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Cultivating Community, Creating Safe Spaces, and Client Retention with Shannon Mattern

Today, I am so excited to be sitting down with Shannon Mattern, the founder of Web Designer Academy and host of the Profitable Web Designer podcast. We’re having a candid conversation about cultivating community, creating safer spaces for clients and team members, and how client retention has a place in your program right alongside new enrollments.

Erica Nash 0:05

Welcome to Next Level Course Creator. My name is Erica. And this is a podcast about creating premium online programs that participants never want to leave. If you want a program that serves the whole person, satisfies participant needs, and creates brand ambassadors who tell all their friends about how awesome you are, this is for you. Listen, and as we go beyond conversion numbers, sold out launches and five figure months to get to the heart of the matter ... taking care of the people who have already said YES. Let's go.

Shannon, we are finally here. I feel like it's a long time coming.

Shannon Mattern 0:48

I am so excited for this.

Erica Nash 0:51

I'm sitting here with Shannon Mattern. She is founder and CEO of Web Designer Academy, and all around incredible human. Shannon, thank you so much for saying yes and hanging out with me today. We're gonna be talking about some really good stuff.

Shannon Mattern 1:07

Thank you so much for inviting me to have this conversation. I'm very excited about it.

Erica Nash 1:13

For sure. So before we dive in, for anybody that's not familiar with who you are, just tell us a little bit about who you are what you do your program, all of that stuff.

Shannon Mattern 1:23

Yeah, so I used to be a freelance web designer, and in my journey of growing my business, and, you know, just like transforming from employee to entrepreneur, I started mentoring other web designers along the way on their pricing and their mindset and boundaries, and really just helping them see like, what's possible for them when they own their own business and are in control of their time. And I became really, really passionate about helping web designers create profitable and sustainable web design businesses. And so back in 2016, I started with a very small ... We called it the Group Coaching Program. I think there were about six web designers that I was mentoring at that time. And you know, over the past six years, that's transformed into the Web Designer Academy. We've helped hundreds of women at this point grow profitable and sustainable web design businesses and it's been, it's been a long journey. And I've learned a lot along the way. But I finally feel like I'm at a place where, like, everything is very aligned. And yeah, my mission and my vision is very clear. And it's a great place to be.

Erica Nash 2:55

I'm so excited to talk about all of the growth that you've made. So in the spirit of full transparency, I want to start off a conversation by letting the audience know that I'm a curriculum designer, but I'm also a part of Team WDA. And so I help Shannon in her program. So we work together in a few different capacities. So that will probably be evident throughout this episode. I see that coming through quite a bit.

So I joined WDA as a student in March of 2021. And one of the things that struck me immediately was the community. It was nothing short of just like genuine, hilarious, kind people. And now that I'm on the team, I see that but with a different perspective. And the whole time, it's been like, wow, like, how did I hit this jackpot, like getting to be in the room with these incredible people, like they are just all so amazing. And so I know that I might be a little biased, that, you know, being on the team, like I'm always telling people like this, this Facebook group is the best place to be on the internet, because I genuinely believe like, there's really something special about it. And so how did you cultivate that? Obviously, this is, you know, it like changed over time, you had six when you first began and now we've got way more than that. So how have you cultivated this community that is just like so kind and accepting and helpful and just really genuine?

