“As the idea of a sharing and scaling services that were otherwise once local and isolated continues to spread, we are now seeing just about every function you can imagine being delivered as-a-service to any business who wants them.” -Brian Profitt
As Brian Profitt correctly outlines in his article “Everything As A Service” on ReadWriteWeb, many once specialized products and services (data storage, databases, software licensing) have become commoditized. With the “as-a-Service” (*aaS) model, these products are now more beneficial to a client, and profitable to the provider using the model. As an example, using Amazon’s Web Services (S3 storage and suite of Web services) allows companies in diverse industries like Dropbox, Instructure and even NASA to quickly scale their cloud computing and storage needs without having to purchase servers, hire a specialized (and expensive) staff. (AWS is estimated to now be a 2.2B revenue source for Amazon). By removing these costly obstacles to traditional business growth, *aaS allows even small companies to tackle big projects reliably and affordably.
This led me to look at ways the *aaS model could be used for creative services, like photography, design or video production. Here are a few possible opportunities.
Photography-as-a-Service: When used as part of an online marketing campaign, social media update or blog post, photographs have a short window of utility. An email newsletter is sent out to thousands of subscribers, a vast majority open the email within the first hour and the number steadily declines from there. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, is likely even shorter as new posts quickly drive older posts into obscurity.
With that in mind, why not have stock photography available as an all-you-can-eat subscription for online uses. Subscribers pay a montly fee to access and embed as many photos as they would like in their online correspondence. Once their subscription is terminated, all embedded images are removed from the clients online properties. This provides reliable income to the photographer or stock provider while providing an affordable tool for small businesses to affordably boost the visual appeal of their online correspondence.
VideoEditing-as-a-Service: Today, nearly everyone has a servicable video camera on their phone, dSLR or HD camcorder and are capable of capturing the company board meeting, short interviews with clients or a panel discussion to share on their blog. What many of these people lack is the ability to edit, color correct and effectively encode these videos. Sure, you can simply download the file and upload it to YouTube, but when was the last time you watched a 75-minute discussion on anything on YouTube? A better solution would be to edit and polish the video into smaller, social-friendly clips 2–3 minutes in length. This routine video editing work is, for all practical purposes, a commodity, and could be done by an off-site vendor using a pay-as-you-go model. Just like Amazon’s AWS services where you pay only for what you use, you’d pay a flat hourly rate for video editing and encoding services. You upload your video and are provided a download link to the completed files within 24 hours. The service will even upload to your YouTube account and email you the embed codes for your social media properties.
CreativeServices-as-a-Service: As a freelancer, one of the biggest challenges is building an effective project pipeline to maintain a stable, and profitable, cash flow. From a client perspective, it’s often a hassle to get budget approval to hire a designer for a one-off project, and, as a result, much of the design, photography or video work is done in-house by untrained staff. As a result, the end product often looks unprofessional. What if creative freelancers routinely offered a monthly subscription to a block of their time on a retainer basis. Company X pays for three days a month. Company Y only needs one day. The cretative freelancer has a preditable number of billable days, which minimizes marketing costs and payment is automatically billed to the client’s credit card minimizing invoicing and time spent trying to get paid. As a result, they’re able to offer consistent, professional service to their clients at a lower cost than a-la-carte project pricing.
Now, before I start receiving hate-mail regarding my suggestions, a couple of key points to keep in mind:
1) This will never replace the top-tier talent in a given industry. If you’re shooting billboards for Prada, car commercials for BMW or are regularly featured in Communication Arts Design Annual, these concepts don’t apply to you.
However, if you’re not of the ilk listed above, it behooves you to look in the mirror and ask whether or not you’re providing commodity services. Can a dozen other people in your market offer the same (or better) product than you are? Do you typically compete on price instead of quality to win jobs? If yes, maybe these ideas will help you make more money, work more regularly and be more profitable.
2) The CSasS ideas listed above would all require some persuasion on your part to help your clients understand the value of your proposal. The first option requires some technological innovation as well. These steps differentiate you from the competition and will pay dividends even if you and your client remain on a traditional project model. (Proactively thinking about ways to solve your client’s problems and save them money is an endearing, yet exceedingly rare quality.)
Before you embark on any of these new business models, have a frank, open conversation with your current, or prospective clients. Build a spreadsheet to track the time you spend in a given week for billing, chasing payment, negotiating projects and waiting for the phone to ring, under the current model and see how many more billable hours you’d have if you used an *aaS model. I think you’ll be surprised to find how many potential upsides their are to this idea.