What's your personal background? What motivated you to start your own company?
My path has been a total jungle-gym, to be honest! I started off my career in policy design for the UK government, and quickly realised that corporate life definitely was not for me. Over the next few years I transitioned into a number of communications roles, until I finally bit the bullet in 2018 and quit my job to become a full-time freelance writer.
I have been writing alongside my day job for as long as I remember, but it was only when I found myself struggling with a dark period of anxiety and depression that I realised I needed to make big changes in my life. One of those changes was to stop doing things that sounded good on paper, and just follow my passions instead. This decision was honestly the making of me. After several years flitting between jobs and feeling unfulfilled, I finally felt like I was in my stride. After just a few months of freelancing full-time, I had maxed out my capacity and the early version of Scribly.io was born. I began working with other freelancers to scale the volume of work I could deliver each month, and in just a few short months, I had transitioned into a more agency-like service.
Fast forward 2 years and Scribly has been through a lot of changes. The business model has been massively refined, as has the core value prop. All of these iterations have been based on what our customers have told us they really need and value from us, which in turn has allowed us to sharpen our message and pricing and scale the business with relative ease.
What no code tool(s) did you use to build Scribly and what purpose did each play in the final product?
In a nutshell, Scribly is powered in large part by 5 NoCode tools: Airtable, Webflow, Google Docs, SPP and Zapier.
A very simply customer flow looks something like this:
1) A customer visits the website, which is built in Webflow
2) They buy a product on the website using SPP.
3) Once a product/package has been purchased, the customer can then submit a brief directly in SPP.
4) The account manager will move each brief into Airtable, where it will be assigned to a writer. Writers get an automatic slack notification as soon as they are assigned a task, and a reminder 24 hours before the due date (done using Zapier).
5) As soon as a new task is created in Airtable, a Google Doc will automatically be created in the correct client folder, with the right permissions set, which is done using Zapier.
6) The writer will work on the content, and when it's done, mark it as ready to edit. This triggers a Slack notification (again, using Zapier) that notifies the editor assigned to the task.
7) Finally, the account manager will deliver the content back to the client via SPP.
This is quite a high level overview of a nice and smooth use case, but you can see how the mix of NoCode tools here have enabled us to automate this process almost completely.
What were the initial costs to get Scribly off the ground?
I have bootstrapped Scribly from the very beginning, and the initial outlay was literally just the cost of a monthly Webflow subscription, a $90 template I purchased for the very first design (which has totally changed since then), a business email plus the domain name. I'd say, all in all, I spent around $200.
I used free versions of all the no code tools listed above initially, but now I have upgraded to paid plans for most things as the complexity and scale of what we deliver now has increased massively.
What was the process of building your product from idea to launching?
I gave myself 3 days to get the initial website up and running so that I could validate the idea. This was enough to confirm that this was worth pursuing.
I used Webflow to get a site off the ground within a day, and then launched with a fairly bare-bones product.
I didn’t really know what the pricing model would be or anything at that point, but I decided to just put in front of some of my freelance customers, get feedback, and take it from there.
It was really important to me not to get stuck in analysis paralysis, but to use customer feedback to shape the platform and business. So it was very much a conscious decision to launch really quickly, even though there were a lot of things I hadn't yet figured out.
How do you attract customers?
I would say that Scribly.io fits into two distinct phases:
1) The Word of Mouth Phase
2) The Digital Growth Phase
The Word of Mouth Phase
I was lucky in that I was already working as a freelancer and had a really healthy client base. These were the first people that I reached out to.
I contacted each of my existing clients with an early-bird offer. In hindsight, I could have done it so much better. I didn’t have a landing page or anything to track visits or clicks. I simply sent a personal email with a discounted early-bird price for the first month.
Despite that, within the first 2 months, I’d converted 7 of my freelance clients over to the Scribly.io model, which was a good start.
All of the clients converted during this phase knew me and my work. I already had a great relationship with them, and so the challenge was just to convince them that nothing would change in terms of quality when I handed over writing responsibility to other writers. I simply ran a trial task for free to prove this to clients, and then the rest was smooth sailing from there.
