15 Minute Freelancer

48. How to create a productised service

February 11, 2022 Louise Shanahan Episode 48
15 Minute Freelancer
48. How to create a productised service
Show Notes Transcript

"Productised services" are when you package and sell your freelance service as if it were an expensive pair of jeans or a tasty vegan sausage roll. In other words: it's a service that's designed and delivered the exact same way, every time.

This episode covers:

  • Why you should consider offering productised services as a freelancer 
  • How much to charge for your productised service to help build a sustainable business
  • What worked and what didn't when Louise created a productised service

Mentioned on this episode:

Say hi to Louise:

Louise Shanahan is a freelance health copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.

LinkedIn: Louise Shanahan
Twitter: @LouiseShanahan_
Website: thecopyprescription.com

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Welcome to 15 Minute freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host, Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind the scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help me navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So, grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe!

Good morning freelance friends! Or good afternoon, or good evening, wherever or whenever you’re listening to this. This week I have been taking advantage of a slightly less packed timetable to tidy up some systems and processes and write a to-do list for some tweaks I’m making to my services. Because we all know that putting something on a to-do list basically means that it’s done, don’t we?

One thing that popped up that I thought would be an interesting topic to talk about here is the concept of productised services. I first heard of these when I was in a Copyhackers mastermind a few years ago, and I’ve experimented a bit, but this year I want to put a bit more effort in.

I’ve previously talked about designing services that fit your zone of genius and your zone of joy, and of course that fit your zone of getting paid at a level that will help you build a sustainable business. So where do productised services fit in?

What exactly are productised services and why might you consider offering these as a freelancer? Some of you may already do this, some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about. 

Basically the clue’s in the name – it’s a service that’s packaged and sold like a product. When you buy a product, whether it’s a pair of jeans, or an iPhone, or a Greggs vegan sausage roll, the product is exactly the same every time. Or it should be, anyway!

Same with productised services. It’s a fixed format that clients can buy directly through your website. It’s designed and delivered the exact same way for each client.

I know a lot of you will have a set process or use templates for delivering a bespoke service, which might be roughly the same each time, but still tailored to each client. I think that’s a sensible way to manage your one-to-one services, because it makes it easy for you to deliver, and helps guarantee a certain result for the client.

Productised services take that idea a step further. It’s still a time for money service, so we’re not talking about selling digital products and that sort of thing. It’s just an off-the-shelf service that’s delivered in the exact same way every time. You don’t put together a new plan for each new client the way you do with your usual services. You don’t go back and forth figuring out the client’s particular needs, negotiating the contract, and then sending invoices. They just buy it directly through your website, you get paid instantly, and then they’d get an automated form to fill out the info you need to do the job. 

Examples might be a website audit, where the client buys the audit from your website, you do the audit and send it back to them, and that’s it. Or your might design a simple landing page with a fixed layout. If you offer newsletter tech support, you might create a set-up service for the client’s newsletter using a platform like MailChimp or Convertkit. Another example is a one-hour coaching call. Even VIP days, which can be sold as a standalone service with fixed boundaries, though what you do on the day will be different each time.

Really anything. These can be repeatable, once-and-done services that are a version of your mains services that you can do without needing much discussion with the client. Another option is to offer an ongoing version of a service, such as a monthly subscription to pack of social media templates, monthly package of podcast editing time, buy 5hrs of website maintenance or something like that. 

Why do this? The benefits are:

  • It’s very simple. Where your regular services involve proposals, figuring out a price for each project, invoicing in chunks, variable delivery time, a productised service is exactly the same each time so it’s very easy to plan and deliver. You get paid up front and you know exactly how long it’ll take to deliver.
  • It’s scalable. You can create systems and automations to make it run smoothly. You don’t need to worry about scope creep.
  • It’s profitable. You only have to set this up once, then delivering the actual work should be fairly quick. This means that you can probably deliver something that’s very high value for the client in a relatively short time, so it works out as very profitable for you. For example, I know some SEO specialists who charge several hundred pounds and more for an SEO audit, but they can probably complete that audit in an hour. So if they can book in 3 or 4 in a day, that’s not a lot of work for a decent amount of money. They’ve given those clients some practical recommendations for ways to improve their website and they’ve also opened the door to further conversations about future bespoke projects. Of course, the key is to have the skills and audience to sell this project. You need to find the right service-client fit and market accordingly. We’ll get onto that in a minute.
  • It’s predictable and it’s easy to market and sell – it’s off the shelf, no negotiation, clients know what they’re getting and you know what you’re delivering. Tend to be at a lower price point which makes the decision to buy easier for clients.
    It’s a great experience and great value for clients

Are there downsides? I don’t really think so. You might be thinking, oh I can’t do this because every client needs something a little bit different. And that’s probably true of your main services, but I think this model is for smaller add-on or stand-alone services that don’t need so much input. There might be challenges if you try to offer a service that does need a lot of information from clients to get started, and you find they’re not able to provide that via an intake form and you end up having to speak to them anyway. And there might be a downside for you if you sell more than you can keep up with! For example, I offer a website audit and I promise that it’ll be in the buyer’s inbox within seven days. If I had a particularly busy week then it might be a bit of a nightmare if 10 people bought them on the same day. But that’s never happened, and I’ve set up a limit on the inventory anyway so I can control how many can be booked at once. That would be a good problem to have.

