by I quit Medium

How to package your service like a product

Top freelancers and other service providers have switched to a new business model.

Instead of just showing off a portfolio, they now offer a story, and display past work only when it supports that story.

And their clients love it. It’s more clear what they’re being offered and how it’s valuable. There’s even prominent pricing, and a big buy button.

How can this be? After all, services are inherently ad-hoc. How have these freelancers turned something as custom and one-off as a freelance project into a repeatable package? By focusing on removing barriers.

Let’s walk through how you can do it too.

Your goal in packaging your service is to have something for sale that can be on a shelf, ready to be picked up and purchased by a prospect.

To do this you’ll create custom forms, email campaigns, and help documents that will help you deliver more value to each customer automatically.

You’ll no longer care about traffic. Instead, you’ll cater to a small fraction of people. These people will share an expensive problem you solve.

In fact, you’ll spend weeks studying this customer so that anyone in a similar situation feels like your service was created for them.

You’ll focus more on copy than examples of past work to paint the picture of what working with you will look like. You’ll talk about the results your work provides.

Lastly, you’ll stop shying away from pricing. Instead, you’ll simply charge what your service is worth and what you’re comfortable with.

A package is better at selling if it’s focused on benefits, not features.

Helping freelancers find work for the past 3 years has helped me realize a startling fact about freelancers: we do portfolios wrong.

Most of your new clients just want to see if you can handle their upcoming project. They don’t trust you yet, so your portfolio (along with the rest of your website) is one way to prove you know what you’re doing.

That’s why most portfolios are focused on past work.

“You want to see my experience, well here, look what I made!”

That’s the approach most freelancers take.

The problem is most portfolios don’t show the underlying problems you solved in your work.

That’s because they’re inherently focused on showing your work. Not the value you create.

You can win more clients by focusing on outcomes, not your work.

It’s a myth that your work can speak for itself.

You have to explicitly address the problems your potential clients have. The best way to do this is through writing.

With writing you can make working with you a no-brainer.

In a nutshell, your writing should aim to guide a stranger on how to become your dream client. Step by step.

While this won’t technically make your work any better, it will make your potential client’s think it’s better. Which is the same thing.

And before you can deliver more value to your clients you need to get them to pay you money. You need to get hired. That’s actually a kinda crucial step.

Start by examining a new client’s typical journey.

How does someone go from stranger to paying client? What did they go through to find you, contact you, like you, and hire you? (Hopefully in that order).

Do they find you on Dribbble, then email you? Do they use a form on your website? Do you email them first? What happens next?

Write down every step. Examine this process all the way through. You’ll find there’s between 10–15 steps in the journey that you never thought about before. Here’s what it might look like:

  1. Client sees you on Dribbble.
  2. Goes to your website.
  3. Copy your email address from your ‘contact’ page.
  4. Send you a brief email asking if you’re interested in their project.
  5. You reply with a few questions.
  6. They answer them.
  7. You suggest a meeting over Skype.
  8. They accept.
  9. After the call you send a proposal.
  10. The client agrees.
  11. You receive payment.

The striking part is that a lot of these steps could be eliminated completely with a little forethought. The results would be an improved client experience.

Remove barriers by anticipating steps before they happen.

This will make you look like a genie.

Once you’ve outlined your client journey look for places to simplify it. Make it easier to get started.

Instead of waiting until the client contacts you to send them questions, add a form to your website with these questions built-in. Direct all inquiries to that form.

Don’t make them wait for you to agree to a Skype call over numerous emails, give them access to your calendar via a software app like Calendly.

That way all clients know you have an established process that they’ll need to follow when working with you. This fact alone creates value.

How? It builds trust, and establishes your credibility.

Once you’ve removed as many steps as you can, create helpful documents to answer questions before they get asked.

This can be a great selling point.

It’ll ease clients into working with you by setting the tone of your entire relationship and making clients understand your process.

You’ll set the expectation that you’ve carefully thought about every step of their journey, and that this will be what it’s like to work together.

After all, clients have a ton of questions when you begin working together. Some of them are too awkward to ask (“what’s your name again?”).

That’s why documents are great. They won’t forget to mention the small stuff.

One great example of this can be a welcome package you send to new clients and even new prospects. Here’s some of what to include:

  • A bit about yourself
  • What you specialize in
  • What you don’t do
  • How often you’ll report to your client
  • What software/tools you’ll use together
  • How/when you receive payments
  • How you present work
  • How you expect feedback to be delivered
  • Your availability

This will start your relationship off on the right foot, establish your process early and impress the client.

The client gets an inside look at working with you, and a chance to realize that you’re the right person for the job. It’s a win-win.

After all, they need this information before they make their decision to hire you, not after.

This will also allow you to qualify prospects better.

Since you have answers coming in from your custom-built form and send a welcome package to new leads, you’re more likely to weed out bad clients sooner.

Now the fun starts.

Keep adding to your packaged approach in new ways to move even further away from selling units of your time.

It results in happier clients. They get to relax by shopping for a finished, definable, outcome in comfort.

Your package.

You know those packaged services by top freelancers I mentioned? They’re outstanding examples of how to execute this business model.

Curious to see what they look like?

Download my list of the best packaged services instantly.