)

To give you a real example from my business, one of my clients goes for months without submitting a request. Then she’ll come out of nowhere and bombard me with a ton of work all at once.

Even though technically she’s violating my terms, she’s paying me hundreds of dollars every month without getting much of anything in return.

So I find it perfectly reasonable to put in an extraordinary burst of work for her when it really counts. If that means I have to put in some work over the weekend or fulfill a task under deadline – two situations that my terms are specifically designed to prevent – so be it!

Dan and crew echo a similar sentiment on the WP Curve landing page: “We’re fair and we’ve found our monthly clients are as well. We support a reasonable number of tasks per client and we will let you know if you’re stretching the friendship.” Crafty!

The subtext is that WP Curve will continue to give value and service to a client so long as both parties feel that the value exchange is reasonable. Unlike the traditionalist “the customer is always right” business ethos, we’re taking the approach of: “the right customer is always right”.

It’s got to be mutual.

Unlike the traditional the customer is always right ethos we say the RIGHT customer is always right Click To Tweet

For any given client you work with, the intersection of value will occur at a different point. It’s up to you to arrive at that point by communicating openly with your clients. So use your terms as a governor to throttle workload and prevent being taken advantage of. But remain open-minded.

If you encounter a client who expects too much for too little and can’t be bargained with, then you may wish to politely let him go. And since under this arrangement one client only represents a fraction of your total MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) you can afford to let him go without losing too much sleep over it.

Step 3 – pricing your productized service

Your next task is to figure out how much to charge for your service.

I first charged $85/month for unlimited membership site support. Then I upped it to $95. And finally I settled on $297. At $95/month, I’d need three times as many clients to meet my monthly recurring revenue goal.

It’s worth noting that servicing 10 clients at $297/month is much easier than servicing 30 clients at $97/month, even though you’re earning roughly the same monthly revenue. For this reason you should set your price high enough so that you only need a small handful of active clients to pay your bills every month.

If you charge $297/month, for instance, you’ll need between 5-10 clients to pay the bills (depending on your cost of living). Err on the side of charging more money and taking on less clients.

This premium pricing approach is mutually beneficial because you need fewer clients to make ends meet and you can give those few clients a higher level of attention and care than is possible if you’re spread thin among dozens of requests.

Related: Why you should embrace premium pricing

It’s also less stressful to work with a small, select group of individuals.

For one thing, you incur a lesser cognitive switching penalty so you spend more time in the zone. And secondly, you won’t have to wake up on Mondays greeted by an inbox packed with requests from 30 different people, which is a rather disagreeable way to start the week.

A caution: I would discourage you from offering a yearly pricing option when you first roll out your service.

You may reason that locking in a client for more than a month is a win. But in fact, it goes both ways and you may wind up locking yourself in with a difficult client. I’ve cornered myself into this very conundrum several times. The likely result is that you’ll wind up having to refund the problem client anyway, so why not preempt the issue altogether and simply charge month-to-month?

A yearly option also prevents you from being able to change the terms of your service for current clients (recall that your terms are an evolving organism), since these clients agreed to and paid you based upon the conditions you had set forth at the time they signed up.

When you charge on a monthly basis you give yourself and your clients the wiggle room to cordially part ways if there turns out to be a poor fit. And it also allows you to evolve your business unhampered by stipulations that aren’t relevant anymore.

Step 4 – set up a landing page

Once you’ve figured out your terms and your pricing it’s time to set up a landing page.

When I was launching MemberFix and my “Done For You” membership site setup service I didn’t know where to begin with creating my landing page, so I simply used WP Curve’s layout as a jumping-off point. Over time I added my own touches to make my landing page unique.

I used OptimizePress to create the MemberFix landing page.

OptimizePress is a huge part of everything I do online. I highly recommend it. If you want to download my MemberFix landing page template to use as your jumping-off point (as well as a few other custom templates I’ve made), please visit the following page:

http://www.vicdorfman.com/templates-for-wp-curve/

Related: Cancel your LeadPages account – this OptimizePress hack makes LeadPages obsolete!

You want to keep your landing page copy short and to the point. It’s also good to include so-called ‘persuasion triggers’ that encourage people to take action.

Because it’s so vital to an effective sales message, here’s a brief primer on the most important triggers you should place in your copy.

