Apr 25, 2024

Positioning and scaling an independent design business

Creator of Dive

Founder of Primary Studio

Remember when you could differentiate by charging a subscription and putting your pricing on your home page?

Yeah, those days are over lol.

But I believe a lot more of us will go independent in the coming years.

So the question is… what’s next?

I’ve obsessed over that question for the past few weeks so this post is my attempt at providing some answers.

It’s broken down into two phases (with an interview for each):

  1. Solopreneur → how to succeed in today’s market

  2. Scale → what it takes to build a $1M+ services business

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in 👇

🤑 How to make $15k per week

If you just rolled your eyes at that number I don’t blame you.

But here’s the thing… Nick Pattison is accomplishing this every week with Primary 👀

So let’s talk through some strategies you’ll need to reach this level of success 👇

1 — Carve your niche

If you don’t have a reputation like Kevin Twohy, then there’s only one way to consistently win. You have to specialize.

When a client comes to your website, they should feel like the service they need is the single thing that you’re best at.

You can accomplish this two ways:

  1. Pick a specific industry (ex: Grebban focuses 100% on e-commerce)

  2. Pick a specific offering (ex: Daryl has re-positioned Endless 100% around mobile app design)

You can also combine the two! For example Oratory specializes in an industry (early-stage B2B) and also an offering (web design).

Niching down is how you avoid fighting for scraps in a giant race to the bottom. If you think it’s bad now, wait til the AI wave really hits and thousands of subscription agencies offer cheap work powered by Dora 😬

2 – Optimize for one persona

It’s crucial to push past headings like “I use design to solve problems for startups”.

Instead, tell a story about yourself that answers three questions:

  1. what kind of design work do you do?

  2. who are you solving problems for?

  3. what are those problems?

The more specific you can get the better.

Seed stage startups might optimize for speed and scrappiness. Series B startups might optimize for stability and someone who specializes in data-based iteration.

Know who you're pitching.

“Understand who you’re telling a story to and craft your message to resonate specifically with that person”
Hunter Hammonds

3 — Standardize your offer

“Why are we reinventing the wheel every time a client comes to us while they’re dictating the terms of a custom project?” — Nick Pattison

Productized services put designers in the driver’s seat.

No more wasting time on proposals.

No more making up prices.

If you identify what work you’re repeating, then you can package it up into a standardized offer. Maybe it’s a tiered fixed output. Maybe it’s a retainer.

Anything goes as long as it eliminates uncertainty and allows you to automate more of your process so you can focus on doing good work.

4 — Build an audience

You might hate this one but it’s true.

If you’re trying to build a new independent design practice it’s going to be an uphill battle without some kind of an audience.

“If you’re an IC and you have consistent, comfortable income today, but you really want to make that jump, I would go hardcore on social first”
Hunter Hammonds

Both OffMenu and Primary are running 100% on inbound social leads right now 👀

Need some inspiration? Check out Erin Fleming. She started from 0 in late November and is crushing it now.

📘 Learn Nick’s $15k/week playbook

Nick Pattison has been working for himself for 10+ years but recently he’s changed his business completely…

Instead of offering everything from web design to decks...

Nick is going all-in on a single niche:

⚡ The 1-week brand sprint ⚡

He’s done 25+ sprints at $15k each so I think it’s safe to say it’s working 😅

This episode is a deep dive into his playbook. There is SO MUCH we can learn from him about positioning and operations.

So if you’re an independent designer looking to make a name for yourself I think this convo will spark a ton of ideas 👇

Listen on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts 👇


📈 How to scale to $1M+

Ok now let's take it one step further and meet our next guest...

Hunter Hammonds is a designer/entrepreneur who has grown 5 different agencies to millions in revenue in less than a year 🤯

If you’re interested in scaling your practice beyond yourself then he’s the guy to learn from.

Here are some of my takeaways from our interview 👇

1 — How to convert more leads into customers

​OffMenu is converting ~55% of sales calls into customers so naturally I asked Hunter for his secret…

His answer → focus primarily on building systems for qualifying leads

For example, they have automated emails that remind people of average timelines, types of work, budget, how they only work with founders, etc.

