Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Bradley Jacobs and I founded Mylance: an end-to-end software platform for self-employed individuals and budding independent consultants to live a flexible, fulfilling work-life. We have a vetting community, resources to legitimize your business, and a lead-generation tool to help you grow your business.
We work predominantly with experienced tech professionals: folks who have at least 5-10 years of experience at major tech companies or start-ups, and they’re ready to go out on their own as consultants.
Today at Mylance we have 3 main value-adds:
- Actionable guides to help you launch and grow your consulting business
- A vetted community where our customer’s network and get their questions answered
- Lead generation software that helps you build your BD pipeline and automate sales for your business
We’ve grown the business to ~$40k / month in revenue by the end of 2022.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
After working at Uber for 4.5 years across Uber Rides, Uber Eats (I launched Miami and Milan), and Uber Freight, I was ready to go out on my own. I was tired of politics and feeling undervalued for my work. So, I quit.
The first thing I did was see if I could work part-time while I looked for a business I wanted to start. I responded to the last 11 people who had messaged me about a job opportunity on LinkedIn and asked them if they were open to me helping part-time. Ten didn’t respond or said “no.” But one expressed interest. That one became my first consulting client, and I worked for them over the next 9 months for 25 hours per week, and $25k / month.
All of a sudden I had my own consulting business. I’d find clients through my network, referrals, and cold outreach. I consulted independently for nearly 2 years averaging $25k/ month in 25 hours a week across a dozen clients, mostly for Seed and Series A companies helping them launch and scale their marketplaces.
My experience as an independent consultant changed everything for me. I realized what work could look like. I didn’t need an employer to make good money. I made way more on my own. And for the organizations, I contracted, with benefited immensely. I brought expertise that helped them avoid mistakes and accelerate their growth. I’d been at organizations and executed similar projects, so I brought a unique insight that would be hard to find elsewhere.
I shared my experiences as a consultant with my network on LinkedIn and had tons of colleagues and friends inquire about my business. They were interested in working for themselves as well. I was helping them on the side, for free, until one conversation changed everything.
Mid-call I decided to make an offer: I’d help a friend launch her business if she’d give me a cut of her revenue for 6 months. She immediately agreed. I didn’t have anything to give her yet, so I quickly got to work making a course. And the next person I spoke with, I told them about my course. And all of a sudden, I had a product to sell.
I had found a space I was incredibly passionate about, and was ready to build a business that solved problems I knew deeply and for customers I cared about.
Find a way to get started. Find a way to get that first-paying customer. You might not serve them the best. That’s okay.
So I started Mylance to enable and empower more people to monetize their knowledge, work for themselves, and work part-time with multiple sources of income. I’d always been entrepreneurial, and I became passionate about flexible, fulfilling work, I love helping others, and after consulting myself, I saw a huge, growing market with massive problems to be solved.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
The reality is, the first two “products” I sold didn’t have any software or design elements. We ran the Mylance Accelerator through Google Docs, Slack, Zoom, and Calendly. Yes, I sold a $1,249 product in Google Docs. Customers didn’t care – they just wanted the value it provided.
The Bookkeeping subscription was run on top of Quickbooks and Google Sheets. We collected payments through Stripe, often using SuperPayIt as the interface on top of Stripe since Stripe needs to be embedded into your website.
After ~ about 9 months of running this business, we started working on our native software. I got quotes and contracted a design firm, Chispa Labs, to design our first MVP. We were going to start on the suite of software that a consultant needs for their business: website, CRM, invoicing, and lead generation. At the same time, I raised a small Angel round of funding through some “friends and family” and a few Angels and hired a developer.
Chispa designed the MVP and my new founding engineer built the whole thing (with the help of a contracted front-end engineer. We did everything as lean as possible. The design cost about $10k, and 3 months of dev work cost about $20k. And we had our MVP built!
Build the actual smallest, least sophisticated product you possibly can, get feedback, and build what you’re hearing from customers.
The first version of the MVP was simply a turn-key website that a user could have up and running in under 5 minutes that would showcase their experience and skills, and allow them to collect leads for their business.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I had failed to successfully start a business so many times in my life, I made sure this wouldn’t be one of those times. I incorporated the company, bought a domain, opened a business bank account, and put $30,000 in it. Luckily, I had some money saved up from my corporate life, so I had the cash to put into the bank account and I could go a few months without pay. I also maintained one consulting client on the side to fund my life, so the business didn’t need to pay me either.
The first thing I did was talk to users. I was also building a business to solve my problems, so I had a lot of in-depth knowledge of what a solution needed to look like. The idea was a “one-stop shop” for your independent consulting business. But I couldn’t build everything at the beginning. So I started with an accounting solution for independent consultants. I didn’t need a product for this. I just needed an accountant. So I went on Upwork, interviewed a few, and found one that would be willing to work for equity plus a revenue share.
