How I Grew a Digital Marketing Agency to $500,000 ARR in Just 3 Months

I Grew a Digital Marketing Agency to $500,000 ARR in Just 3 Months

In just 3 months, Jacob Wulff grew Netsicle to $500,000 in annual recurring revenue. In this interview, he shares how this subscription-based agency has grown right from the start.

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Jacob offered no-cost services to land its initial clients, building trust through performance
  • About 80% of Netsicle’s new business comes from referrals
  • The company uses a 4 day work week and flexible scheduling to promote a healthy work-life balance
  • Jacob shares how rapid hiring decisions led to a poor cultural fit and values alignment


Business Name: Jacob Wulff
Website URL:
Founders: Coral Lynn (wife, co-founder, and chief people officer)
Business Location: Jacksonville, FL, United States
Year Started: 2023
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: Currently 17, growing team as we scale

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I’m Jacob Wulff, with a decade of experience in the digital marketing agency world. My journey began as one of the first 10 employees at Thrive Agency, where I honed my skills as an SEO Specialist, PPC Manager, and, eventually, Director of Paid Media.

My marketing agency career also included a stint as an Enterprise PPC Strategist at Beyond digital marketing, I’ve owned and operated various ventures, including a hookah lounge, a car wash, and a clothing line, not to mention several startups during the “web 2.0” era.

Today, I’m the proud founder of Netsicle, alongside my wife, Coral Wulff, who acts as our Chief People Officer and effectively our Director of Operations. At Netsicle, we specialize in providing subscription-based digital marketing services tailored for small businesses. Our goal is to make quality digital marketing accessible to all, helping small businesses grow and thrive in an increasingly digital world.

Our services are designed to be budget-friendly, ensuring that businesses of any size can benefit from our expertise.

Netsicle Website

How does your business make money?

At Netsicle, our revenue model is centered around offering premium digital marketing services on a subscription basis. Unlike traditional agencies, we believe in transparency and flexibility, which is why we don’t lock our clients into long-term contracts. Our philosophy is simple: let our work speak for itself. 

We cater primarily to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), providing comprehensive digital marketing services to help them thrive in today’s competitive online landscape. Our services include pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), website creation and design, web hosting, and reputation management.

In addition to these core services, we provide our clients with access to Riivu, our SaaS reputation management platform. Riivu is included with all subscriptions, empowering our clients to effectively collect, manage, and showcase their online reviews. At Netsicle, we’re committed to delivering tangible results and empowering SMBs to succeed online.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

Our inspiration for starting Netsicle stems from our collective experiences in the digital marketing and SaaS industries. With over two decades of combined expertise, we experienced firsthand the immense potential of talented individuals and businesses, only to see them turned away due to outdated agency models and/or insufficient budgets.

We want to foster meaningful relationships, both with our team and our clients, so we set out to create a different kind of agency – built on trust, transparency, and genuine care for people. We believe that by prioritizing the well-being of everyone involved, we can cultivate an environment where exceptional work thrives and long-lasting partnerships flourish.

Our mission is not just about delivering results; it’s about understanding our clients’ businesses on a deeper level and providing support that extends far beyond transactional interactions. We’re committed to being more than just a service provider; we’re trusted partners dedicated to the long-term success and happiness of everyone we work with.

Jacob Wulff in a meeting
Photo courtesy of Jacob Wulff

How and when did you launch the business?

We officially launched Netsicle at the end of 2023.

Tell us about your team.

We have just 20 diverse and talented employees. We operate as a remote-first company, which means we have team members spread across the globe – from Florida and California to Texas and South Carolina and even reaching as far as South Africa, Brazil, and the Philippines.

Despite the geographical distance, we’re united by a shared passion for digital marketing and a commitment to delivering exceptional results for our clients. We’re truly growing Netsicle as a premier agency for years to come, and our team is the most important part of the business for me.

How are you funded? 

We’re proud to say that we’re completely bootstrapped and debt-free. When I started this venture, I made the bold decision to cash in my 401K to get things off the ground. It was a leap of faith, but one that I felt was necessary to maintain our focus on building a company culture centered around our shared vision and values. 

For us, being bootstrapped means that every member of our team is fully invested in the company we’re building – it’s not just a job; it’s a passion project for us. As we continue to grow, we remain committed to preserving this ethos and ensuring that our culture remains at the forefront of everything we do.

Jacob Wulff and family
Photo courtesy of Jacob Wulff

How did you acquire your first customers?

Our initial clients came from my previous freelance work, where I provided website hosting and occasional SEO/marketing support. As I transitioned full-time into Netsicle, I leveraged my existing relationships with business owners. I offered to assist them at no cost initially, showcasing our capabilities.

