Brian Casel was billing by the hour and chained to his business.

“I’d just kind of fell into this rut of living project-to-project, billing by the hour, and just feeling like I didn’t have freedom or the ability to scale up and build something that was larger,” says Brian, Mixergy Premium member and founder of Restaurant Engine.

He remembers one time when he prequalified a client and went through the discovery process, and then the client changed his mind. “By the end of it, I think I had spent 40 or 50 hours, not getting paid for anything,” says Brian. “He flaked out.”

But after Brian learned what he’s going to teach you today, he was able to take a weeklong family vacation, and his business kept running without him.

“I was able to completely disconnect,” says Brian. “Meanwhile, we actually signed up six new clients that week. Sales, on-boarding, got them set up with new websites. Happy customers, and I didn’t need to do a thing.”

In his Mixergy course, Brian shows you how to turn your service into a product so you can break free of hourly billing. Here are three highlights from the course.

1. Stop Reinventing Yourself

1When Brian worked by the hour, he did a lot of “discovery” meetings.

“It’s like, ‘Okay, Mr. Client, what do you want, what do you need?’” says Brian. “’Well, I want a Facebook app. I want a web app. I want WordPress.’”

So Brian did anything and everything. “You’re reinventing what you do every single time you have one of these meetings,” he says.

And that creates a big problem. “It’s impossible to scale that up and systemize it,” says Brian.

So how do you break the cycle?

Find the right customer

Start by finding your ideal customer.

For example, with Restaurant Engine, Brian makes done-for-you websites for the restaurant industry. But he could have built sites for any industry.

“I was looking for a type of business that has very standardized requirements for websites,” he says. “I looked at restaurants thinking, well, every restaurant needs to showcase their food menu on their website. Every restaurant needs to show their hours and their location. Many of them need to take reservations online.”

That meant that he could create templates and standardized services. “Whereas if we were offering it to a variety of clients…then we’d have a huge line of different options and configurations that we’d have to deal with,” says Brian. “Then it’s like I’m back to square one as a freelancer, reinventing what we do with every single client.”

2. It’s Okay to Say “Zip It”

Even if your ideal customers have similar needs, you’ll still get individual requests.

“With Restaurant Engine, we had two or three of our customers ask about selling t-shirts online,” says Brian. “Or, ‘We want to sell our bottled barbecue sauce through our website…can we do that?’”

It seems like a reasonable request, but it would have meant making a huge investment in an e-commerce system.

So what do you do when a handful of clients are demanding something you don’t offer?

Evaluate the request, turn it down if needed

Consider whether the investment is worthwhile, and if not, be okay with saying no.

“A very small subset of our customers were asking for that [e-commerce feature],” says Brian. “So I saw that it’s not really worth the investment in time and complexity to add that.”

And it wasn’t just the investment in the feature he considered, but the extra work for his team. “The extra procedures that they would need to follow to serve a few customers here and there, it was just way too much overhead and complexity,” he says.

So Brian respectfully said, “No, it’s not something that we offer right now. We can add a button, and that can point you over to PayPal.”

And the customers were fine with that. “They still were getting value in everything else that we were offering them,” he says. “The lesson was that saying no to these fringe requests is okay.”

3. Take Baby Steps

It may seem like some services aren’t worth systemizing and delegating.

“So many people run into this, especially freelancers who are starting to grow and starting to make that leap into becoming a business owner,” says Brian. “You have trouble delegating because it’s so easy to do yourself. You look at something as simple as sending out an email blast to your list. You can train someone on how to do that, but you’re thinking, ‘If I just do this myself, I can get it done 10 times faster, so I’m just going to knock it out myself.’”

The problem is that those little tasks add up, and you need to be focused on the big picture. “Whether it’s a new marketing strategy or growing the business or improving your systems,” say Brian, “you need to be working on your business, not the day-to-day nuts and bolts or doing the repeatable tasks.”

So how do you start to let go?

Ease into it

Slowly start to delegate.

“Between the documentation…and standardizing the work, like we talked about earlier, all of that put together makes it easier and easier to hand this off to someone else,” he says.

And once you’ve taken those steps, you can start to delegate. “Then it’s like, I’m ready to remove myself from that process and get someone in place,” he says.

Even then, you don’t have to hire a full-time employee. Instead, start smaller. “You can start with hourly contractors or part-time remote workers,” says Brian.

Written by April Dykman.