That way every box is checked before they hop on a call.

2 — How to nail the sales call

OffMenu spends 80%+ of every sales call listening and asking questions.

Then the other 20%+ is spent trying to problem-solve on the fly.

“Don’t regurgitate your process or why you’re great. That will become evident when they feel you understand their needs better than anyone else.”
Hunter Hammonds

3 — Why MRR is misguided

The problem with MRR is that it's a product of the SaaS world. Services have much higher churn.

On average, customers stick with OffMenu for 5 months so focusing on MRR paints a pretty inaccurate picture of the business.

Instead of MRR, Hunter thinks of his customer base in cohorts and pays attention to:

  1. LTV (avg. $75k/customer)

  2. Rate of new customer acquisition

  3. Churn rate

🏦 Learn how to scale your design business

There’s a lot more advice in the full interview...

We get into the weeds on hiring, process, sales, and everything you’ll need to figure out to build a 7 figure design business.

Even if you're not working for yourself, this episode is a fantastic resource for building up your business fundamentals.

Listen on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts 👇

Remember when you could differentiate by charging a subscription and putting your pricing on your home page?

Yeah, those days are over lol.

But I believe a lot more of us will go independent in the coming years.

So the question is… what’s next?

I’ve obsessed over that question for the past few weeks so this post is my attempt at providing some answers.

It’s broken down into two phases (with an interview for each):

  1. Solopreneur → how to succeed in today’s market

  2. Scale → what it takes to build a $1M+ services business

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in 👇

🤑 How to make $15k per week

If you just rolled your eyes at that number I don’t blame you.

But here’s the thing… Nick Pattison is accomplishing this every week with Primary 👀

So let’s talk through some strategies you’ll need to reach this level of success 👇

1 — Carve your niche

If you don’t have a reputation like Kevin Twohy, then there’s only one way to consistently win. You have to specialize.

When a client comes to your website, they should feel like the service they need is the single thing that you’re best at.

You can accomplish this two ways:

  1. Pick a specific industry (ex: Grebban focuses 100% on e-commerce)

  2. Pick a specific offering (ex: Daryl has re-positioned Endless 100% around mobile app design)

You can also combine the two! For example Oratory specializes in an industry (early-stage B2B) and also an offering (web design).

Niching down is how you avoid fighting for scraps in a giant race to the bottom. If you think it’s bad now, wait til the AI wave really hits and thousands of subscription agencies offer cheap work powered by Dora 😬

2 – Optimize for one persona

It’s crucial to push past headings like “I use design to solve problems for startups”.

Instead, tell a story about yourself that answers three questions:

  1. what kind of design work do you do?

  2. who are you solving problems for?

  3. what are those problems?

The more specific you can get the better.

Seed stage startups might optimize for speed and scrappiness. Series B startups might optimize for stability and someone who specializes in data-based iteration.

Know who you're pitching.

“Understand who you’re telling a story to and craft your message to resonate specifically with that person”
Hunter Hammonds

3 — Standardize your offer

“Why are we reinventing the wheel every time a client comes to us while they’re dictating the terms of a custom project?” — Nick Pattison

Productized services put designers in the driver’s seat.

No more wasting time on proposals.

No more making up prices.

If you identify what work you’re repeating, then you can package it up into a standardized offer. Maybe it’s a tiered fixed output. Maybe it’s a retainer.

Anything goes as long as it eliminates uncertainty and allows you to automate more of your process so you can focus on doing good work.

4 — Build an audience

You might hate this one but it’s true.

If you’re trying to build a new independent design practice it’s going to be an uphill battle without some kind of an audience.

“If you’re an IC and you have consistent, comfortable income today, but you really want to make that jump, I would go hardcore on social first”
Hunter Hammonds

Both OffMenu and Primary are running 100% on inbound social leads right now 👀

Need some inspiration? Check out Erin Fleming. She started from 0 in late November and is crushing it now.

