Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ Courses for Web Designers
There’s been quite a lot of buzz about VIP days and designer day rates lately, and you may be dying to know: ‘for those web designers who have tried offering them, how the process has gone??’
I mean, it legit sounds like the ultimate business model for freedom, some web designers charging more for an 8 hour day of work than many designers charge for several week long projects!
Sounds amazing, right? But you may be wondering….
How do you decide what all you’ll tackle in that one day?
How do you communicate expectations to the client so you aren’t promising more than you can deliver?
How far in advance are most designers booking these one-off VIP days, and how are they changing their marketing to attract this VIP type of client, rather than their usual custom web design client?
So imagine how tickled I was to learn that talented past student Katelyn Dekle of Launch The Damn Thing had started offering VIP Days in her own business!
Annnd that during a recent Zoom chat with our team, she just happened to spill the beans on what it’s like to design for a day rate?
So stick around to hear the story of how she started her web design business, and how she’s introducing this new service!
But first, why not peep some of Katelyn’s gorgeous recent work?
I was actually a receptionist at my (now) Father-In-Law’s medical practice at the time. I was going to school but I had no idea what that was going to look like! So I did that for about a year…
So that took a semester…then I sat down with my advisor and was like, “This is not what thought it was going to be. I don’t want to know building codes!”
And she was like, “Well, what do you do for fun?”
And I said, “Well, oddly, I used to play on my computer and Publisher all the time…”
She was like, “Oh! Well, you need to be a graphic designer!”
So that’s been the last 14-15 years, and my background is in print design.
But then my day job needed a website! I decided to try my hand at that and I’ve been all about websites ever since!
Well, in 2015, I had been at my 9-5 since early 2012, and it was slowly becoming a really toxic work environment.
I was starting to feel the need to have a real creative outlet, so I started freelancing on the side.
(I mean, I created an Etsy shop with pre-made stuff that *one* person purchased, a Facebook page, and all that.)
…I decided “okay, I need to make myself a website!”
It didn’t represent me or my style, and I had no idea what I was doing.
I accidentally stumbled on Squarespace as a platform, then when I heard about Paige’s courses, I was like, “I need to know more about this!”
Because this was going to be the avenue I used to not only build my website but the one at my office too!
And eventually (very quickly) I decided it could become client-worthy! Family members of mine also had WordPress websites that they hated, so I was just starting to see dollar signs!
I think my first website I actually did before I took the course, then after that, it started to get a lot better!
Like, the before and after was just more creative and ‘out of the box.’
The backgrounds were more interesting, and the color palettes…I was learning the platform and its capabilities better too, so that was a big thing.
I blog consistently!
When I first started, it seemed uber scary, especially when I was back on Weebly…I had the mentality that I had to be writing this legit college paper. I was used to doing APA or MLA style writing…but then I was like “who is reading these things??”
So I did one every other week for like a year or two. Then, when I got comfortable with that, I moved into publishing once a week.
This year, I started blogging twice a week, but then I got so busy, I just scaled back to once a week again.
I’m also in Facebook groups all the time! That’s just me generally being helpful, and only really pointing to a blog post of mine when I feel it’s actually relevant.
I’m on Instagram a lot but it’s mostly for fun…I’m not strategic on there at all! But Reels (oddly, for an introvert) kind of became an outlet for me!
Fun fact: Katelyn actually had a Reel go viral! 800,000 views! Here’s the story behind it.
It was like a five-second thing, and that was going viral at the time that said “I don’t know what you heard about me.”
The caption on the video said this is me to my Mother-In-Law because she’s, like, the sweetest, most innocent person on the planet and she does not know what my legal business name is…
-Katelyn Dekle, Launch The Damn Thing
Yes, I had a very specific goal!
I freelanced from 2015-2020. And then—like I shared in my recent guest post on Paige’s blog—I got furloughed, so my immediate need what to replace my 9-5 income.
(You can find Katelyn’s guest post here: Dear web designer…playing it safe is keeping you from your dream life & business)
So I worked really, really hard for those first six months, and it started paying off in January.
Then January-March, I got really, really busy and I got a design retainer client!
Then we moved across the country, so I put everything on pause for a few weeks. When I got back here, the first thing I did was put my office together and get back to work.
It was a meager amount that I was making [at my day job], which is part of why I was so miserable…
But the fact that I’ve been able to replace that, and then some already? I only see growth going forward from there!
But yeah, my prices did change. That was part of it. And I started doing more VIP days!
So there’s this sense of relief when I can come in and fix all these problems for these people.
It’s much more rewarding for me! If you go in and start a website from scratch, there’s really nothing to fix other than they just need a website. And that’s, that’s great. The reaction is so good.
