EP. 015

Productizing freelance services to make more money in less time

If you have specific services you offer on a regular basis (and solid processes in place around that work), you may be on the path to productizing some of your services. Hear some actionable ideas around how you can start re-packaging your services to make more money in less time.

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Paul:                Today I want to talk about productized consulting. I feel like a lot of these episodes just started talking about the topic but not said the topic for like a minute or two which could be annoying. Maybe it’s not, maybe I just got in my head about that. So I wanted to talk about consulting a productized services because I see that as a trend. I don’t think I really saw that much many years ago but now it seems like there is a bunch of people who are doing services as products.

Actually I just thought of another good example that I will bring up during the show. So stay listening to the show. I guess I will start by defining what we think productized consulting is and kind of get into to talking about it. So what would you say is a productized service because you initially said in your notes that you don’t have any firsthand experience? But I do think you have a productized service. How would you define that?

Kaleigh:           I think it can be a couple of things. One, it can be the traditional product and that it’s something, a good example would be like an E-book, or a template, or a checklist that you sell and it’s literally a product. So then if you look at the productizing services type of thing that would be when you take something that you do kind of on a regular basis; or that you get lots of requests for and turn that into almost a mini project that people can buy from you kind of on demand.

So for me that’s things like consulting for messaging strategy documents or consulting for how to choose a writing niche and things like that. And so that’s usually like a 30-minute or 60 or 90-minute time commitment where somebody is literally paying you to kind of pick your brain. I hate that saying but it’s literally like sit down with you and walkthrough the strategy of a very specific thing.

Paul:                Yeah. I think for me it would be pretty much that. Like a productized service would be something where you charge kind of the same amount of money for and people get the same outcome. I’ll just talk about an example because I think an example really gives a clear pitch. A clear example is good and then an example of something like websites.

My friend, Chelsea does this. And so basically what you do is you get a website done in one week. And follows a set process, so Day 1 is discover, Day 2 is design, Day 3 is build, Day 4 is edit, Day 5 is launch. And it has a set price and it’s a very set process and everyday you know exactly what’s happening and you know by the end of 5 days you’re going to get a website. I think that’s a pretty good example as well of something that most people would consider web design a service. But Chelsea and her partner turn this into a productized service where it’s the same input, the same price, and the same output. It’s just you get it every client gets a different design sort of thing.

Kaleigh:           Interesting.

Paul:                Yeah, so when do you think it would make sense to go from having just a normal service like offering web design or offering writing to a productized service?

Kaleigh:           Yeah, I think you really need to feel pretty confident in what you’re doing, so you need to have done it for a while. You need to have kind of have learned the ins and outs organically and feel really comfortable teaching it to a group of people who maybe in the same tier as you. If you can’t say yes to that I think it’s probably you need to wait a little bit longer. I will say it’s really tempting when you’re getting started.

A lot of people like right off the bat want to launch a course or productized services right off the bat because it’s another way to make money. But this is really kind of expertise centric type of offering so you really need to be confident in what it is that you’re offering here and it needs to be something that you’ve done a lot so that you’re comfortable with process wise too. What about you?

Paul:                Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head with that. I don’t think it’s impossible but I think it would be very difficult to start a productized service right from scratch. I think having a bunch of experience doing that service, like web design, designing a bunch of websites for clients first before trying to a productized service I think is helpful because you’re going to kind of see how long it takes you to do something, questions people, have reasons people come to you, common outcomes that people want.

And then maybe you even start to see this type of client. It’s the type of client that I really like working with for one. But this type of client always needs something very similar so maybe I can start offering like a website in a week for traditionally published authors with a book coming out. Because their websites are going to need probably similar things like and About page, About the Author, ways to buy it in Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Maybe it’s some reason for people to sign up so they can get that person’s email address to send them like free stuff or course or that sort of thing. Being able to figure out like what are the commonalities in people who would want a service like this that similar. Where it’s not like I offer a website in a week and it could be an E-Commerce store or it could be an author base. It could be really hard to offer that without kind of eliminating a lot of variables and turning them into constants I think is kind of the big thing there.

Kaleigh:           So essentially you’re noticing what services or jobs you do the most of. You’re noticing the clients that come to you and what they are asking you to do, you’re looking for the patterns and the type of work and then the scope of work. And then asking from that what can be turn into a specific process, with specific deliverables and timing. So that’s kind of an easy way to nail it down, right?

Paul:                Yeah. I think so.

Kaleigh:          I think that makes a lot of sense. So tell me more, like you have another example that would kind of illustrate what this would look like.

Paul:                Yeah, I do. So my buddy Lauren does websites in a week that’s why it’s kind of the same but it’s basically like a website in a week. And it uses Square Spaces well which is really fast for running it. It’s in two weeks so it’s always $8,500, it’s always two weeks and this works because she only takes on clients that only need things from scratch as well. It’s not like, “Oh, I’ll redesign your website in two weeks.” Like that could be quite a bit of work.

