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Have you ever looked around at other website designers who are super-successful and thought…

“In order to build a successful business, I need to do exactly what they’re doing?”

Well, that is how past Square Secrets™️ and Square Secrets Business™️ student Ayesha Santos felt when she was first launching her business idea and trying to find ways to market her services.

She decided to go with a strategy that she saw working for other people.

But there was just one problem….

She hated doing it!

And let’s be real. No matter how effective something is, when you hate doing it, it’s pretty hard to stay consistent long enough to see results, right?

Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story for Ayesha!

In this video, she is sharing how she discovered a strategy she actually enjoys, and that is sustainable for her in the long term.

Plus, how she used that strategy to hit her first $10K month as a web designer!

But first…how gorgeous is her website??

(I’ll share a few more of my fav recent pieces of hers throughout the post as well!)


How Ayesha used Instagram to hit her first $10K month as a web designer

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

I have a little bit of an interesting ‘career graph’ you might call it. I actually went to culinary school!

So I used to be a pastry chef ‍ but I quickly realized that lifestyle just didn’t fit!

After that, I spent some time working in a business development and marketing role for a window cleaning company.

Q: What made you want to become a designer? How did you get your start?

I’ve always had a little creative side hustle no matter what stage of my life I’ve been in.

I actually started off making planner stickers on Etsy, then moved to making passport covers, but I realized I was paying a lot in Etsy fees and I wanted a website of my own so I could kind of bypass that!

I really really enjoyed designing my own website! It was on Squarespace and I loved how drag-and-drop and easy to use it was.

I think I spent more time on my website than actually making products during that time!

Then my husband and I took six months off to travel.

While we were travelling, I realized I wanted to pivot into something that gave me that freedom and flexibility! And I really saw the value in doing something creative that allowed me to enjoy my work in the long run.

I remember I was tinkering with the website I had built and there was something I got stuck on, so I Googled it and found Paige’s blog.

And once you find her blog…you go deep down into a rabbit hole as you know!

So that’s how I found out about Paige’s Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ courses as well.

Q: So you had a tiny bit of Squarespace experience…how do your designs compare from before and after taking Square Secrets™️?

So I didn’t actually have experience designing anyone else’s website, just the one I had designed for my own little product store.

I wish I had the website to show you, because it looked like a little bit of a mess…

I mean, I was super proud of it at that point in time, because I didn’t really know what I was doing, but there is such a massive difference after taking Square Secrets™️!

I really learned how to streamline my thought process, and how to lay it all out and design according to that! I remember before I took the course it was just like “what do I think would look nice here? Let’s just throw this and that in…”

After taking Square Secrets™️, I realized that it was so much more than just a design course! There was strategy in there – which I didn’t realize I needed at the time but now really appreciate!

Q: How did you land your first client?

I did my first two websites for free.

One was a girl that makes polymer clay earrings and we’d kind of known each other, so I knew she needed a website and so I just asked her if I could build her one.

Then I reached out to a fashion blogger here in the same city and asked if she would be open to doing a website.

I did the first two for free because I wanted to be able to put my processes in place and feel confident doing it, without feeling that pressure of letting someone down.

The first paid website came quickly after that since I now had past portfolio pieces to show.

It was through a local Facebook group for small business owners here in Calgary, AB, Canada. Someone was asking if anyone knew of a website designer and I just posted a link to my two portfolio pieces and that’s how I landed the client.


Q: So your first paid client actually came from a Facebook group? How do you get around not being allowed to promote yourself in most groups?

I’ll give you an example of where I’ve seen success with Facebook groups in the past. So I was in this Flodesk help group where the software’s customer support team hangs out and helps its users.

I was also new to Flodesk when it first came out, which is why I joined the group. But while I was in there I would just keep an eye out for questions people had about integrating it with Squarespace.

I was like “I’m just going to be super open and generous with the knowledge I have.” And if someone had a question, even if I didn’t know the answer, I would figure it out and post it in the group.

