🏰 How Mitya went from Upwork gigs to a $5M agency empire
How Mitya's freelance hustle on Upwork morphed into a multi-million-dollar software agency in less than a decade
From tackling small tasks on Upwork, Mitya's relentless work ethic transformed individual gigs into a full-scale software engineering agency doing $5M per year. As Yellow continues to thrive, it's clear that Mitya's journey from freelancing to helming a reputable firm is nothing short of inspiring. And with ambitions set on further growth, he’s not stopping anytime soon.
What does it take to transition from solo gigs into a sprawling venture, and what's next on Mitya’s roadmap?
Let’s dive into the conversation (3 min read):
Can you start us off with an elevator pitch for Yellow?
Yellow is a full-cycle software engineering agency. We help US businesses create their products all the way from prototyping and architecture to design, engineering, launch and beyond.
What inspired you to start Yellow? Can you share what your mindset was like before you started?
Starting was extremely unsexy: I was working as a freelancer on Upwork (it was called oDesk back then) and doing small jobs. With time, I couldn't handle all the work that was coming my way and started hiring people and managing a team.
Could you describe how you got Yellow off the ground? What were the initial steps, and did you face any major challenges?
Initially it was just through a freelance marketplace, but after that it's mostly referrals and recommendations. Now we have a sales team as well as a marketing team.
Before the pandemic, we also used to go to trade shows.
As for the challenges, I think it's always hard to get a business off the ground, no matter what it is. The market is a competitive space. But if you try, slowly you'll succeed.
There are specific techniques on how to scale service companies - it's hard to cover that here, but there are whole books written on that topic :)
Speaking of, are there any books you’d recommend on techniques to start or scale service companies?
Managing the Professional Service Firm by David Maister
Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warillow
How long have you been running Yellow, and how has the work you do evolved?
I started the company 7.5 years ago.
With time, as we gained more expertise, we started taking on more complex projects where we could be more competitive and prove ourselves as a long-term partner for our clients, as it's naturally harder to cover more ground as a small firm.
How do you define success for Yellow, and how close are you to that vision?
Success is a moving goalpost. I don't have a final endgame. Growing and helping more clients every year is what brings us joy and personal satisfaction.
Can you share a glimpse of your day-to-day life as the founder and CEO of Yellow?
My work and my life are quite intermixed. I don't have steady work hours for any of my activities, and I like it that way. Even when I travel (which I do quite a bit), I mostly combine it with work.
Are you burning the candle at both ends or have you somehow managed to start and scale Yellow while maintaining some work-life balance?
I'm not seeking work-life balance because I don't separate "work" from "life". Work is a big part of my life.
In my opinion, the notion of work-life balance is not something an entrepreneur can realistically count on.
What's next for Yellow?
My next goal is to scale the company to around 150 full-time employees.
My plan is to take the profits from the service business and invest that into acquiring other product and service companies.
If someone reads this and wants to start an agency, what’s the best piece of advice you can give them?
Don't count on immediate results, but also don't discount yourself. This business model can and should be profitable - otherwise there's no fuel for growth.
That’s a wrap
A massive shoutout to Mitya for sharing a glimpse into his journey! I'm truly inspired by how he went from small gigs on Upwork to orchestrating a software agency doing $5M per year.
Do make it a point to follow him on X/Twitter at mityasmusin – he’s an excellent follow if you want to hear from someone running an agency who tells it to you straight.
In fact, let’s end with this tweet from Mitya:
And for those looking for a trusted partner on your next project, check out Yellow’s offerings:
Questions or feedback?
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this issue of Everyday Empires (or didn’t), please let me know in the comments, reply to this email, or DM me on X/Twitter.
If you know someone (or are someone!) whose journey could encourage others to launch a venture, please let me know. I’m always on the lookout for relatable and inspiring stories.
Until next week,
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