68
49 Comments

Designjoy crosses $70k MRR! Someone pinch me...😱

My story is proof that with an insane amount of hustle and ambition, you can do the impossible.

Today, I make over $70,000/month running an unlimited design agency by myself, with no overhead, as impossible as that may sound.

Trust me, you should see the look on people’s faces when I give them an answer to “so... how many people are on your team?” It’s pretty comical.

You see, what I did with DesignJoy isn’t rocket science. It’s glorified freelancing, but I’ve productized it. I’ve taken what I’m good at, built a brand, packaged it up in an easily accessible manner, and made it available to anyone and everyone who needs it. The same could be applied to any number of services out there.

There’s no one way to run a business, and I think Designjoy is living proof of that.

A huge thanks to all of you who have followed my journey and encouraged me along the way. I’m more than happy to answer any questions that you have. ✌️

  1. 8

    How do you acquire customers? Is it all through SEO?

    Also what does your onboarding process look like? Do you ever have to get on the phone with them in the beginning or is it all handled through your software?

    1. 15

      @bsmitty92

      My SEO is actually pretty poor - no efforts made there at all.

      I acquire customers through:

      Affiliates: this one is massive for me. I recently launched an affiliate network through Rewardful, and a few of my affiliates are responsible for a large chunk of my business. These mostly consist of Slack groups and other community owners. Most of them have ironically been clients before.

      Indie Hacker: I don't publish on here often, maybe every few weeks, but due to the nature of my business and the fact that I run it alone, it does seem to make my progress quite notable and so naturally clients find me here as well.

      Landing page inspiration sites: Designjoy has a pretty stellar landing page. You'd be surprised to hear the number of clients who come to me asking for the exact same thing. But they often find me on sites like: land-book.com, niceverynice.com, landingfolio.com, etc. If you believe your landing page is worth, most definitely submit it here (it's free marketing that tends to have a very long lifespan). This should work well with just about any SAAS since SAAS owners are likely the ones browsing these directories.

      Word of mouth: sounds cliche, but I'm always surprised by how many of my clients know each other and have referred one another to the service. Obviously you only accomplish this by doing good work and it is often something you can't directly control, but man you can't underestimate the value of it once you have it working for you.

      Scribbbles.design: this is a silly little 24 hour project of mine that I launched that fortunately went viral. I plug Designjoy there, and so I do get a decent number of referrals from it. It also helps validate the quality of my service to see companies like Invision, Verizon, etc. using the design resource themselves. I also plugged this on the landing page inspiration sites above, which is the one and only way I got the word out after a failed Product Hunt launched (and by failed I mean I was the only one who upvoted it haha).

      Regarding getting on the phone, the majority of clients do book a call before signing up most likely because of the price. But my close rate after these calls are insanely high. I would estimate somewhere in the 85-90% range.

      Thanks for the questions!

      1. 2

        Hey Brett! Really good read and super helpful.

        I wanted to ask if you could go more into detail about the affiliate links. How did you go about finding the group/community owners and getting in contact with them?

      2. 1

        Very insightful! Thanks for answering

    2. 3

      Also really interested in the answer to this ^^

  2. 5

    A wild Pinsir appeared, Pinsir used pinch, it's super effective 😵

  3. 3

    Brett,

    I've been running my business as a solopreneur for 7 years now, but in the back of my mind, I always entertained this idea that someday I would need to hire and that I'm not that successful if I don't. Maybe it's a relic of attending business school and learning the traditional way of doing things.

    Your story has inspired me to drop those ideas once and for all, and to embrace working as a solo creator. You'd think I would have sorted this out for myself by now, but I've always felt conflicted about it. I just picked up a copy of "A Company of One" at your recommendation so I can baste in this way of thinking.

    Thanks for the inspiration today.

  4. 3

    Wow. When I freelanced, a significant portion of my time was client communication. I’m very curious how you manage that.

    • How do you acquire customers?

    • What do you use to design?

    • No phone calls or meetings, correct?