Shannon Mattern 4:21

I wish I could take credit for that. I really wish I could. And I will take credit for ... what I will take credit for this part of it ... I was very adamant that like any kind of any kind of collective community that would be created in any of my programs, Web Designer Academy included, that--and I've said this from the beginning--there are no stupid questions. Your questions are a gift to everybody else; you shouldn't already know. And because we set that expectation upfront that like, this truly is your place to be fully transparent, to ask for support to be vulnerable. And that the expectation also is that bad behavior, I guess, for lack of a better term is like literal is not tolerated, that people really have felt safe to be able to ask questions and be vulnerable. And I think when you feel ... when ... me personally, and I think, just people in general, when they feel like they can be vulnerable, people are like, connected in a different way. You know, there's trust that gets built, there's camaraderie that gets built, there's community that gets built. And that is what I can take credit for in terms of like, you know, very upfront saying, there are no stupid questions. If you feel like, I always say, like, if you feel like, you shouldn't ask, that's a sign that you probably should. And this is the place to do that. And I commit to not tolerating anything less than, like, people treating you with respect. And so I think that, that environment allows people to show up and be themselves and be vulnerable and be authentic, and connections that I never, ever even expected, like happen as a result of that. That's what I will take credit for, but not the amazing humans that have found their way to us, that's just, I don't know, that's just like magical.

Erica Nash 6:44

It really is magical. And I will say too, you know, and I love that you talked about, these upfront expectations, and just how like, this is just how it is, and this is how it's going to be and this is who we are. And I think just the right people are attracted to that. And the people that aren't, you know, wouldn't probably get what they needed out of the community anyway. And so then they move on to find whatever else, whatever they need elsewhere. But I think it also speaks to like, you know, people, people took you at your word, they, you know, you told them, This is how it is, and then, and they believed you. And so I think that speaks really highly of you, and just how you conduct yourself in the community in general. And, you know, I see all the time that you're vulnerable with them. And so that creates that reciprocity for them to be able to feel comfortable being vulnerable with you, too, which I think is really beautiful.

Shannon Mattern 7:41

It's really hard to run a business acting like you're perfect all the time. Like, it's just, oh my gosh, and so like I, one of the things that made it easier for me to market my business and made it easier for me, to invite people to work with me, was just to be, like, fully transparent about my journey and what's going on and the fears and the vulnerabilities that I've had. And like, honestly, since, like I ended a podcast where I did like these monthly income reports, and I ended it in February of 2022. And, you know, it's it's nine months after that, and I really miss that like outlet of vulnerable sharing about like, what's going on because, like, what's going on behind the scenes of the business? Because it's not ... because every business owner goes through it, regardless of what what industry you're in, those things happen. And I think maybe that's why people believed me enough to decide that they want to be part of my program, because they're like, oh, like she's sharing everything, not just the highlights.

Erica Nash 8:57

Yeah no, I think that that probably would play into it you know, we see enough fake stuff online. So it's really refreshing to see someone share stuff like that. So yeah, that's a great, that's a great point.

So one of the beautiful things about the community that you've established, and the program that you've built is how human centered it is. So it really is people looking out for other people. So the program is a year long, not because it necessarily takes that long to complete the curriculum, but because you offer so much support to implement it. And sometimes that brings up really heavy mental and emotional stuff. So how has WDA evolved over the years as you've learned more about trauma, trauma informed practices, and honoring your students past experiences?

Shannon Mattern 9:44

Let me just say that I am still constantly learning about how to create an environment that is supportive and also takes into account that like in the 12 months container that you will be working with us, a lot of life is going to happen to you. And also a lot of the things that we do inside of our program, you know, when you're building a business, it's a very, like, challenging, vulnerable place to be, and it can press on insecurities, or fears or things that like people didn't even know that they have. One of the things that I think, you know, and navigating all of this as like, as much as we talk about community and setting the standard, and setting the expectation like that this is a safe place for you to be vulnerable. Not everybody feels comfortable, being vulnerable in front of other people. And so we have lots of different avenues, like for people to ask for support. And that's one of the things where it's like, yeah, we have this Facebook community that's public, we have these live strategy calls that are public, we have, you can submit, work for review, which is private, but we also say like, Hey, if there's something you don't feel comfortable sharing publicly, you can use one of these private channels to ask our team for support. And we have had people use us that because it's like, yes, every question is a gift.

