How Two Agencies Joined Forces To Launch An Unlimited Design Subscription
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi guys! I’m Shubham Dhawan and I started this company - Anytime Design with my business partner Mitya Smusin.
Anytime is our unlimited design subscription for apps and websites that we started around 4 months back. We’ve been working with young startups on their UI / UX design requirements. Companies subscribe to Anytime and then request as many design tasks as they like. Our team works on them one by one based on the priority order set by the client.
Our main customers are companies that have just raised their first round or are bootstrapping and have reached 10-12 full-time employees. These companies realize the value of good design, but at the same time, cannot afford an elaborate design team comprising UX, UI designers, animators, illustrators, and the rest.
We’ve onboarded our first few clients on a trial basis and have our MRR of $2,500.
Coming to our background, both Mitya and I come from the agency world. Mitya runs Yellow Systems - a software development company with 75+ employees spread across the globe. And I run Coloristy Media - my design studio based out of Bangalore in India.
We’ve both been working with multiple clients around the world on their UI, UX, Software, and Marketing projects so getting started with Anytime was a natural progression.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
As I said, Mitya and I had been running our independent studios. So last year, around May, when I quit my job to start Coloristy Media, Mitya happened to be one of my first clients. Since then, we had been working together on multiple different projects.
During the weekly huddle for one of our projects, we discussed the idea of an unlimited design subscription and how both of us wanted to start it for our agencies. There was an equal level of enthusiasm involved, and we decided to go build it together.
Since we already had a design and dev team in place and had worked on more than 50+ design projects, thanks to our original companies, getting started was not a hassle.
We iterated upon a name in one of our Slack chats, finalized Anytime Design, and started working on a logo for the same. In 1-2 days, we got the logo prepared and started working on our landing page content and design.
We already had an offer in mind - but the original offer was very vast in a way that we provided UX Design, graphic design, and even product management under the same subscription.
After speaking to 22-23 people in our target clientele, we realized that we’ve been spreading ourselves too thin and focused on UX design as the main highlight of the service. (Found these people through Linkedin, Twitter, and our past clients).
Don’t spend a lot of time perfecting the designs and copy. Just launch it in the market. You almost know nothing before launching. Everything else before the launch is just speculation.
How did we select this service in particular?
Design is complex and it often requires endless back and forth. Because of the very nature of this work, it’s very difficult to scope out things well in advance - what all needs to be built, how many revisions will it take, how long will it take, etc.
That’s where having an in-house design team makes sense. But hiring even one in-house designer costs upwards of $80-90k and senior designers cost even more.
This is where the subscription comes in. You’re essentially outsourcing your entire design (think of it as an in-house designer) but without the hassle of extensive scope mapping conversations, long briefs, laborious hiring processes, etc.
You pay one fixed amount and get everything done. One day you might need to work on a landing page, 3 days after that you need to create marketing collateral for the page, and so on.
All of it is covered in one single subscription of $2,500/mo.
We just went live a few weeks back and onboarded our first client. At the moment, we’re speaking to multiple other prospects for their ongoing design requirements.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Launching a service-based business, with a SaaS-like model was something new. We came across a couple of tweets by people who had been building productized services and joined this Facebook group for the same.
If you consider this business with 2/3, maybe 4 clients - it's very difficult to sustain as 4 clients bring in $10k/mo and that's almost what a senior designer costs.
The economics make sense when the number of clients is 10+ as then there will be 2-3 clients who request only 1 or 2 designs per month. These are the kind of clients that just need the assurance of having a fixed designer available, whenever they want - kind of like the family doctor or the family lawyer. You don't need them often, but when you do - they're a call away.
Then there will be clients that will request 1/2 requests every week or so - at times these requests will be as simple as a business card design, a brochure, etc.
Then there's the third category of clients that will keep on requesting items every single day - these are the clients that are the least profitable.
Profitability here will come with time. Another thing that we have here is that these designers are not hired specially for Anytime. Since we already have our agencies, we didn't need to hire anyone, especially for this.
After deciding to build it together, all we had to do was:
- Finalize a name
- Get all domains and social media handles
- Prepare the logo
- Write content for the landing page and design it
We assigned our existing team members to each one of these tasks and in less than 3 weeks, had the entire thing ready for launch.
Here are a few screenshots of when we were starting Anytime:
Tweets from launch:
One point that has helped a lot is building the entire thing in public. As soon as we decided to build Anytime together, we started tweeting about it and started speaking to multiple people in the domain. Even early discussions like the name of the business, the logo, and the landing page copy - we put it all out there on Twitter and built it by taking feedback from as many people as we could.
This helped pinpoint the specific value propositions to use in our landing page, our sales emails, and even during our sales calls. (By the way, DEFINITELY recommend building stuff in public)
A good example of this is how people helped us select the logo for Anytime.
Once we had the landing page copy in place, we built a quick version of it in Notion and floated it throughout our existing clientele.
These people are decision-makers in companies of various sizes. Based on the questions that they asked and the items they needed clarification on, we made changes to the copy and subsequently the landing page.
