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Freelancers Should Provide Solutions, Not Services

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on August 23, 2010

If you’re trying to figure out a good idea for a small business, start by looking at a problem you can provide the solution to. I thought about this recently when I sat down with Charlie Gilkey, longtime friend, new Portland resident, and my business partner on a new project about freelancing.

"What’s the No. 1 thing you want people to know about freelancing?" I asked Charlie.

"It’s simple," he said. "Whether through this guide or something else, freelancers should view themselves as solution providers instead of just service providers."

The difference is crucial. If you’re in business for yourself or want to be, you need to think about what kind of solution you’re offering. If you’re solving a problem or relieving a pain, that’s a good start. If you’re just "doing stuff," you may need to adjust.

We argue that freelancers of all kinds—designers, contractors, consultants, coaches, programmers, agents, and so on—need to redefine their core promise.

How can you grow the biz without killing yourself? How can you raise your rates? Should you worry about competition? (And how do you know much to charge in the first place?) These are the kinds of questions we look at in extended detail.

We don’t tell you how to open a PayPal account or sharpen a pencil. Instead, we give you a framework for building a sustainable practice over time.

Most important, we urge you to provide solutions. Service providers come and go, but solution providers stick around.

Chris Guillebeau
Blogger and owner
Portland, Ore.

Reader Comments

Ed Gandia

August 24, 2010 10:15 PM

Amen, Chris! We're also trying to change that conversation in the freelance world. If we're going to become a gig economy (and let's face it, it's happening already), service providers need to realize they need to treat their practice as a business, not a hobby. And they need to provide solutions, not just services. Services can be commoditized too easily. Check out what we're doing at

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