How Jordan Hughes built a 6-figure Figma template business in 3 years

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Jordan Hughes stumbled into product design by chance while working at a startup. Fast forward just 3 years, he became a well-known product design expert and his UI templates generated over 6 figures in sales. Nearly 100,000 designers now rely on his clean, adaptable components to accelerate web building. Today, we will learn how he accomplished more in a short career than other people do in a lifetime.

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What we will learn

  • The Gumroad analytics tool I used that led me to Jordan Hughes
  • How Jordan Hughes went from beginner to leading expert in 3 years
  • Why he believes most founders should NOT move fast and break things
  • How he turned Twitter and LinkedIn into his personal living portfolio
  • What you can do to squeeze more out of your free offering

I first discovered Jordan while browsing Gumroad’s bestsellers using an analytics tool called Gumtrends made by a fellow indie maker. If you aren’t familiar with Gumroad, it’s a platform that helps creators build a digital storefront for their service products easily, like Shopify but for creators.

Gumtrends on the other hand, scrapes and ranks Gumroad products by category and sales to help founders perform product research.

I got access to the tool because I was curious who’s actually making money on Gumroad and how (don’t judge!). However as I was browsing the directory, I was shocked at how varied and random the bestselling products were. I found everything from a “How to seduce girls” course to lists of investor contacts for sale.

And then I came across Jordan’s Untitled UI.

His product, Untitled UI stood at #14 in revenue. Together with Untitled UI Icons, they generated an estimated $4.2M revenue.

Untitled UI Estimated Revenue
Untitled UI’s estimated revenue on Gumtrends (*Read note below)

*It is likely the $4.2M is a GROSS overestimation of his revenue. He may have offered the product for free in the early days which messes up the estimated revenue figure. When I reached out to Jordan he said so himself.

But that’s ok. Let’s take a 90% haircut on the numbers. Given he also sells his products outside of Gumroad on his own website, we can conservatively assume he’s made 6 figures from Untitled UI part-time.

Who is Jordan Hughes?

Jordan Hughes is the founder of Untitled UI and cofounder of Himalayas. He was a drummer and an aspiring teacher before venturing into the world of startups by chance in 2015.

Over the following 8 years, he helped grow two early-stage startups, built and sold one of his own, taught himself product design and created one of the most popular UI template used by nearly 100,000 users worldwide.

This is his story.


How he became the top product designer within 3 years

Most professionals take years, if not decades to become known experts in their field. Jordan however was only introduced to the world of product design in 2019 when he read the book Refactoring UI and within 3 years built one of the most popular UI kits in the market.

How he built Untitled UI to nearly 100,000 users within 3 years:

  1. Invest in transformational relationships – Your best opportunities will come from people who already know, like and trust you. Find people you admire and work well with, and stick to them over the long term.
  2. It’s not about productivity – Forget trying to do more. Find ways to cut out shallow work in your life to get extremely good at your craft in a much shorter time horizon.
  3. Sweat the details – Sharing half-baked MVPs isn’t always the right approach. Jordan shows us when it is important to focus on quality and allowing your best work to define you.
  4. Leverage “free” – There is another reason why you should offer a free product or lead magnet as part of product ecosystem. We will look what this is, how Jordan implements “free” at Untitled UI and how you can use it to your advantage too.
  5. Make clean, reusable assets – If your users rely on your tool to build their own projects, or they need to learn to interact with your tool in any way, always try to follow the industry’s best practices when you build. This is important and it is more than just making your tool user-friendly.

Let’s look at each in detail:

1. Invest in transformational relationships

As a self-professed introvert, Jordan Hughes is not a fan of networking events where many shallow relationships are made. Instead, he prefers to find good people he works well with, and stick with them in the long term.

In the book “Who Not How“, Dan Sullivan calls these transformational relationships.

For example in 2015, one of Jordan’s closest friend, Abi persuaded him to join a FinTech startup together as employee #1 and #2. They worked together at Spaceship for 3 years, and then again at another startup, Upguard before eventually cofounding Himalayas together.

Similarly, when Jordan was contemplating diving into product design, it was his ex-boss at Spaceship who gave him a role as Head of Design at his new cyber security startup, Upguard because he trusted Jordan to figure things out even without proven expertise.

Rather than viewing people or services as a “cost”, in transformational relationships, everything is viewed as an investment, with the possibility of 10x (10 times), 100x or even bigger returns and change.

Who Not How — Dan Sullivan

Instead of forming many shallow relationships, find people you admire and work well with, and build great stuff together.

2. It’s not about productivity

Most product designers practice for years, if not decades to become good at what they do. This reminds me of the 10,000-hour rule that says it takes approximately 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to achieve mastery in any field.

That’s equivalent to nearly 10 years assuming you practice 4 hours every week day.

Naturally, I was very curious how Jordan managed to become perhaps one of the most well-known product designers whose design kits are used by thousands of product designers worldwide in just 3 years.

In short, by intentionally prioritising deep work.

He talked about this philosophy in an interview he did with Relume. In particular, this is what he thinks about meetings in general:

Most meetings are scheduled because nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions. So they schedule meetings. Everyone wants to have meetings to plan and to procrastinate. 

People will waste your time if you let them.

Jordan Hughes — Interview with Relume

In fact, he doesn’t even do meetings, which is very unusual for a service provider. By cutting out meetings and focusing on spending as much of his day actually designing products, Jordan ends up significantly cutting down the time it takes to become proficient at product design.

Jordan Hughes - Deep Work

We will look at how he finds clients in the next section but the main lesson here is to be absolutely ruthless about protecting your most valuable asset – your time.

3. Sweat the details

If he doesn’t do meetings and never really networks, HOW did he get clients for his freelance work and for Untitled UI?

In short, he sweat the details and let the quality of his work define him.

