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34 Comments

Grew lemonIO to $640k+ GMV/month. AMA!

Hi Everyone,

I'm Aleksandr Volodarsky, founder of lemon.io

I started working in this niche in 2015, building Coding Ninjas - Uber for web development tasks. SMB's and agencies could submit a task, and an available engineer would work on it.

Even though it worked well, we had a hard time scaling it. We even raised $60k for 17% equity, trying to spend more on marketing. A horrible decision, I don't know what we were thinking about)

In April 2020, we rebranded to lemon.io and pivoted to helping startups hire offshore engineers (instead of working on specific tasks).

Since, we scaled from $200k to $640k GMV/month, a team of 40, and are on track to $1m by the end of the year.

I also had little success building an audience on Twitter by building in public https://twitter.com/volodarik

I'm happy to answer any questions about our journey, marketing, sales, brand, team building, audience building, and basically anything :)

AMA

  1. 7

    Hello! Loooove your site and blog! Please tell about your copywriting team. Is it in-house or outsource? Are there any hiring tips to find a great copywriter? Thanks a lot!

    1. 3

      Thank you. I'll let them know.

      We outsourced the home page and one of the landing pages to Copy Hackers. The rest of the pages is our team.

      Before doing design and copywriting we've created a brand platform and designers and copywriters used it to create visuals and copy.

      I got lucky to find a great underrated copywriter. She has almost no copywriting experience. but wanted to work with us and did an amazing test project. How she is our CMO

      1. 3

        you're so lucky and hardworking! thanks for the answers!

    2. 1

      Hey @ValeryG we're a team of copywriters at https://writeful.ly/. Let me know if you would like to see how we can help.

  2. 3

    Hi Aleksandr. Congrats, I really like the brand you've made :)

    How your hiring process for freelancers is different than your competitors (these are more FAANG-style)?

    How often your clients are okay with part-time developers?

    Also, I'm wondering, how much sponsoring of the podcasts have helped you with the scaling? Have you tried other non-obvious methods of promoting?

  3. 3

    Hi Aleksander, thanks for this.

    How much would you say that building in public on Twitter impacted your growth?

    1. 3

      It changed my life and impacted growth.

      Now people want to work with us, partner with us, invest in us. I was able to create a great network and have access to people that would not be able to reach otherwise.

  4. 2

    Outstanding creativity on the site. Could you please tell why did you find it necessary to rebrand while pivoting? How much rebranding contributed in the scaling success?

    1. 2

      pivot as the business model we did not scale well
      rebrand, as we had a poor one before that, did now resonate with the target audience.
      The brand plays a huge role as it's memorable and resonates with the audience

  5. 2

    what is GMV? what's your net income ? what's your take home pay ?

    1. 2

      GMV stands for Gross Merchandise Value is a marketplace metric.
      I take home basic salary as we are reinvesting everything.

  6. 2

    Sometimes I feel boring working on the same project for a month. You are 6 years in the same business. What motivates you?

    1. 2

      My team is my motivation. I love working with them.

  7. 2

    What are your main leads sources?
    Organic/paid traffic? - what are you focused on?
    How do you build your sales funnel?
    Thank you!

  8. 2

    Do you have any experience managing a team? If not, what's the biggest challenge when you started getting your first few hires?

    1. 3

      I had a little experience running a sales team, but I failed in the past.

      I also failed managing team in lemon.io :) but I'm getting better. The biggest challenges are

      • finding the right talent for the current stage. for example, in the beginning, overqualified people is a horrible mistake.
        The best people I hired wanted to work specifically with us (didn't apply to other jobs), already had an opinion on what we are doing right or wrong and how do they fit and had little to no experience for what they were hired for.

      • deligating. I suck here. but I learned to create detailed documents, that people can actually use. If you don't get it right from start, you'll create a culture of poor delegation.

      • celebrate every little win. it's a must to keep people that work so hard with you on good morale.

      1. 2

        Your candor here is admirable 👍

        1. 1

          Thanks. Happy to share

  9. 2

    Congrats! I'm personally working on a little project, but I'm very interested in gaining a "willing-to-pay" customer. Did you directly ask them to buy, or did you go through a sort of nuturing process, where you provided value to begin with, and relied on that?
    Once again, congrats... And good luck!

