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Lauren Newton is sharing their story of transitioning from an employee mindset to building a successful and sustainable web design business. Full Text: profitable web designer EPISODE 26 How Lauren Broke Free from the Employee Mindset to Build a Sustainable Web Design Business with Lauren Newton

How Lauren Broke Free from the Employee Mindset to Build a Sustainable Web Design Business

In this week’s episode I’m chatting with Lauren Newton about why she decided to invest in her business and how she broke free from the employee mindset!

Lauren has 14 years of web experience, and after 5 years of freelance SEO, she joined the WDA in 2021 to add a secondary web design layer to her business. In the time since she joined, she went from charging $1500 for a month’s work to creating a pricing strategy that was actually sustainable based on her skills!

“Running your own business, in a way, is like buying an IKEA desk and having to put it together with no instructions… Having a program that’s there for you is like the instruction manual you need to be successful.” – Lauren Newton

Key takeaways from my chat with Lauren:

  • Anything you take consistent action on will work. There are a million different ways to tackle a goal, but you need to find what aligns with you.
  • Impostor syndrome tags along with each new level you reach in your business, but it’s still possible to have a successful web design business with it.
  • Technology, strategy, and platforms are constantly evolving, which means everyone is winging it. You don’t have to have a massive chart of experience or feel super established to be qualified.

“I had to realize I’m an expert and accept that I know what I’m doing, I’m good at what I do, and I can bring value to people… I am the person I want to be.” – Lauren Newton

We also talk about how Lauren:

  • Felt unsettled by losing the comfort zone of having a day job, where the only validation she needed was in getting the job itself versus owning a business where getting a new client doesn’t always carry the same weight.
  • Joined WDA because she saw Shannon as someone who had once been in her shoes and accomplished what Lauren herself wanted to do and was now teaching others to do the same, which stood out from other business coaches.
  • Made one small shift in her positioning which completely changed the type of ideal client she was attracting.

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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 under charging, overworking, and create profitable, sustainable web design businesses.

Shannon Mattern: Welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast. Today I have the pleasure of chatting with one of our Web Designer Academy students, Lauren Newton. Lauren has been working in the web design industry for 14 years and started her business in early 2021 after doing freelance SEO for five years, and now she specializes in web design, UX and local seo o. And Lauren is here today to share more about her business journey with you, her backstory, the wins, the challenges, the lessons, and all of the breakthroughs that she's had along the way to where she is today. So Lauren, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Lauren Newton: Thank you, Shannon. I'm so excited to be here.

Shannon Mattern: So I wanna just kick off by asking you a little bit about like your backstory, like what did your career path to web design look like?

Lauren Newton: Yeah, sure. So like you mentioned, I've been in the web industry for 14 years, which sounds like super impressive, but , a lot of that was working for like software companies and things like that, doing UX design. And ultimately I wanted to, you know, start my own business and I wanted to be my own boss and just have the freedom that comes along with that. So I started doing some freelancing on the side and because my main job was like design related, I thought, well, let me just do SEO because it's related, but it's not as like designy. So I focused a lot on like SEO and technical stuff and kinda built a small business around that. And about a year ago at this point, I left my full-time job to be a full-time business owner. And I wanted to, like, I realized I was missing out on like the design aspect of my job and like the creativity that comes in with like web design.

Lauren Newton: So I decided, you know, I wanna start offering web design, you know, services. And I just felt like I was kind of lacking in like how to do that. And my first website I actually sold for like a Starbucks gift card. Like it wasn't even like, I got like real money , so it's, that's not sustainable. And I realized that very quickly that you know, as much as I love Starbucks, it's not gonna pay the bills. So yeah, I just had no like formal process and I felt like it just wasn't gonna be sustainable. Like that's how I wanted my life to look like. So that's kinda where my business was before joining.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, so just kind of diving a little deeper into that, like how did you get those first few clients when you still had a job but you were starting to do the freelancing on the side?

Lauren Newton: So I had worked with a business coach that I found through TikTok actually. And she was like very much teaching like the Instagram selling way of doing things. It was a lot of like putting yourself out there, a lot of creating content. I mean it was definitely very exhausting, but it got me like my first couple clients under my belt. So from that I was like super grateful and I, I felt like it pushed me out of my comfort zone a little bit as far as like showing my face online and also just kinda learning like how to create content and stuff. So that was like really helpful. But ultimately, you know, those first few clients were made through like dms on Instagram and you know, kind of being a little pushy, a little like outside of what I find really aligned with me now. But it definitely kind of gave me confidence that I could work with clients and I could, you know, land clients I guess from, from all that. So that was good.

