What Services Should A Freelancer Offer?
Filed in Freelance Advice
If you’re a freelancer, you’re no doubt up against agencies and big bad conglomerates which offer a wide range of services. To compete, you’ll need to follow suit – which means you’ll be wearing a few different hats. But what services should you offer?
First off, it’s all relative. There’s no magic formula, no silver bullet, no one-size-fits-all offering of services which will see your business instantly rise to the top. It’s different for every freelance business, every client and every industry, but mainly it’s dependant on two primary factors – what your clients are looking for, and what you can personally deliver.
What do your clients need?
Now, I’m going to assume you’ve already chosen the industry/discipline you’ll be working in as a freelancer (or perhaps you’re already working freelance, but you’re considering a shake-up of the services you offer). It’s important to realise that your industry exists because there are people out there willing to pay for your expertise – therefore, the services you provide should be primarily based on their needs.
Research what your competitors are offering
No client is looking for exactly the same thing as everyone else, but one clear indicator of the kinds of services many of them are willing to pay for is the list of services on your biggest competitor’s website.
Pay attention to which pages are prioritised in the site navigation. Take a look at the kinds of landing pages they have listed in the sitemap – even if they’re not in the navigation, the fact that they’ve taken the effort to produce a landing page for a particular service often shows that there may be a market for that particular service.
Define your ‘ideal client’
Every freelance business needs an ‘ideal client profile’ – a descriptive account of a hypothetical customer which is the best fit for your business. Your skills are the perfect solution to their problems, they’re passionately loyal to you and they help you generate new business through referrals.
The more detailed and specific your ICP is, the better. You should know how old they are, where they live, what kind of life they have, what motivates them, what worries them, what barriers stand in the way of you helping them…
Where do you get all these details about this mysterious hypothetical customer? Talk to potential customers about what they’re looking for – what problems do they need to solve? If you have current or previous clients, interview them about their hopes and fears. You might be surprised by the answers you get. Not only this, but this sort of interaction will likely have a positive impact on your working relationship. It may prompt them to ask you more about your expanding services, and may even lead to further work. At the very least it’ll re-inforce in your client, the values that you hold dear. You’re the kind of service provider who is prepared to take time out to really listen to and understand the needs of your clients. That’s the type of offering that’ll set you apart from the big guys.
The advantages of building an ideal client profile go well beyond simply picking the right services to offer – you’ll also know how to make your business more attractive to potential clients in your advertising, how to address them in communication, how to maintain close ongoing relationships with them etc.
When you’re putting together your ICP, one of your questions should be ‘How much are they willing to spend for my services?’
Offering services which are in high demand will obviously bring in more leads – but on the other hand, offering services which are in lower demand may attract higher-paying clients. It’s certainly a juggling act; I’d recommend offering a range of high-demand and low-demand services at first, and perhaps cutting out the services which don’t bring in any money at a later date.
What can you offer?
Know your level of proficiency
Understanding the needs of your clients is all well and good, but you also need to understand how many of those needs you can cater for. What skills and knowledge do you have? How much have you practiced your abilities? Have you used them in a professional situation? Be sure to prioritise your stronger areas in your advertising and marketing.
It’s not just about what you know – it’s also about the tools you have. Does your setup offer the kind of features you’ll need to produce professional work, on time, to the brief you’re given?
You also have to consider your schedule and how much time you have to spare. For example, is it really feasible to provide daily 9-to-5 social media management to every client that comes along?
Grow your ability & resources
If you’re missing the necessary skills, knowledge or resources to be able to offer a certain service, you can either decline to offer that service, or – if you have the time and money to invest – you can go out there and fill in those gaps.
There’s plenty of online training resources out there to help you learn new skills and/or develop your weaker areas, and the value of upgrading your kit can far outweigh the costs of purchasing it.
Some people argue that you should charge a client upfront for your training time, particularly if the skills you’re learning are pretty specific to the project and won’t be useful for other projects. Personally, I’m wary of recommending this approach as there’s more chance of things going wrong. In my opinion, it’s better to train up in your downtime, rather than taking a gamble on your paying client (more on this later).
Buddy up (A personal favourite!)
If you don’t have the expertise, equipment or time to offer a particular service, but you know a fellow freelancer that does, ask them if they’d like to partner up.
The advantages of this approach are many – you can offer their services on your site, they can offer your services on their site, they get to share your clients, you get to share their clients, and together you can tackle bigger, more lucrative projects.
On the negative side, you‘ll have to choose your partner wisely. If they’re unreliable, they can kill your progress on a project and leave you in hot water with your client. But if you make good decisions and deliver on your promises you’ll likely build some very lucrative and lasting relationships. I work with several partners who can offer services which complement my own. Check out my copywriting page for example.
Become an expert
Don’t be afraid to specialise in a certain area. Compared with jack-of-all-trades competitors, you might end up with fewer leads, but the ones you do get will often be more valuable:
- Clients will already have a good idea of what they want
- They’re often happier to pay more
- You can offer a better quality of service, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and increasing the chances of getting referral leads.
In addition, trying to please everyone with a massive list of services can have the opposite effect – you end up spreading your skills too thin, to the point where nobody is happy with the work you produce.
Whatever you do, never offer services which you’re not 100% certain you can deliver. Even a small gap in your ability or an occasionally temperamental piece of software/hardware can derail an entire project, leaving you out of pocket and potentially tarnishing your professional reputation. It’s fine to say ‘I’ll learn as I go along with the project’ – not so good when you’ve hit a brick wall and your training won’t help you overcome it.
If a client is asking for a service which falls outside your area of competency, explain to them that you can’t offer that service at this time, and ideally direct them to someone who can. Clients will respect your honesty – they may offer to pay for your training or hire you for the services you can provide.
Be confident in your ability
Finally, don’t let a lack of self-determination talk you out of offering services which you can competently provide. Providing a service is always simply a matter of following a process – break it down into steps, then honestly ask yourself if any of those steps are beyond your capability.
Getting out of your comfort zone once in a while can lead to higher-paying jobs, greater self-confidence and a more positive outlook on your career.
Thrive as a Freelancer!
For further tips and tricks to help you thrive as a freelancer, check out my Ultimate Guide to Building a Successful Freelance Business, and stay up to date on all the latest posts from my Web Design Blog by following Boshanka on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
I am good at managing my schedule, so I can usually get projects booked in without much lead time. Let’s get our heads together and get your project done.