And it works because Lauren’s have done hundreds of projects for clients so she knows her niche. She knows Square Space really well. She knows what is possible and what isn’t possible in two weeks. And she knows it works for very specific clients, one’s that can make decisions quickly. I think as freelancers we’ve all had clients who are like waffles. Whatever is the opposite of a waffle?

Kaleigh:           Pancakes.

Paul:                Ok, there you go. So some clients they are pancakes. They make decisions fast. Some clients who are waffles who don’t make decisions very fast. I think the other thing that works really well for Lauren and even for Chelsea, they both have portfolios of this is the type of work you can expect if you buy this productized service. So here is a portfolio, all of these things were done using this like productized service template.

Now, you will get the exact same thing but done for you. So you will get a small website with a logo, no huge ecommerce, no massive multi author blogs. People can kind of get a sense of ok this is what I get when I buy this thing because it’s so rigid in process and in outcome that they need to kind of see what they get. I think that’s really important.

Kaleigh:           Yeah, I think that’s appealing for the client too. So like for me one of the productized services I have is messaging strategy for SAS companies. So a lot of the time we’ll have companies come to me and they are getting ready to get started with content and they need things like a style guide. You know, basically just all of the outline of what it is we’re going to write, how it’s going to sound, what are our objectives are, things like that, just a document that everybody can share and get on the same page from writers to internal staffs, stuff like that.

                        And so it’s the same thing, I have a template and it’s literally here is what you get after we have our phone call and I do my research. Here is what you can expect from this service. You will get this document that includes x, y and z, here is how much it costs, here is how long it takes from scratch to finish. It’s easy to replicate so it’s not like I’m reinventing the documents from scratch every time. So yeah, I think that’s another good example of how you could take something that you do pretty regularly and turn it into a very specific offering which is then, like it makes it super easy for the client too. Like, “Oh yeah, we need that exact thing.”

Paul:                Yeah. I’m that type of person that could benefit from this. I need that exact thing. I want to say yes. And I think you hit on a really important point and it’s that if you’re doing a productized service you really need to have your process down to a science. Like you really need to know what every single step it is, how long things are going to take.


And you also need to be able to manage that expectation with clients. If you say you’re going to do a website in a week. That’s fine because I’m sure you could do that but you also need to be sure that the client is able to turn around what you need. Even laying out, if you have three hours in this afternoon to turnaround any change request for the mock up that I’m showing you, for the copy that I’m showing you. This is the time that you have to give feedback. If you don’t give feedback in this window we’re not going to be able to get the project done in this set amount of time. Like, are you available this week? I think that’s a common problem that clients have. They think they are hiring a freelancer and they don’t have to do any work.

But a lot of times you know this, I know this, and a lot of freelancers know this. And that’s what I used to tell clients, if you’re hiring me you’re going to probably have as much work to do as I am to get this website launched. So do you have the time in your schedule to do this thing? Like if I’m doing a website for you in a week or I’m writing a content strategy plan for you this week. Do you have time to work on this with me? Because I can’t just do it all and give it to you. That’s not going to result in the best possible use of anyone’s time. I think being able to communicate to clients how much work on their end is required is like a make or break for this for sure.

Kaleigh:          Yeah, and you can be very specific about what it is you need from them. That’s going to be helpful for them because then they could realistically wrap their mind around what your expectations are, what essentially their expectations are for the project as well. And then they can either hop on board or say, “Uhm, maybe I should do this a little bit later”, which is fine too. That’s ok.

Paul:                Yeah. And I think the other thing that that kind of brings up is for productized services I think it’s really beneficial to book this in advance. If you’re doing, and I’ll keep using this example, the website in a week example. If you’re doing a website in a week, a client probably has a bunch of soft that they have to get ready in order to get it done in that quick sprint.

So if you say, your website in a week will be bought when I get that contract signed and a down payment. Don’t put anything in your calendar until those two things happen. But if you say that and it’s like, ok your website in a week starts in four weeks, here are all the things you need to do before the project starts. So four weeks out, do this. Three weeks out, do this. Two weeks out, do this. One week out, do this. And I found that has always beneficial.

The more that I had to book projects weeks or months in advance, the more that I found that it was actually beneficial to the client. It was beneficial to position it as a benefit to a client where yes you have to wait but here are all the things you need to do while you wait, so when we start we can just hit the ground running. What about you? When you’re booking things in advance you kind of give marching orders to clients.

Kaleigh:           Yeah, pretty much because otherwise it can really just very quickly fall off the rails and the client can also fall face of the earth and you never hear from them again. Yeah, having those things that you need upfront even if it’s a smaller scale projects like what I’m talking about with the writing. If you say I need x, y and z before we can even get started and then once we are started I need another x, y and z. Laying those right off the bat just makes sure that, like I said, everybody is on board, that you can move through the project at the pace that you’re guaranteeing.

I don’t think that clients also realize sometimes that when they are late to give you stuff that it makes you look bad to them. They are just like, “Oh, yeah, well she said it was going to be done in a week but it actually took three weeks and I don’t know that happened”, when really it is their delay that cause the three week problems. So yeah, it’s good for both of you. And I think that’s the bottom line there. Yeah, in my process docs it also lays out what the client is responsible for delivering to me and it’s outlined in a gray box. This is where you have to give me something. In my process this is what I’m going to be doing now, this is what you’re going to be doing now otherwise we can’t move on to the next step.

