Simplifying the Admin Side of Your Web Design Business with Sarah Linklater of Designer Admin

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In this episode, Sarah Linklater is discussing strategies for simplifying the administrative side of running a web design business.

In this episode, I’m chatting with Sarah Linklater, the brains behind Designer Admin.

Sarah started Designer Admin because she noticed that while there are a whole lotta very talented designers in our industry, the admin side of the business isn’t everyone’s forte. After all, we didn’t become designers because we were good at writing invoices and managing clients! She strongly believes that if you have strong admin foundations in place, your projects will run more smoothly and you will have more time and headspace to focus on the creative side of your business.

Episode Highlights:

  • Meet Sarah Linklater (0:34): We kick things off by getting to know Sarah, her background in design, and her journey from a creative arts student to a successful web and graphic designer.
  • Discovering Your Worth (2:56): Sarah shares her insights into the importance of charging what you’re worth and how she learned to price her services competitively. Plus, she offers advice for new designers looking to set their rates.
  • Client Relationships and Saying No (7:42): Sarah opens up about the delicate balance of managing client expectations and setting boundaries in the early days of her business. She shares her experience with the “people-pleasing” trap and how learning to say “no” has been a game-changer.
  • Shifting Perspectives on Pricing (15:00): An eye-opening discussion about the evolution of pricing in Sarah’s business. She explains how she initially underestimated the value of web design and branding, leading to a shift in her pricing strategies.
  • Working with Nonprofits and Budgets (20:38): Sarah’s niche includes non-profit organizations, universities, and government entities. She dispels the myth that non-profits can’t afford quality design work and explains the unique dynamics of working within these sectors.
  • Handling Client Feedback (25:25): Sarah provides valuable advice on managing client feedback effectively. She discusses the importance of guiding clients and the art of helping them understand design choices, even when they want to make changes that might not be in their best interest.
  • Becoming the Expert (34:05): Sarah opens up about shifting her self-belief and recognizing her worth. She shares how thinking of herself as an expert, guide, and advocate has been pivotal to her success.
  • Designer Admin’s Course and Templates (35:40): Sarah introduces Designer Admin’s offerings, including templates and her upcoming course. For designers looking to streamline their businesses and implement effective systems, these resources can be game-changers.

Where to Find Sarah Linklater and Designer Admin:

Episode Transcript

Shannon Mattern (00:02.99)

Hey everyone, welcome back to the profitable web designer podcast. And I'm really excited to introduce you to today's guest, Sarah Linklater of the designer admin. We actually met on a panel for the Women of Web Summit and I just vibed with everything she was saying on that panel. I was like, I have to have her on the podcast to just get to know her better.

and introduce her to you guys. So Sarah, thank you so much for being here.

Sarah Linklater (00:34.518)

Thank you so much for having me, Shannon. I'm really excited to be here and talk about profitable web businesses with you.

Shannon Mattern (00:40.826)

Amazing. So can you just give me a little bit of your backstory? Like how did you, how did you get started in web design?

Sarah Linklater (00:52.842)

So I went back to uni. So my background was actually I did a Bachelor of Arts and I wanted to become an art curator and I did that for a few years and then realised there was no jobs and the jobs that were out there were very, very poorly paid. So I decided to go back to uni and study graphic design. And as part of my graphic design degree, I did a course in web design.

And back then it was all in Dreamweaver. And so it was all learning HTML and CSS. And I loved it. I loved the user experience side of it. And, you know, I don't know, there's something about code that just makes me feel really smart when I'm doing it and I make something work. And yeah, I just, I really enjoyed it, but I went on to become a graphic designer. I was also really passionate about branding and I worked in-house for a few years at-

of different architecture firms and then I started to get some freelance clients and I was very lucky that early on I won a few contracts with a research center at a university here in Australia and it was I kind of had the choice I either took those contracts and quit my job or I kept doing my day job so I quit my job and from there it's kind of you know rolled.

Very smoothly, I feel like I've been very fortunate with people referring my name on, that sort of thing. As I got more into my freelance career, I started building websites for my clients, just because I do a brand project, and then they'd need a website as well. I got it, I think it was probably about 2016, 2017, that I learned about page builders, and that just changed everything for me. It made it just so much easier, and I'm...

you know, as a graphic designer, I'm a very visual person. So being able to see changes rather than coding something in the background and then seeing if it would work, that just changed the way I built websites. And it, I think made me able to provide much better products to my clients as well. Yeah, so that's kind of my design career background. So my design business of course, Slinky did it. It's still going strong.

Sarah Linklater (03:11.414)

But about 18 months ago, I also started a side hustle called Designer Admin, which is all about helping graphic and web designers set up systems and processes in their design business and provides guidance and courses and templates to. Yeah, help get their businesses running more smoothly and giving them more headspace to actually do the fun stuff in their business.

Shannon Mattern (03:32.346)

I love that. That part of the business is near and dear to my heart as well, and we'll definitely dig into that. I want to ask you, you mentioned that you got these early contracts. How did those clients come to be? Was it relationships that you had? How did those early engagements happen?

