Being ankle-chained to your computer sucks. Here’s how to build a business that can prosper without you.
Many profitable services started as one-man freelancing or consulting shops. This is great because you get to learn about the needs of your market and how to serve them. You also don’t need a big starting capital to immediately hire a team.
Transitioning out of that freelancer mindset to building an actual business can be difficult, but the benefits are well worth it.
For one, you get to take a vacation once in a while, without worrying about your business. You also get to leave the boring tasks to somebody else and do more of the things you actually enjoy. It even makes it possible to sell your business should you decide to cash out and retire in the future.
So lets look at how you can create a self-sustained business.
Build a team
If you’re used to freelancing, building a team can be hard. I know I used to do things myself, because it was faster that way. In the long run, however, that isn’t a good option and you need to learn how to delegate.
The easiest way to start is by hiring contractors for specific, limited tasks. These outsourcers are typically paid on a per-project basis, which is great, because it gives you a predictable profit margin and helps minimize risk.
After outsourcing the grunt work you’re left with admin tasks like assigning jobs, tracking employee’s work and talking to customers. This is where hiring a project manager can help.
Now, a manager is going to be your right hand person, so it must be somebody you can trust. And of course, you are going to have to pay more to get somebody with good communication skills.
Productize your services
Productizing a service means decreasing unique client-specific work and increasing the number of standardised tasks. This makes it easier to train your staff and deliver predictable results at a set price.
To learn more about productized services, check out this insightful presentation:
The biggest part of creating streamlined productized services is narrowing the scope. Decide exactly what your clients are getting, and perhaps more importantly, what they aren’t getting.
Your service can’t be all things to all people, so niching down is definitely a great option for making your service more standardized.
In terms of pricing you don’t need a complex pricing grid, but it does help to have multiple service levels for clients with different budgets. Our article on pricing might be helpful here.
Create systems and procedures
Having proper documentation for your services means virtually any competent person can follow a process and get the job done. This in and of itself makes hiring much easier.
Now, until you start hiring people, don’t worry too much about creating detailed procedures. The services you offer are likely to change as you learn more about your clients and reach the so called product-market fit.
So how to actually go about creating your procedures?
- Listen to this enlightening TMBA episode on SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)
- Create a new shared Google document that your team can access
- List the different services you offer and outline the exact steps for delivering each service
Your first SOP doesn’t have to be perfect, because it will always be a work in progress. Any time you get a question about a certain step in the process, or if any issues pop up, update the document to avoid the same problem in the future.
By creating this documentation, you’re doing the work once and reaping the benefits for years to come.
A service business that can run and grow without you, consists of three essential components: productized services, documentation for delivering those services, and a competent team that can follow the documentation.
Compared to traditional one-off services, the productized service model makes it much easier to build and train your team. And having a great team is the cornerstone of running a business that can grow without you.