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byShannon Mattern
This image shows a graphic for a podcast titled "profitable web designer," featuring a smiling person, Episode 80, discussing niching down with Kady Sandel.

How to Niche Down the Right Way with Kady Sandel of Aventive Academy

Welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast! Today I'm talking to Kady Sandel, host of the Profitable Graphic Designer Podcast, creator of the 12-week Profitable Designer program and the Creative CEO Accelerator. She's a business coach for designers and the CEO of her own design agency in Austin, Texas.

I was thrilled to finally get to meet Katie in person and talk to her because she spoke at our Simply Profitable Designer Summit last year, and she's speaking again this year (her session is SO GOOD, you can grab your free ticket here before March 18th, 2024)

In this episode, we talk about a hot topic in the web design business world – niching down. Together, we answer these burning questions:

  • Do you have to choose a niche to run a successful web design business?
  • How do you choose the right niche for your web design business?
  • How do you know if you've chosen the right niche for your web design business?
  • What are the pros and cons of niching down?

Kady also shares her pricing journey and why you absolutely CAN charge five figures for your design projects!

Mentioned in this episode:

Shannon Mattern (00:02.166)

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast. And today I am joined by Katie Sandel of the Profitable Graphic Designer Podcast. And she is the business coach for designers and the CEO of her own design agency in Austin, Texas. And the creator of the 12-week program, the Profitable Designer and the creative CEO Accelerator.

So I am so excited to finally get to meet Katie in person and talk to her. She's spoken at our Simply Profitable Designer Summit. She's speaking again this year. And this is the first time that we're actually getting to meet and have a conversation. So Katie, welcome to the show.

Kady Sandel (00:48.226)

Thank you so much. I love the introduction.

Shannon Mattern (00:53.12)

So can you share a little bit more with our listeners about you and what you do and really how you got started?

Kady Sandel (01:01.802)

Yes. So I started basically being a graphic designer is the only thing I've ever done in my life. I was like 13 or 14 when I said to my mom that I would love to make a billboard. And she was like, what does that even mean? How do you mean you want to make a billboard? And I was just like, well, I don't know. I want to put that like graphic together. And at that time, you know, she was just like confused. Like, I don't know what that exactly means.

And so I figured out that is some kind of design, but I wasn't sure what exactly that means. And in Serbia, where I'm originally from, we do have high school, but our high schools are more specialized high schools. So when you're 15, you have to decide what your career is going to be. And so that's when I found a graphic design school. So I finished the high school, which is graphic design school. And then after that, I went to the Academy of Arts.

for graphic design as well. After that, I had a job in one science and printing company in Las Vegas. So I went from Serbia to Vegas and I worked there for just a few months. And then I realized I actually can't work for someone else. I have to be my own boss. I mean, I liked working there, but I feel like I wanted to add some...

Shannon Mattern (02:16.45)

Heh.

Kady Sandel (02:24.73)

more creativity, I wanted to choose my clients, I wanted to choose the projects I want to work on. And then I started freelancing on the side and that took off. So I moved to Austin as an agency owner, I started hiring, expanding, growing. And then in 2020 when, well, first I had a baby that year, but also pandemic hit and I was just like at home, there were like no daycares, like nothing. I'm just like at home, stuck for months.

And I keep getting questions from designers, how to find clients, how much they should charge, you know, all the things. So I started helping them through DMs, mostly on Instagram, how to grow their business. And then I realized, well, I'm getting all these, the same questions. Why wouldn't I put them into an online course? And that's how Aventio Academy and the Profitable Designer Program was born, where I basically answered all the questions on how designers can build their own.

businesses and that is now an entity on its own.

Shannon Mattern (03:27.324)

I love that story and I want to like dig deeper into parts of that because I think that there's something I don't know, special about the like the challenges and the trials that we go through on our way to figuring it out to get to the point where people start to ask you like how did you figure it out? So

What were some of your early challenges that you encountered when you started freelancing and working for clients that you now help people avoid or not fall into some of those traps?

Kady Sandel (04:09.498)

Yeah, definitely. So I think one of the biggest struggles was pricing. And I mean, there's so many, right? But pricing was definitely the biggest problem because when you're not making enough, you're not able to think like a business owner and to maybe outsource or work on things that really matter. I remember charging $65 for a logo design and like $500 for a website design. And then I would work.

weeks and weeks on that. And then I'm like, well, I basically worked for $2 per hour. That doesn't make any sense. And so I think that pricing was definitely something I struggled with. And even when I was going to like networking events and looking for clients, trying to build this business, I wasn't able to get clients. And I believe that that's because I was so cheap and they wouldn't see me as a professional. They would see me as someone who's just starting their business.

And while that's okay, if they're investing their time and money into their business, they don't want to hire someone who's going to design their logo or a website or whatever it is, and then they have to redesign that. So they were probably afraid of investing in me. And that's what I see now. For example, the other day I was hiring a social media strategist and social media manager, and when I got quotes in.

