Along with marketing automation, productized services is another buzzword that’s difficult to escape these days. It seems like every time you turn around, someone in the web design or development space is preaching the benefits of productized services.
If you’ve been in the business of providing WordPress services for any length of time, you’ve probably built a reasonable size list of things you wish change about your business.
But in the back of your mind you keep thinking that it’s just how things are – it’s the nature of the business. And that the sooner you learn to accept the challenges, the easier life will be.
Then along comes all this talk about productized services. It seems to be a cure-all for many of the problems WordPress businesses are faced with day in and day out. Capable of eliminating the problems that lead you to feeling like you never want to work with a client again.
If this sounds like you, then maybe productized services are right for your business. Or, maybe they won’t be. In this article, I’m going to discuss exactly what productized services are as well as some of the pros and cons of productizing your business.
By the time we’re done, you’ll be able to make a more educated decision about whether or not this is right for your business.
What Are Productized Services?
The first thing we’re going to cover is what exactly a productized service is and how it differs from the services you might currently be offering. The best way to do that is to use an example that compares two alternatives:
- The typical business model that WordPress freelancers use when providing services to their clients.
- How an alternative business model that uses productized services might work.
A Typical Freelancer Model
Almost every freelancer has been in the position of negotiating project scope with clients. At times, it can feel like scope creep is an inevitable part of doing business. A client comes to you looking for a proposal for their project and you can’t but help to jump in with both feet, excited for the opportunity to begin working with a new client.
There almost always comes a time during the negotiation process where the prospective client asks you to include something in your proposal that you wouldn’t typically do. In the interest of landing a new client, you might find yourself giving in to the request for fear that they might take their business elsewhere.
If and when your proposal is accepted, it’s not uncommon for clients to come forward with additional requests as they move through the process. The conversation goes the same way every time.
“Is there any chance that you might be able to do XYZ?” or “I know it’s not in the original quote but it there any chance you could just add a few things to the list?”
Again, in the interest of keeping your client happy and because this wasn’t something that you specifically discussed during the proposal process, you find yourself saying “sure, no problem”.
Before you know it, every project you take on is totally customized and in a constant state of flux. No two projects are alike and you find yourself spending an increasing amount of time doing small miscellaneous tasks. Your energy is sapped and your projects become less profitable as time drags on.
It always starts out with trying to do your client a favor, but the more flexible you are, the worse the situation becomes.
A Typical Productized Service Model
In a typical productized service model, the services you’re delivering are well defined for both your business and your client. Productizing means that you’re taking a service or group of services that you provide and then packaging them into a consistent product.
Since you know exactly what services you will be providing and have a clear picture of the time involved, you’ll be able to sell your productized service at a fixed and profitable price.
You might be thinking that clients will be upset with not being able to customize their services. But that’s not the case at all. In fact, customization can be made possible by adding additional productized services. Furthermore, your clients might actually prefer not having to define all their requirements, and would in fact rather pick an off the shelf solution that matches their needs.
Just because you are providing custom website development, doesn’t mean you can’t offer a productized SEO, design or social media package as well. Much in the way that purchasing a new car works, a base model can be expanded upon by purchasing various add-on packages.
The Pros and Cons of Productized Services
In order to truly figure out whether or not productized services are right for your WordPress business, we need to take a closer look at some of the pros and cons. Not every one of these points will apply to every business but as a general rule, you’ll probably find that the scales tilt in favor of productizing.
What’s Not Great About Productizing
Although the list is relatively short, there are definitely a few negatives. For one, your existing or past clients might not like the idea of productization, If you’ve trained your clients over the years that everything can be tailored and customized until their heart’s content, you might have an uphill battle on your hands. With these types of clients, you’re going to be in a position of deciding how flexible you want to be.
Also, productizing takes a lot of initial work. It’s not something that you can throw together overnight. It takes considerable time, effort and thought to put together packages that are not only profitable but convey great value. You’ll probably find yourself creating several different versions and relying on feedback from clients along the way.
Even with productized services, initial client interaction is still vital. It’s common for freelancers to think that all they’ll need is a product, a website, and a buy button. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You will still find that the vast majority of clients will need to speak to you personally before they are willing to make a commitment.
Productized does not mean your sales are on autopilot.
What’s Great About Productizing
There are a lot of great things that come with productizing your services and if my opinion seems somewhat biased here, it probably is. Once you dive into some of the benefits, it just keeps looking better and better. Let’s take a closer look:
No More Proposals
The first and possibly one of the best things about productized services is that you’ll no longer have to write proposals. Once you’ve written up detailed descriptions for each service, other than some fine tuning, you’re done. For most freelancers, this alone will save several hours of time per month.
No More Hourly Rates
Working by the hour never made much sense, did it? As the freelancer, you want to maximize billable hours. As the client, you want to minimize them. Billing by the hour creates an instant conflict of interest. As soon as you shift to productized services you know exactly what you’re going to make and the client knows exactly what they will pay. Everybody is happy. Instead of being rewarded for being slow, you’re rewarded for creating an efficient business. It’s a win-win scenario all around.
No More Scope Creep
Scope creep is consistently one of the top 3 complaints I hear from other freelancers. Once your services are productized, scope creep should all but disappear. There will always be times when you make the occasional exceptions, but the days of projects dragging on past their original completion date should, for the most part, be over.
Fewer Questions From Clients
With productized services, your clients are much clearer about what they’re getting for their money. You’ll receive fewer phone calls, emails and texts asking for changes or small favors. Having a menu of services and prices makes it clear that if you want to add something to your order, it comes with a specific cost attached to it.
Easier To Automate & Outsource
When every client has a highly customized project, it becomes difficult to automate, outsource, manage or track your progress. By creating a productized service, it becomes easier to implement standard operating procedures and contract out some or all of the individual tasks. It will also become easier to manage multiple projects at once since the scope of each project is consistent.
For most freelancers, having the scope of each project change means you never really have an opportunity to improve your process. Once you’ve created a consistent product, you’ll discover that it’s much easier to look for ways to make small improvements. These improvements will benefit both your business and your clients. The first rule, when it come to measuring the effectiveness or profitability of a service, is to have a control version. From there you can make small changes and measure the results. Keep what works and discard what doesn’t
We’ve covered a general description of what productized service are, as well as what some of the advantages and disadvantages are.
I certainly wouldn’t suggest that productized services are a cure-all for freelancer woes. They do however manage to improve upon or eliminate many of the common problems faced by WordPress freelancers.
Although you may not feel like this model is right for your business at this moment in time, it is definitely something worth exploring in greater detail. You don’t necessarily have to productize every aspect of your services all at once. Instead pick one or two things that clients often request and start there. If it goes well, build upon your success. Ask clients for feedback and work on improving both value and profitability.
If you’ve recently implemented or are considering productized services for your business, please share your experiences in the comments below.
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