📘 Learn Nick’s $15k/week playbook

Nick Pattison has been working for himself for 10+ years but recently he’s changed his business completely…

Instead of offering everything from web design to decks...

Nick is going all-in on a single niche:

⚡ The 1-week brand sprint ⚡

He’s done 25+ sprints at $15k each so I think it’s safe to say it’s working 😅

This episode is a deep dive into his playbook. There is SO MUCH we can learn from him about positioning and operations.

So if you’re an independent designer looking to make a name for yourself I think this convo will spark a ton of ideas 👇

Listen on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts 👇


📈 How to scale to $1M+

Ok now let's take it one step further and meet our next guest...

Hunter Hammonds is a designer/entrepreneur who has grown 5 different agencies to millions in revenue in less than a year 🤯

If you’re interested in scaling your practice beyond yourself then he’s the guy to learn from.

Here are some of my takeaways from our interview 👇

1 — How to convert more leads into customers

​OffMenu is converting ~55% of sales calls into customers so naturally I asked Hunter for his secret…

His answer → focus primarily on building systems for qualifying leads

For example, they have automated emails that remind people of average timelines, types of work, budget, how they only work with founders, etc.

That way every box is checked before they hop on a call.

2 — How to nail the sales call

OffMenu spends 80%+ of every sales call listening and asking questions.

Then the other 20%+ is spent trying to problem-solve on the fly.

“Don’t regurgitate your process or why you’re great. That will become evident when they feel you understand their needs better than anyone else.”
Hunter Hammonds

3 — Why MRR is misguided

The problem with MRR is that it's a product of the SaaS world. Services have much higher churn.

On average, customers stick with OffMenu for 5 months so focusing on MRR paints a pretty inaccurate picture of the business.

Instead of MRR, Hunter thinks of his customer base in cohorts and pays attention to:

  1. LTV (avg. $75k/customer)

  2. Rate of new customer acquisition

  3. Churn rate

🏦 Learn how to scale your design business

There’s a lot more advice in the full interview...

We get into the weeds on hiring, process, sales, and everything you’ll need to figure out to build a 7 figure design business.

Even if you're not working for yourself, this episode is a fantastic resource for building up your business fundamentals.

Listen on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts 👇

Remember when you could differentiate by charging a subscription and putting your pricing on your home page?

Yeah, those days are over lol.

But I believe a lot more of us will go independent in the coming years.

So the question is… what’s next?

I’ve obsessed over that question for the past few weeks so this post is my attempt at providing some answers.

It’s broken down into two phases (with an interview for each):

  1. Solopreneur → how to succeed in today’s market

  2. Scale → what it takes to build a $1M+ services business

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in 👇

🤑 How to make $15k per week

If you just rolled your eyes at that number I don’t blame you.

But here’s the thing… Nick Pattison is accomplishing this every week with Primary 👀

So let’s talk through some strategies you’ll need to reach this level of success 👇

1 — Carve your niche

If you don’t have a reputation like Kevin Twohy, then there’s only one way to consistently win. You have to specialize.

When a client comes to your website, they should feel like the service they need is the single thing that you’re best at.

You can accomplish this two ways:

  1. Pick a specific industry (ex: Grebban focuses 100% on e-commerce)

  2. Pick a specific offering (ex: Daryl has re-positioned Endless 100% around mobile app design)

You can also combine the two! For example Oratory specializes in an industry (early-stage B2B) and also an offering (web design).

Niching down is how you avoid fighting for scraps in a giant race to the bottom. If you think it’s bad now, wait til the AI wave really hits and thousands of subscription agencies offer cheap work powered by Dora 😬

2 – Optimize for one persona

It’s crucial to push past headings like “I use design to solve problems for startups”.

Instead, tell a story about yourself that answers three questions:

  1. what kind of design work do you do?

  2. who are you solving problems for?

  3. what are those problems?

The more specific you can get the better.

Seed stage startups might optimize for speed and scrappiness. Series B startups might optimize for stability and someone who specializes in data-based iteration.