I was like, oh, this one is like so cheap. Like something's wrong. Like I'm not going to even go with that person and maybe she would be the best, but I just didn't give her a chance because I just didn't feel that the price matches the value that I'm looking for. So I think that that's something that my potential clients would basically say no to because I was like so cheap. I mean, if you look now.

Shannon Mattern (05:34.542)

Thank you.

Kady Sandel (05:54.722)

There are many brand designers and web designers who are charging $10,000, $20,000, and whatnot for the same type of service, for the same service that I offered for 65 or 500, it's just not working, right? So I definitely had to learn how to price my work. And luckily somehow I wasn't charging per hour. I did maybe like a couple of projects, but I quickly realized that doesn't make sense because I'm getting better and quicker and why would they make less?

when I'm becoming a better designer. And so I quickly went into a project pricing, but even then, um, I would still offer so many things for like a super low rate and I was on Craigslist and I was just like attracting wrong type of clients because that was so cheap.

Shannon Mattern (06:45.03)

I think that you make such an important point, you know, in terms of like, there's going to be a buyer for your logo at $65. Like you're going to attract clients, you're going to attract clients at that price point, but like, you're gonna, there's a client for you at every price point. So why not like work your way?

it takes just as much effort to sell something for $65 as it does to sell something for, I don't know, $10,000. Sometimes, as you experienced, I experienced this too. I'm just kind of laughing and nodding along because I'm like, the thought of charging $1,000 for a website was like, I am stealing from people. I am ripping them off. This is so easy. I can do this in my

Like I can't charge that much for it. And that was my mindset. And I didn't value what I was bringing to the table. And of course I was finding people that are like, yeah, like of course a thousand dollars for a website and I want the world from you. And I ended up making $2 an hour. And I'm like, I might as well be waitressing again. Like this is not working. So what was the shift? Oh, go ahead.

Kady Sandel (08:00.278)

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I remember, no, I just want to say that I remember having this potential client in Las Vegas. He has his own private theater and I was introduced, it was basically through introductions. So I met him and...

He asked me for a website design. We went through the full like framework and what is that I would provide to him and then I gave him a quote of 3000, which is still, you know, a lot at that time, but for someone who has a private theater and is looking for a blue, for like a full website and everything, I mean, 3000 is so cheap. And of course, like he immediately told me, no, like, uh, like some things off. Like he tried to.

to understand, but he just couldn't. And I'm sure he went with someone like for 30, $40,000 for a website.

Shannon Mattern (08:56.598)

Yeah, so help me understand for you, do you remember a moment when you were like, oh, like I'm getting, like, cause a lot of people would say, oh, no, 3000 was too much, I need to lower my price in a situation like that when they're told no. What was the moment for you where you figured out like, oh, no, I actually need to go the other way and charge more?

Kady Sandel (09:26.094)

I honestly don't know. I think that it was all gradually and it was one of those, you know, the advice that you hear, just double your rates, double your rates. And I was, you know, then charging like 120 for a logo, then 240, then 480. You know, I was just like getting there. And then when it got to $3,000 and I was not for just for a logo, but per month I was making like three to $5,000.

And it was for years. So like two or three years, every single month is the same. And while that felt great because it was kind of like sustainable and it was working fine, I just couldn't understand like, what is the next step? Like, how do I get out of this? And then I started learning more about my clients, like truly knowing them and figuring out my niche, who I want to work with instead of whoever, you know, would hire me. And

really going deeper into what is that they need. And that's when I discovered the brand strategy. And then I started learning more about the brand strategy, because it's not all about just sending them a questionnaire and asking them what kind of logo or what kind of website you want. It's more about, because they're not looking for a logo. They're not looking for a website. They're looking to grow their business, to sell more products, to get more customers, get more clients. There's something deeper.

And I couldn't help them get there by just providing a website that looks good. And maybe it doesn't work as well. Or with a logo or even if that was labels and packaging, I had to figure out how I can provide more value. And that was a brand strategy. So I implemented that into my services and then I immediately went to 10,000 because it would take me so much time to do a brand strategy and I knew the value of it. And

I feel like I always knew that there is value in graphic design and web design, but I just couldn't like put that into something that's tangible. I couldn't understand to clients why they should hire me over someone else. When everyone else is offering, oh, I'm a web designer, I'm a web designer. Okay, cool. But like, what is the difference? You know? So when I figured out that there is actually a strategy behind building a website and, you know, understanding your clients, explaining that to them, that's when my price has just skyrocketed. And.

Kady Sandel (11:47.25)

And what you mentioned is it wasn't harder for me to land clients at 10K. You know, it was the same effort or maybe even less effort, landing someone for 10,000 or 20,000 than someone for 200, because those people at 200 are price shopping, so they are going to contact 10 different designers and then get quotes and, you know, choose one probably based on the price.

while at 10 or 20,000, they actually are going to contact maybe a couple because they don't want to spend their time and then spend their money. So they're going to choose to spend their money over time.

