How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome as a Freelance Web Designer

Get out of your own way and start working solely in your zone of genius.

One of the first things we talk about in the Web Designer Academy is overcoming impostor syndrome – the belief that a potential or current client will find out that you’re not an “expert” (whatever that means) and you’ll suddenly be exposed for not knowing literally everything about web design.

This week I’m going to help you re-focus on what you do best to get over the fear of not knowing it all while still providing amazing solutions for your clients!

In this episode, I’m gonna cover:

  • How focusing on the client and what you love to do means being prepared to offer a solution to their problems.
  • The biggest shift you need to make to get out of impostor syndrome
  • Why your ability to “figure it out” is the best tool in your arsenal

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • Getting super specific about who you help as a web designer makes YOU the expert, and you won’t have as many surprises pop up during projects.
  • Coming from a place of collaboration allows you to work only in your zone of genius.

Episode Transcript

Shannon Mattern: Hey, welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast. So if you've ever felt like an imposter when marketing your web design business, or talking to potential clients, this episode is for you.

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast, where we're all about helping extraordinary web designers like you to stop undercharging over delivering and overworking, and finally create the profitable, sustainable, and scalable web design business you've been dreaming of. I'm your host Shannon, mad founder of the Web Designer Academy, where we teach the business side of running a web design business. So if you wanna make a consistent full-time income as a web designer, but you're struggling with things like pricing and boundaries and mindset and marketing, and you're just tired of going it alone while my friend, you're in the right place.

Shannon Mattern: Before we dive into this week's episode, I wanna let you know about a virtual web design business planning retreat that we're hosting on Thursday, December 8th, all about how to think, act, and make decisions like a multi six figure business owner. And you are invited because here's a little secret that no one talks about. In order to create a six figure web design business, you gotta think, act, and make decisions like a multi six figure web design business owner. And that is why on Thursday, December 8th from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern, we'll be hosting our first ever multi six figure web design, business, vision, planning, and goals virtual retreat. And during this a one day online event, you will create your project schedule and plan for 2023. You'll reverse engineer your pricing based on your big revenue goals. You'll learn to think and make decisions like a multi six figure web design business owner so that you can reach your personal revenue goals, whether that's six figures, multi six figures, or just a full time income as a web designer. And you'll learn how to continue to book profitable projects in an uncertain economy. Tickets go on sale Monday, November 21st through Wednesday, December 7th, and spots are limited. So head on over to to save your spot. Now, if you are ready to completely transform your web design business in 2023, you are not going to wanna miss this event. So go ahead and grab your ticket at and then meet me back here for this week's episode.

Shannon Mattern: So I hear from web designers all the time that they know that they're amazing at what they do. They know how to build beautiful websites. And not only that, they have a blast doing it. It's their dream life. They're totally in flow when they're doing it and they would love, love, love to just get paid really well to do it all the time. But there is just one little problem. They have this voice in their head constantly telling them things like, you're not good enough to do this. You don't know enough yet. You need to learn more. You need to take another class. No one would ever, ever, ever, ever pay you for this. You know, you can't call yourself a web designer cuz you didn't go to school for this, or you can't call yourself a web designer because you use Squarespace or Wix or whatever and you don't custom code your websites or you can't charge money for this.

Shannon Mattern: What if it takes you too long to finish? So can you relate to any of those thoughts? Do you have that voice going through your head all the time? That constant chatter of why you can't have your dream of creating a full-time income as a web designer. What I hear from the people that we help inside of our Web Designer Academy is that the imposter syndrome really starts to flare up when they're not really clear on like what the value of it is to their clients. So they have this fear deep down inside that they're gonna say, I'm a web designer, and then the potential client's gonna ask them to do something that they don't know how to do and then they're gonna be found out and then the client's gonna realize that they're not a real web designer and then they'll just be sitting there on the other side of the zoom, meaning like a deer and headlights having no idea what to say next.

