In this week’s episode I’m chatting with WDA student Racheal Graham about growing a sustainable web design business to be your own boss!
Racheal Graham is the web designer and tech strategist behind Greenhouse Creative, where she helps her clients create businesses that fit into their lives rather than having their lives run by their business. She started her web design business in 2018 as a side hustle and quickly realized she could have the freedom she desired by taking it full time.
3 takeaways from my chat with Racheal:
- Committing to running your own business in service of the life you want to lead is a choice you make – it doesn’t have to put you under pressure.
- Put yourself in situations where you’re the only web designer in the room, and you’ll attract clients simply by answering their questions rather than selling yourself.
- You don’t have to be an expert or know every little thing to succeed – just being willing to figure it out along the way is enough.
We also talk about how Racheal:
- Went from charging an hourly rate with an employee mindset to charging $10k for initial projects while streamlining her packages to simplify her process while providing immense value.
- Gained mindset, knowledge, and confidence to leave her 6-figure salary to pursue her web design business full-time as the primary earner in her family after working in the Web Designer Academy.
- Paid herself more in Q1 of 2023 than she earned from her net income from her salaried job in Q1 of 2022.
Connect with Racheal:
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 under charging, overworking, and create profitable, sustainable web design businesses. Hello and welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast. Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Rachel Graham. She is the web designer and tech strategist behind Greenhouse Creative, where she helps her clients create businesses that fit into their lives rather than having their lives run by their business. So Rachel, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Racheal Graham: Thank you for having me.
Shannon Mattern: I'm really excited to dig into all of this with you today. So can you just tell, let's just start off by you sharing just a little bit about your background and how you got started in web design.
Racheal Graham: Sure. So I started in web design totally by accident. Have a family member who runs a local flooring business and they got a quote from a web designer to redesign their website and it was $5,000
Shannon Mattern: Yeah. So like when you say one thing led to another, like what does that mean? Like does that mean like that project led to other projects? Like what do you mean by one thing that led to another? I
Racheal Graham: Got, I got really curious and it wasn't long after that first project honestly that I found you and started to just consider, you know, what would running a business around this really look like. I'd always sort of had the dream of being an entrepreneur in the back of my mind. I grew up in a family where my parents both worked full-time, but they always had something on the side going, always some kinda side hustle. And so that was how it started for me. But it didn't take long to recognize that there was a lot more, more potential. And you know, I'm a mom and I really enjoy spending time with my husband and my family and it seemed like the path outta the corporate. And so as I learned more then that was sort of how things led up to where I am today.
Shannon Mattern: Yeah. So you were side hustling for a while, weren't you? Yeah. Tell me a little bit about how that worked.
Racheal Graham: I probably did that first website in like, I don't even know, 2018, something like that. Maybe 2017. And I think I joined the Web Designer Academy and it's past form anyways in 2019 and started to learn a few things and I just took on, you know, one little project at a time. It was usually someone I knew personally and I just did it nights and weekends. I wake up at four o'clock in the morning and work while my children were asleep and then, you know, at some point transitioned into the workday and it lasted that way a long time. And at one point I thought it would just be a nice way to bring in extra income, but as I learned more and more about entrepreneurship, about running a business and I don't know, it took away the, the contentment with working for someone else. And it didn't take long before I was like, yeah, I don't, I don't wanna be told what to do or when to sit down at my desk. And I even had the benefit of working from home for a lot of that time, but even just someone expecting me to show up at a certain time or my circle to be green on Microsoft teams started to feel a bit like a prison that I wanted outta, you know,
Shannon Mattern: I can so relate to that. And I too, I used to like get up at like 4 30, 5 o'clock in the morning, like get all that work done, hop in the shower at like eight and try to be to work by nine 30 and yeah, those and the like work on my lunch hour and you know, all of those things. But yeah, I too, I was just like, I got to a certain age, I think it was like around 35 when I was like, wait a minute, why am I being treated like a child? Even though I do have like autonomy, I have to like ask for permission. Like this just seems this is is not failing aligned to anymore
Racheal Graham: Yeah. And you know, even beyond that, so I, I really did love my job. I got to work with a lot of really smart people and they would give me these compliments, you know, you're the best to I've ever seen. And there came a point when I was like, why am I not using my own skillset to my benefit instead of working for someone else? So there was a sense of like, I have been spending this energy, what could happen if I spent it on my own dream instead of just, you know, supporting the corporate structure. So anyways, a lot of mind opening thoughts that that's how one thing led to another.