    • Do you leverage templates or logo generators behind the scenes?

    • On average, how many work requests are you working on each day?

    • How many hours a week do you work?

    1. 2

      He answered a few of these in different threads. Since I've been researching it, let me share what I found out.

      1. First customer via ProductHunt. Never paid for advertisement. He expanded more here.
      2. Figma. It used to be Sketch, he made the switch last year. Customers love that they can peek anytime. (next to last bullet).
      3. He has an add-on for Slack contact ($249/month). The pricing page mentions call for the Enterprise plan.
      4. ...
      5. He goes into some details on his AMA.
      6. 50 - 60 hours per week (from AMA).
  5. 3

    I remember following your journey last year when you were still on $20.000 a month! Darn, you've grown, congrats. How many hours per week do you work?

    1. 1

      50 - 60 hours per week (I've answered this above).

      Yes, I'm his official unofficial press secretary. 😵‍💫

      Update: he beat me to it.

    2. 1

      Haha I guess that wasn’t too long ago! Thanks for the following my journey brother.

      Hours? Hm I would estimate 65-70 on a good week. So not as much as you might think, but still yet a decent amount. I still maintain a full time UX job outside of this (silly I know) but that accounts for maybe 10 hours of that time.

  6. 3

    I'm curious, how do you find the time to complete all of the work for every customer? Is the idea that each customer won't not use your service as much each month so some customers are generating pure profit?

    Congrats on the success btw!

    1. 5

      There seems to be some correlation between size of the company and the quantity of their needs. The smaller they are, the more needs they have. The opposite is true as well. So yes, many clients pay $2k+ per month and may use the service once or twice a month, equating to under an hour’s worth of work.

      1. 2

        @kylekrzeski, thanks for the question, exactly what I was wondering.
        @brettwill1025, thanks for the answer and building in public.

        Amazing results. Has @csallen already scheduled your for an interview? I would love to hear more about the story behind it, behind the scenes, the struggles, a-ha moments, etc..

        I've already checked out the AMA thread (I specially love the summary of @srg), I've queued an episode you did with the Productize My Service podcast.

        I really love this idea. Brett, what other services would you believe this apply to? What questions would you ask if someone was to try to follow your footsteps with a service other than design?

        Another question: what is your churn?

        ---

        random TIL: there's a podcast focused on productizing services 🤯.

        1. 3

          Hey! He has not, though that would be fun!

          I think there's an opportunity to mimic this model for any number of services out there including lead gen, marketing, development, copy writing, etc. In fact, I can't think of a reason why not. 🤷

          What I've tried to encourage people to do is look beyond what a "normal" business looks like, and a big part of this thinking came from a book called "A Company of One" by Paul Jarvis. If you or anyone else is thinking about doing the same, I would strongly encourage reading it as it'll totally shift the way you thinking about building and growing a business.

      2. 1

        I just saw something similar to this on a video the other day. Big clients don't mind paying for the subscription, because it gives them the peace of mind that when they need something, it will be there to use it. I was just looking through your site, and dang! so inspirational.
        I'LL try to see if I can adapt your model but for video, although with video it could be a bit more complicated, I'll have to put in some thought.

        On another note, did you market scribbles at all? I'd love to hear about what you did to market that, I do have a bunch of digital assets for video creators, but the only real routte I see for them to reach buyers is paid ads. I do have a small YT channel and got 1000s of downloads of my free ones already, but not where I want to be with my paid ones yet.

        Anyways, congrats on your success!

  7. 2

    Huge congrats Brett! I get compliments all the time on the design of the Indie Worldwide landing page and I always shout you out. Hope at least a few of those have converted into Design Joy customers :)

    1. 1

      P.S. Do have more details on your affiliate program?

  8. 2

    Hey! How do you handle the briefs from the customers? To me it looks like there is a lot of direction that usually happens over meetings or brainstorming sessions. How do you do that?

    1. 3

      You’d think so, but fortunately my experience allows me to require little direction from the client up front. You’d likely be shocked if you saw some of the briefs vs the outcomes. But with that said, if clients do require meetings, reviews, etc., I’ll send them in another direction altogether.

