Tired of the day-to-day struggle of chasing one client to the next? Want a better way to run your business that enables you to better predict your monthly income? One of the best ways to stabilize your income when you're a self-employed service professional is to create a monthly recurring source of income for yourself, commonly referred to as a continuity program.
Many continuity programs focus on providing products each month (think of any number of beauty product clubs you see on infomercials) or providing coaching or information (think of an Inner Circle Club where the members get one call per month from an expert, along with a CD and transcript of the call). While there's nothing wrong with these continuity models, I think that an independent service professional builds the strongest business when the business contains multiple streams of income, or in this case, multiple streams of recurring income. I'm in the process of updating my business model to include service-based recurring revenue, all related to Internet marketing tasks.
Here are 13 examples of how I've seen recurring income for services offered:
1. Landscaping and yard care: I pay a monthly retainer to a local landscaper for complete care of my yard, from mowing the grass to picking up limbs after a storm to replenishing the mulch in the plant beds to staking the crepe myrtle trees to the ground during hurricane season. I don't worry at all about anything to do with yard maintenance, and I occasionally hire them at an extra fee to add additional plants to the landscape.
2. Housecleaning: I pay a twice-monthly retainer to a small company to come and completely clean my house two times a month. I HATE housecleaning, so this is one of my favorite checks to write, as I do enjoy nice, clean-smelling surroundings.
3. Air conditioning/heating: I pay a yearly fee for our AC service to come out twice a year and check and clean the AC/Heating system, once before the AC season and once before the heating season. They check connections, knock out the dust, and inspect both the inside and outside units. Upon completion, they give me a checklist of what they did, and let me know if there were any problems of which I should be aware.
4. Accountant/bookkeeper: A monthly retainer to enter a business owner's income and expenses has long been a recurring income strategy of accountants and bookkeepers. Most of these businesses then turn to that same person to do their business and personal income taxes, as well as buying additional consulting time regarding major financial moves or investments.
5. Blog designer: For service businesses with Wordpress blogs, finding someone to help you if your blog crashes or if a feature stops working can be a nightmare, as there's no tech support provided with this open source software. I've begun to see many blog designers offering monthly blog maintenance packages where they upgrade the software and plug-ins each month, as well as back up the blog, and provide other services as necessary to keep your blogsite up and running smoothly.
6. Web site designer: The primary way that I've seen web designers create recurring income is through the sale of web site hosting packages. Once they have designed a site for you, you continue to be their customer by paying them a monthly, quarterly, or annual hosting fee for your site. Many web designers include basic tech support/trouble-shooting in this fee, so if you have a problem receiving your email, for example, you can call or email them for assistance.
7. Publicist: I think there's a need for publicity experts to offer packages featuring 1-2 custom press releases per month optimized for online submission and SEO. Many business owners won't take the time to write their own releases (or simply don't know how). Finding someone who can create a release from a previously written article would be great for online business owners who would like to use these releases as part of their traffic generation strategy.
8. Writer: A writer who is familiar with creating articles for traffic generation could offer a couple of 600-800 word keyword-optimized articles for a monthly fee. An online business owner could use these articles in her ezine, blog, or in an information product.
8. Videographer: I just signed up with a service that will give me a 1-minute flash video every month. All I have to do is provide the info for the voiceover, and images (like logos or head shots) or video (of me talking to a web cam, for example) to add in, if I have them. They do everything else, and have a stock of rights-free images and video that can use in my videos if needed.
9. Audio voiceover: Ever wanted to create a podcast or audio version of your ezine? I think this is a great opportunity for audio voiceover experts to offer a retainer to provide a professional "reading" of written material that you create that you can repurpose in any fashion that you like.
10. Newsletter expert: I've been working with a company who formats and publishes my ezine each week for a monthly retainer. I simply give them the articles and images for the ezine, and they put it together in an HTML file that is uploaded to my email marketing service as well as placed on my web site.
11. Social networking expert: I've seen many virtual assistants offer a "social networking done for you" type retainer in which they go in to your social networking platforms and update your status, look for and add friends/followers, and send your followers/friends birthday wishes.
12. Tech support specialist: I pay a monthly retainer to a group who'll install scripts and blogs for me, update web sites, create forms on pages, among other things. They offer a point system in that I purchase so many points each month, and what I don't use rolls over to the next month. I've also seen companies offer tech support subscriptions for troubleshooting computer issues. So, rather than paying $200 to have Outlook reinstalled if it crashes, you could pay a tech support company a monthly retainer to help you with tech emergencies without a wait.
13. Software developer: There are any number of products for which I pay monthly fees to access a software service, from audio/video hosting to a shopping cart system to an email marketing system to an online collaboration system to a receipt scanning system. This type of recurring income is the most powerful, as you have a large chunk of your business assets tied up in this service when you subscribe to the service, which makes it unlikely that you'll ever leave the service, as it's time-consuming and painful to change services.
Did any of these ideas spark an idea for your business? I'm fairly certain that there's an opportunity for every service business to offer a continuity service program. What can you offer?