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Community and Collaboration over Competition with Haley Brown of WP Mavens

This week I’m talking with Haley Brown about growing your web design business through collaboration and community.

Haley Brown is a self-confessed WordPress nerd and design master who has been designing and building WordPress sites for 10 years. She is one of the founders of WP Mavens, a monthly online membership community for female web designers who are determined to build profitable and productive WordPress design businesses.

3 lessons from my chat with Haley:

  • You can pivot your business when necessary to make ends meet by tweaking your current offerings slightly.
  • You’re so much more likely to get success with someone you've already had success with – reach out to old and current clients and offer other services to help their businesses.
  • If someone says your prices are too expensive, rather than reducing them, continue to be of service. Break down your offer into smaller chunks to reduce their cost while still delivering the minimum of what they require to move forward.

We also talk about how:

  • It took some convincing from her best friend, Emma Kate, to dive into a web design business, but once she started she was all in.
  • Her business was referral-based to begin with. She started by offering help to other web designers for free, who would then either hire her to help them implement or refer her to other projects they didn’t take on.
  • She co-created WP Mavens to be a supportive community and not add more work, but rather offer bite-sized trainings with templates to support other female web designers in growing their business.

Connect with Haley:

  • Website:
  • Instagram:
  • WP Mavens:

My episode with Emma Kate:

Episode Transcript

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to the Profitable Web Designer, a podcast for web designers who want to work less and make more money. I'm your host Shannon Mattern, founder of the Web Designer Academy, where we've helped hundreds of web designers stop undercharging, overworking and create profitable, sustainable web design businesses.

Shannon Mattern: Before we dive into this week's episode, I wanna invite you to join us for a summer workshop series that we're hosting in June, July and August, where we're gonna teach you three of our tried and true strategies for marketing your web design business, managing your clients, and help you stop undercharging for good. These are live interactive workshops where we'll teach you a strategy, coach you on any mind trash getting in your way of implementing, and then you will actually implement the strategy during the live workshop using our step-by-step system and scripts so that you can leave the workshop with a smaller to-do list and go enjoy your summer and you'll have repeatable strategies that you can use over and over again in your web design business. We want you working less and making more this summer while also setting yourself up for a fruitful fall season.

Shannon Mattern: So all the workshops will be happening live and they will all be recorded and you keep lifetime access to replays of the trainings as well as the workbooks, templates and scripts for each workshop. So even if you can't join us live or you're hearing this after a workshop has passed, you'll still get all of the benefits of being there via the replays. So the first workshop is Marketing Momentum and it's happening on Thursday, June 22nd from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern. We'll be teaching our tried and true marketing strategy that you can implement in under an hour a week, and you'll actually do it during this live workshop. Next is Boundaries Bootcamp on Thursday, July 13th from one to 4:00 PM Eastern, and we'll be teaching you our strategies for getting stalled client projects, moving again, we'll teach you how to manage client requests so that you're no longer working 24 7 and taking your laptop on vacation with you.

Shannon Mattern: And the last workshop is the Stop Undercharging Work Workshop on Thursday, August 17th from one to 4:00 PM Eastern, where we will take you through a pricing mindset makeover and help you completely transform your belief and your value, and also give you a strategy and script for raising your prices with current clients without fear of losing them all. Each workshop is just $99 when you register before June 21st, and you'll save an additional $50 when you register for all three and you get lifetime access to all the replays, workbooks, templates, and scripts that we include in each workshop. Be assured to register today. You can get all of the workshop details at and I cannot wait to hang out with you this summer.

Shannon Mattern: Hey everyone, welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast and I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest, Haley Brown. She is a self-confessed WordPress nerd and design master. She's been designing and building WordPress sites for a decade. She's one of the founders of WP Mavens, which is a monthly online membership community for female web designers, determined to build profitable and productive WordPress design businesses. We've had like friends and colleagues wanting us to get together and meet each other and chat for a long time. So I'm so excited that we're finally doing it. So Haley, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Haley Brown: Oh my God, I feel really overwhelmed with that intro. Thank you . Thank you for having me.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh, it is my pleasure. So I'd love for you to share with our listeners a little bit about your background. I'd love to know how you got started as a web designer.

Haley Brown: Wow. I feel like for me it's a bit of a loaded question because I didn't take a traditional route or journey into web design and I have to shout out to Emma Kate for this one because each step of the way she has pushed me and said You need to do this. And I've kind of gone, oh, well maybe I should look at that. My background, I left school and moved, went straight to work. I wanted to earn money. I didn't wanna go to university. I didn't wanna spend four or five years studying straight outta high school. So I went and worked in telecommunications and then I moved into the finance industry. So I worked in big corporations and I worked my way up through the ranks in those different industries. I would always take a job and I would work my way up very quickly.

Haley Brown: I would get bored very quickly. I would only be in a position for a very short period of time and I'd either be promoted on or I'd get bored. There was no promotion in sight and I would leave onto the next thing and I would've been in my mid twenties when Emma was visiting me, my husband was in the Air Force and she was doing some design work from my dining table and I was looking over her shoulder and just making some comments and she's looked at me and she's like, you've got an eye for this, you should do it. And it took probably another year or two before that comment really sank in and I was like, no, no, I'll give it a go. And I did sign up for like an online uni university course and I lasted a year and a half in the course again, I got bored and by that point Emma was giving me some work on the side and I was getting more out of the actual work.

