Nothing makes my day more than hearing past students are out there kicking and taking names as new web designers!

And honestly, when you read the words of lovely past student Kelsey Mader in today’s post and see her recent portfolio pieces, you’ll have no trouble understanding how it is her business has grown like wildfire!

This lady is seriously talented, but on top of that (which you’ll read first hand in today’s interview) she truly has a heart of gold! Along with a special soft spot for new and aspiring designers who may need a little extra boost in confidence!

So I hope you will join me in celebrating Kelsey, and thanking her for being so willing to share her story and her sweet advice and encouragement for others just getting their start!

P.S. You can peep her entire portfolio over at (her newly rebranded!!) OneTen the Studio, but I’ve also shared a few of my fav recent pieces of hers for your viewing pleasure below! (Click the arrows to scroll left or right!)

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

Did you have any coding or developing & design experience?

So I’ve always actually been a designer! I studied graphic design in college. So I was already in this design world, just in a different section, so to speak!

So I did have some coding experience when I started taking Square Secrets™️. We were required to take two web design classes in college for our Graphic Design degree, then in November of 2019, I decided to relearn how to code.

So I started from scratch with HTML and CSS through online course sites like Udemy and other websites, and I’m pretty sure I was just Googling something about Squarespace and came upon Paige’s amazing blog (as everybody does).

I fell in love with her courses and her personality and how much she shares, and I was like, “Oh, this is perfect!”

Q: What made you want to become a web designer in the first place? How did you get your start?

Okay, so I have a story…and I promise it will all make sense!

So when I went to school, I was originally going for fashion merchandising. (I wanted to work at a fashion magazine.)

I decided, “okay, well, what goes with fashion and working in a fashion magazine? Graphic design!”

So I decided to pick up a Graphic Design Minor!

And I had one of those movie moments where I was in my first graphic design class, and I just fell in love instantly! I just sat there and I was like, “I want to do this for the rest of my life!”

So within a matter of days, I switched my majors!

Then for the web aspect of it, we were required to take two web design courses for my graphic design degree. But at the time, I didn’t really enjoy it because I had studied abroad the semester before and in order to graduate on time, was having to take both basic and intermediate web design at the same time.

It was a bit of a struggle, and I decided I didn’t like coding.

But then in 2019, I was trying to find a new [9-5], and all the jobs that I was applying for wanted a graphic designer who also knew code, so I decided to relearn code!

Q: So you had coding experience! What inspired you to take Square Secrets™️? (Which, fun fact, is a code-free zone!)

So I think it was because I was still struggling with code…

All these courses I was taking were talking about having your own server to host your client’s website, and I was like “I don’t want to do that! There HAS to be something easier…”

My fiancé, who’s a software developer was giving me suggestions, but I wanted something easier for me and easier for my clients!

So I’m pretty sure I was just Googling and found Paige’s blog and saw the courses and I was like, “Perfect! This is it.”

Q: How did your Squarespace designs compare before vs. after taking Square Secrets™️?

So I had used Squarespace a little bit before, especially when I had just gotten out of college, and was just looking for something to host my portfolio.

But like most people, everything that I had done was basic, and just using the Squarespace templates…compared to now, where my websites look nothing like the templates!

Q: How did you land your first client?

So my first website client was actually a friend of mine who is an artist and he was trying to get his art business off the ground.

He knew I was trying to figure out this web design thing, and I was like, “Well, I can build you a website!”

And he’s such an amazing friend that he insisted on paying me for it, which I really appreciated. But that was my first true paid client website!

Q: How do you market your business & find clients today? How far in advance are you booked?

So these days, it’s pretty much Instagram…I’m also starting to get more and more referrals from past clients!

[My focus for Instagram has been] mostly my feed!

A lot of my clients, when we hop on a consultation call, tell me that they just thought my ‘feed’ felt different. They felt really connected to it!

So then in the back of my mind, I’m like, “That’s branding!”

I’ve got strong branding, and that’s how I can target my dream clients…through my branding. So it just goes to show that it works!