Shannon Mattern: So tell me what your business looks like now. When did you leave your day job? Because I know it's pretty recent,
Racheal Graham: So Yeah, it's only been about, I don't know, six, seven months, something like that. So I left I think my, my last day in my corporate job was September 30th, 2022. So there's a mild congratulations will be forever
Racheal Graham: Marked in my memory. Thank you. And it's been such a rollercoaster, but yeah, things I, I didn't do it until I felt pretty sure I knew that I could make things happen. I'm the primary earner in my family. I had a six figure salary, like stakes are high. And to be honest, like without the Web Designer Academy, I don't think I would've had like the mindset, the knowledge, the confidence, like all the things that I needed. But more than anything, the biggest thing, this is how I finally convinced my husband that it was time
Racheal Graham: Cause I know there's plenty of people who can relate to like trying to get two partners on the same page about such a big decision. But I a place where I was like, you know what? I don't know what the future is gonna look like. I don't know where the clients are gonna come. What I know is that I've got sustainable pricing in my back pocket and I implicitly trust myself above everything else. Like I know for certain that I am not gonna quit until I figure it out. And you know, there's always that option. I can go get a job in two days if I have to. Like, yeah, this isn't that risky, but it, it was that, it was building that confidence in myself that I don't have to know because I know how to learn. I know how to adapt and you know, the support of the community that we have inside of the web design academy was huge too because can go troubleshoot with somebody who's been there or somebody who's experiencing the same things. So that was a, a big part of it for sure.
Shannon Mattern: I love what you just said about like
Racheal Graham: Yeah. And you know my story, but my husband and I had dreamed of moving to the beach for forever and actually did it in the middle of the pandemic. So we'd been in Nashville for 20 plus years. Our family was there, our careers were there, all of our friends of course. And the opportunity presented itself. It was a very small window. It felt like a huge risk. And honestly the one thing that made it happen was the mindset of just treating it like a wild experiment and knowing that we would be okay if the experiment failed. Like so what if you move and you hate it and you have to move back. Like at the end of the day, it's not like life has fallen apart. We might lose some money in the process, but that's not that big of a deal. So I went into running my business full-time with the same perspective, like, we're gonna try this and see what happens.
Racheal Graham: And I've been excited about this conversation so that I could say this to you because I, I sincerely credit you with a lot of this success, but I looked at my numbers a couple of days ago for the first quarter. This is insane to me and I compared what I have paid myself. So I'm not even talking about revenue. What I have paid myself in the first three months of 2023 working on my own exceeds what my net income was from my salary job in the first quarter of 2022. So the risk has absolutely been worth it. Now there's a part of me that's like terrified can I actually sustain this? But yeah, so business is good in the like almost a scary way.
Shannon Mattern: I love to hear that. I'm so proud of you and I'm so honored to like have been a part of this journey. I absolutely believe you're the kind of person that would've figured it out one way or the other. But I'm really, really like, just I'm grateful that to get to have known you and like helped guide you through this and just to have you in our community has been amazing. And like it brings me so much joy to hear that you're thriving so much, especially right now because I feel like there's two schools of thought happening right now. There's the one school of thought where like clients are drying up, there's an impending recession, the economy's uncertain and there's all of this news about it and you know, there's just like all kinds of things in the news and I hear on one hand people are like worried. And on the other hand, I'm hearing that I'm having the best months ever. My business is thriving. So it just brings me joy to hear that you are thriving because I know that it is possible when we decide to like choose the path that we're going to take regardless of what anybody is saying
Racheal Graham: Yeah, and I, I mean I know that you're a huge proponent of this, but like we get to create our reality for the most part, right? Like the decisions that we make and the actions that we take and whatever. Like, well life can look however you want it to. So yeah, I'm just slowly constructing my dream life now that we're at the beach and we've got the boat and now I work for myself and all I gotta do next is retire my husband so that we can be wherever we wanna be whenever we wanna be there.