Social proof – This takes the form of real, genuine testimonials from happy clients.

Video testimonials, in particular, are incredibly powerful. I always ask all of my clients for a video testimonial. If a client is really camera shy and hesitant, I’ll ask for a written testimonial instead. The result? I have a load of positive feedback I can use in all areas of my marketing.

For example, here’s a short video testimonial from one of my happy MemberFix clients:

There’s just no way that a written testimonial, no matter how glowing, could have the same effect as a heartfelt endorsement on camera. This is why I highly recommend that you systematically ask your clients for honest feedback on your products/services in video form.

You can—and should—automate this request for feedback using Zapier.

Related: A simple process for team task automation with Zapier and Trello

How much more trustworthy and authoritative do you reckon you’d appear if you had dozens of clients speaking positively about you on video? And how much more persuasive would these videos be compared to your run-of-the-mill, text & image testimonials?

Authority – The authority trigger is flipped when people see authoritative figures endorsing you and your work.

For example, being featured on CNN transfers some of the authority and credibility from this major news network to your brand. If you managed to get on CNN then you’ll be perceived as having the requisite level of expertise. Whether or not you actually possess this expertise is another story!

Likewise, if an authoritative figure in your market endorses you, then others will perceive you as being legitimate.

If, for instance, you run a fitness/diet blog and Dave Asprey says that you are “one of the most knowledgeable and thorough sources of information in this area,” that would act as a giant stamp of approval upon your brand and would instantly transfer some of Dave’s authority unto you.

WP Curve sports the following authority element on the landing page:

Scarcity – The principle of scarcity states that we desire things more when they are scarce.

Remember that dreamy girl (or guy) who never paid attention to you? You still dwell on it from time to time, don’t you? You still wish you could go back in time and somehow ‘get’ them, isn’t that so? Why does that thought haunt you to this day? Because mister/misses Dreamboat was aloof, unattainable, scarce.

Things can be scarce in a number of ways, such as:

Limited quantity remaining – “There are only 20 tickets left to our live event!”

Limited window of availability – “You only have 12 hours remaining to make your purchase before we stop accepting orders.”

Highly exclusive – “We only have 10 spots available, and each client will be hand-picked!”

Discounted pricing for a limited time – ”This low price will only be available for the next 24 hours. After that the price will double!”

Or, for maximum effect, you can use a combination of scarcity tactics.

In order to use scarcity effectively it has to be genuine. For example, when you launch your productized service you can offer an early bird discount for early adopters that will only be good for a few days (just don’t discount too heavily.)

Once those few days are up, you then revert to the full price. If you have clients who aren’t sure if they really need your service and they see the early bird offer, they might jump on it so that they don’t have to pay more later.

You can see another example on my MemberFix landing page where I use exclusivity-based scarcity by stating the number of available slots I have in my client roster.

If a prospect is on the fence about signing up and sees that I may very well be unavailable in the near future, he’s more likely to make a buying decision.

It’s tempting to bend the truth but I caution you against using false scarcity.

Even if your scarcity tactics are automated using countdown timers and other tools, make sure that you keep your word (i.e. a ‘one-time offer’ should only be accessible once and never again. A countdown timer should count down and lock visitors out of the page like you said it would. You get the picture.)

Otherwise people will see that you’re willing to be dishonest just to make a buck, and this will make them distrustful of you. That, dear reader, is one thing you really, really want to avoid!

Liking – People prefer to do business with people they like.

And likewise, we avoid doing business with people we don’t like.

So be Real. Be honest. Be your quirky self. People want to know there’s a likable human being behind your professional veneer.

Be human. Be Real. Be honest. Be your quirky self. Click To Tweet

That’s why my modus operandi at conferences and business-oriented meet-ups is to just be myself and talk about my favorite non-business topics: music, fighting, girls, traveling, weightlifting, wine, etc.

If I can connect with somebody on one of these ‘baser’ topics, I consider it a win. You’re at a business event, so the conversation will naturally drift into business talk anyway.

I find it’s best to be a normal person first, so that when the business pow-wows eventually commence, you will coast into them on the natural, genuine wave of connection that you’ve created with ease, and that others are understandably but misguidedly trying to force.

Many people have reached out to me after hearing me on a podcast in which I recount my rags to relative riches story.