Shannon Mattern: I love that because it's like anything that we actually do and take action on works, that's one of the things that, you know, people ask me like, well what's the best way? Or how do I, and it's like there's a million different ways and they will all work and you just have to like get over the hump of actually like doing the thing and staying committed to it and being consistent with it and then ultimately deciding like, does this feel aligned to me? And I think that that's just so important to know that there's not like one right way to go out there and get clients.

Lauren Newton: That's so true. That is very true. Yeah. Like ultimately I felt like the Instagram route wasn't really super aligned with me. So I started working on Upwork as another platform that could like get me clients and ultimately, you know, I, I found some success on Upwork as well, but I haven't used that in like, I haven't gotten an Upwork client probably in like several months at this point. I haven't needed to. But yeah, it's, it's like there are so many different ways to get clients and you know, you just have to find the one that works for you and what works for you will not work as easily for somebody else. But it's like some things just come naturally to certain people and like just kinda finding that right way. So

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I mean I got my early clients just by like accidentally telling people I was a web designer and feeling like I totally lied to them because while I work on websites, but like I can't call myself a web designer and like people were still like, can I hire you? And I'm like, you must have bad judgment, you know, you shouldn't hire me. You know?

Lauren Newton: Yeah.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah.

Lauren Newton: I still feel that way sometimes. You want me to like handle this big project? Like do you know who you're talking to? Like ? There's definitely some like imposter syndrome I think just with like even though we've got the skills and we've got the knowledge and we can figure anything out as web designers, there's definitely still that early imposter syndrome that we have to battle for sure.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my goodness. So I'm so glad you brought that up. And I'm curious for me at my day job where I did all of these things and like it was part of my salary, I never felt like an imposter, but once I got out on my own I felt like an imposter all the time. I'm wondering if you experienced something similar to that.

Lauren Newton: Yes. I wonder why that is. I felt the exact same way. I've never felt more like an imposter than when running my own business . But yeah, during my day job I was doing UX for software, you know, complicated software applications and I didn't really feel like an imposter in those situations and I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's just that you're constantly being challenged as a business owner and constantly being challenged with new problems. And maybe it's like you realize like the, I don't know if the stakes are so high, but like you feel like a lot is riding on you and you put a lot of pressure on yourself to do like a really good job for the client because you just feel so like connected to the project a lot of times. I think. So I wonder if that's where it kinda comes in, but yeah, I felt the exact same way.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. And as I'm kind of re like I felt the same way you're describing and I think the other part of it is that there are so many parts of yourself that you have to look at and grow and transform that maybe you didn't even realize needed. Like were going to change or needed to change to do this thing of running your own business. And so, so much is changing all at once that you didn't anticipate or expect that like kind of your foundation gets a little bit shook, right? And like, so maybe that's part of where some of the imposter syndrome comes into because you're maybe just feeling unsettled all across the board and now it's just like, well who am I to even be doing this? Like your comfort zone is your job, right? Yeah. Like someone hired you to do that and the moment they hired you you're just like, okay, like just getting the job was all the validation I need and now I don't have to feel like an imposter anymore. But like somehow it doesn't work that way with getting clients

Lauren Newton: . That's so true. Maybe it's like the new situations that you're constantly putting yourself in that are just like new challenges for your brain and it's like, oh I dunno if we can do this. But then you do it and you have that confidence and then like the next time it's a little easier and a little easier and a little easier. But as you're growing your business, there's always new challenges ahead and it's like there's always new levels of feeling that like, oh my gosh, I don't know, can I actually do this? And then it's really, it's kinda a really interesting thing growing your own business For sure.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, it's fascinating. I'm like, I rarely feel imposter syndrome anymore. I used to feel it all the time in the beginning, but it popped back up for me recently when I was hosting like the next level retreat for our year two Web Designer Academy students. Like I was procrastinating even planning it because I was just like, I don't know, I just had all this imposter syndrome. Like who am I to be like leading this group of like incredible accomplished designers? Like what do I possibly like? It just was this whole thing that I'm like, oh, it's back. It's fascinating. It's like new levels, same devils as they say.

Lauren Newton: Yeah.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. So if you're listening to this and you have felt it before, know that you're like absolutely normal and it may never go away, but you can still have a super successful fulfilling web design business, even if it's like tagging along with you along the way.

