Productized Services – Are They The Right Choice For Your WordPress Business?

Posted on September 19, 2015 by in Tips & Tricks | 36 comments

Productized Services – Are They The Right Choice For Your WordPress Business?

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:

  1. The typical business model that WordPress freelancers use when providing services to their clients.
  2. 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.

Improved Processes

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

Wrap Up

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.

Article thumbnail image by Crystal Eye Studio / shutterstock.com

36 Comments

  1. Great article!! This is what i have been doing since day one and it has worked out great!

  2. We’re in the middle transitioning to the exact model you’ve described Joe. We’re thankful for having the opportunity to work with a “Client from Hell” to help make that transition quicker than expected. Sometimes it takes a good kick in the butt to make change happen:)

  3. Timely article. I’ve been thinking about this. I would love to see sample productized service lists that others use for web development (or as some like to call it when using a theme; “web implementation.”

    I’m still a little fuzzy on how to implement this. Is it like providing a grocery list to a client to pick from? Anyone have a sample list?

    Thanks for stimulating my thought process with this post.

    • Bob a good example would be – http://restaurantengine.com/

      They basically offer to build a website for restaurants, but rather then it being bespoke or custom, people pick from 4-5 different designs, which are pre-made and then used again and again.

      This way, the web company gets to say, “this is what we offer, nothing else”. If people want a custom/bespoke website, they go else where. But for those that just want a website for their restaurant, something that doesn’t have to be unique to them, they can use this company.

      The website they’re buying is a lot cheaper, but the work that resturantengine have to put into setting up the website can be easily standardized and put into systems and procedures.

      Go through that site and see their offerings/how they do things.

      Another few options that are similar include,

      http://www.tourismtiger.com/

      http://hotelpropeller.com/

      • Thanks for the links Ryan 🙂 looking them up now 🙂 swipe and deploy 😉

  4. We offer bronze, silver and gold web design packages with optional “bolt-ons” that our clients can cherry pick for their requirements.

    This has worked out great for us, it allows our clients to see the range of services we offer and from the get go they can see these have an additional cost so there is no ambiguity!

    You can see this in action on one of our web design package pages here: http://www.indigomarmoset.co.uk/business-startup/

    The one point I would differ on is ‘The No More Proposals’. I think it essential that a considered proposal is always given to the client so they know exactly what is included and what is not in their project, and make sure it is signed and returned before the project is started.

    • Couldn’t agree more, proposals, or at a minimum, professional services agreements, are needed to convey terms & conditions, payment expectations, warranties, and so on. I would think an agency is assuming some liability by not having one.

    • Have to admit that we have a 3-point pricing structure and it’s being constantly refined. The only thing that’s unique in the websites we build these days is the design itself.

      But I’m with you on the ‘no more proposals’ thing. We’ve found that it’s easier to upsell to the more expensive packages if the benefits are explained in a proposal.

    • wow! that’s really insightful Murray! I would have missed that without your info! thanks bro!

  5. I too would like to switch to this model and would like to see “samples”. I can see the initial build of a site fitting into this but what about after the site is built and they want something that you don’t have a clue as to how long it will take?

    • Larry based from looking around studying productized services 🙂 building one for myself right now 🙂

      I heard from a podcast I think that restaurant engine addresses that problem by billing on a 12-month plan and then addressing the (sad but inevatable) changes that clients will want.

      Then I think from the 12-month you switch to a support retainer plan with them.

      Recurring rev $_$

  6. I, too, would love to see a real world example of this. I have avoided this process because I prefer large projects, and when I’d tried itemizing I got a lot of “I just want xxx for $150” or “I know I need a lot of what you’re offering, but why don’t we just start with xxxx and see where to go from there?” With the later, I thought those might lead to more business, and sometimes they would, but for the most part, I felt like I was spending a lot of time with clients paying very little overall.

    • Damn! I can relate to that! curious how the other peeps who managed to do this successfully addressed that prob.

      I already see some prod serv doing great with high prices.

