Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jannik and I am the co-founder and CEO of FactoFly. FactoFly is helping freelancers, side-hustlers, and gig workers to lead administration-free lives by taking care of everything related to their business in terms of admin.
Our current product is rather simple but with a big impact on the way our users run and focus on their freelance business. Current users span full-time freelancers to one-off projects that need to be invoiced.
In all its simple glory: freelancers send their invoices through our platform, are fully insured and compliant with local law. Their money is then paid out to them as a regular salary. No need for dealing with their own company and the administrative burdens that follow.
Over the last twelve months, we’ve grown the business from 0 to around €130k monthly revenue.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been involved in six other startups throughout my professional career with various degrees of success. Entrepreneurship has always been in my blood since I first sold watermelons at the beach when I was 13 years old.
Having previously been working as a freelancer I experienced the burden of administration first hand, and like so many other entrepreneurs, thought that there must be an easier way. If I was facing that issue, there was a great likelihood that others were in the same position.
I studied the market through A LOT of one-to-one interviews with current and future freelancers and got under the skin of competitors, direct and indirect. That together with a thorough analysis of macro trends and how the freelancing market was moving and developing over the next ten-twenty years formed an important pillar for the business.
After I made my way around town and talked to freelancers across various industries, everything suddenly came together and the penny dropped. This could be the business to address this pain and turn frowns into smiles.
Matching my frustrations in the freelancing field with feedback from others enabled me to start working on a prototype that tackled this issue head-on. I was therefore lucky to onboard a handful of users at first to fully understand and validate the product before creating a full-fledged solution.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Since my coding skills are extremely limited I went on the hunt for a skilled developer to help build the first version of the product. The first time around I found some Portuguese guys off of Fiverr who could get this done in no time. I was thrilled to start working with them and get the product ready enough for me to work on getting users.
As you can probably tell, things did not go according to plan. The Portuguese guys delivered a flawed product, and as soon as the payment went through all I encountered was dead air from their side. It was costly both in terms of time and money, but being a lesson wiser I moved on to find someone who could deliver. For others to not make the same mistake, my best advice is to have a very clear contract in place where the end payment is not due until the final product has been delivered.
The first version of the platform was done with the help of a local developer who coded everything into a wordpress site. The early user interface - which is still live - is nothing fancy. It has a €10 logo and some stock images. The site is quite bare and lacks a stronger focus on design and content, but everything is built on a superb product and service.
Getting to the point of having a product ready enough for launching and a working system probably cost around €50k. This includes the bitter “learning-money” from the first team of developers - unfortunately.
This is what our first (and current as of writing this) site looks like. The attentive reader can probably spot the first ten optimization areas.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Getting customers in the very early days was a question of chasing partnerships. We did a bunch of webinars with various partners on how to attract more customers as a freelancer and collected a lot of leads here. Simultaneously we got set up with paid search directed towards a few lead magnets that showed to work best.
Do your due diligence when it comes to working with people you don’t know. It should be obvious, but sometimes you can get too caught up in other people’s good intentions, making you end up more frustrated when things are not being delivered as planned”.
I don’t have a marketing or growth background, so it was all a question about being inspired through podcasts or different articles and then rushing to try out things on my own. It was a touch-and-go process in the beginning, but it got us off the ground with paying customers slowly coming through the doors. We landed the very first customers through my network and a “come try it and give me some feedback”-cry. Between a (sort of) ready product and the very first customers it probably took 2 to 3 weeks.
From the very beginning, the company has been bootstrapped and we only spent money after making them. That also meant keeping costs at a minimum: no salary and working from a hot desk at a coworking space. The biggest expense up until this summer was our €800 monthly marketing budget. Today we have ramped up slightly with a monthly spend of around €4.000. I would say 2/3rds are probably being put into Google Ads as this is where we see the strongest traction. Our biggest failure has probably been our luck with LinkedIn Ads: we simply could not achieve an acquisition cost anywhere near what was being delivered through paid search.
Reflecting on the start, we would have been in a completely different place if I had been able to get a tech lead and a growth guy/girl on board early on. It would have meant a big deal to the product and user base of course, but we would also have had a stronger team to land an investment earlier. We’re only just now starting to work methodically with a funnel strategy primarily led by my new CMO. Implementing that earlier would have worked wonders.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We’re still in the middle of fine-tuning our acquisition model, but since our potential users perform searches with high intent (e.g. “template for sending an invoice”), we have seen a significant increase in conversions by focusing on optimizing this channel.