Lauren Newton: Yeah, and it definitely like changes like you get over, you know, like as far as like landing clients anymore, like I don't feel that imposter syndrome anymore than I did at the beginning. And I think it's just coming with like repetitive, like teaching your brain like you know what? This works and you can do it and it's successful and you're being successful. But it's definitely, like you mentioned with the next level retreat, like that's something new for you. And so it's like your brain's just kind of like scared and you're like, I don't know if I'm like ready for this. But then I mean, if I only heard great things about the summit, so Sounds like a

Shannon Mattern: Great, well thank you. Thanks. Yeah, it's just interesting to think about that, like how you can, you, it doesn't have to go away for you to be successful.

Lauren Newton: Yeah.

Shannon Mattern: So you found your way to the Web Designer Academy. Do you remember how you found us?

Lauren Newton: Yeah, it was through the Simply Profitable Design Summit Web Design Summit.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. Simply Profitable Designer Summit.

Lauren Newton: Yes. Thank you. Yeah, I watched your presentation and until I joined that summit, I had no idea that there were coaches like you where you've done the thing, you've accomplished it, you've, you know, aced it and now you're teaching people how to do that. So that was really neat because I had encountered like business coaches before, but never somebody like you. And like I also watched like Sarah Massey's talks as well during that summit and it was just really cool to see like, oh my gosh, there's this wealth of knowledge where like these women have forged trails that like I want to forge and now they're teaching other people how to do it. So

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, the Simply Profitable Designer Summit, which now we're hosting this year for the first time we acquired the summit and we're hosting it and you're gonna be speaking at it, which is really, really cool. Full circle there. Yeah, it's when I started my business back in the day, I had no idea that there were like other freelancers out there like me and then that there were events for us and coaches for us in education for us. I really was like a lone wolf and learned everything on my own in like forums, and Googling and Stack, what is it, stack Exchange and like all of those just very alone and that there are like communities out there and just educational events. I'm just, yeah, it's just so cool that they can bring so many people together like that. So you heard me speak and obviously I invite everybody who comes to my training to fill out an application for, we've changed this process a little bit, but you come to another training where I talk all about the Web Designer Academy and then I invite people to join. What made you decide to take me up on my invitation?

Lauren Newton: I was at the right place in my life where, you know, I knew that my process was not solid for like how to run a web design project and the way that I was charging was not sustainable. Like I think the website that I just recently sold right before signing up with you, I sold it for $1,500 and it took me a month and I'm like, there's no way. Like I can't live off of that. Like it's covering my mortgage. Like, that's about it. Like, yeah. So I knew I needed, when I joined your, you had your talk at the summit and then you had another kind of follow up more workshop that you had offered and you dove into like how people could sell websites for five x, you know, what they're selling it now for, and you could sell a website for $10,000. And that like completely blew my mind that that was just like so foreign to me . And just knowing that like I wanted to have to be offering like sustainable pricing and offering web design, it just made sense to me. And I'm like, I'm definitely somebody that's willing to invest when I know somebody's like paved the way and will save me like a ton of mistakes along the way, you know, because I feel like running your own business in a way is like buying an IKEA desk and having to put it together with no instructions.

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh.

Lauren Newton: It's like having, you know, a program that's there for you is like the instruction manual you need to like be successful. So, so I knew like after walking through like the web workshop with you, I was like, that's this is gonna like definitely help my business in so many ways.

Shannon Mattern: That is like the best analogy I've ever heard about trying to, to build a business on your own. Like trying to put together IKEA furniture without the instructions. Yeah. Like you'll eventually figure it out, but oh my gosh. Not without just almost like giving up on it a hundred times altogether. That's brilliant. So what was it about like the fact that you could charge five times more, $10,000 for a website that was like breaking your brain? Like what were your thoughts about that? You know, when it was like, oh hey you can, here's how, like what were your initial thoughts about that?