These folks heard my heartfelt true story (storytelling is arguably a persuasion trigger in its own right), saw my humanity and how I overcame adversity—something we can all relate to—and then decided to do business with me on that basis.

A reputation for competence, professionalism and getting shit done is certainly a requirement for people to want to do business with you, but it isn’t the sole, deciding factor. Being liked is often the clincher.

Reason why – People want to know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. What motivated you to start your current business? What’s your agenda?

Your reason why has to be genuine, and it can’t be about you making more money (that much is obvious anyway; who doesn’t want to make more money?)

For example, I started MemberFix because I wanted to attract amazing clients who are already having success with their membership sites, and give them a concierge level of support that would be impossible to offer without strictly limiting acceptance into MemberFix and charging a premium rate.

A truly stellar example of Reason Why can be found in this yoga video:

It’s hard not to get misty-eyed watching this clip. It leaves no question as to the vendor’s sincerity and genuine desire to help people and impart his wisdom and experience to others and why he is motivated to do so.

Sure, he’s making money by selling his product, but that seems rather incidental once you’re convinced of his pure intentions.

What’s in it for me? – There’s sales copy. Then there’s good sales copy. Then there’s riveting, cliff-hanging sales copy.

Reaching this final echelon of copywriting mastery is no easy task. However, whether you’re a black belt copywriter or a complete beginner, your guiding principle remains the same. You are always answering the fundamental question in your prospects’ minds at all times, which is:

“What’s in it for me?”

That’s all anybody truly cares about. People only care about you and what you’ve done tangentially. The primary question looming in their minds at all times is “what can this guy do for ME? What do *I* get out of it?” Endeavor to always answer this question in your marketing and you’ll be ahead of the pack.

For example, when you send out an email announcing your new podcast episode you could go one of two ways with the email subject line:

A) My new podcast is up! Come listen now, it’s awesome

…OR…

B) Rocketing your business to 6 figures in 6 months with Dan Norris of WP Curve

The first subject line is about you and your podcast. The second line is about your subscribers. It implies to them that they’re going to learn something that will benefit their businesses tremendously and they’re going to hear about it from a well-known figure who really knows what he’s talking about.

Related: The web entrepreneur’s guide to creating and using landing pages

Step 5 – set up your apps and processes

When Kyle Gray (the content manager ’round these here parts) and I discussed the possibility of my contributing a guest post to the WP Curve blog, the idea that we first explored was a post about a minimum viable app stack for productized services/startups.

I even surveyed some of the folks in the 7DS Facebook group to find out what core apps are essential to running their businesses. Well, it turns out that everybody uses different stuff! And because your business is unique, you’ll likely wind up with a unique bundle of software, too.

My advice in this department is to keep it lean.

To run MemberFix I use Gmail for communication (free), Paypal for billing (free), Digital Access Pass to manage clients and protect content ($40/month) and ScheduleOnce for scheduling Skype calls ($9/month).

Related: 35 business tools that help us run our WordPress support machine

Even though I’m not boasting a Frakenstein’s monster of trendy apps, it all runs like a well-oiled machine and costs me peanuts. So I encourage you to strive for this kind of simplicity and cost-effectiveness as well, especially in the beginning stages of your productized service.

If you plan on using your new productized service as a means to transition to bigger and better things, then you probably won’t need a well-documented set of processes. In my business, for example, I simply check emails, complete tasks and update clients when I finish a task. That’s hardly worthy of documentation.

However, if you think your productized service has the potential to scale, then you’ll definitely want to start jotting down everything you do in your business. These documented processes will come in handy later when you hire a team. Externalizing and writing down your procedures is also a very useful habit for an entrepreneur to develop.

Related: The practical guide to creating bulletproof processes to scale your business

Step 6 – Hustle for clients

Paul Graham (co-founder of Y Combinator) said that in the early stages of a startup, you’ve got to do things that don’t scale. Same-same in your case. You’ve got to beat the bushes for clients, go above and beyond in providing value, and basically just do whatever the heck it takes to fill up your client roster.

The easiest way to get your first handful of clients is by emailing folks you’ve already worked with. Craft an email template that sounds casual and friendly. Then simply go through and email everybody one-by-one.