      1. 1

        Wow, 🤯 . What are the few questions you ask in the brief?

        1. 2

          I don’t ask any questions. Clients can provide their brief however which way they please. Of course if I have questions after, I’ll do so but that is very rarely needed. Instead, I’ll quickly crank out my first pass and that usually sets a strong foundation to build off of and interate on, vs going back and forth several times in the beginning.

          1. 1

            🤯 x2

            Duh! A prototype is indeed a much, much better "question" than actual questions.

            Thanks!

  9. 1

    Hey Brett, this is unbelievable MRR for a one-person company. I wonder do you take a vacation?

    How would you suggest someone into web development to productize service?

    In your 2499 plan you also provide frontend development, if suppose a client asks for CRM development in this plan - then it will take a whole lot of time, how do you handle such cases?

  10. 1

    Thanks for sharing, @brettwill1025! Congrats on scaling to this point without making any hires. Pretty sweeeeeeet.

    First, update your self-reported revenue! You earned it :)

    I run a productized service company as well but have gone the route of hiring (a few full-time folks, a good number of contractors). We're on our way to $2M ARR.

    I found that our business went through enormous changes once we hit ~1M ARR. This may not affect you as a team of 1 but for us, a ton changed around team dynamics, operations, systems, HR, sales, marketing, etc. Pretty much everything went through a phase shift that we're still figuring out haha.

    Some things for you to maybe think about as you push towards the $1m mark...

    1. Do you want to continue growing the company?
    2. If so, do you want to continue to do it yourself?
    3. Do you enjoy doing the design work? Would you even want to manage a team?
    4. To think about the future if you do keep growing the company. If your workload starting tomorrow was 3x what is is today, could you handle it or would you be working 100 hour weeks?

    Anyway, your future looks bright. Keep up the good work :)

  11. 1

    Congrats bro! You inspired me to make adiwp.com . Similar business but for WordPress website development.

  12. 1

    Brett, i follow your stories for a while and I'm really impressed, I was trying to make something similar in 2019 however i give up after i realize that i need to charge $250/mo...

    Today i have an in-house studio with 8 designers 3 developers 1 SEO and 1 project manager inspired by your story 1/mo ago i decide to launch services similar to yours really soon... with web design services, branding, and html/css and wordpress

    Good job dude.

  13. 1

    I love your story - and your designs!

    I've been thinking of if this model could apply to software development too. My feeling is that design has more concrete deliverables that are probably less likely to change constantly over time. Whereas with a software deliverable the issues I see are

    1. clients may want it in a language you don't know
    2. there is often scope creep
    3. the problem space is larger so I think it would be harder to offer an unlimited requests service as you have.

    But maybe these are not really roadblocks and one could set defined packages that are delivered as github repos.

    Maybe only do API's in a docker container. That way it's easily taken over by the client and the language doesn't matter that much since they just use it as an API on their own system.

    1. 1

      This has been done with software development. Check out Dev on Demand: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/dev-on-demand-2-0

      They seem to be doing pretty well and have done a good job of scoping out projects.

  14. 1

    Congrats man! I've been building a small design team for a few years on top of my freelance work but never got to this kind of monthly revenue. Always found it hard to get more of the right clients that could pay enough to sustain the team.

    It's truly amazing how you managed to build it and you are able to do design work for the clients and sustain a job on the side. I truly admire your work ethic and felt I needed to say it. :D

  15. 1

    How did you get first 100 users?

  16. 1

    I've been a big Designjoy stan since I came across it a year or so ago

    I'm even working on my own approach to the model (not in UX design!)

    Question: how do you manage the relationships with clients. I guess what I mean is we are "products" that are supposed to be on-demand (the old freelancing or consulting model) so how do you handle when a client submits something and it sits until you can address it. Do you have like automated flows set up to manage all of this?