Racheal Graham: Well, so honestly, so far what's working is this happened so at random, but it was one of those things that, you know, you just get an inkling to do a thing that you wouldn't ordinarily do naturally. And so I get very curious about those things, like have to believe that that comes from outside of myself. So anyways, I'm scrolling Facebook one day. This another woman in town who is a realtor, posts something on a Facebook group. She's trying to start like a networking group. And I just reached out to her to say, Hey, it sounds like we are probably doing similar things and we may be in similar circles. Would you wanna meet up for coffee? And so she has become a client and now a friend and then a client again and is very much a connector. And so she has sort of opened my eyes and opportunities for me to just be in relationship with people.
Racheal Graham: So I've been doing quite a bit of just in person networking retreats and events and things like that. And people are always very curious, especially cause I'm usually the only web designer in the room. I tend to go to networking events that are not for people like me. And I know don't know did just people talk about it. And I don't really have to do a lot of salesy pitching. I don't have, it's just, you know, ask me questions and I can answer them. So, so far that seems to be the most effective. Of course I still, you know, I'm still working my personal network. I'm still sending emails to say, do you know people who might need my help? My husband behind my back will go ask all of his industry friends if they need a, so I've gotten a few clients that way too. But mostly it's been relationships. So we'll see, we'll see how not have, have to do a ton of like quote unquote marketing traditional, you know, I try to be sort of active on social media but makes me tired inside do it a little bit. So yeah, relationships have been where at and meeting people face to face that that element of like just human connection resonates.
Shannon Mattern: I love that you said like, I go places where I'm the only web designer in the room. Mm-Hmm.
Racheal Graham: Yeah, that's fair.
Shannon Mattern: That's what I talk about when I say it's like, oh, marketing doesn't even feel like marketing when
Racheal Graham: No,
Shannon Mattern: Yeah, you love what you do and you're just like, oh, I just get to like be a real human, talk about what I do, talk about what I love, be curious, like ask other people about themselves and spot opportunities to help them. Like that doesn't feel sleazy or salesy. It just feels like connection.
Racheal Graham: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And that honestly the mindset of just sincerely seeking to help others and to have a heart of service over selling a thing. It's changed the game for me. Like I don't have to be confident in my offer, worry about how I come across when all I'm doing is seeking to help.
Shannon Mattern: Ugh. I love that. That's amazing. So let's talk about your pricing. Like how has your mindset around your pricing transformed? Like during the time from like they want $5,000 for a website for your flooring company
Racheal Graham: Yeah. And I did that website. I looked at my corporate job and I tried to break it down to an hourly rate and at the time I was making what equated to about 50 an hour. So I just tracked all my time in a Google sheet and emailed it's paid know what I charging less than. So yeah, I, I learned all of this from you. Everything started with that same employee mindset. I'll exchange one hour of my time for X number of dollars. And when I, when I did my first attempt at figuring out how to move into something that was more project based or package pricing, it was literally like, okay, let's underestimate always how much time it's gonna take me to do a thing and then I'll pat it by 10 or 20% and break it. You know, that, that was the math.
Racheal Graham: I definitely didn't even know how to think about what I do in terms of the value that it offers the client or their potential to get a return on their investment. Had no idea what other people were charging. So anyways, all that to say it just evolved over time, mostly from what I've learned in the Web Designer Academy. And then you tested out. And so far, I mean there's, there have been a handful of people that have probably turned me down because they weren't ready to really invest. I don't think they have websites still. I don't think they found anybody, anybody else to do the work. But over time, you know, you get confident with a bigger number and then you raise it a little bit more. Now these days I'm not really changing my pricing, I just keep taking things outta my packages cause I want it to be simple and forward
Shannon Mattern: I love that journey cuz it is an evolution and it's like a mindset evolution as much as it is a math evolution because like you joined the Web Designer Academy in 2018 and you've seen our strategies evolve and how I talk about it evolve and like how I think about it evolve and just all the different ways I try to like break the people's paradigms, you know, as they're coming in and it's like chipping away with a chisel.
