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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?

How Katelyn started offering VIP Days in her web design business

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

Did you have any design, development or coding experience?

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…

Then I went off to interior design school which I decided was not at all what I thought it looked like on HGTV.

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!

Q: What inspired you to take Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️?

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.

After six or so months of falling all over the internet, trying to figure out what [freelancing] even means these days…

(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!”

I started on Weebly, which was awful.

It looked like some guy in his mid 40’s and designed it.

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!

Psssst! Wanna Pin it for later?

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

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.

You just don’t know what you don’t know…so my designs got a lot more creative and less stale!

Q: What are the main ways you market your business and land clients today?

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…

“I haven’t been able to bring myself to tell her that there’s an actual curse word in it!”

-Katelyn Dekle, Launch The Damn Thing

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

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.

By June, I’d already matched what I would have made if I was still working my 9-5.

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!

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about these VIP days and what it’s like to charge day rates as a web designer?

I’m like ‘Mrs. Fix it,’ so I actually get more joy out of swooping in to save the day when there’s a problem to start with, than I do creating something from scratch. There’s just this immediate sense of calming!

I just had a VIP day with someone on Wednesday this week, and she said, “You’re like my fairy godmother.”

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.”

Since I’ve started doing more VIP Days, I have raised my prices! Then in August, I actually doubled them

And I’m booked through to mid-February!

(We had our little chat in November, so that’s 3 months out at the time of recording!)

Q: What’s your VIP Day process as a web designer?

How do you decide what you’ll work on in one day and how much you will promise to be able to deliver?

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.

I said, “I don’t know that we can do all of that in one day…but we’ll get as much done of that as possible!”

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.

And I charge $1,000 a day for it.

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!

Q: How has your marketing/messaging had to change in order to start letting people know you offered VIP Days in addition to your regular custom web design packages?

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”

My website copy used to say “Are you ‘should-ing’ all over yourself?”

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!”

Q: What does your workday as a web designer look like on these VIP days?

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.

When it ends, we do our final call and I ask if there are any last-minute changes they need made, reminding them softly that this is the end of our VIP day and I’m not available tomorrow!

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!

Q: Has your client contract needed to be changed at all to cover VIP days?

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.

So they pay up-front to hold the spot and I’m never worrying whether or not they are going to walk away with half of what I’ve done and not pay for it.

Q: How has your weekly routine changed now that you are offering VIP days and not just several week-long projects?

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!

Q: You recently joined us for the first found of The Scale With Content Strategy…what made you take the leap to join us for a 3rd course?

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.

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

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…

So for a while it was like “I’m a web designer” but then in the back of my head I’m like “but am I really??”

But it’s like what Ash Ambirge shares in her book, The Middle Finger Projectthe 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.

Q: Have you settled on a niche client? What do you do to attract that client?

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.

So it’s not an industry, it’s actually a personality!

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 wasn’t comfortable being the professional for myself. Like, I could do that for somebody else’s business, but for my business!

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.

And if a client can get past the fact that I have a curse word in my business name, that that’s the person that I want to work with!

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!

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

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!

So part of that is delivering a good experience because if they come to you and they feel overwhelmed, they’re gonna not leave you a good review or they’re gonna leave feeling like they didn’t get what they paid for.

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.

They weren’t coming specifically for the style of Katelyn Dekle!

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.

But they do come to me because I’m clearly very organized, I’ve made myself an authority in my field, and my customer service (I hear) is pretty great!

Q: What’s it like to be your own boss?

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.

I don’t want to do what I tell myself to do!

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!

When it comes to client work, I have zero problem delegating to myself.

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!

It’s not necessarily always fun, but the fact that I get to do what I want and when I want…like, if I go take a nap in the middle of the day, work until 6pm, then do some extra hours on Saturday morning or something, it’s totally okay!

Q: Any encouraging words you’d like to share with new and aspiring designers?

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!

You don’t have to be the best at anything. No one expects you to be like the top authority and Squarespace designer the first website you ever do.

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…

And when you’re doing your website, you can keep tweaking it and tweaking it…but that’s where all creativity goes to die!

Stop editing your website and just launch it! Just do it! Just start somewhere, because if you don’t, you never will!

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

Same advice. Just do it.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, the Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ are gonna dive into all the things that you didn’t even know that you needed to know!

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!

You’ll be a lot better off for considerably less money…backtracking and trial and error when you’re growing you business can be very expensive!

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$1K day rate as a web designer? How Katelyn started offering VIP days in her business