Service Springboard Part I: Find Your Offer

BIG MOOD: "I WANT TO DO SOMETHING, BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT SOMETHING IS!" 

(Psst - if you want to read this later, you can click on the image to pin it!)

Last year, I decided I wanted to earn more money on the side.

But how, Mikli? 

Good question. I didn’t know. Unless my very well-honed overthinking skills were capable of paying my son’s tuition bills, I was out of ideas. 

If you will indulge me, here’s something I wrote more than a year ago:

In the process [of trying to figure out what I can do], I started to question myself like I were a branding client. Unfortunately, asking myself “Why should people care?” “What makes you different?” “What value do you have to offer?” “And even then, would anyone even want what you have to give?” over and over has done a number on my self esteem.
Twenty-five and a half years in, and I don’t have a thing. 
[And] assuming I do find what I want to do, assuming I do find my thing, assuming I do find what I can offer that no one else can, the question still is: will anyone need it? Will anyone want it? Pithily, will anyone pay me for it, because what’s a supply without a demand?

Thank you, 2016 Mikli, for jumpstarting the process. 

Because I was headed in the right direction with my questions. Good on me for trying to find the intersection between what I can do and what others need. I was just stuck. At some point, I had no answers. 

What value do I have to offer? Well, I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to figure out, okay!


Welcome to the Service Springboard series.

 

 

You might also be asking yourself those same questions. You might also be just as stuck. 

If you want to begin offering services — and, quick sidebar, this is a great way to start earning online. People will tell you you’re trading time for money, and that’s true. But you’re trading time… for money. And experience. And a whole lotta knowledge. Very worth the time, especially when you’re just starting — this series is for you. 

I want you to get on your feet a lot faster than I did. So. This series is meant to be:

  • A springboard. Over the next few blog entries, we’ll be building a framework for your service-based business. We’ll talk specializing, pricing, systems, standing out online and booking your first clients — a jumpstart, if you will.

  • A toolbox. Play with these elements so you can create, experiment, evolve, and grow this business into something that works for you.

  • A quickstart guide. I’ll be asking you to put yourself out there because starting and following through is what will get you the furthest the fastest. (No overthinking. I did enough for the both of us already.) Will it be uncomfortable? Yes. Will it get easier? Also yes. Will it exponentially speed up your progress? Very very yes.


This is Part I of the Service Springboard series: Find Your Offer.

The Quickest Start

If you already have something in your head, some inkling of an, “actually, I’ve been thinking…” or a “well, this kind of sounds like fun…” or a “you know, people have asking me to…” 

Offer it. 

Offer to take somebody’s picture, call up five of your friends for an impromptu workshop at the nearby coffeehouse, or post something on Facebook

Just get it out into the world. 

The challenge: do it in 3 days and without spending more than $20. 

Before you @ me perfectionists: It doesn’t have to perfect. It probably won’t be. And yeah, yeah, that’s what they all say, but — that’s what your 3-day deadline is for. Go before the doubt and fear creep in. You’re creating your first draft offer, and every first draft is perfect, because all it has to do is exist.

Because then you’ll be able to see what happens when your thing meets the real world. And real world data > the 1,001 hypothetical scenarios and what ifs we cook up in our heads. Record and analyze your results. (Share what’s happening in the comments below.) See what worked and what you can improve on. Refine accordingly for the next round. Repeat!

Now if you don’t have something in mind just yet and you have a bit of figuring out to do still, then read on. 


Ready to find your offer and get started freelancing?

The printable worksheet for this entry has all the prompts in one handy place + tons of space for all your notes and ideas. Get it here and follow along!


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1. Long list

In this section, write down everything that comes to mind without censoring your thoughts or erasing anything. Crazy ideas come to those who … allow them to come? That’s the saying, right? 

Okay. Moving forward.

 

 

On your area or domain or target market

 

1. What things are you really interested in? 

What do you find yourself Googling or researching all day, going down the rabbit hole, and clicking link after link?

2. What kind advice do you find yourself giving often?

3. What questions do you get asked a lot?

Or, what kind of questions — even if they aren’t asking you specifically — do you enjoy jumping in on and offering answers to? 

4. Who asks these questions?

What kind of people are they, and what do they have in common? What do they want? And what problems, frustrations, or annoyances do they have that are getting in the way of what they want?

5. What do you enjoy figuring out?

Which problems do you enjoy solving? Which problems do you want to solve? When faced with something, where would you be, ah, wait, I got this!

6. Who were you, once upon a time?

Think back to a transformation you’ve undergone. Could present-you help past-you?

7. Who do you identify with? Who are your people? 

I used to blog about parenting, because I love raising my son and felt I had no other “thing” I could blog about. But I always found it weird that I didn’t identify with other parents or parenting bloggers; I wasn’t even hanging out in parenting Facebook groups. Where I did find myself enjoying and engaging though, were online business groups. I found my vibe- and wavelength-mates there; I got them and they got me. I decided not to fight it. I reveled and thrived in the online business community, and, here I am!