Shannon Mattern: Yep. You know, when people come in to our program and they're like, okay, I see the Rachel's doing this
Racheal Graham: Yeah. So I, it will continue to evolve. I, I've already raised my prices once this year because I got booked out and I said, well I guess we'll bump it up a little bit, see what happens next. So I'm sure it will continue to evolve.
Shannon Mattern: Beautiful. What do you think your biggest mindset shift has been so far on this journey?
Racheal Graham: Oh goodness. I mean, pricing is, is definitely a huge component, but I think at a deeper level it's, it's honestly just that, I dunno, like just an openness to not having to know everything. And some of that goes into the money stuff as well. I don't remember exactly how you said it or when you said it, you probably said it 500 times. But there was a point where I felt like, you know, you have to be just an absolute expert in every strategy, every platform, every tool. Or you can't justify charging what you're charging or saying. You can do whatever it is. And honestly, I don't think I've done one project where I knew exactly what I was gonna do, start to finish, you know, Google and YouTube are my best friends and it, it's backed it up like trust in myself, right? Like, can I figure it out? Yes. I think that's probably the biggest, the biggest shift is that I, you really sincerely don't have to know everything or have the entire plan laid out in order to succeed.
Shannon Mattern: Hmm. I think that's something you said just now, like, really, like landed with me. It's just like, just being open to like, not having to know how it's all going to mm-hmm.
Racheal Graham: Yes. It reminds me of the conversation we were having yesterday. Cause now it's like I, I'm, I'm good on one-on-one services. I think, I mean, assuming that I can continue to book clients the way I have so far, like that item is checked off the list. So if I wanna grow, what does that look like? And allowing myself to just be in the day-to-day and to exist in the here and now and serve my clients the best that I can without allowing that like, internal pressure to create some plan that's probably wasted energy into the future and just let it unfold how it will, it's like, it's a beautiful idea and it's a very challenging idea all at the same time.
Racheal Graham: So I have extremely high standards. Like I want every single client to feel absolutely like nurtured and loved on. And like they've got way more than they expected for their investment. And that, that is taxing on me to deliver at that level. Especially when, you know, I was working full-time at the beginning of my business, so I'm really just now beginning to systematize some things and create resources for myself and gain efficiencies and all of that stuff. So I want to believe that there's a transitional period where I'm, you know, kind of like building my toolbox, if you will. And so that, that's a big piece of the puzzle. There's some sustainability that I've got to work on. So anyways, and some of that will probably come with hiring a team and then there's that whole conversation around risk. So that's definitely the biggest struggle, just trying to figure out how to balance being a business owner and a mom and still enjoy my life and don't forget the whole reason that I got into this business in the first place. So we'll see how,
Shannon Mattern: Yeah. I feel like we've talked about like when you figure out one part of your business, you inevitably, inevitably break another part of your business. So you've figured out how to get clients and you've figured out pricing and the part you've broken is like the delivery and the sustainability. So now it's like, okay, now I get to fix the delivery and the sustainability without breaking the pricing and the clients. And then you end up like maybe breaking lead generation because you're spending like, so there's always mm-hmm.
Shannon Mattern: A part that as you're fixing it, you're breaking something else. And I took a lot of solace in hearing that from one of one of the consultants that I'm working with that like, nothing has gone wrong when you fix one part of your business and you inevitably break. That's just the evolution of growth and yeah, like accepting, like I think where we can like put a lot of pressure on ourselves is where we expect to not have that or think that something has gone wrong when we have it. And it's like we can just like breathe a little easier knowing like, oh, this was supposed to happen and I can fix this too. And, you know, I don't have to Yeah. Freak out about it. I
Racheal Graham: Just, again, back to like that openness to letting things be what they are and unfold naturally. I think especially we get these ideas in our heads about what things should look like and just knowing to expect that you are not gonna arrive in a place where everything is perfect and you just maintain from there forward. It's just not what it looks like. And if that did happen, I'd probably get frustrated just like I did with my corporate job and be looking for the next thing anyways. So
Shannon Mattern: I know I'd be so bored with ground talk day, like
Racheal Graham: Yeah, yeah. I mean, don't get me wrong. Like I, I love doing what I'm doing right now and it is, there's still a lot of excitement in it, but in another year just rinse and repeat and build the same thing for yet another client is gonna feel really boring. So you can flip the script on all of that and change way you think about it too.
