As a mumpreneur I’ve run both product- and service-based businesses, but when push came to cash flow, I’ve always felt more in control of my time and money offering services.
There’s one major limitation to a service-based business model though. I only make money when I’m working, so I can’t take three months off to swan around Europe while someone else empties the warehouse for me. I find it hard enough to take a week off during school holidays!
On the other hand, I’ve always loved working with products. Especially back in the days when someone else was responsible for paying all the invoices.
For me the biggest drawbacks of product-based businesses relate to the amount of space and cash they tie up.
Working from home can quickly become overwhelming when the garage, spare room and pantry are overflowing with inventory. The financial pressures of paying for production, graphic design, packaging, printing and duty upfront only add to the stress.
But growing a product-based business is simpler. You can hire people to pack boxes for delivery and handle all the fiddly admin for you. And it’s also easy to create a website storefront that sells your products while you sleep. Ka-ching!
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There are only 24 hours in a day, and I refuse to work every single one of them, so as a service-offering soloist, what can I do to grow my business? The answer lies in converting my knowledge and skills into tangible products that can be replicated and sold without quite so much effort.
After much consideration, these are the five ideas I’ve come up with:
1. Create a team approach
You don’t have to employ staff to have a team. For example, working with a group of writers means that if I’m on holiday or am too busy to handle a project, I can get someone else to write it. I pay them a proportional fee, and I project manage the job for my client. Someone else does the bulk of the research and writing work, and everyone’s happy.
2. Become a training provider
Think of training as a way of turning your knowledge into something that can be duplicated over and over again. The beauty of this idea is that training doesn’t always have to be delivered by you – once you’ve developed your training material you can sell it in numerous formats, including as face-to-face and online courses, on CDs or as MP3 files. Teaming up with other training providers who have the same target audience means you can all leverage off each other’s profiles, expertise and mailing lists too.
3. Write a book
Plenty of coaches, consultants and tech gurus have done this very well, so why not you? You could get it professionally published – or you could sell it as a downloadable PDF. It just has to be of real value and relevance to your audience.
4. Turn your work into art
If you’re a graphic designer or a photographer, you may be able to sell your sketches or images as affordable art. It’s so easy now to customise canvases, cards and prints, and adding them to your website is simple.
5. Develop a package your clients want
Sometimes a simple gap in the market may be staring you in the face. For example, if you’re a web designer you may find that your customers would be just as happy with a low-cost template they can manage themselves as they are with a tailor-made site with all the bells and whistles. Once it’s developed you’ll no longer need to devote hours of your time to customising every single solution, and in the process you just might invent the next-generation WordPress.
I’m sure you have plenty of other ideas of how to turn a service-based business into a product too, so please share them with us! And then perhaps we can all take a well-earned holiday.