How to Figure Out the Best Freelance Services You Can Offer

The unknown unknown.

You old enough to remember that? Donald Rumsfeld’s famous press conference where he talked about “known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns and unknown and unknowns.”

Uh, what?

Actually, it makes sense… even if he complicated the hell out of it. Said more simply: “You don’t know what you don’t know”. When you first start freelancing, that’s the sitch. It’s not about skill or talent or any of that.

For the first year or so, it’s simply not really knowing what to do.

There’s some “how’… but it’s mostly “what”.

(Quick sidebar… I recognize some of y’all reading this right now are way past the first year and probably know a lot of this already. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the advanced ish soon enough. Also, I’ve found even those doing this awhile are often missing some basics here and there. So, who knows? You might still pick up a thing or two going through this. In fact, I’d wager that our convo tomorrow about crafting an irresistible offer will contain things you’ve never heard.)

So, let me run through some “whats” you’ll need to get figured out:

  • Service category
  • Flagship solution
  • Offer
  • Payment terms
  • Delivery schedule
  • Sales angle
  • Marketing mechanism
  • Traffic sources
  • Bookkeeping
  • Taxes

That’s not an exhaustive list, but those are most of the big rocks — the big ones you’ll need to get handled quickly to get any momentum (and not hose yourself come tax time — like I did my first year).

(Incidentally, this is why I put together my Beginner’s Guide to Freelance course a while back. It covers how to do all this stuff. The idea is to shortcut the learning curve that first year. Shrink all this down into a few months instead of a whole year of trial and error and frustration, etc.

In fact, here’s what one student of the course, Masil, recently said about it: “The Course was AWESOME!. Full of Knowledge and Wisdom collected over YEARS, John guides all of us beginners through the bumpy joyride of entering the world of Freelancing. WIth Great Video and Audio quality, the information presented BLEW MY MIND that such a great course on such a complex Topic (at times) was out there. FOREVER GRATEFUL.”

And yes, that course is up on Skillshare. And yes, you get access to it as a part of the extended free trial you get when you join through my referral link. That’s a full 30-day trial instead of the typical 7-day trial Skillshare offers. Again, this is for those who want to maximize their results and get those results faster. We’ll talk about this stuff here, but obviously, I can’t cover everything in an email that I can in a full 4-hour course. In any case, the link to learn more about that course on Skillshare is here: if you’re interested.)

Let’s talk about the first two, today.

Service category is mostly self-explanatory. Web development, graphic design, writing, social media marketing, walking dogs, etc. Might seem obvious, but some people come to this not knowing what they’re doing to do, so I always make sure to cover it. 

A couple of quick criteria I’ve figured out are important after 18 years in this:

  • Gotta enjoy doing it.
  • Gotta be good at it.
  • Gotta have people willing to pay for it.

Those might sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many people pick something they hate doing because they think it’ll make them more moolah. OR… pick something they love doing, but nobody wants.

Happens… all… the… time.

But, let’s move on. I assume you’ve got that handled (If you’re still not sure here, this post on picking a freelance niche goes into extreme detail on figuring this out. Also, YouTube videos here and here.)

What the hell is a “flagship solution”?

Core offer, primary service… whatever name you give it, it’s your primary service and the thing you’ll become known for. Mine is building membership sites. It’s web development, but a very specific implementation of it.

Web development > WordPress > WordPress membership site.

That’s the hierarchy. So, YOU start with your service category and drill down to some kind of specific implementation. Try to think of it in the client’s terms. What do they ultimately want?

Does a client want “web development”?

They don’t.

A regular j-o-b does.

A few clients here and there might.

But, the vast, vast majority want a THING. A website, a logo, a blog post, a video, social media posts, etc. Those are the terms clients think in. More like a product than a service. That’s how you want to start thinking about it.

And, I’m telling you now…

This step is SO critical to everything else that comes after. It makes marketing and selling so much easier, delivering, building out your business… all of it. I strongly recommend not skipping it.

Of course, your first attempt doesn’t have to be perfect.

Honestly, you should write down several different implementations that you think you might like to try and just pick one to start with. Don’t get to fixated on it. Here at first, you’re gonna do some experimenting.

So, web developers… it could be building WordPress websites, creating custom themes or plugins, building a social network for people, page speed optimization… I’m sure you can think of more.

Graphic designers… it could be logos, brand kits, website designs, pamphlets, brochures, posters, etc.

Hopefully, you get the idea.

(If not, just hit reply and ask. Happy to help.)

So, that’s your homework for today. Create a list of 5-10 potential “flagship solutions” you could provide for your clients inside your service category. Then, pick one you want to start with.

Tomorrow, we’ll pick up from there and talk about crafting your offer…

The most critical thing you’ll do in terms of selling your service… because an irresistible offer virtually sells itself. And tomorrow, I’ll show you how to actually create an offer that’s irresistible.

Anyway, that’s for tomorrow.

And, like I said, if you want to skip ahead and get even deeper training on all this, be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to Freelance course on Skillshare. Here’s the link once more:



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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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