Shannon Mattern: Yeah, I think that that's the growth, it's, it's always like, it's always in our mindset and in our personal development. And I think that's something that like you and I really align with is like, like you are very like mindset growth, personal development, growth forward and like then the business growth like follows as my experience of you.
Racheal Graham: Yeah. And honestly it has spiraled into every area of my life. I am. So, I don't know, I'm just fascinated by the way that being a business owner and entrepreneurship in general like challenges us personally. Like I would compare it to parenting. Like it is that intense and you know, there are a lot of people who I think just think about the business piece and are either really miserable and probably defeating the purpose of working for themselves or just staying super frustrated and not able to grow because just the way that we think. So that's definitely one of the reasons that I've been so drawn to, to our community and being in a web designer academy. Cause I think we we're addressing those things.
Shannon Mattern: Yeah. Cause like we always talk about like any strategy you choose to like implement consistently will work as long as your, your beliefs and thoughts are aligned with that and you take the actions to, to do it. And I was talking to one of our newer students yesterday who I think she made nearly $400,000 in her web design business in the past 12 months. And it's fascinating to talk to people at all different levels because it's like she's fixed the pricing piece of her business, but she also has mm-hmm.
Shannon Mattern: And when you try to do it on your own, you don't see it. At least I don't. Yeah,
Racheal Graham: No, I totally agree. It helps so much to be in a community of other people who are doing the same work. Yeah. And by work I mean work on themselves and how they think about this and really everything else in life.
Shannon Mattern: Yeah. So what is your best advice for someone who is like, kind of where you were in the beginning? Like you're taking on some clients for friends and you're having the inkling of like, huh, I think I wanna pursue this. Like what advice do you have for them?
Racheal Graham: Well, join the web designer academy.
Racheal Graham: Know. But I mean, serious, seriously. I think, I don't know that I would've ever had the courage to leave my, my job if, or you're probably right. I probably would've figured it out eventually. Yeah. But I think just having that foundation and even beyond that, the support from you in the community in general, it definitely sped everything up 10 times. But when it comes to advice, I think it's the same stuff we've been talking about. Like try start and let yourself off the hook. If you don't like it or you don't succeed the first attempt, there's really nothing to lose. Worst case you might spend a little mon bit of money, you know, get educated. I think those are the big things, but at the end of the day, like if you let yourself off the hook from it, having to be perfect or having to figure everything out in advance and just, it kind of takes off.
Racheal Graham: And then I've even found this for myself. Like, I didn't realize how much knowledge I have accumulated until I start talking to other people or my clients. And I'm like, I've been living in this world right in this bubble where everyone understands marketing and relationships and pricing and all these things that we talk about, but so many of clients have no idea about. Even email 1 0 1 is mind blowing to some of the people that I work with. And you do have that. I don't know. It happens faster than you think, as long as you start.
Shannon Mattern: Yeah. So good. So I'm gonna ask you one final question, which is what I ask everybody that comes on the podcast and that is, what belief about yourself did you have to change to get to where you are today?
Racheal Graham: Oh, that's such a good one. I think it's that I have to do things perfectly. Mm. And that I will never stop working on that. Like, there will always be another degree to which I can let go of perfection. And I'm a whole lot in a lot better place at 40 than I was at five. But there's still so much work to do. So, you know, if I had, I think there is some past dreams that I had to let go of because I did wait until I could get it right and never started, and then life took a turn here, there, whatever. So I, I think the biggest thing is just be willing to learn.
Shannon Mattern: So good. That is the perfect place to wrap this episode up. This conversation has been amazing for me and hopefully our listeners as well. So can you let everyone know where they can go to connect with you and learn more about you?
Racheal Graham: Yeah, probably the easiest place is Instagram, even though it makes me tired inside, you will find me there. So
Shannon Mattern: I'm,
Racheal Graham: I'm at Greenhouse dot Creative and that's an easy way to connect and then you can find all the other things from there.
Shannon Mattern: Awesome. Well thank you so, so much for being here.
Racheal Graham: Yeah, thank you.
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 https://webdesigneracademy.com 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.
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