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53 Comments

I just hit $120k/ARR+ running my unlimited Webflow design service. AMA!

Hello!

My name is Youssef and I'm the founder of DesignDash.co – an unlimited Webflow design subscription service for growing startups

Since launching Design Dash 8 months ago, I've been able to scale it to $120k+/ARR without any ad or marketing spend.

I don't charge per hour or per project. My clients pay a flat affordable monthly rate, submit as many requests as they like, and I get through them one by one.

The benefit of this approach is that my clients are not tied down to long contracts or restrictive project specs. They simply sign-up, access ultra-high-quality work, and cancel anytime. No fuss.

AMA.

  1. 5

    How did you market the service? (Like if you are launching a product you can use product hunt.) Which are the places you used to market the site?

      1. 1

        Oh, that's awesome.
        You have a huge following on Twitter.

  2. 4

    I really think this subscription agency thing is cool (shout out to Designjoy as the first person I ever saw work with this model).

    Can you dig into the details: like how much work do you do on a per client basis each month, does that work amount vary wildly between accounts or is it relatively the same for each, does you hourly rate average out to end up being hire than the traditional model, and lastly do accounts sit where there is just no work being done that month?

    1. 3

      Hi - Yes, Productised Services are really taking off across all industries (unlimited and limited plans alike). I think it because it offers the flexibility of freelancers, with the fixed costs of full-time employees.

      The amount of work I do between clients does vary. Some clients are very clear about what they want, and what they want is clear. This is the ideal client. The work for them is usually very time efficient. Then there are other clients, whereby the work is less efficient. Of course, I try to only work with the former.

      I’m very fast at designing, without compromising on quality. I’ve been a designer for 15+ years. I have developed my own proprietary workflow systems and habits to bring maximum efficiency to my work. All that to say, I’m currently probably operating at 15% of my max output.

      My clients are very engaged. Rarely are there just no requests made in a month. Most clients are in touch with me 1-2 times a week. If I think a client has just forgotten to utilise the service, I’ll ping them asking for work.

      I hope that helps.

      1. 1

        Awesome answer!

        So you said you could add more clients. At what point does it reach its max scale? Or is that not a question because you can hire other people to handle it?

        With this sort of thing, I guess I'm wondering if turning into an agency rather than a solo consultant can be tricky. I think (and obviously I'm guessing here) that your clients really like being connected to you, right? They don't want to deal with a project manager, a senior designer that isn't you, and an accounts person, yadda yadda. Like that workflow doesn't convey with this model, and moreover, your client's pain points

        1. 2

          "At what point does it reach its max scale?"

          That's a fair question. The first level of max scale will be when I don't have enough time to continue providing my clients with the right quality of work. I think I could 3X-4X and be ok. So, I think I have a lot of room for new clients for now.

          "Or is that not a question because you can hire other people to handle it?"

          Hiring is possible. But, to be honest, the way I'm working is still quite a new way of working for web designers. The result is there are just not many web designers working in this way. Meaning, there are not many web designers who can do all 3 of these things:

          1. Able to work on multiple projects and maintain high-quality output.
          2. Know how to leverage the full power & speed of Webflow.
          3. Available to hire (most who fit this description have jobs).

          "your clients really like being connected to you, right?"

          This is related to my above point. Clients want high-quality collaboration & high-quality design. If I can bring on more team members and still maintain quality, then sure, I think clients will still be happy. But for now, it's all me.

          1. 1

            Really cool man, thanks for breaking all of this down. Hoping for continued success for you

  3. 1

    Hi,

    In your FAQ, you say that there is no single refund that ever made. How to avoid a customer that only wants your service for free? Like, after they got what they want, they ask for a refund on day 13th.

    1. 1

      Business that play those games don't last, which means they are rate. So, thankfully, so far, I have not encountered this - and when I do, I hope I will detect it ahead of time. And, even if I don't, it's rare, and just the cost of nuisance business.

  4. 1

    How do you scale in terms of workload? Are you doing this on your own? Are you gonna hire if the workload exceeds a minimum standard?

    1. 1

      For now, I'm doing it all on my own. If I feel the quality of my work is taking a hit, the I'd look at bringing on some more team members or increasing my prices. However, for now, I'm far from at max capacity.

  5. 1

    Congrats! How many customers that you can help within a month?

    1. 2

      I don't know what the max is, but I know I could still take on many more clients.

  6. 1

    At a time I was tempted to do the same but on a very different platform (it's still nocode but in a more specific sector). The issue for me with that is the amount of work some people could ask. One at a time probably helps a lot but what if they ask "too much" ? From your replies it seems it never happened to you as you help them with their expectations.

    Now a tricky one, without any employee, could you still take some holidays?

    1. 1

      It's a lifestyle business, so I don't really take time off for weeks at a time. I take a break for a day here and there. If ever I really need to take time off, I'd give my clients a heads up and pause their billing if it was going to be for more than a few days.

  7. 1

    Congrats, great achievement! I'm super curious about your process because graphic design, for example, is way easier since you just design and send it to clients and that's it.

    But this is web design, which is a lot more complex in terms of requirements. What's your workflow like?

    Ie. client submits request => you send them back a "flat" design => they approve => you implement it on a staging webflow environment

    1. 2

      I hear you. I work 100% in Webflow. I don't design in Figma/Sketch/Photoshop. I go straight into Webflow.

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 11 days ago.

  8. 1

    Nice - How did you differentiate yourselves from the crowd? Also, why did you decide to make this?

