3 Steps to Create a Freelance Signature Service
Every freelancer can benefit from creating a signature service.
A signature service is a low-risk, high-reward way to generate interest in a particular project or service you know you can execute like a pro.
While you may already be offering this service to clients, reimagining it as a "signature service" gives it more prominence and positions you as an expert provider.
The reality is, higher quality clients want to work with experts. And when you position yourself as an expert, your value increases in your clients' eyes, allowing you to charge higher fees.
I talk a lot about specializing as a key strategy for freelancers looking to earn a higher income. The fact is, creating a signature service can be a great way for generalists to test the waters of specializing. Having a signature service is like micro-specializing: it elevates that particular service, which means you can become the "go-to" expert on it with a little promotional effort.
So, let's talk about the three steps to building a signature service.
1. Pick a project or service you're great at.
Every freelancer has a service that they knock out of the ballpark. Something that when a client approaches you, in your head you're like, "Oh, yeah. I've totally got this."
But it should also be a service that you enjoy providing. If you're great at white papers but hate all the research that goes into creating them, don't pick that as your signature service. Nothing will kill a freelance business faster than generating work that you dislike. Even if you consciously tell yourself, "It's okay, I can do it," your subconscious will sabotage you--guaranteed. Instead, opt for a service where you can focus on being the best of the best...and enjoy every minute of it.
2. Break your natural approach into a system.
The key to establishing a signature service is building a consistent process around it. (John Warrilow talks about this in his terrific book, Built to Sell.) Great news is you don't have to create a process wholesale. Instead, become aware of the way you naturally approach the project. Then break that approach down into steps to create your process.
Easiest way to do this? Start by listing all the actions you take to deliver the project or service you've identified as your "signature service." Then group related actions together into process steps or stages.
Let's say we have a blogger who writes for businesses. To write a post, her process looks like this:
- She starts by researching the topic online to get a feel for how the industry is already talking about it
- She scours the company's blog for related posts
- She spends 15 minutes interviewing the company's subject matter expert on the topic
- She then creates a draft of the post (which includes SEO keywords and tags)
- Then when she submits the first draft to the client for review, she also selects two to three images from the company's stock photo subscription the client can choose from to accompany the post along with alt text for each
- Finally, as the content is being finalized, she creates three tweets the client can use to promote the new post through the company's Twitter account
If she turned her actions into a process, it might look like this:
Stage 1: Research and Reconnaissance. (That's where she researches the topic, reviews the company blog, and interviews the SME.)
Stage 2: Optimized Draft. (She not only writes the draft, she optimizes it with SEO content, then select possible images with accompanying alt text.)
Stage 3: Promotional Support. (This refers to the promotional tweets she creates to promote the content.)
You can name your steps or stages anything you want. Just make sure they're easy to understand, easy to explain, and capture the expertise you bring to the process.
3. Establish a flat fee for it.
Flat fees are another key strategy for freelancers who want to earn more per project. But it's important to establish a flat fee for your signature offer because you're now positioning your service as a product. And as consumers, we're all trained to understand a product comes with a set price. So, your clients will expect that as well.
If you've been doing this type of project for a while, you should have a good idea of how much you typically charge. If not, estimate your hours and multiply it by your internal hourly rate to come up with your fee.
Also, consider offering tiered service packages to give clients a way to customize the service to their needs and budget. So, using our blogging example, a silver blog package may include two posts per month, the gold level gets clients three posts, and the platinum package includes five posts per month, all at fees that reflect those differences.
Once you've got your signature service ready to go, have a few examples in your portfolio ready to show prospective clients what kind of results your system produces. (It's okay if you produced them before you systematized your service--you were still using the same system, you simply hadn't identified it yet.) Then start pitching your signature service! Clients (old and new, current and dormant) are an ideal starting place to get some traction since they already know and trust you.
Expect that the more you pitch, the more you'll refine it over time until it feels totally natural. And if you're afraid of rejection, don't let it stop you. At any moment, you could be just one pitch away from a big fat "yes."