Shannon Mattern: And then they just look down in they're naked , right? Okay, worst nightmare ever. And I know that's very dramatic, but the imposter syndrome comes from not being clear on why someone would actually pay you that much to work with you, to have you create a revenue generating asset for their business. So one of the things that we teach our students how to do inside of our program is get crystal clear on what they love to do, what they don't love to do, what they're willing to do, what they're not willing to do, what they're great at, what they're not great at, and how to package all of that up and position it as a solution to their client's problem and a revenue generating asset for their business. And so when you are like, oh, well I don't do this thing so I can't charge that much, so I have to go learn more and learn how to be a copywriter or be a developer, learn these things that I don't know yet because I don't see how the current skill set I have could be valuable to a client, then they don't want to even have consultation calls with people.

Shannon Mattern: Cuz what if they get found out , right? So you as a web designer get to offer the things that you already know how to do and like doing and not offer the things that you don't know how to do or don't like doing. And you get to sell those and you get to make good money off of them. Okay? And I think that that's one of the things that people are like, what I just get to sell what I know how to do do and I don't have to know how to do everything. Yeah, exactly. And then you don't talk about yourself and your marketing, you talk about your client, where they're at today, what's possible for them when they work with someone like you and what's possible when they have this revenue generating asset that helps them solve their business problems. So you must get really specific about not just what you do, but who it's for, how it benefits them, how it helps them get what they want.

Shannon Mattern: And then you rarely find yourself in a position where someone's asking you to do something that you don't do or don't know how to do or don't want to do. And even if you do, you know how to handle it right? You get to take control of your web design business because you are the expert, you're the expert in you and what you do and what you don't do and what you wanna do and what you don't wanna do. And you are allowed to design a web design business around that. Now I know that's a mindset shift. You being in control and you being the expert at what you know and wanna do and what you don't know and don't wanna do, and also being able to say to a client, I don't do that. But this whole imposter syndrome thing stems from a place of you not being really clear on what you do and what you don't do and standing really confidently in that and saying who it's for and not for confidently.

Shannon Mattern: And two, you feeling like you're subservient to your client. I call that the employee mindset. We were all taught in school how to take orders and how to listen, and then we got jobs and we were taught to do what our bosses told us to do. And especially if you're a woman listening to this, we've been socialized to be people pleasers. So it's only natural that we take some of that mentality into our client interactions. And the biggest shift you can make to get out of the imposter syndrome is to decide, I'm in charge of this. I have a service and a skill that they need. I get to define and determine what that service looks like. I am the one calling the shots. And if what I offer is not an alignment with what they need, then I'm not the right person for them.

Shannon Mattern: And that's okay because they can go find the right person for them. There is someone out there that needs exactly what I offer and I'm gonna speak directly to them. So it's shifting from an order, taking pixel pusher, aka employee to a collaborative consultant. When you're a collaborative consultant, you're only doing things that A, are in your zone of genius, and B, you like doing. So you think things like, this is the platform I build on, this is what I do, this is who I love to help. I'm so good at these things and I don't offer these other things and that's okay. And I'm gonna design my packages around my strengths and my likes and I'm gonna leave out the stuff that I think I should include, but I don't really want to. You are telling the client what you're going to do for them instead of them telling you what they want you to do for them.

Shannon Mattern: It's a very different mindset. If you've ever had thoughts like, I don't know enough, I need to learn more, my challenge to you is this. What do you know right now that you can package up and offer to clients? And if someone asks you if you could do something that you don't know how to do as a web designer, there are a couple ways you can think about it. You can think that they're not the right match for you as a client, which is totally fine. We have people that are Squarespace designers or WordPress designers, and they'll get a request for like a Shopify store, like a complex retail operation with like wholesale and retail and like a million different products and lots of different functionality and shipping and just all of these things. And like they've never done it before. And so they have the autonomy and the freedom and the ability to say, Hey, I'm not the right match for you, which is totally fine, but a lot of times they say, oh, they think, oh, I don't know how to do that, and what if they hire me and I can't figure it out?

Shannon Mattern: And it's like, here's the thing, you're smart. You figured out how to do what you do now you can figure it out if you want to. You could take on the project and subcontract out the parts that you don't know how to do. You could do some research to decide if this is something you even think that you wanna do. And you don't have to do it if you don't want to, but it doesn't matter if you've been doing this for 20 years or two weeks or two months, like I've said in other podcast episodes, you are going to run into issues with clients that you never anticipated, whether it's the first time you're building on the platform or the 20th. And the most important skill you can cultivate is the skill of just being able to figure it out and being able to communicate with a client about what their possibilities and options are.

Shannon Mattern: And that is the biggest skill you get to cultivate not learning more code or more platforms or more skills. And we always say in the Web Designer Academy, like, Hey, why not get paid to figure it out? So you get to be transparent with your clients and you get to say, this project sounds amazing. It's not something I've done before and I would love to dig in and figure this out. Here is what that could look like. And you let them decide. You let them decide if they want to work with you on that or go find someone that's like, oh, I have 200 years of Shopify experience, right? Learning more when you already know enough or already know how to figure things out, it keeps you from ever just breaking into that next level. If you always think, oh, I just gotta learn more first on my own for free before I can book clients like this, I need to sit down and like learn Shopify from start to finish.

Shannon Mattern: That's what keeps you from breaking into that next income level. So if imposter syndrome has been holding you back in your web design business, get really clear on what you want to do, what you don't wanna do, who you wanna do it for, who you don't wanna do it for, and the value of it to them beyond, oh, I didn't have a website before and now I have one. Start thinking of yourself. Not as an order taking pixel pushing employee, but as a consultant who is coming into this client's business, learning about their needs, developing a solution for them instead of just being hired to be like, okay, I'll just sit here and wait for you to tell me what to do and then I'll do it and hopefully I know how to do it. And if I don't, well I guess you should just fire me. .

Shannon Mattern: The mindset we want you to shift into is let's figure this out together and let me learn about your business and let me research solutions and let me see what I need to pull together to accomplish your goals. That's the mindset we want you to shift into. And that is the biggest thing between you and your success as a freelance web designer is the mindset you attack these problems with. So if you're ready to solve the imposter syndrome issue once and for all and confidently market your web design business and just confidently have conversations with clients about what you do and don't do, we would love to invite you to watch our invitation only five P framework training where we walk you through this five simple yet powerful steps we help our clients take to staff training their time for money, raise their prices by five times or more, make marketing easier, reclaim your schedule and book those well paying clients.

Shannon Mattern: So all you gotta do is go to, fill out that application to get your invitation to the complimentary private training, and I'm so excited to see your application. That's it for this week's episode, and we've linked up all of the resources we talked about today in the show notes. So you can go to to get your hands on those. And we'll be back next week with another episode designed to help you uplevel the business side of your web design business. So be sure to subscribe to the show wherever you're listening. And if you like today's episode, we will be so grateful if you would share it with all your web designer friends. And if you're feeling extra generous, we'd love for you to leave us a writing in review so we can get in front of even more web designers and help them transform their businesses and their lives. So simply scroll up on this episode in your podcast player and tap that, leave a review link or go to and it'll take you to the right spot. Thank you so much for listening, and I'll see you right here next week. Bye.

Speaker 2: This podcast is part of the Sound Advice FM network. Sound advice, FM Women's Voices amplified.

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Hi, I'm Shannon!

I’ve been coaching + mentoring web designers on how to package, price, market and sell web design for over 7 years… it’s time to forget everything you think you know about selling web design projects!

If you’re ready to stop undercharging and overdelivering and finally create a profitable, sustainable dreamy web design business, get my free Profitable Pricing Training and change everything you thought about how much you can charge for your web design services.

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