How to Stop Overworking Without Letting Down Your Web Design Clients

Do you put your web design clients first, before your self-care, family, friends and fun?

In this episode of the Profitable Web Designer podcast, we’re talking about why web designers overwork, and how to stop so that you can get your life back!

I’m gonna break down:

  • 9 reasons you might be overworking.
  • Why not having a set schedule is actually the opposite of freedom!
  • How to prioritize (or even shrink) your to-do list.
  • How to set clear boundaries with your clients.
  • Why you don’t follow your own work schedule or keep commitments to yourself.
  • A surprising reason you might me overworking.
  • 4 steps you can take to stop overworking and take back control of your time, schedule and money.


Key takeaways from this episode:

  • Overworking often feels like it comes from a good place… but it actually harms you and your clients!
  • It’s absolutely possible for you to create the space to do great work for your clients while creating sustainable revenue  AND having a life you enjoy.

To work with us to transform your web design business into a profitable, sustainable money-maker, get started by joining the waitlist.

We will be sending a weekly email to you with teachings from the current Web Designer Academy, Profitable Web Designer podcast episodes to start applying our concepts now, and advice from our new five-figure month earners on how to make at least $10k every single month as a web designer.

Episode Transcript

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 Madden, 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. But before we dive into this week's episode, I wanna invite you to sign up for our totally free profitable pricing framework training that breaks down five mindset shifts to five X, your prices without working five times harder, just go to and enter your name and email address. And I'll send you our proprietary pricing framework that will totally transform what you think about how much you really can charge for web design. So go sign up, and then meet me back for this week's episode.

Shannon Mattern: Hey everyone. Welcome to today's episode of the Profitable Web Designer podcast. I am so excited for this week's topic, because like I said, I am so serious about helping web designers to stop undercharging over delivering and overworking. And today we're gonna be talking about why web designers over work full disclosure, chronic over worker. I would say I'm in recovery. Not officially. I'm not like in an official recovery program or anything like that, but I was addicted to the hustle and I didn't even know it. That is one of the reasons why I really want to normalize, I guess, not overworking because it is so unhealthy. it is so bad for you physically and mentally and for your relationships and all of the things. And I just wanna share with you my story a little bit about my overworking story, why we overwork as web designers and how to start shifting out of the overworking habit.

Shannon Mattern: I started my web design business back in 2014 and it was a side hustle from my day job. And I already had a pretty robust, full time schedule at my day job, but I really craved freedom, flexibility, and financial independence. And I wanted to be my own boss. You guys, I wanted to be my own boss so bad. I could not take another day of going into that beige windowless office under the fluorescent lights, doing the same report that I dreaded doing every single month. That I'm pretty sure nobody looked at anyway. And just the monotony that day after day after day and talk about like S was making really good money, amazing benefits. I felt guilty for wanting more out of life when I already had like, what on paper everybody says that you should want? And I felt so unfulfilled and just blah, right?

Shannon Mattern: I didn't like my life straight up. I would go to this job every day, come home. We'd probably go out to dinner because I was too tired to cook. Then we'd have three or four beers at dinner. So I could like blow off steam and then come home, sleep started all over again and then wonder why I was always tired, always bloated, why I was overweight, why I was just not happy. Right. And so when I started my business, it was like this exciting thing that I could put my attention that distracted me quite frankly from me not being happy in these other areas of my life. And so I was like the perfect candidate to create an overworking habit. right. I feel like I was like primed for it. And it's one of those things that it's one of my sisters. And I talk about this all the time.

Shannon Mattern: It's like the way I deal with anxiety and depression, it looks healthy to outsiders. You know, it's not like I'm not getting outta bed and not going to work and doing things that are like detrimental. I do the exact opposite and I go into overdrive, right. That's why I wanted to talk specifically about overworking. And that's when I say in the podcast intro and everything that like, I'm serious about helping web designers stop undercharging over delivering and overworking because even if you're not like a chronic overwork who's using work to numb out anxiety, you can still get caught up in the hustle culture. I have another podcast that I started in. I think it was in 2018 called PEPs for side hustlers and a lot of listeners to this Profitable Web Designer podcast. Your web design business is your side hustle, right? And you have the same kind of drive I did to make it your full time gig.