Know who you're pitching.

“Understand who you’re telling a story to and craft your message to resonate specifically with that person”
Hunter Hammonds

3 — Standardize your offer

“Why are we reinventing the wheel every time a client comes to us while they’re dictating the terms of a custom project?” — Nick Pattison

Productized services put designers in the driver’s seat.

No more wasting time on proposals.

No more making up prices.

If you identify what work you’re repeating, then you can package it up into a standardized offer. Maybe it’s a tiered fixed output. Maybe it’s a retainer.

Anything goes as long as it eliminates uncertainty and allows you to automate more of your process so you can focus on doing good work.

4 — Build an audience

You might hate this one but it’s true.

If you’re trying to build a new independent design practice it’s going to be an uphill battle without some kind of an audience.

“If you’re an IC and you have consistent, comfortable income today, but you really want to make that jump, I would go hardcore on social first”
Hunter Hammonds

Both OffMenu and Primary are running 100% on inbound social leads right now 👀

Need some inspiration? Check out Erin Fleming. She started from 0 in late November and is crushing it now.

📘 Learn Nick’s $15k/week playbook

Nick Pattison has been working for himself for 10+ years but recently he’s changed his business completely…

Instead of offering everything from web design to decks...

Nick is going all-in on a single niche:

⚡ The 1-week brand sprint ⚡

He’s done 25+ sprints at $15k each so I think it’s safe to say it’s working 😅

This episode is a deep dive into his playbook. There is SO MUCH we can learn from him about positioning and operations.

So if you’re an independent designer looking to make a name for yourself I think this convo will spark a ton of ideas 👇

Listen on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts 👇


📈 How to scale to $1M+

Ok now let's take it one step further and meet our next guest...

Hunter Hammonds is a designer/entrepreneur who has grown 5 different agencies to millions in revenue in less than a year 🤯

If you’re interested in scaling your practice beyond yourself then he’s the guy to learn from.

Here are some of my takeaways from our interview 👇

1 — How to convert more leads into customers

​OffMenu is converting ~55% of sales calls into customers so naturally I asked Hunter for his secret…

His answer → focus primarily on building systems for qualifying leads

For example, they have automated emails that remind people of average timelines, types of work, budget, how they only work with founders, etc.

That way every box is checked before they hop on a call.

2 — How to nail the sales call

OffMenu spends 80%+ of every sales call listening and asking questions.

Then the other 20%+ is spent trying to problem-solve on the fly.

“Don’t regurgitate your process or why you’re great. That will become evident when they feel you understand their needs better than anyone else.”
Hunter Hammonds

3 — Why MRR is misguided

The problem with MRR is that it's a product of the SaaS world. Services have much higher churn.

On average, customers stick with OffMenu for 5 months so focusing on MRR paints a pretty inaccurate picture of the business.

Instead of MRR, Hunter thinks of his customer base in cohorts and pays attention to:

  1. LTV (avg. $75k/customer)

  2. Rate of new customer acquisition

  3. Churn rate

🏦 Learn how to scale your design business

There’s a lot more advice in the full interview...

We get into the weeds on hiring, process, sales, and everything you’ll need to figure out to build a 7 figure design business.

Even if you're not working for yourself, this episode is a fantastic resource for building up your business fundamentals.

Listen on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever you get your podcasts 👇

Join 10,000+ designers

Get our weekly breakdowns

"There's no doubt that Dive has made me a better designer"

@ned_ray

Join 10,000+ designers

Get our weekly breakdowns

"There's no doubt that Dive has made me a better designer"

@ned_ray

Join 10,000+ designers

Get our weekly breakdowns

"There's no doubt that Dive has made me a better designer"

@ned_ray

"

I've been binging Dive Club lately and the quality is nuts

Literally the only show about design I watch”

Eugene Fedorenko

"

I've been binging Dive Club lately and the quality is nuts

Literally the only show about design I watch”

Eugene Fedorenko

hello@dive.club

Ⓒ Dive 2024