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I make $50k/m+ running my solo unlimited design service. AMA!

I run DesignJoy, a one-man unlimited design service specializing in product design + Webflow development.

I’ve scaled DesignJoy to $50-60k in monthly recurring revenue without ever investing a penny in marketing.

What makes my service unique is that I handle all requests myself, from client communication to final designs, and everything in between. No team. No outside help. Nada.

I’m an open book, so ask me anything.

  1. 12

    50K revenue per month. Lets say all of them are on the 2k plan, so that is around 25 customers. If all 25 send you a request on the same day - that would be way too much for one person to handle, isn't it? How are you able to manage that much work by yourself??

    Or is my calculation way off base?

    In any case, that is an impressive achievement. If I do this for say Airtable (like you are doing for webflow), do you think it is scalable?

    1. 7

      I wonder why he doesn't bother to answer your questions. Probably because he is bullshitting us. If both the information on his site and the information in the interview is true, then his business is a fraud. He is presenting his services as a custom design flat rate offered by a TEAM of professionals but in fact he only can spend 5-7 hours per month on a client and that's for at least 1500$. Such a fraud.

      1. 4

        Thank you for commenting some common sense. I'm not even saying it's impossible to make $50k/mo as a freelancer. But that would have to be a very focused, very specialized type of designer. Someone doing broad design and Webflow work? That does not make any sense.

    2. 2

      @anabayan You're throwing out a hypothetical, and an overly simplified one at that. A design request could be a variety of things, requiring a variety of effort. But let's go with your scenario for the sake of conversation.

      Being that I grant myself on average 2 business days to complete most requests (within reason), that would mean that I would complete 12-13 requests per day, which is quite honestly very feasible for me. When you also consider many of those 12-13 requests could be simply revisions to an already completed request, you can start to see how this works out for me.

      All of that to say, I'm not your "average" designer as you can probably imagine. I don't think there is any single designer on the planet designing at the scale I am, and so I'm not sure this model could be easily replicated by just anyone, obviously.

      Good question on Airtable and if this model could work for that. But @mcvpto addressed this question perfectly. It's far harder to offer development under the subscription umbrella for reasons he already laid out.

      Thanks for your question! Let me know if you have any follow up questions, and I'll be happy to answer!

      1. 1

        @brettwill1025

        Thank you for taking the time to answer. I wasn't questioning your skills or speed of execution, apologies if my question came across that way. I am just impressed that you are able to do so much, all by yourself. I am a fairly fast programmer myself, but I can't imagine doing something like this in my own area of expertise.

        I suppose programming is more time consuming than designing, to account for testing, setting up infrastructure (server etc) and so on. That might be another reason why a programmer who is as good as a designer might still be slower than the designer.

        Anyways - nice discussion. Kudos to you for pulling this off! You are a rare breed indeed!

    3. 2

      Only you know what you're capable of. If you're a knowledgeable fast person, yes. If you're not as experienced and don't work with a sense of urgency, you can still do it but you would have to stop accepting new clients when you've reached your max.

      He's obviously able to handle it and probably manages it like anything else by estimating how long requests will take and then giving the customer a safe completion timeline.

      He's doing what all freelancers would like to be doing which is juggling multiple clients at the same time and minimizing dead time between billable work.

      But the clever way he presents his services secures an upfront commitment from his clients while reducing or eliminating the number of proposals he has to generate, ultimately providing a more predictable and efficient workload.

    4. 2

      @anabayan great question! I'm assuming you are talking about development as a service vs. design as a service (i.e. you could create a UI for an Airtable base but it seems you mean building custom Airtable integrations/automations). I actually just posted on IH about custom code as a service, specifically as an alternative to (or complement to) no-code tools like Zapier.

      I also gave a shoutout to @brettwill1025 as his success with (and sharing of) this model is the reason I'm thinking about this direction. Thanks again Brett!

      Ultimately it doesn't seem like Brett is all that interested in scaling, so the question is probably more so whether it's sustainable. For development as a service I think part of that comes down to scoping the work (which you are suggesting by focusing on e.g. Airtable) and price which is the main question I'm asking in my post: Custom Coding Service - How cheap is too cheap?