But it doesn’t feel as rewarding to me as when there’s already a problem and I can come in and say “I got it under control. Give it all to me. I can fix it all for you.”
(We had our little chat in November, so that’s 3 months out at the time of recording!)
So I’ll just use my last VIP Day client as an example…
She is a real estate agent for Sotheby’s, and she had built her own website.
But she was at this point where she was kind of stumbling around with “how do I do this? I can’t remember where this setting is…how do I do testimonials? Where do I upload pictures of my sold homes?’
She’s super detail-oriented, but she also dove into this thing headfirst and now has mounds of things falling on her.
So she emailed me a list of things, like kind of a punch list that she wanted to tackle.
So what I do is I take that and put it in the proposal in the contract…
So I have a scope of work specifically from her (her punch-list), and I say we will do as much of this as humanly possible in eight hours because I’m not gonna work from sunup to sundown.
She didn’t even blink! She was just like, “I don’t care what it costs, just help me fix it.”
So we do a kickoff call in the morning…it’s an hour-ish where we go through everything to make sure we’re on the same page.
If she needs to subtract or add anything, I can put it on the list, and we can tackle it if we have the time.
Then we meet back again later that day, around 4:00 PM and walk through all the changes that were made, and see if she needs any edits.
Then I send the deliverables the next morning—anything that I created during the day—and she gets all the updated stuff!
This same client specifically mentioned “I can’t believe that you got through all of that in 6 hours” (because at that point, it wasn’t quite end of day and there was still a bit of time left where we could have done more.)
But she was like “The stuff you did today would have taken me 50 hours!”
So there’s a huge need [for day rates].
Some people like to take the DIY path, but they need a design audit or a mini SEO audit, or they don’t know how to use their website headers, or that they need to be renaming their images. I mean, the thing is a mess!
She actually already came back for a second VIP Day and we have our third one in a week or so!
I started basically making fun of it!
I put some wording in the pre-footer of my site that was like: “I’m weird. I really prefer to fix your shit. So if you’re having a problem, this is a service I can provide”
Like, “I should have a website, I should fix my whatever…”
So I was like “If you’re should-ing all over yourself, then you need to let me step in and take over and get it done!”
So, Wednesday I got up and got ready because I knew I would have at least two calls with her that day…
I try to keep it to just two, if possible, although this one day we did three, we did one in the morning, in the afternoon and another one before we clocked out.
I usually start work depending on their time zone. This client was in Pacific time, so it ended up being about 9-6 [my time.]
So it’s just kind of going through the list and leaving time for the actual meeting to have her approve what I’m doing.
Then there’s a little bit of training because this client is very DIY.
I’m happy to make more changes, but it’s just not built into this eight-hour period.
So they’re more than welcome to book half a day, if they need just a couple extra things. Or they can book another full day.
The cool thing about VIP Days though, is that because it’s only one day, I can basically work that into my schedule at any time.
I don’t need to say, “oh, sorry, I don’t have any room until February!”
I can be like “actually, I can squeeze that in next Thursday!” which makes them so happy!
Yes, but not terribly!
I used the Creative Law Shop’s Web Design Agreement (10% off with code PAIGE10) but I just changed the scope of work to be very specific to the types of things that the client needed.
So usually I just copy and paste their punch list if I can. Then the specified date is not just the date, but also the time we will start and stop.
Payment is all upfront…given the fast-paced nature of how VIP days work, they can’t really do a payment plan.
It hasn’t changed all that drastically, because I don’t work in solid two-week blocks…it depends on the client.
I’ll have a two-week project, then maybe a small shop that is a three to four week project, then maybe another two week website refresh.
Those projects are pretty structured because they are such a short timeframe. So we do a Monday kickoff, and then Friday or the next Monday would be the initial design draft walkthrough. Then by the following Friday, we’ve launched (which is part of the Square Secrets Business™️ course!)
So VIP days get squeezed in between that. Mondays and Fridays are off limits for VIP Days because I’m doing other meetings, or doing other things, so that really just leaves Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for VIP Days.
I’m actually also doing a bit of contract work on the side with another designer in the UK. She sends a mockup of the design, and then I just build it out [on the platform].
I offer a slightly different rate [than my VIP Day] with her because of the exchange rate, and also the fact that I don’t have to think, just execute.
I don’t have any contact whatsoever with her client, and all the images, all the logos, everything is ready…I just plug it in and do it for her.
It’s really nice to have that sometimes…you don’t have to think like, “is this red color too angry?” Somebody else has already figured that out for you!
First of all, ‘Content’…and second, ‘Strategy!’
Those are the two reasons that I wanted to do that! I knew that I was being consistent [with blogging] and I had content but I didn’t know how to apply it in different places and how to make it go further!
