The Designers Guide to Starting a Subscription Design Service

One of the most significant revenue drivers for companies today is recurring revenue, a model popularized by giants like Netflix. A staggering 75% of organizations selling directly to consumers are expected to adopt subscription services by 2023, according to Gartner. This shift is transforming how businesses operate, offering a reliable income stream when there’s market demand for the product or service. Notably, design agencies and solo creatives are increasingly using this model to their advantage.

In this article, we’ll explore what a creative subscription service entails, ideal scenarios for this model, and case studies of successful businesses using it. Finally, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide to implementing your own design subscription service.

Understanding Subscription Services

As defined by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), a subscription service involves customers paying a recurring fee at regular intervals for ongoing access to a product or service. This model entails periodic delivery of products or services in return for continual payments, offering predictable revenue for businesses and consistent costs for consumers.

Core Principles of Subscription Services:

  1. Recurring Payments: Customers make regular payments for uninterrupted service or product access.
  2. Consistent Delivery: Products or services are provided consistently, like monthly design services.
  3. Flexibility and Customization: Subscription services often have different tiers or options, catering to varied customer needs.
  4. Customer Retention Focus: These services emphasize long-term customer retention through quality service, updates, and support.
  5. Automated Process: Subscription procedures, from payment to service delivery, are generally automated.

Key Income Streams for Design Subscription Services

The primary income for a design subscription service comes from clients agreeing to recurring payments. A critical aspect is client retention, vital for business growth. This model benefits both the service provider and the client, as client satisfaction is essential for success. Subscription tiers range from basic packages to comprehensive offerings, including web development, animation, video, and presentation design, tailored to the agency’s or individual’s expertise.

Collaborations are also key, with services partnering with development shops or outsourcing to complementary companies, adding value and variety to their offerings.

Overview of General Income Streams

  1. Monthly or Annual Subscriptions: The cornerstone of revenue, these are the regular payments from subscribers, with amounts varying by service level.
  2. Add-ons and Upsells: Options for subscribers to enhance their experience with additional features, services, or products, either as one-off or recurring fees.
  3. Cross-Selling and Partnerships: Generating income through related products or services and partnerships, often yielding commissions or fees.
  4. Courses and Learning Materials: Innovators like Brett from DesignJoy leverage their expertise to create courses, helping others start similar ventures. For instance, DesignJoy’s courses have generated over $500,000 in sales.

How do you know a starting a design subscription service is right for you?

The feasibility of a design subscription service hinges on your ability to consistently deliver high-quality work for multiple clients with quick turnarounds. This model is not a path to effortless income; it requires dedication and a passion for fast-paced, ongoing work. Key factors to consider include:

  • Enjoyment and efficiency in environments demanding quick turnarounds and high-quality outputs.
  • Preference for designing over participating in extensive meetings, thanks to the automated sign-up processes reducing the need for initial client interactions.
  • Capacity to manage high workloads and tight deadlines, often with multiple deliverables due simultaneously.
  • Flexibility and resilience in handling peak work periods, crucial for long-term business viability.

Designjoy: A Solo Creative’s Success Story

This approach has been inspirational in reevaluating my time management in creative work. The realization that dedicating only 10% of the usual time per deliverable can still maintain high-quality standards and client satisfaction has significant implications for efficiency in design studios.

Brett’s value proposition is particularly compelling: access to a designer with an annual worth of $200,000 for a monthly fee of $5,000.

Check out our full article on DesignJoy.

DesignPickle: The Original Design Subscription Agency

DesignPickle were pioneers of the design subscription service model, catering to a vast global clientele. The agency maintains affordability by employing designers in economically weaker regions like Asia and South America, thus keeping labor costs low. This model is ideal for clients needing consistent design work without the budget for a full-time designer. The quality of service offered suits businesses that prioritize cost-effectiveness over the highest quality standards.

Salaries at DesignPickle, though not officially confirmed, provide insight into their cost management strategy:

  • Mexico: Approximately $1,300 USD per month
  • Malaysia: Around $800 USD per month, which is 40% above the national average
  • Philippines: Starting at $700 USD per month (35,000 pesos)
design pickle.jpg

These case studies demonstrate the diverse approaches and business models within the design subscription service industry, offering valuable lessons for those considering venturing into this field.

Starting a design subscription service, the step-by-step.

Step 1: Assess Your Strengths and Preferences

Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Consider if you thrive under the pressure of quick turnarounds and high-quality demands. Embrace the Rareviz ethos, focusing on a sustainable, efficient process that fuels long-term career growth and compounding success.

Step 2: Define Your Service Offerings

Investigate current trends in the design subscription arena and identify market needs. Begin by crafting a clear, concise landing page to outline your services. This process helps in clarifying your thoughts. Design a quick MVP (Minimum Viable Product) identity for your service and set appropriate pricing. Utilize tools like Figma for swift, hassle-free development of a preliminary mockup landing page for immediate feedback.

Step 3: Gather Feedback on Your Concept

Share your Figma mock-up landing page with 3 trusted, non-client individuals for feedback. Ensure the mock-up is scrollable, showcasing your unique selling proposition, past work, brand identity, positioning, and pricing. This step is crucial for rapid iteration and addressing uncertainties. Limit this phase to a maximum of two days.

Step 4: Launch Your Minimal Viable Product

After incorporating feedback, focus on launching your service without getting entangled in technical details. Host your landing page and set up essential tools like Trello for project management and Stripe for payment processing. Aim to get your page and business operational swiftly.

Step 5: Client Outreach and Acquisition

Reach out to former clients and adapt your current marketing strategies to highlight your new subscription offering. Consider special introductory deals for past clients to gain initial traction.

Step 6: Deliver and Retain

Begin fulfilling client requests with an emphasis on quality and client satisfaction. Monitor client turnover closely. Implement off-boarding feedback forms to gather insights for improving client retention and enhancing your service.

By following these steps, you have a shot at effectively establishing and growing a design subscription service, ensuring it’s tailored to both your strengths and market needs.

A List of Thriving Design Subscription Services

Below is a non-exhaustive list of design subscription services currently flourishing in the market. These platforms showcase various approaches and specialties within the subscription model, providing valuable insights and inspiration for those interested in this business model:

  1. Studio Carroll
  2. Get Baked Design
  3. Growmodo
  4. Superside
  5. Call Bruno Membership

Conclusion: Understanding the Design Subscription Model

You now have a comprehensive understanding of the design subscription model, including its strengths, weaknesses, and successful examples in the industry. Whether you’re contemplating starting your own subscription service, already running one, or simply curious about this business approach, this guide aims to provide valuable insights and practical steps to navigate the design subscription landscape.

We’re eager to hear from you. Share your thoughts on venturing into the design subscription world, your experiences if you’ve embarked on this journey, or any additional insights that could benefit the Rareviz community. Your input is invaluable in enriching our collective understanding and fostering a dynamic, supportive environment for creative entrepreneurs.