And yes, every question can help someone else. But like, you might not be in a place where you feel any kind of comfort in sharing that. So I am always, I'm always navigating what it looks like to create a safe environment, I think like, I've learned to like, ask for feedback before making changes. I've gotten feedback about things that I've done, or changes that I've made that has like, created challenges for people. And I'm, like, always learning to like, what can I take from this? What can I learn from this? How can I grow? What other experts can I bring in to help me? Like, you know, working with Dr. Lee Cordell, and the Institute for Trauma and Psychological Safety that she founded, and I'm so grateful to, like, know her in person, and to learn about, you know, how people react in different situations. And not to assume that like, because maybe someone withdrew from participating in our program that like, oh, well, that's on them. Like, that could be a trauma response for them to not show up to live things. Like there's so many things that I'm constantly learning. I don't have it all figured out by any stretch. However, it's like important to me to like be aware of it and constantly learn. So I don't know if that answered your question, but ...

Erica Nash 12:55

No, definitely. I do want to clarify really quickly, for anybody who's listening, whenever she's talking about public, the public Facebook group and the public feedback ... that's public for the community not public for like anyone in general, so it is somewhat private ish, just not, not from our community.

Shannon Mattern 13:14

Well, sure, but it's also recorded, right? So it's like, you know, if you're on a live strategy call, and you're asking a sensitive question that's recorded, that's put in a replay for other people to hear like, and some, you know, sometimes people don't even know what would be holding them back from asking a question until they can just do it privately. I guess it's like, I can't expect everyone to like be be, like, cool with certain ways of communicating, like the same ones that I am, you know, or in the same ways if we really want people to get what they came for?

Erica Nash 13:50

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there would be people we would never hear from.

Shannon Mattern 13:54


Erica Nash 13:54

Yeah. So I love that you look at feedback as this, you know, how can I grow? What can I learn from this and, you know, continue to make this better? And talking about bringing in people and seeking outside help, because that's a lot to carry on your own. No one ... No one needs to ... no one needs to do that. Nobody needs to carry all of that on their own. And you're talking about Dr. Lee, I'm currently going through the Trauma Informed Coach course. And oh, my goodness, it is so good. So I'm plugging her right now, if you are not familiar with Lee Cordell, you need to be. If you're running a program, she's got great resources on trauma informed practices.

And you know, I think it just comes down to the fact that like, humans are just so complex. And like you said, like over that 12 month span, so much life is going to happen and so many things are going to change. And it's not just going to change for them. It's going to like change for you too, right? And so, you know, thinking about that, that can be really overwhelming.

Shannon Mattern 15:00

People tell us some heavy stuff, you know, like when the you know, like with what they're going through in life. And I was just thinking about this, like with the type of program we run and how how connected we are to our students and like--they can be as connected to us or as you know, as I don't want to say disconnected--but like, we really allow them to choose, like how closely they want to work with us. And they can get results either way. And we hear the things that happen in life. And I think like one of the things for me, it's like important for me to like be able to emotionally navigate that. With Erica being on the team, it's important for me to support Erica to be able to emotionally navigate the things that our students are going through. And it's different. If it's like, if you're selling courses to sell courses and you're not like interacting with the people, as they are like going through what you're teaching them ... I guess what I'm saying is, like, we see every person as a person, you know, going through our program, and every person is going to bring a different background and different challenges.

And I can't make every person's background and challenges mean, like I have had a tendency to do in the past, that I'm doing something wrong, or that I need to change something about our program, or that I need to, like add this new thing or that like I'm not good enough and make all of these changes. I really do have to like, step back and take a look at any feedback that I'm being given and really try to kind of, not be analytical and objective and detached, but like kind of put up that wall of like, okay, if I'm not going to make this mean something about me, what can I take from this to help this person succeed? Because there's something in here for me to know, that's going to help them succeed. And it's not like, Oh, my programs wrong, I have to fix something. If this is some data I'm being given that would put me on the path to explore and do some research and find out if I really do need to, or whatever. But it's like, I can't make feedback personal in the way that I'm making it mean that like, I'm a bad person or something like that. I can take it personal in the terms of like, I'm taking this seriously. And there's something to learn here. And there's an analysis that needs to be done, because I want to ensure that I'm not causing harm. And if I have caused harm, how can I engage with this person to address that, but I'm not going to like make it mean that I have to let that I'm like a wrong or bad person. Because I know my intentions were always coming from like a good place.