    That's my big concern is that being fractional with 30 clients simultaneously will cause NPS to shoot way down

  17. 1

    Wow. It's really surprising that a single person manages to do all design and marketing stuff.

    1. What was the most painful point for you in the entire process?
    2. What kind of tools do you use other than Slack and Trello.
    3. How do you plan on scaling your business when you have more clients?
    1. 2

      Thanks for the questions!

      1. This one is easy. Time management and organization, without question. I STILL have a lot of work to do here, as you can imagine managing 40+ projects at a time can be straining on any process managing by a single person, especially considering just one of those projects could be as large as designing an entire CRM or other complex software.

      2. Here's my full stack: Webflow (my tool of choice for building websites), Figma (for design), Slack (for real time chat), Trello (managing requests), Memberstack (plugs into Webflow to manage billing), and Airtable (provides my daily to-dos). I'm sure there are more but those are the big ones.

      3. I plan on steadily increasing my prices to control growth. Just last week I increased them by $500/m. I will continue to do this until I find the sweet spot.

      1. 1

        Thank you for answering. It was really very insightful.

  18. 1

    You are super talented! Congratulations on a huge milestone. Very clever pricing model.

  19. 1

    This is a "packaging" of your time and talents where even if it can't be sustained forever you have minimal overhead and you get to bank the hell out of the income (if you're smart). Would it break things if you hired one more very talented person, paid them 100k, and then went and got another 30k/month worth of business and piled it on them? You will hit a ceiling at some point (although WOW, that's a high ceiling!). What do you plan to do then? How do you ever take a week off?

    1. 2

      You’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of what I should do next. But for some reason, I’m scared to death of hiring. It’s a bit tension point in my life that I need to figure out how to get over because you’re absolutely right.

      1. 2

        My advice would be to post a job on indeed and just interview for a remote person - interview for as long as it takes until you start talking to someone who can finish your sentences, someone who fully gets it minus your ability to package and monetize the way you have. Then start them off slowly and just know that you may only be able to hold them for a short time like maybe less than a year. You might want to offer it up to two people, both part-time, then if one quits the other might be able to shoulder the load briefly. The challenge is always about what happens if they quit and you can't fulfill the demand and lose customers. Two part-timers give you load balancing - then one full-timer and two part-timers, etc. But it might get ugly if you go past 3x of where you are now. Good luck.

      2. 1

        I agree wholeheartedly. Hire badly and it can really ruin a good thing. In my most recent, nearly shuttered venture (now pivoted to working on a solo MVP), I hired someone referred by someone I trusted. No matter how clearly I articulated the vision, the employee couldn't get on board and was too risk averse for entrepreneurship. Every creative idea I had to grow the business was met with "will never work". Meanwhile I was doing all the idea generation, pilot design and launch! And I couldn't get rid of them due to friendship circles/relations (it's complicated). The feedback from the otherwise biz savvy referrer was "I needed to spend more time motivating my only staffer". Ridiculous! I was running a 2 person shop that could have been 5-10x bigger in a few short years. Now, I design my biz logic in code, and I will let the bots do the work with me doing quality control and optimization. Problem solved (I hope) once I launch.

  20. 1

    What were your skills when you got started? Given the niche, it means you have a flair at art. How did you get these design ideas from? Any background?

    1. 1

      I taught myself how to design 10 years ago and dropped out of college. I’ve loved it ever since. To this day, it doesn’t feel like work

      In terms of inspiration when I need it, I love land-book.com and of course Dribbble. 😊

  21. 1

    Be careful not to overdo it.
    Apart from that, your story is amazing!

    1. 1

      Right on! And thanks my friend!

Trending on Indie Hackers
Promote your Slack/Discord showing the best community's posts on your site 13 comments On publishing 100 articles in 100 days and crossing $100K ARR: Anne-Laure Le Cunff's story 10 comments I accidentally started a publishing business, now doing £500K/ARR. AMA! 10 comments New IH Feature : Downvote posts 8 comments Roast my landing page - Appreciate the feedback 🙏 5 comments The key to mastery in any discipline is consistency 2 comments