Productized Service Business for Designers – How Designjoy is Rewriting the Rules of Design

In the world of creative businesses and productized services, few are as compelling as the story of Brett Williams and his venture, Over the past six years, Brett’s inventive approach to running a design agency has completely disrupted traditional paradigms.

Brett has carefully constructed DesignJoy into a powerhouse subscription design service, specializing in high-quality graphic design and Webflow development. He has strategically priced his service at $5K per month, astonishingly managing 20+ clients single-handedly each month.

Brett’s business model is far from typical and teeters on radical. Forgoing conventional design tactics, he eliminates alignment calls, concepting, and process, instead diving straight into high fidelity finished designs. His approach has not just raised eyebrows but has also attracted significant attention, evidenced by screenshots flaunting a $1M+ yearly run rate.

The question then arises: how does Brett make it work? This article aims to delve deep into the inner workings of DesignJoy, unraveling the methods and strategies that Brett employs to operate such a unique and successful productized service business. Through his story, we will uncover invaluable insights and learnings that other creative businesses and service providers can draw from. It’s time to delve into the DesignJoy narrative and understand how Brett Williams is rewriting the rules of design.

The Journey of

In 2017, Brett Williams envisioned a novel concept and brought it to life with DesignJoy. Having identified a gaping need for a high-end design service driven by a subscription model, he seized the opportunity. His inspiration stemmed partly from Design Pickle, a company employing numerous designers and operating on a similar subscription model. This pioneering model has been the engine behind his thriving one-man agency since its inception.

DesignJoy carves out its niche in the high-end segment of the market, standing out from the competition. Brett, though operating as a one-person studio, has brilliantly serviced a substantial number of clients each month – even reaching an astonishing 30-40 clients during peak periods. His clientele mainly consists of B2B SaaS companies, allowing him to concentrate his expertise in a targeted area.

As someone running a service business myself, Brett’s innovative business model undeniably piques my interest. It veers from the traditional norms of hourly or project-based models and embraces a productized form of design services. This strategy paves the way for streamlined operations and a reliable, predictable income.

Brett’s journey began with a humble monthly rate of $450, and he has progressively escalated it to a noteworthy $5000. This growth story perfectly showcases the advantages of starting small and scaling incrementally.

He has crafted a subscription model for his design service, pricing it at $5,000 per month. The package includes unlimited requests and revisions, ensuring a turnaround time of 2-3 days. Even though some clients may not fully utilize the service, they value its availability and deem the cost worthwhile for the convenience it provides.

In Brett’s own words, “But there’s certainly 20-25% of the clientele who continue to pay that rate per month and very much underutilize it. But they’re okay with that because it’s something that is there if they need it, and they’re okay with eating the cost if they don’t wanna use it.” This reflects the power of the model and the trust his clients have in his services.

Climbing the Value Ladder – How Higher Rates Transformed DesignJoy’s Business Model

A common tactic employed by many creatives involves acquiring more clients at a lower fee to boost revenue. However, Brett presents a contrasting, more effective business strategy: amplify your rates and cater to fewer, superior quality clients.

For four years, Brett participated in the volume game. While it wasn’t a terrible experience, he concedes that it led to an overwhelming workload, teetering on the brink of burnout. Despite this, he acknowledges the significant design experience he amassed over a relatively short period due to the sheer volume of work. This rigorous journey also opened his eyes to the fact that he had been undervaluing his services, largely owing to his insecurities as a designer. However, as he started hiking up his prices to control the surging demand for his services, he didn’t merely attract more work, but also superior clients. These are clients with budgets that accommodate quality design work and typically refrain from micromanaging the design process, making the collaboration smoother and more enjoyable.

In Brett’s words, “the jump at 5K was, again, it sounds really cliche, but it was an instantaneous turning point in every aspect of my business. And lo and behold, the clients did not slow down the business. The demand did not slow down. It increased.”

Brett discerned a substantial difference between clients who shelled out $450 a month and those who paid $5,000 a month. Clients at the lower end of the spectrum tended to be more demanding and required more attention, while those paying a higher fee demonstrated a superior understanding of the design process and were less demanding of Brett’s time. This experience led Brett to realize the benefits of servicing fewer, higher-quality clients at a higher rate.