Erica Nash 18:01

And that's like a constant challenge, right? Like reminding yourself that it's like, this is something you've put your heart and your soul into, like any sort of creative work--which this is creative work--and so you've put yourself into it. So it's hard when people give you feedback that isn't always positive, whether or not it's coming from a place of their own triggers or something that really does need to change. And so that would ... that requires constant vigilance to to be, you know, passionately detached, maybe? Not necessarily detached from the situation, but detached from making it meaning something about yourself, when in fact, it's just information.

Shannon Mattern 18:42

Well, yeah, and it's like, and being accepting of the fact that like, I pushed the button, like, I pulled the trigger, like, even if they were triggered have something of their own, like something that like, is tangentially related, like I did, I took some action, whatever that was, that pushed a button or pulled a trigger or whatever. So like, I have to accept that like number one. Because if I don't accept that, then like, how could I even be open to like, even even even doing that so like when I say like, Oh, someone's you know, triggered because of something that doesn't really have to do anything with me as a core human. I'm still accepting the fact that I took an action that created created a reaction and and I, I get to look at that.

Erica Nash 19:34

Yeah. And I think that comes back to just the whole like, it's really about people taking care of people ... like your whole program. Like that's the basis of it, people taking care of people, and it just creates an environment where it's okay to not be okay, sometimes.

Shannon Mattern 19:50

Yeah, it is.

Erica Nash 19:52


Shannon Mattern 19:53

The same thing that like we have to help our, our students like navigate with their clients too.

Erica Nash 20:00


Shannon Mattern 20:00

You know? And I think that that's it's part of business when people are interacting with people in any kind of business. It's, it's, it's just part of it.

Erica Nash 20:12

Triggers layered on triggers. Yeah. So that kind of sort of brings me into my next question. One of our favorite things to talk about is client retention. So a satisfactory client retention rate usually means one of two things, right? Like, you're either or maybe both taking care of your people, and or they're learning what they need to learn and want to learn more. And they're like, I'm gonna stay because this has worked for me, and I love this person, and I will do anything they tell me to do now usually is kind of how it works. Right? So what strategies or factors do you believe contribute the most to student retention in the WDA?

Shannon Mattern 20:53

You know, like, I think, what I think there's multi ... that there's a lot of facets to this. But I think getting people to just really buy into themselves and believe in themselves, like, you know, I always hear about like, programs need to give quick wins. And that, like a quick win, always kind of like, I don't know, to me, I'm like, a quick win is not like, I don't know, wins aren't necessarily quick, in my mind. So like, I'm not saying that that's not a thing. But I'm like ...a really tangible, amazing win for me is when someone can come into our program and maybe they didn't think that they were like, maybe they thought they were an imposter. Or maybe they didn't think that they really had anything to offer, maybe they didn't understand how they were unique or different or special. And if I can get them seeing the way seeing themselves the way like, we see them as team at Team WDA when we like see their application, and invite us to work with them and get on an orientation call. And we just can like see that like specialness, like bubbling within them, when we get them to see it like it's on.

Like, that's the piece to me, that is like, like, part of our retention is getting them sold on themselves. Because once they're sold on themselves, then they're open to like trusting us in terms of like, here are some uncomfortable strategies that we are going to ask you ... we're going to ask you to do some things that are outside of your comfort zone. But you believe in yourself, and you trust us and those I don't ... like ... And I want to, like I want our students to grow with us. And I want them to, you know, like, evolve with us beyond what we teach them in their in our first year and their second year in their third year. And I want them to like stay in the community keep contributing. But if they leave with a belief in themselves, and the willingness to do the uncomfortable things to grow their business, like, I feel like we have we have won, like that is a huge win in my book. And so I think it's it's the, the quick win isn't necessarily like external, I think it's like an internal shift. And that helping someone believe that what they really want as possible. Like that is ... that's a huge part of retention in my mind.