      1. 1

        What @brettwill1025 is doing is very, very impressive. I am not sure if it is sustainable for years. That said, he is making 600K a year, all he needs to do is 2-5 years while he is young, and he can then reduce hours (or retire) with a very comfortable cushion/savings :)

        For development - I'm interested only in doing backend work (automations, data analysis etc). I'm not good in front end work (for me CSS is way more draining than PHP/MySQL etc). I do not know how Brett's model will work here, unless the task is extremely narrow and well defined - something like "create a highcharts line graph using the data from this one airtable base, with column C as the X axis and column F as the Y axis". This can be done quickly, anything more will become more complex.

        Maybe there is a way to do it, I'm not creative enough :(

  2. 4

    What is your monthly churn rate? I expect the service to keep growing beyond your capacity if clients never unsubscribe. How long do they usually stay subscribed? Do you do followups with them to see what caused them to leave?

    I am already using the service for my company and it works out great so far.
    While the output quality is great, having hired a few designers in the past I understand the tradeoff in speed, feedback and communication.
    Still as long as we need design and our workload is not too insane using the service makes a lot of sense rather than finding someone full time.

    Keep up the good work and take care of your health!

  3. 3

    Great results @brettwill1025, I'm really impressed!

    If you needed to start over, but this time with a marketing service instead of a design one, how would you do it? I'm especially interested in the strategy to attract the first clients and how would you position the service?

  4. 2

    Hey Brett,
    This is amazing on several levels:

    1. Business infrastructure mostly no-code and sounds like it works great. So you can focus on designing.
    2. You have your customers buy into your workflow
    3. You created a service business into subscription model. The new SAAS - Service as a Subscription.

    Awesome, thanks for sharing. Congrats!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the encouragement my friend!

  5. 2

    Hey Brett, awesome work! Encouraging and inspiring haha.

    I have a few related questions:

    1. How much of your recurring revenue is net? I assume a vast majority of it.
    2. How many total hours does DesignJoy require in an average month?
    3. If you're netting $45k+/mo, why are you still working a full-time job? Seems like that would be more than enough to pay the bills, save for retirement, etc. and free you from all the cons of "working for the man."

    Thanks buddy!

    1. 5

      Thanks for the questions!

      1. Almost all of it is net revenue minus taxes. My expenses are about $2k per year, and half of that is in a dang Shutterstock subscription. :)

      2. Total hours: I would say roughly 50-60 hours per week.

      3. I'm not your normal entrepreneur - I hate risk and self reliance so I'll always maintain something on the backend. Plus, benefits, retirement, and pensions are nice when the job requires so little of me.

      1. 1

        Well Said, congrats bro!

  6. 2

    What is your workflow and design process and how can you manage it all by yourself?

    1. 8

      Hi there,

      Between DesignJoy and client, the request workflow is managed in Trello. Here’s what a typical board looks like: https://cln.sh/3uoOen

      Clients can only have one active request at a time which makes managing 30+ clients easier. When a user adds a card to that column, I have an IFTT workflow set up to add it to Airtable and pull in all the important information. That’s what I work from since all the requests are all in one place vs in dozens of different Trello boards.

      I work in 2 day sprints most of the time. So you submit a landing page request, you get it in two days. Larger requests can take longer, and be delivered in chunks. Revisions are usually completed the very next day, and more minor revisions the same day depending on how early in the day they are submitted.

      Anything else you’re interested in as far as workflow?

      1. 1

        That's amazing Brett, thank you for taking the time to answer.

  7. 2

    That is very impressive. How did you get your first customers and how did you decide on the business model?

    Do you have any plans to scale beyond just you?

    1. 2

      First customer came from Product Hunt :)

      I liked the subscription business model because it was far more approachable than other means of design. It’s as easy as signing up for Netflix, and two days later you have your first request. 😊

      No plans to scale it beyond myself. I’ve been running it this way since 2017.

  8. 1

    I have a doubt.
    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?

  9. 1

    Do you think 50k is your upper limit or do you still have space to scale it further (with just yourself)?

