I recently went on a course run by The Big House in Nottingham called the Startup Success Series. They used a tool called the Business Model Canvas to help us freelancers and businesses work out and refine our strategy.
What is the Business Model Canvas?
In simple terms, the Business Model Canvas is a structure to work out what you offer, who to offer it to, how to offer it to them and the supporting infrastructure (resources, money etc).
It’s a free download from Strategyzer.com and can all fit on one large poster to go on your office wall to keep you focused. We used a huge version with post it notes stuck all over to get our thoughts in order.
This could be “mass market” or a “niche market”. Rather than trying to offer products or services to everyone, freelancers might focus on one type of customer, maybe “young mums” or “non-profit organisations”.
These are your actual products or services that solve problems or meet the needs of your Customer Segment. This is absolutely vital, because if you don’t offer what your customers need and want your business cannot succeed. Closing this gap can involve market research and taking feedback into account to change your offering.
How do your customers expect to deal with you? Will it be via a call centre, support ticket only or personal service?
These are the ways you will reach your target customers. Website, social media, distributors, word of mouth and trade shows are all channels.
How will you make money from your customer segment? Selling them products, services or subscriptions are all potential revenue streams and can be combined. If you offer design, you might also offer print services or websites.
Who will be essential to your business? Manufacturers, investors, technical platforms and experts could all be key partners.
These are the things that you’ll spend the most time doing. In the case of a designer this might be working on client projects, and doing your own marketing.
If you’re a freelancer or small business, these resources could be human, financial, physical and intellectual.
This covers the major expenses for your freelance business. This could be advertising spend, referral fees or software costs.
Why use the Business Model Canvas?
For your business
In my own experience as a freelancer, I started off offering a wider range of products and services. This has been refined over time to focus on the more profitable and enjoyable elements of what I can provide. This has made me happier and increased profit. By using a model such as the Business Model Canvas earlier in my freelance career I could have got here quicker!
It’s easy to offer too many things to too many people, diluting your effectiveness and reducing quality of your products and services. By focusing on a clear customer segment and value proposition you can be a more successful freelancer or small business.
For The businesses of your clients
If you’re a freelance designer, web designer or work with small businesses to promote what they do, the Business Model Canvas can be a good way of refining their offering and marketing message. Many small businesses aren’t 100% clear about what they do or who their customers are so this is a quick way of working that out.