Shannon Mattern (12:31.147)

Oh, I am just like so many of the things that you're saying are like lighting my brain up. I think one of the first things that I'm curious about is like, did you find that you were already selling brand strategy without knowing that you were doing it? Because I think I feel like so many times I hear from web designers where they're like,

Kady Sandel (12:32.862)

Hehehe

Hehehe

Shannon Mattern (12:53.994)

I just wanna help them figure out this thing in the business so that we can move forward with the project. So they're operating as web graphic designer. They're selling a website and they've sold it for a few thousand dollars or whatever they felt like they could sell this commodity of a website as. And then they get into the project and they realize the client can't give them this information because they don't have the answer, because they don't, they haven't thought it through or they don't understand.

And so, or they don't have the vision, whatever. And so the project stalls out. And of course there's all kinds of strategies to help keep projects moving and whatever. But the core issue is that they don't know the whole, they don't know what they don't know, they don't know the whole strategy. And a lot of times designers find themselves in that role anyway, so why not get paid for it, right?

Kady Sandel (13:51.37)

Yeah, definitely. At first I was sending a questionnaire, which now I understand why clients were not good at responding to those questions and also are not preferring that. Because now when I'm hiring designers to work for my agency or when I'm hiring social media managers or whatnot, like when they send me a questionnaire, I'm like, oh, I don't want to do this questionnaire. I don't feel like doing this homework.

Shannon Mattern (14:16.206)

It's gonna take me three hours and I don't have time for that, yeah.

Kady Sandel (14:19.93)

Exactly. And then what if things don't go well and then she's going to call me anyway? Like, I don't like questionnaires. And I now see how my clients, they don't like them either, because every time when I will get response, I'm like, these are not good answers. And then I would have to set up a call or send a follow-up email or hundreds of emails, trying to figure out what is that they're looking for.

And even then I would have to do some kind of strategy, especially when it comes to websites. Usually they would be like, well, I just need a simple website. I just need like home and about and contact. And I'm like, okay, like how much content do we have? Do you have the videos? Do you have photos? Do you have texts? Like, what is that? You know, and then I would still do the brand strategy. I just wouldn't charge for it. And I thought I actually.

didn't even know what brand strategy is for a long time. I just thought, oh, I'm a designer. They should provide everything. They should give me the copy, which I somewhat agree, but the best is like if you work with a copy, with someone who's going to write the copy, that's a different, different topic. But, but basically I expected my client to know exactly what pages they're going to have.

to send me all the text, to send me all the photos, and then I'm going to design it all nicely and put it all together, which can happen, but that's not, that's not a core. I think that most of the time we actually do the brand strategy without knowing that what we are doing.

Shannon Mattern (15:57.446)

Yeah, and that's where like the value comes in right because you can any like that's where people are it's like Yeah, anybody can DIY or you know spin up a Squarespace site or a WordPress site, but And not to kind of get into all the like, you know, why should why should anyone hire me because you know They could just do it themselves. It's like well if they could they would have so let's put that aside but

It's this whole piece about they understand that you are not selling a website, and they are not buying a website. The website is a tool for them to create the results that they ultimately want. And your job or the role that you can take on as the designer is the person that asks them the right questions to figure out what they need.

And when you said just a simple website, I'm like, oh, that's the thing that every client thinks they need and every, every client thinks that they need just a simple website. And if you, as the designer, believe them, when they say that you're missing such a huge opportunity to like, help them get what they really want. Because if you deliver just a website, they're not going to get the results that they could get if you worked with them on that, like deeper level. So.

Kady Sandel (17:18.982)

Exactly. And even with websites, I can see how designers can, and how clients can see the value in websites, maybe even without talking about the end results, because they know that a website is something that they simply need because they're customers, they're clients, people who are going to buy their products, like they have to be on the website. But when someone is a brand or graphic designer, it's way harder.

However, it's all kind of like in this the same bucket, but when you're selling just a logo, like you can design the best logo in the world, but that's not going to help your clients. Like there has to be that strategy behind every single logo, behind colors, behind typography, behind every single page on the website and not just the page, but behind every single section on that page on the website. So yeah, definitely there has to be a plan.

Shannon Mattern (18:15.662)

And there's just so much value that you as the designer provides. Like that's your brain, that's your experience, that's your intellectual property that you've developed in your mind over years and years and years of doing this. Or maybe you haven't been doing it for years, but you've put a lot of time in learning. And, and, you know, there's so much value to that aside from the time, like you said earlier, like

Why should I be penalized because I'm better at my job now or better at what I do and it takes me less time? Like, of course it should take you less time. And it doesn't make it worth any less.