Haley Brown: So I was learning more from physically doing it than the university course. The university course was teaching me things like professional writing, which I had gotten more out of my previous career working for massive corporations. So yeah, I kind of just, I left the course and dove into my own business and I just dove head first and they, that's kind of how it started. Initially I did do graphic and web design, but very, very quickly I realized web design was where my heart was and I didn't enjoy branding and I'm trying to teach myself not to say this, but I'm not a overly creative designer, so sorry for the all the ums, but how do I say it? , my design tends to lean towards very functional, clean, modern, simplistic designs, which works for a lot of industries, which is fine in web design, but when you're working with logos it's a little bit more and branding it's a little bit different. So I kind of very much worked with the science side of design rather than the creative side. So that's where I ended up in web design.

Shannon Mattern: I love just hearing like your journey and I can relate to it so much in terms of just being like getting really bored with things that I'm doing quickly and to the point where like, I still liked the security of the job, but I would like pitch new roles and new responsibilities. I'd be like, I think we need to, like I went to a small nonprofit and they hired me as like the director of communications and I'm like, we need an IT department. Like we don't have one. So here's the job description I wrote for this role and I'd like to apply for it. And when they tell me no, I'd do it again in like three months and do it again in three months. And I was also very much like, it sounds like you were entrepreneurial in your own career even though you were working for someone else because you're like, oh no, I'm gonna, I'm not gonna like sit here and like wait for someone to like give me what I want. I'm gonna like go after the thing. Yeah,

Haley Brown: Yeah.

Shannon Mattern: That I wanna create.

Haley Brown: The tipping point for me was I had to move back. So my husband left the Air Force and we moved back to our hometown and for me to get a job, I just had to take a job. I took a transfer within an internal transfer within the finance company that I was working. It was a downgrade to a casual position, so it was lower pay, inconsistent money. The responsibilities weren't there. And I just got to the point whereas why am I putting up with this, earning this money for other people? Like I was bringing in big money for this Fortune 500 company and not getting the respect anything in return. And my whole career with them had been with them for a couple of years and the transfer I basically had to beg for and I was like, why am I doing this? I'm out, I'm done.

Haley Brown: And I was like, I need to pack up and do this for myself. I said to my husband, I'm like, I followed you around the country for six years. It is my turn. You are to support me while I do this. And he was like, fine, go for it. So that's kind of, yeah, we were really lucky that we had moved to our hometown. We had my husband's support, he had a permanent position and we were able to have the support of our family as well. So we had moved back home and we're living with family at the time while we were getting set up. So we kinda like, well, let's just stay an extra couple of months so we can make sure that this works before we take the leap and have our own home that we have to commit to. So yeah, very lucky in that regards. But yeah,

Shannon Mattern: I can so done.

Haley Brown: Yeah, the boredom and that fighting new positions and yeah, it's, it makes me feel sick if I would ever have to return to that or think about returning to that again. Yeah,

Shannon Mattern: I c yes, exactly the same. I'm like when I finally left to go out on my own full-time, cause I side hustled for a long time and I was like, I wanna replace my paycheck before I leave. And I just had that, like that requirement that I gave for myself. I don't say that that's advice everybody should take. That's just what I felt personally that I needed to do. And when I left my husband, we made the decision. I was like, if after a year it doesn't work out, I'll go back and get a job. But in the back of my mind I was like, there is no way this is not gonna work out because I'm never gonna work for anyone else ever again. . So, but you mentioned Emma, Emma Kate a couple of times. And for those of you who are newer to the podcast, Emma, Kate is a web designer that I interviewed in episode six of the show. So I'll link that up in the show notes. But can you share a little bit about like how you met Emma, Kate and your relationship and like what you guys are doing together now?

Haley Brown: Yeah, so it's, I guess in the industry it's a bit of a different relationship because we are actually, as we say in real life BFFs. We have known each other since year seven in high school. So I think for you that's middle school. That's so

Shannon Mattern: Cool. , yes,

Haley Brown: She actually went to primary school with my husband and he was her first crush.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh, that's so awesome. I'm like still, I'm still friends with people that I met when I was 10 years old in elementary school, you know? Yeah. I love that you're working with one of your, one of those people in your life.

Haley Brown: Yeah. You know, not everyone can work with their best friend. And I think the fact it's you can, we've, it's hard to explain. We are very similar in a lot of ways, but we are very different in a lot of ways and it takes a lot of communication and a lot of back and forth to make that work. But how we got to this point was that she had pushed me to do design and then she pushed me to launch a course. So she launched her course, which was be the boss of WordPress, which she's done fantastic with. About five years ago when I had my son, I flipped in my web design biz a little bit and I started focusing on problem solving with my clients. So I started working with, majority of my projects were very complex projects. So they're either membership learning, subscription based models, those sorts of things.

Haley Brown: So very high recurring revenue, lots of integrations and that was kind of my niche still is when I take on work. But Emma was like, you need to now turn that into a course, so why don't you do a WooCommerce course? And she has been pushed, she'd been pushing me for two years and finally I was like, okay, I've got some time, let's do it. Let's sell it on Black Friday, let's make it happen. And we did. So again, she's pushed me into course creation and then something clicked after a year of me selling my course, I was like, well what's the next step in the journey? And I mentioned to her, I wouldn't mind having a membership. I teach my clients how to create recurring models for them. I need to create something like that for myself. And she's like, that's all my goals on my list of goals.

