How I scaled DesignJoy to $300k in revenue in 2020: Year in Review

Hey folks,

What a whirlwind of a year it has been. This year, DesignJoy saw massive growth (I'm talking a 268% revenue increase). As concisely as I can, I'll run you through how I believe that happened. And no, not one of these events required a single cent to be spent. Without further-a-do, here we go:

  • Though I rarely publish updates on this platform, the IH community has been truly amazing to me. The relationships I've formed, the advice I've received, and the opportunity to work directly with dozens of you has been incredible. I really couldn't have done it without you 🙏.

  • In May of this year, I was fortunate enough to make it to the front page of Hacker News. I've always heard it's like striking gold whenever you can do so, and I feel that the event lived up to my expectations.

  • My side project "Scribbbles", a free vector set of, you guesed it...scribbles has done extremely well this year, with over 20,000 downloads. I built this collection and launched it in 24 hours, but the impact it has had on referrals to DesignJoy has been very impactful. I recently changed the price from free to $4, and I make about $60-70 per week via Gumroad. Not bad for something that I spent so little time on. But it's like icing on the cake compared to the traffic it sends to DesignJoy.co.

  • In July of this year, I increased the price of my most popular design plan from $849 to $1149. I also introduced a Webflow option at $1699, as well as an Enterprise plan (really, just a custom plan option). My goal with this was simple; make more money, but work less. Turns out I made more money, but didn't exactly end up working less. What I found here was that the type of clients signing up to use my serviced seemingly changed overnight. I went from working with bootstrappers and indie hackers to high tier agencies and enterprise companies. This is nice because they actually tend to require less, understand more, and have the budget to support an ongoing subscription. I know I have a ton of head room with my pricing.

  • Just this month I officially launched an affiliate program, and the same day I did I made over $1,500. I had worked with several affiliates before which generated a ton of referrals, but setting up a legitimate referral system through Rewardful has taken the headache out of managing payments, etc. It has also allowed want-to-be affiliates to sign up themselves and start referring right away, instead of having to go through me. I predict this will be a solid revenue generator in 2021.

  • In July of this year, along with my price hikes, I introduced Webflow support more prominitely on the website, and even created a plan for it. The price currently sits at $1699/m, and this has quickly become the most chosen plan, regardless of the fact it is the highest price option. DesignJoy is one of the few, if not the only, productized service specializing in the platform, and the world is quickly taking note of its power. This was probably the single most impactful thing I did in 2020, and I expect this to only grow in popularity next year.

  • A few months ago, I recently made the switch from Sketch to Figma for all my design work. I've been putting it off the entire year, but recently decided to jump in with both feet, and I gotta say... I'm never looking back. This has allowed clients to check in on progress of their requests in real time, always having access to the latest versions and assets. It has also made prototyping and collecting feedback a breeze. I honestly don't know why I didn't do this sooner. I'll never be using Sketch again. The experience on my mine and the client's end is soooo much better.

  • I've actually found myself in a positon to be a little picky with who I work with, and who I don't. When you're trying to grow and drive revenue, often you'll work with whoever you can, whenever you can - even if they aren't the ideal candidate. I'm no longer in that position. If someone signs up for DesignJoy and I realize right away we aren't the right fit, I terminate the relationship immediately. Since I run DesignJoy alone, I have to protect my client base. If I have one client dragging the process down, taking up to much of my energy, or quite frankly being rude - I have zero tolerance for it, and I can't express how liberating it feels. At the end of the day, I only work with who I want to work with, and that makes such a difference.

If you've read this far, kudos to you. I could probably go on for awhile longer, but I think I've hit the high points. Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment with any questions, and I'll certainly address them all. Happy new year, friends!

  1. 5

    Hi, Brett! Great write up!

    I always admire your work and DesignJoy. I wonder how did you get your first client and how long does it take to make your first $5000 MRR?

    I recently launched Uisual, free landing page templates for startups. I got 80 points from Show HN which brings me ~3k visitors and 1 client. My plan is giving away templates in order to get custom project. Do you have any advice? My goal is to get at least $1000/month in 3 months.

    Happy new year!

    1. 3

      Hey Rich!

      Got my first client from a Product Hunt launch! It was pretty instantaneous, as many PH launches are (if you do it correctly). As far as hitting $5,000 MRR, if my memory serves me right, I believe I surpassed that milestone that very week, again thanks to Product Hunt. Not everyone has success on the platform, but I certainly did, though I could have done a ton of things better.

      Just checked out Uisual - very nice! I'm creating a template marketplace myself for Webflow, and my approach is to be the most kick-ass, highly quality template marketplace out there for Webflow users. It's much easier to do in the Webflow world as there isn't as much competition than a general HTML/CSS marketplace. You're going to have to work much harder to differentiatie yourself, beyond nicheing down and targeting startups. And that starts at quality, quality, quality.

      Given that your templates are free (which is a notable point compared to your competition), if they were extremely high quality, I'm talking loved on by someone with some serious design chops, I have no doubt this could catch on. One of my clients is one of the largest Wordpress theme developers, and they've realized this opportunity and are using DesignJoy to design their templates, and they easily turn around and make an enormous profit on them. I'm not telling you to use a service like mine, but get the help of a really talented designer and partner up with them. I'm sure there are some right here on IH.

      Best of luck!

      1. 1

        Thanks for your response, Brett!

        One last question if you don't mind. How on earth you can run DesignJoy by yourself? I imagine you have lots of clients and deadlines. Can you give some tips on how to work faster with clients, but still make them happy with the result?

        1. 2

          Yeah, my day-to-day is pretty insane.

          I do things a bit unconventional with DesignJoy. My focus is 100% output, and not so much communication, administrative work, keeping up with emails, etc. I could easily spend all day chatting it up with clients, but I don’t allow myself to. This frees me up to crank out designs like mad. Wouldn’t recommend this strategy to just anyone unless your output is at such a high quality that clients don’t mind. That’s also not to say that I couldn’t reduce churn by filling those gaps (an eventual plan of mine).

          1. 1

            Thanks again, Brett! Keep up the good work!

    2. 1

      Lovely work - I wonder how’s the performance of your download so far?

      1. 1

        Thanks, Felix! I never track my download actually. I should probably try to track them.

  2. 2

    I'm a very happy customer of Brett's. Initially I wasn't sure if I would keep the subscription for more than a few months, but Brett keeps delivering such an amazing work that I keep thinking of more projects to build.

    Since we started in June, Brett has helped with countless iterators across multiple projects.

    I highly recommend pretty much every IndieHacker to get professional design assistance with their projects, and I think DesignJoy is the best option out there right now.

    I have to twist my own arm to write this, because at the end of the day Brett has only so many hours in the day and I want to make sure I keep my place in those hours

  3. 1

    This is amazing! Congrats!

    BTW, if you don't mind, which are the 20 % areas generating 80% of your revenue? Is it websites? Apps? PowerPoint presentation? etc

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