Zero delivery business models

By  •  Updated: 06/01/22 •  4 min read

This email is coming out midweek as an experiment, but also as it’s going to be a public holiday in the UK over the next couple of days.

Here’s a sobering statistic:

86% of US small businesses earn less than $100k

It’s absolutely not surprising when you look at how the average small business is run.

Mostly they’re what I call “practitioner” businesses/

This means the business owner is deeply involved in doing the work.

They lurch from being buried in client delivery, to coming up for air and needing to take whatever business they can get before the next rent cheque is due.

In our creator funnel, they’re way too heavy on the bottom step.



Most of these businesses dream of being able to hire someone to fix their sales and marketing problems, but they’d still be the bottleneck.

A better route is to fix the delivery problem.

There’s 3 ways I’ve done this:

1. Advertising

Great if you’re good at generating traffic and 100% hands off. Unlike the MadMen days when newspapers hired teams of sales reps to sell ad space, Google will now do it for you. Just paste some code on your website and start collecting cheques.

2. Affiliate deals

A bit like advertising, except you get paid when you make a sale. To do it well needs a bit more work to create content that actually sells, and you’re managing each “advertiser” yourself. Find a good offer though and it’s way more  lucrative

3. Digital products

From ebooks and courses at the simple end, to templates, website themes and all sorts of add ons for other people’s software. These tend to be one-off payments so you need to keep your traffic source active.

4. Small SaaS projects.

You might need some customer support as you grow, but if you pick a high value problem to solve, these are both profitable AND good to pick up a healthy payment when you sell it on later. If you’re not a coder there’s plenty of off-the shelf tools or existing SaaS products you can white label.

(I ran an email marketing tool for years like this, mainly servicing my agency clients)

5. Ecommerce

A few years back I wouldn’t have put this on the list, but now it’s possible to buy product, have it branded and packaged, ship it to Amazon or a fulfilment house, and have the whole delivery end of the business done for you.

So why do we do it?

Why do we start a business and then give ourselves the same stresses as in a day job?

Why do we trade one boss for a dozen, but with none of the security, and a whole load of extra work on top?

First, services are good cashflow. You do work for $X and your customer gets $10X of value, but they have to wait for that value to appear.

What’s worth $1k to you can be worth $10k to a bigger business who has better leverage.

Second there’s a sort of snobbery of “expertise” and “big clients” around a lot of B2B models. 

A strip of logos that your mum has heard of seems to be the goal of a lot of consulting and agency models, (even though those businesses are typically the hardest ones to service).

If you can break out of these two mindset barriers, there’s a mass of value you can give without having to be there every day.

Next week I’m going to start sharing some sites that use different combinations of these models and share some numbers where I can to show you what’s possible, and how you might run these as add-ons to your existing business.

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.