Lauren Newton: Like, wow, this is real. Like, I mean it has to be real cause she's done it like , but also like that would reduce so much stress because I don't have to get as many clients to make the same amount of money and that was like huge for me. It's just not having to like, you know, if you are selling websites at $1,500 and you wanna make 5K a month, you have to sell three or four if the math is right, three or four of them, you know? And, and that's a lot of work. So being able to charge 10 K for a website that simplifies so much in your life and it kind of takes out that, that burnout that a lot of people experience when they're running their business. So,

Shannon Mattern: So what I'm hearing from you is that like you believed it was possible for you when I said it. Mm-Hmm. , like you weren't like, oh, not me. You were like, oh wait, you can . Like

Lauren Newton: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I was like, okay, there's a way to do this. I don't know how, but like it's possible. Like it blew my mind is like a possibility. But then definitely believed that that was like attainable, just like knowing your background and like the way you explained like the different mindsets that people have when they make purchases and when they invest, you know, versus like the expense mindset versus the investment mindset. And just also you had talked a lot about like positioning and like positioning yourself to the people that are willing to spend that money on a website. I I think you made a really good kind of good point of like, you know, you're targeting a market that is investing in a website and they see it as an investment and they're getting ROI from it and you can just express that through when you're selling it. And, and so that whole method was something that I hadn't even like thought of when I was like pitching websites to people. So that that was kind of like maybe the how piece on like what was check connecting it for me is like, okay, that's how you can sell a $10,000 website.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, I what I was thinking about as you were saying that it's like we come from being employees where we're paid for our time and yes, we bring a skill to the table that we are getting paid to do and it's hard to make that shift from like, I'm being paid for the level of skill I bring and the number of hours I bring it for to then not even selling that. Like I'm not selling that, I'm selling what this tool can do for, for the client. And to think back like, well your company was always selling the outcome of what you made for them to the client for the value of that thing. Mm-Hmm . But we just never as like people who were employees and being paid for our time and our skill, we don't think about like what they're selling our skills for , you know, what we're selling that thing for to their customers.

Shannon Mattern: And when you shift into running your own business, that's what you have to sell. You have to stop selling your time and your skill and you have to start selling what, what your company was always selling, which was the value of that thing. Yeah. And I think that's like a step that we miss because why would we know that if we're like conditioned to be an employee our whole life and that our o only value came from our time and our level of skill that when we go to run our own business, that has nothing to do with it . Like, I mean it has a little bit to do with it. You have to be able to deliver on what you say, but that's not where the value is.

Lauren Newton: Right. Absolutely. That was definitely a huge shift for me, for me as well is just understanding. Like, and I mean I think I had asked you a couple times, you know, during our program it's just like, well if I do a site on, on Squarespace, like I can't charge as much as like a WordPress site and you're like, why not ? You know, so it's me just like kind breaking out of that mindset shift of like hours equals money, you know?

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. That's, that's a huge one that I hear all the time from people is like, it can't be worth that much if it's on Squarespace. And I'm like, you know, I used to think like that. I'm like, it can't be worth that much cuz it was so easy for me to do it. But that's not the point. like, and, and if it was so easy, like they would do it themselves and there's reasons why clients that are willing to invest in working with an expert don't do it themselves. Ugh. So good. Okay. We talk a lot about mindset in the web designer academy. So what do you think your biggest mindset shift has been so far since joining us last year?

Lauren Newton: Ooh, I would say the biggest is it has to be the employee, the kind of what we talked about, the employee mindset and shifting that to more of a business owner mindset. It's so ingrained like in anyone that's, that's come from like a corporate life or like just a full-time job day job. Like, it's so ingrained in us because we've been doing this our whole lives that like once you start your own business you realize like you can set rules for yourself and you, you can set boundaries for yourself and your clients aren't your boss. You know, I've come a long way from where I was a year ago where I felt like, you know, I have to drop everything and there's still like this battle within me sometimes, but like it's definitely gotten a lot better over the past year is like, you know, if the client emails me, I don't have to get back to them immediately and if they ask me to do something, I can decide, you know, is this the right thing for them?

Lauren Newton: Is this the right thing for the project? You know, I can give my input and I don't have to just do what they say in the way they say it and they're, they're not, you not my boss anymore. So it's, it's definitely been a big shift, but it's been really nice and I think it's also like, like a really powerful shift because you become the expert that you are towards your clients and you're actually serving them better if you are kind of running the show and like running the project. I think they value that in a lot of ways too.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, I, I love the way you said that because there, you know, there is the whole like wanting to create your own freedom and flexibility and like run business the way you wanna run business, but you're like, and this is really good for my clients because they could be asking for something that isn't in their best interests and they don't realize it or something that's gonna not be the right thing for them in the future and they don't realize it. Or it's such a big shift to be like, Hey, I'm here to advocate for you and the success of your business and success of your project and you get to run your business how you get to run it. And it can be like a win-win across the board when you realize like, oh, this isn't like . You know, you think back to your like early jobs if you had jobs as like a teenager in your early twenties, like the customer's always right, do what the adults tell you to do.

