I spent the first few years of my freelance career earning an income the way most freelancers do: working project-to-project and billing by the hour. So I made it my mission over these past few years to change that. My hope is that you can learn from my experiences to choose your next steps wisely.
Sure, I made enough to pay the bills. And the job came with perks like being able to work from anywhere. But if I wanted to take a vacation I’d have to take a pay cut, since I couldn’t earn an income when I wasn’t working.
After all, we see so many others who find success this way. The most prominent example is Basecamp, formerly 37signals, which began as a web design consulting company and transitioned to products when its software Basecamp took off.
For freelance web designers, releasing a design template is a reasonable first step toward releasing your first digital product. That’s what I did when I sold WordPress themes as my first product.
The costs (time and money) of creating a template or software are much higher than they may seem. There are many more variables to take into account and all sorts of challenging UX problems to solve (granted, most of us find these problems exciting).
An educational product like an e-book or course can be a much more scalable way to offer your solution to a common problem. As a digitally delivered product, you can create it once and sell copies for a long time to come. Or you can teach a live workshop online or in person, which is a great way to share knowledge to a large group rather than one client at a time.
Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers took her expertise as a copywriter and packaged it in a series of e-books. These not only helped tons of business owners improve their copy (me included), they also helped Wiebe raise her profile and grow her audience. Copy Hackers can leverage its audience as it releases new products like its latest one, Disco, a user survey tool.
Nick Disabato launched Draft Revise, a monthly A/B testing service to help customers improve conversions. Jane Portman offers her monthly creative direction for startups, which she positions as a product called Correlation. Both bring a steady income and allow them to focus solely on the craft they’re most passionate about, rather than being a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Read more…