  10. 1

    I don‘t understand why you gave this featured interview to indie hackers - it doesn‘t make you look good. You say you‘re doing everything yourself - which I admire. But when I take a look at your site and the offered services, you are talking about „us“ and „our team“. And I get the impression that when I subscribe to your services I‘ll get a lot of stuff done. But in your interview you say you have 30 clients. This means you work on average 5-7 hours per month and per client. This makes your hourly rate At least 250-300$ per hour! Maybe you are that good. But after that misleading information on your site i wouldn‘t give you a dime. Also the concept of a flat rate for „hand made“ products makes no sense at al and is per se exploitative either towards the customers as in your case or towards the workers who do the design work.

  11. 1

    Really interesting business model, looks like you're smashing it.

    Do you have anything like a "fair usage policy" in your Ts & Cs to stop a single client trying to monopolise all of your time?

    1. 1

      Good question! I do not. I’ve had clients book me as much as 20 hours per week, but I have recently stopped engaging in agreements as to focus more on my core subscription business. With the way I manage my time now, it’s hard for a single client to monopolize it.

  12. 1

    Thanks for this awesome AMA, Brett! Pulling for tomorrow's NL :-)

  13. 1

    @brettwill1025 Designjoy looks absolutely stunning! You are a proof of the fact that even without big teams, it's possible to scale a business haha!

    I've got 2 quick questions for you -

    1. How are you getting new customers considering the fact that you said you aren't investing a lot into marketing
    2. Are you doing paid advertising?
    1. 1

      Thanks!

      I’ve never done a single act of paid marketing! My clients come from recommendations on sites like Indie Hackers, Trends.vc, landing page showcase sites, etc. 😊

      1. 1

        That's quite interesting! Gotta check out trends.vc actually. I've heard a lot about this community on the internet!

  14. 1

    Hey Brett, what has been the biggest obstacle you've encountered in running your business? Great work by the way it looks awesome.

    1. 1

      Time management and organization with out question. 😊

  15. 1

    Sounds really gorgeous!
    But every business should grow. For ex, today you have 10 clients,tomorrow you should have them 20.
    How will you handle all these?

    1. 7

      Thanks Eve!

      The world tells you that every business should grow, but in reality, it all comes down to your own personal desires, and what you want out of life. I've chosen the path of less headaches, less meetings, less managing people, and less constantly worrying about expanding and growing, all while at the end of the day making a solid living working for myself. There's no one way to run a business. :)

      1. 3

        In a time when everyone is obsessed with growth at all costs and SPAC fever, it's refreshing to hear this even if it goes against the 'grain' of what is considered the norm. Great job!

  16. 1

    How did you learn design? I want to learn design strongly thank you ☺️

  17. 1

    Congrats, Brett! You're obviously a super-producer, because although client requests are not constant, design still takes a lot of time!

    Can you share some tricks you have learned along the way that make you streamline your creativity / design / delivery process?

  18. 1

    Hi Brett, congrats with this achievement so far.
    I’m wondering about your customer onboarding. Do new customers sign up on your site without even contacting or calling you? I can imagine potential customers want to see a face before signing up for a $1600/mo subscription.

    1. 1

      Hey, thanks!

      Yes, most clients do book a call prior to signing on, but I do still get a few that don't. I guess they're just ballers. :)

  19. 1

    I've begun doing a similar service in the past few months, mostly because I saw your initial post last year. The workflow I have is fairly similar except I use zapier for the in-between automations and some admin stuff.

    I personally do all the designs myself as well. I do believe that one thing that helps to separate design services is creativity, which what I suspect is the reason you continue doing it solo, and clients keep coming back - getting the best design outcomes for them consistently.

    1. 2

      Awesome, glad I had some influence there :)

      And yes you're exactly right. I'm way too much of a control freak when it comes to quality. Those that can match the quality I output are simply too expensive, so I'll likely always continue doing all the design myself. :)

  20. 1

    Amazing stuff!

    I know you've tried to hire someone in the past - I'm curious if you did actually go through with that, and if so, why did you decide to go back to being a one-man business?

    (curious, because I tried to get hired around 6 months ago :D )

  21. 1

    I know some of you are skeptical, but I’ve been working with Designjoy (as a happy, paying customer) for several months.

    Brett is just an amazing designer that gets work done quickly. He’s done the designs ahead of time for every upcoming project in my pipeline so I can focus on development and marketing.