Haley Brown: She goes, but I've been hesitant to do it cause I know how much work it is. I would love to share the load. Is it something you would do with me? And I'm like, yes, why not? So and that's where it's been really great. She's really great at spitting out content she can in her sleep, churn out training content. It's crazy. I'm really great at client student management, project management behind the scenes, face-to-face training, mentorship, a little bit of content. I just can't do it at the same speed as her . I mean that's probably the imposter syndrome in me. But yeah, so that's kind of the journey of our friendship from there. But yeah, it's been really good. And something that I'm working on with her, which is probably gonna be news to her when she listens to this, is I'm trying to focus on our friendship that when we do spend time together as friends, that we're not talking about work. So you know, we, we love what we do so much and we love wpm and it's so exciting. So it has become the majority of our conversations. So it's just, yeah, I'm trying to actively make sure we still have a friendship in there. ,

Shannon Mattern: It's so cool though that you guys just how you have this friendship where someone just sees this like talent or this skill or this thing in you and they encourage you and they encourage you to do it and just nudge you in the direction. And then you guys like end up collabing with similar goals. And I can imagine that how you two support each other and how important your friendship is to each other and how important autonomy and agency and your, like the life that you have created in support of each other, like your members, like I can imagine that like that is what you want for your members. Like is that what like really drives the mission of everything that you do is like what you've created with each other for yourselves, you want other people to experience that?

Haley Brown: Yes, yes. So, and it may not be in the same way that we've done it, so Sure. I've had conversations with members about this, like we see things in them and we're like, this isn't, what you're doing right now is not, we can see it's not what you're gonna be doing forever, like a hundred percent. And it doesn't mean you're gonna be doing what we're doing, but there is something in you that we can see that there is so much more for you. Like we, like there's, there's a spark there and you've just, something's gonna ha come and we wanna help you get there. But in regards to Mr, she, I can only aspire to be half of what she is in regards to that community over collabora, that collaboration over competition. She's all about that. And I am very grateful and I think, I think I still carry a lot of the imposter syndrome because I, I feel like I'll always be behind in that sense. Like because I've always been the one who's been like, come with me and do this or she's always been like, hold my hand, let's go. So you know, it's something I'm actively working on and that's I guess very strange to talk about. But yeah, I can only say how grateful I am to her for everything that she has done for me and my business and hopefully in return I can help others. So

Shannon Mattern: I feel like I think about like people I've met along the way and Emma, Kate's one of them, Josh Hall is one of them, Sarah Massey now you and so many more that I'm probably not naming where I'll just get an email from them that's like, oh hey you should meet this person. Let me connect you. And then that connection turns into like something and I am always so grateful and then I sit back and I'm like, I feel so guilty. Like I feel like I should be doing more to like reciprocate or pay it forward or like I get weird about like, I don't know if I like do I deserve people being this nice to me or like something like that. And I'm like, then I have to check myself and be like, no, like you know that maybe you're not su like I have to tell myself like maybe I'm not like proactive in that thing, but I am always down to help.

Shannon Mattern: Like if someone asks for anything, I'm there like a thousand percent. And so I think we all have to like work with what our natural strengths are. I know I do like I know I have to, I can't like be so hard on myself that I'm not like the connector, but like once we're connected I'm all in. And so I think that that's one of those things where we all get to leverage our unique strengths and what we bring to all of our relationships because this is what I kind of wanna get back get back to like kind of some practical advice. I have built my entire business through connection and relationships, through meeting real actual people, having real conversations. Anything that I have done that has seemed like one to many marketing or something like blogging or podcasting, like the actual thing that moved the needle is like the person that I interviewed in that blog post who connected me to someone else or whatever, it's never been the actual thing that I produced as a result. So I'm so curious, and this is what we teach our students too, is just like meet people, tell them you're a web designer, like offer to help them.

Shannon Mattern: What was your most successful marketing tactic when you were just starting out freelancing when you decided I'm doing this on my own?

Haley Brown: Wow. Okay. So probably not the best example because I kind of fell straight into referrals. I'm the worst example of do as I say, not as I do . But I never did any funnels. I never did any marketing. I maybe did a bit of seo, O D I Y, seo, no ads, nothing, hardly any social media. If you look at my social media from my design studio, which I will not share because it's embarrassing. Yeah, no. So referral based and it just came down to my niche and most of my referrals came from other web designers because it was projects that was too hard for them or they didn't want the stress of it. So my niche was very different. And so I kind of very quickly became the person that, oh hell no I don't want to touch that with a 10 foot pole. I'm gonna send that over to Haley. So I guess those are

Shannon Mattern: My favorite kinds of projects too. ,

Haley Brown: . So I

Shannon Mattern: Think gimme the biggest space.

Haley Brown: Yeah, Facebook groups, connecting with other web designers and just helping them and being that person in the group where I'm answering questions could be simple questions like how do I do this to this? And I'm like, oh, that's easy. Just use zaia or whatever it is. And they'll be like, oh I've never heard of that. How do you use that? And I'll be like, oh, you know, it's just a connection. And then they're emailing me and I'm like, well you need help setting it up. And then straight away they're like, oh great, can I contract you to help me with this project? Or something like that. So that's kind of how it all really kicked off I guess.