Jordan Hughes - attention to details
Let your best work define you

Most startups nowadays operate with a “move fast and break things” mentality. Everyone races to share half-baked MVPs and iterate on the fly.

Obviously, that approach has its place. But in Jordan’s view (and I agree), if you are NOT building something novel that your target market has never seen before, you SHOULD sweat the details and focus on being the best, how ever you define it.

By the time Jordan created Untitled UI, there were already plenty of UI kits in the market. So he started Untitled UI with the intention of making a product that was 2 times better than what’s already out there.

Use social platforms as your living portfolio

2 years ago, he started a personal challenge to share one UI design every day on Twitter and LinkedIn to showcase designs made with his kit and let his work speak for themselves. He called it the daily UI challenge.

As of the date of writing, he is on day 570 of his challenge.

Personally, I think this is a great strategy for anyone creating a B2B tool, especially for visual products with a wow factor. You can essentially turn social media into a living portfolio of your projects.

Jordan Hughes - 100 days of UI
Day 570 of his daily UI challenge

In short,

  1. If you are not building something incredibly novel where customers tolerate half-baked products, sweat the details.
  2. Show people how to use your product. Use social media as your living portfolio.

4. Leverage free

Used correctly, offering free products is a great way to be genuinely helpful to a community and yet still be able to generate substantial income from your work.

Of course, this strategy isn’t new. Almost everyone with a SAAS product, a course or a service understands the benefits offering something for free – to attract a wider group of potential customers who are not yet ready to buy from you. In marketing speak, this means widening your top of funnel.

But Jordan takes it one step further. Instead of just sharing free icons and templates, he uses his free product to educate his customers which has the added benefit of establishing Untitled UI as an authority in the product design space.

To see this in action, I grabbed a copy of his free Figma kit.

Here’s a preview Untitle UI (free):

Jordan-Hughes-Untitled-UI-free-Figma-kit

I know, I know, you can’t read it. So let’s zoom in a bit:

Jordan Hughes - Untitled UI Use free to educate

As you can see, each of the mockup pages is a mini-lesson that teaches product designers how to get better at their jobs.

Use your free product as an opportunity to educate your target customers. Once your target customers start to see the world from your perspective, it’s hard for them to go elsewhere when they are ready to take things one step further. That’s how you become a niche of one.

Lesson: When building B2B tools, find ways to educate your customers to solidify your position of authority in their minds.

5. Make clean, reusable assets

This strategy is particularly important for people building templates, codes or even spreadsheets.

Always use popular naming conventions and adopt industry best practices.

1. It’s a cheat code for becoming an expert quickly

Remember how Jordan was able to become an expert product designer within 3 years? The other reason he was able to do so was because he didn’t start every project thinking about how he’d solve a particular design challenge.

Instead, every time he sets out to build something, he starts by googling “best practice for [x]” and just copies what he finds. Because chances are, “there are at least 15 people smarter than you that have already figured out the best way to do what you are looking to do.”

2. It’s easier to hand over projects

When building his Untitled UI kit for Webflow (a popular no-code web builder), Jordan adopts something called Client First, which is a web development standard adopted by many web designers.

Jordan Hughes - Client First Webflow
Ok, this example is specific to product design. The point is… Find your own version of industry best practices to follow

Most industries have best practices when it comes to how things should be set up or properly structured. Take time to find out what they are. It will make selling your templates, delegating or even selling your startup eventually much easier.

Bonus idea: Add signatures to your product

You see examples of this everywhere. Many tools embed a signature in their products such as “made with Softr” or “powered by Beehiiv”.

Beehiiv, a popular newsletter writing platform even includes this in ALL their PAID plans.

Jordan Hughes - Powered by Beehiiv
The founder of Beehiiv said they’d rather lose a few annoyed customers than remove this VERY effective marketing feature

As for Untitled UI, I’ve no idea whether this is intentional and whether there are any SEO benefits for Untitled UI, but this is something I accidentally uncovered when researching Untitled UI to write this issue:

Jordan Hughes - Made with Untitled UI

A bunch of websites built with Untitled UI kits still have Untitled UI in their logo alt-text (a description of an image for accessibility typically not visible to the public)

The point is, it doesn’t matter whether this is something Jordan intended when setting up Untitled UI. What matters is for you to consider how you might use embedded signatures to promote your product via your users.

Juicy ideas to replicate success

Let’s round up some concrete lessons and tips from Jordan’s journey so far that you can take action on:

  1. Find and keep A players around you – Curate great people around you and build great stuff together.
  2. Avoid meetings without agenda – Meetings are generally scheduled to procrastinate and avoid taking personal responsibility for decisions. Be ruthless in cutting out meetings to protect your time for deep work.
  3. Use social media as your living portfolio – Unless you’re building experimental technologies like Sam Altman, your customers care about the quality of your product. Sweat the details and show your best work on social media.
  4. Find ways to educate your customers – When you help your customers become better at their job (or achieve their goals easier if you’re building a B2C product), you become their only option when they are ready to invest in growth.
  5. Always start with industry best practices – Research industry best practices when you start a project. It will save you valuable time building and make handing your project over smoother.

What’s next

In the next issue, we will break down Tibo’s journey building Tweethunter and Taplio to $10M ARR, why he bought Typeframes and how he plans to grow it. I’m incredibly excited about this one.

In the meantime, check out our last issue on Tim Bennetto – The Solo Founder Who Built a $74k MRR Social Media Tool After Teaching Himself to Code.

If you haven’t already, sign up to get notified when a new issue of Juicy Ideas drop!

Growth Strategies of Top Indie Makers Delivered to Your Inbox

Each week, we will reverse engineer the growth and distribution strategies used by top indie makers to grow their startups past $100k annual revenue. Subscribe so you don’t miss the latest issues!