Kady Sandel (18:53.142)

Yeah, exactly. But I was also thinking now how I was sharing that I used to charge $65 for a logo and now it's like $10,000 to work with me. But basically I do believe that at that time, my, I don't even know how to say that so that everyone can understand. But even though $65 is super low, I do believe that the quality of work was good.

But I don't think it was a 10,000 where it's now, because at that time I would just get like, let's say a name of the company and I would try to put something together, which honestly they can find even cheaper on Freepeak or Canva or something. So there was like, I was just a person knowing how to use the tool. So I do believe that my logos were 65 or 200 or whatever at that time versus now when I provide full brand strategy. And yes, it takes longer.

because it's the whole strategy behind, but also I'm making way more if you break that down per hour than I used to.

Shannon Mattern (19:57.513)

Oh, absolutely. Like, I mean, I felt I found myself in the same. Everything that you're saying I'm like, yes, like I could build you the exact website that you told me that you wanted. And I just didn't question that I shouldn't build you what you tell me that you want if you're if.

I just never questioned it. I was just like, oh, this is what you want? Okay, I'll do it. Because I didn't have that self-concept yet of being the expert that could be, that could tell you, that could ask you the right questions and then make a recommendation and help you understand why that is, why I think that's in your best interest. I just didn't have that confidence, I guess, to do that.

Kady Sandel (20:46.398)

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And I love that you mentioned that because I also remember designing one logo for, they were kind of like, they would help organize weddings and events and whatnot. And they wanted me to incorporate a fork and a spoon and I like everything and anything in that logo and instead of me thinking about it, I was just doing it. And it was so bad.

Shannon Mattern (21:15.714)

Oh, we all have those projects that we're like, that will never see the light of day. Like I will, I will never show that to anyone. Oh my goodness. So we've talked about pricing and you know, how we value ourselves. And you know, I think the other piece I wanted to touch on before we move on from this topic is, you know, I, I am curious.

Kady Sandel (21:21.819)

Exactly. Yeah.

Shannon Mattern (21:43.654)

there might be people listening to this that find it hard to believe that someone wouldn't just choose the lower price. So in your experience, and you touched on this a little bit with the theater owner, but in your experience, what is it about these business owners that gives them a red flag when they see a price that's too low?

Kady Sandel (22:09.558)

Yeah, so there's so much that goes into that, but let me just give you an example from my perspective, because I just hired a social media manager and she was the most expensive one from all the ones that I talked to, talked with. So what, um, what made me hire her was the communication, the way she presented herself, the way she sent her emails with no mistakes.

The way she communicated with me, she would respond in a couple of hours, which I don't expect everyone to respond to me in a couple of hours, nor your clients, whoever is listening to this, your clients do not expect from you to respond immediately. Don't think that that's, that's not a case. Like I don't respond immediately. I respond like in a day or two, but I don't let people wait for days, but I also don't want to respond immediately because I don't want them to think that they can just get to me whenever they feel like. So.

Again, different topic. But yeah, so what made me hire her was that she was so confident. And even I questioned her pricing and I asked her, how is it like, why are you the most expensive? These are the quotes that I got. Why is this like more than double the rate? And she said, because I believe in what I do and I believe I can help you with this and that. And she wasn't talking about I'm going to post for you. I'm going to.

Shannon Mattern (23:07.278)

I'm going to go to bed.

Kady Sandel (23:34.13)

I respond to other people's comments. I'm going to design for you. She said, I'll help you get more followers that we're going to turn into subscribers and we're going to sell more of your product. And I was like, oh, I actually like that. And I knew what she's doing because I've also, I know also how to sell my services. So I knew what she's doing, but I still decided to hire her because she was so professional. So I think that when clients are looking for a website designer or a logo designer, they want

that designer to talk about the end results because that's what they really care about. They care about selling more products. They care about getting clients or customers. They don't care about your services. And many designers get stuck into, you'll get these many pages, we'll work on this many revisions. And, you know, it's just like so much and clients are like, but I don't even want to talk about revisions. I don't want to think about revisions. I want to get things done. Like the first time.

And so I think it's just like having that confidence and knowing what the client is really looking for.

Shannon Mattern (24:39.65)

I just something that you said made me think like it's not that he chose the price because of the number. It was the energy around the number in terms of like the all of the conversation was about the results, not the deliverables. It wasn't that you chose the most expensive one because you're lining up the numbers and being like, that's the most expensive. That one must be the best.

this person has confidence in what she's able to deliver. And she is able to respond to you quickly, likely because she's charging sustainable prices and isn't massively overwhelmed and putting out a million fires and completely burnt out and hating all of our clients because she's undercharging and overworking. There's just like a certain vibe that comes off of someone that's so confident in...

what they do and their price that makes you trust that they will follow through on what they say that they're gonna follow through with on you and like with you. And so it kind of takes me back to, you know, your theater owner and 3000, like probably that version of you. And I'm thinking of that version of me who was in the same situation with a different business owner. I was probably scared to death to say that number.