Here’s an example template you can use:

Subject: Quick question…

Body: Hi {Client’s name},

How’s everything?

I think I might have mentioned this to you earlier, but I’m launching a new service called {your service’s name} and I’ll no longer have the time to accept hourly/project work.

You’ve been a wonderful client to work with and I really appreciate all of the business you’ve given me. So I want to offer you a discount on signing up for my new service. 🙂

=> Link to the discounted offer

You still get access directly to me and this arrangement will actually allow me to give you a better quality of service than before.

There are a few stipulations that differ from our freelancing arrangement so please take a quick look at those here:

=> Link to your landing page with stipulations

Thanks {client name}, let me know if you have any questions at all and I’ll be happy to help. 🙂

Best,
{Your name}

I like to take this up a notch and add some kind of personal touch to each of the emails.

For example, if a client I worked with is a musician, I’ll ask him if he’s written any cool new songs lately that I can check out on YouTube. Or if a client lives in San Francisco, I might ask him how the Bay Area is treating him these days. Show that you remember some details about this individual. And use their name, twice. It really makes a difference!

If you have a blog audience, an email list, or a following on social media, use those channels to wrassle up some clients.

Also make use of Facebook groups (e.g. the 7 Day Startup Group), Slack groups (#nomads) forums (e.g. the Warrior Forum), and various other channels (e.g. Product Hunt, live events, etc).

Whatever you have to do to get clients: do it. Call people if you have to. Meet them for lunch if you have to.

If you think you’re too cool for school, I present to you my friend Russ Perry of Design Pickle who crashes conferences in a pickle costume and hands out individually wrapped pickles to attendees from his branded pickle cart.

Russ took Design Pickle 0 to 150 clients in 6 months with minimal paid advertising.

Related: How Russ Perry grew a multiple 6 figure business in 106 days

While I’ve never dressed up as a fermented vegetable, I don’t in any way consider myself above doing that, or anything else it might take—within reason—to get clients.

For instance, I often message folks on Facebook whose comments I saw in a group or on a forum, and find a way to provide value to them. I call people. I invite people to schedule a Skype chat with me with no strings attached. If somebody’s in my city or I’m in theirs, I treat them to dinner or a beer.

If the conversation organically drifts towards my services, I’ll talk about it. If not, I just don’t mention it. I’ve signed several clients with this non-pushy, value-adding approach. And I left those individuals who didn’t become clients with a warm and gooey feeling about Vic the person and Vic the professional, which I consider a win.

Step 7 – Do whatever it takes to keep your clients

Once you’ve filled your client roster, do whatever it takes to keep your clients on board. This means being as courteous, professional, communicative, honest and results-oriented as you can possibly be. It’s not always easy but you get better with practice.

Sadly, even if you provide stellar service, a time will come for every client when they no longer feel they need your service and you get the dreaded “I’m quitting” email.

The oft-cited statistic is that it’s 5-7x more expensive to acquire a customer than to keep him/her. You’ve worked so incredibly hard to get your clients on board. You’ve spoken with them, probably several times, you’ve proven your trustworthiness and credibility, you’ve overcome their objections, and you’ve collected payment.

After all of these tribulations, you should NOT let them go without a fight!

Related: The ultimate guide for reducing churn on your product

First things first: if he hasn’t told you yet, ask your client why he’s quitting.

If price is the major objection, you could offer a reduced rate on your service. If your client isn’t really using your service as much as they thought they would, offer to transition your relationship into a coaching arrangement. Or even offer an entirely different service if you think you could do a good job with it.

I can’t cover every possibility so I’ll repeat that which bears repeating: do whatever it takes to keep your clients.

It’s much easier to continue servicing an existing customer base than to start over with new clients. And it’s also easier to convince your existing clients to stay than to convince a non-customer to join.

Bonus Tip: Use freelance inquiries as a means to build up your productized service

Now we’ve come to the end of this article. But I want to share one final tip with you.

If you regularly receive inquiries from folks looking to hire you on a freelance basis, you can funnel those people into your productized service whenever it’s appropriate.

The idea is to limit or completely stop doing freelance work as soon as possible, and to only accept clients who are willing to work within the framework of your new service.

