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As newbie designers we’re often told that we need to work for free in order to get started and build our portfolio…

And while that totally works as a strategy, the question becomes…

“Where does the free work end?”

“And at what point in the process do you call yourself a real designer and start charging real designer prices?”

Well, for this past Square Secrets & Square Secrets Business™️ student, that day came a lot sooner than she might have been expecting!

In today’s video I’m so excited for you to hear the story of how Alyssia of Virtual Freedom Design jumpstarted her design business, found clients and booked over $22,000 worth of projects…

All in her first 4 months of being a designer!

If you’ve been working away at trying to start your own web design business for quite some time, and you’re just not seeing the traction that you wanted, then you are going to LOVE this interview!

You’ll also get a peek at some of her recent design work!

How Alyssia quickly booked $22K in ideal Web Design projects

Q: What were you doing before you became a website designer? 

Before I started my business, I was in school full-time to be a teacher. I was also working at a Montessori school to gain experience and get the typical 9-5 job that I thought was in store for my future.

I started to feel the burnout of working full-time, and I was like…

“I’m 21 years old…why do I have burnout?”

“How am I going to do this my whole life?”

Then Covid happened and I started seeing all these people working from home and I got so jealous, since even though I was working at a school, I was still having to go to work in person.

So I started looking up how to work online.

I came across the virtual assistant world (which is very different from the web design world) and totally went gung-ho on it!

I bought a course and started my virtual assistant business…but while I was setting up my business, I found I really loved creating my website and branding for myself.

When I was creating my virtual assistant packages I was adding in branding & graphics – that was the part I was super excited to offer!

I had heard people talk about the importance of niching down so I decided to go all in on design.

I had absolutely no design experience before stated my business or before taking Square Secrets & Square Secrets Business™️.

Q: What inspired you to take the courses? 

I knew that web design was a natural extension of branding so I knew I needed to start offering that.

I was looking into different platforms and Squarespace really stood out to me because I’m so much about user friendliness – not only for me, but also for my potential clients.

Even though Squarespace was user friendly, I still didn’t quite feel confident enough offering it as a service, so I wanted to find a course that would help me find that confidence and deliver the best possible Squarespace sites to my clients.

Q: How did you land your first client? How do you land clients today?

I landed my first client within the first week of launching my web design business.

I really set up the back end of my business before I started marketing myself…

I made sure my CRM (client relationship management software) was in order, and my website, branding, Instagram, etc. all looked as if I was running a real business.

Once I felt ready, I did a launch discount of 50% off all my services.

That first client came from a Facebook group. That’s where a lot of my initial clients came from – now it’s more Instagram.

Since I didn’t have any experience or any past clients to put in my portfolio to market myself, I just used what Paige teaches inside the courses to determine what my dream client would look like, and I created a brand and website for them!

One type of company I always envisioned working with were florists, so I designed a brand and website for a florist company I made up and put all my love into it.

I didn’t see it as a practice project…I saw it as a real client. I created a whole presentation for the project and shared screenshots of it in Facebook groups asking for people’s feedback.

I wasn’t promoting myself (because you usually can’t in Facebook groups) I just asked for feedback and a lot of people resonated with my style.

So I had a lot of people reach out to me afterwards about my launch discount, ready to sign up right away!

So after that launch discount I was getting pretty busy to where I was booked out three months in advance.

I didn’t want the discount to go on forever because I was actually starting to have experience, so I put a deadline on the launch discount to get the “last-minute” people to book.

So with that I was able to grow my portfolio, get testimonials, and start receiving lots of referrals.

It’s July 1st, and I’m fully booked for the rest of the year, and not taking on any more clients.

I definitely recommend creating some sort of launch discount for new designers just getting started!

Give the best service you can give…something I’ve done for every client since day 1 is to sent a client gift (I actually have a guide to putting together the perfect client gift here.)

Even though I wasn’t making a ton of money with those first few clients, I still treated them like they were like Queens! And because of that they have been really helpful for referrals!

Q: How much were you charging for your web design services in the beginning vs. now? Any plans to increase your prices?

To help this make sense, let me first tell you what packages I offer…

So I have a package that is just branding, one that is just web design package, and then a package that includes both.

As a brand new designer I was charging:

Branding | $1,000

Web Design | $2,000

Branding & Web Design | $3,000

I had zero experiences, so even with the 50% launch discount I was like “there’s no way people are going to pay me to do this.”

But now I’m charging $5,000-$6000 per project [just a couple months later. ]

As I said, I’m booked up and not taking any more clients for the rest of the year, so I’m actually restructuring my pricing and offerings.

I’m creating a new high level, high investment program where I’ll offer web design, branding, copywriting, opt-in gift design, blog launch social media…a lot more strategy.

So it will basically be a “get your business started” package where I’ll be working with a single client for 3 months…

I plan to offer that starting at $15,000.

Q: What did you do to set yourself apart from all the other web designers targeting ‘creative entrepreneurs?’ as their ideal client?

Paige’s ideal client avatar exercise from inside her Square Secrets™️ course really helped me figure out exactly who my dream client was.