    More work gets done in the likely 2-3 hours per week that Brett did for me than I’d have been able to do myself in 1 week 🤷‍♂️

    AMA too if you’re so inclined haha

    PS: Much love, Brett!

    1. 1

      You're the man, my friend!

  22. 1

    Wait, and what when you decide to go on vacation lets say 15 days?

    1. 4

      Vacation? What's that?

  23. 1

    Hello,

    Well that is impressive, 50k /mo alone woah...

  24. 1

    I have been a long-time lurker of IndieHackers, and I finally felt compelled to create an account to call this out.

    I have seen this guy's posts in the past, and they all reek of dishonesty.

    I run an agency where I employ 2 full-time creatives and a project manager in order to reach $30-50k/m in revenue. It is absolutely impossible to reach and maintain those numbers as a 'solopreneur' doing all the client management and creative work. Let alone while maintaining a separate full-time job, as he has claimed multiple times.

    He has been called out for a lack of integrity in the past. On the original PH launch for his service, originally called "Hue", there are multiple commenters calling him out for plagiarizing his website design.

    He also claimed that "someone related to Shark Tank reached out interested in using my design service to handle the design work of all existing brands and new brands brought on via the show"... this is laughable. Shark Tank is a TV show; it is not responsible for managing the design work for the businesses that appear on the show.

    This dishonesty is dangerous, as it causes other founders and indiehackers to be distraught or overly self-critical when they aren't reaching these numbers working all by themselves.

    1. 4

      Hi Harry,

      Not the first time my posts have been met with suspicion.

      For starters, here’s a screenshot of my MRR via ProfitWell (https://cln.sh/8busxR). This doesn’t include any of my direct bill accounts. Here’s a screenshot of YTD revenue in Stripe: https://cln.sh/ebUzxH. So I suppose I’m doing the impossible here?

      RE: Shark Tank - you’re right. Someone from Shark Tank did reach out. But I never stated that the Shark Tank show itself did. As you can probably imagine, Shark investors like those listed on the show have their own firms who intake acquisitions, manage their books, marketing, etc. This particular person, the CTO of the firm, was interested in DesignJoy serving their new and existing acquisitions. Our last correspondence indicated that they were ramping up their development team in anticipation of the agreement, and then they ghosted me. 🤷‍♂️

      It is really unfortunate that you decided to publicly shame a person who you clearly know nothing about based on your comments here. Just thinking something is impossible doesn’t make it impossible.

      1. 1

        It‘s really fortunate that there are people publicly calling out your BS. Your service is a fraud based on what you say in the interview and what you state on your website. No need to „know“ you „better“

    2. 2

      Be nicer, why are you spreading hate in the community.
      We all know @brettwill1025 is an honest guy.

      1. 2

        Hey Tom, I like you. Appreciate you dude. 👊

    3. 0

      I do agree with harry perry.
      „Be nicer“? What about „be honest“?

  25. 1

    How to you handle the discovery, prototyping and developer hand off phase(s)? That stuff eats up a lot of time!

    1. 1

      Hey there,

      Surprisingly I don’t do a lot of either of those 3 things. DesignJoy is a very accelerated service, and most clients aren’t willing to spend the time on those things as many of them are bootstrapped and pre-revenue.

      A part of it too is my experience designing quite literally hundreds of products myself through DesignJoy alone. We can often afford to jump straight to high fidelity with minimal revisions simply because of my speed. It’s not the ideal design process, but it has worked in creating some pretty dang successful products.

      1. 1

        Hey Brett, thanks for the reply! Cool, can see that working for marketing sites - is that the bulk of your work or do you work on web/mobile apps too?

        Many of the startups I've worked with tend to be quite... 'high maintenance', especially bootstrapped so can see your unlimited offering working very well for them!

        1. 1

          It’s about a 50/50 split between actual product design vs landing page design. Combined they take up most of my work, aside from the branding piece!

          And yes, I agree. There is a considerable difference in request quantity between bootstrapped clients, and more mature ones!

          1. 1

            Nice one, fair play for mixing the design model up, clearly killing it. Wish you all the best!

  26. 1

    Congrats on this achievement!