Erica Nash 23:34

I want to go back to the to the quick win, I honestly think like our quick win in WDA is like the welcome that they get when they join the group. Like because that's, that's what people want, right is to feel accepted, and where they belong. And so when they join the community, and it's like, you know, hey, we're so excited you're here, here's a post specifically for you ... I love that you have already established like that it's every person gets one post to themselves. It's not like a dump of like people or whatever. And, and then people from the community jump in and they're like, oh my gosh, we're so glad you're here. And I think that that is ... I think that's a quick win for sure. And really just sets the tone for the rest of of their time in the community.

Shannon Mattern 24:22

I think that that's one of those things where like, I cannot take credit for, I can take credit for like making the post and welcoming people. But like, our community just automatically is like, we're so excited to meet you. You're in the right place. Like, you know, everybody just jumps in and and that always just happened like organically and it's it's so beautiful to watch and I and I agree with you. I think it's it is a quick win because it's like, I just made a significant commitment to be here. You know, I made a significant investment to be here. And I don't really know what like, I'm nervous, and I don't really know exactly what to expect. And then the first thing you get is like, all of these people telling you like you're in the right place, and they're excited to meet you like, yeah, that's like, step one of like, oh, I made a good decision. I can trust myself. You know?

Erica Nash 25:24

Yeah. Yeah. Everybody really just welcomes everyone else with open arms. It's just so genuine. It's not at all like, that's not just something that they're like, Oh, hi, we're glad you're here. Flat and fake. It's like, really, really genuine. So yeah, no, that's, I'm telling you, they're just the coolest people.

Shannon Mattern 25:43


Erica Nash 25:44

So on the topic of retention, what options do your students have when it comes to the end of their 12 months in WDA? And how did you determine those to be the right options for this program?

Shannon Mattern 25:57

So just a little bit of like backstory, like before, our program was a 12 month program, this was just like a self paced lifetime access course that you could like, buy the curriculum and have a weekly call. And like, and that was it. And then we decided to like to transform that to be able to provide, like more support. And the biggest thing that we added on was like the ability for people to like submit work for review and get feedback and like all of these different things. And then with that, came the 12 month container. So it's like your, your your enrollment is access to the 12 months. And so we get, like, I wasn't thinking beyond the 12 months, like when we first did the 12 months, because I was just like, well, they're like, logistically, there has to be an end like this can't this is not sustainable as lifetime access anymore. So the 12 month container decision. When I made it was like an internal business decision that really wasn't even looking at the client experience in that way, so it was like an internally focused, like, kind of short sighted business decision to go to 12 months, because it was like, Oh, well, I cannot like sustain providing support beyond 12 months if people have only paid, you know, for 12 months.

So we were coming up on, you know, after we made this transition in 2020, to this 12 month container, or like coming up on the end of 12 months. And I was just like, was it 2020 or 2021? I don't remember the exact dates, but I'm like, oh, like, I could invite people to stay for another year. There's like no, no reason why they can't continue on. But in my mind, it was like, Oh, well, you've gone through the curriculum for 12 months. And you've been implementing and all this stuff. And so the next, the next phase of this is to, to what we called it Next Level. So that was my vision was, you know, year two Next Level, you are now ready to like, kind of take things kick things up a notch, maybe raise your prices, or build a team or use some more sophisticated like sales strategies. And so that was the only other option, you know, after after year one, was to join us in next level. And what I realized when we rolled this out, as some people were like, but I don't, I don't want that, like I'm not ready for next level, I still have some things in year one that I want to accomplish. That whole next level thing freaks me out. Like I'm not ready for it. And so I was like, oh, people just want the option to like continue getting coaching, getting support getting feedback, being a part of this community. They don't necessarily feel like they need to do like more or go like you know, level up or whatever. And so once we started getting that feedback of like, ah, you know, like, I'd love to stay but that's not right for me where I'm like, Oh no, no, wait, wait, wait, no, like you can stay like let's figure out a way for you to stay, and so so that's kind of where the just like continue... like to continue on in the Web Designer Academy program, either for a year or six months or month to month, whatever felt supportive and best for them came in which like it was just it was really interesting because I was so in the thick of like making the transformation from like the self study to the to the group coaching like I didn't think about like beyond that.

