072: Russ Perry on starting and scaling a productized design service

Russ Perry is the founder of Design Pickle, a productized graphic design service. 

Design Pickle can free up your marketing team to work on bigger initiatives, while they take care of things like business cards, brochures, posters, etc. It’s amazingly simple: just sign up and get matched with a dedicated designer for unlimited designs at a flat rate of $370/mo.

You’ll really get some value out of this episode if you want to productize a service. We dive into how Russ started Design Pickle, scaled it to over $100K in monthly recurring revenue in 1.5 years, challenges he’s faced and big insights/ideas he’s discovered. His thought process in starting the business was fascinating.


Highlights of this episode: 

[3:25] Scratching an itch: After closing his agency, Russ sought a simple way to find vetted help for quick graphic design work (ie, business cards, brochures, etc). As a consultant, he developed a system for doing this stuff. His clients were having success with it, so he moved into branding this service and launching it to the public. Plus, Russ loves pickles. So, voila, Design Pickle.

[6:00] Starting DP was really scary. Russ was facing unemployment and dreaded getting a job. He thought long and hard about what kind of lifestyle he desired. As a consultant, he discovered that managing production design met most of his lifestyle requirements. The business structure really came out of this clarity about his ideal lifestyle.

[9:25] A financial model is the only business plan you need (how you will make money). Russ discusses how he priced the service, and quickly raised prices, allowing for investments in growth.

[11:40] To acquire initial customers, start with a very simple solution. Then it’s all about getting out there and communicating that value. Russ was the best spammer alive. Almost got kicked out of a professional organization for it. Also, be profitable, so you can invest in strategic growth opportunities.

[14:15] In less than two years, Design Pickle has steadily and consistently grown to over $100K MRR, 1000 signups and 380 active users!

[15:15] Lessons from running a crappy business, and having a strong culture, has allowed Russ to grow the business so quickly. It’s all about the people. Keep it simple and stay the course!

[18:15] On avoiding going into other directions...Why not start CopyCucumber.com? Because he’s barely scratched the surface with Design Pickle.

[19:25] Being removed from day-to-day tasks is huge in ensuring the ship is running smoothly and in moving things forward. Russ’s role: Mechanic of the Pickle Machine, Voice of the Brand, Front Line of Sales, Strategic Navigator.

[21:10] On managing a team across the world. Besides the 2 others in Arizona, all the designers and managers are in the Philippines. The team is like a family, though, Russ realized when he was able to go to Philippines for the first time. Moving forward, he’ll be investing in meetups, conferences.

[24:20] Clients’ deserve respect and to be shown that their work is important. Put your all into the work and build relationships.  

[26:15] To grow your agency, get out and meet people in the flesh. Be real. Russ’s secret: he goes to conferences and gives out free pickles. People eat them up.  

[28:20] Everyone want to have fun, connect with real people. Plus, engaging people with authenticity and developing real relationships helps if things go sideways.

[29:40] Going forward, it’s all about finding more people they can help, taking the time to reach them, and communicating the value in Design Pickle.

[32:30] Cash flow is a challenge in expanding with sales/marketing/advertising. Always stay ahead of hiring, so you can handle the work if you take on new clients. The current model can handle doubling or tripling, but beyond that, it may need investments in software and other things to continue growing.

[35:25]Design Pickle offers a 14-day, risk-free trial. If you email Russ and let him know you signed up from the podcast, you’ll get a free pickle!

[37:10] For agencies: You can use DP for client work...but Russ recommends getting a feel first, so the team can get to know you and your brand before taking on your client work.

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This episode is sponsored by Outbound Creative

Outbound Creative helps agencies and consultancies win their dream clients through eye-catching outreach campaigns. Learn more at OutboundCreative.com. 

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