I book, usually 1-3 months in advance.

By September, I was pretty much booked out through the rest of the year, with four projects already booked for the [New Year]!

Q: Do clients mind having to wait when their project is booked so far into the future?

I get so excited every time somebody inquires, I literally do a happy dance in my chair and squeal and go tell my mom! So I have some things that I do with my clients for both branding and website design before the project start date.

I add them to their Notion client portal, we do branding homework and web homework…and I think having those little bits makes them really excited that they are doing their homework because it’s like leading up to our big project start date!

Psssst! Wanna Pin it for later?

Q: Did you have any specific goals in mind when you first started your business? How have those gone?

Okay, so initially, this was actually just a side hustle and I was trying to eventually make it into a full-time thing while I was job hunting.

But then I ended up leaving my previous job, and my business was starting to take off!

So I was like, “Alright, well, I’m just gonna put all I have into this”…and I wouldn’t have it any other way now!

My original goal was to make it a full-time job by 2022, which was two years from when I started, so I thought that should be fine…but it happened way faster, which was amazing!

So my goals have gone from being just a one-woman show to wanting to eventually hire a female remote team, which is in my five-year plan!

I also have this vision for a graphic design student scholarship at my college, for a female graphic design student to use the money for books, or a new laptop, or to go towards the Adobe Suite, anything like that.

So that’s something I’m working to have in place by next year.


Q: Do you ever deal with imposter syndrome as a web designer? How do you overcome that?

Of course I do! Especially when my code does not work on the first try…

I think it’s something that everybody goes through and you have to work on. I mean, I still get nervous when I send drafts, but luckily, I have a very supportive fiancé!

He’s constantly reminding me that I am good at my job, I have skills, and I am talented! And while I get nervous still, sometimes…

I’m finally stepping into the role of being able to say I am the expert. I know what I’m doing. And I have to trust the design decisions I’m making are what’s best for my client.

Q: How do you set yourself apart from other designers out there hoping to serve the same niche client?

(Kelsey mentioned in our informal little hello’s before we started recording that she had a complete branding overhaul planned, so we were also curious to know if her niche client was changing too! Here’s what she shared! )

[Even though I’m in the process of rebranding] my niche has pretty much stayed the same…female business owners! Then within that niche, I focus on fashion and lifestyle brands.

I think my branding, again, is part of what sets my business apart. Because like I said earlier, clients on consultation calls often tell me how they felt when they were interacting with my Instagram, and that that is what led them to reach out to work with me.

So I think strong branding and the fact that I know my ideal client and what she likes.

When I’m creating content for Instagram, I’m creating content that speaks directly to her, and content that helps her [specifically.]

My clients have also told me they come to me because of my design style. Most of my stuff is in neutrals, but they also like that it tends to be classic and timeless.

It’s really funny looking at everything as a whole, because even when you look at my closet, it’s my brand colors!

Everything is classic, and it’s the same neutrals (black, white, and tan) that my branding is. So that just tells me I’m being very authentic in my branding, because it’s also true in my everyday life!

Q: How do you tailor your web design packages to suit your niche client?

So I just have a basic website package, and then E-commerce is an add-on.

A lot of my clients actually tend to do their branding with me as well! I think that they like working with just one person for both the branding and the website design because they get to know me and my process and this helps the connection and trust we end up building!

When I send a proposal, I put everything into tiers (‘The Essentials,’ ‘Signature,’ and ‘Premium.’)

So I have three different price points and a range of deliverables for them to choose from, which they appreciate! And I break it down into flexible payment plans, which they also like!

They typically go with the highest tier too, because the payment plan makes it more affordable, and they are find with making payments a little bit longer if it means they can get more stuff done with me.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s like for clients to work with you?

So I have a fairly streamlined client process now that I’ve been doing for a few months—things I’ve learned from Paige’s [Square Secrets Business™️] course and other courses that I’ve taken.

So the biggest thing that I do is I use Notion as my client portal…it houses my presentations and deadlines and all of my contact information so they can just click a link and schedule a call with me if they need to, and any other info that my clients would need during our time working together.