And I also didn't think, until working with you, Erica that like, I wasn't really thinking about retention. Like I honestly wasn't, I was like, I want people to come in, be with us for a year, go through this transformation, and like fly out of the nest and like go on to do their business. And my focus was just always on like, getting new people and getting new people and getting new people and supporting the people that were there, and then like sending them on their way. And it was really, like, you that got me thinking about like, oh, we can actually support people, like this 12 month containers, like, it's not arbitrary, it's intentional, but it's arbitrary that your time with us has to end at that point.

Erica Nash 30:51

Yeah. And, you know, again, going back to the community, after spending a year with this group of people, how tough would it be to just like, say, Bye, that'd be so hard. So I know that people are really grateful for all the options that you've created, to allow them to continue getting the coaching and continue, you know, using all of the things that that you've put together for them, as well as, you know, being able to lean on each other because it's, it's lonely in the virtual world.

Shannon Mattern 31:27

Well, yeah, and like, let's be real, like you, you know, when I was like, wanting to work ... when, when, so you were in the program, and you pivoted to this curriculum design, and I was like, hey, I need that, like, I would love some help with making sure like our curriculum is, is meeting the needs of our students. And then like you were talking about, like, well and retention ... like, and retention. Okay, cool, like we'll take Erica's lead on this. And our program, like we don't have cohorts like we do have, like open enrollments where like a lot of people come in at the same time, and they joined together, but people can join all year long. And I think what, what we've done with, like, the curriculum, and the container is that like, people can go at their own pace for the curriculum, it could take them eight weeks, it could take them four weeks, it could take them nine months. But we're continuing to, like support them with implementation of and all of the nuances that happen when you like, start involving people in your business and all of those things.

And I think that that's like the piece that you brought to me that I wasn't really like seeing of like, the realization that I've had, and I keep having this every time every time we talk is that like, I don't have to always be changing things, I don't always have to be adding more things, I don't always have to be adding new things in order for this program to deliver a ton of value and for people to want to continue to be a part of it. So like when we talk about retention, I think it's it's not necessarily like new curriculum, like I always think it is. It's like, Oh, it's another track, it's a year or two, it's another it's this, it's that it's the next level. It's really like, how can we really just continue to make ... to create such a valuable experience for people that they don't have to stay, but they want to stay?

Erica Nash 33:38

I really think I mean, I think it's there, you know?

Shannon Mattern 33:42


Erica Nash 33:43

And we're constantly looking at things. But I think it's really, really solid. And I just feel like it's so like that, like just a lot of credit to you like thinking about, you know, originally you were in this place where you like, okay, like, let's get their 12 months and like, you know, kick them out of the nest and like, let them fly and like whatever. But you were like totally willing to think about it in a different way, and not super married to those ideas. And I think that, like sometimes that really holds us back, right? Like that, like getting married to those ideas and being like, Nope, this is the way that it has to be. And this is, this is kind of it. And sometimes when we're married to those ideas, we really miss ... I mean, we miss opportunity, but we miss the chance to like look at it through this lens of like, well, everybody has such different experiences that we need to take that into account when we're making these decisions and not that you can like, make a decision that makes everybody happy. But, you know, we can kind of make decisions that allow us to allow other people to retain their autonomy. Right? Like that's kind of ... that's it.