    I saw your pricing and you're actually selling a "retainer" which is a great way to get a predictable revenue. Do you sometimes work a bit too much or is everything within sane boundaries?

    I am wondering about the Front End development part. Did you ever get in a situation where hours spent on FE would actually lose you money (due to the retainer agreement)? I guess by using Webflow you are preparing the designs to be done for that so you are fast with making it into a website.

    And the last one, if it's not a secret, do you have a real number of requests per client? I assume you don't get hundreds or thousands of requests per each client but they like the option to ask you whenever they need your services :D

    1. 1

      Yes, it’s a glorified retainer essentially, but offers the affordability and predictability clients yearn for when up against flaky freelancers or highly expensive agencies.

      Yes, I find myself quite often burning a lot of time on a single Webflow request, whereas design is very straightforward and easy. Luckily the only thing I run up in those scenarios is time, and not money since I’m not outsourcing those things out.

      As far as requests go, you can only have 1 active at a time, granted that one request can be an entire web application in theory. So if you do the math, and consider each request is delivered every 1-2 business days, that gives you the average requests each month.

      I will note though that not every client had an active request at any given time. If they did, I wouldn’t be capable of doing this solo.

      1. 1

        Nice! I assumed that the clients were not all active at the same time. That would be crazy to handle :D

        Congrats again on the achievement!

        1. 1

          For sure, thanks for the question! 😊

  27. 1

    I remember when I saw your project first a year ago.
    I want to ask, what is your coding strength?
    How did you acquire the skills to do such awesome works?

    1. 1

      Coding strength is all things Webflow, and that’s about the extent of that. 😂

  28. 1

    That's fantastic! Just one question: how do you manage to do it all by yourself? :O

    1. 1

      Haha fair question. I addressed a lot of this above in terms of how I structure my workflow. Take a look at that if you’re interested. Really appreciate the questions. 😊

  29. 1

    Your design skills are CRAZY! Your site and work look awesome 🔥

    Did you always had a site or only after having a few clients?
    Did you cold email people, provided awesome value, and got referrals?

    I see that you also have a "log in" area, did you build a custom tool to manage clients?

    When you write "Chat with your personal designer throughout the day by adding them to your own Slack channel.", Are you talking about yourself (personal designer) haha? Just curious about the marketing strategy here

    Thanks!

    1. 2

      Thanks! My site gets credit for getting me to this point. 😊

      I launched with a site yes! Would have been very difficult to get off the ground otherwise!

      I actually launched on PH, and the rest is history. I share some of my acquisition channels here: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/how-i-drove-250k-revenue-for-my-design-service-without-spending-a-penny-d54373975b. It’s a bit dated but still holds true till today.

      Login area: my site is built on Webflow and I use Memberstack for subscription management/customer portal. Highly recommend checking it out.

      And yes, you’re always talking directly to me in Slack, Trello, via email, etc. 😂 haha.

      1. 1

        Thanks! Haha cool gave me a few ideas:)

  30. 1

    @brettwill1025: I'm just wondering why to share the golden goose?

    Question for everyone:
    Who wants to build their own "unlimited design service" now?

    1. 1

      Haha to that, I say go for it! There are plenty of fish in the sea. 😊

  31. 1

    Love to see you around Bret! 🧡 Rooting for you. No question whatsoever, just wanted to say hi to an e-friend 🤣

    1. 1

      You’re awesome, and I appreciate the encouragement. 😊

  32. 1

    I run a niche productized service too, so I'm curious why you don't hire people to at least do some of the grunt tasks? Just don't like managing? Don't want to cut into your margins?

    1. 2

      More stress. More things to worry about. Hate managing people. Lose control quality to some degree. I don’t know, I think I’ll always restrict it to a solo operation. I don’t really have aspirations to scale it beyond what provides a good stable living for me. I still have a full time job outside of this.

      1. 1

        That's fair.

        I suppose it depends on your goals too. I am building to sell, but I do sometimes miss the creation process now that I'm managing a team.

        I also take home much less since I have other people to pay, so you got me there. 😉

        1. 1

          Yes, you’re right - totally depends on your goals and aspirations. I sometimes envy those that have the guts to raise funds or scale a team, but that’s just not me at this stage of my career. Maybe one day!

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