The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 24.12

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Image courtesy of DALL-E via ChatGPT

Build a solopreneur business - Part 2: Craft your offer

This is part 2 of a 5-part series about building a business. Last week we looked at defining your niche, and this week we’re going to look at how to craft your offer.

In this series:

  1. Define your niche
  1. Craft your offer (this article)
  1. Price it right
  1. Design your marketing
  1. Start your engines

Part 2: Craft your offer

Now that you have your niche, you should very clearly understand at least two things:

  • Who you help
  • What problem you solve for them

Ideally, you will also have been able to talk to some of your ideal clients and check that:

  • this is a real problem for them, and
  • there is value (financial or otherwise) for them to have this problem solved.

Now you can craft your offer.

Two kinds of offers we can make

There are two kinds of offers we can make:

  • selling our expertise, or
  • selling a productized service.

I have a strong preference for productized services—but you can’t always do that. Let’s look at each in a little more detail.

Selling your expertise

This is where many of us start our solopreneur journeys, including me. Typically we come out of a corporate environment, and the easiest way to get started as a solopreneur (or freelancer), is to take a contract job.

Selling your expertise is effectively selling your time. You’re an expert in a particular topic, your client needs that expertise, and you agree to work with your client for a specified time and money.

Selling your expertise is appropriate when you’re not in control of everything required to deliver the end result.

For example, you may deliver project management services. Your job is to deliver projects on time, on budget and within scope. But you’re not necessarily in control of everything you need to do the job - team members may come and go, multiple stakeholders will have different demands, and corporate politics are likely going to come into play.

In this kind of situation, selling your time is appropriate.

Selling a productized service

I have a strong preference for productized services. In essence, a productized service:

  • has a fixed price,
  • a defined scope of work, and
  • defined deliverables or outcomes.

For example, if you deliver coaching, you have a fixed price, time and outcomes for each coaching package. Creatives, including website designers, can similarly price their services like products.

Productized services have many benefits over selling your time.

For example, they’re easier to sell. Your clients know exactly what they will get, how much it will cost and how long it will take. Offer your package in two or three “sizes” (more or fewer features) and you give them a choice, which is one of the best ways to improve your chances of making the sale.

There are many other advantages to productized services, including knowing exactly what you need to do and how much you will earn. Over time, you can get better and faster at delivering the “product”, and improve your profit margin (less time for the same amount of money).

My recommendation is to sell, or move to selling, productized services rather than just selling your time.

Crafting a “sell your expertise” offer

My experience is that selling your time most often happens because of who you know. Work comes in via agencies, contacts and networking, so you’re well advised to keep all your business contacts current.

To sell your expertise, you will need to:

  • detail your expertise
  • showcase your track record.

When you’re just starting out, you don’t need much more than a decent resume. That resume should include your expertise, and you can expect a relatively low-level entry point in most engagements.

Over time, you can elevate your value by having a personal website, a well-crafted LinkedIn profile and highlighting the successes you’ve achieved. The size and scope of your work will increase, and you will be able to raise your rates as you gain experience.

There’s not much more to crafting your “sell my expertise” offer. Keep your resume, social profiles and website (if you have one) current, and most importantly, keep in contact with agencies and past clients.

Crafting a productized services offer

As I mentioned above, productized services have many advantages over selling your time, so let’s jump right into how you go about crafting a productized services offer.

Just one offer

First off, avoid the temptation to craft multiple offers. Each offer you craft is a lot of work even before you get to selling it, and there’s a lot you will have to learn, unlearn and fix as you start selling and delivering it.

Start with just one offer. You can always add more later.

We are going to offer different “sizes” - more about that in a bit.

Step 1: Start with the outcome

The outcome tells your clients what they get - and it tells you what you need to deliver. This is by far the best way to start packaging your services and turning them into products.

You know who you work with and which problem you solve for them. The outcome of your productized service should be the brave new world where that problem no longer exists.

For example, if you’re a brand specialist or website developer, your outcome could be something like:

  • a brand that is instantly recognizable everywhere you show up
  • a lighting-fast website that attracts your ideal clients and converts them into paying customers

It might sound a bit like you’re crafting a sales pitch—you are. This outcome (or promise) often shows up as the headline on a sales page, so tell your clients what their brave new world will look like.

What you need to do:

  • write down your outcome / promise
  • make sure it solves the problem defined in your niche

Step 2: Tell them how it works

Your clients don’t need to know all the technical details of how you’re going to solve their problem. But they do need to know 2 things:

  • You know exactly what needs to be done (you’re not just going to “wing it”)
  • They will see progress along the way (and in most cases have to get involved).

For example, if I were to build a website for you, I would need to go through the following steps:

  1. Get to know your business, brand and what you need your website to do for you
  1. Craft a wireframe, add copy, review it with you, and make adjustments as required
  1. Convert the wireframe to a website, add images and styling
  1. Final review and adjustments
  1. Go live

What you do when you “tell them how it works” is to define your process for solving their problem. Note this is not (yet) a website or sales page—we’ll get there in part 4 of this series.

What you need to do:

  • Write down the steps you need to go through to give your clients the outcome they need.

Step 3: Make different “sizes”

Now we need to take the process you defined in step 2 above and turn it into at least 2 but no more than 3 “sizes”.

Each size will include different features. For example, I could offer my website services in small, medium and large versions:

  • Small: 3 pages (home, services and about), no blog, with contact form
  • Medium: everything in Small but up to 5 pages
  • Large: up to 10 pages, with blog

This is where we offer our clients a choice, so think carefully about the very least you can offer your clients that would make sense (the small version of the offer), and start adding features to create your medium and large versions.

What you need to do:

  • Create a spreadsheet with 4 columns: Feature, Small, Medium, Large
  • List all the features you could possibly offer in column 1
  • Put in X under Small, Medium and Large to indicate what’s included where.

This is an exciting exercise - you will find there’s a lot of stuff you can offer your clients, so don’t be shy!

What next?

If you go through the steps above (either selling your expertise or productized services), you will have all the information you need to price your services (next week) and package it so you can start selling it (the week after that).

Have fun doing this!

That’s it for this week. See you next week for part 3!