5 min read

The Man Who Runs an Unlimited Design Service All By Himself

What you need to know so you can go big on your own too
The Man Who Runs an Unlimited Design Service All By Himself

Less talk, more action. He is proving one person can accomplish a lot on their own. Like a business that has grown to high six-figures in just a few short years. So, it’s time to put our talk aside and get started.

Brett Williams runs DesignJoy, an unlimited design service that specializes in product design and Webflow development. All by himself.

I recently discovered his business during an AMA (ask me anything) session on Indie Hackers, a community for developers building projects that generate revenue to gain financial independence or creative freedom.

How does he manage the workload?

With 30+ clients each expecting unlimited design work on a subscription basis, you can imagine the workload could be a killer. Yet he’s created a workflow that meets his needs — using low-code automation solutions.

Tools like IFTTT, Airtable, Trello, Memberstack, and Webflow have been glued together to make sense of the madness of an unlimited service. What used to be a massive undertaking can now be accomplished in a weekend by someone that isn’t even technical.

How does he set expectations so client requests don’t eat him alive?

That was my question as well. I love the concept yet know that “unlimited” is a scary word for most people. I know to be successful he must have devised a way to wow clients while adding just enough friction so he can keep pace. Especially as a one-person operation.

The beauty of an unlimited service is in its simplicity. Subscribers can budget for a need that typically varies wildly in fees charged throughout the year.

Given this is an accelerated service, he doesn’t do a lot of discovery or prototyping. Most of his clientele are bootstrapped or pre-revenue businesses interested in building an attractive web presence on a budget.

He has a ton of experience designing “quite literally hundreds of products” through DesignJoy alone and he has worked in this space for many years. So, this comes with some big benefits. In his own words:

"I 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."

The process does have a small bit of friction baked into it. It’s minimal yet quite effective for the number of clients currently subscribed. Brett laid out his process as follows:

"Clients can only have one active request at a time, which makes managing 30+ clients easier. When a user [within Trello] adds a card to that column, I have an IFTTT workflow set up to add it to Airtable to pull in all the important information. That’s what I work from since all the requests are all in one place, as opposed to dozens of different Trello boards. As for the login area, my site is built on Webflow. I use Memberstack for subscription management and the customer portal."

From there he works in two-day sprints. Most requests can be completed in 1–2 days and, if he needs more time, he sets expectations with the client so they know what to expect.

There you have it folks, clear communication for the win. We love to over-think things and imagine worst-case scenarios. I’ve done it and so have you. This leads to analysis paralysis and kills time that could have been used to create massive value for the right customers.

And massive value is right. As of the publish date of the AMA, Brett was generating more than $50k in MRR (monthly recurring revenue). Again, all by himself, with a bit of low-code automation and a healthy dose of grit and common sense.

The beauty of an unlimited service is in its simplicity. Subscribers can budget for a need that typically varies wildly in fees charged throughout the year.

If that isn’t attractive enough on its own for you, his operating expenses are less than $5k per year. His profit margin is insane. There is so much room for experimentation and further refinement.

How would I take this business to the next level?

When asked if he plans to hire employees, he expressed no interest in going that route. The one-man operation suits him well, currently.

But that got me thinking about:

  • How many more clients can he handle?
  • What can he do to ensure he doesn’t overwhelm himself?
  • How does staying a solopreneur affect his future?

So, armed with those questions, here’s what I would recommend, were he to ask me for my opinion. Brett, if you find this, reach out and let me know your thoughts and consider sharing Better Outcomes.

1. Embrace Scarcity

Your business is purposefully limited. That means there is a maximum number of clients it can handle before you’d begin hating life.

I recommend raising prices. This will definitely turn some prospects away yet those that decide to subscribe will appreciate your value that much more. Your existing subscribers already understand your value and most will find the budget to stay.

This is tried-and-true advice when demand far outpaces supply. You can often make even more money, while limiting your exposure, by finding clients that truly appreciate your value and the benefits of budgeting nirvana.

2. Queue Fairness

The way you manage your queue of design work sounds like it works so far yet, at some point soon, it could become unbalanced without explicit design to keep it fair for all clients.

For example, while you only work one request at a time per client, I also assume that it defaults (at least implicitly) to first-come, first-served.

A simple algorithm would help ensure that clients with few requests aren’t effectively squeezed out by those subscribers with many requests. If you’re not proactive here, this could create a perception problem resulting in churn.

The added benefit here for your business is the IP (intellectual property) this algorithm could represent. I think there is value in “franchising” here or by white-labeling your workflow to other unlimited service businesses.

3. Niche Down

Something I would potentially couple with a price increase is evaluating the work you do for clients or the particular type of client. Lean into what truly makes you happy and where you are the most productive.

Embrace the key learnings and incorporate them into your marketing and branding efforts to attract that type of business while implicitly deterring work that doesn’t offer those productivity improvements.

Recap

Brett Williams, the solopreneur behind DesignJoy, has built a $50k MRR unlimited design service business, on his own terms.

With a custom workflow consisting of low-code automation solutions, he knows what to work on, how long most requests will take, and can clearly share expectations with clients.

Given he wants to remain a one-person business, I’d recommend exploring these three concepts to help prospects filter themselves out proactively.

  1. Embrace Scarcity — demand will outpace his supply so price the unlimited service accordingly. Clients that value the service and the budgeting ease will vote with their wallets.
  2. Queue Fairness — subscribers with infrequent requests must also feel valued in comparison to the clients that typically have multiple open requests. Cracking this nut could produce interesting IP for the business.
  3. Niche Down — some work and/or clients may be more interesting and allow Brett to be more productive. Consider embracing a subset of what is currently offered by tightening branding so prospects filter themselves out.

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