Pretty soon, anytime someone had a Squarespace question, the admin of the group would just tag me saying I’d probably be able to help!

So I was chatting with all these people, and I actually started designing their Flodesk campaigns for them and integrating it with Squarespace.

So you don’t explicitly have to say “I’m a web designer. Here’s my services page…”

It’s just being generous with the knowledge you have and really connecting with people when they need help.

Q: You mentioned in a recent student survey that 90% of clients come from Instagram. Can you tell us how you got started with this strategy?

I realized early on that cold calling or cold messaging was not my thing.

It gave me severe anxiety and just made me feel really…‘Yeahh. No.’

I also did some market research early on and knew I wanted to work with women entrepreneurs, specifically in service-based businesses.

I hopped on a bunch of market research calls with five or six people…and every single person I spoke to, when asked where they’d go to look for a web designer, would say “Instagram” because that is where they spend their time online.

So it was kind of a lightbulb moment. All that time before I thought that I needed to be working on my SEO, and that would be the only way I could find people.

Or I thought I would have to do this really spammy thing of messaging people to ask if they needed a website, which I really didn’t want to do.

Instagram for me was somewhere I could genuinely connect with people.

It was easier to have a conversation, and it made me feel like I could do it in a way that didn’t put all this pressure on the other person.

It allowed me to be myself, be silly, be goofy…be whatever I wanted!

I saw a big shift in the growth of my business when I got consistent with Instagram Stories and started sharing my face on there.

I just decided to take the marketing route of “I’m just gonna be who I wanna be and I will attract the kind of people that want to work with that kind of person!”

Trying to map out everything in advance was putting too much pressure on me and I was just ending up not even wanting to do it because I felt like it had to be perfect.

So what really helped for me is I would just show up on Instagram Stories and do these little mini trainings for whoever was following me. I talked about all the things they could tweak on their website or why they needed xyz page on their site, or how to lay things out…

I would finish with “if you have any other questions just slide into my DMs and I’m happy to help you out!”

So, again, just being really generous with my knowledge.

And just being myself instead of needing to be someone else…or someone super professional, like “I’m not even going to crack a smile because that’s how that’s how serious I am about this!”

I just decided if it was going to be sustainable in the long term, I needed to enjoy it.

A big part of why I got into this was so that I could cheer other women on while they were growing their business, and so I could make those genuine connections. If I put pressure on every single person who chatted with me to become a client, that wasn’t going to be possible.

Q: How do you get your clients from Instagram over to your website to actually book your services?

So I realized there were two types of people that approach me on Instagram.

Either it was someone I’ve been chatting with – we are Instagram friends and we kind of know each other – and they’ll be like “hey I was thinking of doing my website…can we chat about it?” And then have a zero pressure conversation in DMs.

At that point, I am more interested in finding out if we’re a good fit and I can actually offer them what they’re looking for vs. trying to say all the right things so they would hire me.

From there, I move them straight into my client process, sending them a link to book a discovery call and we go from there.

The other person I tend to get is the one I’ve never chatted with before, but they’ve already done the legwork of going to my website and looking at my work before they even reach out.

So I just make sure it’s super easy for those people to find my website through Instagram and that my link in bio is always updated, and that it has access to my portfolio, my prices, etc.


Q: Do you ever deal with imposter syndrome when showing up and engaging with potential clients on social media? How do you handle that?

I think it gets easier over time, and I definitely did deal with imposter syndrome when I was showing up on video.

This is actually the thing that I hear a lot of my clients say: “I don’t know about video…I’m too shy!” Or “I don’t know what to say!”

But I listened to a podcast a while ago, and this is what really shifted stuff for me…

I used to be worried about not knowing enough, or worry people would think I didn’t know what I was talking about because I didn’t have a degree in web design.

I was so worried what people would think of me. And it was never strangers on the internet! It was always that I was worried about what people who knew me in real life would think!

“What’s that friend from high school who I don’t really talk to but still follows me on Social Media going to think!?”

Every business owner I’ve talked to is so worried about the people they know in real life – it’s those people their brain goes to, and always with the worst possible outcome.

