Getting paid to think
Ep. 84: How to sell strategy to work less and charge more (with Austin Church)
When a client comes to you with a project, do you take their order and cook it up exactly as they asked?
Or do you whip out a menu of delicious alternatives to satisfy their hunger, meet all their dietary requirements, and maybe introduce a few new flavours that they’d never have thought of themselves?
Shifting from order-taker to strategy chef 👩🍳
Many freelance projects look something like this:
Client sends brief ➡️ freelancer completes project ➡️ job done.
Except, this isn’t ideal for either party.
Clients may not be sure what they need. Their brief may be based on an outdated or incomplete strategy. Is what they’re asking for really the best way to solve their problem?
For freelancers, this approach can be frustrating when you know that what you’re being asked to do isn’t going to achieve the desired results.
And longer term, it’s going to be difficult to increase your income unless you squeeze in more projects or find a way to charge more.
The answer is to sell strategy.
Getting paid to think
You probably do the “thinky” work already: a client comes to you with a potential project, you agree to implement it, and before you get started, you organise your thoughts into a plan.
Maybe you share that plan with the client. Maybe you keep it to yourself in your to-be-deleted notes doc.
Either way, I hope you’re charging for this thinking time.
But let’s take it a step further.
Strategy as a standalone service
Beyond building “strategy” into your pricing, what if you separated it out into a standalone service?
That’s exactly what my guest on today’s episode of 15 Minute Freelancer did.
Austin Church is a brand strategist who realised that he simply couldn’t make the income he needed to support his family in the hours he had available to work. He had to find a way to make more money in less time.
He pulled out the “thinking” part of his process and turned it into a paid service for clients. For him, this was a content roadmap, but he says any service-provider can do something similar:
“Take some small sliver of a bigger project that you sell on a fairly regular basis. Take the planning phase, or road mapping, or planning or analysis, whatever you have to do to deliver the bigger project. Shave that off and sell that as a standalone engagement.”
Become your client’s MVP (and protect your business from getting benched)
As you’ll hear on the episode, selling strategy is a smart way to charge more and work less. But it’s also a pretty effective way to create a more resilient business, especially in tough economic times.
With client budgets getting squeezed, many freelancers worry that their roles will be the first to get the chop. If you can help those clients make their budgets go further – and get even better results – you’ll quickly become their most valuable player.
But how do you make the shift into selling strategy?
What do the deliverables *actually* look like?
How much should you charge?
All answered on the episode, my friend!
On today's episode of 15 Minute Freelancer, Austin L. Church shares his experience of shifting from selling implementation to strategy and his tips on how you can do the same. We cover:
✅ Where to start with selling strategy
✅ How strategy engagements can be a great way to vet clients
✅ Managing the paradigm shift from "order taker" to guide and advisor
✅ How to work out what to charge for strategy
✅ How to sell strategy services to clients.
Listen here »
➡️ 15 Minute Action: Think about the services you provide most often to clients. Is there a strategic piece of the puzzle that’s often missing, that you could offer? Are you providing strategic advice or an audit or report of some sort as a matter of course? Could you offer this as a standalone service?
When I followed this process for my website copywriting and white paper services a while back, I noticed two opportunities: website audits and white paper repurposing plans. These were things I was doing as part of larger projects, and while I was factoring them into my fee, I wasn’t offering them as separate products.
The audits are a great foot in the door for new clients who may be unsure about what they need. If I’m fully booked, a website review can help the client move things forward. Repurposing plans are a brilliant “upsell” at the end of a writing project to help clients figure out what to do next and to build a long-term relationship.
Some food for thought, perhaps?
OK, that’s all for this week. Let me know if this has helped you spot any opportunities to sell strategy and if you have any questions, please shout.