      From what I see, on landing page in a day’s reddit thread and brian casel stuff around the net. It looks like they’re able to do those prices with peeps they already have relationships with.

      So I guess for most of us, that don’t have those relationships. It’s time to started building them 🙂 or maybe target better and outbound more prospects 🙂

  7. I’m not sure if this is itemizing or having “packages”. Hopefully someone will give some examples.

    • I think its a combination of the two.
      I would hate to greet a client with a “Chinese menu” of services, but I like beoing able to say “if you want *this, it costs *that”

      What I do is work off a fixed price list and then bundle many “actions” into “packages” that have set prices. That way, if someone wants Google My Business setup as part of a website design package, it’s clear what they get for a single price; but if ALL they want is GMB, I can simply way it’s $x

      In my business, I have multiple bundles that, imho, are what a generic client wants AND needs; should they want more, I have the prices set.

      The unexpected bonus of this is that I actually make money, while delivering more perceived value by having a fixed+ pricing program.

  8. Ha! This is exactly what I’m branching into but I didn’t know this is what it was called lol, thanks for the article!

    • Leslie – I’m stealing so much off your site – I love the attitude and particularly how you set many expectations right up front.

      What I’m seeing is that, if we don’t set up the first client meeting/impression on our own terms, we leave ourselves wide open to exactly the kind of whiny client behavior mentioned here, as well as attracting the bottom-feeder/freebie-seekers that we absolutely want to *discourage from calling us.

  9. This just makes eminent good sense – it used to be called service packaging and is how I always present our services – we regard the whole issue of a business being online as a complete ‘presence package’ -the website is like the front shop window, each element links to the other, so having this modular concept just makes sense!

  10. A good Article.

    I had good opportunity to have audio book : Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, A Book by John Warrillow.

    Which talks about same concept in story telling fashion about a live business where a services need to have 5 steps (a step by step process) in which the billing is pre-fixed. should help some of you guys.

    • yeah! that books is awesome! also part f the reason I’m exploring this 🙂 work the system by sam capenter is also great on this topic 😀

  11. Great post, the model really makes sense. Like so many above, I’d love to see a sample product list that includes typical WP freelancer type “products”. Thanks for the ideas.

  12. Great article! To expand upon it by offering some examples:

    – for $500 You could offer to do a full SEO audit including keyword analysis and minor article revision for a client’s 10-20 page website.
    – for $200 you could design and implement a graphic header that includes a stock image, logo, and call to action.
    – for $750 you could set up an email list autoresponder and implement email opt-in forms on the clients’ site (auto responder fees extra).

    Of course these are just examples of prices, but you get the idea. Caveats and specifics help keep the scope of the service manageable.

  13. I have been doing something like this for awhile now, you can see my website by clicking my name and go to the web design service page to see how i have things setup.

  14. I started with this model, and it works beautifully. My first dozen guinea pigs – er, clients – got a basic WordPress setup that included basic securiity and backup plugins, theme install, and a specified number of widgets, in exchange for using my affiliate links for domain registration, hosting, and theme purchase.

    Doing that taught me what I needed to do to create marketing info, client forms, and additional packages that built on the basic one.

  15. I agree with the strategy of productizing completely. However, the twist on it that we offer our clients is productizing as SAAS. We offer all our services as a monthly charge. It’s also advantageous for the client because instead of spending $5000 for website and improvements, they can now pay a monthly amount of say $499 which makes the payments affordable. Feel free to take a look at how we do it at RushHourLocal.com. We are looking for occasional freelance help, as well.

    • Interesting 🙂

      I can see how the email and text messaging management can be set and forget 🙂

      I find curious though, that from what I heard from other stuff on productized service so far is that what makes it better than saas is that it is Done For You instead of Do It Yourself.

      curious how you address that 🙂

      nice work though 😀 awesome how all your copy are short but benefits and problem-solving oriented 😀

  16. After choosing to move away from more open-ended, per-project client work, we created http://simmerwp.com as a productized service with additional productized services available to only active members. I’ve found it to be a fantastic way to create long-term sustainability, which means newer software can get made at a faster rate.