Shannon Mattern: And we want to help you do that in a healthy, healthy way. And have you not get caught up in the hustle and the way to do that is to make sure that you are charging profitably, that you have a sustainable schedule that you're not delivering, and that you're watching out for all of the thoughts and the constructs of overworking. I was a serious chronic overwork. And the reason why I, aside from what I didn't understand was like a deep unhappiness and probably depression and some anxiety. I know that now after like getting therapy , but one of the reasons one of the reasons why I fell into the trap of, of overworking, it's a lot of the things we talked about in episodes one and two, a lot of our thoughts and the inner work that we need to do, but there are some like kind mechanics to it as well.

Shannon Mattern: And so a lot of the reasons why I was overworking are a lot of the reasons that I, a lot of the things I hear from our students inside the Web Designer Academy and just a lot of the web design that we get the opportunity to, to in what we do. And so I'm gonna go through these reasons and then talk about like how you can deconstruct this for yourself. If this resonates with you. One of the reasons that we tend to overwork is that we don't have a clear schedule for when we're going to be working. It's like me. It was like, I'm waking up, I'm getting in the shower. And as soon as I'm out of the shower, I've opened up my laptop and I'm gonna work for a couple of hours until I have to finish getting ready and get my car and go to work.

Shannon Mattern: And then anytime I had any downtime at work, I'd open up my laptop and I'd do some more work. And a lunch break do work, having to sit on a conference call or a meeting that was boring, open up my laptop and do work, come home, eat dinner, open up. My laptop, do work until I just, my eyes just couldn't keep up anymore. Right. I did not have any sort of schedule at all around when I would work. And as you can imagine, my husband was okay, like she's got her nose and her laptop 24 7. So yeah, she's here on the couch and we're watching shows and we're like trying to like spend quote quality time together, but I'd always be like, wait, pause it, watch just happened. Cause I was literally not paying attention. I was like doing stuff on my laptop. So I had no clear schedule as to when I would allow myself to work.

Shannon Mattern: And therefore I worked every moment that I wasn't sleeping or driving. And even then I had a podcast in my ear. So no clear schedule, especially when you're a side hustler so important when you have children in a family, which I don't have kids so important, you know, when you just wanna have a life, a life so important. So the second reason that I, and so many of the people I talk to overwork is that not only do they not have a clear schedule for when they'll work, they don't have, have a clear schedule of what you'll actually be doing during the time that you're working. So it's like, oh, this, even if you did have a schedule of like, I worked these two hours before work and this time after work and that's it I'm done. I don't do anything outside of those boundaries.

Shannon Mattern: If you open up your laptop and go straight to your email inbox and put out everyone else's fires. And then you're like, oh, but wait, I wanted to work on my packages and my sales page and all of that. And here it is one o'clock in the morning and you're still working on your own stuff because you did everybody. Else's stuff first. That's what creates overwork. When you don't have a clear schedule and for what you're gonna be doing during the hours that you've decided to work. So we'll talk a little bit more about that, but like, it is so important to know, to decide ahead of time what you're going to be doing when you're going to be working and follow through on that. Otherwise you're at risk for overworking. The third reason I hear a lot is like, I just have too much stuff on my to-do list.

Shannon Mattern: I have a to-do list. That's a hundred miles long. Maybe it's an actual list that you made somewhere. Maybe you got like all excited to try notion or click up or Asana or Trello. And you have just a ginormous brain dump of everything that you think you have to do. Or maybe it's just all in your head and you've never written it down. Maybe it's on paper. Maybe it's on a whiteboard. It doesn't matter. But you have an overwhelmingly large to-do list that hasn't been audited or prioritized. I have a process that I call the do dump delegate process and I take the giant to-do list. And then after I brain dumped everything out, I go through and I decide, am I gonna be the one to do it? Is someone else gonna be the one to do it? Or are we just not doing it?

Shannon Mattern: And then the other one is delay, right? So do dump delegate delay. Are we just not gonna do this right now? So we're gonna move that over to the delay. And then from what's left, you take what's on my do list. And I decide when I'm going to do those during my schedule work hours. Okay. Having a schedule, knowing what you're doing in that schedule and not just working from a massively unaudited reprioritized to-do list can help take the temperature down on the thoughts that you have all day of. Oh my gosh. There's so much to do. It's so overwhelming. I don't know how I'm gonna get it all done. When you think like that, you're just like amped up all the time and it feels worse to not work. Right? it's like, I don't know if you have ever experienced this, but when you have thoughts like that, and then you go to dinner with your husband or wife or partner, or you take a vacation, you cannot turn your brain off because it is so uncomfortable to be not working because it's causing you so much pain mentally to have that giant to-do list that you would just much rather go and get it all done than be where you are.

Shannon Mattern: And that's kind of the same thing when we talk about like, oh, I would rather, it's so uncomfortable for me to say no to that client that I would rather just do the work instead of experiencing the discomfort of saying no, right. Like you're not willing to experience the discomfort of just having a, to do list sitting out there. So you feel compelled to work. And that's why it's so important to have it be audited and prioritized and scheduled. So you're like, yeah, I have this giant list of things to do, but I only have to do these three things tomorrow. Right? So such a better feeling from thinking that another reason why web designers overwork, that's not, I mean, it's within your control, but it doesn't come from you. It's unclear or zero boundaries with your clients. So when you have an employee mindset and you feel like you have to do whatever your clients ask, whenever they ask on their schedule, then you are at massive risk for overworking.

Shannon Mattern: This was me. So often I would be on vacation and I'd have a client call me or text me or call me and text me and email me because they were behind on something. And now need something from me last minute, because the sale is starting on the first of the month and they need this, this and that updated. And they tried to do it the last minute they broke something and now I need to come to the rescue. Right. And I would say, yes, I would come back from the beach and go to the hotel room. Or I would go out to my car from dinner and have a conversation. Or I would sit at my friends' house and be like, oh, can I go into your office? I have to take this call. Or I'd just be sitting there like at Thanksgiving, on my phone, responding to people's stuff.

Shannon Mattern: That was all on me. But I was resentful. I'm like, why are they? They know I'm on vacation. They know it's Thanksgiving. They know this. Why are they texting me? Because they know I'll answer. Cuz I always have, because I have unclear or zero boundaries with them. Right? The fifth reason, why is that? We have messed up expectations personally, around communications and responsiveness. So I hear this all the time from our Web Designer Academy clients that have come from corporate, which is the majority of them, maybe they're still in corporate or they've left corporate to go all in on their web design business. They're like, I have to have my email inbox open at all times. And the moment an email comes in there, I need to respond to it right now that creates inbox, anxiety. And it creates so many interruptions. And what I like to tell people is like, just because someone sent you an email when they had time to send, it does not mean that you need to respond to it right then and there.

Shannon Mattern: Right? And it's a whole shift around expectations for communication and responsiveness. That guess what? It's your business. You get to decide what that looks like and let your clients know. And then you have to sit on your hands and not go into your email inbox. You need to turn it off, turn all of those notifications off and set a time when you will respond to emails. It's the hardest thing. is so hard, but it's gonna really help you with your overworking when you are not just monitoring your inbox 24 7 and doing everything that comes in when it comes in, then it's like, you're giving away your control to just when somebody thought about, oh, I have time to email them and you're totally giving away your control. So that kinda leads to number six, making other people's problems and priorities your own. I would make my clients lack of planning my problem.

Shannon Mattern: And this is something I'm sure that I didn't come up with this. I'm sure I've heard it somewhere, but it's like your poor planning is not my problem. My client's poor planning is not my problem. Right. and so we had an example in of this and I, I would do this all the time too, but we had an example of this inside the Web Designer Academy, where it was like Easter and one of our clients, one of our students clients reached out the Thursday before good Friday, which I think good Friday is the Friday before Easter. And it good Friday was a holiday that she celebrated and she was planning to take the day off. And this client was like, I need this done by Monday. So it was good Friday. It was Easter weekend. She celebrates all of that. She had plans and she had never said no to this client.

Shannon Mattern: And she knew that the client knew about this thing for a really long time. And she had been asking for what she needed to be able to complete the project and the client just wasn't prioritizing getting it to her. And, and now the deadline came up. And so we guided her through how to say no to this client and the first mindset shift that she had to make to in order to be able to say no, was that this person's problem is not my problem. And you know, I'm gonna give them some options of how we can navigate this. But me working on my planned time off is not gonna be one of them. And I'm going to let them choose how they wanna move forward. But the consequences of them not following through up until now is not gonna be my problem. Right? And so that's something that we overwork when we take on other people's problems and priorities as our own, right?

Shannon Mattern: So another reason why I, and we all my students and everyone that comes to work with us over work is we think that our schedule, our boundaries that we create our personal rules are simply arbitrary and that there's not a real reason to follow them. This is something that only came up recently on a live strategy call for us inside of our program. One of our students was like, so I have a client wanting to delay. And I, I can't like, why shouldn't I let them, it's not like I have anything else going on that their delay would inconvenience me. And I'm like, is that really true? You have nothing else going on that their delay would inconvenience you. And she's like, well, you know, I just, I, I can just fit it in around, you know? And I was like, but you've told me that you don't wanna work on these days, that these are your boundaries, that these are the rules.

Shannon Mattern: And this sounds like this request is going to fall outside of that. And she's like, but there's no real reason to follow them. And what we got underneath of is that no one told her that those were the rules. So she didn't feel compelled to follow them or Bo or bound by them because she has never thought, like, I just get to create the rules. Like when you think about the rules that like your employer created for you, those rules are just as arbitrary as the rules you create for yourself, they serve some kind of purpose, right? So the rules that you set for you help you protect your time, help you have a sustainable business, help you have a life outside of your business. Those things are important and real. And there a reason why you get to stick to your schedule and your boundaries and your rules, and that you don't have to break them just because a client wants to break them.

Shannon Mattern: So you have to believe that your schedule boundaries and rules are not arbitrary. You have made them for a very important reason. And just because someone else didn't make them for you doesn't mean that they're less important. Okay. So another reason why web designers overwork is they just feel simply feel subservient to their clients, right? They feel like their client is in charge. And what we teach our students to do is create an equal relationship. No one's in charge, right? There's a leader and a guide and someone who is on the, on the journey with them and they collaborate and they are working towards the same goal. And no one is, has more power than the other, right? If you feel like you have to do what your clients tell you to do, when they wanna tell you it by their deadlines, there's a power imbalance there that needs to get fixed.

Shannon Mattern: And it all happens through communication. And then finally, another reason, and this was, this was me. I was like, I didn't know it because overworking is such a good cover. right. It's not like I had like a drug problem or a drinking problem or anything like that. But like anxiety overworking to numb anxiety, it could be anxiety about failure, about your business, feeling about something in your personal life, about all the things on your todo list. It literally doesn't matter. But working gets the thoughts in my brain to stop, gets the chatter to stop. It gets me to stop ruminating on whatever I am focused on and worrying about. And that's all fine and good. And it can produce really powerful results, except you're exhausted. You're burnt out. You, your eyes hurt. You just can't stop. Because when you stop, then the anxiety comes back.

Shannon Mattern: And so you get to get a hold of whatever is happening in, in your life. That overworking helps you like overwhelming O overworking is allowing you to like numb out and avoid that thing because ultimately you can't keep going like that. Right. You're going to burn out on the overwork. That was my experience. That's what so many of our Web Designer Academy students are experiencing when they come to work with us. Whether, you know, in those first few years of working with clients and they don't understand that they have this whole employee mindset dis dismantle and all of this to dismantle and that they truly get, and it doesn't have to be adversarial or conflict to it with clients. This is what we get to deconstruct. How do you stop overworking? How did I stop overworking and listen, I'm not perfect. I still do it.

Shannon Mattern: I notice myself doing it more when I'm, when I'm worried about something or when I have like a, a life change, I'm like, oh, I'm doing it again. Like, why are my eyes so tired? Oh yeah. Cause you stayed up till 10 doing something that no one asked you to do and you have a team to do whatever, whatever it was. So how do you stop over working? You create a work schedule for yourself. You create a development calendar for your client projects, right? If you're anything like I was, I was so very resistant to this advice. In the beginning, it was coming from my business coach. I was coming outta corporate and not having a schedule, felt like freedom. I was like, I wanna work what I want, where I want for however I want. And I don't want anybody including me to tell me that I can't .

Shannon Mattern: But the truth is that thinking about not having a schedule is what felt like freedom that thought of, I wanna do whatever I want, whatever I want. That's what felt like freedom, but actually not having a schedule was getting in the way of me doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, if that makes sense. So not having a schedule was allowing me to overwork, to work on things that I shouldn't be working on to take on whatever my clients wanted me to take on. And there was no boundary around it at all. And there was no freedom in that at all. The freedom comes from knowing when you are working and what you are working on. So you can let a client know when you can work on the request that they made and that it's not another overwhelming thing to put on your to-do list.

Shannon Mattern: Right? And so it took me like a year and a half of my business coach telling me you need to create a plan and a schedule and time block, plan it out every single week and plan it and follow it every single week. And I resisted her for so long. And then once I did, I was like, Ugh, this is so much easier. And that's when everything started to shift. So if you are resistant to planning, if you have thoughts of like, well, I plan and my plan doesn't work out. Things always happen. And I don't get to work. When I say, I want to explore that. Explore why you are making the decision to not follow your plan. Whatever's underneath. That is what is where your work is. So the second piece of advice I have for you to stop overwork is to plan out your themes for your work days and times, and then plan a realistic what you can accomplish on that day.

Shannon Mattern: In that chunk of time, when I was doing one on one web web design, I would batch an entire day for client work, no email no anything, no marketing, no working on my business. And if I was like, oh, I think I can get this. Like all of these pages done and designed and like all this stuff. And I list out all the things I wanted to get done in that day. Then I just divided in half divide in half. What you think you can get done in a certain time block. And if you get more done, awesome set, realistic expectations, things are not always gonna go as planned. You might be a little slow getting started. You might be feeling uninspired. You might discover that you don't have everything that you thought you had to be able to accomplish the task and you need to move some things around.

Shannon Mattern: That's okay. It's important to commit to your schedule anyway. And the more you plan and divide your workload in half for the amount of time, the more you will actually get done. I know it sounds crazy, but the more you'll actually get done, the, the other, the flip side of that is if you have a, you know, plan twice as long to accomplish the list, right? Like if you have twice as long. So I feel like I need to get all these things done. I think it'll take me a day plan two days for it and give yourself that extra time, because you'll probably need two days. Think it's gonna be once probably gonna be two, then decide when you will read and respond to emails and then sit on your hands and stay outta your inbox until it is that time. this was the hardest one for me also.

Shannon Mattern: And I recommend you making that time that you check email later in the day, do not start your day with other people's priorities. Do not start your day with other people's requests of you. Start your day with the most important tasks for you in your business. And that's probably going to be doing outreach to get your next client following up with open people who you've made offers to who haven't gotten back with you, your marketing and that the things that you're going to do to get your next client are the most important things. And then your planning and then your client work, and then all of the random stuff in your inbox, just because someone's emailing you when they have time. Doesn't mean they're sitting around waiting for your response. And if it's it, you do not have to be at someone's beck and call.

Shannon Mattern: And if you have, if that just freaks you out, set up an out of office auto responder, that's like, Hey, I got your email. Here's when you can expect a response in the meantime, here are some things that might answer your question and have an auto responder. So, you know, oh, they got a response. They know I'm gonna respond. And I don't have to feel like this is on fire. So it's just a mental thing for you to have the auto responder. Your client's probably like delete. They probably honestly don't care about your auto responder, but if it makes you feel better, you do it and then learn how to let your clients know when you will be scheduling their request email once a day. And then I'll you knowing your different mindset than when your boss tells you to do something by three o'clock right.

Shannon Mattern: Overwork. The good news is that it's totally within your control when you understand the reasons why you do it, what you're thinking, you understand that having a plan actually creates more freedom. It feels like planning takes away freedom sometimes, but it actually creates more freedom that you get to prioritize your day and when you're working and that you get to be in control of all of it and decide and design that, and then let your clients know what that looks like. The hardest thing is you sticking to it. When you go to make this schedule and make this plan and create a prioritized to-do list and decide what you're gonna do every day and divide in half, what you think you can get done, what's going to happen is all of the thoughts that you have about that. And all of the reasons why this won't work and all of the competing priorities that are gonna wanna pull you off your game and have you not follow a plan.

Shannon Mattern: Those are the things to notice. And those are the thoughts to work on. Don't quit. If the plan doesn't work after the first day or the first week or the second day, still make the plan and evaluate, why did that not work? Did I put too much on the list? Did I not take into account this? Why did this not go to plan? Why did I just say, I don't feel like doing this? So I decided to not follow the plan. What did that, what result did that create for me, get really clear and honest about how you're doing your work so that you can really start to make the shifts that will create that freedom for you. Overworking is part mindset, part mechanics, but mostly mindset. And it is again, that inner work that is going to help you break that overworking habit. And we would love to help you get some of these things UNW.

Shannon Mattern: So if you are interested in working with us, just go to, click that big, apply to work with us button, tell us where you're at now in your business, where you would like to be. And our team will take a look at that. We'll take a look at everything that you submitted. We'll make you a little video, letting you know what opportunities we see for you and how we can help you with where you're at now and the gap to reaching your goals. And there is zero obligation or pressure. If you fill out the application, we will simply share with you information about our program and what it looks like to work with us so that you can decide if working together is right for you. And we can't wait 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.

Shannon Mattern: 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 up level 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 would 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 rating and 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 I'll take you to the right spot. Thank you so much for listening and I'll see you right here next week. Bye.

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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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