If the burden of an inconsistent revenue stream is placing undue pressure on your bottom line, now is the time for your business to subscribe to the subscription business.
As an online service provider, you’re already familiar with the ups and downs of running a business - finding clients, selling your services, and most importantly ensuring those sales happen month after month.
While developing an effective marketing plan and closing on a sale are no small tasks, it’s that final part to the equation - recurring revenue - that frustrates many online businesses. After all, few companies can survive solely on static, one-and-done sales.
For a freelancer or service agency, this can be particularly tricky. In most instances, a customer seeks you out for a single project or a series of tasks that come with a finite lifespan.
So how does the small, independent service provider overcome the fleeting nature of their chosen occupation?
Subscription-based services, of course.
With subscription-based services, you offer your clients more than just a service; you provide them with an ongoing experience. Too often though, we fail to recognize that a single job can quickly expand into a long-term relationship.
Certainly, it’s true that much of the time, many providers focus on the job or jobs at hand. Important yes, but if you aim to grow your business, you need to stretch yourself beyond the standard pattern of market service, sell service, perform service, get paid.
Here are four reasons why you need to start selling service subscriptions now.
If there’s one truth to having an online based service business, it's that your income can be unpredictable.
It’s not uncommon to see sales and revenue pour in one month, only to dry up completely when the calendar jumps ahead to the next month. The volatility can wear out and discourage even the most positive and upbeat of business owners.
It’s why you must develop methods that generate a regular stream of income month after month.
That’s where the subscription comes in.
In most instances, subscription-based services are the most direct path for your business to create consistent revenue.
Regardless if you’re a freelancer, trainer, developer, or an influencer chances are there is an element of your business you can transition from static sale to ongoing service. Whether you employ them as a core part of your sales or offer them as a side gig, it will translate into making your slow months good and your good months great.
Aside from consistent income, the other great benefit to you is a manageable workload.
Sure, you’ll have to hit regular deadlines to meet your monthly commitments, but with subscriptions, you can now schedule ahead and better anticipate future needs and when to have them accomplished.
Additionally, regular work eliminates the downtime in slower months, which for many business owners is a scary prospect. Subscriptions translate into steady work that generates a steady income.
Sure, the service you provide is of value to your clients, but why should that value be limited?
Particularly helpful for providers like bloggers, accountants, or trainers, subscription services allow you to develop stronger ties to your client base. If they buy in at a longer period than say a few weeks or a month, it could lead to even more opportunities beyond the initial scope of work.
It also provides you flexibility with pricing and the types of services offered. So instead of advertising your skills at a flat, per project rate, average those fees and spread them out over a specific term or time period, like six or 12 months.
You can increase your fee at shorter terms or toss in extra services to offer clients more for their money. You can also design specials and discounts around certain service tiers.
This added value provides a broader range of options that appeal to a larger pool of clients.
To ensure your business has staying power, you want to build it into a brand. Subscriptions help lay a foundation for those ambitions by creating loyal, recurring (and of course paying) customers.
Consider two of today’s most successful companies - Amazon and Apple. Their subscription services - Prime and Music, respectively - and are at the core of their business, and their recurring customer base.
In both cases, the subscription tie-in benefits sales of physical goods by keeping users locked into the website or platform for more extended periods.
If yours is a similar setup - services plus physical goods - the advantages could be massive. In addition, a robust subscription service means you have not just customers, but believers.
Brand loyalty via a clients pocketbook is one of the best endorsements you can receive. Short or long term, subscriptions guarantee a commitment from clients, which in turn you can use as a selling point to acquire more.
There are several things to consider when transitioning to subscription-based services. First among these is making sure your current website can support subscription sales.
Not all websites are made to process recurring transactions like a subscription, so you want to determine if yours meets the requirements. If it doesn’t, inquire with your provider if moving up to a different plan allows you access to sales and marketing tools (this is common with most content management systems and website builders).
If that’s not an option, then there may be a plugin available that will provide all the functionality you need. This is particularly true if you built your website using the popular WordPress platform.
In either case, the primary components you’ll need, include:
This is the critical ingredient to subscriptions - the ability to bill a credit card on a recurring basis.
This will vary between businesses, but at a minimum, subscriptions require forms where a user can input their billing information. Additionally, how you structure the recurring plans as well as the requirements and information necessary to join your service will also determine the forms you use.
