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Sell Your Service

Recommended reading: Landing Pages, patio11’s guide, minimum legal consulting setup

Pricing Structures

$1,000 is not always $1,000:

Given a fixed amount, you have one major knob to turn: risk.

If you dump too much risk onto customers, they will avoid your service. But removing risk from your customers may make your revenue unpredictable.

Productizing Your Pricing Package

To turn your service into a product, standardize everything. Eliminate unknowns.

To create consistency, split deliverables into a-la-carte services.

When your service takes longer than 1-2 days, you impose risk on yourself and your client. The larger your deliverable, the further it can stray from expectations.

Don’t set prices based on the complexity of requests. Instead of “building an app”, charge separately for deliverables like “database schema”, “frontend prototype”, “end-to-end test suite”, “deployment/hosting”, etc.

Becoming a Business

You are already a business – take people’s money and report it in your taxes. This is called being a “sole propietor”.

You will likely need to file quarterly tax returns. Be kind to yourself and hire an accountant.

Record all incoming and outgoing transactions. Create an email address for your business so that all digital receipts are clearly recorded in one place. Email yourself physical receipts to ensure everything is stored in one place. Make sure to archive emails rather than trash them permanently (also update your default settings). Backup your email every 2-3 months by downloading your data from your email provider and storing it on an external harddrive.

Make accounting easy. Open up a business account at your bank. Put revenue directly into the account. Set aside 20%-50% of revenue for future taxes. Use the account for business expenses only. Pay yourself a regular amount each month by transferring money from the business account to your personal account. Pay yourself as little as possible; store money in your business account to reduce tax headaches.

As a sole proprietor, you probably want to request a “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. Changing your DBA is annoying, so pick something straightforward and memorable.

Forming an LLC is overkill for most people. LLCs are helpful when (1) you’re splitting income with people, (2) you might receive lawsuits, or (3) your services profit more than ~$60,000 annually.

Joining a Marketplace

Marketplaces are the easiest way to find customers (and competition).

Gig marketplaces handle payments, generate tax forms, provide spam control, and standardize your search results. They shoulder your risk and complexity.

Fiverr 5.5% of revenue + small order fees
Upwork 5%-20% of revenue

Joining an Agency

Freelancing agencies share similar benefits to gig marketplaces with some extra hurdles.

Freelancing agencies pair you with clients, but will likely push you to use flexible billable hours rather than your own producized service packages.

Going Independent

As an independent business, you take all the profits, risks, and challenges for yourself.

It’s easy to create your own website:

Websites are easy to make, but discoverability is difficult. Marketplaces and agencies make you searchable, but independent websites force you to build an online reputation from scratch. SEO is a hellish race-to-the-bottom, so prioritize word-of-mouth and direct communications. When in doubt, find an online community and be helpful. People notice helpful people.

There are many ways to transfer money: Shopify, Squarespace, Square, Spiffy, Venmo, Cash, Bitcoin, PayPal, Zelle, Apple Cash, Quickbooks, Finli, Bonsai, etc.

Remember, always file your taxes. And consider hiring an accountant.


This essay is part of How to Productize Yourself.