A guide on how to sell services online
Find out what are the must-haves in your online marketing strategy when it comes to selling services
March 15 · 8 min read
In today’s bubbling gig economy, starting a service-based business is easier than ever. In just a few clicks, you can put together a company logo, your social media pages, and in some cases, even your small business website. Now what? Truth be told, the most challenging aspect of any service-based business is in selling those services to people who actually need them.
Finding your first customers and gaining credibility on the web can be quite tricky, especially since the average consumer distrusts online advertisements. As with any challenge in business, consider this a learning curve, one that once mastered will unlock new growth opportunities and take your service business to new heights.
Whether you’re doing graphic designs, cutting hair, or even pet sitting, this handy guide will show you how to sell services online profitably.
Ready? Let’s go!
Why is it harder to sell services online compared to selling products?
If you’ve managed an online store before or are at least familiar with how eCommerce selling works, you know how much easier it is to sell physical products. You do some market testing to find winning products, then you create ads for those products based on the preferences of your target audience. If sales pick up, you could be looking at massive revenue inflows in a matter of days.
This is a sound model, no doubt. But it doesn’t entirely work for businesses that are primarily selling services.
One of the biggest challenges to tackle with small service businesses is that their outputs are based on one person’s expertise or talents. As the business owner, there are only so many hours available every day.
Here’s something all business owners will attest to — becoming a business owner means stepping into a completely new role. You have a company to run now, and at the same time, you must be able to maintain the quality of your output consistently. There’s the financial stuff too. This is a business, after all, and you’re looking to make a profit.
Of course, you could always raise your hourly or project rates, but there’s a hard limit to that as the market becomes more competitive.
So from the get-go, you have a potential profit ceiling, limited working hours, competition, and other relevant concerns on your plate. The odds don’t particularly bode well.
What about selling services as a freelancer?
The U.S. alone is home to over 57 million freelancers. Then there are over one billion other freelancers around the globe. The need to stand out is more important than ever, while you’re also managing multiple deadlines from different clients, tax filings,
Worse of all, you can’t scale beyond a certain limit, because again, the quality of your services depends on you alone. There’s only so much you can do to earn enough to afford your lifestyle.
Making your service easier to sell
The fact that your service business’s profits are dependent on you is its main limiting factor. To counter it, the simplest approach is to change your business revenue model so that income and profits are no longer dependent on you — at least not entirely.
If you want to make your services easier to sell, package them so that they are much easier to buy. And it’s not just for the professional services that you’re rendering. Make the buying process easier for your potential customers too.
For example, many freelancers have multiple payment methods (PayPal, direct bank deposits, cryptocurrencies, and so on). This array of choices makes it easier for the client to pay them in whatever medium is most convenient.
Look at it from your potential customer’s standpoint
No matter what services you’re selling, the fact is your prospect’s risk exposure is high. They will almost always worry because they really don’t know what to expect until they actually experience the service. In other words, the only thing they’re buying during the sales process is your promise to do something for them.
Services are intangible, but your prospects need something more tangible. So how do you make the change?
The answer is to “productize” your service
Packages your services and process to act more like a product in the eyes of your potential customers. Let’s look at a few techniques that can help you achieve this and afford you that distinct advantage over other service providers.
Compile your services into product categories
You’ve probably come across lots of real-world examples across various industries. For example, an accountant could package their professional services into three tiers:
- Basic accounting and bookkeeping
- Intermediary levels — bank reconciliations, financial controls, etc
- Advanced levels — financial reporting, payroll accounting, and so on
She then assigns prices to each tier. This immediately makes the services easier to buy because now you’ve introduced tangible properties to your otherwise intangible services. These tangibles include — bundled items, fixed price, and deliverability. More importantly, it caters to your potential clients’ need for choice based on their varying needs and budgets.
Start the process by looking at your competitors and what they’re offering. How are you doing it differently? How much value are these services providing to the client?
You could also talk to your existing clients to assess their needs and see if there are any gaps that you could fill in. In any case, be logical about your offerings. And most importantly, never compromise on quality. Just because someone bought a tier 1 package doesn’t mean they get lower quality output.
Make them into a physical product
A similar approach to the above technique, but mainly for consultants. They compile their templates, tip sheets, worksheets, and other documents showcasing their expertise. They get the best from these materials and then turn them into books, online courses, and industry-specific tutorials, which then sell on their websites and at speaking engagements.
The good thing about this approach is that it can open up a new passive revenue stream and expand your reach to a larger audience.
Create new offerings
As competition starts to grow, a time comes when potential customers start to see very little differences between your services and the next guy’s. At this point, they start to primarily focus on price as the main differentiating factor.
This is the time to reposition your services to deliver more value and then create new offerings. For example, a freelance content writer might be good at blogging and article writing. But then, he knows visual content can bring more value to his client, so he decides to include graphics design in his regular services and then creates a new offering.
This approach is beneficial because it helps you keep up with trends in your market. By constantly anticipating what related services can provide more value, you’re staying ahead of the market and can therefore spot opportunities more quickly.
