How I drove $250K revenue for my design service without spending a penny.

Several weeks ago, I joined IH and shared my journey building DesignJoy, a premium design subscription service. The feedback I received was flattering. So I thought I’d follow up by sharing exactly how I’ve gotten to where I am, now with more than $250K in revenue and an MRR of $7K, all the while not investing a penny into paid marketing or advertising.

I realize that not all of these channels will work for every product or service. Much of the success you will see will ultimately derive from the quality of your product, and how well it is presented on your landing page. This cannot be understated.

  1. Product Hunt

I launched DesignJoy (formerly Hue) on PH the same weekend I built it. It was far too rushed, and I was quite unprepared to say the least. Being that I didn’t have a following myself, I tweeted at a fellow PH member who had around 1K followers to see if he would by chance hunt my product. To my surprise, he said yes.

The post went live at 12:01am on Monday morning, and I quite literally did not sleep for two days straight. I was up for the next 48 hours responding to inquiries and on boarding new clients. I even had to take off work from my full time job.

But, what many do not realize about being featured on PH is that it isn’t just about the day you’re featured, but in the days, weeks, and months following. You see, once you’ve been somewhat successful on PH, your product begins to display in the “related products” section. Therefore, any time a design product was featured on PH, my product had a high probability of displaying in the related section.

Although my product was featured 2.5 years ago, PH still continues to drive conversions for me, and I assume it always will.

P.S. the email blast PH sends at the end of the week with your product featured in it helps as well. :)

  1. Landing Page Inspiration Sites

I made sure to submit my landing page to every landing page inspiration site I could find. Two that I’ve seen the most impact from are:

It may sound surprising, but Land-book.com is my #1 referral, and has been for the past year and a half. This is partly due to the fact that both iterations of my landing page have been featured as the most popular of all time. If this hadn’t happened, it’s highly doubtful DesignJoy would still be discovered on there.

Nonetheless, these sites have been invaluable to me and my product. However, without a killer landing page, this channel is hopeless.

Any time I make a significant update to my site, I re-submit it and without fail, conversions begin to roll in.

  1. Cold Emailing

I realize there are two schools of thought here, but being that I was bootstrapping this business and unwilling to spend a dime on paid marketing, I felt it was at least worth the time to try out. Nowadays, there are so many tools to aid in this process.

I use Hubspot’s free CRM to send these cold emails. From there, I can track opens and clicks, and set up workflows for follow up emails based on activity.

Although I don’t see tremendous success from this strategy, it has no doubt driven thousands of dollars in revenue and therefore is worth mentioning. So much of this comes down to how well the intro email is written, and even who you choose to reach out to within the business itself. Long story short though, this strategy is not dead no matter what others say.

  1. Building side projects

In order to drive traffic to DesignJoy, I’ve built a few viral side projects that all link back to DesignJoy.co. For example, I built scribbbles.design in 24 hours. Scribbbles receives about 500-1000 unique visitors a day now, and I be sure to plug DesignJoy on the landing page.

The beauty of this strategy is that I’m able to publish these side projects on Product Hunt as well as landing page inspiration sites. Scribbbles, too, is among the most popular of all time on land-book.com. So, even though I’m not promoting DesignJoy directly, I receive a fair amount of referral traffic from these side projects (traffic I otherwise would not have received).

These four channels make up the majority of my revenue thus far. The remainder is simply derived from word of mouth, which has been absolutely huge for me.

Now, I know that there are far better ways to grow revenue, and again, these channels may not work for everyone. I also realize that there isn’t anything ground-breaking here, or anything you haven’t already heard before. But these channels have worked for me, so I thought it was worth sharing. Let me know if you would like for me to expand on anything mentioned here, I’d be more than happy to. Thanks for reading!

  1. 1

    Hi @brettwill1025 I've been following your story on IH for a while now and it's inspirational to say the least.

    Would love to know more about your cold emailing process, and any examples you could share of ones that worked well for you?

  2. 1

    Great article mate. Good to have people like you who share their experiences with community.

  3. 1

    Great posts and replies, thank you for sharing! Also, really digging what DesignJoy does, so congrats on your success and I'll probably be buying in the future!

  4. 1

    Great post!
    You mentioned cold emailing - where did you find the emails from?

    1. 1

      When I found a business to go after, I used hunter.io to locate email addresses.

  5. 1

    Amazing work!
    What I still don't get about productized services is how do you afford to pay your employees with $849/mo and unlimited requests?
    Scribly.io, for instance, charges $3500/mo for 20-30 posts, which seems a bit more logical to me.

    1. 1

      Great question. As of right now I have no employees. I handle all the work myself, which is kind of nuts I know. I have a pool of designers that I can activate when needed, but that's very difficult to do. Remaining profitable while sustaining the quality DesignJoy demands will be very difficult for me, which is primarily why I don't actively try to grow it.

      1. 1

        Thanks for sharing this information. I wonder, though, how many orders average you have in a month? Thanks!

        1. 1

          I'm not sure I understand the question. Are you asking how many new clients sign up monthly, or how many requests are submitted monthly?

          1. 1

            I meant request (orders).

      2. 1

        Shouldn’t that be quite straight forward though? You find someone else who is give or take on your level and who is guaranteed available x days a week, whether as contractor or employee, and pay them 70-80% of what you would make, the rest is for you?

        1. 1

          Yeah you're right. I suppose it may be more of a control issue. But I have to get over that in order to scale.

          1. 1

            Just reframe it as a personal "growth opportunity" :D

      3. 1

        I see. So do you just happen to have clients' requests spaced out (like maybe one new client every 2-3 days) or do you delay some requests?

        1. 1

          Nope. I work almost daily for all clients, and usually deliver requests every 48 hours or so. It's a balancing mess but I've somehow made it work for 2.5 years, on top of having a full time UX/UI job.

  6. 1

    Congrats and thank you for sharing!

    Btw, what format are those design delivered in? PSD or html/css?

    1. 1

      It depends on what plan you choose. Most are delivered in .Sketch, but we do offer front end development in which case it would be HTML/CSS/JS.

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