I knew instantly she was a woman, because I relate to them, I talk like them, and that’s who I do my best designs for.

I knew that she would be in some sort of creative field, but I also didn’t want to work with the exact same type of person every single time because I know I tend to get bored pretty quickly.

So I wanted to use what I had learned to help virtual assistants, florists, bakers, authors – I wanted a range of people – and so I designed with those people in mind.

I didn’t choose my own favorite colors for my branding…I hung out in Facebook groups where my dream clients were and a specific style kind of started to come across.

I made that my style. I branded my business for them.

I’ve had clients say as soon as they saw my Instagram that they know I ‘got’ their style.

And on top of that just being very relatable, talking to them like they’re my friends. I don’t treat them like leads…no one wants to feel pushed.

I put myself in their shoes and treat them like real people, and that makes them want to work with me.

Q: Do you think design skills are the #1 most important skill you’ve needed to succeed as a web designer?

Design and style have definitely helped me stand out – because I branded for my particular dream client – but I think that your personality and just being as real as possible is important.

Everyone says ‘just be yourself’ but that includes talking about your mistakes, your goals, and bringing people along on your journey.

Make them feel like you’re all in this together.

Even people I may never work with are super invested in my story and are supporting my business in that way…working from home, that’s something I’ve missed is having co-workers and those work friendships. But now I just have them in a different format!

Q: What does a typical day in your work life look like?

I actually love my days!

I wake up whatever time I want. I’ve always been a morning riser so I try to stay on that schedule, get to gym, come back and make breakfast and then get to work.

I take tons of breaks for brain power reasons – I go outside a lot, take my dog to the park, make dinner.

There’s some days I wake up at 5:00 AM because I have stuff I want to do later and I want to get some work in, and other day’s I’m up until 3:00 AM.

I never make myself a strict schedule. I try to balance it and do what feels right on a particular day.

Q: How many hours do you tend to work?

In the beginning of my business, I put a lot of time in but it didn’t feel like work to me. I was just obsessed with starting my business!

But now I’m getting more into a routine and finding that balance.

I would say I work 40 hours a week but only because I’m so booked. Next year I would like to calm that down while still making the same amount of money, which is why I’m restructuring my packages.

Q: Have you traveled while working? What was that like?

I’ve gone on some amazing trips since starting my own business just a few months ago…

My husband and I never got to go on a honeymoon so we recently went to an island off the coast of South Carolina which was amazinG.

And I was able to plan that vacation last minute!

We’ve gone to Vegas, the Grand Canyon…we’ve just done so many amazing things in the last few months that I never would have been able to do before.

I don’t need to tell anyone that I’m taking off. I can just plan and do it.

I feel like when I was was going to school and working full-time, I was living in this hamster wheel.

It was very weird for me because personally I was so happy – I like my husband, and he is my best friend…but professionally, I would spend my days ultimately not happy.

I loved my students, but I just didn’t know how I was going to sustain that. I wanted a full life, I wanted to be travelling and doing all that stuff.

So I felt like I was missing out.

And now I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world!

I feel bad for my friends when they have to miss out on things because of work because I know that will never be an issue for me again!

My life feels very free! That’s actually why I named my business ‘Virtual Freedom’ because that is what it has offered me.

Q: Can you share some encouraging words for others who want to do the same as you?

It can be really intimidating to leave everything you know and go a completely different route…

To have to tell your friends and family and feel the pressure of ‘okay…what if this doesn’t work?’

That was something I was really nervous about, thinking: “Oh my god! I have to tell people what I’m doing…and market myself and sell myself! I’m so bad at that!”

What I did is I had those feelings, but then I addressed them saying to myself: “you need to be confident or no one is going to be confident in you.”

So sort of a fake-it-til-you-make-it type thing.

And every single time you talk about it with a family or friend, think of it as a business skill…you’re learning ways to talk about your business!

And when I sensed people doubted me, my husband told me…

“A lot of people don’t have the guts to do what you’re doing. They have these ideas, but they’ll never do it. If you fail, you’ll always know in your hear that you at least tried.”

So I think it’s just understanding that it’s going to be hard, and there will be times of doubt, but there will also be times of “Wow! I can’t believe I came this far!”

It’s just being proud of yourself and really cutting yourself some slack, but also knowing deep down you’ll do what it takes to make it work.

Q: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about taking the courses?

I would definitely definitely definitely recommend taking Square Secrets & Square Secrets Business™️!

I know for a fact that I never would have felt comfortable listing my services as a designer if I hadn’t taken the courses!

Squarespace is an easy interface, but there’s things I know I would have missed and it would have taken me so much longer to figure out.

If you’re better at learning through video and visuals [rather than reading instructions or articles] then this is definitely the route to go.

Yeah, Squarespace has help docs, but I remember trying to read through them and being like, “What does this mean??? I just need someone to show me once and I can do it!”

And that’s exactly what Paige’s courses did for me!



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How Alyssia booked $22K in projects her first 4 month as a web designer