And if I'm scared to make an offer to you, even if you can't quite put your finger on it, you're gonna feel a sense of discomfort about hiring me.

Kady Sandel (26:15.706)

Yeah. And I remember not like being super scared to say 10,000, but that was one of my goals. It was, I was so like, I really, really wanted to say 10,000 and I was practicing. And I remember saying to myself, next client, I'm going to say 10,000. And I was afraid of losing that client, but you just have to, you have to get to the next level and we can talk more about marketing and how to actually attract the high paying clients. But.

But basically I was practicing, I was just saying $10,000, $10,000 in front of the camera, like crazy, crazy. And then when the client asked me how much, that service would be, I said, 10,000. And I felt something in my stomach. I was just like, it's $10,000. And then I just like stayed quiet because I just didn't know what else to say. But at that time, and I still believe it's good, like after you say the price, to just like stay quiet and absorb like how they feel about it.

And, you know, once they agreed to it, I was like, Oh my God, why didn't I do this sooner?

Shannon Mattern (27:19.446)

I love that you're like, oh, my stomach, like my hands sweat. That's my thing when I'm like nervous about something. I'm like, my hands are sweating. And if that's the worst that happens, that's fine. I can like, I can say it. Like I still get nervous about stuff, even now after making so many offers. And like every time you go to that next level, you know.

It's like your hands will sweat the first few times or you have stomach ache the first couple of times and then it becomes normal and then you just, that's your new normal. So yeah.

Kady Sandel (27:53.762)

Yeah, or you stop sweating. I mean, I am not nervous anymore. It depends what it is, but for example, even today I had a sales call with a client just like a couple of hours before our call and I just don't have time to take on more projects. So basically I was just like, ah, that's going to be $15,000. In a way, like I don't even care if they're going to sign up or not. Like I wanted to respect their time and everything and I'll do it. Like if they decide to move on. But I just don't have the time.

Shannon Mattern (27:56.718)

I'm sorry.

Shannon Mattern (28:01.074)

Yeah.

Kady Sandel (28:22.506)

to work on it anymore and yes, like I will I would give it to my team But still and so when I said like it's gonna be $15,000 and they were like, yeah, that's like within our budget I was like, oh, I didn't say like 30

Shannon Mattern (28:38.838)

Yeah. I love for everybody to hear this conversation though, because like truly, like just knowing, just someone listening to this, like hearing that that's in the budget for someone, like everybody raise your prices. Like do it now. You don't need any special magic strategy. Just just do it. I mean, there are strategies that can help obviously. But

Kady Sandel (28:39.769)

But, but oh.

I'm sorry.

Kady Sandel (28:55.304)

Exactly.

Kady Sandel (28:59.431)

Just do it.

Shannon Mattern (29:03.738)

you can do it with what you have, with what you're doing right now. So yeah, let's talk about marketing because when we talk about what are the biggest challenges, pricing, and then how to get clients willing to pay the prices that I wanna charge. So what's your experience on that and then your advice for people?

Kady Sandel (29:28.25)

Yeah, so when I was making $3,000 to $5,000 a month and when I was stuck, I won like a coaching session with a guy online that I didn't know at the time. I mean, I still don't know him really well, but I got a coaching session with him for like 30 minutes. And so I told him, I'm a graphic designer. I'm trying to get clients. I want to grow my business. And we talked about pricing a little bit. He said, okay, your pricing is fine. Like you need, you know.

volume. So who's your target audience? And I was like, well, a business owner that's looking for a graphic designer. And he was like, okay, that's too broad. Can you give me some kind of industry? And I was like, well, it's really like everyone who... And I was just like, I didn't have a response. And he's like, okay, so how do you want me to send you a referral? And I was like, oh, well, but I don't know. And then he's like, well, if you don't know that, then people who you meet...

not be able to send you business either, you have to figure out your ideal client." And I was like, okay, I've heard that so many times. And then he's like, let's try to nail that down. So he asked me if, like, choose an industry. And I said, let's go with fashion. He's like, okay, so what in fashion? What exactly? And I was like, well, I don't know, like maybe like clothing and shoes. He's like, no, choose one. Okay, shoes. What kind of shoes? High heels. He's like, okay, so now if you were

for a fashion designer who designs high heels, what would you do? And I was like, I would probably go on Instagram or Pinterest and find them. He's like, exactly. So that's the power of knowing your ideal client. And so I was like, oh my God, this is so easy. Marketing all of a sudden makes sense and it can be very easy. So after that, I was thinking and I was afraid of niching down, like.

Most designers, right? I was like, oh, I'm going to lose so many clients if I decide to stick with one thing. And then I hired a marketing agency. They were expensive for me at a time. They were like 4,500, which is like a lot when you don't have that much. And they came in, they looked into my business and said, I don't think we will be able to work with you unless you choose a niche. Like they will not be able to help me grow my business if I am.