Shannon Mattern: I mean that's what I would tell any new web designer to do. Like when that's what I did to like I literally , I built stuff, I built solutions for my day job. That's what I did. And I figured out how to like solve business problems with WordPress and like there'd be all these crazy requirements and I'm like, I know there's a plugin for that. I know I can automate that. I know I can get these things talking to each other. And like that is, and like you said earlier, I can replicate someone else's design, but I'm not going to create that beautiful design from scratch. Like that's just not how my brain works and how I got clients in the beginning was a vendor at my day job said, Hey, can you refer me to the person that built that continuing education website that you guys have?

Shannon Mattern: And I was like, well that was me. And he is like, do you do side work? And I was like, let me check with my boss and see if I'm allowed to do that . And I said yes. And then I told that story to someone else and they're like, oh you do WordPress, I need someone. And then I told like then she was like, I have a friend. And so if I, that's where I'm like, oh yeah, all of my business starting out was referrals. But I actually had to like say that I did it. I had to like say yes, I had to accept the like I had to and I felt, I remember like the first time I was like, I'm a web designer, I got hot, my face turned red and I thought, why did you just lie to her? You didn't go to school for this.

Shannon Mattern: You're not a web designer. And so it took me forever to even say I was a web designer. I'd say stuff like, oh I build websites with WordPress or I work with WordPress. Like I wouldn't even call myself a web designer cuz I thought I was lying. But like that's how I got clients and it was when I shifted over to like teaching WordPress and wanting to build a big audience that I did things like funnels and blogging and all of that. But like to get web design clients, it was just telling people what I did and everybody seemed to know someone that needed help.

Haley Brown: Yeah.

Shannon Mattern: So I love that you just like kind of showed up and said, Hey, let me help you. And they're like, oh hey, can you help me more? I'll pay you .

Haley Brown: Yeah. Well and that's the one thing we're having these conversations with Mavens at the moment. Obviously the economy, it's no secret that every industry is struggling at the moment. People are having a really hard time getting clients, people are a lot more careful with their money. You have to build a lot more trust and before they're gonna part with those dollars or sign those contracts. So we're having really in-depth conversations with Mavens about that. We have a lo a few mavens that are brand new. They're just launching their websites or they're just building out their websites and they're very nervous about it. And I'm like, well just get it done. Done is better than perfect and you need to start talking about it and you need to start sharing it. But the hesitation is there because they're like, but I'm not this or I'm not that or I don't have this or this isn't built.

Haley Brown: Like it doesn't matter, you don't need it. I'm about to launch a low paid offer in my web design studio this month on a PDF because I haven't built my new website and I'm about to send that to my existing clients to share with their clients. And I guarantee that will sell out for the next three months on a plain PDF with no design, just text. I have zero hesitations that I won't sell the ones that I wanna sell and it's just because I've met the market and I'm gonna pitch it to the right people. I know my client's clients so, and obviously there's an offer in it there for my clients too. But yeah. So one thing that I'm saying, and I guess this is off topic a little bit, is with this economy pivot, and it doesn't mean you have to change your business plan, it doesn't mean you have to change your ideal client, but just pivot just that little bit just to make sure that you can make ends meet at the moment.

Haley Brown: And for me that's, I don't have a low paid offer. My web design projects when I'm taking on clients start pretty much at that five figures. And so they're really hard to come by at the moment. They're really hard to sign. I actually haven't quoted one in a couple of months. So it's, and it's fine because I'm doing all the consulting and and the course and mavens, but that's why I've tweaked with this low paid offer. My clients have clients that are on recurring revenue and they need websites. So that's where that low paid offer, their clients don't have recurring revenue models, their service space. So now I've created a service space templated model that I can offer to them at a lower price. So just tweaking my model in the short term is gonna, I don't know, ensure that my design business can stay afloat until we write out this economy. So that I get, I don't know, it's just a bit off topic, but I thought I'd share

Shannon Mattern: That. No, I don't think it is. I think it's so important to talk about and and I think we're hearing the same thing from our students in the Web Designer Academy that they're like, oh, it's taking more outreach, it's taking more effort, it's taking more to get clients to get the yes at the same time. I love what you said about the pivots because I wanted to ask you like you're saying you're having in-depth conversations and may mavens and we're also having these conversations in our program too, but we're talking about like what you said pivot. We're like get scrappy and we literally were just talking today about like, it doesn't have to be like just what you said, it doesn't have to be like, oh I, no one's buying complex five figure projects anymore so I'm gonna like just throw that out and I'm gonna offer this new thing and change everything.

Shannon Mattern: It's like no, you keep all of that and mm-hmm you offer different things. You meet your clients where they are, like you just said, you get creative with your offers because I totally agree with you. People are, they're like questioning like do I really need to do this right now? Is this the right time for me to move forward? Things feel iffy and uncertain so I'm not sure that I'm ready to like make this investment right now. And there absolutely are people out there who are still buying and thriving and all of those things. But my position is like if you stop because you think the economy's bad or because you're hearing more no, and you decide to make that no mean, well people can't afford me, like whatever, whatever. And you just pull back on connecting and making offers and reaching out and or you hear like no that's not in my price range right now.

Shannon Mattern: Like there's nothing that says that you can't come back and be like, oh well how about this? Would this help solve your problem at this different price range? So I feel like now more than ever in order to like be here in three months, six months and nine months, you have to keep your foot on the gas of your marketing and your outreach and your connections and making offers because there are gonna be, this is like the beautiful thing for those of us who plan to be around for a while. There are gonna be people that fall off because it got too hard and the rest of us will just be like waiting in the wings to like take them. But we don't want you to fall off, we want you to keep going. So I'm super curious like what types of things are you hearing from your students? Like what strategies are they using that are working well for them right now?

Haley Brown: Yeah, so obviously the time of year specifically in Australia, so we have end of financial year midyear in June. It's a great time to run offers and to send your clients a deal. I don't advocate specifically to send a discount, however, it's been a card couple of months for quite a few people. And the one thing that I've really been advocating for is to reach out to previous and existing clients. Youre so much more likely to get a yes from someone that you have already worked with than someone that you have never worked with before. So if you can come up with something that you can offer them, chances are they're gonna say yes more often than not. So that's kind of something that we've been pushing and seeing a lot of success with in Mavens. I can speak for myself that I have personally had success with that and I'm trying to think of examples, but I know we have had success with that in the group as well.

Haley Brown: Pivoting. So coming up with a lower paid offer that might be an add-on to their website, it might be doing their email marketing for them, something like that. Even a lot of our mavens are also graphic designers, so doing social media graphics, just something that they maybe wouldn't normally do. I have a product personally that I use that Mavens have started looking at. I know trading time for money is not ideal, but I use with my clients time blocks, I have a lot of clients that just need little tweaks done to things they might need. A product changed every couple of months, consistent work and rather than charging them hourly, I do these time blocks, it's less admin. So I sell them 10 or 20 hours and they last three or six months and I just at the end of the month send them a report of what I've done.

Haley Brown: It means I can charge them a little bit less than my quite high hourly rate. I then also only track them in one minute increments. If they're on my hourly rate charged at the end of the month, I do it in 15 minute increments. So if they only do two minutes, they, they cost them 15 minutes. Whereas on these time blocks they kind of get better value out of it. And so, you know, being the end of financial year, I sent an email on the 1st of June, I had six people buy time blocks. Now I've shared that with Mavens and they're like, oh my god, that's great. We've given them the email template, the products, they've been at a price it themselves and they've all sent that off. So you know, little things like that can just make the difference immediately to your income stream. So if you can come up with something to send out to your clients, you're struggling, you know, your clients are struggling, what do they need help with right now? They're struggling to get clients. How can you help them get clients? Kinda, if you can help your clients with getting clients, then it's a no-brainer for them to come to you. So just try and I guess by helping you're helping yourself.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, it's like in instead of trying to sell your services, sell solutions to them, which is what we always say. But then sometimes when we're shifting into like feeling like, oh my gosh, I need more clients, then you sometimes forget to still like be in service. And if you can just always remember like the best thing I can do for my business right now is figure out how I can be of service to someone else's business. That's always in easier times and in tougher times, that's always gonna help you create more opportunities. I love that you did not like, I love that you didn't say, oh just like do the same work for a lower price , like,

Haley Brown: Oh no, no.

Shannon Mattern: And I think like another opportunity that people have is if they've quoted a bigger project and the client just isn't feeling confident enough to move forward with that project or they're feeling a little like stretched or they don't wanna make that kind of a financial commitment, how can you break that down into chunks for them, into phases? Like what would the first phase that could just get them like set up to start like creating some results. Maybe it doesn't have to be the whole thing that they ultimately wanna have. Maybe it can just be, okay, well let's just get that page up and the automation up and you're booking set up so that you can do this and then we can come back and do a whole brand refresh and flush out all of this other and all these integrations and all of that. So how can you get them the minimum viable thing that they need instead of being like, oh well they said my price is too high so I better just lower my price on all of this

Haley Brown: Because No, I know.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. Yeah.

Haley Brown: And I think a lot of the times when we have clients come to us and that is a big project that's so easy to break it down. So a lot of the times when it's a big project, it's a new idea. So it might be an in my niche, a learning or a membership site, I generally push them to do some sort of proof concept, do a sales page and pre-sell it. You can sell, pre-sell that for two to three months, collect enough money and then we can build it so you can literally pay for it to be built. And we did that with Mavens. We literally had one sales page and we sold it and we didn't build it until we needed it. It's, it can be done that way. And that's the only way I would really recommend something like that. I wouldn't recommend building out course content. I wouldn't recommend building out resources until you've actually sold it and you've got your proof of concept. So I think taking that with you specifically right now with your clients and even into other industries, how can you do that I guess. Yeah, breaking that down, what's the easiest way for them to get money in their bank to be able to pay for the next step or the next evolution of that project?

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, and then you're not just positioning yourself as a web designer, you're like, I also strategically understand like the customer journey, how this business works, like the stages of you rolling out this offer and I'm here to support you through these different pieces and that's gonna make the customer lifetime value for you as the web designer so much more. Cuz you are gonna build so much trust by saying, hey, yeah, I would love to work with you on all of this and I wanna make sure that like at every stage you're ready to move to the next one. And like who is problem solving for people? Like who is helping other peop, like helping them prevent mistakes that we see business owners make over and over again. It's like you raise your value so much when you show up at that. Like we call it like the collaborative consultant level rather than the pixel pusher level where you're just like, oh you want me to do all of this? I'm just gonna do whatever you ask me. Versus I'd love to do that for you and here's how I recommend you go about doing it.

Haley Brown: Yeah, yeah. And I think, I guess it, for me it's come from experience of a doing it with clients, seeing some clients fail, seeing some clients absolutely struggle nail it and thrive. Yeah. And what the difference was and then going through that process myself multiple times now. So being able to take all those learnings and implement it into every project is just, yeah, it's a game changer. And to give that to my mavens now, so with your web design business, you don't need to have a perfect website. You can have a one pager, it's ok, you don't need to have a complete sales funnel, you just need to capture those leads to start. Then you can start building out that funnel. You don't need to have every step of the process done, just get it up there and just start talking about it and start finding people. Like if you're just gonna sit there and make it, because it's never gonna be perfect. My current web design business is from 2018. It is not current, it's not perfect, but I'm still working with clients. It doesn't have a funnel. I don't have my prices on there, I don't have a price guide, I don't, I doubt I even have people go to my website to find me. They're referred to me from other people. So it's okay that it's not perfect. It is okay and you will be okay, but just get it out there.

Shannon Mattern: That is so good. So I have a million more questions I wanna ask you. And we're probably gonna have to have you come back on the show , because I could sit here and talk to you for a couple more hours. But what is one of the biggest challenges that you personally had to overcome in your own web design business?

Haley Brown: Ooh. Oh yeah, COVID. It was really, really interesting. So prior to Covid I had and six or seven large retainer clients. And Covid happened at the beginning of Covid. They all freaked out and oh, sorry, I don't know if I can say that on the podcast, , that's fine. And my monthly recurring revenue, which was healthy, just demolished instantly. However, that financial year was my most profitable yet that was when I really took my business to the next level and the clients that I had. So it was, for example, a Pilates studio came to me, she had to close her doors, she couldn't have people come to her studio. We created her an online studio where she had an online membership. Not only could she have the people that she would have come to one class a week and pay $18, she had them on a monthly membership where they were coming to multiple classes plus more people that weren't coming to her studio.

Haley Brown: So she was able to grow exponentially. So we were, yeah, we were able to kind of replicate that process for multiple different businesses. So it was a very interesting time. Those first few months we just bought our block of land that we're building on now. And all of those retainer clients just disappeared except one. And I didn't like, I didn't know what was gonna happen, but then the projects just changed and I, I went from doing 5,000 projects to 15, 20, 30,000 projects and it was a bit of a mindset change and it was, my clients were coming to me with this problem and I'm like, okay, well have you thought about doing it online? So how do we do this for you? And I don't know, that was kind of the change there. And I feel like where we are at the economy now, that's the kind of mindset we really need to be looking at is how do we adapt to make sure that everyone survives now as well.

Shannon Mattern: I couldn't agree with you more because I think there are a lot of businesses out there that are committed to surviving and that doesn't mean that they completely stop spending. It means that they are really more careful and strategic about making investments that are gonna help them carry through. And if you are selling web design to someone who needs a solution to help them get through a challenging problem, that's where you have the opportunity to like level up your conversations, your connections, all of the things. And that's why I love that you said like, I don't like people probably don't even go to my website to like find me. It's because it's not about us, it's about the client. It's about the solutions that we can provide for them. And it's about just like having a conversation to find out what those things are. And I just think it's so cool that you're like, okay, I've been here before and even though this time is a little bit different, I still went back into like, how can I solve whatever problems people are experiencing now? That's the solution for your business now is going back into problem solving mode. .

Haley Brown: I actually feel like the problem right now is the complete opposite to the problem in Covid. So tell me more, tell problem with Covid was they wanted a way for their businesses to survive with that recurring revenue. Right now people are being so tight with their money, the first things to go are the subscriptions. Yes. The people are doubling down on their Netflix subscriptions, their gym memberships, those sorts of things are the first things to go. Mm-Hmm . So that's kind of, yeah, for me it's a brain flip that I'm like, okay, so I'm currently not targeting my clients that have recurring revenue. I'm targeting their clients and that's my pivot at the moment. It doesn't mean I'm leaving my recurring revenue clients in the dust, I'm helping them still serve their clients. So the offer that I'm giving them, they get something from that as well. So I'm in, I'm trying to help them at the same time, if that makes sense.

Shannon Mattern: It's brilliant, brilliant.

Haley Brown: Trying. But yeah, so in my own head it's, it feels very much the same, but I feel like people's mindsets are a little bit different. Yeah. At the same time. Like people were very scared back then, but for a different, it was about money, but there was a lot of money pushed into the economy right now. Mm-Hmm. , there's no money coming into the economy. So yeah.

Shannon Mattern: Interesting. It's, yeah and it's like I, yeah, I could talk about that all day, but it is, it's just like kind of thinking beyond and thinking ahead and like thinking like what is happening and what are the solutions and how can I support and how can I be of service? So I wanna shift gears. Tell me all about WP Mavens. Like how does it work, who is it for? What do you guys do? All the things.

Haley Brown: Well we, how do I even explain it? It's, I guess we kind of call it like our little safe place. We've all been in those Facebook online communities, you ask a question and you feel attacked sometimes. And yes, specifically for those of us that don't come from an IT or a tech background, you feel like you're asking stupid questions. And so we wanted to create a safe place for female web designers where they can ask whatever questions that they want and they'll be answered in an environment that's supportive for them. So that's kinda how it started. We wanted to create how do, trying to think of all the words now I'm getting lost for words

Shannon Mattern: To be fair, it's evening for me and it's morning for you. on the other side of the world, .

Haley Brown: When it comes to Mavens, I get a little bit overwhelmed because it's grown into something that we didn't actually expect.

Haley Brown: It's a joy to jump into our group of a morning and chat to our members. It is not a job. It's so nice to jump into our co-working sessions and chat to the ladies that are on there. We have four or five co-working sessions a week that are scheduled around different times around the world. You can jump in and actually talk to other women and not feel like you're working alone. So you spend a couple of hours, your camera's not always on you, mic's not always on, but you spend a couple like 15 to 20 minutes chatting, talking about what your problems are, what you're working on, turn it all off, do some work. And it's my most productive time of the week. Two hours I'm getting all the crap done that I don't actually wanna do, but I'm committing to it. Come back, celebrate that win, have another chat and sign off.

Haley Brown: There's a ton of trainings. So we've like the amount of trainings that we've spit out, Emma and I, one thing that we wanted to do with Mavens was it was not going to be more work. So the trainings that we're doing are short and sweet and they come with templates. So if we're giving you a training, we're giving you the completed work, we're not giving you a workbook where you have to go and work it out. There is some stuff where you have to do in related to your own business. But for example, I did a month on boundaries. I gave you all the templates to share with your clients on boundaries. I gave you an onboarding template, I gave the email templates, I gave you communication policies, all these sorts of things. We gave to our ma, our members so that they didn't have to physically go and write these things. We wrote them for them. They just had to go and fill in the blanks and change it their branding. So that was one thing we were really mindful of. We didn't wanna create a ton more work, we wanted it kind of like a done for you, we call it our digital swag bag. So I guess that's kind of like the little difference we wanted between us and other memberships is that we didn't want it to feel like more work. We wanted it to be a place of resources and support.

Shannon Mattern: I love that because I'm sure, I mean you had Emma, Emma, Kate, so you probably didn't feel super lonely back in the day when you were working cuz your best friend does the same thing and you guys could probably nerd out together. But for me, I didn't know any other entrepreneurs, I didn't know any other web designers. I experienced the same stuff that you talked about, about like, I made the mistake of asking a question in a form one time and then I got the, you shouldn't even be building websites if you have to ask that question. And I was like, okay, I've learned not to ask questions in here. I will just spend enormous amounts of time trial and error, figuring it out for myself and trying to like decode what everybody else is talking about. And you know, when I started teaching my web design, I did something called the free five day website challenge.

Shannon Mattern: We don't offer it anymore, but it was for entrepreneurs to DIY their own website. That was my thing too. I was like, this is going to be a safe space where anyone can ask a question and they like, we will kick you out of this group if you say anything. Like if you say you shouldn't be asking it that way, you should know this, this is what it's really called. This is the terminology. Like absolutely not. Like we're kicking you out. And I feel like it sounds like the community that you have created is like, it can be very lonely being a freelancer, an entrepreneur and you have created just this space. We, we talk about this for the Web Designer Academy. It's like, it's like you have coworkers who want nothing more than for you to succeed and you can tap someone on the shoulder and be like, hey, can you help me with this? But you're running your own business and you have full autonomy to do what you want. And it sounds like that's the kind of like community and membership that you guys have created over there and it's so much better to like be a part of something like that than to try to like do it on your own. Like so much more rewarding.

Haley Brown: Yeah, it was really like we, we didn't think, we had no idea it would turn into what it has. We thought, oh we'll get, we had a goal, a stretch goal of 50 members and we more than doubled it on our launch. And so when we say stretch goal, Emma was, that was my stretch goal. Emma's like, no way, not a chance . So you know, we thought we can handle that. That's, that's so easy. We can manage that with two people and obviously doubling it. So we're a little bit hesitant because when you start getting bigger numbers it is harder to manage those people and personalities and things like that. But I think we've cultivated such a group that there isn't a negative energy. No, not so we do this thing at the end of the month. I implemented it last month, your rose and thorn.

Haley Brown: And so I try and get everyone to share, you know, their, their biggest win and you know, their biggest thorn for the month and everyone's just lifting each other up and you know, people might share their thorn and this is what I learnt from that. Or if someone's got a thorn, it's like, oh this is what you can do for next time. But no one's trampling on anyone or bringing anyone down. It's always lifting each other up or you know, I have to been there before and it'll be get better or you know, it's just everyone is kind of like backing each other. And actually one thing that I really loved talking about, and I dunno if I should say this publicly, but Code Bros is we had a developer reach out to us when we were in launch mode and she asked us, she's like, I'm a developer, is WP Mavens for me?