Sometimes a potential client just needs a small job done. And in this case you can agree to complete the job (even if it falls slightly outside of your terms) with the condition that they sign up for your service. If they don’t need your services after the month is up, they can cancel. Otherwise, they’ll continue to be billed.

You might be surprised to learn that this type of client will often find work to give you because he needs to justify the chunk of change he’s paying you. And once he experiences the value of your service, he may stay on for several more months!

Signing clients to your productized service often requires several touches. You may get the occasional low-hanging fruit where somebody visits your website, sees your offer, and signs up on the spot. But most folks will need to talk with you a bit, interact with your brand, and feel you out.

With that in mind, whenever somebody emails me with an inquiry, I add them to my Google+ Circle called “fellow warriors”. I also make use of my email signature to showcase my website and services a bit.

But most importantly, I genuinely try to address their inquiry and help them out, even if it means referring a colleague, or sending them to a relevant article which addresses the topic they’re puzzling over.

Once your client roster is more or less filled up, you’ll still be able to take on freelance work but you’ll be able to A) pick and choose whom you want to work with and B) charge a lot more for it.

In order to justify taking time away from your your productized service, which will be your main breadwinner at this point (and thus most deserving of your attention), you can, and should charge a premium for freelance engagements.

If you follow this 7-step framework and productize successfully, you probably won’t want (or need) to take on freelance work anyway. You’ll be free to spend your time working on more strategic, high-level business tasks.

I hope you can see now how productizing your freelance gig not only allows you to unchain your income-earned from hours-worked, but it actually positions you as a highly premium, highly sought after contractor as well!

I’ll be hanging out in the comments section below if you have any questions or concerns. 🙂

About

Vic Dorfman is a membership site expert who writes and podcasts about recurring revenue at VicDorfman.com. He provides unlimited membership site support with his MemberFix service and sets up done for you membership sites. Connect with Vic on Twitter @vicdorfman

  • Patrick

    Hi Vic, thanks for your article. What about if your Clients only ask for your Service 1-2x a Year. How do i convince People to still book a monthly product?

    • Patrick O’Doherty

      Yeah I have the same concern (and the same name). Convincing legacy clients to transition to a new model is difficult. Do we just bite the bullet and lose them? Maybe we could offer something like – if you don’t have any requests we will be proactive and send you one update per month to do on your site… something else? Analytics reports?

      • Patrick I’ll play devil’s advocate. How do you know that convincing legacy clients to transition to a recurring model is difficult? Have you tried it? 🙂 It worked pretty well for me…

        To answer your other point, yes I think losing some clients is inevitable. But this goes back to Dan’s point in the 7 Day Startup that all of the business you think you’re missing out on, you’re really not because you’ve narrowed your focus on delivering one thing really well to the exclusion of everything else.

        I personally don’t do any kind of proactive upkeep for my clients and I haven’t experimented with it, but it’s certainly something that might help reduce churn.

        • Patrick O’Doherty

          Well, yes, I tried it once and failed – so being persistent I went back and didn’t bother again. Here is the exact email and response – any pointers? :

          I wrote:

          I have two options for the cost for you:

          1. $350 to complete items as we discussed.

          2. $199 on my monthly subscription. I’m now offering unlimited website updates for $199 per month for small jobs (exactly like these). You can cancel anytime so if you just want these done, then sign up, I’ll complete the tasks then you can cancel. You can view more details and subscribe via credit card here:

          Customer Replied:

          Hi Patrick,

          I’ll just do the one of payment, we dont have edits very often so i’ll just pay as i go.

          Thanks,

          • Ah I see!

            If you have enough leads coming in to where you can afford to do it, I’d funnel everybody to your monthly plan.

            Then if they don’t want to sign up, you can reach out a couple of days later and say that you have some freelance availability (if you do and if you want the work).

            I’ve lost a lot of potential freelance clients because they didn’t want to sign up for a monthly plan.

            The funny thing is that only by forcing people into the recurring billing arrangement can you get off the freelancing hamster wheel.

            But we fear that if we press the issue they won’t sign up for anything, so we chicken out and take on the freelancing gigs, which in turn interferes with the productized gig.

            That was definitely an issue for me for the first few months but then after a while I kind of started to enjoy telling people no. 😛

    • If these clients value your services highly enough (or they just like you personally and want to work specifically with you), they’d probably be willing to sign up for the month as long as they know they can cancel anytime and if that’s the only option they have.

