My first real online business focussed on web site design for other small businesses. I spent a great deal of time looking at what other design firms were offering before settling on my own four packages, with increasing price points depending on the number of pages the customer needed on their site. At that point, I had basically no income and like everyone I was hustling, scraping by to earn enough money to survive.
To make sure I did survive, I had to do whatever I could to bring in some regular money so I also offered 'add on' services. Anything related to web site design such as SEO, logo design, Adwords management, e-mail marketing, photography... anything and everything to keep things going.
It was hard work but it wasn't a bad strategy. I was able to develop skills in lots of different areas. For example, by offering a photography package, I worked with lots of hotel and B&B owners. They know the value of having great images on their web sites but aren't sure who to trust to take them. As they were already working with me, I was able to offer this service at a one-off cost to them. I would just head round, take lots of bright, clear, attractive pictures of their rooms and give them full ownership of the images so that they could be used not just on their site but also on any other advertising that they did. This was win-win - they suddenly had lots of high-quality images for all of their online listings (AirBnB, TripAdvisor, etc.) and I received a one-off payment to help keep me going. I was also able to learn more about the tourism sector which allowed me to set up a web site business tailored to the tourism sector.
More importantly, I was able to keep my customers locked into my eco-system.
If they were starting a new business, along with the web site I could offer everything else they needed to get their business off the ground. If they needed advertising I offered Adwords management, SEO and e-mail marketing. I became each businesses 'go to' person for anything online or design related.
This caused lots of headaches because I wasn't a specialist in each of those areas. I made stupid mistakes that people who do those things on a daily basis wouldn't. Nothing major but silly things such as when I designed a flyer for a business and after the hundreds of the freshly printed things turned up at the customer's address, the print quality was awful. I hadn't done a test run myself so ended up paying twice for the print run, causing me to lose most of my profit not to mention some of the customer's good will.
Offering multiple services to your customers should be a relatively short-term thing. It is hard work, it's draining and it's not much fun either. As much as I like to think that I am excellent at multi-tasking, the truth is it actually exhausts me.
I need to continually remind myself to slow down, to relax, to only do the things that I like doing. I do not need and do not want to be working on designing someone's business card with the constant back and forth of making minor adjustments until it's 'just right'. Some people enjoy that, I don't and so why do it? I also don't want to use up my mental energy flicking from that job to doing finance, to answering e-mails to... the list goes on. I have a number of projects that I want to start and I don't want to waste time and energy doing stupid little jobs for someone else.
How long you juggle all of these different services is entirly down to you. If one part of your business is successful after a few months, perhaps you can close the other sides down almost immediately. It could be though that you really enjoy one of those add-on services and instead, you could change direction completely to focus on that instead.
Upending the Pyramid
Keeping customers 'locked in' to my eco-system though has given me long term benefits, allowing me to grow areas of the business that I am interested in whilst steping away from others, now that I am in a more financially stable position. Now I am earning enough so that I do not have to chase every scrap of work thrown in my direction, I can focus on the things I do enjoy. I'm turning the pyramid on its head.
Doing so many things in the first years' of my business led me into other areas. I started a hosting company. I started a couple of drop shipping businesses. I also started a number of other web design businesses focussed on particular niches such as, already mentioned, tourism and nursery schools.
My pyramid now looks a lot different. Instead of offering lots of different services, I offer a much more limited number but I have vastly increased my brands. I now have five web design businesses that are geographically 'based' in different areas of the UK. I have a number of web design businesses that are focussed on specific areas - tourism, nursery schools etc. I have two hosting businesses and I have a drop shipping business.
Originally I had one brand that offered around 10 services, now I have 10 brands which offer four services in total - web design, hosting, SEO and online shopping (dropshipping).
This has allowed me to focus on the things that I enjoy which ensuring I can reach the maximum number of potential customers.
By focussing on four services, I can free up a lot of time. It doesn't matter which brand a web design customer comes through, the process and work for me is exactly the same. If I still had the one brand offering 10 services, one customer may want a web site, a new logo, a business card, an Adwords campaign... all of a sudden the amount of work I have to do, the amount of time and energy I have to devote to switching between different systems is too much. I wouldn't be able to cope.
Seven Years In
After seven years of business, I now feel that I can safely focus on a couple of things that I am interested in and let someone else deal with the rest. I have already removed from my sites references to the services that I no longer want to offer. Last week I even turned down a couple of jobs - something unheard of just weeks ago - because I consciously thought about the offer before responing.
My old way of thinking was to consider the additional income. Now I consider how much time I would lose working on the project, instead of doing what I want, first. The money is a secondary concern, almost an after thought. Time is more precious to me now.
When you start your business your income will likely be inversionally proportional to the number of services that you offer i.e. the more services that you offer, the lower your income will be, but that's fine. Your income will be low but oyu need to provide yourself with enough opportunities to get through the door as you can.
Offer one main service, like web design, with multiple, smaller but related add-ons - SEO, logo design etc. You do not have to do all of these yourself, you can outsource them however it keeps customers in your eco-system.
Years later if you want to stop offering logo design you can. You will have enough income from your main service to either pay someone to fully manage that or find someone good that you can recommend customers too - providing that business only offers that single service. That way they will stay with you and continue paying for that main service.
What you do not want to do is say to the customer, we are not doing that anymore and abandom them. Otherwise they will take all of their business elsewhere.
You want to remain their 'go to' guy so that you do not erode the relationship or lose a customer of your main service. If you can still offer them everything they need (by putting someone else in charge of that part of the business or referring to someone else) then you will just continue to enhance your business relationship, making them a customer for life.