 

 

On the skills and services you can offer

 

Psst. You don’t have to be the only person in the world who does this. You don’t have to be the best person in the world who does this. You just need to be able to help someone out. The right offer, for the right person, at the right time. 

1. What skills do you currently have? 

Include things you might have gone to school for or taken trainings on or that you taught yourself. Also include soft skills, like being able to learn fast, or tell stories, or resolve conflicts easily, or be confident in front of an audience. Here’s a nice list of soft skills!

2. What are your strengths?

What are you naturally good at? What do people compliment you on a lot? Or you can ask other people: what do they find complex and complicated, but comes pretty easily to you?

3. What do you want to be known for?

“Oh, you need[thing]? You should totally go to [your name]!”

4. What do you do when you procrastinate? 

I found that I tinkered with my website a lot, even if I didn’t have any reason to. It was false busy work. And then I figured, you know what: what if I offer this tinkering to people who actually need it instead? Instead of it being a waste of time, let me just earn from it! 

5. List very, very specific tasks that you can do. Then make that even specific-er.

For example. When I began, I asked if anyone needed help “seting up Convertkit and embedding [the form] on your Squarespace site in a not-boring way.” I had to name the platforms, and what I could do within said platforms, instead of saying, “I know some tech.” 

Original VA Post.png

(Not for anything, but right after posting that ^ people commented and messaged me saying those were the exact skillsets they were looking for. First post ever, 0 client work experience. Specific just makes you really easy to find.) 


2. Narrow it down

Hopefully, your long list is giving you ideas. If anything immediately jumps out at you, go and test it! But if you’re going, “Okay, but which of these do I do though,” then it’s time to shrink that list into something doable. 

Go through the prompts below. Encircle things on your list that are looking good, and strike through the ones that are… eh.

 

 

1. Have any patterns emerged?

What’s consistently showing up in your answers?

2. Mix and match.

Take an interest (or domain or target market) and pair it with a random skill, or vice versa. (Cats x Photography. Video Games x Video Editing. Parenting x Writing. Social Justice x Digital Art.) 

Some things will come out weird. Some things will come out weirder. And some of those weird things might come out, “but hey wait a minute…” 

3. What can you follow through on? 

They say starting is the hardest part. It is not. It’s so much harder to finish the darn thing. Resistance rises. Motivation drops. But what are you passionate enough to build and see through ’til it’s done?

4. What excites you? What’s worth the stress?

Soul sucking work really is soul sucking. Today you can choose to say no to Dementors.

5. What do you see yourself overdelivering on? 

Think: Andy from the Devil Wears Prada after she bloomed. Miranda Priestly, her boss, asked her for the unpublished manuscript of the latest Harry Potter novel for her twin daughters. Not only did she find an impossible-to-get one, she had them copied, bound, sent to the twins (one each!), and plonked down a file copy in front of a stunned Miranda.

I wanted to evolve to be Andy when I took on my first ever project management client. My goal was to read his mind. To be able to say I’m already done with the thing before I was even asked to do the thing. I got to the point where I’d receive one instruction and do the 10 other things he meant for me to do. It’s super satisfying. You won’t be able to stop.

6. Low hanging fruit: what’s something you can already do?

Like, right now. If I asked you. No need to study extra things. I mean. Learning is great and so, so key, and tbf we’re all learning on the job — it’s just, is this something you won’t have an “oh, I need to study this, oh, I need to learn this” procrastination shield to hide behind? 

7. Most importantly: is it useful?

Is it something that is important to other people, but they aren’t satisfied with how they’re currently dealing with it? Is it something they’re annoyed to have to do? Might someone somewhere be saying, “I wish someone could totally just ______”? 

Here’s a handy table from page 7 of the workbook to help you determine where the potential might be. High scores = worth checking out.

Figure out what services to offer as a freelancer!

Know that none of these choices are final.

Don’t think this has to be The One or anything. You can unchoose, you can choose again. You can tweak. You can remix and match. You can find some way to innovate! You can — yeah. You get it. Business is fun! You’re allowed to play.


3. Test

Ah, yes. The putting yourself out there part. 

By this point, you may have an idea of what you’d like to do moving forward. Now we want to know: does anyone need it? More importantly: will they pay for it? 

I’ll reiterate what I said in the Quickest Start section: the important thing is to get your (imperfect! minimum viable!*) offer out there into the real world asap, so you learn from it asap. That’s what will get your business moving the furthest, the fastest. 

Remember: our challenge is to test your offer within 3 days for less than $20.

* By minimum viable, I mean, test your idea in the smallest possible way before spending a ton of time and energy and money behind something that turns out to Not Be The Thing. (I’ve done this. Spent months and months creating an entire website for services from scratch ’til I realized too late that… nah I don’t even like doing these things! Please don’t go through that.)