So there was definitely some imposter syndrome! But I think as I started showing up on stories and engaging more, and just having those no pressure conversations, it started to feel like “I know these people! These people are friendly and everyone’s really supportive.”

And if they weren’t, I just block them. It’s not hard to cut someone out of your community!

But as you build a community around yourself, you’ll find that that confidence starts to come in.

Yes, sometimes the confidence has to come in before the comfort level is there. But the connection is so different when you’re able to chat one-on-one vs. people just reading about you somewhere.

If you’re on Instagram Stories, engage with people. Ask questions. Have them respond to you so you can take the conversation further and it doesn’t feel like you’re talking into like a black hole.

The key to overcoming imposter syndrome is bringing in clients that want to work with you because of who you are.

You don’t want to have to be a different version of yourself on Instagram in order to bring in clients, because you’re never going to feel comfortable with that.

Everybody has quirks.

Everybody eats banana bread for dinner, or turns up on Zoom calls with messy hair. Everybody has these moments and the more you can show up as who you are, and start attracting your people because of that, the more your confidence grows.

Q: How long did it take you to reach your first $10K month as a designer?

It took me almost exactly a year! I’m a full-time designer now, but I actually just switched from having a full-time day job and this being my side hustle a few months ago.

So for a year I worked full-time and designed on the side.

At just six months in on my side-hustle I was already matching my full-time job’s income.

I just wasn’t ready to leave because I felt too scared – like I wanted a buffer. Plus, I really like what I was doing for my day job.

Q: What do your packages currently look like? Do you offer any other services besides web design? 

I currently offer branding as well as website design.

When I started to design websites, I realized that a lot of clients were also struggling in the branding department, and the

more I learned and looked into it, the more I really enjoyed the process of doing a deep dive into their business and branding and having that lead into web design.

I also do speaking engagements off and on! And I do a workshop for my clients called ‘Transform Your Testimonials’ which is all about making sure you’re getting client testimonials from every single project that you then use in your marketing!

Pssst! Ayesha also offers a free resource she calls the Vibe & Visuals Worksheet, for new aspiring brand designers!

Q: We were creeping your Instagram and saw something you called “VIP Brand Clarity Days.” What is that? And can it be tweaked for people who strictly offer web design in their business?

I started offering Brand Clarity VIP Days because as I was doing branding design for clients and realized that a lot of people assumed branding is creating a logo and a color palette.

But there’s so much more below the surface in order for it to be effective in the long term, and in order for it to really bring in the clients you are hoping it will.

So there’s actually no design involved in these Brand Clarity VIP Days.

Essentially it’s a 3-ish hour Zoom call where we do a really deep dive into why you started your business, what your story is, what you do, and how it really changes the lives of your clients.

We’re trying to narrow down the vibe of your brand, and find that sweet spot where you are using it to attract your dream clients, but also be able to be yourself in your business!

Then, if clients choose to move forward with a full branding package, then they can apply the full value of the VIP day towards the purchase price if they book within a certain number of days.

It helps the client focus on the strategic portion first so they understand why the design is the way it is instead of picking a shade of pink because that’s what they like.

I definitely think this service could work well for web designers too!

If it was me, I might offer a website audit where you go through your client’s site and make really detailed notes about what can be laid out better, or what can be improved.

Then if they choose to have you do the redesign, you could offer that they use the entire value of that website audit towards the website design package.

Q: What are some other types of posts you’ve used to engage with people and entice them to book your design services?

I love sharing client work I’ve done! I’m just so excited about it! And in a way your Instagram profile becomes a mini portfolio!

I find that posts with my face in them usually get the most engagement [as opposed to stock photos or graphics].

But 100% I would say Instagram Stories!

Just showing up and either showing the back end of a project you’re working on (if your client is okay with that) and talking about why you do things the way you do, and talking about the parts of your process might be really unique to your business.

As an example, a lot of potential clients are worried that their site will take months to design and the project will drag on and on.