    1. 2

      Thank you, Sam.

      We create content that attracts our target audience. For example, on Twitter, I build in public, and other entrepreneurs follow me for such information and buy, when the time is right for them.

      We've tried a few lead magnets ("where you provided value, to begin with"), but they didn't work well for us. It really depends on a specific product/service. I've seen a bunch of cases, where it worked. Look at how they've grown Lemlist to $3m or something.

  10. 2

    Congrats. Love the site. How do people hear about you?

    Ads, content, social media, cold outreach, etc...?

    1. 2

      Thank you, Harry. I huge fan.

      We are still figuring out our long-term marketing strategy.

      We get most of the new contracts through

      • word of mouth
      • my Twitter
      • Product Hunt ads
      • sponsorships on pods and emails.
      • a bit of Google organic and even less Google ads

      20% of new contracts come from existing clients

      We are seeing first results from cold outreach for the last few months and hired an SDR to help us experiment more.

      Also, today we launched FB ads. I have little faith, but let's see. I didn't believe cold outreach would work either.

      1. 1

        Interesting, aren't PH ads expensive (heard they have a minimum budget)?

  11. 2

    Congrats, Aleksandr.

    How does your day-to-day life differ now that you're a team of 40 when compared to when you first pivoted to lemon.io?

    What has been the most challenging aspect of growing your company so far?

    1. 1

      Thank you!

      tbh, I don't feel comfortable growing a team. it's much more management and working on organizing work instead of actually doing work.

      But, I still take non-management experiments. Last q it was finding new channels, this q it will be launching a new product. Also, I'm working on growing my audience.

      Finding a product/market fit on the supply side and balancing supply and demand. Convincing great talent to work with us is hard.

  12. 2

    Congrats on the success!

    A few questions:

    1. How do you present talent to clients? Do they want to interview/vet them too? If so, how do you overcome that? Or how do you get them to trust you?
    2. What has been key to your growth?
    3. What were major operational problems you solved?
    4. What happens if a client doesn't pay? Do you still pay the talent?
    1. 1

      Thank you!

      1. After a discovery call we send them the developer's profile and if they like it, we schedule a call between a client and a developer. A lot of clients were to do their own interview and this is fine for us. Rarely do they want to a paid test project and it's up to a developer if they want to do it.

      2. Finding great dev talent is key for our growth.

      3. I'm not sure I understand the question. Can you, please, elaborate?

      4. We have clients to pay at the beginning of a billing period. Sometimes the payments are delayed. If clients doesn't pay, we pay a developer. If the delay is long we let developers decide if they want to continue and then it's their responsibility.

  13. 1

    The website looks very cool :) I've seen this platform in a few cool advertisements and a friend recommended it to me multiple times.

    Q: Is there a way to use Lemon.io under the age of 18? 👀

  14. 1

    Hello Aleksandr, any hiring going on for remote SEO?

  15. 1

    Hi Aleksandr,
    I am tempted to build in public, but am worried about spending too much time on Twitter. Update posts on their own probably don't achieve much. Did you have to deliberately spend time and engage with people when you had no Twitter audience? Or did it just naturally grow?
    Congratulations and thank you for your feedback.

  16. 1

    I was just checking your FB ads, as you mentioned in the comments, you are testing them out.
    First, of all, I really like the concept and branding of them. I am wondering how are they perfoming. (As everyone swears on video nowadays)

    Although, I think it could be cool to animate those illustrations; I might be able to help you with that if you want to test it out.

    Another question I had was, so, the $640k is what all the delopers and such are making with the platform, right? Does the business make money by taking a % of that or how does it work?

  17. 1

    Hey! Amazing site. I have some questions...
    1-how are those 40 members of the team distributed? Sales, project management, marketing, candidates sourcing?
    2-how many candidates/devs you have in your database at this point?
    3-you are focused on a very concrete niche, what other interesting niches you think are out there, but would require a different approach?
    Thanks!

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