Sarah Linklater (03:39.04)


Sarah Linklater (03:58.798)

So one of the things I learned very early on that really surprised me at the time, and it still surprises me a little bit, and I constantly have to remind myself of it, is you never know where the next client is coming from. You never know who your next client is going to be. And so those contracts at the university actually came through, so my ex-partner worked at the university, and he had mentioned casually to someone that he shared an office with. He didn't even work with them, he just shared an office with them.

that his partner was a graphic and web designer and was starting her own business. And then they went off and worked in different departments and just knew each other by virtue of working in the same organization. And they were looking for, I think they were working with a large studio and they weren't happy with the work the studio was giving them. They thought they were very expensive and they just weren't getting bang for buck out of the work they were getting. And so they,

decided to put out a tender looking for smaller client, smaller, sorry, smaller web designers, web graphic design studios or freelancers to work with that could give them more attention. I think one of the problems that some of my clients face when they come to me is they've been paying a lot of money for to work with a studio and the studio just sees them as small fry. They're not a big ticket client to them. So they don't actually have.

the FaceTime or the attention they actually want to be able to manage their graphic design brand website. So yeah, she reached out to me and it kind of rolled on from there. She then recommended me to other people within the university and then people within the research center I was working for moved to other universities and government departments and I went with them.

Shannon Mattern (05:47.886)

love that story so much because and I love the way that you said like you never know who like where your next client's going to come from because sometimes I hear people say that and they're saying out of frustration it's just like ah I never know when my neck where my next client is going to come from I wish I had the magic strategy that I would always know if I do x then y will happen and the way that you said it was just like

Sarah Linklater (06:03.342)


Sarah Linklater (06:09.289)


Shannon Mattern (06:15.13)

you really never know where your next client's gonna come from. So we don't have to super stress out about like having all of these perfect things in place that we think we need to have in place in order to get clients.

Sarah Linklater (06:18.784)


Sarah Linklater (06:30.066)

Mm-hmm. And it's, it's happened to me time and time again. You know, I kind of feel like I forget about that part of, you know, business development that you can just be chatting to someone at, you know, I don't know, your partner's friends, you know, 40th birthday party. And someone will say, what do you do when you start chatting? They're like, oh, do you do websites? And you're like, yeah, I do websites. And they're like, can we do you have a business card? And I mean, I don't have a business card anymore post-COVID.

You know, like you just connect with people. You can connect with people in anything you're doing in your life and I think that's one of the reasons why it's so important to be so authentic in your business because you are your business, you know, you're walking, you're your own walking business card as you're going about your life.

Shannon Mattern (07:17.23)

Yeah, I had someone reach out to me just this week and I worked with her 20 years ago. It was my first real job out of college. And I guess we're like still connected on LinkedIn or Facebook. And she messaged me and said, hey, one of my colleagues is like leaving to start their own thing. Do you still do websites? And I'm like, oh, I actually don't, but let me refer you to some of our students. But that was over 20 years ago.

Sarah Linklater (07:26.53)


Shannon Mattern (07:45.978)

You know, year, I have not talked to this woman in 20 years and yet she's still like thought to reach out to me because she knows through the grapevine that this is, this is what I do. I'm like, how did you even know that I did this? Cause like, I don't recall like telling you, but we have mutual people that we talk to. So it's just, it's. I just want people to like take away that, you know, it doesn't all have to be some.

Sarah Linklater (07:46.001)


Sarah Linklater (07:51.274)

It's amazing.

Sarah Linklater (07:59.298)


Shannon Mattern (08:14.954)

super masterminded, calculated, complex marketing strategy to get incredible clients. You started a designer admin 18 months ago. What was the catalyst for deciding to launch that side hustle?

Sarah Linklater (08:21.494)


Sarah Linklater (08:24.863)

Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah Linklater (08:37.922)

So I think I've always had this entrepreneurial spirit. And there's been a few times in my design career that I've had ideas and I've kind of dabbled with them a little bit in the past. But the catalyst for designer admin was really.

It came out of Facebook group conversations and requests from other people. And there was a particular request, I think it must have been in December, 2021, where someone was asking if anyone, they'd sent a project to print and it had gone horribly wrong. And they said, I feel like I need a print sign off that I get clients to sign off, but they're responsible for the copy in their designs. And if something goes wrong.

it's on them to proofread it. And I was like, oh yeah, I've got one of those. Happy to share it with you. And I did. And then about 20 other people DM me and were like, I need it. Can you send it to me too? So I was like sending it across to people. And I was like, surely there's a market for this. It doesn't have to be a high cost product, but there is a need for people to go somewhere and find.

the admin templates they need in their design business so that they can download, customize to their brand, but the copy is there and they can just tweak it as they need, but just taking the thought out of setting up those systems and processes, which I think can weigh you down so much in the moment when you're panicking and thinking, I've got to get this client to sign off this print file or the website before it goes live. And if it's just there, ready to go, it just makes life so much easier. So that was the thing.