Shannon Mattern: Like don't question it, just do it. And we don't realize how much of that we just take as like the way things are done all the way into our business. And it's really when you, that's another way that you really break that time for money like threshold. Mm-Hmm. when you can add value in so many other ways like that. Ugh, that's so good. I think that employee to entrepreneur mindset just unlocks so many other, it's like a big domino that knocks down a lot of other dominoes in your business. What is one thing, what's one thing you wish you would have known or believed in the early days of your business? Or one thing that if you could share with our listeners that that like changed everything for you, what's one thing you would share around

Lauren Newton: That? Ooh, that's a good question. I would say like something early on in my business, realizing that everybody's weighing it and like, you don't have to feel super established as like, I've done these courses for web design and I have to have like a whole chart of like, you know, experience and everybody's weighing it. Like everybody out there feels the same way that you do. And I think the quicker you realize that, the quicker, it's like, okay, we're on the same playing field. It's like I'm able to, you know, I'm, I'm an expert in what I do and you know, a business owner doing something else is an expert in what they're doing and like just understanding like you, you're bringing value with what you're, you know. Yeah. I would say that's, that's a big one. Once I realized everybody's swinging it, it made me feel little better. ,

Shannon Mattern: Oh my gosh. And everybody is, and they have to be because technology changes so fast. Trends change. Yeah. So fast. There's always something new to learn so you can't possibly know it all. Like you just can't possibly know it all. And it's like everybody is winging it and everybody's figuring it out as they go. And I think that's the skill, right? The most valuable skill is to be able to be nimble and figure it out as you go and be able to adapt and be flexible and troubleshoot and say like, yeah, I've never done that before, but it sounds super fun. I'd love to figure that out. You know, that's one of the things that I always loved about web design in general. It's like I've never met a mystery that I wasn't like bent on solving , you know? And it's just, it's just so much fun and when you don't make that a problem, it just gets like the pressure just kind of comes off and you can be like, yeah, I'd love to be the one that gets paid to figure that out. Like, that's awesome .

Lauren Newton: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Cause like for some people that would be like a complete headache and for web designers like us, like it's a challenge and it's fun and it's exciting and it's okay if you haven't made an e-commerce website before. Like just take the job, like try it out and you're gonna figure it out like a million other people have figured it out. You can YouTube anything you want, it's all the information's out there. It's just a matter of like, you know, researching it. So if you're up against like a new challenge for a website and project, like don't be afraid. There's a ton of people out there that can support you with it. So.

Shannon Mattern: Oh, that is such good advice. I have one more question before we wrap up and that is, what is one belief about yourself that you had to change to get where you are today, which is charging a lot more than you did before and working with a lot less clients and having boundaries and all of the incredible wins that you've shared in our program along the way. I mean, I've seen you just really go from, like you said, selling websites from Starbucks or for 1500 to having five figure months in booking your highest client packages ever. So what belief did you have to change about yourself to create all of that?

Lauren Newton: I think it was that I had to realize I'm an expert and except that like I know what I'm doing, I'm good at what I do and I can bring that value to people. That was the biggest mindset shift is just realizing like I am an expert and I am that person that I want to be. And it's just like I don't have to think like I'm less than or that I'm not good enough. Cause I just started my business. Like that was the biggest mindset shift I think. And that's just helped me in charging, it's helped me with boundaries. Like it's helped me in so many areas and just with confidence and with confidence in dealing with clients and things like that.

Shannon Mattern: That's so powerful. Your transformation has been really incredible to watch and I really appreciate you coming here to share your story with everyone. I know it's gonna be so inspiring to people who are just a few steps behind you on their journey. So can you share with everyone where they can go to connect with you, learn more about you and what you do?

Lauren Newton: Yeah, sure. So you can visit my website or you can also find me on Instagram with the same handle. So it's Lauren.V.Newton. You can find me there. So yeah, either one, I'd love to to chat and anyone can follow me. I'll follow you back and happy to help.

Shannon Mattern: Awesome. Well thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. And Lauren is gonna be speaking at our Simply Profitable Designer Summit this March. So definitely get your free ticket. We'll tell you how you can get your free ticket on feature episodes of the podcast, check out her presentation. We'll link up all of this in the show notes. And Lauren, thank you so much for being here today.

Lauren Newton: Thank you Shannon. Also so excited to be here.

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 Academyso 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 3: 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.