Kady Sandel (31:49.99)

a graphic designer, a graphic and web designer for everyone and anyone. So they actually helped me figure out what my niche is and they gave me like a couple of options and I chose one that I really liked. And then from there, I made changes to it and went even more narrow and whatnot. And then expanded and I was just like playing with it because I knew and for everyone who's listening to this, if you're afraid of niching, just remember that you can always go back to where you are at the moment.

So if you don't like where you are at, choose a niche, figure out what is that you wanna do and who you wanna work with. And it's just a decision. We are not like doctors or anything like that we have to like go through full specialization and whatnot. You can literally make that decision today, change your portfolio in the next couple of weeks and go all in. If it doesn't work after a few months, change it again. And that's kinda like what I was doing, even though I really liked my niche. And I was just like,

choosing between services and products, health and wellness, skincare, and now I'm getting a lot of skincare products and that's my passion. So I decided to kind of like merge my hobby and the business and become like really, really good at that. And that's something that also helped me raise my pricing because people now see me as an expert and I really am in designing like packaging and labels and websites and everything.

for the product-based businesses, specifically health and wellness, skincare. And we design everything like in just a few weeks because we've done it so many times. I don't have to do any research about that niche. And so basically I work class, make more, you know, the dream. But marketing became so much easier. As soon as you know who your ideal client is and where they hang out.

It's so easy. And like the same as when I was talking to that coach, when I was thinking about the fashion designer who designs shoes, where would she hang out? I knew immediately. So for everyone who's listening to this, if you're not sure about your niche, I think that that's something that you should work on, at least from the outside perspective, that doesn't mean you're excluding anyone and doesn't mean that you have to say no to, I mean, I have a lawyer.

Kady Sandel (34:15.757)

who's my client, I have a real estate agent, and I'm focused on product-based businesses that are in the health and wellness. That doesn't mean I'm losing other people.

Shannon Mattern (34:26.856)

I love that you take such an experimental, playful approach to choosing the niche. It's like you're dating different niches instead of just like marrying the first one that you, that like is presented to you or that you think of. And I think that that's, we put so much pressure on that, that we choose nothing. And

and stay kind of stuck in spinning out and using the, well, I don't have a niche to like, to not make progress where you can try different things on and just see. Like if, you know, for you, if you're like, oh, I know exactly where to find high-heeled shoe designers.

And then you go do that research and then you discover like, oh no, that's not really for me. Or you have a harder time finding them than you thought you would or whatever. Like you just change it.

Kady Sandel (35:28.202)

Just change it. Exactly. I mean, I started with the health and wellness. First, it was suggested by that marketing company, like, oh, there's so much money in the health and whatnot. And I was like, okay, cool. Fine. Um, but then I realized I, I don't really like it because it was all like hospitals and, um, clinics and I felt too kind of like boxed in because everything had to be like, I mean, it didn't have to, but I wasn't able to find the clients that I wanted to work with.

They were all about like, oh, I want it blue. You know, like the hospital, I want it blue. And I'm like, oh, I can't. So I was just like going crazy. I was like, oh my God, I can't be as creative as I wanted to. And I'm sure there are designers who specialize in working with hospitals and they still feel creative and that's totally fine. It just wasn't for me. So I was like, well, I just made a mistake and I'm not even getting like more clients. I'm still at like those three to $5,000 a month.

Shannon Mattern (36:01.806)

Ha ha ha!

Kady Sandel (36:25.662)

And so that's when I added actually the wellness part of it, because then I realized, well, what if I go into spas, into massage therapists, into something like that? Then I started making changes. And I left that keyword, health, but I added wellness. And then I worked with a couple of chiropractors, a couple of spa centers, and then I realized I don't like that either. So I'm like, okay, what do I do next?

Well, how about, and then there was a spa company that they were adding their products, like some scrubs and skincare products to their business. So I was like, okay, well, now I'm gonna work on packaging. Now I have to learn packaging. Well, now I have a packaging designer who works for me. But at that time I was like, I don't know much about packaging. Even though I've been designer for so many years, I was always working on like 2D stuff, you know, like the billboard I mentioned.

And like business cards at that time and flyers, not like really 3D like packaging. So then I had to learn that and I was, then I still stayed with like health and wellness, but I dropped the service based businesses because I wanted to work more on packaging designs. So then I focused on the product based businesses, then I dropped the health, stayed with wellness and then under wellness goes like.

bath bombs, skincare, but at the end of the day, even like bath bombs are still skincare related. So, and that's, it started from hospitals to lotions.

Shannon Mattern (38:03.276)

So when you talk about getting the clients, did you do cold outreach to potential clients to let them know that you exist and how you're doing? Was it a search engine optimization? Specifically, what were the actions that you took for people to know that you were there to serve their specific needs?

Kady Sandel (38:25.002)

Yeah, so my blog is doing really well. So it's all about like the SEO. I did reach out to some people and I did have some conversations and things like that, but nothing too big, nothing as big as what my blog is bringing in now. So we have a blogger who writes for us. He sends us only like two to four blog articles per month. So it's not a ton, but it's very specific because now we have a niche. And so I think it was 2000 and.

18 or 19 when he wrote, or at that time we had someone else, doesn't matter, a blogger wrote a blog post for my website and it was how to rebrand your skincare product based business, something like that. But like, it's like a full guide and it's just amazing. And nothing happened for like a year until it started like to see some traction.

And it just like took off all of a sudden. We started getting so many inquiries, so many skincare lines. And I'm like, how is this even possible? What is going on? And then my manager realized, oh, it's all coming from this one blog. Let's see what else. Because in the past, we would write about like logo design, about website design, about graphic design, but nothing was, it was more like...

graphic design for your business and why it's important. Why is brand strategy important for a business versus now, why is brand strategy important for a skincare line? And then whoever has a skincare business and types in branding, skincare, or even health and wellness, we're still doing really well with the health and wellness. We are getting a lot of supplement companies. It's still like product-based businesses. And so then we started to just like...

writing more about skincare, more about health and wellness, more about products, more about branding for products. And it's just like blog was what is even now driving most of the traffic to our company's websites.

Shannon Mattern (40:28.002)

That is fascinating. And the thing that kind of like jumped out at me when you were saying that is like you said, nothing happened with it for a year. And so one of the things that I struggle with personally is patience and giving things time to like evolve and marinate and coalesce and turn into whatever they're gonna turn into.

Kady Sandel (40:36.147)

Yeah.

Shannon Mattern (40:54.198)

And I know so many of our listeners are like, I want to do something today and have results from it tomorrow and to know that it worked, to know that I should keep doing this thing. And I'm so curious. And I always have to moderate myself on this to just be like, I'm planting a seed and it's going to grow how it's going to grow. And I'm going to continue to plant seeds and I'll see when they grow, if they grew. I have to continually remind myself of that.

I'm super curious like what your take on that is.

Kady Sandel (41:26.702)

Yeah, well, I think that after we published that blog post, we didn't even think about it, right? It was one of the strategies, of course, to grow the business and we were very well aware of how SEO can grow a business, but we didn't stop there. I was then connecting with people on LinkedIn, which is often a platform that not many designers use because it's not as visually appealing as Instagram or TikTok.

And I do think there are many businesses, business owners on LinkedIn who are looking for graphic web or brand designers. And so when you have a niche, when you know who your ideal client is, and then you have your portfolio and your website, that's all about that ideal client, then you can just go on LinkedIn and connect with those people, you don't have to pitch immediately, or you can also, which is another strategy of mine,

is connect with referral partners. So connect with people who have the same target audience, but offer different services. So for listeners of the profitable web designer podcast, I'm assuming those people would be brand designers, unless they already offer brand design, brand designers, copywriters, that's a good one. Web developers and like, I don't know, you know, it's just like people who are in the same like service based, you know, service based businesses.

creatives offering different services to the same target audience and then collaborate with them, connect with them, ask them for Zoom, for a coffee chat. Hey, let's see how we can help each other grow, stay in contact and you will eventually see like referrals coming in.

Shannon Mattern (43:10.396)

So good. I think relationships and adding value to other people's businesses is always such a good way to grow yourself. And the referrals you give to other people will come back to you. And it's always great to have someone that you can trust that you can send business to when

you can't take it on or you need them to fill a gap for this client or something like that. I'm just thinking about all of the noise on so many of the social media platforms and when you're like, oh, I'm a brand and graphic designer for product-based businesses, skincare specifically, and someone's on LinkedIn and they're just seeing graphic design, web design, and then they see

exactly what they do. They probably don't even realize like, oh, there are people that do this for my exact business. Of course, they're going to be bookmarking your website and saving that and getting excited about the possibility of working with someone who knows their exact business and the problems that they face and their challenges and the opportunities that are there for them.

Kady Sandel (44:18.449)

Yeah.

Kady Sandel (44:23.494)

Yeah, and basically when you have a niche, you don't have competitors. I mean, you do, but not as many. And every single skincare line that comes to me, that's why our closing rates is really high. And most of the time people would be like, oh, that's because you're not charging enough or you should increase your rates because it's not normal that 80% of proposals end up in real projects. And I'm like, no, it's because I'm getting the right people to my funnel.

Shannon Mattern (44:28.216)

Hahaha

Kady Sandel (44:53.362)

I don't feel like I should charge more. I feel really confident where we are at the moment. And even like today that we had the, we talked to a potential client and when I told her how much it's gonna be, she was like, okay, like yeah. Cause she knows she's working with a skincare expert that does branding. So it's like, that's it. But yeah, when it comes to marketing, everything becomes so much easier.

when you know who your client is. And I didn't do that for so many years in my business that I feel I lost so much clients because of it. Not because I didn't have an issue.