Sarah Linklater (10:21.548)

that brought Designer Admin to life. And I was super lucky. I went online, the name Designer Admin came to me almost instantaneously. And for some amazing reason, the domain was available and I was like, oh, this is a sign. And it kind of all came together from that. And I launched my templates, I think, the initial round of templates in April last year, so April, 2022. And then my first course was in September, 2022. So that was, it's a six week.

course called Sort Your Systems and Processes. And I give my students all my templates, and then I guide them through, walk them through setting up all their systems and processes from start to finish. So the idea is by the end of the course, they can just get on with it and run their business without stressing about, you know, the day-to-day admin side of things.

Shannon Mattern (11:09.99)

That is brilliant on so many levels that the way that this unfolded because I think a lot of the times one of the things that I see web designers not put like discount in a way like, or dismiss, dismiss their own intellectual property and like all of the parts of the business like that we.

Sarah Linklater (11:29.482)


Sarah Linklater (11:35.565)


Shannon Mattern (11:39.882)

not just our strategies, not just our design skills, not just what we build for our clients, but all of the pieces and parts of everything that we do, those are our ideas. Those are our tried and true trials and errors that we figured out the hard way along the way. And you probably created a lot of policies because you were in a similar situation and you're like, never again, I'm gonna have a policy for that. And so.

Sarah Linklater (11:51.808)


Sarah Linklater (12:05.546)

Yeah. Mhm.

Shannon Mattern (12:07.85)

All of those pieces of what we do, whether it's strategic for clients or the back end of how we run our business, that all has value to our web design business. I love how you are like, oh, I see an opportunity here. Some people are asking me about this. I'm going to package up my ideas and my intellectual property and make it available to solve a problem that other people have.

Sarah Linklater (12:35.566)


Shannon Mattern (12:38.03)

I just think it's so brilliant that we don't have to keep these things to ourselves and just be like, oh no, these are my processes. You're like, oh, I've been through that. Let me help you.

Sarah Linklater (12:48.742)

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's, I mean, that's it. It's, it's really about just trying to solve other people's problems as well. Like I just, I can't imagine starting, go, rewinding 10 years and starting back and having to learn everything that I learned and make all those mistakes. Like take my email scripts, like implement them in your business, like guide your clients through your project. This is how I did it.

I always encourage my students to customize it to their business and their voice and the clients they work with because no web designer is the same as the next web designer. We all have slightly different business and clients, but it's so much easier when you've got something to start with.

Shannon Mattern (13:31.474)

Yeah, absolutely. Like, I packaged up all of my things, like also for our students, but like all of what I created all came out of like mistakes I made, or I'm like, I should have done that, or things that I learned along the way. What are some of the things that you learned the hard way along the way that you're like, I'm gonna create...

Sarah Linklater (13:40.366)


Sarah Linklater (13:48.646)

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Sarah Linklater (13:59.123)


Shannon Mattern (14:00.954)

a tool for this for next time.

Sarah Linklater (14:05.706)

So I think one of the big ones that one of the I don't know I think my most valuable template that I use in my business is my sign-off template. So I mentioned the print sign-off template before which was the catalyst for designer admin but also I've got a web design template and a brand site a web sign-off template and a brand sign-off template and those came out of

things going wrong and clients coming back to me after I'd put together a whole brand package or launched a website and go, oh, we need this design changed and then having this feeling that like, but I've done the project and then having to either be in that awkward situation, which I think so much many of us are familiar with where you either have to say no to the client, which if you haven't prepared them, that for the fact you're gonna say no, it's really, really hard or you just do the work and you feel resentful for it. So.

getting a client to sign off on that the project is finished and they're ready to launch their website or send their product to print or you know have the brand finalized just meant that you know if they came back and asked for further changes it was so much easier to say that's fine but it's gonna cost you X amount because you know the work is complete they know and understand that from the you know from the moment they've signed off their form that the project is done.

Um, so there's that one. There's also one other one is just clients, um, ask, you know, continually it goes back to the same note of clients. So clients asking for things that are outside of scope and scope, you know, managing scope, creep, um, which I am. I

used to have a huge problem with saying no, and I still have a huge problem with saying no, you know, I'm getting better at it. I do believe saying no, like you've kind of got a no muscle and the more you flex it, the easier it is to use it. Um, but yeah, learning how to say no came like managing saying no came about from, you know, guiding my clients through the process, explaining to them what the next step was, making sure that they, they had expectations.

Sarah Linklater (16:17.774)

throughout the project that I was continually meeting. So when I'd send across their website concept design saying, this is the next step, this is how many rounds of changes we've got. So it's not like we do make these changes. And then I go, actually, we're out of changes. We do two rounds of changes and they know that they've used their two rounds of changes. So if I can then say, that's fine, we can make more changes. However, we're out of scope now. So just yeah, learning to manage client expectations, I think was another big lesson for me.

