Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi guys! My name is Bosco Soler and I'm the founder and only FTE employee of SinOficina: the first online coworking for the Spanish speaking community of freelancers and entrepreneurs.
SinOficina —means “ Without Office ” in Spanish— helps them providing weekly live masterclasses and a virtual space to connect, interact, share ideas, resources, and feedback.
What it started as a need to solve my own isolation as a freelance a year and a half ago, became a subscription model business that is now my main source of income making $3K/mo without spending a dollar (or euro) on paid advertisement.
SinOficina Event 2019
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I'm an architect turned digital designer just to have the freedom to work and live from any place I want. It wasn't an easy decision, but thanks to that now I've lived and traveled to +40 countries so far.
When I lived in Madrid I enjoyed going to work in a coworking space. The people, the events, the feeling... Then I moved to a smaller city and found myself isolated from other entrepreneurs. I tried to find coworking spaces around but none of them were enhancing the community relationships or were in convenient locations.
So I thought: why not have the same collaborative philosophy than a physical coworking has but... online? Then, SinOficina and the idea of an online coworking was born.
There was a need. I tried joining several free communities for freelancers and entrepreneurs on Facebook and Telegram but it didn’t work. There was too much noise, too many spammy comments. So I thought people would be willing to pay a fee ($20/mo) for a community that worked and provided true value.
I had an audience of 800 subscribers to my personal blog where I write about what I learn on my travels and entrepreneurial journey. Also, I had a few extra bucks saved so I could focus 100% on the project for the next months. In just one year it grew organically from 1 to +350 paying members.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
After having some interviews with fellow entrepreneurs to understand if they also had the need to connect with other professionals in a valuable way, I decided to go for it. I did surveys also, but interviewing was critical to get to know your clients well enough and key in all the decision making that would come after.
I thought about using Slack for the community, and since I already knew web development on WordPress, that CMS was what I used to build the site. WordPress has a great balance between ease of use and power since you can use plugins to add almost any functionality.
I enjoyed that part because I was into web design, but I now regret spending too much time on it before launching it to paying customers and validate the idea. What if there was no interest? Now I ship much faster.
Describe the process of launching the business.
While I was getting everything ready on the site, I was also sharing the process of getting everything ready with my small audience (800 subscribers). Then, I invited them to a webinar where I explained how the community and the live masterclasses would work.
There was no content or community yet. Just the site as an empty shell waiting to be filled. But I'd had earned the trust of my audience writing insightful posts with radical honesty for a while. Through the next 7 days, I offered a generous discount for the yearly and lifetime plans so people would stay enough time to see it grow.
+250 people registered for the webinar and 28 trusted me and the vision of SinOficina that I share with them enough to pay for it.
So it begins...
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Word of mouth. That has been the main growth channel. Having something you weren't expecting to work that well in a pain —emotional and professional isolation— you didn't realize having until is solved.
Also, word of mouth was a great way to filter toxic people, since your community is the one that makes it grow, they chose only to tell people that will be adding value to it, not subtracting it.
I too participated in a lot of events (offline and online) to get more people to know SinOficina and published a weekly newsletter. I even did a bit of guerrilla marketing when I “decorated” the bathrooms of a +1500 attendees event with flyers that said: «Don't let anyone tell you when to take a piss» in reference to fire your controlling boss, become freelance/entrepreneur and join SinOficina.
Plus, last December I decided to organize an offline event where 150 freelance and entrepreneurs joined from all around Spain to learn from remote work experts and connect “in real life”.
Retention has never been a problem. Having less than 3% of churn, it was all about being there: listening, helping, solving. That's the advantage we, as solopreneurs, have against big companies. We truly connect with our clients. And some of them will continue paying just to keep supporting your work and because they believe in your project.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I crossed the €50K in total revenue milestone a few days ago. That alone doesn't say much, but the MRR has been growing steadily from day 1, reaching $3K/mo last month.
Of course, there's a lot to subtract from there: taxes, software, and paying the masterclasses and collaborators. I recently delegated some of my most-consuming tasks like managing the live sessions and the website to focus on testing new acquisition channels.
The future looks promising. We keep improving the platform adding new ways to help the members to learn, create, and promote their projects. And we still have a lot of ideas to build!
Map of SinOficina’s members’ location
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Tons!!! Let's name a few:
Build trust. Even before launching your product/service. Trust is your most valuable asset as an entrepreneur. How you do that? Start sharing your journey with authenticity. That means to tell the good but also the bad. Your victories and your vulnerabilities. And make sure you know the values that guide you or you'll find yourself crossing some lines that will destroy the trust built or attract the wrong audience.
No employees does not mean no collaboration. It took me a while to learn that I had to delegate and outsource some of the work that I was doing in order to focus on the things that I did best and will make SinOficina grow. I now work with 2 other freelancers that are better than me in what they do. That said:
Surround yourself with formidable people. There's a well-known proverb that says «if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to far, go together». Find your tribe. Having a solo project doesn't mean you have to walk the entrepreneurial path alone. There's much to learn from others apart from the ones who write books.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- WordPress for the website with the plugin Restrict Content Pro linked to Stripe for the subscriptions.
- Slack for the community. Crowdcast for the live events.
- Mailchimp for email marketing.
- Airtable as the CRM. Zapier to power it.
- Notion for managing the team of collaborators and documentation.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- Both ReWork and Remote, from Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.
- Company of One, from Paul Jarvis —and his newsletter.
- Joan Boluda's podcast and courses.
- Pieter Levels' blog and projects.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Do things. Try things. Learn by doing. Do courses only if they are related to what you are doing in your business in that current time. Then apply that knowledge while learning it. Don't expect everything to work the first time or have everything worked out before starting.
Create meaningful connections. Don't do “just networking”. Give without expecting anything in return. People first, business later.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Nothing that I can think about right now, but I'm always open to suggestions, collaborations, and new ideas.
Where can we go to learn more?
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