      So there’s a bit of a leap of faith when you’re productizing because you don’t want to lose potential freelance clients by telling them that the only way they can work with you is by signing up to your productized service.

      But at the same time, the point is to fill up your roster so you don’t have to take a bunch of freelance engagements.

      If you have a lot of leads coming in and you can afford to insist on your productized service then that’s the best position to be in.

      So you can basically give people two decisions: First sign up for your productized service OR engage you on a freelance basis for a very high hourly fee.

      That’s how I did it anyway, there might be a more elegant way. 🙂

  • Laura C. George

    I think the word “productize” is a bit misleading. I think of a product as something you create once and aren’t really involved in the delivery. All of these examples are still services in my mind, just recurring services that people purchase in bulk.

    • Laura, I agree that my service (MemberFix) isn’t really a productized service because I’m still involved in the delivery.

      But more sophisticated, proper productized services like WP Curve and Design Pickle have systems in place that don’t require Dan and Russ (respectively) to do any of the fulfillment themselves.

      That’s why I made the point that for a lot of freelancers, “productizing” at this point in time just means changing their pricing models so that they’re paid on a recurring basis, even if their service doesn’t inherently lend itself to being properly delegated, systematized and scaled.

      But delivering your service yourself while getting paid on a recurring basis is better than delivering the service yourself while getting paid on a non-recurring basis. Kind of like a “freelancing PLUS” arrangement if that makes sense 🙂

  • Melanie

    Hi Vic.
    Thanks for this inspiring article. I am thinking about producrizing my freelance services now for quite some time now. In fact I am stuck at your point No 1 😉
    I work as a project manager and consultant mainly for corporate clients. They book me for projects running for 3-6 months and my “services” consist of project planing and setup, analyzing and managing risks, stakeholder analysis, project steering, running workshops, performing as-is analysis, creating to-be concepts and business processes, organisational development, … A lot oft these tasks are performed at the clients’ side. Not because it is necessary, but because the client demands it.
    Do you have an idea or hint for me, what and how I can productize these services?
    All the best,
    Melanie

    • Matthew Rodela

      One idea you could try is to offer training for others who might want to learn how to do what you do. Training is an easy thing to productize (make videos, create a membership site….I think we know someone who can help you with that) and may be an approach you can take if your specific service is not very productizeable .

      • Melanie

        Hi Matthew.
        Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate that.
        I am actually thinking about training for quite some time. Because as you said, it’s easy to productize. But I have to find a special angle on it, as the market is flooded with PM trainings, webinars and so on…
        Best, Mel

        • Matthew Rodela

          Sometimes the “special angle” is simply your unique personality, experience, and training style. Give it a shot and see how it goes, you can always work on the “angle” afterward.

          • Melanie

            I like this one 🙂 I’ll give it a try

    • Hi Melanie,

      A few ideas/questions:

      1. Are there any tasks you do (or group of tasks) that clients have you do on a recurring basis?

      2. Do you provide any kind of support/tweaks after a project is completed that you could bill for separately (and of course on a recurring basis)?

      3. Matthew below had a really good idea of providing some kind of productized training/support.

      Maybe you could do something like “unlimited email support for $xxx/mo.” or another tier might be “unlimited email support plus 2 Skype calls biweekly for $yyy/mo.”

      It’s possible that your gig isn’t very productizable to begin with but let’s see what we can come up with first! 🙂

      • Melanie

        Hi Vic.
        Thanks for your reply.
        1) Actually there are no tasks that are on a recurring basis
        2) No
        3) I think that could be a viable option
        Offering “unlimited email/Skype support” sounds like a really good idea. I have to think about it and will try to implement it
        Thanks

  • Hey Vic, great article, thank you! I currently have the ’10 True Client’ model and am transitioning into a productized service model on my way to ‘100 True Customers’. These tips and the resources you link to are super valuable!

    • Glad you found this useful, Joseph! Is this for http://contractordynamics.com/ (linked on your Disqus profile) or for another project? Curious to see how things progress. 🙂

      • Yes, for Contractor Dynamics. Currently, my model is 100% custom, consultative, etc. Fun, but not very scalable. Really excited to be building out the productized version right now, and customer #1 committed this week!

