Shaping your service offering

What do you do?

It’s a question you’ve been asked a thousand times and, if you’ve got a fledgling design or web business, you might not always know how to answer. If the job pays, you’ll often be tempted to answer “Anything you want”! But we know from cold, hard experience (see below) that it helps to know precisely what services you offer—and do not offer.

So how do you shape your service offering? Three words: focus, specify, and choose.

Focus: Play to your strengths

We all prefer to operate in our sweet spot, but that’s not easy when you’re starting out. Eager for work, you get sucked into doing whatever the client asks for. The problem is, you may be doing a sub-par job in those areas where you’re less skilled. You end up a mile wide and an inch deep. That’s why we recommend playing to your strengths.

In our early days at Rocketspark, we were jacks-of-all-trades, agreeing to everything from Flash design to email marketing—all stuff outside our speciality. As we grew, however, we realised the value in zeroing in on our core business.

That’s easier said than done. So how do you stick to what you’re good at? You have two options: (1) outsource, and (2) refer. If you outsource, you can still legitimately claim that as something you offer (check out our blog post on scaling up for more advice about outsourcing work). But if you can’t or don’t want to outsource, then go the extra mile for the client and refer them to somebody who can fulfill their request. Referring clients to other business is good for your business too. Refer work to someone else and, chances are, they’ll refer work back to you.

Specify: Be specific about what you offer

Shaping your service offering is all about figuring out where you’re going to concentrate your energies. Hey, it’s your business—so what do you want to do? You can build your business around what you want it to be, not just what work gets thrown at you. Get specific about what design services or web services you’re willing to take on and what you’d rather decline.

One of our design partners, Kaz Dezign, started out as a print design firm. But when founder Karen May saw the demand for websites, she made the decision to grow into web design. Now they can offer both print and web design, giving clients a more unified brand. And when it was time for a brand overhaul, they incorporated web into the new brand. Karen made an intentional decision about what specifically she wanted to be able to offer, and her business grew as a result.

So you need to have a clear idea of your service offerings in your mind—but also on your website. One way to do this is have a dedicated services page (and a page for each service), detailing specifically what services you offer. Clients can then better appreciate what you can deliver.

Choose: Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Being clear on your service offerings lets you choose what work you want to accept and what to (politely) decline. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive. If you know what you do and do well, you’re able to take control of your business. So go ahead: be picky. Never be afraid to say “no.”

Sometimes when a client asks for something outside our area of expertise, our eyes light up with dollar signs—and that can have a blinding effect. But don’t be fooled. Those types of jobs may end up being less lucrative than they might initially appear. Firstly, if you’re doing something new, it can end up sucking up a lot of precious time. Secondly, quoting for an unfamiliar type of work can be tricky. If you underestimate the time it’ll take, you could end up doing lots of work that you can’t charge for.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons to take on something outside your comfort zone. Upskilling and expanding what you offer could pay dividends in the long run. But you still need to be careful. If there’s not likely to be much demand for it over time, it’s probably not worth it. On the other hand, certain skills are worth learning. Almost every client would potentially benefit from having a website, so expanding into web design is a valuable string to add to your bow.

Conclusion: Focus, Specify, Choose

Don’t fall into the trap of saying “yes” to everything a client asks for. Instead, gain a clear sense of what services you offer and stick to the game-plan.

  • Focus on what you do best.
  • Specify what you can offer.
  • Choose what to accept and what to decline.

Shaping your service offering takes forethought and intentionality, but it’s better for business in the long run. It lets you focus on what you do well, do efficiently, and do with a smile on your face!