Why over-servicing will always under-deliver.
Years ago, before I’d moved into the marketing world, I picked up a regular piece of comedy writing work.
It was one day a week of work but was a significant chunk of my overall income.
Indeed, it was when it eventually stopped that I had to re-evaluate my transferable skills and experience and make the move into social media, content and copywriting.
So it was a significant piece of work to me and though it was only one day a week, I was ambitious to grow it into more.
I decided that when it was time to submit my work for the first time, I was going to go all out and show what I could do by delivering much more than one day’s worth of work.
I spent three days coming up with material. It was pages and pages of jokes.
Surely, I thought, by providing such an impressive batch I could only raise my chances of receiving an increase in my commissioned work?
Perhaps to two days or three days a week?
Thankfully, as I was about to hit ‘send’, a moment of clarity descended upon me.
What if my work did lead to a trebling of my commissioned output?
I’d set the bar for what one day of my writing looked like as being three days’ worth of work.
So to maintain the standards I’d have set in justifying a trebling of my commission, I’d have to be working nine days a week.
By my desire to make an impression through over-servicing, I was potentially setting myself up for a situation in which I couldn’t even service what I might be asked to do, never mind over-service it.
The thing with over-servicing is that you know you’re doing it but your client doesn’t.
As far as they’re aware, you’re just producing what you can do, what you would do and what you’ll continue to do.
So if you want to frame something as a bonus or a sample or as ‘extra value’, then you have to actually it position it as such.
Think about a can of soft drink.
Every so often it will say ‘10% extra free’ on it.
Because it highlights the extra value and draws attention to the positive.
If the producers didn’t flag that, then one week you might buy it at that size and assume that was the norm.
Then the next week you’d buy the size reduced back to normal and feel like you were being ripped off.
You wouldn’t notice a positive, just a negative.
What I ended up doing with the writing work was looking over the three days’ worth of work and picking the best bits to make up one day’s worth of volume.
I gave myself a chance to make a positive impression with what I had done but I didn’t put myself into an unsustainable position.
I never did get those extra days of commission but even if I’d sent the full three days of writing then I probably still wouldn’t.
Think about it.
If I was supplying that volume of content that would only have lessened the chances of the client believing that they needed to invest in additional content.
Looking back on it (increasingly in my new quest for learnings, I treat my life like a re-examination of case files), what I could have done was supplied the three days’ worth but flagged up that I’d thrown in two days of work free as an introductory sample.
That’s all unpaid work should ever be; an investment of your time designed to bring about a later potential return.
And it can only be done when you have spare capacity to actually carry out the over-servicing.
If over-servicing has become your default though and then you do become busier as a result of it… you’ll soon run out of the capacity to keep it up.
Which means you’ll have to drop your standards from what you’ve let your clients become used to.
And then they’ll drop you.
And the whole vicious cycle will begin again.
That’s why over-servicing will always under-deliver as a growth strategy.
What can you do instead?
Produce your best work, have confidence in it and don’t under-sell it or yourself.