Shannon Mattern (16:48.122)

Yeah, I feel like people, like as web designers, were like, I need systems and processes to be more organized and more efficient and be able to plan my time better and plan the project better. But in reality, that is all client communication. It is all a framework for setting expectations with your clients every step of the way. And so if we can think of...

Sarah Linklater (16:57.09)

Is it?

Sarah Linklater (17:06.018)


Shannon Mattern (17:14.426)

like these systems and processes, like here's an opportunity for me to tell you how this is gonna go. And here's how systems and processes are like being in control of everything in disguise. Cause a lot of times I feel like when we're early on it, especially when I was early on in my web design business, I was just like, this is a client, I need to do whatever they want me to do to keep them happy and...

Sarah Linklater (17:21.404)


Shannon Mattern (17:46.513)

I was acting like the employee and I was letting them treat me like the boss. It was just early on in my business and I didn't really know I could do it differently. Like you said, it is uncomfortable to say no, especially when you're used to a dynamic where you can't really say no because your boss is telling you what to do and there are consequences to that you'd rather not experience.

Sarah Linklater (17:49.735)


Sarah Linklater (18:06.222)


Sarah Linklater (18:11.635)

Yeah, yep, yep.

Shannon Mattern (18:12.686)

And so it's like to me, what you've created there with designer admin is like, yes, it's systems and processes. Yes, it's efficiency. Yes, it's like having this full picture of how things are going to go, but it's also like just being able to like take control and communicate all of these things with your clients so that they're never blindsided and you're never blindsided. And it just makes for like way less anxiety and stress.

Sarah Linklater (18:37.119)


Sarah Linklater (18:42.138)

Yeah, completely. And the other thing is I feel like often when we start out and something goes and goes to play and we blame the client, we say they're a terrible client. And it took me a little while to realize that I actually had some accountability in that, you know, it was the client doesn't know that they're out of scope. I mean, it was in the contract, but even if it's in the contract, you know, even if they've read the contract, can we expect them to remember that a month down the track or two months down the track, you know?

Shannon Mattern (19:00.487)


Sarah Linklater (19:11.127)

it's our job to guide them through the project and manage their expectations all the way through. And I think the moment that kind of clicked in my brain, it was like, oh, okay, I can do this better.

Shannon Mattern (19:24.534)

Yes, I feel like I was, I was so, I can so relate to all of that too. Cause it where I'm just like, Oh, this, I would like dread like certain, you know, names coming up in my inbox and it was, it was, um, you know, earlier on in the journey when just like you said, I didn't really understand that I, um, I, I was.

Sarah Linklater (19:30.405)


Sarah Linklater (19:37.777)


Shannon Mattern (19:52.078)

judging someone for their behavior when I had uncommunicated expectations about how they should behave. And so how can I be upset if I'm just like, oh, well, they should just know, or, you know, this isn't, or I think things like, who does this, or, you know, whatever. And it's just also like, but they don't know, or, you know, and

Sarah Linklater (20:00.639)


Sarah Linklater (20:07.211)


Sarah Linklater (20:13.198)

I'm going to go to bed.

Shannon Mattern (20:17.394)

Sometimes, yes, if you give an inch, people will take a mile as I say, but I would say nine times out of 10, it was because I didn't know what to communicate. I was too timid and worried to communicate it. I let things go. I wanted them to be happy, so I would just like, people please and people please and let it go on.

Sarah Linklater (20:21.738)

Mm-hmm. Yep, yep.

Sarah Linklater (20:45.294)


Shannon Mattern (20:46.994)

to the point where I was resentful, but they were like so happy. And I'm like, I'm exhausted. And please don't refer me to anyone you know, because if it goes anything like this, I can't handle it. And it's like, that happens a few times and you're like, oh, wait, I'm the common denominator here. I might need to tweak something in my business.

Sarah Linklater (20:53.472)


Sarah Linklater (21:07.106)

Hmm, right. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And the other thing is I feel like once you start saying no, you realize the world doesn't end. The client generally doesn't go away. They often just go, okay, that's fine. And you're like, oh, I was so stressed about that for nothing.

Shannon Mattern (21:28.47)

Right. So I'm curious, what has your journey been with pricing in the early days of your business to now, since you're still running your studio on the side of your side hustle business? Yeah.

Sarah Linklater (21:38.853)


Sarah Linklater (21:44.533)


Sarah Linklater (21:48.178)

Mm hmm. So yeah, so I think I was given a really great piece of advice. So my ex partner was an economist who worked for quite a large consulting firm, you know, the kind of consulting firm that, you know, their hourly rates are like $800 an hour. So when I started writing fee proposals early on, you know, I get him to proofread them. And he was like, you know, have you actually

you've written out the amount of hours this project's going to take you and put like, you know, an hourly rate against that. And back then my hourly rate was probably 60% of what it is now. But I was like, oh no, it was just kind of, you know, a gut feeling. I just, you know, I really just plucked a figure out of thin air. And so I actually went through and wrote down the amount of hours something would take me and then put a 20% margin on top.

I had that in my arsenal right from the get-go, which I think was really helpful. But that being said, I think because I was a brand and graphic designer first and a web designer second, particularly when I started out. And I see this a lot still with other graphic designers and web designers I work with, I tended to put more value on branding and just saw websites as kind of a project add-on, almost like another piece of collateral. So,

While my brand prices have shifted, they probably haven't shifted that, they've probably, you know, my price has probably increased for branding about, you know, 25 to 40%. Whereas my web prices have almost tripled for a basic brochure website. Just because when I started out, I just, I don't know, I was kind of just charging for the hours it would take me to build a website rather than the value that I was bringing.

Shannon Mattern (23:45.062)

That is so interesting because I'm not a graphic designer first. I'm a web developer, designer, solution architect, whatever you want to call it first. I'm like all about solving business problems with tech. Or I was anyway, when I was doing it. And it's so fascinating because like when I talk to people like me, they have the opposite thing. They're like, oh, it's just like logos, fonts, colors, graphics.

Sarah Linklater (23:50.163)


Sarah Linklater (23:55.115)

Mmm, yep.

Sarah Linklater (24:00.818)

Yeah, right.


Sarah Linklater (24:13.719)


Yeah, right?

Shannon Mattern (24:18.808)

That's an add-on to this whole web design project. And it's just so fascinating that it's really like we get to question what we think about these things and really look at it just like you said, you shifted what you thought about the web piece of like, what is the value of this to the client?

Sarah Linklater (24:21.909)



Sarah Linklater (24:39.287)


Sarah Linklater (24:43.371)


Shannon Mattern (24:44.274)

Can you articulate like what that shift was when you're like, oh, this is more than just my hours. Can you articulate what that transformation in your mind was?

Sarah Linklater (24:58.406)

Yeah, I mean, I think there was, I had a lot of people, you know, as I built up my networks and my community around me and I started working with more people that were web designers and developers first and I started seeing their pricing for the same product that I was delivering, I started going, oh, hang on, I'm charging $2,000 for this, but you're charging five, six thousand dollars for a basic five page website. Like what?

you know, there's something, something is a miss here. So there was, there was that part of it, but I think the thing that's really made it click into place, which is a bit stupid because, you know, I am a brand, you know, designer, like I, I help people build brands and deliver these brands and communicate their values to their audience. But it was just like, oh.

Your website is your primary mechanism in both most circumstances to deliver your brand and there is so much value in that. And the way that your users are funneled through your website to your meet your end goal essentially like there is so much value in that.

And also that people expect, most of my clients expect to pay decent money for websites. You know, they're not gonna pay $6,500 for a brand package and then just be like, yeah, just give me a $1,500 cheap website. You know, they're happy to pay decent money for it. So why was I charging so little? And it was also, I think at that stage, it was probably around the time where when I started using page builders and there was still a huge learning curve for me.

you know, I didn't have all my systems and processes for the web development part in place. Like design was easy, client communication was easy, but I would fumble around with the tech side of it. And so it was starting to, I don't know, find ways to kind of recoup the time I was spending on it, because in reality, it was like, I was charging for the time I thought it should take me, rather than the time it was actually taking me. And figuring out how to charge them for things like.

Sarah Linklater (27:14.734)

premium plugins and you know, that's such I wasn't even doing maintenance plans. So I just hand over their website to them. So there was, I think there were lots of different components that had to click into place that, you know, for me to start charging my worth for websites and, you know, get that ongoing maintenance cost, you know, in my pocket.

Shannon Mattern (27:37.93)

I love how you articulated that. It's like the website is the actual implementation of the brand. Like the brand is kind of static without the website really creating the brand, like making the brand usable and interactive and all of that. And I think on the flip side for our

Sarah Linklater (27:45.426)

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Sarah Linklater (27:59.49)


Shannon Mattern (28:04.498)

people who aren't brand designers listening to that, like a website without a brand, like what is there to interact with? What's the story? What's the journey? What's the, there's this, these two things work together and they're both extremely valuable parts of the, of the picture. And I say that because, you know, you're like, oh, I was learning page builders and there was a learning curve for me. And then for me,

Sarah Linklater (28:14.381)


Sarah Linklater (28:18.503)


Sarah Linklater (28:25.988)


Shannon Mattern (28:34.486)

When I learned page builders, I was like, oh my gosh, this is so easy. Anybody could do this. I can't charge that much for this. I'm ripping people off because in my mind, I was not thinking about it. I was just thinking like, I'm going to push the buttons and put the pixels where I'm going to put them and give it to you. And this is the service that I'm providing. I was not thinking about it at all in terms of what we just talked about.

Sarah Linklater (28:40.554)

Yeah. Hehehehe.


Sarah Linklater (29:03.362)


Shannon Mattern (29:04.402)

the value to the client and all of that. And so I had like a hangup with page builders and just being like, wait, you mean I can like build this page one time and then like just copy it and use it here and tweak this and tweak that. And it's literally like, I could do this in a day. Like I am ripping people off. And I really had to like, how to like do a lot of work on not just value, but like.

Sarah Linklater (29:09.672)


Sarah Linklater (29:23.478)


Shannon Mattern (29:31.854)

my intellectual property also, like I am using my brain to talk to you to find out what you need and turning it into something actually functional and usable and there's value there too.

Sarah Linklater (29:35.31)


Sarah Linklater (29:41.922)

Mm-hmm. Yeah. And so much value in your education and the fact you've trained yourself to how to do this. My clients, page builders might be easy for us who use them every day, but my clients wouldn't even know how to buy. They don't even know how to buy a domain, let alone connect it to hosting, install WordPress.

Shannon Mattern (30:05.11)


Sarah Linklater (30:09.098)

They don't know what a theme is or plugins are or website security. There's so much value that we bring to it that I think can be easy to forget sometimes.

Shannon Mattern (30:11.867)


Shannon Mattern (30:21.118)

Absolutely. So you said something that I wanted to circle back to. You're like, my clients are happy to pay this much for a website. They don't want something cheap. A lot of our... I talk to a lot of web designers who just don't believe that clients are willing to pay more than a couple thousand dollars for a website. So can you...

Sarah Linklater (30:26.626)


Sarah Linklater (30:29.922)


Sarah Linklater (30:34.327)


Shannon Mattern (30:51.854)

share some of the qualities that you notice in these clients that are happy to pay you what you're charging for your projects.

Sarah Linklater (31:05.534)

Yeah sure sure. So I think I mean a lot of my clients are in the not-for-profit government university sector so they often have

you know, all these centers that I work with generally have employees. So they're not spending their own money, which I think helps, you know, and they expect they have marketing budgets. I think when you're working with small business owners, it is a harder sell to get them to spend a lot of money unless they've got an established business and they're already bringing in an income. Um, but I do also work with small business owners. Um, and I think there's something about their business mindset. They understand that it is an investment and they will see returns on it.

Um, you know, that doesn't mean that everyone has the budget to spend it. You know, the reality is when you're starting out a business, you've got to choose where to spend your dollars. And if you've only got a small startup fund, like you can't afford to spend. You know, $5,000 plus on a website. It's just not the reality of it. So I do think part of it is client-based, but I think a big part of it is the mindset and of the client and their approach to their business. And.

how personally invested they are. And I think all business owners are personally invested in their business. But I have found the clients that I work with that are generally nightmares and take a lot of work and a lot of management are the ones that, and the penny pinches as well, are the ones that are overly invested. Like they want to micromanage everything. And I just had, I actually had one.

recently. So even, even this far into the business, you still get these people and you know, you have a discovery call with them and everything sounds great. You sound like a great match. And then you get into it and you're like, Oh, you are, you are, you know, and it was interesting. So they purchased, they actually, they came to me for branding, but they came to me, they chose, I've got three branding packages and most of the time people will choose the high end branding package. They wanted the lowest branding package and then they just wanted to squeeze every.

Sarah Linklater (33:21.538)

last piece of blood from the stone when it came to that project. And then, you know, and it was just like, it was like all the feedback was like, Oh, can we just try this? Can we just try that? There wasn't any, I don't feel like it's communicating this or like there wasn't, it wasn't solid feedback to work with. It was just them wanting to tinker with the design. And it was, it was really hard work. And I think they were.

Shannon Mattern (33:24.35)

I'm going to go ahead and turn it off.

Sarah Linklater (33:49.154)

too personally invested in their business and they just wanted to make, they wanted to do it themselves, but they couldn't do it themselves essentially. And I think that's something I have, you know, a discovery call process and I try and spot those red flags to see if someone is going to be a lot of work and not allow me to do my job because that's essentially, they just, I became like a Mac monkey and I was just, you know, tapping away on my keyboard doing what they asked me to do, not actually delivering, you know.

strategic solution because they just yeah and even actually when I handed the brand over to them they changed it all anyway so yeah.

Shannon Mattern (34:26.694)

Yeah, that, I mean, that is so interesting. You know, one, I wanted to point out, like you said, oh, I work for nonprofit entities. And a lot of times people say, like, I'd love to work with nonprofits, but nonprofits don't have money. And I'm like, oh, that's not the case. Like they have, they just don't, they just don't, like, they have to spend everything that they.

Sarah Linklater (34:36.131)


Sarah Linklater (34:44.27)

They do.

Shannon Mattern (34:52.574)

earn on the mission and every all the grants and all the donations and however they earn money has to go back into the um into the entity and so they have significant budgets. Now if you're talking about like small volunteer run organizations with like no it no income other than like labor that's a totally different thing so I find that really fascinating and then the other thing

Sarah Linklater (34:55.906)


Sarah Linklater (35:02.784)


Sarah Linklater (35:06.818)


Sarah Linklater (35:13.227)


Sarah Linklater (35:17.698)


Shannon Mattern (35:22.15)

that you mentioned is, you know, businesses that are just starting out, you know, not having that revenue to spend on that project. And it's like, and sometimes they shouldn't be. Like sometimes, like if they don't have a proven offer, if they haven't figured stuff out yet, if they don't know, if they're still in that like validation phase, like it is in their best interest to not hire you at that time. And really like,

Sarah Linklater (35:36.355)

Mmm. Mm-hmm.

Sarah Linklater (35:49.762)


Shannon Mattern (35:50.97)

get through to the point where they're like, this is a viable business idea. Now it's time for me to work with a professional to do those things. So I was just thinking like I had those clients too, we call it pixel pushing around here where they just want to like stand behind your shoulder and can you move? Can you just change that color? Can you just move that over?

Sarah Linklater (35:56.491)

Yeah, absolutely.

Sarah Linklater (36:00.93)


Sarah Linklater (36:10.146)

Oh yeah. Yeah.

Shannon Mattern (36:16.118)

had a woman that I used to work with, she'd say a scotch. And I'm like, is a scotch a distance of, I don't like, is a scotch a thing? Move that over a scotch. I think it's a skosh, but maybe a scotch is a thing. I don't know. It's like some unit of distance that I'm unaware of, but. Yeah, and so I love that you said that even with everything that you put in place, they still sometimes slip through. And

Sarah Linklater (36:31.24)


Shannon Mattern (36:44.878)

I didn't hear you making that mean anything about you. You're just like, then they took it and they changed it. And you're not being like, oh my gosh, I did a bad job. I didn't do what they wanted. They, you know, I feel like your mindset is so solid around.

Sarah Linklater (36:45.008)


Sarah Linklater (36:57.186)


Sarah Linklater (37:02.322)

No, thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it's I think it's come from 10 years of trying to build up that distance between myself and the project because it's you know, I can't I can't you know, keep I can't manage all the brands that I've built over my 10 years in business or the all the websites like I can do website maintenance and do upset updates and stuff but I can't control what my

and show them and educate them, but that's all we can do at the end of the day. You know, they have to have ownership of their brand and their website and, you know, sometimes that's going to not go in the direction that, you know, we like as website designers and developers. But yeah.

Shannon Mattern (37:55.282)

Yeah, so how do you personally handle feedback in terms of whether it's like you put forth an idea and they are just like, I don't like this, or wanting to make changes where you're like, this is not in the best interest of your goal. How do you handle those situations?

Sarah Linklater (38:00.407)


Sarah Linklater (38:15.617)


Sarah Linklater (38:18.846)

Yeah, sure. So the first thing that I do is I prepare them to give feedback. So I have a page at the end of my concept presentations, just giving them instructions around how to provide feedback and also who to seek feedback from. So I'm very clear about not sharing designs in Facebook groups and also to be careful to not share it with people that are outside of there.

target audience. Like I don't care what their grandmother thinks of the design or their husband, you know, unless they're in the target audience, it's completely irrelevant and people just bring their own aesthetic preferences to it. So there's that part of it. And then in terms of getting feedback from them, they'll often send me through an email with some dot points. And depending on what the feedback is, I will jump on the call with them because I often find that I work better.

when I can have a chat to them. And it takes any sting out of it for me, because even after selling a business, sometimes some feedback, you're like, oh, you don't love everything that I've done. So I think when there is something that the client has said that I'm like, that won't work strategically or it will just look awful, I talk them through the options, I talk them through, I always say I'm happy, look, I'm happy to try it.

you know, they are paying me for a service and I do want them to be comfortable with what I and happy with what I give them at the end of the day. But I'll explain my hesitation for it. So particularly, and I will, and I also prep clients for that's the way I work at, you know, the start of the project, because I have had some clients that when I push back on them, they get a little bit meek. And it's, I'm not, you know, I'm not trying to be difficult. I just, this is, I'm going to tell you if something doesn't work.

And if you want to do it that way, that's fine. We can do it that way. But I'm going to give you my reasons for why we shouldn't take that particular avenue. And sometimes clients go, oh, OK, that's fine. Do what you think. And other times, clients will be like, I would like to see that. And that's fine, too. I'm happy to show them. And more often than not, I show them. And then I also give them another option where I'm like, this is what I think we should do. This is what you asked for. And often, they'll see the two and go,

Sarah Linklater (40:44.074)

actually let's do what you're suggesting. Sometimes they just need to see it. Most clients aren't, they're not designers. They don't understand how things work in practice. And they also don't understand the tech and user implications of certain decisions as well. So, for example, I remember I had a client recently asking me to go through their website and essentially fix widows and orphans and that sort of thing. And it was like, well,

We can do a certain amount, but we can't just start putting returns in the middle of the text because then it's going to be, you know, completely off on devices. And they just like, oh, I had, you know, they just don't think of these things. So I think it's really important to guide clients through the process and explain. The repercussions of what they're asking for.

Shannon Mattern (41:35.058)

Yeah, and I think when you think of yourself as the expert, that's a hard word for some people, but when you think of yourself as the expert, as the guide, as the advocate, as the leader, then it is easy for you to not push back, but to say, I want you to get the outcome that you want. Here's.