Now let’s find out if your offer has legs to stand on. 

 

 

1. Interview people. Ask them about their lives (instead of about your service).

Get on the phone or Skype, hop on Messenger, treat a friend to coffee — then make sure to take notes. Write their answers down because a) you will forget! and b) their exact words will make for some fantastic “how did you read my mind?” copy later on.

Some tips: 

  • Don’t ask about the future. The future is hypothetical and foggy. “Would you…?” questions will probably get you answers from people who don’t want to hurt your feelings. 

  • Ask about past and current behavior. 

    • How are they currently dealing with the thing you’re offering? 

    • Why do they bother? (Or do they bother? Because maybe it’s annoying, but not annoying enough.) 

    • How long does it take them to do? 

    • How do they feel about the way they’re currently dealing with it (if that solution exists)? 

    • How much do they currently pay / have allotted in their budget to do it or have it done? 

    • What else have they tried? What did they think about those other solutions?

  • What do they want, and why is that important to them? And what’s keeping them from getting what they want? <— can you bridge that gap?

  • Ask them to talk you through the last time they did The Thing. (Write copy for their website, take a picture of their kids, create their own logo, etc.)

Need a place to jot down your interview notes?

Grab the Find Your Offer workbook here!


You'll also receive occasional emails from me, and from time to time, I'll share new projects I'm working on. As always, you're free to opt out anytime. :)

2. Offer a beta test to a few people for free or at a reduced price.

It won’t tell you if anyone is willing to pay for it in full, but it’s a great way to have some leeway to work out the kinks, figure out if you actually like doing it, know what’s working and not working, and make it better for when you offer the paid version.

Quick story. I offered to live-code people’s Convertkit email templates for free. As in, we’d be on Skype together, they’ll tell me the look and feel they’re going for, and I’m sharing my screen and editing in real time. “Could you change the font to…?” takes two seconds to do. In 30 minutes, boom. Done. They have a customized template. My beta slots “sold” out super fast and I ended up overbooking! It was great!

But. I didn’t realize that — heh — coding is pretty much quiet work and I had to small talk for 30 minutes while figuring out wait no why didn’t this color change no my code is correct this should work agggghhhh stupid missing semicolon! 

So now I offer templates in the shop. You can fill up a form and tell me what changes you’d like to make, and away I go. It’s a much more silent endeavor. 

But.

No one’s buying.

But.

That’s data. People were all over the customized live-coded templates, but not the ones they can buy off my store. Now I know. So maybe it was the live thing! Maybe it’s the cost? But hey! Now I can figure out my next move, tweaking and adjusting based on this real-life info.

3. Write a blog entry on it — or a series of blog entries on it — and feel for the response.

I mean. 

 ^ Pictured is the draft of this entry, which almost did not get written thanks to Smol Keht.

^ Pictured is the draft of this entry, which almost did not get written thanks to Smol Keht.

4. Phrase your offer into something people would Google. Google it. Are there hits?

Getting hits means there’s a market for it! People are looking for you!

5. Scout Facebook groups.

Go into a few where your target market might hang out and scope the questions. What are people frustrated with in there? What questions come up often? Are they wishing you exist?

6. Create a sales or interest page, and see if people sign up.

Lil warning, because a sales page is Your Marketing Skills on a a Stick, it might be a challenge to distinguish if people are interested / not interested in your offer, or in your messaging / positioning / sales techniques.

7. The most concrete way to know if people will pay for it? Ask people to pay for it. Not hypothetically. For real for real. You’ll know it’s worth the money if they pay you the money.

Nothing fancy; it can be as simple as posting on social media. That is A Thing I Did.

 

 

If you’re hesitating because you’re not sure how to price yourself — well have I got the segue for you! I’ll be getting to that very soon, because Part II of the Service Springboard series is on pricing and packaging your services.

 

 

And then record your data and learnings, analyze them, and refine! Repeat.


To recap, your mission. 

Download the workbook 👇🏼  if you haven’t yet. It’s a version of this entry — minus my ramblings — that you can print out and scribble on.

(the aforementioned workbook)

You'll also receive occasional emails from me, and from time to time, I'll share new projects I'm working on. As always, you're free to opt out anytime. :)

Go through the exercises and come up with some ideas to test.

Test your offer. And again, the challenge is to do it in 3 days with less than $20! Refine as necessary. 

Final output: your offer!

Sooooo? What are you gonna dooooo? 

Report back here. I want to hear all about it please! Let me know how it goes in the comments. If you’ve got any questions, let me know too. (Alternatively, you can yell at me on Twitter or Instagram!)

Yes? Yes! 

I’ll see you over at the next entry to price and package that beautiful offer of yours!

Mikli8 Comments