When you think about making money online the first thing that probably comes to mind is creating an ecommerce store. It is undeniable that selling products online can be profitable – yet it’s far from the only way to generate an income via the internet.
Selling services is an often overlooked, but potentially lucrative, approach to selling online. This can be a great option for those in various scenarios. Whether you have expertise in a particular area, you want to generate profit without a big upfront investment, or you’re already successfully selling services offline and want to expand, we’ve got tips to help you succeed.
In this guide, we walk you through everything you need to know to get your service-based business online and selling successfully.
Define Your Niche & Target Audience
Before you can start selling your services online, you need to work out exactly who you’re selling to.
If you are already selling services, then this can be fairly easy to work out by looking at your current audience. However, if you’re just starting out you may need to conduct special research into which audience would be most receptive to the services you are selling.
Conducting your own research can include desk-based studies such as reading industry reports and assessing the audience of your competitors. It should also include talking to current or potential customers via interviews or surveys to work out exactly who they are.
Gather as much information on your target audience as possible, such as:
- Interests and hobbies
- Life and/or professional challenges
- Life and/or professional goals
As selling your services online allows you to sell to a much wider geographical audience, it can be easy to get caught out trying to focus on reaching everyone. This can be overwhelming when you start to sell your services online – therefore it can be a smart move to begin by focusing on a more localized area.
Remember, there’s plenty of time to expand your target audience once your online service business is up and running successfully.
Create Your Online Store to Sell Services Online
So, how to sell services online?
The best route to minimizing commission costs and securing future success is to start by selling via your own website.
Luckily, you don’t need years of coding experience or a behemoth budget in order to build a high-impact website. In fact, it is now easier than ever to build your own website with an easy-to-use ecommerce website builder.
We recommend using one of the market leaders such as Wix, Shopify, or Squarespace, as each of these are easy to use, affordable, and provide service-based businesses with the tools they need to start generating sales.
When picking the best website builder it’s good to start with the functionality that you might need in mind. In theory, when you offer services you don’t need much in terms of advanced functionality, but tools such as appointment setting, subscriptions, and gift cards can make it easier for your customers to do business with you.
Establishing Your Online Presence
Trust and credibility are everything when it comes to successfully selling your services online. This is why it is so important to establish a solid presence for your business.
Start by familiarizing yourself with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices. Although it is possible to spend considerable time and money on SEO, ultimately taking some time to learn the basics can be a great way to start driving relevant, quality traffic to your site.
As part of your SEO strategy, it can be beneficial to start a blog on your website. This will offer you an opportunity to rank for industry-relevant keywords and establish yourself as a leader in your specific niche.
When writing a blog, don’t just focus on self-indulgent company news. Instead, consider the challenges and questions your target audience has and write blogs that help answer them.
Promote Your Services
In theory, promoting your services is easy. You just need to do three things:
- Work out what makes your services better than those of your competitors
- Work out where your target audience’s attention is focused
- Communicate why your services are better directly to your audience
Of course, in practice, answering and executing on these three points is a little more tricky – which is why creating a marketing plan and following it is a good place to start. This plan could include anything from social media content and advertising to running Good Search Ads on high-value search terms.
Use Platforms to Find Customers
At this point, you may be considering exactly where to sell services online…
Luckily, selling services online is big business – which means there are a host of platforms and methods out there to help you find customers. These platforms invest considerable sums into marketing and advertising in order to bring willing customers to their platform. They then allow businesses like yours to sell to those customers in exchange for a commission.
Which platform is right for you will depend on the exact service you are selling. Here are a few examples of typical services and the platforms available:
- Freelancing – Fiverr, Freelancer.com, PeoplePerHour, and Upwork
- Education – Udemy, Skillshare
- Food and Travel – Airbnb Experiences, Hire a Chef
- Home Maintenance – TaskRabbit
You may need to do specialist research to find a similar platform in your own niche.
Onboard New Customers
A smooth onboarding experience is crucial to keeping customers satisfied and coming back for more.
Start by outlining each stage someone needs to go through in order to become a paying customer. This will allow you to assess the efficiency of each stage and look for ways to make the process smoother.
However, it is also important not to stick too religiously to your onboarding process. Offering customers a flexible onboarding experience will make it easier to secure their custom and will help you make it a more personalized and enjoyable experience.
Unlike selling products that are often ‘sold as seen’, selling services can get a little bit more complex. This is why it’s important to be very transparent and to clearly set customer expectations from the start.
You can do this by providing a clear quote with a detailed description of each deliverable. If you guarantee results, it is also important to define exactly what these results will be before you start the work.
Complete honesty is the best route when onboarding customers because this will limit potential confusion and issues further down the line. As the project continues it is also crucial to maintain consistent communication with your customer and keep them updated with progress.
Finally, have a clear method for receiving feedback from customers and commit to acting on that feedback wherever necessary.
Build Customer Relationships
The best way to build customer relationships is to be transparent, honest, and hard-working during the onboarding and project phases of working together. After all, there is no more powerful way to ensure repeat business than to delight your customers from start to finish!
However, you may also build on your strong customer relationship by keeping in constant contact via email marketing and newsletters. You could also offer repeat customers discounts and offers to show you appreciate their loyalty.
In this guide, we have walked you through the best way to sell services online. Although there are some great platforms out there to find customers, ultimately building your own website is the best way to minimize the commission you pay and ensure you remain in control of the onboarding process.
It’s important to be clear about what you are offering when selling services online, since confusion can lead to issues and customer dissatisfaction further down the road. Once you’ve set clear expectations you can then focus on meeting and exceeding them as a powerful way to ensure repeat custom.