And I think when you are productizing a service you have to be absolutely clear with people, “This is what I need to move forward.” I think locking in a time in the future with the donwpayment because people are always like, “Oh yeah, I totally want to do that project.” And then it’s like start gate and they are like, “Yeah. Maybe I’ll delay.” But if you say, “You get in the calendar when I get money from you.” It’s legit. Like you know they are more likely to have their sheet together to start if you get a downpayment. I always tell people, “If you want in my calendar I need a downpayment.” That will prove to me that we can do the project together. That you are serious with the project because I am if I’m going to be working on it.

Kaleigh:          Yeah. And people are busy. I mean people who are internal at a company or that are leading a brand or that are not freelancers essentially. They have a lot going on and a lot on their plate. So really by asking those things and making those demands in a way you’re helping them because you are helping them stay accountable to their project. You’re helping ensure things move forward and it might feel like, “Oh man, this is me being kind of bossy at the beginning of this project”, but it’s not. It’s good for both of you. It really sets the project up for success I think.

Paul:                Yeah. Have you ever experimented with or ever done tiers in your pricing for any of the services or productized services that you’ve offered?

Kaleigh:           Yeah, with the messaging strategy document I do have a tier one and two. One is pretty basic and two is a bit more involved where you get additional supplemental documents created for it. And so it really just depends on what it is that they need and how much they have already. But having those two offerings is nice because then it’s a higher ticket item if they need that and if it’s a lower ticket item they feel like they are getting a bargain.

Paul:                Do you have a sense for how many times like which ones sells more? The higher tier or the lower tier.

Kaleigh:           It really just depends because some of these companies already have some stuff created. I don’t think it’s ever really a money sell. It’s more like this is what we need.

Paul:                These are the deliverables that we need and the package we want to take. Yeah, that makes sense.

Kaleigh:           How about you?

Paul:                My tier was always consulting. Either hire me to talk to you about what you need to do or hire me what you need to do. So consulting was always a bottom tier and the actual production work like designing and coding a website was the higher tier. And what I found as well, and this is why I think a lot of freelancers charge for things like roadmapping sessions where they work for the client to come up with a strategy because every time I did that.

                        And even if it was just like you’re hiring me to help with the strategy or with the roadmapping. Every single time the client would be like, can I just hire you to do the work now? Like it was always a lead, it was always basically a lead from like, “Ok, you know what you’re doing because you told me how to do what I need to do. Can you just do the work now?”

Kaleigh:          That’s smart.

Paul:                Every single time it led to that, so having two tiers worked really well for me. And also, I’ve read studies where having a 1x, 2.2x and a 5x tier always makes people choose the middle tier so you have a base price x 2.2, base price x 5. And I was [unclear – 16:45] when he worked that gum road figure this out where that was like the optimal selling point because you kind of incur the highest tier and the lowest tier so people are like, “I need more than the lowest tier, that higher tier seems expensive but that middle tier seems like such good value,” so they’ll pick that. I don’t know. I could see that working in services.

I don’t think it’s necessary totally but I also think that when you’re laying out tiers or laying out options for people is really important to show and to state that. And it’s kind of accept the negotiation conversation which I don’t even think we’re going to talk about in this but I think it’s useful now to where we’re at where people can be where can I get this tier for this tier’s price. I was always of the impression that if you wanted the lower price that was fine but then deliverables would come off.

I won’t negotiate on price unless we’re negotiating on deliverables. And I was always happy to do that. Like sometimes things can be broken up in two. Well, Phase 1 let’s just do these things and then we’ll do Phase 2 in 2 or 3 months. But if the price is cheaper, then the deliverables are also less. Like that sheet is getting shorter and shorter if you’re making the money go down.

Kaleigh:           I think a lot of beginner freelancers are kind of intimidated by that. I know I was when I got started. I just felt like, “Oh, they must know more than I do so I probably should knock those things off and give them the cheaper price and also do the same amount of work. It’s fine.” But it’s not fine, and it does take more time and so if they are asking for a discount, take that as an invitation to negotiate on your end as well. Don’t just let them set the table for you. You know, you have a say in it as well.

Paul:                Exactly. And if you wanted to negotiate that’s your call. If you don’t want to negotiate that’s totally fine too. But yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. If they are negotiating then you can too. You can say, “This is my price. I don’t badge on that price. I think it’s a good value.”Or you can say like, “We’ve worked together for 10 years maybe this time I will give you a little bit of a discount kind of thing.”

Kaleigh:           Right.

Paul:                Yeah. Alright, good. I think the only other thing I would add is you don’t have to go 100% in the productized services from services. You can dabble. You can say, “This is my best service for the last couple of years. Maybe I want to try to make it productized”, and just offer that to one or two people. See if it works. If it doesn’t work no harm, no foul; just go back doing your services. If it does work and you find that you’re making more money in less time, maybe that’s something that you should pursue further.

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