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Select Your Service

Recommended reading: 1,000 True Fans, Happy, Smart, and Useful, Landing Pages

Distill skills into services.

A skill is something that you can do. A service is something that you can do for somebody.

Nobody cares what you can do, but everybody cares what you can do for them.

To distill your skill into a service:

  1. What "bad alternative" is available?
  2. How does your skill supplant the "bad alternative"?
  3. How does your service empower your customers?

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Claim your domain.

Choose a comically specific audience.

For 13 years, Steve Tanner has been blogging about the trash cans at Disney theme parks. Steve Tanner knows how to claim a domain.

There should never be more than 10,000 people that want your service.

Plant giant flags in uncontested territories. Never squabble over crowded plots.

To gauge the sizes of communities, explore subreddits and Google Trends.

Seek connected communities.

BuildTheEarth members work together in Minecraft servers. Toki Pona speakers hang out on discord to practice. Competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee players meet at tournaments across the world.

Remember that small groups aren't always connected groups. Left-handed violinists don't seek each other out.

Word-of-mouth travels quickly in tight-knit communities. But be careful -- complaints spread faster than praise. Deliver consistent excellence.

Never annoy your community. Synthesize serendipity, but don't pester people.


It's better to offer multiple niche services than to pick one broad one. For example, never offer "woodwind lessons". Become a regional expert for piccolo, oboe, bassoon, and bagpipes.

Engage parallel communities. Offer vintage Minolta repair alongside your europop DJ services.


Offer services before you're ready.

Try your hardest; refund money if you don't meet your own standards.

Nobody should be embarassed by earnest efforts.

This essay is part of How to Productize Yourself.