Another thing I do is a video walkthrough of every single one of my presentations.

So when I present my creative direction for my website clients, I don’t just give them a PDF and ask them for feedback…I walk through the document and read it to them in the video and explain my thoughts behind why I’m doing things each way and explain my design decisions.

It’s really been a game changer!

My clients love the presentations. It makes them feel important because I’m saying their name and talking directly to them in the presentation! They can hear the excitement and passion in my voice about what I’m presenting, which creates more trust and positions me as the expert.

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

So I think design skills are obviously super important…

But also you have to be confident in those skills and have confidence in your voice during a consultation call! I think that makes a huge difference too!

I’m not a very outgoing person, but once I start talking about design, there’s a shift that happens, and I can’t stop talking because I love design.

When you are at that point, as a designer, and you genuinely love what you’re doing and loving your work, there is that shift and then it makes a huge difference. So it’s design skills, confidence on your consultation calls, and then probably time management is really important too!

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

So my office hours are 10-6! I get up, make my coffee and then sit down at my desk.

I check my emails and I’m a big planner person…my planner is very important to me both my work planner and my personal planner. So I checked my planner go through make a to-do list usually because I enjoy checking things off!

Then I get into my work!

I take an hour for lunch. I have an alarm that goes off at 1:00 PM every day on my phone to make sure I actually take a break, which I think is super important. And usually, I watch ‘Friends’ while I eat.

And then after lunch, I dive back into work and keep working until about 6:00 PM and then have dinner.

I’m actually planning on scheduling calls for certain days of the week too…I don’t always enjoy Mondays, and I don’t always enjoy calls on Mondays because I like easing into the week.

So I’m changing my schedule!

I’m going to do calls Tuesday through Thursday so that Mondays I can just ease into the week and do just do admin stuff…you know, have a CEO day! Then Fridays will be my heavy design days so I can end my week on a high note since I love design!

Q: What’s it like being your own boss?

I love being my own boss! I love the flexibility! I love the fact that there’s no income cap! I love being able to sleep in and work late if I feel like doing that!

I love that I’m taking this into my own hands, and it is me getting my clients and doing the work.

It feels tangible…like, “look what I’ve built!” And that feels good.

It’s funny, because when I was in college, a couple of my friends I did some freelancing…and they were like “Kelsey, you should try it!” And I was like “No, I don’t think so…”

But here I am running my own business, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Q: How is your life different from before taking the courses and starting your own business?

Before I took the courses, I was stuck in a job that no longer made me happy.

It had become pretty toxic to my mental health to be honest! I loved design, but I didn’t want to go into work. And that’s when I knew that I needed to do something different.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good first job out of college, and I learned a lot, but I was I was no longer happy.

And now, I’m genuinely happy! My mental health is in a much better place, and Paige’s courses really did help me set myself up for a success when I made that shift.

I really don’t think I’d be able to be doing what I am now, which is running my own design studio, without the skills I learned in her courses!

Q: Can you share some encouraging words for others who want to start a successful web design business?

You can do this too! And I genuinely mean that!

It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong! And it takes some time. And it’s hard to not compare yourself to other people who started around the same time as you!

But after a while, you’ll hit a point where things will start to roll and snowball, and you’ll realize it’s totally possible, and that you can hit any goal, way faster than you thought you would!

So yeah, you can do it. It just takes hard work!

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

It is so worth it! I highly recommend it!

Paige packs so much content and freebies into the courses, and you will learn so much, even if you are already familiar with Squarespace!

And even if you don’t want to learn how to code, you can still learn how to make great-looking websites for your clients (or for yourself, if you’re just doing it for you).

I still refer back to the courses from time to time because there’s so much information in the lessons. Like Paige says, “Square Secrets Business™️ is like a business in a box!”

She provides you so many helpful tips and tricks and guides and things to help you figure out your prices and all of that and it’s just well well worth it!

You’ll also love…

How Kelsey crushed her goals way sooner than expected as a new web designer