This approach not only solidified their trust in our services but also encouraged them to refer us within their network. This method of building trust through proving our value first has been foundational in our growth, and we continue to apply this approach with all new clients, ensuring a steady stream of referrals and sustained business development.

Tell us about your primary drivers for growth. What worked for you in the beginning? What’s working now?

Our primary driver for growth has always been building trust and delivering value to our clients. In the beginning, we relied heavily on leveraging existing relationships and word-of-mouth referrals to acquire our first customers.

Our approach of building trust through demonstrating our expertise and delivering tangible results has remained a cornerstone of our growth strategy. As we’ve grown, we’ve continued to prioritize client satisfaction and relationship-building, focusing on providing personalized solutions tailored to each client’s unique needs.

Recently, we’ve embraced strategic marketing initiatives and outreach efforts to expand our reach and attract new clients. Investing in targeted advertising campaigns, participating in industry events, and actively engaging with our online community have all contributed to our continued growth and success.

What marketing strategies have been most effective for you so far?

Our most effective marketing strategy has revolved around building genuine, organic relationships and understanding the unique challenges small businesses face. Instead of relying heavily on cold calling, cold emailing, or even paid ad campaigns, we’ve focused our efforts on creating real connections with our clients. This approach has proven to be incredibly rewarding and effective, leading to a strong foundation of trust and reliability with our client base and virtually eliminating churn.

Client referrals have been instrumental in our growth, accounting for about 80% of our new business. This isn’t by accident. We invest time in really getting to know our clients, their business, their industry, and knowing them personally and how to meet their specific needs, which leads to happy clients who refer us to others. It’s a testament to the fact that when you do good work and solve real problems, your clients become your biggest advocates.

In essence, our marketing strategy is about building a community around shared challenges and solutions. It’s this focus on genuine relationships and a deep understanding of our clients’ needs that sets us apart and drives our rapid success.

What has been your biggest challenge so far, and what did you learn from it? How are you dealing with this issue today?

Our biggest challenge recently stemmed from rapid hiring decisions for crucial director-level positions without fully vetting for cultural alignment and ensuring a shared vision. This eagerness to fill a role led to bringing in an individual who didn’t mesh well with our team dynamics or company objectives. This highlights the importance of cultural fit over just skill set or experience, teaching us the hard lesson that a misaligned hire can significantly impact team morale and hinder our progress.

We’ve shifted our hiring approach to prioritize cultural fit and alignment with our values from the get-go, ensuring a meticulous vetting process. This strategy involves being patient in our search for the right candidate and decisive in parting ways with those who don’t fit, embodying our belief in building a team that’s not only talented but also fully invested in our mission. This refined approach to hiring has been instrumental in fostering a more cohesive, motivated team aligned with Netsicle’s goals and values.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken as a founder/entrepreneur?

The leap from a comfortable, high-paying position at my last agency to striking out on my own was by far the biggest risk I’ve taken. The decision meant leaving behind a substantial six-figure salary, comprehensive benefits, and a stable role. To complicate matters, a restrictive non-compete agreement I had unwittingly signed kept me sidelined for six months, during which time I relied on my 401K to make ends meet.

The start of Netsicle wasn’t part of the original plan. My hand was forced when my previous employer assumed I was launching under the Netsicle brand, simply based on a domain name and a basic landing page I owned. So, I thought, why not embrace it? This leap into the unknown has proven fruitful; within just three months, we’ve managed to grow Netsicle to nearly $500,000 in annual recurring revenue.

The journey from a secure paycheck to the uncertainties of entrepreneurship has been fraught with challenges and moments of doubt. Yet, as I look back on the growth and success we’ve achieved in a short period, I’m reminded daily that the gamble was worth it. The risk, while daunting, has set the stage for a fulfilling venture.

What tools do you use and recommend?

To keep SEO performance sharp, SearchAtlas is our agency go-to tool. It’s perfect for digging into keyword optimizations, website audits, analytics, insights, and all things around keyword research. Our team leans heavily on this for pinpointing exactly what needs to be done SEO-wise.

For internal chat and making sure everyone’s in sync, Slack. It keeps us connected, whether it’s sharing updates or the random meme to keep spirits high on Mondays.

When it comes to keeping track of leads and deals, simplicity wins, which is why we’re using Bigin by Zoho. It’s straightforward, no-frills, does exactly what we need without overcomplicating things, and has just enough automation and workflows to keep deals moving.

For scheduling sales calls, Calendly for Teams has been a game-changer, especially for organizing round-robin sales meetings without the back-and-forth hassle or manual assignments.

And to ensure no tasks fall through the cracks, we use Teamwork. It’s crucial for managing our day-to-day and keeping projects on track.

We’ve got a toolbox of more than 20 essential tools, but these are the heavy hitters that keep our operations smooth and our clients happy – the basics so to speak.

What is your favorite quote?

