We Went All In On Coaching Web Design Businesses And Are Now Making $42K/Month [Update]

Published: May 16th, 2023
Shannon Mattern
Web Designer Academy
from Columbus, Ohio, USA
started January 2015
alexa rank
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
business model
best tools
Instagram, Zapier, Ahrefs
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
9 Tips
Discover what tools Shannon recommends to grow your business!
web hosting
stock images
Discover what books Shannon recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hey there! I’m Shannon Mattern, founder of the Web Designer Academy, where I help web designers create profitable, sustainable, and scalable web design businesses. You can read my original starter story here!

I started teaching nearly 20,000 people how to DIY their websites and market themselves online. Over time, tons of web designers would naturally sign up for my courses because they wanted to see how to build websites that convert, monetize their services beyond 1:1 web design, and market themselves in an algorithm-proof way.

Using my experience growing a web design business, I started to help these other web designers stop undercharging and overdelivering to create a profitable, sustainable web design business. That’s how the Web Designer Academy was born!

When I first shared my story here on Starter Story, I was making a consistent $10,000 per month, and when I last shared in April of 2021, I was up to $30,000 per month. I now say I’m into $42,000 monthly and have hired two employees to help run my business!

You can learn more about what I do and the strategies I teach, including behind-the-scenes information, on my new podcast, Profitable Web Designer!


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

2021 was my biggest year in business yet, generating nearly half a million dollars in revenue (read the income report and breakdown here), and I wrapped the end of that year with 20 new students entering the Web Designer Academy and quite a few opting into the Next Level Mastermind for year two students to continue.

I also decided to end my podcast, Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, at the beginning of 2022, after four years and 376 episodes.

In 2022, my business shifted in a BIG way. I hired two new employees - a Client Success Coordinator and an Operations and Marketing Coordinator - to help me run my business, keep me in my zone of genius (and call me on my mind trash!).

Get a second opinion from someone you trust with business advice when you aren’t sure if you’re making the right call.

They currently work to support my students in Web Designer Academy and run the behind-the-scenes administrative duties that keep the whole show running smoothly.

We also boldly decided to shut down the DIY part of my business - the part that started in 2015 when I was trying to replace the income from my day job so I could quit and run my own business.

After eight years of helping others build their websites and market themselves, I’m focusing on running the part of the business that lights me up: coaching and mentoring web designers.

I mentioned that I decided to end my previous podcast at the beginning of 2022, but my heart felt called to return to the microphone in the latter half of the year. I stopped podcasting because I thought I had shared all the information I could and that part of my business was taking a step back to focus on the Web Designer Academy.

So I launched the Profitable Web Designer podcast to get back to teaching the strategies and mindset to my core group of ideal clients - web designers. I’ve had a great response and can’t wait to continue growing this avenue.

This year, I took over the Simply Profitable Designer Summit, a popular event hosted every March by a good friend. I had experience running a summit of my own before, but taking this on meant introducing nearly 10,000 people to my ecosystem and nurturing the relationship they had grown with the discussion over the past six years.

While I know my team and I have identified opportunities to work on for next year’s event, it overall was a success. It got so many more eyes on the Web Designer Academy and allowed me to collaborate with many others in a similar space!

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

I shared these two on the Profitable Web Designer podcast, but two significant changes happened in 2022 that caused me to get in my way:

  1. My husband lost his job. He had a steady career and was given plenty of notice that his position would be ending, but I still heaped pressure on myself to make ALL the money to replace his income even though he had no desire to stop working.
  2. I hired two employees and put tremendous pressure on myself to generate more revenue to ensure I could pay their (and my) salaries and remain profitable.

I didn’t acknowledge these two events impacted my decisions and mindset until around the beginning of this year. I recognized that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted or knew were possible for the business, but I had difficulty identifying exactly what was causing the issue.

Looking back, I saw that I was trying too hard to control every little thing because so much was out of my control. This resulted in completely redoing my branding, websites, and DIY services in just under a month - crazy, right?

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

The biggest lesson I learned this past year was to stay invested in my personal and professional growth. I decided to invest in a coach a few years ago. Towards the middle of 2022, I realized I was no longer getting what I needed from it (hence my above need to completely revamp my entire business in a month instead of digging into the why behind my feelings).

I have since started working with another coach, helping me work through my mind trash - a term my friend gave me for all the things that come up and hold you back when you push yourself. Having a coach or mentor is essential, but having the right mentor is invaluable.

I’ve also learned that I don’t have to do everything all the time. I hired a great team to support me where I needed it most so that I could focus on creating and teaching my students, and I’m finally getting used to delegating things to them to protect my mindset and keep the business running smoothly.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year and the next five years?

This year we’re super excited to get back to the heart of the business - coaching and mentoring web designers to create a sustainable income through the strategies I teach in the Web Designer Academy.

As I mentioned above, we shut down the DIY side of the business to go all in on the coaching program, and we could not be more excited! The plan is to continue testing and implementing the strategies we’ve developed to scale and optimize our business through the rest of the year and have our most significant impact.

As for the next five years, who knows? I envision a multi-million dollar business with several more team members serving a way bigger audience on a much higher level. And I’ll have fully stepped into the CEO role to create that company culture I’d always wished I’d had at my corporate jobs before when I decided to start my side hustle and quit my day job.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find out why someone decided not to work with you. Invest in a mentor to help you work through your mind trash. Get a second opinion from someone you trust with business advice when you aren’t sure if you’re making the right call. You don’t know everything; digging in will help you grow and evolve.
  2. Frame your work around the value you provide. What kind of ROI will a client get from working with you? How much time will you save them? These value-centered conversations not only position you as an expert but also help the client see your prices in a way that affects their end result.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Shannon Mattern, Founder of Web Designer Academy
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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