We tried to be the Amazon of Design Services. That failed, so we’re doing the exact Opposite.

I started DesignCue in 2016 after doing my taxes with Taxfyle — a network of independent CPA’s with affordable pricing.

I thought I had found the best idea, UBER but for designers! A unified service of graphic designers. The client would talk to me and I would talk to the designer. That didn’t work.

Then it was, “DesignCue, a network of web designers with packaged pricing”

Then it was, “Airbnb but for designers.” Finally, it was “AMAZON BUT FOR DESIGN SERVICES!”

Do you see a pattern?

I was so focused on building a really cool startup, that I neglected my greatest strengths — not being VC funded and being small.

I wanted to be like the cool kids, with the fancy website and the hundreds of designers. All the big networks have thousands of designers! Designers from Uber, from Twitter!

I had to have some designers from cool companies so I can slap their logo on my homepage as if I’ve actually worked with those companies.

You see this game I played? Trying to fake it till I made it. I wasn’t this one-person company, I ran company with a *huge* network of designers.

Instead of embracing my situation and communicating the upsides, I tried to be like a Silicon Valley startup. Funded, with lots of “hype” and the best team.

That was me, until several days ago. I got this thought, what if I did the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do?

You see, I was trying to build the Amazon of Design services. Picture a marketplace of hundreds of niche-focused design services. Like, “High School Sports Logo Design.”

I had benchmarks to reach 100 services from 10+ designers on launch day. I never launched. I gave up — it was unrealistic and the designers didn’t support it.

So instead of trying to inflate this facade of grandeur and success, I decided to embrace our small might: I work with a small number of really talented designers with a whole range of talents.

In our small network we have illustrators, web designers, branding experts, animators, info graphic artists, and app designers.

What if I just marketed and list one service for each designer? Just one service that each designer is absolutely best at, and that they’ve done many times before.

I can see myself doing this. I’ve run a side project for several years called Simple City. I create minimalist illustrations of my favorite buildings in Atlanta and sell posters along with doing commissions for local businesses.

I decided this was a good fit, and probably for other designers too! It resonated — each of my top designers would have one service featured on the homepage. No other designer on the network would compete with their particular service and that’s all they would get work for.

Simple for the client. Simple for the designer.

The morale of this story is, be realistic with yourself about what you can achieve and be honest with your users.

Keep working the problem into it works for you. Don’t worry about the hyped up startups with all the cash. Grind on a good, reliable service and work will find you.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!

— PA, founder of DesignCue