#120 – The Agency Model & Selling Services

What you will learn

  • A quick update about HealthAmbition and how we’re doing
  • The benefits and drawbacks of client work
  • The pros and cons of various business models for doing client work
  • Useful tips on doing client work to avoid mistakes we made in the past

What is it: something we did in the past, and you would need to pay at least $10,000,000 to convince Mark to do it again?

If you guessed agency work, then you’d be correct. Here’s a cookie.


As many in our audience know, we started our online marketing life working at an agency, enjoying all the benefits and drawbacks that entailed. After a few years we finally had enough, started working on our own authority sites and never looked back since.

The Authority Hacker Pro FB group wanted to know our experience and thoughts on doing client and agency work, so consider this episode brought to you by the AH community!

Note: By the way, we published had a podcast on this topic a while back. Our thoughts have changed a bit since then.

Quick HealthAmbition Update

Before we jump in, a lot of you have been asking about the state of HealthAmbition.

In short: yep, we lost 45% of our traffic. No, it’s not that big of a deal (at least financially), as our other sites are doing just as well or better than before.

We’ll keep an eye on analytics, there might be rollbacks or other factors to consider. We’ll probably do some testing as well to see if we can climb back up.

When Should You Consider Client Work?

  • If your job is too time consuming to grow your sites.
  • If you don’t have enough extra cash to grow your sites.
  • If you’ve been grinding at your sites for a while without any real success.
  • If you like working on many projects but didn’t get there with your portfolio.
  • If someone is ready to pay a lot for your services.

Business Models


  • Service can be sold via automated funnels
  • Easy to understand
  • Limited responsibility
  • Priced on outcome instead of time, so you can gain leverage through efficiency
  • Easier to sell
  • Not responsible for results


  • Lower profit margin
  • Variance in monthly revenue
  • Lower-end clients (often with high expectations)
  • Competition
  • Low dependency

Other Variation: Productized Service (i.e Design Pickle)

  • All you can eat design for $x per month
  • Harder to set up – the Design Pickle guy had agency experience before

Custom Services


  • Limited responsibility
  • Higher prices


  • Needs proposals
  • More responsibility for results – without full control (e.g if content is crap)

One Stop Shop – Do All Their Online Marketing for Them


  • Control (well, sort of – might have to deal with their developers, etc)
  • High price


  • Clients are less experienced and prone to freak outs
  • Sucks when people drop off, especially with big clients
  • Often time-based (bad idea). Hard to scope outcome-based. Ideally % of growth but few people make this happen.
  • Difficult to sell due to personal relationships

One other model is to do a full time / part time contract.

Main Benefits of Client Work

  • You only need to master a few skills
  • Quick money
  • Get to job-replacement income levels real quick

Main Challenges of Client Work

  • Time trap – you don’t have enough time to build other business (e.g authority sites).
    • The last thing you want to do after your work day is work on another website.
  • Poor leverage on your time.
  • Clients can be demanding.
  • Clients can be irrational.
  • Can feel grindy – not that different from a job.
  • No full entrepreneurship experience.
  • Growth is tricky as there is a need to respond fast to demand (new clients).
    • You end up hiring non A-Players
    • Client volatility can be hard on profitability/cash flow
  • You are actually just as reliant on google updates as with an authority site
  • You have to keep a steady pace of work for clients
  • Asset value is much lower than authority sites
  • Even as you grow, it’s hard to move away from day to day work (e.g client relationships)
    More people-heavy

Tips If You Want to Do Client Work

  • Decide if this is a long term thing or a means to an end.
  • Have an exit strategy.
    • This type of business is difficult to sell unless it runs without you
  • Seek profit, not growth/revenue. Economies of scale are not that great.
  • Set clear limits
  • Template your work
  • Reply to emails fast
  • Price high and discount if necessary

The Ultimate Question: Would We Do It Again?


Hell no!

With authority sites it’s like night and day. Yes there was a grind for a year or two – but it was infinitely more rewarding financially and creatively.

Also, it’s just more fun – even with a penalty. Not “oh what are the clients gonna do” but rather “ok how do we solve this.”