My go-to quote that really resonates with how we operate at Netsicle is from Seth Godin: “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”

This embodies our approach to business every single day (and my team is probably sick of hearing me say it over and over again). We focus on tailoring our services to meet the specific needs of our clients, constantly looking for new and innovative ways to serve them better. It’s not just about selling what we offer; it’s about offering solutions that truly make a difference for our customers and that help them succeed.

How do you handle work-life balance?

From the outset, we’ve prioritized work-life balance, implementing a four-day workweek that allows our team to enjoy three-day weekends. This schedule is designed to give everyone a chance to recharge, spend time with their families, and pursue personal interests. Additionally, we embrace flexible scheduling; while we ensure coverage for our phones and emails from 9 AM to 5 PM EST, we empower our team to work when it’s most effective for them.

We don’t mandate fixed computer time or set daily hour quotas. Instead, we recognize that life extends beyond work and encourage our team to give precedence to their personal lives. This approach has cultivated a culture of loyalty, commitment, and happiness among our team members. In turn, this leads to greater efficiency, better results, and ultimately, satisfied clients. Our belief is that a well-balanced work-life dynamic is key to the success of both our team and our agency.

How do you stay motivated during tough times?

During tough times, my motivation is deeply rooted in thinking about my family, particularly my kids, and the future I’m striving to build for them.

Jacob Wulff family
Photo courtesy of Jacob Wulff

The hard work and dedication of our team also play a significant role in keeping me motivated. Knowing that they’re counting on me as a leader and understanding the impact our work has on our clients fuels my determination to push through any challenges. Our clients rely on us to deliver exceptional results, and that responsibility is a key motivator.

Reflecting on my previous job, despite the good income and benefits, I recall the unhappiness, anxiety, stress, and depression I faced due to poor leadership and a failing work culture. The desire to never return to that state of mind keeps me driven.

For me, Netsicle is more than just a business; it’s a lifeline. It represents a chance to do meaningful work that I’m passionate about, in an environment that values well-being and success. The thought of going back to how things were is simply not an option. This mindset that failure is not an option is what keeps me going, no matter how tough things get.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Before taking the leap to start my own agency journey with Netsicle, I received some blunt yet transformative advice from a client who’s also one of my best friends. He confronted me during a time of uncertainty and anxiety at my previous agency, where I felt drained by poor leadership, long hours, and a deteriorating culture. His words were simple but profound: “You’ll never know what could have been if you don’t take a chance and piss in the wind.” 

This advice resonated with me, especially as we stayed up all night in the gym discussing the future. It sparked a realization that the fear of the unknown was no match for the potential of what could be. A few weeks later, I embraced this “piss in the wind” philosophy, which has since dramatically changed my life and led to the creation of Netsicle and growing my business.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a founder/entrepreneur?

The best part about being a founder, hands down, is seeing your ideas come to life and the freedom it brings. There’s nothing like dreaming something up, working hard on it with a team, and then seeing it in the real world, making a difference, and making money. This freedom means I can pivot or make changes as needed without waiting for approval up a long chain of command. It’s all about being in the driver’s seat.

It’s not just about making money; it’s about creating something that matters and serving value to others. That’s the biggest win for me. Hearing from a customer how our service made their life easier or helped their business grow confirms all the long hours and challenges are worth it. It’s about building a legacy, not just a business, and making a positive impact. That feeling is unbeatable.

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

For those of you hitting the ground running with your own startups & ventures, here’s a bit of advice from someone who’s been in the trenches: keep pushing and stay vigilant. This journey’s full of ups and downs. It’s not about getting knocked down; it’s about how quick you get back up. Some of the best moves I’ve made came from the toughest times I’ve been forced to deal with.

Also, don’t go at it alone. Build a solid team. Having people around you who can give you a fresh perspective or a kick in the a$$ when you need it can make all the difference. When the market shifts, be ready to pivot. Stick to your guns about what you stand for, but be ready to adapt how you get there. At the end of the day, it’s not just about making a buck. It’s about building something that matters, something that’s going to last and make a difference. That’s the real win.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

I’m a big fan of “Real AF with Andy Frisella” – it’s a podcast I tune into daily and recommend to everyone at our agency, including our clients. It’s available on Spotify & YouTube, and it’s a goldmine of straight talk and real advice.

In terms of reading, I’ve got a few books on my nightstand right now that are making the rounds. “The Book on Mental Toughness” and “75 Hard” both by Andy Frisella, give you a kick in the mindset that’s essential in both life and business.

I’m also diving into “Million Dollar Weekend” by Noah Kagan, which is packed with insights on making the most out of minimal resources. And “The 1-Page Marketing Plan” by Allan Dib, a thoughtful gift from my wife’s grandfather, simplifies the complex world of marketing into something actionable and clear.

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