Hello! What's your background? What are you working on?
Hello! My name is Robert Williams. I'm a designer who started making my own products in 2013. Small design and development shops pay me a monthly fee to send them projects through a daily lead service called Workshop.
I've made over $400k from this business since 2013, and my customers have made millions of dollars in project work from the leads I've found. I'm currently making about $12,000 per month.
How'd you get started with Workshop?
I started Workshop because I was a freelancer who was having trouble finding work. I found some success by emailing job listings and pitching them on my services, but that took too long. At the time, I was in Justin Jackson's product community, and I literally drafted up a landing page in a few hours and posted it for feedback.
After only a few days, I had about $3,000 worth of monthly revenue, so I thought I'd give it a go. I needed to replace my freelance income, which was, coincidentally, about $3,000. Once I did that, I was really incentivized to keep going.
I launched with zero custom software. I used Gumroad, Zapier, Memberful, and Campaign Monitor to basically duct-tape my own product together. I slowly started putting together an app that made sense, but I honestly think that not starting from scratch was a huge help in making the project successful. I still had to find leads every day for my customers, so if I'd gotten bogged down with trying to build custom software at the same time, I probably would've ended up losing my mind.
The project was completely self-funded and profitable from day one, but I'm not sure it would've been possible had I started with a more ambitious app idea. Now I have a custom app that I use to bill customers, send out leads, and provide a better user experience.
How'd you get the word out about Workshop?
I wrote blog articles and posted them on Hacker News and Designer News to get traffic. I tried to write about topics that I thought everyone else had wrong. In freelancing, this came naturally to me, because so much of what I encountered were huge mistakes. As a marketing designer, I saw why people weren't landing clients, the terrible emails they were writing, and more. Better yet, as a freelancer myself taking a look as an outsider, I understood why they were making these mistakes.
One of my biggest wins has been to create a drip campaign that automatically shares these articles and pitches people on my product. It's like putting a relationship-building and sales machine on autopilot. It's where 99% of my revenue comes from now, and it simplifies all of my marketing because all I have to worry about is getting people on a mailing list — not constantly selling to them.
How does your business model work?
It's pretty simple. Freelance web designer and developers pay me a monthly fee, and in return I deliver projects to their inboxes. You could find these leads yourself, but it would take hours every week. So really high-paid freelancers make money by simply skipping the busy work they would've had to spend on it.
I charged from day one, and I think it's part of the reason why the project was a success. If I hadn't charged, I probably wouldn't have ever been able to see the value of what I was doing for myself.
Churn has been my biggest problem — but really it's a supply problem. The more people who sign up for my service, the less each individual lead is worth. I need to figure out how to scale the amount of opportunities I send in a repeatable way. Until then, I think people will sign up for the service when they need work, and if it doesn't immediately land them something, cancel.
What are your goals and plans for Workshop's future?
I want to find more projects and do a better job of helping my customers land the work I send them. There's still such a huge gap to be made here. I know that if I can make the people on my service more money, everything else will figure itself out. I want signing up for Workshop to be all you need to do as an independent contractor to live on your own terms and take control of your life.
What have you found helpful, and what's your advice for aspiring indie hackers who are just starting out?
I took Amy Hoy's course, 30x500, and I lived the problems and pains I was trying to help solve. I've also studied marketing design, and I try to write a few articles each week. I'm slowly building a popular publication on Medium called Client Giant that's been a great way to provide value and attract people to my mailing list.
I strongly recommend The Secrets of Consulting by Gerald Weinberg. It's a great way to think about freelancing consulting and about working on projects.