Increase perceived value
If any of the above methods aren’t working out, focus on differentiating your business, so there is an increase in its perceived value. This is a common practice in eCommerce through a process known as white labeling.
In white labeling, you’re stamping your brand on a popular product. You reach an agreement with the manufacturer to add your branding to some of their products, which you then sell as your brand. You can use this on service businesses too.
For instance, if you’re a web design consultant, you could brand your deliverables and reports to your client — website audits, analytics, optimization recommendations, etc. Some companies offer white label services, which you can then use to complement your current offerings and increase value.
The focus is always on value
All these techniques have one thing in common — increasing value. It’s a common misconception among startups and small businesses that their customers already understand everything that they do for them. This is hardly ever the case. You’ll need to delve deeper into every bit of value your clients get from working with you and market them.
In doing so, your potential customers become more open to doing business with you, and your company will clearly stand out from the crowd. That puts you well on your way to successfully selling your services.
Marketing your services online
There should be at least one online presence associated with your brand. You’re selling services ONLINE, after all. The ideal medium is a website as it makes your company look more credible and professional. In fact, some services businesses simply cannot do without a website. Even a simple, one-page WordPress site will do, as long as the value propositions are clear.
Now one of the biggest challenges of business owners is figuring out how to do their marketing. In most cases, they know that they must invest in digital marketing, but they’re just not sure where to start. Digital marketing is a very broad field and running through the entire gauntlet is an inefficient use of limited resources.
Let’s look at some must-haves in your online marketing strategy when it comes to selling services:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO should be at the center of your service business’ marketing strategy. This is how potential clients and customers get to find your company’s online presence. Optimizing your website for search engines drives targeted traffic, which in turn grows your customer base.
SEO is also good for attracting people who have a genuine interest in your services. You won’t see someone doing a Google search for something like ‘graphic design services’ if they weren’t interested in something related to graphic designs.
Great content is always a sure dealmaker when selling services. As much as possible, focus on informative, relevant content. The kind that answers direct questions and establishes you as an expert in your industry.
Blogging is a great way to do this. Sharing your expertise directly with your target audience makes them see you as an authority. The next time they need something related to your services, they’re more likely to think of you.
Once you’ve started gaining a loyal reader base, you can use it to launch another important channel — email marketing. Sending out marketing emails can help keep your audience engaged and speed up the conversion process.
Utilize user-generated content
Testimonials, client reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals are examples of user-generated content. They lend credibility to a brand because people tend to trust the experiences of others over the flashy sales copies that businesses usually publish.
Make sure to include these testimonials or customer reviews on your website and are clearly displayed. You could even create a dedicated page for them.
Linkedin, Youtube, Reddit, and even Facebook are great social media platforms for promoting your service business. The key to succeeding here is to be creative with what you’re posting. Visual, interesting content is a must. For instance, you’ve probably seen videos on social media of chiropractors helping their clients. In any case, make sure you’re using the right platform(s). Some services sell better on some platforms than others. For instance, if your service caters to the needs of other businesses or professionals, you’re better off marketing on Linkedin than on Facebook. If you’re a fitness coach, you’re better off utilizing workout videos on Youtube and Instagram than writing short snippets on Twitter.
Grow your network
Many prominent freelancers and business owners owe their success to the depth of the network. Connecting with the right people will open a lot of opportunities for your service business. Sometimes, a simple referral is all you need to jump-start your business and take it to new heights.
You could start by getting in touch with fellow professionals and attending local networking events. Just because you’re selling services online doesn’t mean you should abandon making your presence known in your local community. You could also reach out to influential bloggers to promote your services on their platforms and publish guest posts on other relevant channels.
Regardless of which form of networking you choose to indulge in, the core focus is the same — build deep and mutually beneficial relationships.
Sign up on freelancing platforms
Freelancing platforms are excellent for selling services online. The best part is that there are so many of them available today. In any case, signing up on these freelancing platforms can vastly extend your reach. Some of the more popular ones like Upwork and Fiverr see a steady stream of potential clients all year round.
Of course, this also means knowing how to make your profile stand out from the sea of applicants signed up as well. Create compelling cover letters, tweak your applications, and most importantly, present a strong portfolio. Your portfolio is what makes you stand out. It tells potential clients and employers that you know what you’re doing and that they are right to trust you with their projects.
Start selling services with a professionally designed website today!
In most cases, having a website is a prelude to selling your services online. It’s simply one of those resources you can’t afford to do without. At B12, we can help you set up a custom, responsive website to help your business open new grounds.
We utilize AI technology to move the website building along quickly so our expert web designers can customize the web design to suit your business needs. B12 also offers a lineup of additional features designed to boost your online presence and put your website in the spotlight. These services include blogging, SEO, copywriting, eCommerce setups, mobile optimizations, and many more.
Get your brand new business website with B12 today. Simply sign up and fill out the details that you want for your web design. We’ll send you the draft in as little as five minutes.