Shannon Mattern 34:52

That is it. That is it. That is I think I think that you said that so well, and I don't. And I think I just had like a realization about that. And I and I know we've talked about this before, where it's like, a lot of the decisions that I have made about, like curriculum or structure, or like how the offer is made to people has to do with like me trying to fix things that aren't broken, because I have my own, like, stuff going on about like, is it good enough, you know, all of those things that as like a course creator, who is super passionate about like making sure that our students get the results that they came for cause me to make decisions based on emotion, and not based on data. And that's what you have really brought to, to this mix is to like, help me see like, okay, yeah, that's great. Like, let's gather some data before we before we do that, but the other piece that you just said, is like, how can we create an environment that empowers people to have autonomy and choice, and all of the things that we teach them to do with their clients, to say, you know, here's, here's how this, here's how this works.

Like, there is a 12 month commitment that you're making, not just us, but to your business and to seeing all this through. And then after that, you have full choice to decide how you want to move forward, like, do you want to graduate? Do you want to stay with us for one month, six months, 12 months? Do you want to go to the next level? You have full, full power to move through the curriculum, however quickly you want, stay with us for as long as you want. And, and you get to decide, and we're not deciding that for you. And I think that that is like it's just it's a beautiful thing, because I, you know, I've been in programs where it's like, I would have loved to continue to work with them beyond that. But there's no option to like that. The next option is, well, you need to join my, you know, super Next Level Mastermind, if you want to work with me anymore, and it's like, well, I'm not ready for that either. So now, I'll go find someone else who can support me in the way that I need to be supported.

And we play so much like online, this is why I love this podcast, that you're doing this podcast, because the online space puts so much effort into recruitment and enrollment and new students and like, there is so much value in creating like empowered retention options for people in your programs, like it doesn't have to be a membership model to do it.

Erica Nash 38:01

So many creative ways to go about it. So many. And I want to go back for just a second you were talking about you know, we talked about gathering data all the time and making decisions based on data and not based on feelings. And one thing that I that I just wanted to kind of add to that was that it can be so hard to sit on the feelings that come and like while you wait for the data to come in so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not you need to change something. And I think that that's sometimes like we forget about that. And we're like, I just don't like how this feels and making a change might make me feel better. And so I'm going to make this change. And that's going to fix everything, that's going to fix how I feel it's going to fix how my students feel it's going to make it you know, all better. When instead, in the long run, it's just so much better to like, sit with that feeling just a little bit and like let the data come in. And then, like make a decision based on that. Which I know like, you know, that's that's something that we've worked on so much. This year we're kind of looking at all of the data and stuff and just gathering that and it's taken a while. I mean, like it's taken a while for it to come in. So yeah, I just had to throw that in there.

Shannon Mattern 39:18

It is, it is so hard. And I think you're right, because it's like, oh, if I just make this decision, it'll create relief. Well, that decision also could create more work and cause harm. And yeah, that will make me feel better, but it's gonna create, like, more headaches. It's like, it's so ... to think about like, every time I want to change curriculum, because I've thought of like a new way to teach it or like whatever it's like, but it doesn't need changed just because I have thought of a new a new way to teach it doesn't mean that it needs changed and like I I have to continually be reminded of that. And so I'm grateful to be working with you in the capacities that I work with you. So you can ask me, I love how you gently ask me those questions. Whereas I'm just gonna be like, you just need to beat me over the head with them. This is my pattern.