Shannon Mattern (45:30.614)

I could talk to you for five more podcast episodes about all of these different things. I wanna ask you before we wrap up, what is one belief about yourself that you had to change to get to where you are today?

Kady Sandel (45:53.078)

I love that question because I have no idea because I, I don't know, because I grew up having a lot of confidence actually. I don't know how that happened and why. Most of the time I know that, so my students, you know, the branded graphic designers usually don't have the confidence and I feel like it's because I didn't have anything to lose. You know, I was like, even if that doesn't work, I can always go back to having a job.

Shannon Mattern (45:55.798)

hahahaha

Shannon Mattern (46:03.747)

I love that.

Kady Sandel (46:21.89)

if I am not able to stay in America because of it, I can always go back to Serbia. If I can't live on my own, I can always go back to living with my parents. And like, what can I lose? Nothing. Well, you know, something else will happen. So I feel like I always believed in myself and I didn't have much to change. But so, yeah, I honestly don't know what the response that would be like about the belief. Like, I don't know.

Shannon Mattern (46:49.486)

I love that so much though, that you're like, no, I just know it at my core that I have nothing to lose and I get to move forward with this. So that's like one of my favorite answers to this question. So good, so, so good. So can you tell our listeners more about how they can work with you, where they can find your podcast?

Kady Sandel (47:03.214)

No.

Kady Sandel (47:06.814)

Amazing.

Shannon Mattern (47:16.57)

all of the different options for getting in your world and learning from you.

Kady Sandel (47:22.266)

Yeah, definitely. So I'll give you my website and social media in a second. But before I do that, I just want to provide something amazing for all the listeners right here. And it's something that's usually a paid offer on our website, but with a coupon code, designers will get it for free. And it's called the Welty Designer Blueprint. And it's a four-step process for attracting high paying clients. So if you go to AventiveAcademy.com.

slash wealthy dash designer and use a coupon code that I created for this podcast episode only. Profit web. So one word, profit web. You'll learn more about identifying your high value dream client, everything we talked about today, like understanding high paying design clients needs, where to find them, all the good stuff. And I will ask Shannon to actually include the link.

and a special coupon code in the show notes. But besides that, you can find me on all social media under Aventive Academy, and I'm active on Instagram the most. The website is also AventiveAcademy.com.

Shannon Mattern (48:32.398)

Amazing. I will definitely link up that offer and the coupon code in the show notes. We'll send it out to our email list. So also, if you're listening to this, make sure you're on our email list so you get all of the good stuff from our guests. Thank you so much for being here. It's just been so fun talking to you and getting to know you. And you're also going to be speaking at our Simply Profitable Designer Summit. Coming up.

very shortly at the time that this will go live. So like definitely get your ticket to that and watch Katie's presentation there. She's just got so much value to offer all of you. And thank you so much for being here and for just sharing so generously with everyone.

Kady Sandel (49:21.194)

Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me and I really enjoyed this podcast episode and I look forward to the summit as well.

Shannon Mattern (49:29.694)

All right, that is a wrap. Thank you so much for being here. We'll see everyone next week.

Summary

In this episode, Shannon Mattern interviews Kady Sandel, a graphic designer and business coach. They discuss the challenges of pricing and the importance of charging what you're worth. Kady shares her journey from freelancing to building her own design agency and the lessons she learned along the way. They also talk about the power of niching down and how it can attract high-paying clients. Kady emphasizes the importance of understanding your ideal client and marketing to them effectively. The conversation highlights the value of brand strategy and the impact it can have on a designer's business. They also talk about attracting high-paying clients as a designer. Kady shares her insights and strategies for identifying and understanding the needs of high-value dream clients, and talks about her Wealthy Designer Blueprint, a four-step process for attracting high-paying clients.

Takeaways

  • Don't undervalue your work
  • Niching down can attract higher-paying clients
  • Focus on the end results and the value you provide, not just the deliverables
  • Build relationships and add value to other businesses for referrals

Chapters

  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 03:27 Early Challenges with Pricing
  • 08:00 Realizing the Need to Charge More
  • 12:31 Unintentionally Selling Brand Strategy
  • 16:25 The Value of Designing for Results
  • 21:26 The Importance of Niching Down
  • 29:28 Marketing Strategies for Attracting High-Paying Clients
  • 38:25 The Power of SEO and Blogging
  • 45:53 Confidence and Belief in Yourself
  • 46:49 Working with Kady Sandel
  • 47:22 The Wealthy Designer Blueprint
  • 48:32 Finding Kady Sandel
  • 49:01 Simply Profitable Designer Summit
  • 49:21 Closing Remarks
A smiling person with a tooth showing on their chin is looking indoors.

Shannon Mattern
Web Designer Academy

ABOUT YOUR HOST, SHANNON MATTERN

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.