It is easy to sell a physical product online in eCommerce. But what if you run a service business, where instead of tangible products you provide services to customers or clients? Having something to sell online is not always easy to figure out for your business model.
The good news is, even if you are a consultant, designer or coach, or if you run a digital agency, restaurant, landscaping service or other service business, you can sell online with a shopping cart. You just have to think outside the box and package up your services into something you can describe clearly and apply a set price to.
Here are ten things you can sell as a service provider, even when you don’t have a physical item to sell:
1. Vouchers and Gift Certificates
Provide customers with digital vouchers to redeem for your services. Vouchers can work like online gift cards, without all the fuss of actually offering plastic credit-card-like gift cards. Here are some examples to spark your creativity:
- Cable Car Couture is offering “virtual wardrobe styling” services via vouchers.
- Bollysteps, a dance studio, is offering vouchers for 4-week dance classes.
- Digital agencies and publishers use vouchers to offer turnkey service offerings such as Pinterest marketing services.
- A restaurant can create special vouchers for discounted meal packages.
If you have a skill that can be demonstrated, chances are someone somewhere in the world who will want to learn it, too. YouTube has made it easier for people to earn. You can create original videos and monetize them through ads, which YouTube splits with the video creator.
But ad revenue is not the only way to monetize videos. You could create an ongoing subscription that gives access to monthly videos. Or create a pay-per-view type model. For example, Digital Marketer offers videos for a flat fee as part of its courses. Extreme Seal Videos provides some free videos and charges a membership fee to see the full version of others.
Or use a platform such as Vimeo on Demand, where you charge a fee for your video. Vimeo gets 10 percent of the revenue and you keep the remaining 90 percent.
3. Templates and Themes
There is a huge demand for website themes and templates built on popular content management systems like WordPress and Drupal. But you don’t have to be a Web designer or developer to sell templates. A management consultant, for example, can sell business templates. Here are some examples of templates that service providers sell for add-on revenue streams:
- Website templates through ThemeForest.net
- Resume templates by Inkpower
- Employee vacation tracker template by Vertex
- Event planning in a kit
You can sell your expertise in the form of packaged training courses. Training platforms such as Udemy and Skillshare make it easy to sell training in anything from Six Sigma principles to information technology to marketing. Here are some examples:
- Entrepreneur’s guide to Facebook content on Udemy
- Getting started with email marketing on Skillshare
- Digital branding and execution on Edx
5. Digital Goods
Digital goods are another way to package up what you know or do best and sell it. Digital goods could be anything from software to ebooks to designs. Any digital file when creatively packaged can be sold online. Here are some types to consider:
- Patterns for crafts and clothing
- Specialty clip art
- Kindle ebooks
In the software realm, there’s Yoast’s premium WordPress plugins. Yoast has packaged up his company’s know-how into software in a one-to-many formula. He has taken it a step further, and offers free plugins as well as paid plugins that offer extra features. Free plugins are a superb marketing tool, while the paid plugins are revenue-generating products.
6. Coaching Sessions
You can reach many more potential students by making your coaching services available online, packaged up into 15-minute, 30-minute or 60-minute increments. Include an appointment booking application on your website so that students can schedule a session instantly, and a shopping cart to pay for the session. Then use a video service such as Skype or Google Hangouts to deliver the coaching session.
A tiered approach works well — e.g., beginner, intermediate, advanced. Students can aim for completing tiers sequentially, thus providing you with repeat business. Or provide regular monthly or biweekly coaching. An example is Rainmaker Skype-based sales coaching.
Assessments start with questionnaires and involve customized evaluations. While short initial assessments are often given free by service providers as part of their marketing, you can structure it so that more in-depth assessments come with a price tag. In that case, the assessment becomes a product offering, not a marketing technique. Just carefully outline what is included and not included in the assessment, and set a flat price for it. For example, Sports and Physical Therapy and Performance Centers sells golf swing assessments.
8. Research Reports
If your business involves gathering of aggregated data or performing research in your industry, you may be able to monetize it by selling research reports online. Research reports are highly valued by organizations and individuals making business decisions.
One example of selling research as a subscription is emarketer.com.
You don’t even need to create the data yourself. You can add value simply by providing in-depth analysis of, say, government statistics or industry trends.
9. Subscriptions to Your Service
If you turn your offering into a subscription service, you can earn every month and be assured of a regular ongoing revenue stream.
To turn your services into a subscription, think outside the box. For instance, instead of providing one-on-one consulting services, you might provide a private online forum where you answer questions for members. You might also create a series of members-only materials for subscribers. In other words, instead of providing one-to-one services, you transform it into a one-to-many type of offering.
One example is the Freelance Writers Den, a membership site that teaches freelance writers how to “stop starving” and make a better living, with two levels of monthly subscriptions.
Another variation is Reach Local. It offers several tiers of marketing services for local businesses, for a monthly subscription fee.
10. Selling Products Through Affiliate Arrangements
Finally, you don’t even need your own products. You can sell the digital items of third parties through affiliate advertising arrangements. For every successful sale of that party’s digital goods, you get paid a commission.
An example is the Amazon affiliate program, where you earn a commission for “selling” digital goods such as MP3 downloads and ebooks (and physical goods too!). Check out dedicated sites like CJ.com, ClickBank and ShareaSale where you can find affiliate programs that fit your niche and audience.
Now, what about your business model? Can you think of any other things as a service business that you can package up and sell online?
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