As I looked for customers for this product, I found something different was on their minds. They were struggling to launch their businesses. So I built a solution (a coaching program) for these people. I came up with all the programming and would sell customers into the next cohort that I kicked off monthly.
At first, I had them pay $300 to start the course and would take 7.5% of their revenue for 6 months. I then had an idea to make the $300 sound small: I’d tell customers they could pay $1,249 upfront, or the $300 plus the revenue share.
At the time, this was simply a marketing tactic. But, to my utter shock, one customer told me he didn’t want to share his revenue with me, and would rather pay the $1,249. I couldn’t believe it. Even crazier, the next customer said the same thing. Pretty soon, I got rid of the rev share altogether and just had customers pay the $1,249.
Because customers would pay upfront for the coaching business and my CPA took only a revenue share, I didn’t have any big start-up costs, and the business ran about breakeven for the first few months.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We’ve tried a ton of things to market to new customers, but only 2 things have worked thus far. From a top-of-funnel perspective (getting people to the website) we’ve done a lot of organic social media marketing on LinkedIn. Most of that is actually from my LinkedIn.
I had built up a decent list of connections over my time in tech (~10k), and I started to post on LinkedIn. Each post would get somewhere between 5k and 10k views, and that would drive customers to our website. And every once in a while, I’d get a viral post like the one below that got over 700k impressions.
The other thing that worked was simply customer word of mouth. Customers would have a good experience, tell their friends and colleagues, and they’d come asking for help. This was the best way to grow because these customers would convert at an incredibly high rate. It’s an old cliche but it’s true: the best growth strategy is happy customers.
Even more so, some customers would, unprompted, post on LinkedIn about their great experience. There is no better marketing in the world than customers posting on their accounts about their positive experiences with your business. And I’ve learned, you can increase the likelihood of this happening by asking for it.
For converting customers, we’ve learned a lot. We used to have customers apply to our coaching program to collect their email addresses. I’ve learned that’s a high barrier to entry for a customer, and you’re way better off using some kind of a lead magnet to collect their email.
A lead magnet entices the customer to give you their email in exchange for something else, like access to a newsletter or some kind of guide. This will convert at a much higher rate, you’ll collect more emails, and then you can nurture them into paying customers.
We also recently hired a PR consultant for a one-time project ($1,500) to see if we could get into a major publication (we got a placement at Fortune!!). While this provides a nice short-term boost, it creates an incredible backlink to the site which is great for SEO. We have started to rank for several search terms, so this will help us continue to rank highly on Google.
We do rank on Google now for several searches, mostly around a consultant starting an LLC. I can’t say I have much advice here other than to start with long tail keywords that are searched <1000 times/month, get some wins and allow your traffic to grow slowly. SEO is a long game that takes a lot of time and effort. But once it’s up and running, it pays back again and again.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
In the last 6 months, we’ve averaged ~$40k / month in revenue, and we’re about breakeven when we look at our costs. In the months we get >2 Accelerator customers in, we make a profit. Otherwise, we burn $10k – $15k / month. Almost all of our costs are from the marketing and headcount buckets, with the vast majority being headcount.
We spend very little on marketing (almost all organic and word of mouth), and the average paying customer spends ~$1,600 with Mylance. In 2022, we’ll end the year with ~$374k in gross revenue, up from $56k in 2021. We’ve onboarded a cumulative 1,029 customers through our HQ software, compared to 170 at the end of 2021.
Our website received 24,994 new user visits and 160,996 page views in 2022. We grew our email list from 1,242 to 3,371, and my personal LinkedIn (a main source of our marketing) received over 2 million impressions in 2022. We also got a placement in Fortune!
However, I know the growth we had in 2022 is not sustainable. We are running multiple different business lines that pull me in a variety of different directions and can lead to sub-par customer experiences. Thus, we’re going into 2023 hyper-focused on our software efforts.
This is going to mean our revenue and growth will take a temporary hit: without running the Accelerator, we lose a huge percentage of our 2022 revenue. But I’m focused on building a scalable software solution that helps consultants find their next lead and keep their pipeline full. I know there’s demand for it, and I know it will create a sticky, high-value product offer that scales. Thus, I’m excited about this next chapter.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned a ton from starting this business. And I think the only true way to learn is to do it yourself. Find a way to get started. Find a way to get that first-paying customer. You might not serve them the best. That’s okay. Everything is about learning.
Our first Accelerator cohort got an average score of 6/10. In retrospect, I’m not surprised: I had no idea what I was doing. But I got detailed feedback from every single person through 1 on 1 interview, learned what needed to be better, and changed everything for the next cohort. The next cohort got a 9.5/10 average satisfaction score. Getting feedback on how your offer could be better isn’t always easy emotionally, but if you can look at it like a growth opportunity, it’s an incredible gift and the key to making a great product.