I wasn’t being super strategic about creating content. It was just kind of like “what’s my idea this week? Oh, I need to post that today, so it’s going to be xyz!”
My email list loves my emails, so I mean, it’s working…but it’s just not very strategic. So that was the main draw and why wanted to enroll in The Scale With Content Strategy.
Definitely, I have! Especially switching industries within design. From 2006-2020 my main income came from print design, but then on the side, I started calling myself a web designer.
I didn’t want anyone at my work to know…
But then it came time to start calling myself out because I wasn’t doing the print anymore…
But it’s like what Ash Ambirge shares in her book, The Middle Finger Project…the more often you do something, the harder it is to find an argument that you’re not doing the thing you say you’re doing…because you’re doing the thing!
So it just kind of settled in, and now I’m pretty comfortable with that title.
I don’t think I’ve niched in the same way that most other designers have.
Most people are focused on an industry, but I’ve worked with hair salons, musicians bands, (v.s. solo musicians or duo musicians), a brewery (that was a really fun project!), a small home-based business selling this product I’d never heard of, the real estate lady…
I mean, they’re all over the place! There’s nothing consistent.
When first told my mom and I was changing my business name, I was like, “I’m gonna call it ‘Launch The Damn Thing.” Well, both of my parents are in are in worship. Like, my Dad’s an ordained Baptist minister, so…
But I just felt that’s what I had to call it! Because the old names, the old vibes, the old serious method…that was not working for me!
It felt misaligned!
I’m light-hearted and a little goofy, I like to laugh, and I’m sarcastic. I like dry humor.
So when I decided I needed to niche, there wasn’t a specific industry that was pulling my heartstrings, I just wanted to work with a specific type of personality.
There’s a totally different vibe between working with, like, and small brewery in my family’s hometown vs. working with [my client] who teaches staff to be crew on superyachts.
That’s wildly different, but their personalities make them both really good clients for me.
And that’s all I really care about!
If there’s an industry that I’m not comfortable marketing, like creating a strategy for [a specific industry] then I’ll say: “full disclosure, I’ve never made a political website before, and I don’t know if I can get you to your goal…”
But for most industries, it doesn’t really matter, because the strategy is the same. You want to direct their clients and customers through their website in a certain way…
You want to have call-to-actions, etc. And their copy usually sucks…and I’m not a copywriter, but I recognize bad copy when I see it!
No, I don’t think it’s the most important!
I mean, obviously, if you call yourself a designer, you need to have some design skill level…
But most importantly, you need to be able to organize your yourself and the client because they’re going to send you a lot of stuff and they’re not going to know what to do with any of it!
They’re not going to know which thing to tackle first, and they’re going to feel overwhelmed!
You really have to be good at reading people and adapting to what they need because it is a little different from client to client.
Maybe it’s not your design they came for, but it’s your personality! That happens to me a lot, specifically because my style is pretty adaptable. I spent 15 years designing print for other people, and I didn’t have a choice.
So my web design clients don’t necessarily come to me because they want my design style, because it’s drastically different for every brand.
That’s a good question.
It is fun for a while until you sit down at your desk every day for eight hours plus a day and you realize you’re not actually getting anything done!
I had a group coaching session recently [where I shared] that I love the idea of time-blocking, but I’m terrible at the follow-through.
And [the coach] was like:” “the problem is is that you’re both the employer AND the employee! And you have to be able to do both!
Right now, you’re only the employer, you’re telling yourself what to do…but then when it’s time to be in the employee, you’re like, “I don’t really feel like doing that! I’m gonna go do this other thing, because it seems like more fun!”
And oddly enough, this is only a problem with my own stuff!
But if I have my own blog post coming up on Friday, somehow Thursday rolls around, and I’m still writing the thing!
It’s awesome because I get to decide…but that’s also sometimes part of the problem!
It’s a weird place to be in because if you don’t do it, you’re not going to get any traction…but then it’s always easier to do something when you ARE seeing traction!
The biggest thing is just to do it!
The thing I come across most frequently is [business owners] who are like, “I’ve been sitting on this idea. I’m too afraid to take action. I don’t know what to do. Who am I to do this?”
I get it! But none of that matters! You’ll never know unless you try!
Like, that’s not a thing.
I tend to have OCD tendencies myself. I’m a perfectionist. I like the remotes to be in a certain pattern on the Ottoman in the living room…
Stop editing your website and just launch it! Just do it! Just start somewhere, because if you don’t, you never will!
Same advice. Just do it.
Paige interviews all these guests experts…and you haven’t started yet so you can kind of like live through their experiences and how they answered questions that you didn’t even know to be asking!