    1. 1

      I believe it comes down to quality. I can offer what I call "ultra-high-quality" web design at a fraction of the cost. I think this is what attracts my clients. As for why I did this? Because it's a good lifestyle business for me.

      1. 1

        Nice - a couple more questions if you don’t mind.

        With this business of yours, how much hours do you find yourself working every day? What are the downsides to this compared to a regular full time job? I’ve been doing freelancing a bit for a while and am tempted to make this full-time.

  9. 1

    Hey Youssef, thanks for doing this AMA. Wish to ask more on how does this work in case of new website builds: For those who wish to get a new website done, do you determine upfront how many months plan they need to pay for? How do you manage if timelines do not go as expected? Also, in case of a new site, how does turnaround time make sense written in both your plans (if it is a new website)?

    1. 2

      do you determine upfront how many months plan they need to pay for?

      Yep. While many of my clients (tech startups & agencies) are happy to let the monthly contract roll, there are of course some clients that need to know upfront how many months their project will take. This is usually pretty easy to estimate as I like to spend time getting to know my clients needs ahead of time, as this increases the likelihood of the project being delivered on-time and on-spec.

      How do you manage if timelines do not go as expected?

      Thankfully, I've not had to deal with this, as I mitigate this from happening with careful planning and expectation management. (See above)

      Also, in case of a new site, how does turnaround time make sense written in both your plans (if it is a new website)?

      The turnaround time is for each request/revision, which I help the client define to ensure the best outcome. Each request is usually not too big, not too small. I don't want to get design tunnel vision. It's all relative to the overall project scope. There are 2 plans, to accommodate for 2 different levels of speed.

  10. 1

    @YoussefSarhan Great approach on creating something that clients can choose to opt for on monthly basis! Loved the idea. My question to you is that - how did you manage to the get the initial set of clients? My current assumption is that you did organic marketing on social media since you said you didn't spend any dollar on ads

    Also, thanks for doing this AMA post!

    1. 1

      Mostly through Twitter.

      1. 1

        That's great! Thanks for sharing!

  11. 1

    Hi Youssef! Congrats on making a successfull service!
    On the landing page, you introduce yourself as a design team, being a team of one (pls correct if I'm wrong here). Is that Ok to your clients? What do they think about that?

    1. 2

      My clients like that I'm a team-of-one as they know who they are going to be working with. It simplifies the decision in their mind. Maybe in time, I'll hire out. But for now, I'm happy being a team-of-one.

      1. 1

        Thanks! Another question - were there clients asking for "too much" for the money they've paid? I mean those who assumed if they are paying you, you should be working on their tasks 8h/day for the entire month? Do you have an idea on how to work with such clients?

        1. 1

          I've not yet had a client ask for too much. Of course, it's possible, but so far, it's not happened. Usually, "too much" design is a sign of bad design. The simplest designs are usually the most effective. I try to be upfront with them about the time expectations and so far, my clients are happy with the delivery.

          1. 1

            Thanks a lot for your answers Youssef!

  12. 1

    Awesome work Youssef. Can you elaborate on how you landed your initial customers?

    1. 3

      there's an answer above - Twitter

  13. 1

    What do you do to scale your business? We recently launched https://devworks.staticmaker.com, similar to what you do but for development.

    1. 1

      Is a subscription web application development possible @staticmaker?

      1. 1

        In our opinion, that is possible.
        What is your concern?

        1. 1

          Development can just so easily run up the bill vs Design in that building say a membership Saas product could be fairly expensive in one project and much more manageable when building as a wordpress plugin. Whereas design follows slightly more adhered to foundations. How do you price it in a way that doesn't hurt you? By the amount of hours?

          1. 1

            You are absolutely right. To keep the project in scope, we will place number of hours as the restriction.

    2. 1

      Congrats. I got my initial clients via Twitter.

  14. 1

    Congrats! It's awesome to see solo designers reaching this level of profit.

    You mentioned no ads or marketing spend, but I'm assuming you had other ways and distribution channels that worked and brought you to $120k ARR.

    Curious to hear how you managed to get your initial customers, and then what you did to scale to more customers to reach this point. Which channels did you use, what did you share about your biz that worked. etc

    1. 1

      First few clients were via Twitter, for sure.

      1. 1

        So what did you do after that?

        Just continue to tweet about Designdash on twitter? Any other social media sharing, blogging, content marketing, SEO you did?

        1. 1

          Nothing else. Just Twitter. Referrals work too.

  15. 1

    Congrats - how did you find your first customers?
    Also small bug report - clicking on pricing does not seem to scroll to the pricing section on the main page.

    1. 2

      I got my first customers via Twitter I believe. Thanks for the heads up on the scroll issue, I just fixed it.

      1. 1

        Nice! Hope you can keep this momentum going. :)

  16. 1

    Hi Youssef,

    So its a productised service. Do you handle the full work yourself? Or do you outsource?

    1. 1

      I do all the work myself. I have a 1-to-1 relationship with all clients. No outsourcing.

      1. 1

        No worries Youssef. Just asking as I used to do a productised agency for graphic design rather than webflow. It was tricky. Lots of moving parts. Got any plans to scale up with more webflow people?

        1. 1

          It would be awesome to scale Design Dash. The main thing is finding the right Designers.

          Reposted from a previous reply:

          Hiring is possible. But, to be honest, the way I'm working is still quite a new way of working for web designers. The result is there are just not many web designers working in this way. Meaning, there are not many web designers who can do all 3 of these things:

          Able to work on multiple projects and maintain high-quality output.
          Know how to leverage the full power & speed of Webflow.
          Available to hire (most who fit this description have jobs).

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