Closing the gap between a freelance practice and a scalable business requires a shift in mindset, and taking a leaf out of the startup founders’ book would put you on the right trajectory:
1. Productizing Your Offering
You and you are time are not scalable. This means that the first and most important step is to solve this problem. There are generally speaking two ways to do this – with people, and with technology. The first way will turn your practice into an agency. The second, which is more interesting for this article – to a startup.
Productizing your offering means turning your services into a product that can be sold repeatedly to multiple customers at minimum cost, or at least getting as close to that ideal as possible.
To do this, you need to identify the core elements of your service that can be standardized and packaged. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you could create a series of templates or content packages that can be customized for different clients. If you are a designer or artist – a course or a package of tools for artists and/or designers.
Productizing your offering requires careful planning and a focus on creating a high-quality, repeatable product that meets the needs of your target audience as closely as possible. At the same time, it also means your goal is to customize it for individual customers as little as possible, which is a 180-degree shift from the way a freelancer usually thinks about their work with clients.
For example, an ebook is a perfectly scalable product – you can sell it to an unlimited amount of people with zero customization and close to zero marginal cost.
2. Shifting from a Solopreneur Mindset to a Team-Oriented Mindset
As a freelancer, you may be used to working on your own and handling all aspects of your business. However, to scale your business and turn it into a startup, you’ll need to shift from a solopreneur mindset to a team-oriented mindset. This means hiring employees, contractors, or freelancers to help you with various aspects of your business.
Productizing your offering might require expertise that you don’t have. You should be prepared to involve other people and invest financially in this project.
3. Developing a Comprehensive Business Plan
Freelancers may not always prioritize long-term planning, but a comprehensive business plan is crucial for turning your business practice into a startup. This plan should outline your vision, target audience, revenue streams, and growth potential. It should also include details about your marketing and sales strategies – as a freelancer, you may be used to getting new clients from referrals or from directly applying to jobs or gigs. This is usually not sufficient if you are selling a new product, however (or a productized service). Your marketing efforts need to be scalable, and you need to make sure that the cost of acquiring a new customer is sufficiently low to be covered by the price of your product, otherwise, your efforts to scale your business wouldn’t make economic sense.
Moreover, since you would be investing time and resources into this project, it is important to have basic financial projections.
If you don’t intend to search for outside partners or investors all of this information doesn’t necessarily have to be presented in an official business plan. Creating one anyway, however, is still a good idea as it helps you structure your thoughts and see potential problems in your plans.