We do see quite a big chunk of traffic coming from paid - and to be honest a little too much for my taste. We are still at an early stage though and have a focus on lifting other key areas as well in this quarter.
Regarding paid social, we are in a very interesting test phase these days, where we have taken 10 different visuals and paired them with 15-20 different headlines. We’re expecting these tests to make us a lot wiser in terms of proper messaging, visual style, and target groups.
We see a lot of qualified traffic through organic, but we haven’t had the resources to put much effort into this area until now. For this quarter (Q4 2021) we put extra work into nailing SEO and plan to put out articles frequently paired with an internal focus on optimizing current content. We have the ambition to be the go-to place for freelancers with content that can help them across every step of their journey. Our SEO strategy is very much supporting this vision.
Culture is there whether you like it or not, so you better create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable from the very beginning, and all goals and ambitions are aligned.
We have new people on the team with extensive experience within email marketing, why this is naturally a focal point as well. Given our product, our active users come back once a month for invoicing their jobs, so we need to work on staying top of mind and getting in front of our audience with quality content in their inboxes.
All in all, we are still testing like crazy to see what works the best and are constantly putting in the work to optimize the funnel.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We continue to grow at a double-digit rate and have improved our liquidity significantly over the last six months. Everything we earn is spat back into the business, as we are preparing the company for a seed round: Most important to us, it is about getting out there so we are taking a lot of meetings, gearing up our tech team, and reworking the pitch deck quite a bit. As of right now we’re only live in Denmark but we are hungry to test out new European regions over the next 12 months.
Our team is still small -with just 4 people the office space is fully packed - but have spent a lot of time planning organizational expansion to match the growth ambitions.
We are slowly gearing up our marketing spend and are seeing an uptick in new users. There’s still a lot of foundational work that needs to be done, both on the product and marketing side, so we are grinding to make that work. We have started a mid-ish funnel to optimize our conversion points (i.e. landing pages) and are working top funnel with paid ads (search and social) as well as the aforementioned blog focus. Bottom funnel we have a focus on fine-tuning our email game and testing out a referral program. Both our site and branding are ready for an overhaul, so these are some of the important things on the agenda for the near future. We are strapped for resources so we are taking things bit by bit. First the logo, then the colors, then the above-the-fold section, and so on. It’s not ideal, but we’ll make it work one step at a time.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Do your due diligence when it comes to working with people you don’t know. It should be obvious, but sometimes you can get too caught up in other people’s good intentions, making you end up more frustrated when things are not being delivered as planned.
So, my biggest learning in all of this is probably to have a sharp focus on culture from the very first person you hire. We’ve had to make some changes to the team. Culture is there whether you like it or not, so you better create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable from the very beginning, and all goals and ambitions are aligned.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Some of our favorite tools include:
- Notion for coordinating pretty much everything
- Slack for communicating
- ActiveCampaign for email marketing
- SemRush for SEO tracking (we use the free version right now)
- Google’s products are crucial for running the business: Analytics and Search Console especially
- Canva for creating beautiful visuals in no time
- AgoraPulse for social media management. It lets us schedule content across platforms (We’re on a one-person free version here as well)
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There are a ton of books we have been inspired by across the team.
For marketing, it’s Traction - actionable insights and a solid framework for breaking through to customers. For thoughts on scaling it’s Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman. For general inspiration and a solid read on the startup journey we enjoy Shoe Dog by Nike founder Phil Knight.
House favorites when it comes to podcasts include How I Built This for learning about other startups' road to glory, The Tim Ferriss Show for getting an inside view on top performers, My First Million for general business and startup talk, The Knowledge Project for the fresh idea and Freelance Friday for staying close to our audience.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
This advice is not by any means original, but doing trumps thinking every time. We make tons of mistakes all the time, but since 99.9% are reversible we learn more when pulling the trigger than theorizing and discussing how it should be done.
This approach together with talking to potential users and customers will go a long way. I see many entrepreneurs jumping straight to solution mode, and I’m guilty of it myself, but prioritizing customer development will help create a product your users will love.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking for a CTO to join our team and take the product to the sky. The candidate will be incentivized with a warrant program, but the right person must be able to relocate to Copenhagen, Denmark, for the time being. Drop us an email if this sounds like you. A job post will go up shortly.
Where can we go to learn more?
Learn more about us and what we do here:
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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