As we noted earlier, subscriptions lend themselves to offering your clients a lot of choices. You’ll want a platform that doesn’t limit your options. This includes the ability to post multiple pricing plans, special offers or discounts, and offer free trials or add-ons.
After assessing the capabilities of your platform, the next step to setting up a subscription service is to define just precisely what yours will look like. Again, this step may vary significantly based on the type of services you offer, but a few points are universal:
A bit of a no-brainer, but obviously you’ll want to determine which of your services (or content) to offer on a recurring basis. If you’re unsure, we touch on a few ideas later in this article.
After figuring out your service tiers, you’ll need to assign a value to each. Two crucial factors with pricing include that you don’t over or under price yourself and that you provide options to fit a variety of budgets.
Admittedly, you may find it slow going when initially launching any subscription service. That’s normal, even if you already have a solid user base. It's important to be patient but also offer incentives to help get the ball rolling.
Further, be sure to reward your most loyal clients or create reward tiers for your biggest fans. People like to feel special, and it will help you create a buzz around your brand.
Finally, make sure that what you offer is worth paying for. In other words, you deliver on your promises, give your customers something they can’t get elsewhere, and always aim to produce the best content or service possible.
Consumers are more than willing to shell out money for a product or service to which they can connect. Your job is to keep them connected and coming back month after month.
If you’re unsure of the exact path your subscription service should follow, don’t fret. It's no small task to transition from solid-state sales to a model that is more fluid.
That fluidity, however, provides many happy - and ongoing - returns, which in turn means a steady stream of revenue.
Let’s run through the different subscription models that are available so you can decide which one best fits your business.
When it comes to subscriptions, the membership approach is by far the most common. For a nominal price each month, the subscriber gains access to a site or area of the site that delivers premium content to its members.
Membership is an excellent option if you want to create a community around the business or website you run. For example, if you’re a travel writer, you could create an additional revenue stream by developing specialized content for your most loyal readers.
You can also use this method to upsell other products and services by featuring them within your paid content.
Produce great material that gives your fans real, actionable value, and you’ll watch your word of mouth and subscription rates rise.
Should your business produce a physical product or software or an app, the membership approach can add another dimension to how clients engage with you.
Consider online sellers like Dollar Shave Club or Birchbox. In many instances, the purchase of an entry-level subscription leads to more purchases down the road. In an even better scenario, current users will drive referrals your way, increasing both purchases and subscriptions.
In the case of the software or app, you can offer a subscription to unlock premium features and additional support tools or information for users. The community approach applies here too, which again means more referrals, more purchases, more subscriptions.
If you’re a freelancer who produces content on demand, a tutor that helps students with testing, a business consultant, or a fitness trainer, then packaging your skill set might be the way to go.
Let’s use the fitness trainer as an example.
Assume you offer 45-minute workout sessions at $100 each. A client utilizes your service between three and five times a month, spending as little as $300 and as much as $500 in any given month. In the previous 12 months, they averaged four sessions a month or $4800 for the entire year.
Instead of a per session model, you could offer them a 12-month subscription rate for four sessions a month at $450 per month or $5400 per year. You can also add or subtract sweeteners, like one free session per 12-month buy-in, as needs or demand requires.
To further sell the extended package you could also offer a 6-month package priced at $500 a month for the same number of sessions, which equates to $6000 a year.
In the majority of cases, a consumer happy with the service you provide will jump at the opportunity to lock in a competitive rate for something in which they find value.
That’s just one example. Almost all service orientated businesses can tailor at least one aspect of their work to fit with a subscription model.
It may seem a bit daunting, switching up your business approach and adding a new way to generate revenue, but there are plenty of tools to help you. One of those is Paperform.
Paperform streamlines the process for ensuring your website can accept subscription payments. Integrations with Stripe, Square, PayPal, and Braintree mean that whatever your preferred payment gateway, you can get your new recurring payment platform set up in minutes.
Not only that, but you can produce onboarding forms, newsletter signups, and free trial offers all to start generating your recurring revenue as quickly as possible.
Revenue drives your business. That revenue comes from consumers willing to pay for valuable, high-quality services and content.
Why not meet both needs through the development of subscription-based services?
Not only does it mean consistent income, but it also relieves the stress of riding the revenue rollercoaster every month.
Ready to start easily selling subscription services on your website? Try Paperform free for 14 days—no CC required.
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