So this is probably a good point to talk about how I’ve actually designed and delivered productised services myself. I don’t have a huge amount of experience with this which is why it’s on my to-do list for 2022, but I’ll share what I have done and that might give you some ideas for things to do or not do when it comes to designing your own. 

First of all, a productised service that didn’t really work for me was offering VIP Days, I called them Power Days. The idea was that clients just buy a single day of your time to solve a specific problem or tick off a particular task. It’s not the same as when you’re paid by the day for your freelancing services as lots of agencies do – it’s a bit more intense than that. It’s a single day with a single focus. I know a lot of creative freelancers do this with great success, but for me, it was too stressful to be able to manage client’s expectations about what could be achieved in a single day, and I felt really stressed out about having an off day and working slowly. Really that’s why I focus on pricing by project rather than time more generally – when you specifically sell time like that, you’re really putting yourself on the hook to deliver something great quickly, and my brain just doesn’t work like that. I need time to let the ideas percolate. Sometimes I offer a Power Day as an extra for existing clients, when we already have a good working relationship, but I don’t want surprise bookings.

One that has worked well is website audits, which I mentioned. I call this a Copy Health Check, which fits with my branding as a healthcare copywriter. Basically clients buy the service through my website, and once they’ve paid they get a link to a form to fill out telling me which three pages to audit and a few other pieces of information that I need to do the audit. I use Typeform for that. Then I use Zapier to start a countdown in my calendar so I make sure I complete it within the seven days promised. I have a template that I use with a checklist of things I’ll be looking for in the audit, which I turn into a report that I send to the client. The client has the option of a call at the end to discuss the recommendations, and obviously on that call we discuss next steps, which might be ways for them to implement the recommendations themselves, or a potential project that we’ll do together.

I’ve played around with different ways to deliver this. I used to offer a video walk-through where I used Loom to record myself explaining the recommendations on each page. I found this quite stressful to do because I’m not a natural on camera, and it took much longer than completing a written report which I was doing anyway. I found that clients didn’t really need both. If you’re doing something like this, you might consider if your clients would prefer video only, in which case you wouldn’t need to do the report. I know some people do this. The key is to experiment and listen to the feedback and adapt your offer. 

I think it’s really important to be clear on the purpose of your productised service before you design it. My goal is to use the website audit as an entry point to larger scale bespoke website copywriting projects. I want to start building that relationship. It’s a great way to lower the barrier to entry if I’m doing an intro call with a prospective client who isn’t very sure what they need or wants to do a test project before committing to a full project at a higher price point. If I was offering it as a stand-alone service, I might deliver it slightly differently and not offer a final call, because the goal would be volume – just getting as many done to help as many clients in as little time as possible, and not worrying about whether those audits later converted into a bigger project. So it’s really important to be clear on the purpose. Is it a stepping stone to a bigger project, almost like a lead magnet or taster project? Is it to offer something to clients who don’t have the budget for full-scale projects? Is it purely a little cash-flow boost, that you can complete in a couple of spare hours each week?

Once you are clear on the purpose that will help you figure out an appropriate price. If your goal is the stepping stone approach, then the price of your productised service needs to align with the price you’ll charge for the bigger project that might come later. For example, if you charge let’s say £100 for a website review and then client decides they want to hire you to implement the recommendations, and you say great, that’ll be £10,000 – these are made up numbers by the way – that’s going to be jarring for the client. It needs to be on the same scale. The kind of client that expects to pay £100 for a review isn’t necessarily going to be in the same market as one with a budget in the tens of thousands.

But if you’re looking to help clients with a lower budget or it’s just a quick cash injection and you don’t mind if you never hear from those clients again, you might go for a lower price that’s going to be a very easy sell for them.

Interestingly, I found that when I increased the price and stripped back the service to something much simpler, I actually sold more. So go figure. Again, you can experiment with this.

One thing that I’ve been terrible at is actually telling people that I offer this service. I’ve tended to offer it to prospective clients on intro calls as a nice way to say hey if you’re not sure about working together or you don’t quite know what you need yet, here’s this quick and easy and lower cost service that we can do straight away. But I’ll be trying to make more of an effort this year to actually market it properly, because it does work really well as a nice little extra offer in between bigger projects.

If you’re sold on the idea but not sure what services to productise, here are a few questions that might help:

  • What services do you do over and over that could be a self-contained project, and delivered in the exact same way?
  • What do your clients often need before getting started on a full-scale project?
  • How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors by delivering a service in a different way, by removing much of the pre-project contract-y, get on a call, pay a deposit type stuff?
  • What could you offer to clients who don’t have the budget for a full-scale project, so you can help them get results without needing to invest in your full services?
  • What do you enjoy doing, that you’d be happy doing every week? 

So that’s pretty much productised services in a nutshell. It can be a really fun, low-hassle, structured way to offer something really high-value to clients, that’s profitable for you.

I hope that’s been useful. I now have a Ko-Fi page so if you’ve found this helpful and you’d like to show your appreciation, I would be eternally grateful. The link is

Otherwise, I’d love to hear about your experiences of delivering productised services – what’s worked, what hasn’t worked? Drop me a message on Twitter on LinkedIn. Alright, until next time, happy freelancing!

You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me, Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want answered on the podcast find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing!