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#92 – Failing Forward: Lessons Learned From Web Design Business Challenges, Disasters, and Setbacks

In this episode of the Profitable Web Designer Podcast, we're diving into a topic every web design business owner encounters sooner or later—failure.

But instead of seeing failure as a setback, what if we could see it as a stepping stone to success? That's exactly what we're exploring today with a panel of incredible women who have faced business challenges head-on and come out stronger on the other side.

Joining me on this journey are Michelle Steward from Financially Aligned, Nikki Hamilton from Seedling Digital, Racheal Graham from Greenhouse Creative, Sarah Linklater from Designer Admin, and Sarah Masci from Day Rate Mastery. These powerhouse women share their personal stories, strategies for overcoming obstacles, and the invaluable lessons they've learned along the way.

My guests today highlight how common it is to carry what we call “employee mindset” at the Web Designer Academy into running their web design businesses and how this can lead to undercharging and overdelivering. They share their unique approaches to recognizing and overcoming this mindset, ensuring they not only survive but thrive in their businesses.


  • Redefining failure and using it as a learning tool
  • Balancing personal growth with business demands
  • Setting boundaries and managing client expectations
  • The importance of community and mentorship
  • Embracing authenticity and aligning your business with your values


  • [00:03] Welcome and Introduction to the Panel
  • [02:09] Michelle Steward on Financial Strategy and Emotional Well-being
  • [06:41] Nikki Hamilton’s Journey from Corporate to Entrepreneur
  • [13:41] Racheal Graham on Using Data to Navigate Business Decisions
  • [16:07] Sarah Linklater on Systems, Processes, and Client Relationships
  • [21:44] Sarah Masci on Learning from Failure and Doing it Messy


🎧 Listen to the episode now and leave a rating and review to let us know what you think!

Shannon Mattern (00:03.95)

Hello everyone. Welcome to our live Simply Profitable Designer Summit panel. Today we are talking about failing forward. Juicy topic that we're going to be talking about. Lessons learned from business challenges and setbacks. And if you haven't had any business challenges and setbacks yet, good for you. They are coming and we

want to just have an open conversation about what that looks like and how to navigate that. So we are joined today by Michelle Stewart of Financially Aligned. She presented today such a good presentation. Go check out the replay. Nikki Hamilton of Seedling Digital, you saw her presentation on AI yesterday.

Sarah link later of sort your systems. Sorry. I'm like, I remember she presented yesterday on systems and processes. You saw Rachel Graham's presentation today on custom projects and Sarah Massey, welcome to the panel. Sarah Massey is queen of VIP days. I don't know. That's your unofficial title in my, my mind. And she'll be presenting later this week. So they are all here.

to talk about failure and how to navigate it and learn from it. So we would love to hear from you all in the chat. Let us know where you're from, if you're like beginner, intermediate or advanced. And I'm gonna start with Michelle and have you just briefly introduce yourself and then we'll go around the room and then I'll dive in with our first question. And attendees, please feel free to ask.

any questions that you have of the attendees while we have them here. So Michelle, let's dive in.

Shannon Mattern (02:09.389)

Okay. Hello. And thank you, Shannon. Thank you for having me at the summit. This has been such an awesome summit. The energy has been so high and I've been loving the feedback of everybody. And I saw yesterday's, panel meeting and that was amazing. Also. And I was like, wow, you guys set the standard here. So good. so I'm Michelle Stewart and I'm a financial therapist and a financial strategist for entrepreneurs and, specifically entrepreneurs that are ambitious and driven from their heart.

And so what I really do is I work with both the strategy side of finance, like all the things that we hear about, but then also the inner world. So I combine the two between the inner and the outer world, in the hopes that, you know, we can come, we can come into more of a white, right relationship with our money. That's my favorite topic to talk about. So I'm so excited that you're here and yeah, Nikki.

Hi everyone, I'm Nikki Hamilton. I'm from Seedling Digital and I also have an e -course called Women Wealth WordPress. So yeah, I love to help women make money. That's like what I do. And with WordPress, it's been the answer for me. And it's really taken me from, I actually had a really good chat with Shannon about this, but like my financial history and the way I grew up was not great. So it's really allowed me to turn my life around and,

make some really amazing things happen. So yeah, thanks for having me. You are so welcome. And let's see, Rachel, you're up next. Hey, everyone. So I'm Rachel Graham. I have a small web design and marketing studio called Greenhouse Creative. I'm working on building an agency and a team. And I'm on a mission to be Shannon's star pupil, greatest success story from Web Designer Academy. So.

Shannon and I have been ride or die for a long time now. And kind of like as a side passion project, starting a little community where I'm just kind of showing behind the scenes stuff and all the things that I have fallen forward in terms of like making mistakes and figuring out another way that was gonna work for me. So gonna be starting to share some of that behind the scenes stuff in community soon. So I'm excited to be here.

Shannon Mattern (04:28.526)

I cannot wait to get a peek into the behind the scenes. Like you all make me want to start designing again. Sarah, welcome. You want to share with everyone a little bit about you? Yeah, thanks so much, Shannon. I am Sarah Linklater. I'm from Melbourne, Australia. I run Designer Admin, which is an admin hub for graphic and web designers, helping them sort out all their systems and processes in their design business.

and I have templates and e -courses that help my community to do that. I've been a graphic and web designer for 15 years now. I've been running my business, Slinky did it for 10 years. That's pretty much me in a nutshell. Amazing. And Sarah, Sarah number two, Sarah I know we're gonna need Sarah L and Sarah Hi everyone, I'm Sarah Massey from Day Rate Mastery.

Like Shannon said, I guess you can call me the VIP day queen or the day rate queen. So I have been an online business owner since 2005. I've been around for a very long time. It's been designing since about 2009, 2010. And I kind of hung up my designer hat about two years ago when I went all in on coaching and teaching other designers and service providers how to do VIP days and day rates and intensives.

so that you can work less and make more as cliche as it sounds. That's exactly what we teach. So thank you for having me. Yes, of course. It's not a simply profitable designer summit without you. I know. I was like, this is my fifth year doing it. And yeah, there's a whole background for me with this summit. So I am glad to be here.

We're so excited to have you. Okay, so let's dive right on in with our first question and we'll go in that same order. What do you do when what was no when what was no longer.

Shannon Mattern (06:31.854)

when what was working no longer is. What do you do when what was working no longer is?

Shannon Mattern (06:41.294)

Okay. So I'll go ahead and jump in on this. so, you know, I've been giving a lot of thought to some of these questions in advance and thinking about, you know, how do you navigate the unexpected? And one thing that has always worked for me is for me to pull back and to not, to not try so hard for the outcome, you know, but to start to then look for what is the message in something that feels once aligned, but no longer aligned.

Right. So when I get to that place of like, why isn't this working anymore? It used to work like to me, that's always assigned to level up and that there's some kind of evolution that needs to happen. for me, and it's usually like a more of a personal development kind of an evolution. So what I've done is I've often, just pulled back and I've pivoted into something that felt more aligned. Like I'll, I'll stay at it for a while, you know, cause you don't like just give up right away, but,

But then it's like, if it's still not working, it's still not working. It's still not working. You know, I get, I'll get really spiritual and go 30 ,000 feet up and go, what is, what's the bigger meaning here? What's the message behind this? You know, what do I, what am I not seeing that I need to see? And so I take a break from it and, you know, I will disconnect from media. I'll disconnect from as many humans as I can, just so I don't have the, the mental chatter of.

other people's ideas and beliefs in my head. And I'll go out into nature a lot. and I'll do a lot of journaling. I do a lot of verbal processing, you know, therapy is always really helpful for me. And, I think I just, I get really quiet and I listen and then inevitably the answers do show up for me about just either stay, stay going forward or you actually need to pivot out. And this actually happened with me.

in the first part of my career, cause I, I started out in financial services and I started out in a time when it was, it's still very conservative, but it was extremely conservative and everybody thought I was a sales assistant and I was actually an investment advisor. And so after a while, you know, I was, I was really excited about it, but I thought, you know, at some point.

Shannon Mattern (08:59.15)

This isn't lining up with me anymore. And so I actually pivoted out of that industry for awhile. And that's when I moved into graphic and web design. And for a period of time, that just felt really aligned for me. And then I got to another point where I was like, you know, wait a minute, but that's, there's still a reason I'm not done with that industry. So I moved back into it and I'll kind of leave it at that, but, but that's, that's helped me to. To start to like move the energy around, like getting things to.

I'm not seeing so good. Nikki.

This is a funny one because I'm probably currently going through this. My word of the year is expand. And I've shared like on my business journey for the last few years, like what my word of the year is and like what I expect it to be. And like some of what you said, Michelle, I get to the other end and it's never what I expect. So kind of at the moment, yeah, I feel like I'm kind of like burning everything down and examining what everything looks like and everything that I do and how I spend my time.

And I am working with a therapist. And one thing that he said to me is that sometimes when we feel overwhelmed, like our urge is to like sleep or shut down, but what we actually need to do is play more. And so that's just what I'm focusing on at the moment. I went to the water park the other weekend with my sister and a friend and I...

went and brought some new sparkly rose gold roller skates and like a little love heart carry bag. And I'm like gonna be skating every Monday. So yeah, that's what I'm focusing on at the moment and just sitting in the discomfort of like not knowing what it's gonna look like, but trusting that it's gonna be okay. And that was one thing I said to my therapist, I'm like, you know, but what if, like, what if it goes away or what if I am not, you know, at the same level as I am or, you know, whatever it is. And he's like,

Shannon Mattern (11:15.822)

If you've done it once, you can do it again. So yeah, who knows what my business is going to look like in a year or even a couple of months from now, but I'm really excited to kind of see how it pans out. I remember when we were talking on our podcast interview and we were like kind of talking about this kind of stuff and you said the quote, slow down. What is meant for you is already, what is meant for me is already mine. And I do have.

The print that you sent me, I don't know if you guys can see that because of the plastic on it. It's embossed. It says slow down. And I keep that on my desk because yeah, it was just such a sage advice. It meant a lot to me. So yeah, you're very wise. Not that you need to hear it from me, but like, yeah, if we've done it once, you can do it again. It will all work out. It's so good. Yeah, Rachel.

So I love some of the internal reflection answers that we've heard. I'm the total opposite, which I need a little more of that. I'm a total pragmatist and I'm gonna go to the data first. So I'm gonna talk to my clients and get their feedback. I actually have a really nerdy air table where I track how I felt through the day and what I was working on and how much time I spent and where I spent it. It's embarrassing actually, but.

It gives me like a fairly clear picture of where I'm spending my time or what's resonating with clients or what feels good and what doesn't. So I tend to like sort of collect all of those pieces. And a lot of times I'll look to other people in the industry that I respect or that I'm following and kind of peer over their shoulder and see what's working for others. And then I sort of just have to sit.

with all of that information for a while and let it marinate. And then randomly, if I take enough space from actually like being in front of the screen at the keyboard, one day in the shower, it will all click. And I kind of at least have a little bit of a path forward where I know at least what like the next right step is. And then from there, it's all the same things you guys have already said. Like I just have to trust that it works out and that,

Shannon Mattern (13:41.742)

Action brings clarity and you move a little bit in that direction and keep taking notes and paying attention to the data and eventually stumble upon something that works. So it's not always really smooth, but so far it's at least led me where it needed to be. Yeah, it's like that patience and persistence because if you decide that it's worth pursuing and figuring out.

So, so good. Sarah? So this was such a great question because it made me think really hard about it and about failure and my approach to moving forward in my business and making my business constantly fit my life as my life evolves as well. And I think I've got two different approaches to it. One is kind of the macro approach, which is the big picture and about the services I offer and how I run my projects at a big level. And,

you know, when it comes to those big questions and when I'm feeling frustrated or stuck in my business, a lot of that is a lot of overcoming that is just about stepping back and giving myself the space to breathe, which I think connects with a lot of whatever analysis said as well, like just giving yourself the time and space away from your business to actually give it room to grow. Because if you just keep kind of,

you know, tunneling away at it. There's no, there's no space. You're just going to keep doing what you're doing and get more and more unhappy and make more and more mistakes. but on the flip side of that, because I'm, you know, a systems and processes girl, I'm so, obsessed with looking for the holes in my systems and processes and finding ways to plug them. And, you know, for a long time, when something would come up in a project or, you know, I would think,

client is being difficult and I will put the blame back on the client, at least in my head I would, and you know, I think it was all about, you know, the red flags I should have spotted and what the client's done wrong when, and there's definitely red flags from some clients, which, you know, I needed to act on. But a lot of it is also about going, okay, what could I have done better? And what can I change in my systems and processes that would have stopped this problem from happening? Like,

Shannon Mattern (16:07.502)

How could I have made that client feel more comfortable or alleviated their concern or made them better understand what the next steps in the process or what I expect from them to be able to do my job properly to overcome this issue on future projects? Because I think it's only by kind of developing your systems and processes and plugging those gaps that you are gonna grow and you are gonna get better and create more space for yourself to do what you love.

I love what you said about like, if you just keep like hacking away at what you're already doing, that's not working. Like in a, I will do that in like a very hustly kind of like trying to like bail, like a tiny shovel, bailing water out, you know, like just real, if you imagine that energy, right. And, it doesn't get you anywhere and it just exhausts you. So I love what you said about like,

And then I was like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of like, I'm going to go with the idea of

So just to kind of summarize, my first gut instinct is always to figure out like, why isn't it working or to try something new. I guess if I feel like it's not working anymore, my first step will be let's try something new. And I'll go in with like, okay, what do I already know? What do I know how to do? What is working out there in the market? What am I seeing as like, what's working? Let me try that and I'll try that and I'll try that. And usually it's just like,

ends up in like a spiral, like you said, Shannon, where you're just like, this isn't working. And so then like, you know, nine times out of 10, it's stepping away, getting away from the computer, literally going out and I'll go for like a five mile walk. And what I found was for years, I would walk with a podcast or an audio book or something. And all it was doing was adding more noise to the already like crazy.

Shannon Mattern (18:31.918)

you know, mental clutter that was happening in my head. And so for the past like year or so, maybe a little bit longer, I'm very intentional about like doing all of my walks completely silent. And usually like around mile two, like so much clarity comes to me. And like that, and I like can't wait to get home. Like I don't even have anything to take notes. So I'm out there in the middle of the woods, two miles in with like all of these downloads. And then I'm like, my gosh, I need to like rush home.

you know, jot it all down or pull out my phone on my notes app. But yeah, so like for me, really it is turning off the noise and believing and trusting yourself that you have, you already have the answers within you. You just have to like, they just, you kind of have to wait for them to come to you. And the only way that you can do that really is through like the silence.

I love everything that you all just said. And I would like to add like for me, I have like a trusted core group of people, of mentors, of friends, of colleagues, either in the space that I'm in, sometimes outside of the space that I'm in, therapists, where sometimes I need...

feedback, like I need to hear the hard thing, right? Like the thing that I am distracting myself with all of the other things to avoid like looking at. And for me, I have this group of people that I trust to give me feedback in a way that, you know, maybe I don't want to hear it. Maybe I've been avoiding it, but when they tell me I'm like,

I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like, I'm like,

Shannon Mattern (20:52.75)

is super, super important when you're kind of like in your little tunnel of, you know, trying to, to fix it. So everything everyone said and people that will just like tell you what's up and, so that you can go take that space to be like, okay, I have the answers within me. I can trust myself and.