Erica Nash 40:23

Always gentle. So one last question. Before we go, I think we can talk about all of this forever. But one last question. Before we wrap up. If you could go back and chat with of course, greater Shannon from a year ago, what advice would you give her

Shannon Mattern 40:40

Stop touching things. I would tell her to just stop changing, stop changing things. I would tell her to just like, Yeah, I would just tell her stop and just like take a step back. Wait for the data, look at look at what is actually happening. Look at the results your students are getting. And stop creating more work for yourself by going in going in and changing things. I think, like I would absolutely tell her that. And yeah, I think also just, you know, nurturing the ... it's not all about the curriculum, like the curriculum is like important. And it's a huge piece of our overall program. Like, I've worked really hard on it, but it's the experience that people have with our curriculum, with our program, with each other. That is, like really the magic behind the, the results that they get and the transformation that they go through. So yeah, that's what I would tell her, just just stop.

Erica Nash 42:03

Just stop, that's amazing advice. You said take a step back. And I was just thinking about, you know how sometimes it is so necessary to bring in an unbiased third party, because even when we take a step back, it can still be so hard to see where the gaps are, where the obstacles are, we, you know, it's like, can't see the forest for the trees or whatever, like, you know, it can be so difficult. And so sometimes whenever we do take a step back, if we're still not seeing clearly, sometimes bringing in a third party really is the way to go.

Shannon Mattern 42:40

Absolutely. I mean, you know, just in our Web Designer Academy, we like, teach our web designers to be that that third party, those outside eyes that strategist for for their clients. And, you know, like, you might you might think like, Oh, my program needs updated, my program needs overhauled the curriculum is not where it needs to be. Maybe it, maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but like you are honestly not the best person to be making those decisions. Sometimes you're too close to it, like it's ... If you're like most course creators it's wrapped up in, like, your identity as a business. Like there's a whole lot going on there that you might be a little too wrapped up in if you're anything like me. And so, like it is worth bringing, like working with someone to evaluate like, what are your goals? What are your goals for your students? Like? What opportunities might there be that you're not seeing? To help you get the same outcomes without you having to like completely overhaul your curriculum? You know, there are so many things that could be the answer, or maybe the answer is to do nothing. But having someone walk you through that is has been invaluable for me.

Erica Nash 44:10

Yay. Like I said, I think we could talk about this forever, like something you said about the identity piece and like, oh my goodness, that could be a whole like different episode. Um, this was amazing, just like I knew it would be thank you so much. Please share with people where they can find you, how they can work with you, all that good stuff.

Shannon Mattern 44:33

Yeah, is the best place to find me and then you can also find me on Instagram @ShannonLMattern, or @ProfitableWebDesigner. And the profitable web designer podcast is linked up from the web designer Academy site, and you can get all of our stuff about like mindset and all of these topics, even if you're not a web designer it's still it's really good stuff.

Erica Nash 45:02

Yeah, such good stuff. If you don't already know Shannon, hopefully from this episode, you're completely sold. And yeah, go find her on on the internet. She's amazing.

So, again, thank you. This has been super fun.

Shannon Mattern 45:18

Thank you so much for having me.

Erica Nash 45:23

Well, I hope today's episode brought a little clarity and community to your next level course journey. If you enjoyed listening, please consider subscribing and leaving a review. And if you'd like to connect, be sure to find me over on Instagram @EricaNashDesign or on my website at I would love to hear from you. All right, you guys go forth, educate and change lives. I'll see you next time.


Episode Notes

In this episode I get to sit down with Shannon Mattern, the founder of Web Designer Academy and host of the Profitable Web Designer podcast. We’re having a candid conversation about cultivating community, creating safer spaces for clients and team members, and how client retention has a place in your program right alongside new enrollments.

About Shannon:

Shannon Mattern is the founder of the Web Designer Academy where she mentors web designers to create profitable, sustainable and scalable web design businesses. Her proven frameworks for packaging, pricing, positioning and selling premium web design services have helped hundreds of designers raise prices, book dream clients and work less.

She's also the host of the Profitable Web Designer Podcast, your go-to resource for marketing, mindset, money, management and mentorship for web designers who want to create businesses that provide freedom, flexibility and financial independence.

Other resources mentioned:

The Institute for Trauma and Psychological Safety:

Connect on Instagram:

Learn more about working with Erica:


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