  • Nice article Vic, very practical and actionable. Thanks for sharing the info.

    • Thanks Barry, the pleasure is all mine. 🙂

  • Thanks to your OP template and advice, a lightbulb switched on and I just went from idea to landing page all set up in about 5 hours! To scared to launch it now! Will sleep on it 🙂

    • Hey Merrin,

      Did you wind up launching?

      How did it go?

      Vic

  • Definitely agree with you that premium pricing filters in the higher quality clients. But isn’t the point of productized consulting to turn clients into customers so that you’re not dependent on any one of them? E.g. losing 10% of your customers when 1 person leaves out of 10, vs losing 1% of customers when 1 out of 100 leaves?

    • Hi Joe, thanks for your question! 🙂

      In response I’ll say that premium pricing and anti-fragility aren’t mutually exclusive.

      For example, if you’re running a service for which you charge $95/month, losing 1 out of 11 clients leaves you with ~$950/month.

      If it becomes clear to you that the service is worth triple, and you raise your prices to $295, then losing one client out of 11 leaves you with $2950/month recurring revenue.

      Which of the two positions would you rather be in?

      However, this difference is accented primarily when you’re just starting up and trying to get traction.

      For example, If your plan is to scale your service aggressively, and you’ve determined that $95/month is the best price point for a number of reason(s) known to you, then losing one out of one HUNDRED clients at that rate won’t be a big deal… *once you’ve brought on that many clients*.

      If you have a specific real-life example in mind that you’re thinking of and want to share it, we can break it down.

      Or you can PM me on Facebook and we can talk about it privately.

      Best,
      Vic

  • I’ve been thinking of productizing my copywriting business for some time now, and this was such a helpful article- thank you! I especially appreciated your ideas on how to throttle workload. That’s been my biggest concern.

    • Christine, I’m glad you found it helpful! Yes…throttling workload is probably the biggest challenge with one of these semi-productized services.

      I say “semi” because we’re basically turning our consulting gigs into somewhat reliable recurring income but we’re not quite building true scalable/automatable businesses yet which rely more on process than your individual talent.

      That being said, it’s definitely a step up from the typical ‘work & invoice’ model.

  • Dina Lynch Eisenberg

    Very fine piece of writing, Vic, thank you. You sparked two things for me, a realization and a new pricing structure.

    My hubby lost a million dollar biz because he refused to have an assistant or document his work (he sneezed and needed emergency surgery that required 2 years of recovery). That’s why I’m very passionate about getting small biz to delegate and outsource more, no matter where they are in their business. It’s about protecting your family and health as much as leveraging your time.

    I wanted a product that didn’t involve coaching per se. So my biz is structured around online coursework and productized services. My first product attempt, a 90 meeting ‘ask me anything’ model, is too vague based on this article. Now, I’m refocusing on doing a 5 point business review about what to outsource and automate, which is a lot more specific AND easier to teach to someone else so I may remove myself from the process.

    When I visited WPCurve and saw the ‘only 3 spots left’ sign a lightbulb went off. I’m experimenting with limiting each ‘product’ to only 10 buyers a month instead of open enrollment. (I also search and select teammates as my other product) I’ve had prospects who were very interested after a free consultation but couldn’t commit. The scarcity might make a difference.

    My ultimate goal with all this productizing is to create a sellable company in a relatively short period of time (and train my clients to do the same). Some days it seems crazy to try to convince entrepreneurs to let go.

  • A little late to the party here but great post. I love this model because there’s very little startup cost and it encourages you to put yourself out there and make getting clients one of your main priorities. I’ve been looking into starting a productized service for my first business venture and this post was very helpful. Thanks!

  • Daniel Bartel
  • Adi

    Vic, it felt good reading this! We have been doing exactly what you’ve mentioned in this blog post. Actually we are competition for DPickle, but we are newer – and started only 6 months back. We were a traditional agency and then moved over to the Digital Polo model – i.e. productized our design services. Clients are loving it now, and we have new clients joining us every week. Hopefully we’ll rule the design business in a year or so 🙂 So I can’t emphasize enough – the importance of productizing your services.

  • vinod sudhindra

    Great article Vic, the clarity with which you have explained each aspect of productizing is amazing. Thank you very much

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