I got this feedback that can be very helpful. So that's my take on it. So good. Okay. Ooh, okay. So I'm going to step around a little bit because I want to make sure that we get to like the juicy stuff. Plus we've got a few Q and A questions. How do you use failure in your favor?

We'll start with you, Michelle.

Shannon Mattern (21:44.686)

Yeah. So, I think, I think a long time ago, I started reframing what that word meant to me. Yeah. You know, because it's, it's like, it has such an intense, like almost shameful feeling around it. Right. And the emotional violence that you feel with shame in itself, it's like, if you start to like, kind of identify with, I have failed it.

And I know we're talking about it in a positive way, but it's like, because the words have such meaning to them, like I had to start looking at it like, okay, well, maybe this is, it's like, it's back to that, that phrase of like, you know, you, sometimes you don't get what you're supposed to, you don't get what you want, but you get what you need, you know, and some, and, and trusting that there's something that is better than what you have currently.

you know, just remembering that and remembering like that's the truth. And so, so I think that's the first thing that I do is like, I reframe that word to like, okay, what are the lessons here? You know, what am I really supposed to learn from this? What am I supposed to do with this? I'm not supposed to stay in pain. And I, I strongly believe that we're not, we're not meant to stay in pain. Like the pain is meant to like, wake us up, whether it's physical, emotional, mental, whatever it's, it's there to get our attention.

And so that we do something and we listen and we go, well, what do I need to do here? You know, and there's a, there's a, a quote from Michael Beckwith who I follow and he has this, this quote that I think is so relevant for this. And it's, he says, the pain pushes you until the vision pulls you.

And I feel like that kind of is like, for me, when I start to feel like I've failed or I haven't met the outcome that I want, and you know, you're inevitably feeling that, that, that sting. And so it helps me to go to remember like, okay, I'm, I'm supposed to like wake up here and I'm supposed to know that there's something else beyond this. So that's kind of,

Shannon Mattern (23:58.35)

That's, that's how I will use it to my favor where I just won't stay in that, that sting situation. I'll, I'll feel it and I'll go, okay. All right. I know there's something better coming.

And then inevitably again, it's like, it's, I mean, we've talked about it. It's not smooth, but, but I do believe that things do work out how they're supposed to, to work out it. I've just had too many instances in my life to, to, to believe otherwise. So I think it's a lot about disconnecting from like the fear because we're so immersed in this society of fear and just this constant like fear of like so many things, right. Could go wrong. And,

You know, it takes a lot of work, I think, and it's, it's constant. It's not like you ever reached a place, you know, you just hit different plateaus and then you get to a place where you're like, okay, I'm here now. And then something else comes along to help bring you up again. So it just feels to me like it's a constant cycle of like, okay, I fell. Got to get back up. What do I do now?

So good. Nikki.

Shannon Mattern (25:12.686)

Sorry, I just had to unmute there. This is so funny because like I said, I'm going through some stuff and I feel like so much of this I needed to hear as well. So it's so good. But I've had some hard things. This is probably more from a personal aspect, but I was let go from my corporate role when I was four months pregnant. I was told that they weren't gonna renew my contract and I...

lost my job that I'd been in for three and a half years. I've been like climbing the ranks. I had team members under me. Like there was no, like I was kicking goals. There was no other reason for that to happen. And at the time I just, I remember like ugly crying. Like I had to mute the call because I couldn't, like, I was like, you know, doing those stops where you can't even breathe.

And I remember like going for walks at the time, being pregnant, being like, this is meant to be the happiest time of my life. And I just don't understand why this is happening. I can't see it. I'd always like been of the opinion that, you know, things happen for a reason and everything always works out. And I was like, I just don't understand why. Like I don't get it. Years later, like it led me to this business. It led me to like this financial situation that I never would have had.

without it, like my dream house. And yeah, it's just completely changed my life. And more recently, I've been going through like a lot of personal stuff. It's been like one thing after another, probably for the last kind of four or five months. And even my doctor was like, you've just got too many chinks in your armor. And I'm like, yes, I do. Like someone said before, relentless. I'm like, life is just relentless sometimes, business is relentless. But one thing that...

I hold to from that very, very big lesson with my pregnancy is that things do happen for a reason. And more recently, another quote I've come across is that life happens for me, not to me. So it's like, it's all leading you to something bigger and something greater. And the thing that I try and remember, I think Michelle, this is probably similar to what you were saying about the sting is like,

Shannon Mattern (27:23.246)

don't stay in the wallow too long. The fear and the anxiety comes from the unknown. And as soon as you have the information and you start taking action, that's when you're like, okay, I've got this. And then it just like the path becomes clearer and you see a way through it. So like allow yourself the wallow, allow yourself like a bed rot day and like some peanut &Ms and like all of those things. But yeah, maybe not like.

Just don't stay there too long. Love it. Rachel. I love what you shared, Nikki, because I think it's the foundation for my answer to this question, just that baseline trust that something bigger than you has kind of got this held together, right? Like it's not all on my shoulders. I can trust that in the long run, things work out fine. So kind of without.

that understanding beneath it. I think for me, it's just been getting really good at being uncomfortable because that is just part of this and expecting it, expecting that things are gonna go differently than I had hoped in lots of circumstances and kind of just sort of like radically accepting that failure is part of this process.

I think you have to be committed to yourself that you're gonna learn whatever lessons there are to learn in every single one of those. And then at some point, real failure is only if you stop. As long as you keep learning and keep going and trust that the end result is coming at some point, may not happen on your timeline, may not look anything like what you had set out to achieve.

so I think there's some flexibility in there too, but at the end of the day, it's just like knowing that it's going to happen, being prepared for it, like have to Shannon's point earlier, have a community of people around you that can support you because there are times when it's really going to suck. It's going to be really hard and peanut and M's are not going to solve the problem for you. Like you need somebody to talk to you through those times. But, I think.

Shannon Mattern (29:43.854)

I think you have to come to some point where you just say like, this is what it is. And I'm just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm going to see if we can get peanut &Ms to sponsor the summit. That's an excellent idea. Sarah L. Really resonate with whatever I'm saying, because I do think there's two kinds of components of failure. One is.

accepting that failure is part of your life and you are going to have failures. And then the other part is harnessing it. So there's the acceptance and allowing yourself to do what you need to do to get through it, but also how do you grow and learn from that and then enable yourself to take the next step. And I touched on it a little bit before, but for me, I think a big part of my growth is being able to look at

my own failures or failures that have happened within my life and accept what was out of my control and then look at what I did that may have contributed to that failure if there was anything because sometimes as someone else's life just happens and you don't have any control over it, you can still harness those failures. But a lot of failures that have happened in my life, I have done something that contributed to it. So it's kind of

taking the time to assess that and look at how I can grow from those failures and then use them to make the next step forward in my life and develop from that. Yeah. Sarah. Yeah. So I think I'm just one of those people. I'm very optimistic. I've always been, it's just my personality. I never really considered like,

anything was a failure. I always just trust that everything happens for a reason and trust that everything is going to work out. I've always been like that since I was little. And I know it's annoying to some people. They're like, stop being so positive. Why are you so like toxic positivity, all of that. And I'm like, it's just, I just believe like that everything will work out. It always does. It always will. So that's kind of my personality and like my whole kind of.

Shannon Mattern (32:05.326)

background take on failure. And I never really considered failure was a thing except for like failing in, you know, your grades in school. Like that was a thing, but whatever. But then about like seven or eight years ago, I heard a former mentor of mine talk about failure. And it was, he said, you either win or you learn. There's no such thing as failure. And that's that like really hit me because then that's when I could like finally be like, okay, right? Like I never really.

thought of anything as a failure, you either win or you learn from whatever has happened. And so I've carried that with me forever. And that's really what I teach and preach and help my own clients and students with as well. And so like even the like the very first thing that I have our students do is and most people that are in my programs and have been like, you know, in my audience know that like I'm known for doing it messy.

Right? Like I want to throw you into the deep end. I want you to fail. I want you to do it messy. I want you to screw it up because you're going to learn so much from doing it messy. You're either going to have a great experience. like in my case, it's like, go out there and pitch a, pitch a day rate, pitch a VIP day, even though you have no idea what you're doing, you might feel like it's so messy, but do it anyway, because you learn so much from that. And especially in the designer space, we are.

perfectionists at heart. Like we want everything to be perfect. And so we procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate. We won't do the thing or we won't put anything out there until we think that it's perfect because we're afraid of failing. And by not putting anything out there, you're not getting anywhere. You're not learning. You're not growing. You're not going forward. And like somebody else said, really, I think it was the previous question, but.

Action breeds clarity, right? You have to take action and whether you fail or you win, like you're going to learn something from that and you're going to get the confidence that you need for the next step and then the next step and to keep on growing. So yeah, that's just my take on it. I love how optimistic you are. Like it's just, it's, I love it. It's one of my favorite things about you that, that you're just like, okay, let's just, let's just keep doing this. Like it's, it's lovely. So.

Shannon Mattern (34:25.038)

I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going to be able to do that. I'm not going

And so I like will internalize unmet expectations or mismatched results. And I will be like, I did something wrong. I messed something up and not in a, not in a healthy way where it's like, how did I, let me be very analytical about this and see where did I contribute to this and what were the external circumstances and like not in that way, like in a, I messed up. I need to like change every like.

this like very serious like thing. And so in terms of using failure in my favor, it's like noticing that I noticing like, what do I make it mean when something doesn't go the way that I wanted it or expected it to? Am I making that mean something about me? And what is the opportunity there for me to

like tell the truth to myself about what the real deal is. And if I need to be quiet, take some quiet time, which is real hard for me, I'm totally going to adopt Sarah's quiet walks, like going forward to just have that space or to, you know, go to my trusted, my circle of trust to, to, figure that out. So I think like for me,

Yeah, just noticing when I'm doing the thing of like, I've done something wrong. I need to fix this and just like stopping it there. And then like going into scientist experiment mode instead of like judge Judy mode. So yeah, that's what I would say about that. So we had a couple of questions in the chat that I kind of want to...

Shannon Mattern (36:52.046)

tie back to the, tie back to the topic of failure. They're not specifically on that topic, but I think that we could make them fit the panel. So the first question is now that there are so many new creators with the market getting so saturated, how would you suggest going into it, especially as a beginner, especially as a beginner who has.

I'm not sure if I under, if I'm understanding the question, right. But who has high quality videos with better equipment and resources. So maybe it's like the market saturated. People have, lots of high quality, like marketing that they're doing and you're coming in new and everything saturated. and I, I think that we can all kind of tie this, tie this question back to failure. At least some things percolating in my mind. So, and then like a follow -up to that was like,

I think earlier, Legion and content. Well, I'll circle back to that one. It's a little bit different. So what would you guys say to successfully breaking into a saturated market if we're going to buy that premise that the market is saturated?

I'll jump in. I don't know if it's really like tied to failure, but what I would say is if this were me just like jumping in now as a beginner, looking back, like what I would tell my former self is that I think one of the best things that you can do as a beginner is to really find your people, find a small group of trusted advisors or trusted support like Shannon was talking about, but find...

Create your own like little mini network of others who you can maybe collaborate with, support each other. But also like the biggest thing for me when I was first starting out was just being genuinely helpful and not expecting anything in return. Really, you've got to just become known for your, for like who you are and you want people to be able to connect with you as a person and see your generosity and see your humanness.

Shannon Mattern (39:09.71)

And that's gonna build the know, like and trust factor. And that's what you need to really break in to, you know, getting clients. I'm not sure really about the videos and equipment resources part of the question, but yeah, that's just my take on that.

I would love to jump in on the videos part. I actually recently saw a study that like went over this like pretty curated like aesthetic and that everyone wants real right now. And so the things that are doing best on social media are like low quality iPhone videos, no makeup, like messy house, like, you know, the realness because that's what people relate to.

And I think this one comes back to strategy and that you really need to hone in on what you do and how you do it differently to other people. And then like you said as well, like your personality. So as a small business, the best thing that you can do is put your face on your business because people buy from people, not from like businesses and brands. So showing up as yourself, like I'm a classic example. I was so afraid to shave my hair. I've wanted to do it for years and years. And I put a poll up like,

would this affect you hiring me? Like I was more worried my client side work rather than my course side work. But even some of my very professional old clients like on the poll, they were like, shave it, shave it, which I was so surprised about. And it's just, I just recently did a new set of brand photos and the content creator who came, she just used her iPhone, not like a fancy camera or anything like that. And,

it's just been the best thing for my brand because it's like, this is who I am. I'm a little bit rebel like, and it's just showing up as me. I feel like I've been seen for the first time in like my entire business. So yeah, just be yourself. It's a hard thing to do, but it shows through. Yeah. I, we have a few more questions. So I want to make sure if anyone else on the panel really wants to jump in on that, you have the opportunity. Otherwise I'll.

Shannon Mattern (41:24.238)

move on to the other submitted questions. So does anyone else have anything that they want to add to that?

I would also say that I disagree with the market being saturated. There are so many people out there needing what you do. Don't buy into that myth. And if you are like Sarah, Sarah who is just like, do it messy, just do it messy. Try it, try lots of different things, connect with lots of different people. And if you don't believe failure is a thing and you believe that it's all.

just one experiment leading you to the thing. Like there, just take that saturation and just set it over here and go. So that's what I would say. Sam asks, people suggest that we should not start taking small projects and charge what you deserve. People suggest that we should not start taking small projects and charge what you deserve instead. But I'm not sure if I'd want to when I don't have better work. It's almost like.

I assume I'd either fail high -priced clients or fail closing them as I might not sound experienced.

So what advice do any of you have for Sam on that thought?

Shannon Mattern (42:49.038)

I think there's a couple of components to that question. I'm gonna start with the small projects part of it. I think you can still do small projects and charge your worth. Like I don't think you have to only do big projects to charge your worth. I think, you know, you can create a flyer and still charge appropriately for your time and your expertise if that's what you wanna do.

And I think you should lean into what you want to do as well. If you do just like creating small print collateral items, do that. Like do follow your heart. Don't just do what other people are doing. And you can still look at ways to package those up in a really enticing way. In terms of the other part of the question, I'm just reading it.

It's almost like I assume I'd either fail high price clients or fail closing them as I might not be an experienced. I do think when you're starting out, there is a fake it till you make it element. You still have expertise that the client doesn't have. You still have the ability to create something amazing for them. So I think you have to trust that you can do that and try your best to take.

that confidence to your project because we all start somewhere. We all start with zero clients and you can grow your business.

I can jump in on this one too. Yeah. Sam, if you haven't gone to watch my presentation, there's a lot of stuff in there that I think might help you with this question. But at the end of the day, I think you have to honor where you are personally. If you can't say a number without having a nervous system response in a sales call, then you may need to start smaller. And that's OK. I don't think you have to follow this advice.

Shannon Mattern (44:45.742)

of charging some big price just because we have this sort of charger worth thing happening out in the industry. At the same time, I think there are tons of clients out there who have zero marketing knowledge. They don't understand what goes into designing a brand or building a website. And so really basic.

101 kinds of strategies can be revolutionary for these businesses. So if you can really understand their business, speak their language, talk about solving their problems and not about WordPress or what deliverables you're going to offer, but literally just be a partner who solves problems for their business, you can sell at a much higher price point than you expect. So.

It's kind of getting your arms around how to communicate real value and just talk about growing a business as opposed to the ins and outs of a project. And then just raise your price each time you have another sales conversation until you get to a place where you feel pretty confident and comfortable. The only way to feel better about this is practice. So you can sit and agonize over your pricing forever, but until you start having conversations.

and get that positive feedback when clients respond and they're like, yeah, that's fine. Here's my deposit. Like you need to have that experience to get better at this. And it does happen, especially when you get good at communicating how you conserve. So put the focus on your clients and don't worry about yourself.

Anyone else?

Shannon Mattern (46:27.918)

I was just going to reiterate pretty much everything Rachel said, but you have to get out there and practice. You're not, I mean, we all start at zero. None of us had any experience on sales calls or selling high ticket when we first started, but you've got to let, you can, you can stair step your way up to those bigger projects. Even, you know, like do an introductory offer. If you're just starting out and you really don't have experience,

then start with a beta offer and let them know that you're doing it messy. Like this is a new offer for you and you're making a great, you're giving them a great offer in exchange for feedback and letting them know like this is new, but you're gonna do your best work and all of those things. But like that's how you get experience doing it. And then the next one is gonna be easier and it's just gonna keep getting easier like with each one after that.

Yeah. And I would say, ask a lot of questions, ask a lot of questions. You do not have to have all of the answers. They don't need you to have them all in your brain right now. Your job, you're, you're getting paid to be able to figure the answers out for them so that they don't have to figure them out themselves. So if you can set aside thinking that I have to be experienced or I could fail them and you could just say,

Actually, no, I am, it's my job to be the facilitator between what they need and all of the knowledge out there that I know I'm smart enough to go find and figure out and implement for them. Then that is so valuable. That is so valuable. And if, if you can just remember to say something like, Ooh, tell me more about that. Let me do some more research on that and get back to you.

That's all you need to say. That is all you need to say in these conversations. That is your role in the project. So just because it's a high price client or a high price project, when you get to that point, it doesn't matter if you're charging 200, 2000 or 20 ,000, that's your role in the project. And so take that pressure off of yourself when you're like, it has to go a certain way and I have to sound a certain way and be a certain way.

Shannon Mattern (48:54.35)

And you put all of these expectations on yourself that you can't possibly meet because you're a human and you're not perfect. Like you don't have to put that much pressure on yourself. Like that's you can, you can do it differently. So that's what I would say.

Can I jump in with this one as well? I think that just the fact that you're worried about failing clients means that you're not gonna fail clients. Just actually like being aware of that, especially as women, I think it means that we tend to over deliver. So I would actually say you should probably be more worried about over delivering and like doing more for the money.

One experience I recently had, I had a client come to me who had hired an agency and they had charged them $35 ,000 for a basic website, brochure site, NoECOM. And reading through the proposal, they were basically querying whether they had to pay the last $5 ,000. And they came to me to ask because they weren't happy because they couldn't change some things themselves.

And I went through it and there were things like rooting through CloudFlare and we have a strong focus on SEO and all of these things that I could literally go through and be like, this is not rooted through CloudFlare, this website, just by looking at built with, there's no meta descriptions on your pages. So this is not an easy, like they have not completed their contractual obligations for a $35 ,000 website that I would charge $10 ,000 for.

So, and this is very common in this industry that men and agencies are like happy to take people's money and do the very bare minimum for it. So I think that we need to remember that if we're setting out to do the best by our clients, then like you will not fail, you cannot fail. So yeah, I think we need to like remember our own worth sometimes. So good. Anyone else before we, yeah, go for it.

Shannon Mattern (50:59.95)

Yeah, I would, I would love to say a few things. I mean, it's so good listening to everybody. And it's like, I feel like our conversation is really just building on each other, you know? And you know what you're just saying, Nikki, about like, if you're the one that's worrying about it, you're not the one that needs to be worrying about it. Like that's just kind of how it goes. You know, I definitely echo what a lot of what Nikki has just said. And I think if you see the common thread here is that a lot of it is, you know, you.

you have to, you, you, you get the confidence through the experience by doing it right. Practicing, right. That's like with anything. And I'm, it's interesting because I've been in design, but I've also been in financial services and because I'm in financial services again, it's, it hasn't really changed in the sense of like, people are the same wherever they are and whatever industry, right? There's in, in financial services, there's this whole thing around like, people with lots of money.

You know, and financial advisors are like, I could never go and talk to this person that's got a $20 million portfolio. So it doesn't really matter the industry. It's like, it's the stories that we're telling ourselves about what it means. Right. And so the reality is though, you know, we talked about this earlier. It's like people want to do business with people. And if you have the ability to really connect with a person and, and listen to them as we, as everyone has also talked about and solve those problems.

And have that empathy. If you're, if you're an empathic person, it's interesting because some of this is so much harder because people that are empathic tend to be like, let me give you so much and not so great at receiving, but also they're also the best at being able to make really great connections and develop those really strong relationships with people. And so I think it might help to shift the focus to remembering of.

This whole thing around, like, this is a human in front of me and they go through the exact same things that I do. And how can I really connect with this human on a very like just human level, right? And, we're doing it through this particular design project. It's it's mindset trickery sometimes, but those are just some of the nuances that I wanted to add in.

Shannon Mattern (53:20.302)

All are brilliant. Anyone else have anything to add to that?

Shannon Mattern (53:29.038)

All right, so we have five minutes left. So I kind of want to do like a rapid fire close with all of you. And I'm going to ask you all a question that I ask everyone that comes on my podcast, which some of you have answered it. So I'll be curious to see what you say now. But what is one belief that you've had to change about yourself to get where you are today? So.

I'll give you all a moment. We don't have to go in order. If you're ready to go, just go and then we'll let y 'all jump in.

Shannon Mattern (54:08.878)

I can go first. So I think when I was on your podcast, my answer was that I was worthy, which still stands true. But I think just thinking about it through the lens of failure,

Another answer for me would be that.

I could forgive myself for my failures and move on. You know, that I wasn't a failure, but just my failures don't define me. My, you know, I can, I can move on from them. so good. Yeah. I'm not a failure as a person. I've made mistakes and I can forgive myself. That gave me chills. Okay. Who's next? I'll go. this is a hard one for me.

I think it's that kind of like what I was saying before getting to the point in believing and trusting in myself and knowing that I can do this and I can like everything that I want to do, I can do, and I have the answers inside of me. I may not know them right away, but I know that I can figure it out and I can find the answers if I just.

take the time and let myself, like let myself get to the point of kind of figuring out those answers. Yeah, I used to always think that I had to get validation and answers from other people in order to do things. And yeah, it's just not true.

Shannon Mattern (55:49.806)

Love it. So good. Who's next?

I can go. One of mine is, yeah, coming from kind of a low socioeconomic background, just all of the myths around money and wealth that have been drilled into me about like, you know, the rich get richer and, you know, they keep the poor small and just having money makes you a bad person. Yeah, it's a constantly evolving one, but it's,

Like I've just found the absolute opposite to be true. Like having money enables me to just be in such a better head space for my kids and also do amazing things. Like I've just recently brought my sister a whole kit of like nail, nail tech equipment, like spent like two and a half grand for her to get all of her gels and everything so that she can start her own business.

So being able to do things like that for my family and the people I love has just been an absolute game changer. And then on the flip side, you don't need to like do things for people and, you know, give your money away as well. It's also safe to like hold it and be a wealthy person. So it's a work in progress for me, but that is what my business has allowed me to like change in my life. And it's been a really big, big flip. So yeah.

I love that so good.

Shannon Mattern (57:23.79)

Michelle or Rachel. I'll jump in on this. I think the biggest belief that I've had to really change over time and it's, it's, it's morphed in different ways, but it's that my inherent gifts, like who I am at the core that that matters. So it's a variation, you know, on what Sarah was saying about, about worthy, right. To some degree or another. and then it's like, it matters and it has a lot of value.

And so that's been something that really has been, if I look at, the, like a common thread throughout my career, that has been the thing, just accepting who I am and that I'm not going to fit into a lot of boxes and that's okay. That one, that one shift has allowed me to make so much progress. Just acceptance, right? It's self acceptance at your core.

And that I think just takes a lot of continuing to go back to yourself and, Deconstructing what your beliefs are and your, and what you think your, your beliefs are versus, you know, what you've maybe been conditioned to believe like that whole process. So that's, that's been a biggie for me.

I'm so excited to get to dig in with you on our podcast interview when that happens. So. And it'd be great. Yeah. We've, I think I've talked to almost every single person on this panel, on the profitable web designer podcast. So, definitely follow it, listen to all of their interviews. So Rachel. I was trying to remember how I answered this question the first time. but I think, I think it has a transcript. Yeah, there you go.

I think it had something to do with trusting myself. And a year ago that was trusting in my skillset, in my work ethic, in my persistence, in a lot of the doing. And I think the work that is in front of me now is a lot more about just trusting that sort of inherent knowing and listening to my body and staying in tune with.

Shannon Mattern (59:42.638)

the things that are a little less logical and maybe further below the surface. But there's, I feel like there's a certain wisdom I have yet to fully tap into. And so it's kind of, it's an evolving, it's an evolving thing, but it's, it's definitely something that I feel like I'm on the path with now and will probably sort of be the key to whatever the next level looks like. So.

I don't know. There's a lot of therapy involved in that. But we'll get there eventually. I love that. So good. I realize I forgot to introduce myself, but I hope you all know who I am by now at this point in the summit. But I will share that the thing, what I like, especially 2023, 2024, is to just let go. Like stop.

trying to control all of it, stop trying to grasp and like steer and direct, like, because it, like, if I let go, it will turn out better than I could have even imagined. Like, I don't have the capacity to imagine how great it can be. I'm sure I do somewhere in there, but like, if I just let go.

I'm like, I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going to do this. I'm not going

I think that's where I'm like, I gotta like, stop trying to pry those pedals open and just like, let it be. And, you know, let it do its thing. So I think that's the, the belief that I'm integrating right now that the next time someone asks me that question, I'll have fully.

Shannon Mattern (01:02:05.198)

fully been able to express how that whatever happened by me not just trying to like control everything all the time. So we'll see. Thank you all so much for being here. This conversation was so good. I could talk to you all for days. I really appreciate your time. Your contributions to the summit have been so generous. Thank you to our attendees.

for being here and just sharing your thoughts and your awesome questions for the panel. That is it. We are wrapping up. We'll see you guys at the summit tomorrow and have a great night or morning or wherever you are in the world. Thanks, everyone.

A smiling person with a tooth showing on their chin is looking indoors.

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.