Since that initial launch, things grew through manual outreach and word of mouth. Happy customers have put us in touch with other people they know, and things snowballed from there.
I have now set up a rewards-based referral scheme, which offers existing clients $50 credit for every referral that becomes a paid project, but actually, in the early months, most clients were just happy to do this for free.
Because of this, great client experience and customer retention is a core focus of the business. I would rather say no to new business if I have any doubt that it will negatively impact the experience of my current clients.
The Digital Growth Phase
Since those early days, I’m now focused on a proper growth plan that consists of the following:
I feel very strongly that, as a content company, I need to have a sh**t hot content section of the site. Organic traffic is definitely where I want to focus my marketing investment, so I’m in the process of building out the blog section of the Scribly site into a Knowledge Hub, offering copywriting and content marketing lessons.
Intro offer popup
I added a widget that offers new visitors $100 off their first project (done using Hubspot). This has been really successful so far. I went from getting 1 new direct lead a week to 6 in the first day.
Listing on startup directories
I spent an afternoon adding Scribly to all of the startup directories I could find. By far the most worthwhile has been listing on Get Worm. Within literally 10 minutes of my listing going live, I received 5 leads!
The list of directories I put Scribly on are:
Partnerships, Referrals & Targeted landing pages
I wanted to run some special intro offers for various customer segments, so I created targeted landing pages for each segment and then adjusted the copy to be hyper-specific to that niche.
For example, I have a startup landing page, an agency landing page, and a more generic referrals landing page for contacts of my existing clients. My biggest failure here is relying on Webflow for my landing pages, which makes it impossible to A/B test. I’ll be moving to a tool like Unbounce soon to improve on this process.
Engaging in online forums and the wider Indie community
I've taken every possible opportunity to build my personal brand online by engaging helpfully in a number of online communities. This, in turn, has made people more aware of Scribly which has led to a surprising amount of business.
I've not done this specifically as a marketing activity, but because I really want to use my experiences to support other people through the process of building their own thing. I've had so much self-doubt throughout this whole process, and I think it's so important to put that vulnerability out there so that no-one is scared off from trying to build a business themselves.
What are the biggest challenges you've overcome building Scribly?
The biggest issues I've had have not so much been with building out the platform itself, but rather with my confidence. It's taken me a long time to get over my Imposter Syndrome, and believe in myself as a founder and entrepreneur. I am pretty much the opposite of what I thought that kind of person is like: I hate the hustle mentality, I'm not that technical, and I don't have an entrepreneurial background at all. So it took me a few years to really believe in myself that I could do this, my way.
Even when things were going well, I still saw it as some kind of 'fluke' or mistake, and not like something I deserved. So I've spent a lot of time and energy on owning my successes and feeling confident that I have what it takes to do this :)
How much money is Scribly making per month?
What's your advice for non-technical people who want to start a company?
I think the best thing you can do is to connect with the wider indie founder / No Code community. There are so many amazing places to find resources and collaborate. My personal favourite places are MakerPad, the No Code Founders Slack group, Indie Hackers and the Productize Community on Facebook.
What are your future plans for Scribly?
To be honest, I'm not too sure what the future looks like. It's always been really important to me to have a great balance between my work and personal life, so I mostly want to continue growing the business in a way that facilitates that.
A big thing I'd like to focus on is building out the team so that we can continue to do what we do at scale, but for now I'm just really happy to let things evolve naturally without taking on too much extra stress or pressure :)
How do you think the rise of no code tools will impact entrepreneurship?
I can't overstate how excited I am that all these things that used to be closed off and complicated are suddenly being democratized. It's going open the gate to so many cost-effective and innovative solutions that are crazy quick to build.
I genuinely think it's going to change everything. People will be able to create almost anything irrespective of how technical they are, which is going to really help to bring more diversity and creativity to the entire entrepreneurial space.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
If you'd like to get in touch, feel free to contact me on: