listen to my latest podcast episode:
April Income Report EP 91
byShannon Mattern
The image features a smiling person on a teal background, with text stating "PROFITABLE WEB DESIGNER with Shannon Mattern." It's likely promotional material.

The 4-Letter Word That Will Make or Break Your Web Design Business

What if I told you that there’s a 4-letter word that’s so powerful that if you stopped saying it…

…thinking it…

…or believing it when people say it to you…

Your entire web design business would change.

If you stopped saying it, thinking it and believing it…

You’d automatically charge more, without hesitation.

It’s a word that seems so insignificant that you probably don’t even notice it.

And if you’re someone who’s taken allllll the web design and business and marketing courses…

But there’s still something holding you back from making a consistent, generous income as a web designer…

It might be this sneaky little 4-letter word that’s draining you and your bank account:


Yep, JUST.

As in:

  • It’s just a few pages.
  • It’ll just take a few minutes.
  • It’s just a small change.
  • I’m just starting out.
  • Their budget is just….

Just’s evil twin ONLY also wreaks havoc on our confidence and bank account.

  • It’s only a one page website.
  • I only use page-builders.
  • They only have so much money.

You get the idea…

I hear web designers say stuff like that as if they are facts.

Those phrases roll off their tongue as natural as if they’re telling me the sky is blue.

The problem is…

JUST and ONLY are words we use to minimize.

To diminish, dismiss and discount…

…ourselves, our value, our pricing, our boundaries, our time (and sometimes our clients).

And not only do we do it to ourselves with how we think…

We hear our clients use those 4-letter words – and then we believe them!

Oh yeah, it is just a one-page website… I guess I can’t charge that much.

I’m on a mission to get every web designer to remove the words JUST and ONLY from their vocabulary..

…so that they STOP diminishing and minimizing themselves, their skills…

…and ultimately their bank accounts.

There are so many really good business and marketing courses out there for web designers…

You’ve probably taken some of them and learned some fantastic strategies.

But when you aren’t sold at your core on your value as a web designer and the value of a website to your clients…

You’ll keep using automatically thinking words like JUST and ONLY and keep holding yourself back from creating the business and life you’re here to create.

And the truth is… while I love, love, love strategy…

Strategy is worthless if it’s not backed by your belief.

You can know how to do something, and still not be doing it.

It’s frustrating, but it's also fixable.

Your next step is to take our Web Designer Archetypes Quiz to discover your unique superpower – and any beliefs that might be in your way that are causing your web design business to leak time and money.

So go take the quiz, and when you do I'll give you next steps!

Episode Transcript

Shannon Mattern (00:01.662)

Hey, and welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer podcast. This week on the show, I have a replay of a session that I recently did for a summit that I participated in all about the four-letter word that will make or break your web design business. And I can't wait for you to hear this episode because I think that what I definitely notice from so many of the web designers that I talk to is that this little sneaky four letter word is something that's just part of their vocabulary that they say without thinking. And it really has a major impact on the amount of time that they're spending in their web design business and the amount of money that they're making. So I'm just really excited for you to hear this replay of the four letter word that will make or break your web design business.

So let's dive in.

Hey there, my name is Shannon Mattern, and I am so honored to get to present to you at the Page Builder Summit 6.0, all about the four letter word that will make or break your web design business and how to use it for yourself instead of against yourself. So I am the founder and CEO of the Web Designer Academy, and we help web designers stop undercharging and over delivering so that they can create the freedom

flexibility and financial independence that they started their web design businesses for in the first place. And one of the things that we see over and over and over with the thousands of web designers that we've talked to and worked with over the past seven years is that so many web designers, especially ones that use page builders and WYSIWYG editors and all kinds of tools to make what they do faster and easier and just simple.

massively under charge and over deliver. They undervalue their skills and their expertise. And you are here at the Page Builder Summit and you know how powerful page builders are. You have learned tons of things at the summit so far that are going to help you take advantage of all of the incredible features of page builders to make your business.

faster and easier and just more powerful than ever before to leverage them to streamline workflows and just make your job easier. But the problem is when you start conflating ease with how much you think you are able to charge. So the problem is when you think it's so fast and it's so easy and it doesn't take me that much time and it's so simple, it's so easy. Anyone could do it. And you start conflating that with how much you are able to charge.

That's when you get in trouble. That's when you end up undercharging and over delivering in other ways to overcompensate for it being so easy for you to do what you do. And that's when you get into the trap we call package stuffing, which does a whole nother topic for another time, but you end up making up for all the time it takes, all the time that you save using page builders and using them to make your job easier.

Shannon Mattern (02:24.054)

with over delivering in other ways to make up for them for how much you charged or you end up having to work a ton and work with a ton of different clients to make the kind of money that you wanna make because you are charging based on your time. So we see, this is a common problem that people come to us and we help them fix this problem.

And so I 1000% did this too, when I started my freelance web design business. So if we are meeting for the first time, I actually, I started my freelance web design business back in 2014 and it was a hot mess express. And it was because I had spent my whole career up until that point, I had actually learned on like Dreamweaver back in 2002 in college. And I was like,

Are you kidding me right now? Like I'm using the design editor. I'm not looking at code view. I'm looking at design view. And I'm like, I can drag, drop, point, click, copy and paste. Hello, like this was made for me, right? I was not a coder. And then, you know, WordPress comes along and I start using it at my marketing job. I worked at marketing in a law firm to start to solve business problems. I'm like, oh, we need a way to communicate.

about a legal issue with over a thousand clients as part of this class action lawsuit in real time, what was going on with this case. And I'm searching and I'm like, oh, there's this thing called WordPress and I don't need to get IT involved. I can just spin this up and we can bypass that whole department. We can use it to communicate. And that's what I did. And I just like my job.

was solving problems with technology. And WordPress was a huge part of that. And I didn't have to be a coder to create really, really powerful solutions for the companies that I worked for. And I did not realize that the whole time I was doing that, that I was just thinking like, oh, it's expected of me that I do things on the cheap, that I save a ton of money, that I tried to do it quickly, that we don't have to hire experts to do this.

Shannon Mattern (04:47.806)

And so what was being ingrained in me is that this is not valuable. This is not, uh, this is anybody could figure this out. I'm just Googling this. Like if I can just Google it, couldn't anyone just Google it. This isn't worth that much. These are, and the feedback that I was getting was like, Oh, good. Like awesome. You're saving us money. Like this is, this is really good. And so that mindset.

followed me into my freelance career. And so I would think things like I just use WordPress and this simple, like really super simple drag and drop page builder. I don't custom code from scratch. I just Google it to figure out how to do it. It's just so easy. And it's that four letter word that you've heard me say a few times and maybe you didn't even notice it that was baked into my vocabulary and into my thoughts. And by the time I started freelancing,

In 2014, it's that four letter word that had me massively undercharging. I had no idea it was lurking in my brain and in my psyche, just wreaking havoc on my business and my bank account and what I thought was possible for me and what I thought I could charge. And it truly is a word that is so powerful. It's so insignificant, yet it's so powerful that if you stop saying it, thinking it, or believing it,

or believing when people say it to you that they're right, your entire web design business would change. If you are undercharging, over-delivering, and overworking, this four-letter word is probably baked into your vocabulary and you don't even realize it. So if you stopped saying it, thinking it, believing it, you'd automatically charge more without hesitation.

This word's not in the vocabulary of people who charged more without thinking about it. And if you're someone who's like taken all of the web design business courses and they're still like in the marketing courses and just all the things and you're still undercharging and over-delivering, there's still something holding you back from making a consistent and generous income as a web designer. It could be as simple as this word that's holding you back and draining your bank account.

Shannon Mattern (07:16.09)

Just. As in, I just use page builders. I just Google YouTube it. It's just a few pages. It's just a small change. I'm just starting out. They're just starting out.

And it has an evil twin only just little evil twin only. This word also wreaks havoc on our business and our bank account. Like, oh, it's only a one page website. I only use page builders. I only use Squarespace, show it or Shopify or Webflow or whatever. They only have so much money and the implication of these thoughts. The thing that is left unsaid is

So I can't charge that much. It's not worth that much. They could just do it themselves. It's so easy. Why should, why would they pay me that much? It's not worth that much.

So enrollment in our web designer academy is by application only. And see, I just said it by application only. It's by application. And since I wrote this presentation, I'm noticing all the times I say these words. And I've had the opportunity to look at thousands of applications from web designers who are like, hey, I have either reached a plateau in my business,

or I have challenges in these certain areas, like I feel stuck over here, you know, all of these things. But ultimately they're like, I wanna be making more money than I am and working less than I am. And I don't know how to do that. I can't figure it out. And they'll say things to me like, I can't charge that much because I just use page builders. Or, you know, they straight up say it to me. Like it is a fact.

Shannon Mattern (09:05.398)

of the universe, like the sky is blue. They believe it. It just rolls right out of their mouth. Like it's, they're stating the facts. And I get it because I used to think it and say it as automatically as flipping my turn signal while driving. I still catch myself saying like, Oh, I only have so much or, you know, justice or only that. And the problem is these are words we use.

to minimize, diminish, devalue, discount ourselves, our pricing, our value, our boundaries, our skills, our time, our uniqueness, all of the things that make us who we are as a human and a fabulous web designer, right? And so when these words are just like roll out of our mouth as if they're facts,

We not only minimize, diminish, discount and devalue ourselves with how we think and how we believe in what we just automatically say, they leak into our marketing. They you'll, you'll now that you know, that you may do this, if you go and look at your website, your client communications, if you listen to yourself on consultations, you'll hear it, you'll see it, you'll see it in your messaging.

And then we're like, oh, I wonder why I can't seem to attract clients that are willing to pay more. Because we have this core belief that the way we learned or the tools we use are inherently less valuable. And we use the words just and only to minimize, diminish and devalue ourselves. We are also unintentionally attracting clients who don't value those things as well. And who don't think that they should have to pay us that much.

even though they don't wanna do it themselves. And so if this is resonating with you, it might surprise you to know that not everyone out there is looking to pay the least amount of money for the thing. Not everyone makes decisions based on price alone. People also make decisions on value. And if you want to work with people who make decisions on value, you need to stop talking about price.

Shannon Mattern (11:27.498)

and start talking about value. You get to stop focusing on the just and the only and the lowest price and all of these things and start focusing on the value of it. So I go way deeper on this concept and my profitable pricing framework, which I will tell you how to get your hands on in just a second, but...

When you are using words like just and only to diminish and devalue and discount and minimize yourself, your skills, the tools that you use, all of those things, and you don't even realize it, you are operating from an expense-minded paradigm, which I talk about more deeply in that training. And you're wanting to work with clients who want to pay you more, but you're not saying the things that they value. You're not talking about

what they are wanting to hear, which is how can what you do help me get what I want more time, more money, more capacity, more freedom, more flexibility. You're just talking about how I could get this at the cheapest price. I'm looking for more than that as an investment minded client. And so this is why I am on a mission to help you banish the words just and only.

from your vocabulary or at least stop using them against yourself and start using them for yourself. Because when you can make that shift in your own mind, shift that paradigm in your own mind and start believing something completely different about yourself and the tools that you use and everything that you bring to the table, you're going to transform what you believe about how much you can charge for what you do. So when you have aligned messaging,

When you are speaking about the value of what you do, to people who want that value, that's when everything changes. But you have to start. They're not gonna just come find you and already know. So you can learn more about those pricing paradigms at forward slash pricing. I go really deep into those. But what I want you to know

Shannon Mattern (13:42.902)

today is that when you're using just and only, and you're diminishing your pricing and you're like, I can't charge more because I just use page builders or I can't charge more because it's just so easy for me. It doesn't take me that much time. It only takes me an hour or a couple hours to do that. So I can't charge that much. You're making the price about you and price is not about you. What most web designers think

is that the price is based on how hard the project was, how long it takes, what the level of effort is, what the skill level is, how complex it is. That's what they look at when they are putting a price on something or how new they are, how long they've been doing this, like how experienced they are, right? Versus that's not what your client, how your client is thinking about price at all. Your client, price is about your client.

How much you can charge has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with your client. So the formula for price is as long as the value is greater than the price, the price can be whatever you need it to be. You just have to believe and learn how to communicate this side of the equation where how do you talk about the value of emotional, personal, business, financial outcomes?

in a way that when you say it's $10,000, you can say it's just $10,000. Like it's a steal because this side of the equation is worth so much more than this side. That's a time where you're allowed to use the word just to create a comparison that's empowering to you and your business, not diminishing, not discounting. So again,

Price is not about you. It's not about how hard it was, how long it took, the skill level. That's how most people are trying to figure out price. And then they end up on the wrong side of the deal because it is in your best interest to make it simple and fast and quick and easy for yourself, right? It's in your best interest to do that. But if you believe in this equation, then when it's faster and easier and it's...

Shannon Mattern (16:04.702)

not super skilled and it doesn't take a long time, then you're going to keep the price low and then you're going to be stuck. When you believe in this equation, then you can raise your prices without having to make it harder. You just have to learn how to communicate to your client in a different way. That's what we teach our students how to do. And if this is something that you do, I just need to know you to know there is nothing wrong with you.

You were taught to think this way. We talk about a concept called employee mindset in the Web Designer Academy. We go in depth on that too. You were taught and conditioned to think like this. You were taught and conditioned to work really, really hard for a very consistent, steady salary to not question anything, to save.

money for your company, all the things, and I'll talk more about that in a second, that keeps your income steady, stable, consistent, and level no matter how much you're working, right? Has you undercharging, over-delivering, all of the things. When you are operating like an entrepreneur, you're looking at how can I minimize the amount of time I'm spending and maximize my revenue and create more value for my clients instead of

save them money. So one of the biggest shifts that you get to make in order to remove the words just and only from your vocabulary and stop diminishing and minimizing your yourself and your skills and therefore keeping your price low because of that is to shift from this employee minded paradigm where you're operating like my clients and customers are my boss. And when I do what the boss and customer wants, that keeps the boss and customer happy.

If I keep them happy, I maintain safety and security and saving money makes the boss happy. So do everything the quickest, fastest, easiest and then price it the lowest too. This is a paradigm that so many web designers operate with especially if you came from a day job, especially if you grew up in the United States, especially if you were ever a student or an employee or worked at a corporate job, this is what we were conditioned to believe across all.

Shannon Mattern (18:24.778)

all of those spaces and why it's called a paradigm is a paradigm is like a set of beliefs and thoughts that we have built up over time into just like a way of being a way of thinking a way of operating. It's very solid and sturdy and steady. And I talk more about paradigms in the pricing training that I'd shared with you as well. This becomes so solid and sturdy. That's just your automatic thinking.

It's your automatic thinking that if it's simple, if it's easy, if it doesn't take me that much time, because I'm being paid for my time in an employee minded paradigm, then I can't charge that much for it. Right. The shift that you get to make and the shift that we help our students make is to shift to an entrepreneur minded paradigm. You have to deconstruct the employee minded paradigm brick by brick. You can think of this as a Jenga tower and you're just pulling out these thoughts and beliefs. And.

weakening this and rebuilding it into a sturdy, stronger tower as an entrepreneur-minded paradigm where you are the boss. And it is true. You are the boss. This is your business. Saving time is what makes you happy. Working less is what makes you happy. Making more money and less time makes you happy as the boss. Your job is not to save your client's money. It's to create

Shannon Mattern (19:50.422)

and those valuable solutions are worth something. They help your clients have better outcomes in all areas of their life, personal, emotional, business, finance. The things that you do for your clients, the website that you build for them has a broader impact, a ripple effect beyond just what you do, right? Your job is not to help them spend the least amount of money possible, it's to help them create the most value.

in all of these areas of their life through the tool that you create for them. You create solutions that empower your clients to make way more than they will ever pay you, regardless of how much time and effort and energy you spend on them. So you get to charge more. You get to charge more. This is the entrepreneur paradigm. You're focused on value and creating more value and you can create more value.

when you are spending less time, right? Oftentimes, and it's not about keeping the price as low as possible. So how do we shift from employee mindset to entrepreneur mindset? The first thing is to notice when you say or think the words Justin only in ways that minimize, diminish, discount, and devalue your skills, yourself, your business.

your marketing, all of the things that you do to be a freelance web designer, the tools that you use, how quickly you do things, how fast you know the answers. Notice when you're minimizing that with those four letter words. Audit your website and your client communications, your emails, watch back your consultations that you're discovering calls that you do with clients. And notice...

When you're using employee minded language where you're using the just the words, Justin only when you're not taking the lead, when you're not taking control, when you're using expense minded language, like we'll talk about in that pre free pricing framework training. Um, you go watch that look for all of those places. If that's how you are, if that's what you're communicating out, that's what you're going to get back. And that's why you are attracting and resonating and working with

Shannon Mattern (22:14.126)

clients who don't want to pay that much for web design. You have to shift your core belief, your communication, and then go out there and connect with people who want the value on the other side instead of saving the most money as possible. Those people see are looking more long-term and less short-term. Notice, this is a kind of a separate topic, but the just and the only,

When we use those words, it can knock us into people pleasing or avoiding potential conflict. It's like, Oh, well, it's just a, it's just a really quick change. The implication being I shouldn't charge them for that, or they might get mad at me if I send a bill notice all of the places where you're using just and only to avoid conflict, to, to talk yourself into not charging for that, to avoid and to get

keep people liking you to minimize the diminished devalue yourself to keep people, keep your clients happy, right? That employee mindset. Your thoughts and beliefs around these things directly affect your revenue. I cannot overstate this. One of the things that we do so differently in the Web Designer Academy is we are heavily focused. We have tons of strategy, systems, processes, tools, templates.

but it is your thoughts and your beliefs that are gonna determine whether or not you use them, whether or not you raise your prices, whether or not you lower them when you believe that, oh, it's just a quick one-page website, just a quick one-page website, and you don't tell yourself the other side of the story of why that is so valuable to your client.

When you're people pleasing, your thoughts and your beliefs directly affect your revenue. When you're people pleasing, you are overworking and you are not marketing, you're not booking new clients, you have this feast and famine and drought, you're probably working like crazy, but you're not, your bank account, this is your revenue, you don't have the money to show for it, right? Because you're demonetized.

Shannon Mattern (24:38.498)

Devaluing, minimizing, discounting your own value. When you do that, if you have an employee mindset, same thing, you're letting your clients call all the shots. So you may book the job and get paid that first deposit, but once they start delaying and pushing the project out, not cooperating, you start to, you're still spending the same amount of time, but you're starting to lose money.

and you can't book new clients because you're still spending all your time on them. Or you're just flatlined, right? Your time, you're overworking, you're undercharging. Maybe it's steady and consistent, but it's not anywhere close to what you need for it to be sustainable or even profitable. This is a direct reflection of how you think about you and your value. So you get to remove the justs and onlys.

from your vocabulary. I don't just use page builders. I use page builders because I'm on the cutting edge. I know what's up. I know that these are the best tools to create the best thing for my client.

Shannon Mattern (25:54.802)

I just Google and YouTube it because I can figure anything out. I know what words to say. I know how to sift through it. I know how to try the things that I find and I know what to do if they don't work. That's a skill. It's not just a given. It's just a few pages, just a few page website or a one page website. We're optimizing for conversion. There's a reason for this. I'm not doing it because it's less work for me and therefore less valuable and a lower price. So many web designers are like,

Oh, well, my client can't afford a five page website. So I'll build a one page website. And then they lower the price. And I'm like, you're pricing based on the wrong things. You're pricing based on the wrong things. It'll just take a few minutes. No, it'll take a few minutes because I've spent so hundreds of hours learning this and I don't have to research it. I know exactly where to go, what to do, how to fix this.

I want a surgeon who's not going to take a long time digging around inside my body and Googling it while he's in there. Right. Get in, get out because you are experienced and you're an expert and there's value in that.

Shannon Mattern (27:08.582)

They're starting out and they will go farther, faster working for someone like me. I don't have to lower my price because your business is new. Right. Banish these words from your vocabulary. Notice how you're thinking, decide to think something different. We can absolutely help you with that because the implication of changing how you think about yourself and your business and how quick and easy and fast you can do is that

You are brilliant and talented and worth every dollar and more. You deserve to save yourself time, work less, make more, get compensated for the value that you help other, you help other people create that you create for other people, stop pricing based on your time and how hard things are, make things easier for yourself, charge more for it.

You have to flip how you think completely on its head and it is time to stop under charging and over delivering. And that is what we are here to help you do at the web designer academy. So I would love to invite you to take the next step with us, which is just to go watch our free profitable pricing framework training. I dive even deeper into some of the concepts that I talk about here in terms of expense mindset and investment mindset pricing. We're going to talk about like.

How much you really can charge for web design. The one key shift to make sure pricing that will unlock your revenue potential. The rule of 10 for setting profitable, sustainable pricing, make over all the mind trash about why you think you can't charge that much. All of that, those just and onlys, that's mind trash. We call that mind trash. My friend, Jasmine Haley shared that term with me and I'm like, yeah, that's mind trash and we get to clean up the mind trash.

We'll give you a detailed breakdown of all of the components of our profitable pricing framework. And I'll walk you through my seven step process for creating a profitable and sustainable web design business. So you can get that at web designer forward slash pricing. And if you are like, listen, I want to talk to you, Shannon. I am undercharging, over delivering, overworking. I'm operating with an employee mindset. I'm just ready to make the shift.

Shannon Mattern (29:27.882)

I would love to talk to you. You can book a discovery call with me. Just go to forward slash schedule call, or just click that big button on our website. Book a call with me and I'll learn more about your web design business. Some of your challenges. And if it feels like a good fit, I'll talk to you a little bit more about how we might be able to help you inside the web designer Academy. If discovery calls aren't your thing, just fill out our application and then we can chat back and forth, uh, asynchronously via email.

at forward slash apply. We also have our profitable web designer podcast that you can get at forward slash podcast. We drop an episode every single Wednesday to help you stop undercharging, over delivering, and create a profitable, sustainable web design business that you love. And again, you can get that free pricing training at forward slash pricing. So thank you so much for.

listening to this and being here at the Page Builder Summit 6.0. I cannot thank you enough. I hope you heard something here today that just unlocked something for you. And I really look forward to meeting you and connecting with you in the future. So thanks so much for listening. Bye.

A smiling person with a tooth showing on their chin is looking indoors.

Shannon Mattern
Web Designer Academy


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

I created the Web Designer Academy to give you everything I wished I would have had when I started freelancing:  step-by-step processes and fill-in-the-blank templates for your messaging, marketing, packages, consultations, sales and project management combined with next-level support so that you have everything you need to create a consistently profitable web design business doing work you love for clients you love.