Most freelancers struggle with the fear of cutting out the things make you money today. I’ve been there. I get it.
The advice you hear again and again is that businesses become successful because they’re focused. Do one thing.
Easier said than done, right? You have clients who are paying you to do X, Y, and Z too. If you cut out Y and Z to focus only on X, how does that not result in a loss?
Making a Change
I’ve been there. I get it. There was a time when I did it all.
Like most freelancers, I paid the bills by taking on any project that came my way. Referrals were the name of the game. I was the “go-to guy” for… A lot of things. I did OK.
I could have stuck with that. I could have kept churning out projects, learning new technical skills, growing my referral network, and continued to piece together a comfortable living.
But I decided to make a change. I wanted to build a products business. I didn’t quite know how. But I knew I needed to start. Otherwise, it would never become a reality. So I made some really tough choices—including turning down plenty of work that would have paid plenty of bills.
Fast forward four years, and I’m proud to say I figured a few things out and managed to build a business that I was able to see through to a six-figure exit. And now I’m building another one. Today progress is happening at a faster pace than ever and I couldn’t be more excited about where things are headed in the next year.
I attribute a lot of this progress to (finally) understanding how doing less can take your further.
The Fear of Doing Less
Before launching my products business, all I had a was a desire to launch a productized version of my business. But it took me years before I figured out what it would take to get there.
Doing less goes against our natural instinct. If we offer less services, then won’t we be leaving money on the table? If we stop serving any and all clients to focus on just one, won’t we turn away too many paying customers?
These were the things I struggled with and they’re the same things I hear many freelancers say when they’re aiming to productize what they do.
Addition by Subtraction
Here’s the thing.
You can’t sell X, Y and Z. Sure, you’ve had clients pay you for each of X, Y, and Z at times. But you can’t proactively go out and make sales of X, Y, and Z today. Where would you begin? Who would you sell them to? Where are those people and how would you reach them?
You see, chances are the people who buy X are not the same people who buy Y and Z. Up until now, you’ve come in contact with all of these different people through happenstance. Referrals, chance encounters, good timing. But happenstance isn’t a marketing strategy.
By making the conscious decision cut out Y and Z to focus on X, you’re benefiting from addition by subtraction. Subtract some services to specialize in one. Add the ability to sell the thing you specialize in.
You’re adding the ability to build a marketing plan. By having something to sell, you’re finally able to be proactive. You can establish your ideal target customer, find out where those customers are, and build strategies to reach them and systematically attract them to your business. Instead of sitting around waiting for your next client referral, now you can actively grow your business.
Solutions. Not Services.
Enough theory. Let’s put this into action.
Obviously you don’t want to haphazardly slash revenue-generating services that you offer, just for the sake of choosing one thing to focus on. You have to be more strategic if you’re going to make this work.
The key is to stop thinking in terms of skills and services. Start thinking in terms of problems and solutions.
Your skills are what enable you to do what you do. Services are just another way to describe skills available for hire.
Solutions are things that people pay for.
Now that you’re embarking on this journey away from freelancing and into owning a business that you can grow, your job—your sole job—is to identify a problem and to form your solution to that problem.
It’s harder than it sounds.
The problem has to be painful enough that someone is willing to spend money to solve it. And there must be enough people in the world who experience this same problem (just because you have experienced the problem yourself doesn’t necessarily mean there are many others who do too).
The solution can be built based on your knowledge and experience. You’re the expert when it comes to ______. So you’re uniquely positioned to craft the best possible solution for the problem you aim to solve for your ideal customer. That means you get to decide what’s included, what’s not included, who it’s for, and who it’s not for. You also get to decide how much it costs.
Now you’re in business.