In today’s episode, I chat with Chaitra Radhakrishna who is the founder of Pinkpot Studio. A Shopify design studio for product-based businesses. After 3 years in business, she took an 18-month maternity leave. When she returned to her business in 2020, it forced her to take a hard look at her process, ideas around pricing, and how to be resilient when you start with $0 in income and no client roster. We chat about how she went from $0 to a 6 figure business in 12 months, the 3 steps she took to focus her business, and how a seemingly overnight success was actually 5 years of failing and learning to just keep working.
Chaitra Radhakrishna started her business as an Etsy shop in 2015 before starting to offer more custom design and websites. Business was good, but she always knew she wanted more not only in terms of income but a schedule she could control.
In 2018 she got pregnant with her son and ended up taking 18-month maternity leave. Similar to a lot of small business owners, she wanted the freedom of a small business so she could take maternity leave, but she hadn’t planned out what it would look like, procedures to have in place, and overall felt very unprepared in her business to take the time off. So when her maternity leave ended in January of 2020 she started with $0 in income and no client roster. She essentially had to re-launch her business and had to figure out how to do it with less time and make more money.
When she came back to her design business she knew two things: she only had 4 hours a day to work now and she wanted to make $100k in her business. After chatting with her husband she realized she needed to make $10k a month to reach her goals and that seemed impossible at the time. Up until that point her biggest project had been half that. So she set out these 3 steps to get her to her goals.
This would ensure she could get as much done for the client as possible in the 4 hour workday time frame. She scheduled out her year and made notes of when she could take on new client work.
She knew she had to raise her prices because her client list would be smaller. She learned about value-based pricing and invested in courses and teachers who taught her more about this. She started to invest in more courses along the business side of things.
She got very clear on what her process would be so she could be more efficient with her time and still deliver an amazing experience for her clients.
It still took some time. When she re-launched her business in January 2020 it wasn’t until months later that she finally landed a $2000 project, and then $6000 project, and then a $5000 project. It was her willingness to continue to show up, refine her process, and take step by step actions, that made her feel more confident in her process to keep going and eventually land those $10k projects she set out for.
Mindset shifts are definitely an important part of being a successful designer. We are wired to prepare for the worst-case scenario and protect ourselves for survival but what if we flip those thoughts? Some designers typically think “there is no way someone will pay this much for a website” and it’s an important step to flip it and instead ask ourselves “What do I need to do to set up my business to take care of 10k clients?”
Chaitra began implementing value-based pricing into her process but even after learning about it, and taking courses on it, she saw a disconnect in the taught mindset shifts and what was actually needed to land clients who saw value in her work. This disconnect turned into some expensive mistakes. She quickly found out that while mindset shifts are great, she needed to know the practical side of value-based pricing to really grow her business.
One example was she had a celebrity interior designer client reach out to her for a sales call for a custom website design. She went into the call with the correct mindset and felt prepared. But at the end of the sales call when she quoted the client $14-16k she saw instantly that the client was not prepared for that price point. She realized then, that she had not correctly communicated the value of her work to the client. That even though this person was a famous designer, who seemingly had a big enough budget, Chaitra found that without communicating her value, the client didn’t see the need to invest that much in a website.
Chaitra’s mentor Mariah Coz notes that you can’t dictate someone’s value “stay away from other people’s wallets”, you can’t say what someone else can afford and so you shouldn’t sell like that either. That someone with a $2k budget is just as likely to invest in a $10k project as someone with a $10k budget if they see the value in it. We have to shift our minds when talking to clients and shift our internal dialogues.
As designers, we know that we are good at our craft and the pretty side of things. But as Chaitra learned in starting over her business, it is so important to remain curious and continue to be a learner for your business. She found that learning the business side of her web design studio not only helped her succeed in her goals but it became an asset to her clients. When you learn how the ins and outs of a successful business, it becomes a tool you can give to your clients to help run their businesses. She was then able to have given her clients a more strategic approach to their designs.
She found that shifting from just a designer that makes a pretty website, to a strategist and a partner for your client’s business, helped her create powerful websites that were rooted in so much more than just visuals.
Along with setting goals, refining her process, and figuring out the nuances of value-based pricing Chaitra contributes some of her success in her re-launch to the idea of “just keep swimming”. It is so easy to look at the low-income months and think that the process isn’t working but it is working.
Every small tweak you make in your process, every “failure” that you have, every time you continually show up is part of the snowball process: tiny actions that lead up to big results. It will never be one pin, or one post, or one blog that gets you your 10k clients but shows up over and over. Just keep going.