So I might get on there and talk about how having a firm start date and a firm end date as a web designer helps me stay creative throughout our project and it helps the client plan for other things, like when they’re going to launch, etc.


Q: Do you think your design skills are the #1 most important skill you’ve needed to succeed as a web designer? Is there another skill that is more important to have?

I think design skills are definitely up there, but it’s not the most important skill.

I think as a designer, you need to work on the strategy portion, and learn why things get laid out the way they do, and how you can make your designs more effective while also bringing that aesthetic value.

And I don’t know if this is a skill necessarily, but personal development is a big one!

Money mindset was the thing I constantly needed to work on as I grew the business. When I started out, even though I was charging peanuts, I used to feel like I was ripping people off because I enjoyed the work so much.

But working on my money mindset has allowed me to start charging more and see the value in the service, and draw firm boundaries about what I’m able to do and who I want to work with.

Q: How many hours do you currently work a week?

I’d say about five-ish hours every day, Monday through Thursday. Then I take Fridays off unless I’ve taken a day off during the week because I just didn’t feel like working!

So yeah, 20-ish hours a week.

If I want to take the dog out for a walk, or binge Seinfeld that day I just let myself do it because I’ve realized this is a big part of me being able to keep up the creative energy!

I’d definitely like to find a more structured way to do things eventually but for now I am just letting how I feel dictate things a little bit.

Q: How is your life different since taking the courses?

It is completely different.

It has made all the difference in the world for me!

Before starting the course I was in a 9-5 job. It wasn’t a job I hated…that needs to be said…but I was still looking for something creative. We spend so much time working, so I’ve always been a big believer in finding something you really enjoy doing and making a living out of that.

So if you’re thinking of taking the courses, by all means, jump into it!

There was a point where I was skeptical I would be able to make enough money…I just couldn’t in my head believe that I could do something I enjoyed so much and make the same amount (if not more) than I was already making at my full-time job.

It was a big mindset hurdle to get over, but my life is so different now! If I want to lay outside when it’s warm and do nothing but read a book in the middle of the day, or head to Starbucks and then window shop after that, I can!

I love the flexibility and being inspired by the clients that I work with every day!

I get to work with women that – no matter what business they’re running, whether they are a life coach or they’re selling earrings or whatever – I get to see that back end of their business and why they are passionate about what they do. And I get to be part of helping them set that up, which I just haven’t gotten in any other job.

I’m so grateful I was able to take the courses…it opened up so many opportunities and the possibility that I could do something that I really love, make a buttload of money, AND have so much purpose in my life!

Q: Can you share some encouraging words for new and aspiring designers?

When you’re just starting out or when you’re trying something new, it’s natural to want to emulate people that feel like they have it all, and try to take the exact same path they did.

But then when you’re not able to do it the same way, it can feel so frustrating.

Know that it’s different for everyone!

I would really encourage you to build your business around your lifestyle. Think about the lifestyle you want first and then build your business around, making all your decisions accordingly.

Build your business in a way that you get to show up as exactly yourself.

If there’s something that you don’t like doing, or everybody says “you have to do it this way” but it feels kind of off or it doesn’t fit for you, you don’t have to do it!

You can bring in the clients that you want to work with in so many different ways, so find a way that feels sustainable to you!

You just have to prioritize that as you grow your business.

Q: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about taking Square Secrets™️ or Square Secrets Business™️?

Oh do it!

100%.

If you’ve ever found any of Paige’s stuff online (blog, Youtube, podcast, etc.) you know that she does not hold back when she shares her knowledge.

She is super open, and makes things really easy to understand.

I have taken other courses where after taking it, you still feel a bit lot – especially if you’re starting from knowing nothing.

But both Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ are laid out in a really organized way. It’s really easy to understand and no point do you feel like you have a dumb question!

That’s just not a thing when you take one of Paige’s courses!

There was a lot of support! She’s always open to answering your questions [on the live Q&A calls] and it will give you a really solid foundation without making you feel like there is only one path to success and this is the only way you’re allowed to do it!


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