Sarah Linklater (41:43.919)


Shannon Mattern (42:02.998)

what my suggestions are. And I think it starts with like that mindset of, it's not about making them happy per se. Yes, we wanna have a good relationship with them, but it's about helping them get the outcome that they ultimately want. And we have to see ourselves in a certain way in order to be able to do that. And so like everything that you were saying, I'm like, oh, because she.

Sarah Linklater (42:15.946)


Sarah Linklater (42:24.427)

Yeah, absolutely.

Shannon Mattern (42:29.178)

like knows that she has tons of experience and isn't questioning whether or not she knows what she's doing and you know, all of those things. So yeah, that's beautiful.

Sarah Linklater (42:34.178)


Sarah Linklater (42:39.07)

Yeah. And I also think when you circle back to the discussion we had before about pricing, when you're charging those higher price points, it's much easier to help and guide the client through that because you have space in the budget to do that as well. So if a client's saying, I'm just not sure about this, it's easy to go, okay, well, I can show you the options. We can workshop this and you're not feeling resentful because you're wasting so much time on something.

you know isn't gonna live.

Shannon Mattern (43:11.878)

Yes, charging higher prices benefits both you and the client. I love that. I have just a couple. This has been so amazing talking to you and getting to know you. I have just a couple more questions before we wrap up. What is one piece of advice you would give to a web designer who is just getting started?

Sarah Linklater (43:17.33)


Sarah Linklater (43:28.002)


Sarah Linklater (43:39.478)

Um, it's probably around pricing, you know, it's probably make sure you're charging and worth, you know, do what I did, you know, write down all everything you have to do to build a website from that initial client call to the proposal, to the concept design, to building it, to launching it, to, you know, if you include maintenance in that plan, write down all those hours because it's probably a lot more than you think it is. And

figure out what your hourly rate is in terms of what you actually want to be bringing in. It's easy to go, oh, I feel like $25 an hour should be fine. But in reality, you're probably only gonna be, even if you're working full time, you've probably only got 20 to 25 billable hours a week at most, like 25 billable hours a week is still a lot. And so do your sums and figure out what your worth is and charge accordingly and add.

a 20% contingency onto your projects. Because I think had I not been charging my worth from the get-go, had I not had that piece of advice from my ex who was like, no, you need to charge proper money for this, my business wouldn't have survived. It would have caved. I would have been burnt out and exhausted because I was getting the projects in. But if I'd charged 50% less for them, it just wouldn't have been feasible.

So I think, yeah, and I mean, you don't have to start off charging $120 an hour, but you know, figure out what the rates are in your area and you'll be surprised what your clients are actually willing to pay.

Shannon Mattern (45:23.206)

Such good advice. And this is a question I ask every guest that comes on the show, and that is what's one belief about yourself that you had to change to get to where you are today?

Sarah Linklater (45:36.048)

That's such a great question.

Sarah Linklater (45:40.814)

Probably that I was worthy of it, you know, that I think even going back to what I was saying just before about the pricing, it's like, no, I can, I'm worth having, I'm worth charging what I need to earn a decent living and I'm also worthy of.

doing something that I love and earning a decent income for it. I think because I came from that arts background and you know I was never a science maths person, I was always far more interested in visual art and English and history and all the things that are wonderful and bring value to life but don't actually you know allow you to earn a real income from. You know I never thought I was going to be a high income earner.

So I think there had to be a mind shift when I started my business that I was worth that. Like I could do that, you know, just because I liked reading and going to art galleries didn't mean that I couldn't earn a decent income. So I think it's very easy to assume that web design and graphic design can't make you money, but they can.

Shannon Mattern (46:57.69)

Oh my gosh, so good, so good. Where can everyone go to like find out about designer admin, check out all your templates, learn more about you, get in your world, where can they go?

Sarah Linklater (47:10.302)

Yeah, sure. So the website is And that is where you can see all my templates for sale. The next round of my course is launching in the middle of October as well. So you can check that out if you're interested in having me hold your hand through setting up all your systems and processes in your design business. I'm also on Instagram at designeradmin. And I've also got a Facebook group.

group called the Sort Your Systems Hub, which is just a group of graphic and web designers, you know, helping each other sort out all their admin woes in their design and web businesses.

Shannon Mattern (47:51.774)

Amazing. Well, I will link up all of that in the show notes. So go check that out, everyone. You're definitely going to want to be in Sarah's world. So thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Sarah Linklater (48:02.126)


Sarah Linklater (48:05.93)

Oh, thanks so much, Shannon. It's been really wonderful to be here and chat to you and hear more about your background as well. Loved it.

Shannon Mattern (48:15.15)

Awesome. Well, thanks everyone so much for listening and we'll see you back here next week. Bye.

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Hi, I'm Shannon!

I help ambitious women web designers reclaim their time, book profitable web design projects they love, and make more as a freelance web designer than they ever thought possible inside the Web Designer Academy.

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