For example, when multiple people asked us about Trello and how it works, we created a custom illustration for Trello-specific processes and created a dedicated section on our new landing page.
Once I started sharing tweets about Anytime, I got a couple of DMs asking about the process and the service in detail. We then covered these questions as FAQs in the new site shared above
That helped a lot during the first few weeks.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We still haven’t had a “launch” per se and will be launching soon on Product Hunt. Till now, almost all of our leads and the first few clients have been through word of mouth.
One major difference between the agency business and this new service is that companies are hiring us for additional bandwidth. For example, one of our client companies has a design team in place but needs additional help, on an ad-hoc basis. That's where we come in.
If a company needs a large app or a SaaS-based product designed, this approach wouldn't make sense as then you'd require an entire team of design specialists, PMs, and copywriters, working in parallel.
However, say the same company has a V1 in place and needs to revamp the existing product, they can hire in-house or work with us.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We’re entirely bootstrapped and have been funding the business through our agency income. We’re not profitable at the moment as we have full-time resources working on the business but we’ll reach profitability from our next 2 clients.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been preparing our processes for faster delivery, preparing high-quality portfolio shots, working on our website, and have started focusing on our social media.
We haven’t done any paid marketing and don’t intend on any, at least for the next 4-5 months. All of our leads and current clients have been through word of mouth.
Regarding the process, here’s how we work: Once the client signs up for Anytime, our PM gets on a call with them to understand the business in more detail. The entire communication post signup happens in Trello with the client. Internally, all of our communication happens on these 3 channels:
- Trello: For task status and updates
- Slack: For day-to-day conversations, if required
- Notion: For detailed briefs and documents
As a productized service, our main focus is UI / UX Design. Our original positioning, which is still reflected at a few places on the site - tried selling us as an end-to-end design partner that focused more on social media graphics, banners, and such sorta thing but we’ve come to realize our target audience doesn’t need social media graphics as much as it needs high-quality UI / UX design and pitch decks or presentation decks.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We’ve just started the business a few months ago so too early for such over-the-top learning. There are a few pointers though that I’d like to write as thoughts for my future self:
Twitter has been my best friend. Not only have I found team members for the project here but also found multiple clients, and potential investors and even this Starter Story opportunity came from Twitter
One thing that I struggle with a lot is momentum. I have these energy cycles in which I’ll work for 3-4 days like crazy at a stretch and will then be down for a day or two. Understanding this behavior has been key. Originally, I used to beat myself up for not being able to continuously work at my peak performance for all 7 days of the week (being a founder, you’re nevertheless working 24*7).
But as soon as this realization hit, it’s best to acknowledge your preferred way of working.
Don’t lose momentum and keep doubling down on your peak energy zones.
One thing that I’ve learned in particular is - don’t spend a lot of time perfecting the designs and copy. Just launch it in the market. You almost know nothing before launching. Everything else before the launch is just speculation.
It’s only when you launch that you learn.
And to maximize this learning, you need to keep iterating and launching again and again, and as fast as you can.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Everything on this iPhone 😂
We have a great team in place who are the best at what they do. Communicating and working together with such an expert team becomes super easy as you don’t need to handhold or micro-manage them.
For detailed briefs and stuff like requirements docs for design, we use Notion.
For managing in-house tasks and client-level engagements, we are reliant on Trello. Love kanban boards.
For day-to-day communication, it’s Google Meet and Slack.
Apart from these tools, our main arsenal is the design bucket: Figma, Miro, and Whimsical.
Both Mitya and I are big note takers and you’ll find us scribbling all the time in our notebooks.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Both Mitya and I are huge fans of the My First Million podcast by Shaan Puri and Sam Parr. Almost everyday, we spend some time listening to the pod or binging through their Youtube videos. A wealth of advice. What I love about this podcast is not only the business ideas being discussed and distilled down every single day but also the crazy guests that they bring on the show and discuss their stories
Apart from it, the Twitter community has been super helpful. People in the tech twitter space are naturally helpful and guide a lot.
Also, getting a platform to publicly build your product has been a game changer from both - a business perspective and a social perspective.
Really influenced by the Build in Public movement by KP.
Indie hackers is another super helpful resource that we keep going back to again and again for advice and just hanging out with other Indie Hackers.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I think the biggest advice I can give is to just get started. Things will 100% look daunting and near impossible while looking at them through the sidelines but as soon as you get into the ring, everything will start making sense.
I had been thinking about starting the subscription business for quite a few months before Mitya and I started chatting about it but as soon as we saw that initial energy, we doubled down upon it and started building
At times, things are all about momentum and once you’re in motion, it makes a lot of sense to keep doubling down upon what’s working.
Getting into this state of momentum is the toughest part. If you can reach here, everything else becomes secondary.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have a strong in-house team in place for Anytime, thanks to our studios Yellow and Coloristy, and are not looking to hire full-time folks at the moment. Still, we’re always on the lookout for top-quality candidates specializing in UI / UX design and Webflow development. If you are one or happen to know someone, definitely reach out to me at [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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