#025: Brian Casel on ‘Productizing’ Your Services

Summary: In today's interview, you'll hear from Brian Casel. Brian is a web designer who has transformed his freelance business from a service-based firm to one that offers "productized" services.

Made to order.

That's what most of us do. We deliver customized services to our clients.

It's simple and straightforward — at least on paper. The client describes what they need, and you turn around and deliver a customized, made-to-order product.

This model works. It's what most clients want. And when done right, it can be very profitable.

But is that the only way to deliver professional services?

No. There are other models that can be just as profitable ... and even more scalable.

And in today's interview, you'll hear from Brian Casel—a web designer who has transformed his freelance business from a service-based firm to one that offers "productized" services.

You'll learn how he's done this, why it works ... and how it could work for you, too!

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Brian worked as a web designer for 10 years. In 2008, he started working freelance. Over the past few years, he’s transitioned from freelance client work to offering productized services. His main product is Restaurant Engine.

In October, he launched a course on how to build a productized service.

What is "productized consulting"?

From the customers’ perspective, a productized service (or productized consulting) is a done-for-you solution with a compelling value proposition. The service is packaged at a set price with a predefined scope. Each productized service is developed for a core group of customers.

From the business owners’ perspective, a productized service can run without the direct involvement of the business owner. This allows business owners to spend their time elsewhere.

What’s the difference between this model and charging by the project?

Focus is the main difference. When working as a web designer, each of Brian’s clients had different requirements. He’d spend days exploring their needs, writing proposals and pricing services. He had to repeat this process with every client. This limited the number of projects he could take on.

clicktotweetThe productized service model focuses on one problem, one target customer and one solution.

With the productized service model, you craft a value proposition, scale it and build systems to deliver the service to multiple customers.

What gave you the idea to move in this direction?

Through Restaurant Engine, Brian realized that restaurant owners would only sign up for the service when all the work was done for them. Brian gradually standardized and streamlined the process. Today, they can set up a new site in three or five days, which is much faster than a custom designed site. He began to think about how he could apply this process to other services.

Can you give us a few examples of how others have applied this model?

Nick Disabato of Draft Revise. Nick offers monthly A/B website testing as a productized service.

Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers. Joanna offers website copy reviews as a productized service.

Jarrod Drysdale of Landing Page in a Day. Jarrod creates landing pages in one day as a productized service

What if your clients aren’t used to buying freelance services this way?

Larger corporate clients often want a customized service. You could tailor your productized services to these clients, but package it as a set solution with a set price.

If you know the market well, it’s not hard to create packages that appeal to this segment. They like productized services because they know what they’re getting and what it’s going to cost.

What services are suitable for productization?

Look at the services you already provide. Consider how you could package them differently. Look for services that solve a major pain point. What are the questions/problems that come up again and again?

What are some of the most common pitfalls when moving to this model?

clicktotweetDon’t spend too much time behind closed doors setting up your great idea. Present to clients sooner.

Get your idea in front of clients. Your idea won’t be perfect, but you’ll get the feedback you need to change and improve it.

How can we transition from the freelancer model to a model where we supervise and others do the work?

Learn how to work on your business instead of in your business. (A concept from The E-Myth Revisited.)

Brian has boiled systematization down to three steps:

1. Standardize—Pick one method, one framework and one set of tools. Make the process as as predictable as possible.

2. Streamline—Look for ways to make the process more efficient. Create a template or use software to automate certain tasks.

3. Document everything—Create standard operating procedures. Start simple and add more detail over time.

How can listeners learn more about you and this idea?

Brian offers a free crash course on productizing your service on his website: http://casjam.com

He also provides a more detailed course: https://casjam.com/productize/

Email questions to brian@casjam.com. He’s also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/casjam

  • Dina Lynch Eisenberg

    Mind-blown! Productizing is exactly what I'm doing with my outsourcing business. I love curating bespoke Project Plans but was struggling with how much time each one takes to lovingly complete. Your discussion helped me realize I can create a 'toolkit' of all the projects an author and speaker would want to outsource with recommendations. That's a big value add to them- no time wasted searching- and let me help more people. Today is my lucky day, thank you Ed and Brian!

    • edgandia

      Awesome!! Great to hear this, Dina. Thanks for checking out the episode. Always wonderful to hear when a listener has a big "Aha!" moment. 😉

  • I really love the concept of this - especially for making the 'bread and butter' design jobs I do as a more systemised process. My only problems (I can imagine) might be meeting unpredicted client demands - that go beyond the scope of the timeframe/budget. I find this easier to manage when pricing on a day rate, but when it's a 'product' I think there would have to be a lot of small print to make sure both myself and the client end up happy!

    Your advice about implementing small changes is great though, and I'll be making plans right away - thank you Ed!

    • edgandia

      Hi Cat! Correct -- you have to do a more thorough job of defining the scope of work, inclusions and exclusions when you do it this way. Good to know you're inspired to start taking action on these ideas. 😉

  • Really interesting! (I listened while grocery shopping!) Wondering how you'd go about marketing a business like this - other than to existing/ex clients and network. It seems when you have such a specific product as opposed to just a niche or a specialism that finding the prospect that needs your specific offering would be tricky. Small net, kind of thing. If you offer more services - or products, I guess - then it's a bigger net. Kind of feels like niching down too much? Any thoughts on this - because I am quite interested in this idea! Thanks!

    • edgandia

      There are many flavors of this idea. For instance, think "packages." Packages of content, design or other service. Anything you can put boundaries around by defining a clear scope of work. That way you can feel confident quoting a flat fee for that specific work.

      Packages is a different flavor, because it's still "made to order" work. But you're still productizing because you're defining something very specific a client can order.

      My suggestion -- start with something simple. Try it out. Work out the kinks. Then expand it ... and look for other services that could lend themselves to this model.

  • Great podcast! (listened while I did my dishes) 🙂

  • Guest

    Great to listen to! (while I did my dishes.lol)

  • Listening to Brian describe his systematized process and I can't help but to think of Built To Sell by John Warrillow. Great read and a very similar approach...

    • edgandia

      Haven't read it yet, Bobby. Thanks for the recommendation and for checking out the show.