Why Freelancers Might Want to Start Their Own Membership Business
Being a freelancer is great… sometimes.
Sure, you can usually set your own schedule, take on the clients you want, and say “no” to the ones you don’t. It’s a great gig.
But it also comes with its fair share of issues, like the constant flux of your bank account, or not having anything more than Google to rely on if you have questions.
And then there’s the concept of growth. You can always take on more clients, but at the end of the day you only have a limited amount of time to work. So how does a freelancer really grow his or her practice?
While there are a great many benefits to being a freelancer, there comes a time when you should possibly consider taking the leap into owning a more sizable business – in this case, a productized membership business.
Why? Let’s take a look at some of the pros of making that leap…
Business Owners vs. Freelancers
The goal of any freelancer is basically to have a steady job with no boss while doing work that you love and generally increasing demand enough to have your dream budget.
But a business owner (or an entrepreneur) has a dream to build a long-term, self-sustaining machine that runs without them needing to be “in the office” 9-to-5. And that’s one of the primary benefits of owning a business – it’s not that you don’t have a boss, but you’re the boss.
It’s a role change
Business owners can hire other people to do the dirty work for them while they focus on the big picture. It moves you out of a role where you’re the one doing all the work, filing invoices, tracking down the money, and soliciting new business. You become the person casting vision and implementing new ideas. It’s not necessarily less work, but it’s work that’s not dependent on when you “clock in” for the day.
It’s a chance to make more money
Another nice thing about being the boss is that you’re no longer relying on how many hours you can work in a day to make an income. In fact, your goal is to create a passive source of income that makes money while you sleep. You can also start charging more for what you do, since you have a team of people backing you up and it’s not just you and your laptop sitting on your couch at home.
It’s a way to give back
Possibly the best reason for becoming a business owner is that you’re going to give something back to others. You’re creating a way to not only provide income to other workers you hire, but also provide a service to people who really need your expertise. It’s not about doing projects so you can put food on the table. It’s about providing people with something they need to be successful.
But what exactly does that look like? And how do you start making the transition from offering a freelance service to something much bigger?
The first step is productizing your service.
Benefits of Productizing
Productization is a buzzword that’s been around for some time. It’s the idea of taking a service you regularly do as a freelancer and packaging it in a way that’s scalable and can be repeatedly sold to others.
One of the best ways to do this is to find a solution to common problems in your industry and turn that solution into something that can you can charge for monthly – in other words, something a person can subscribe to or be a member of.
Membership businesses are the perfect example of productization done right. A membership business is basically a website that lets you get paid for what you know.
For example, if you’re a web designer and you know that website owners frequently get tired of doing the little tasks that come along with owning a website (like updating all those pesky plugins), you could offer an unlimited “fixes and tasks” service for a flat monthly fee.
As long as you have a recurring issue that people would be willing to pay to have fixed on a recurring basis (and the key is recurring), you can setup a membership business.
But why not just charge by the project? There are some key benefits to productizing, including (but certainly not limited to):
- Help a lot more people in the same amount of time
- Make more money (and with recurring payment, you’re not struggling month to month)
- Start with relatively little overhead
- A big team is not needed to get started, but can scale and grow as needed
- Niche your product and resell it in many different ways
But all of those things only really matter if you’re able to make the transition from freelancer to business owner successfully. So how do you do that, exactly?
How to Successfully Transition
It all starts with a great idea. You have to have a service that can be repackaged again and again, and one that essentially doesn’t take you too much time to produce. After all, if it takes you the same amount of time and energy to productize your service than to just do it project by project, it’s not really worth it. You need scalability.
But once you have an understanding of what service you could turn into a repeat product, you have to start shifting your focus. Here are some best practices to follow to start the transition process.
Join another membership site to see how it works. If you’ve never been a part of a membership business before, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into by subscribing to something that’s similar, even if it’s only for a couple of months.
Refine your market and test your productized service. You want to make sure that there’s actually a demand for what you’re offering, otherwise you’re out of luck. There are plenty of courses out there that can help you with that process (we wrote another post about this here).
Figure out the team you need and get to work developing. The development phase takes the longest. Here you’ll be figuring out your pricing point, setting up a website, hiring workers to do the things you no longer want or need to do, and getting the final details sorted out. While this part of the processes may feel like the hardest, just know that it will all be worth it.
The key to making the transition is to not only have a great idea that can be turned into a recurring service, but to have an attitude that says, “Yes, I’m ready to escape the daily grind and make a difference.” Because that’s what it takes to be a successful business owner: a great attitude.
While productization may not be for everyone – after all, some freelancers just generally like being freelancers – there are some great arguments to be made for taking things to the next level with a membership business that’s scalable.
The keys to success come down to having a service you can easily transition into a product, and being ready to shift from working for yourself to being the boss.
But for some, the benefits of making the leap may far outweigh any time and energy it takes to setup a membership business. Especially when you can make money while you sleep.
Joanne is a writer who specializes in educating online site owners about building a thriving membership business.