Closing the gap between a freelance practice and a scalable business requires a mindset shift, and a leaf from the startup founders’ book would put you on the right track:
1. Producing your offering
You and you are time are not scalable. This means that the first and most important step is to solve this problem. There are generally two ways to do this: with people and with technology. The first way turns your practice into an office. The second, which is more interesting for this article – for a startup.
Productizing your offering means turning your services into a product that can be sold repeatedly to multiple customers at a minimal cost, or at least as close to that ideal as possible.
To do this, you need to identify the core elements of your service that can be standardized and packaged. For example, if you are a freelance writer, you can create a series of templates or content packs that can be customized for different clients. If you are a designer or artist – a course or a set of tools for artists and/or designers.
Producing your offering requires careful planning and a focus on creating a high-quality, repeatable product that best meets the needs of your target audience. At the same time, it also means that your goal is to customize it as little as possible for individual clients, which is a 180-degree shift from the way a freelancer usually thinks about their work with clients.
For example, an ebook is a perfectly scalable product – you can sell it to an unlimited number of people with no modifications and almost zero marginal costs.
2. Shift from a solopreneur mindset to a team-oriented mindset
As a freelancer, you may be used to working alone and handling all aspects of your business. However, to scale your business and turn it into a startup, you need to shift from a solopreneur mindset to a team-oriented mindset. This means hiring employees, contractors or freelancers to help you with different aspects of your business.
Productizing your offering may require expertise you don’t have. You must be willing to involve other people and invest financially in this project.
3. Develop a comprehensive business plan
Freelancers may not always prioritize long-term planning, but a comprehensive business plan is crucial to turning your business into a startup. This plan should outline your vision, target audience, revenue streams and growth potential. It should also include details about your marketing and sales strategies – as a freelancer, you may be used to getting new clients through referrals or by directly applying for jobs or gigs. However, this is usually not enough if you are selling a new product (or manufactured service). Your marketing efforts must be scalable and you must ensure that the cost of acquiring a new customer is low enough to be covered by the price of your product, otherwise your efforts to scale your business would not make economic sense.
In addition, since you would be investing time and resources in this project, it is important to have basic financial projections.
If you don’t intend to look for outside partners or investors, all this information doesn’t necessarily have to be presented in an official business plan. It’s still a good idea to make one anyway, though, as it helps you structure your thoughts and see potential problems in your plans.