Maybe my biggest learning is no matter how hard you try to validate demand, it’s a constant process as you are building. It’s an easy concept to understand and an incredibly difficult concept to apply, especially around the software.
Because I’m solving a problem I experienced myself, it’s so easy to build a product I think our customers will want. It all makes sense to me and I rationalize it so easily: if we build this, they’ll use it in XYZ way. But that rarely happens in practice unless you’re actively listening to dozens of your customers and building them something that solves their problems.
The other point to call out is what we took on from a marketing perspective. To get in front of more customers, I want Mylance to be everywhere: Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, highly ranked on Google, a referral program, PR, radio, and podcasts (to name a few).
It turns out, you can’t do everything. And if you try, you’ll do them all poorly and nothing will work. I read it once and I believe it: to get your first $1M in sales, you need one product and one marketing channel. Once you’re at the $1M mark, you can expand from there. But start simple and lean. Find product and channel market fit, and expand afterward.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Webflow to host our website, MightyNetworks to host our course and everything else we’ve built natively. We use Stripe for payment processing, Zapier to connect everything, Klaviyo for email marketing, and Notion as a productivity tool and to track/share everything. I also pay for Calendly, Zoom, Typeform, Slack, and Expandi.
Expandi is a great tool that automates 1v1 LinkedIn outreach based on Sales Navigator search. I constantly have this running in the background to increase the awareness of Mylance with my network, and help grow my LinkedIn presence.
For the various big tools (e.g., where we host our website and our course), we’ve switched around quite a bit and tried various platforms. The reality is, it’s less important which one you choose and more important that you stick with it (switching costs are high). No platform will be perfect and get to 100% of what you want. Accept this, and find one that solves 80% of what you’re trying to do.
We started with WordPress with the website and switched to Webflow because I couldn’t stand all the plug-ins. We started with Google Docs for the course, switched to Kajabi, and then switched again to Mighty Networks because it was more flexible and cheaper ($99 / month). Switching takes a ton more time than you think. Pick one, stick with it, and focus on adding a huge amount of value to your customer. Switching platforms is mostly a waste of time.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I constantly read and listen to learn and get new ideas. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks is one of the best ways I brainstorm.
My top books:
- Never Split the Difference. It’s a negotiation book by a former FBI lead hostage negotiator. It’s impacted my life in more ways than I can count, and it has changed how I interact with customers, particularly unhappy ones. I’ve used it to get what I want in partnership deals while making the other side feel like they won too. It’s a game-changer.
- $100M Offers. It completely changed the way I thought about offers and pricing. It encouraged me to increase my price from $1249 to $10k and is the main reason we grew the business 6x in 2022. I can’t recommend it highly enough
- Traction. It goes through the 19 marketing channels and how you can use them for your business. Again, you only need 1 for your first million, but it lays out your option in an easy-to-read way and will give you tons of great ideas as you read.
My top podcast:
- How I built this. A classic sharing stories of famous entrepreneurs and how they started. The best part of it is how detailed they go into the story, giving you actual bites of what it was like to build that business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The first piece of advice you’ve probably heard a lot but it’s so incredibly difficult to execute. Make sure you test demand before you build a product. And by “test demand,” I mean go get paying customers and test if the solution WORKS. This isn’t just “can you sell.” This is, does your solution solve their problem and keep them coming back for more, or at least they’re excited enough about your solution that they’ll recommend it to their friends?
Second: find a way to get started, and be OK if your first, second, or even third product sucks. It’s harsh, but it’s true. If you wait until you’re proud of your product, you’ve launched it too late and probably built something that customers don’t want, or has features they don’t need. An MVP starts with “minimum” for a reason. Build the actual smallest, least sophisticated product you possibly can, get feedback, and build what you’re hearing from customers. This feedback isn’t going to be easy to hear. But it’s the most important.
And a bonus one: growing a business is incredibly hard. And more, it’s scary. I feel like I’m scared to fail and scared to succeed all at the same time. I focus a lot on my mental health just so I keep a good head on my shoulders and show up for my team every day. But more importantly, I keep pushing forward.
Failure is a real possibility. And I might disappoint customers, investors, and my team. But I need to put that behind me and push forward every single day, putting my best foot forward. This is life as an entrepreneur. It’s scary and rewarding and fulfilling and exciting all at the same time. I wouldn’t change it for anything, but knowing what you’re getting into and what limiting beliefs you might have that could hold you back are crucial to set yourself up for success.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can check out Mylance at our website, get our free guide to launch your consulting business, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and my personal LinkedIn where I post weekly.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Founder of Mylance
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