Streamlining Client Interactions for Optimal Efficiency

Brett has mastered the art of simplification when it comes to managing client interactions, relying on Trello as his primary tool for handling work requests. This approach not only makes it straightforward for his clients but also enhances the speed at which he can engage new business.

Consider the numerous discovery calls, process meetings, and general roadblocks a client encounters before doing business with you. Think about how you can diminish these hurdles.

“And you can sign up for Design Joy in 30 seconds, which just makes it even more attractive because you don’t have to hop on a call with me, you don’t have to have a meeting, you’re not on a wait list.”

Brett Williams on The Futur podcast

In Brett’s streamlined Trello system, he imposes a one request at a time rule. This mechanism not only helps clients prioritize their needs but also ensures Brett can deliver top-quality work within a reasonable timeframe. Larger projects are broken down into smaller, manageable deliverables. This system supports Brett’s work routine of six hours a day while maintaining an impressive income.

“So the way that you can work six hours a day and make over a million dollars or something close to it means you have to streamline all of this”

Chris Do, CEO of The Futur.

Reframing Traditional Design Process for Efficiency

Brett takes a unique approach to design work, diving directly into the development of a high-fidelity design and bypassing common steps like wireframing and mood boards. He refers to this as “assumption-based design” – a time-saving methodology that, in his hands, still yields high-quality final products.

“There is zero process in the design of anything, whether it be a brand, whether it be a website… I let the design speak, I send it to them. Oftentimes they’re good with it. Maybe they have minor revisions.”

Brett Williams on The Futur podcast

For Brett, this kind of approach necessitates a significant degree of expertise and experience, enabling him to conceptualize the final product and craft top-tier designs efficiently.

While this method contradicts traditional design practices, it thrives under his particular business model. He underscores that different approaches work for different designers – there’s no universal solution.

Navigating Scope Creep for Effective Client Management

Brett’s clear terms and conditions provide a framework for managing his workload and client expectations. This transparency outlines the workings of the client-designer relationship, attracting those willing to operate within these parameters. Should a client attempt to veer off course, Brett can refer them back to the agreement or suggest they cancel the service if discontented.

Previously, Brett was more flexible, adjusting his process to cater to client preferences. However, this flexibility led to numerous complications, prompting him to implement a zero-tolerance policy for any deviation from his established process. This strict adherence enables Brett to manage multiple clients effectively.

“So in order to actually scale it and manage it properly, I have a zero tolerance policy for anything that falls outside of my scope of work, the type of request I do, how I communicate, meetings or no meetings.”

Brett Williams on The Futur podcast

Balancing Success and Well-being: Lessons from the DesignJoy Model

Brett’s business experienced a sharp increase in growth after being highlighted by a prominent Twitter user, causing his revenue to double in just one month. However, this sudden surge brought along a severe case of burnout, forcing him to reassess his business model.

“it went took my revenue from 80 K a month to 160 a month in a matter of a single month… I hit max burnout.”

Brett Williams on The Futur podcast

To navigate through burnout and improve his work-life balance, Brett made some key changes: he raised his rates, stopped accepting new client consultations, and trimmed his client list to only those who were less demanding and more pleasurable to work with.

Wrapping Up

I see Brett’s business model as a breath of fresh air that can help us understand where our own process is over engineered or optimized for the wrong goals.

His advice to fellow designers is to learn from his journey, discard what doesn’t resonate, and to think independently.

“I always tell people take what you want from what I’ve done and throw away what you don’t. Think for yourself.”

Brett Williams on The Futur podcast

I already see designers taking advantage of this business model and having success with as little as a Google Deck outlining their offering:

Productize yourself – The designjoy course

Brett has crafted a comprehensive course detailing the steps to establish a productized service akin to Promising: “How to make $25,000 per month by productizing what you’re good at,” the course offers a blueprint to those willing to productize their skills.

The course covers a range of topics including: How to position yourself, Building in public, An overview of his process, and Defining your packages.

For those interested in exploring the course, find more information here: