Self Employment

Offering Multiple Services: Why Too Much Can be a Good Thing

A good friend and colleague of mine started a small business about six years ago. Here is what his small business offered:

  • Videography and camera setup
  • Audio recording
  • Photography and custom green-screen work
  • Web Design
  • Web Development
  • Playwriting and comedy sketches
  • Custom music-videos

My friend is a talented artist and designer, and was so in love with the idea of “doing it all” that it was not possible for him to settle on just one business idea.

As a result he opened a website for his company that offered just about everything under the sun. There was no specific focus to his work, but he figured that since he was touching on so many areas that he would greatly expand his likelihood of getting a lot of clients and getting to do what he loved.

As amazing as it sounds, I understand his mentality, as can relate to the desire to try a lot of different things professionally. I am sure many of my readers can also empathize with this position. With so many exciting professional possibilities, how can you choose just one?

Closing Every Door

I opened my web development company around the same time my friend started his online media extravaganza. Because I thought he was being a bit ridiculous and because I read that it was a good idea to specialize, I was determined not to spread myself thin. I studied HTML, CSS, PHP, WordPress and various other web languages so I could offer my clients the best websites possible.

My friend thought that perhaps I was limiting my potential client base given many of my talents.

Our paths were a study in opposites – he would take literally any project on that he felt he could handle, and I was quite careful to stick to my area of expertise I had chosen. In fact, I would turn own a project if I felt that it was slightly outside the web development context. If a client wanted to host with me, or wanted to work with a technology that I was slightly uncomfortable with I would refer them to someone else.

Now it is time for a quiz! At the end of the first year, who was faring better, my friend or me?

The truth is that neither of us were doing very well!

The Unsuccessful Jack-of-all-Trades

Obviously, offering eleven different types of services wasn’t working for my friend. Seriously, if you were looking to get video work done, which of the following small companies would you be more likely to hire?

“We do amazing video work for local weddings, special events, parties and more. Our clients are so pleased with our work that many of them come back for more, over and over again!”

“We do amazing video work and also offer web design, photography, screenwriting, audio recording, green-screen filming and More!”

If you have a larger company you might be able to get away with offering multiple services, but it is very easy to look like you are spreading yourself thin. People probably looked at my friend’s company and thought, “He can’t be that amazing at any of these since he does so much.” Even if it was not true, it is the impression that counts when you are trying to gain new clients.

Diversifying Income Within Your Area of Expertise

I definitely wanted to stick with one thing. This much was certain. I knew that if I billed myself as the best web designer out there with great examples of my work and testimonials I could begin to engender trust in potential new clients. However, I also wanted to offer many different services, like my friend.

How could I make this work?

The solution was surprisingly simple and should be obvious by now to those who are familiar with the concepts of creating multiple streams of income, offering services-within-services and diversifying.

I needed to offer OTHER web-development related services within the scope of my business.

I sat down to do some research on other income-generating possibilities within a web design/development context and here is what I came up with:

  • I set up a side-business hosting and managing websites on a monthly plan after deciding that the risks were not really all that great and the potential for side-income was higher.
  • I expanded my skillset to offer web design services as well as development. This was not a huge stretch outside the norm for the web world, and I always loved design. This felt fulfilling to me.
  • I started writing a couple e-books about web development.
  • I also began putting together “how-to” tutorials for potential clients that could also be downloaded for a nominal fee.

What I was doing was sticking within the area of expertise I was familiar with, but also creating new side-businesses to go along with everything. The solution was simple, clean and I began to see a definite uptick in both my client base and my income within a very short amount of time.

Ok. Great! What Can I Do Within My Own Business?

Start several side businesses and run them under a grand umbrella of one area of expertise. Two areas of expertise is probably ok, but they should be separate entities or companies if you can to reduce the likelihood of spreading yourself thin or looking unprofessional.

On the other side of things, I see far too many business owners with one stream of income – usually coming from them doing hourly work for a client or several clients. This is a good way to burn out over time, and you will likely never get a chance to use all your talents and express all your interests.

Within your business make sure to look for all avenues of income generation. Try to offer side services, new products, or a membership to your services of some kind. Think about writing an e-book. These are all viable secondary-income sources and will allow you to try many things at once while becoming a true professional in your area of focus.

Don’t be like my colleague and offer the world in a box, but don’t be me when I started out and offer only one thing. Build the best business you can by sticking within your area of expertise and expanding it to other channels and avenues. The results will be well worth it, I promise!

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