The single hardest thing I found in starting my business was having to do everything myself. There was no team to divide up the load and no subject matter experts down the hall to fast-track my learning. Every task, every project was designed, implemented, and executed by me. And when the task wasn’t in my wheelhouse, the execution time sky-rocketed.

Many new business owners find themselves in this position. It’s exceedingly frustrating when you have the passion and drive to realize your goals, but you lack the capacity (the hours and knowledge or money) to make it happen fast.

That is why I love the new trend I’m seeing in the service provider industry — the long container of support.

Many online service providers are restructuring their offerings to fit this model and it has huge benefits for business owners looking for support in these fields AND for the service providers themselves, especially if they are parents.

So what is a long container of support?

Service providers — think copywriters, marketers, coaches, etc. — typically structured their services as project-based fees or hourly rates. For the service provider, they are constantly trading their time for money. For the receiver of that service, the business owner, they are constantly making budget decisions to weigh the importance of getting the knowledge, the deliverable, the result vs. the amount it’s going to cost.

Enter the long container. Rather than offering project-based or fee-based, service providers are offering memberships and programs. These could be subscription-based or a one-time fee, but the common theme is a set investment that provides support over many months or ongoing as long as the client needs.

What are the benefits for clients?

  • They don’t feel alone. We are social creatures. Many of our best ideas and work are generated in a community. Solopreneurship takes away any obvious community and makes business owners feel like they have to do it all themselves or pay to invest in a team. The long container — with a one time or set investment — bridges the gap before a team is feasible and provides that community at a price people can handle.
  • They feel held. A long container builds trust between the service provider and the business owner. They’ve created a relationship. The service provider knows their business intimately over the many months together and this instills confidence that the service provider can truly provide what’s best for their business.
  • They release decision-fatigue. There are so many decisions to make in a day. And looking for knowledge on a non-wheelhouse task comes with plenty. Who should you ask? Which opinion is best for my situation? Should I invest in an expert? How much is right? The long container takes away all of that and leaves one decision. Find one service provider, make the investment, and then go to them with every question in that arena. (I like to budget all my programs and subscriptions are the beginning of the year knowing what I need to accomplish my goals. Then when new opportunities come up, I’m less likely to make a gut-decision accompanied by shiny-object syndrome.)

What are the benefits for the service provider (especially the one with young kids)?

  • They feel good providing major value. All of the reasons above sum up to making a major impact in a client’s life. Every good service provider I know judges their success not on their profit, but their impact. Did I do good work? Provide value? Make someone’s life easier? And this container does that in spades.
  • They achieve consistent income and better management of pipeline and capacity. The long container shifts the business model from feast or famine and stabilizes the sales cycle. Many SaaS (software as a service) companies use Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) to forecast their revenue. “Service as a Service” providers can use the same metric with the long container.
  • They can do more in less time leveraging process, structure, and automation. There are many things that service providers do over and over again for their clients. The long container uniquely designed by each service provider addresses the core needs of their clients and provides a framework to best support them. When designed right, it has a built in process and structure and leverages automation to ensure routine tasks are never repeated.

There are many examples of great long containers out there. I participate in a membership program for business finance and bookkeeping. For a monthly fee, I get access to base knowledge in course form and weekly office hours to bring all my random questions. The program is called StartUp Academy and is led by Whitedove Gannon. I love it and I’m so confident when I bring her my questions, because she knows my business. She knows what I’m asking and even what I don’t know what to ask to ensure my finances are all in order. We actually got on a video and geeked out over love of this business structure!

I’ve structured my main offering and even my free lead magnet into this long container. With my main offering, I’m working with women to shift their business strategy to make it work once they have kids (kid-free entrepreneurship is wayyyyy different than mom-life entrepreneurship). It’s a huge project to make that shift and these women need a lot of support. It’s not something to package into a short project or hourly sessions. So instead, they get 6 months with me as their COO. I dive into their business, get to know them, their dreams and goals, and we figure out exactly what’s going to work best for them and their business.

And I may be most proud of my free opt-in. Raise your hand if you’ve exchanged your email address for a downloadable PDF? Ok, all of you? I thought so. Plenty of these PDFs have great value packed into them, but they’re one-off. Unless the business owner, can do something with this information the minute they download it, the PDF is likely destined for a long-forgotten Dropbox folder.

Since I work with women at all the different stages of family planning, pregnancy, maternity leave, and life with littles I knew I needed to provide value that worked in their moment. So I provide women entrepreneurs with one year’s worth of weekly emails that deliver information and value for their week of pregnancy or their child’s age up to 6 months. It’s kind of like those “Your baby is the size of an avocado” updates, but for your business. This format let’s me meet these women exactly where they’re at and provide them exactly what they need. We get to know each other over the course of a year and I get to make an impact. I love when these women want to work with me, and even for those that I don’t I’m happy knowing I’ve touched their lives in some positive way.

The long container of service. It’s obvious that I’m a raving fan. A business model that provides real impact, meets clients where they have need, and structures a service-based business to finally stop trading hours for money. If you’re curious to learn more or see how your business could offer a long container, I’d love to talk with you!

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Meghan Dicklin

I’m a business strategist/business doula supporting entrepreneurs in business & parenthood by designing maternity leave and return to work strategies.