filming client work

RVE 118: How to Build a Bridge Business: Going from Services to Products

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When I first heard the term “bridge business”, I did not really understand it. Then when I did understand it, I didn’t really like the term. I don’t know why… I just wasn’t crazy about it. Eventually, I came around to this idea of building a bridge business and the reason why is that it is an extremely practical and low-risk way to build a more passive revenue stream around a product.

A “bridge business” is ultimately exactly what it sounds like, it is a business that helps you go from one business (typically in a service component) to the one you really want (typically in a product component).

Before diving into this topic of how to build a bridge business, I have to give a shout out to Bryanna from Crazy Family Adventure, who’s been on the podcast a few times, because I totally stole this term from her. She may have borrowed it from somebody else, or maybe she came up with it!

Examples of a bridge business

A few years ago, Alyssa and I started doing paid video production gigs in order to pay the bills, but our real goal was to be able to focus more time and energy on our blog. Our video production services were ultimately the bridge business that allowed us to monetize what we are doing, make revenue to pay the bills, give us Financial Runway, and all that good stuff while we work towards this longer-term goal of being able to do more creative work that we owned.

Another example of a bridge business is my friend David Blackmon, who’s been on the podcast a couple times and is speaking at our next Summit. David started Aspen Grove Studios, a WordPress design company building Divi WordPress sites for clients. After learning more about design, he and his team created some plugins and WordPress themes of their own and started selling them. Once he started selling products of his own, he didn’t have to spend as much time focusing on the service side of the business.

Our podcast editor, Kelsey, is now editing four or five other podcasts and she’s built her whole business around that. Eventually, she wants her main gig to be greeting cards, but now podcasting pays the bills and she’s able to treat greeting cards as a side hustle.

Creating a bridge business lowers the risk for any new product-based venture by allowing you to reach revenue today.

Tips for building a bridge business

So talking about building a bridge business is one thing, but actually executing on it and doing it is a totally different thing. I want to share a few things that we’ve learned over the past few years as we have built a bridge business and weaned off more clients to focus on more of our own projects.

1. Identify your service and your product

The first thing that you have to do if you want to build a bridge business is to identify the business you eventually want to be running, as well as what will pay you today.

We were getting paid for video, but ultimately we wanted to have our own products, boost our blog income, have podcast sponsors, and ultimately work further and further away from trading our time for dollars. We also acknowledge that video was what paid the bills in the moment and it paid it pretty well.

2. Find ways to charge more for your services

When you first start out, you’re not going to make a lot of money. Over time, I found that the more ways we can provide value for clients, AKA the more we can charge, the more it’s allowed us to bring help into the mix and people who can work on projects with us.

It also creates less pressure to go out and get the next client because you have more income that’s coming in. You can sustain for longer periods of time, which ultimately has given us more time to focus on things like our blog. We were making enough from clients that we didn’t need to be working 50 hours a week for clients, we could work 20 and spin the other 30-40 hours a week doing the things that we wanted to be doing.

3. Determine how your bridge business can help your product business

The third thing you can do is to think about how your bridge business will help you with whatever you want to do later on.

For awhile, we were doing courses and working with various clients, I got discouraged because it was just kind of the same thing one after another and I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing forever. The thing that helped keep me sustained and want to keep doing it was that I realized those skills would later come in handy.

Sometimes you don’t even know how they’re going to come in handy, but for instance learning how to put together a  course taught us video editing skills. It enabled us to learn how to build a launch Team around a product and all these different Marketing skills.

So even when you don’t realize it, a lot of times a bridge business will teach you the skills that you will need later when you’re doing your own thing.

Realize that you have to treat your future business as a side hustle

I think this is the thing that people really struggle with because, for a while, you’re running two different businesses. 

For the past year-and-a-half, I have been building up Campground Booking, in additional to doing client work,
running our blog, hosting the podcast, and planning the summit. Sometimes it sucks really really bad because you spend all day working on one thing and you have to shift your mentality to something totally different.

Ultimately I just don’t see there being any other way to succeed at a bridge business and get to where you want to be unless you stick it out and do both things.

What’s your bridge business?

Building a bridge business from service to products is a great low risk barrier to getting where you want, but there definitely will be a percentage of your time where you’re having to double up and do twice the work until the next things takes over.

I’d be curious to hear of any examples from you guys on a bridge business you’re currently building or have built in the past. Shoot me a tweet @heathpadgett and let me know!

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2 Responses

  • The term bridge business is going to stick. I dig it. Regardless of who you got it from? I got it here. So that’s how it is stuck in my memory.

  • I already have a aerial video business. . I do a lot of real estate right now but am looking forward to expanding this business once we hit the road. I want to learn more from you guys. You’ve already been so helpful.

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