Haley Brown: And we said, WP Mavens of course is for you obviously all our languages towards designers because that's what we consider ourself as. We're not teaching Mavens to design. That's not what it's about. We're not teaching them to develop, it's about the business side of things. We're teaching them how to hold boundaries, keeping them accountable for goals, sales funnels, all those types of things. So it's not so much about design or development that's on you guys to do. I mean we can help you if you have asked questions, but by all means join the group because you're, not only is it support for you, you're a great asset, you can answer questions, you might also pick up work like, and she has been amazing. She has been so supportive. Again, she's found the same things. Being in those groups and feeling those same things. When other people have asked questions she's like, Ooh, that's not like Kite. People aren't answering with in kindness. And it's always in the free groups. It's never in paid memberships. Paid memberships are great. The, I think when you're paying for something, you kind of, you are held accountable to a different standard but in those free groups that the trolling just is to another level. So I think, yeah, we're just so proud of what it has become and what it is and yeah, I can't wait to see where it goes.

Shannon Mattern: I think that seeks to you and Emma, Kate to like your vision of what you really wanted to create for people. And it's just really, really special to have communities like that out there supporting other women web designers to do the harder things in their, in their business. And like all of the things that's like, oh I can learn all of the technical skills, but when it comes down to implementing and running a business and involving other humans in our projects and having to navigate how other humans behave sometimes with our clients. I mean that stuff, those things are challenging. And like why not put yourself in the room with other people who are cheering you on or have been there before and all the things. So I That's so cool that you have created that. So I have one final question for you before we wrap up. And that is, what is one belief about yourself that you had to change to get where you are today?

Haley Brown: Oh, I thought about this before. Oh yes. Okay. So actually at the beginning of this year I went on a retreat and I kept referring to myself as a cheater. I cheated my way into web design. I cheated my way into course creation and I cheated my way into a membership owner and I cheated because I went in off the backs of others. Yeah. And that's how I referred to myself. Oh I cheated because I launched my course. So when I launched Woo wizardry, I actually launched it through Emma as Woo boss. She was like, launch it through my website, look through my list, we'll sell more. And so I just referred to it casually as I cheated, I cheated. So I, I nailed my first course. I didn't have a list. I hadn't grown. I didn't even have a website for Haley

Haley Brown: Then I cheated when I was in this retreat. That's how I introduced my business. I cheated. And all of the women there were just like, no, you did not. You did not cheat. You were strategic. You stood, and we talked about this previously in the podcast and I loved that you did it. You strategically used your contacts to successfully launch your product. And I kept saying it the whole way through the the retreat and it was after the retreat that I really started thinking about it. And I've been really working on that consistently. So it's a really recent thing. This was in February, a change of mindset that I didn't cheat, I collaborated and successfully it is my product. I created the product, it's my content, but I collaborated to sell the product I guess. So yeah, changing that mindset that yes collaborated, I didn't cheat . So yeah, I think that

Shannon Mattern: Is,

Haley Brown: Yeah I think that's, sorry. I think that's been a very big mindset shift for me. And yeah, very casually, I would very honestly just always refer to the way I kind of moved through my, my journey as a web designer as I had cheated my way through

Shannon Mattern: That. Like, I mean, I don't know, it kind of gave me chills when you were saying that you had the shift from I cheated to, I collaborated and as you were saying that I'm thinking like cheating comes with a lack of integrity about the motives behind why you're doing the thing that you wanna do. And it comes at a cost to other like, it's like cheating is like, I don't care how it harms someone else, I'm gonna get what I want. And everything I've heard from you is like, I created something to help people. I am helping people solve problems. Like I'm doing this cuz I can help, we can help more people when I do it this way. And so to me just, I love that you had that realization because everything you do, you did was like an integrity and in service of others. Like it couldn't possibly be cheating . So shifting from, I cheated to, I collaborated, what a beautiful shift and what a beautiful gift to the people that you've collaborated with to help everybody. Everybody wins. So where can everybody find you and connect with you online? We'll wrap up this episode cause I know we've been talking for hours . Sorry,

Haley Brown: We can, we can totally No, you're good again. So you can find me personally at Haley Brown co. That's my website and Instagram. But you can also find Emma and I at WP mavens co. And that is our Instagram and our website.

Shannon Mattern: Amazing. So I'll link up all of that in the show notes. You'll definitely be seeing more of Hayley and Emma and we've got, they have a summit planning like in the works that I'm gonna be a part of. So I'm just really excited to have gotten to meet you and connect with you and everyone, go check out WP Mavens and see what they have to offer you in terms of community and connection. So thank you so much for being here.

Haley Brown: Thank you so much for having me, Shannon. I've had such a great time this morning, this afternoon,

Speaker 3: .

Shannon Mattern: All right. Bye everyone. See

Haley Brown: Ya.

Shannon Mattern: Hey, so if you're ready to stop undercharging and overworking, if you wanna take back control of your time, work only with the dreamiest of clients and make more money as a web designer than you ever thought possible. Get started now by going to and joining our wait list. We'll send you exclusive teachings from the current Web Designer Academy so you can start applying our concepts now. And you'll be first to know when enrollment opens up again, so that you can work with us to completely transform your web design business.

Speaker 4: This podcast is part of the sound advice FM network. Sound advice FM Women's Voices amplified.

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Shannon Mattern
Web Designer Academy


I help ambitious women web designers reclaim their time, book web design projects they love, and make more as a freelance web designer than they ever thought possible.

I created the Web Designer Academy to give you everything I wished I would have had when I started freelancing:  step-by-step processes and fill-in-the-blank templates for your messaging, marketing, packages, consultations, sales and project management combined with next-level support so that you have everything you need to create a consistently profitable web design business doing work you love for clients you love.