    Thanks for writing this awesome article on a well-deserved trend for WordPress providers!

  17. This is a great model for the business and the client. On the business side of things, it brings in recurring income (never a bad thing!). On the client side of things, it offers a sense of security and they don’t have to worry about trying to find someone when a problem comes up.

    I recently started offering a comprehensive service package to clients and they seem to really enjoy it. If this is something you start to offer, I would suggest you make sure you have very detailed processes nailed down before you offer a service to clients. Basically, exactly what Joe says:

    “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.”

  18. I too started selling services and now I am moving into selling services as products. While most of my clients are looking for ala cart WP support I see a trend where repeating clients ask more details about my WP Maintenance Plans.
    I love working on repairing random WP sites -it keeps me up to date with WP- but I enjoy even more serving my clients through the Plans because it makes me feel my services and business are more complete.

    WP Maintenance Plans are the main reason of expanding FixMyWP team, which lead to more free time for me in order to manage my business.

  19. Thanks for sharing. Although this is not a new thing online imho I do agree that a [insert buzzword; productized] approach is easier to understand for both parties – and if well executed it has the potential to streamline your own processes and not least your business flow.

    Yup – listening and nursing leads / clients is still key but being concise and clear about your offerings up front makes everything a bit easier both ways. You do tend to divorce the tirekickers by being loyal to a business model… In my experience the key is to actually stick to the game plan. This eventually involves letting go of potentially attractive clients that do not fit your game plan. I think it’s the greatest dilemma of freelacing and in my experience it’s a disciplin of it’s own!

    Best to Joe, Nick and the rest of E.T. for putting out a lot of inspirational reminders such as this one! Content marketing done right!

  20. I have recently made the switch to productized services with WordPress and it definitely makes it easier to sell my services to clients. All my clients love it because they know exactly what they are getting for the price they are paying. I love productized services 🙂

  21. I read this when it was published, got inspired, and decided to make a “buy now” or “shop” area on my site.
    I feel like I get nickled and dimed giving free advice as part of normal scope creep. Part of this is deciding what I do NOT do- such as giving advice on how to run someone’s business that I’m not an expert in or troubleshooting why they’re unable to send a newsletter on Mailchimp (they need to contact Mailchimp’s support for that – but it probably means paying for more sending capabilities!).
    I just got my productized services listed using woocommerce and some plugins. I’m not sure what to call it or where to put it in the menu.
    I am also working on making my design process more simple and easy to understand.
    A few weeks ago I put up my basic price packages, which attracted a client within 24 hours (and now I know how I need to clarify the contract and terms, because she ofcourse wanted something in the “grey area” that wasn’t firmly defined and specified).
    After I tweak these things, and post my improved design process, I’ll be sending out a newsletter and officially announcing some exciting changes and improvements!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Nathan B. Weller

      Congrats on the progress and new approach Jessica. Hope it goes well for you!

    • wow! amazeballs how much you’ve been able to achieve on such a simple landing page 🙂

      kudos!

  22. QUESTION TO THE COMMUNITY: I’m not sure if I need to buy a handful of templates to display on my site in order to launch my productized offering. Like RestaurantEngine, I’m going to target a specific niche. But RestaurantEngine and HotelPropeller show prospects 5-6 templates to choose from. That’s a lot of money upfront to spend on at my end before even launching. Can I showcase templates I have NOT yet purchased? Is that legal? I also noticed Ryan showcases a framework instead (in his case, the DIVI framework). Not sure if thats a good idea – I doubt clients would understand what a framework is….? Please let me know how you guys handled this part to launch your successful productized offering, as once this is clear to me, I feel I can move forward. 🙂

  23. Congrats on an awesome article Joe!

    2015 I changed my personal freelancing model to a productized one and the improvement I’ve seen since then has completely converted me to a believer of the concept.

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