Why Investing in Your Business Goes Both Ways in B2B

Host Jon Penland, 

Back in 2012, Karmen gave WordPress a try after having tested out a variety of other website options. Fast forward almost 10 years and now Karmen runs a successful web design agency focusing on membership sites. What’s her main tip for growth? If you want clients to invest in you, you must also invest in your business.

Duration

36 minutes

Guest

Host

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Episode Summary

In today’s episode of Reverse Engineered, Jon Penland introduces us to Karmen Kendrick. Karmen is the Web Design and Support Specialist at Karmen Kendrick Creative. She is devoted to helping small businesses optimize their WordPress websites and getting them ready for digital growth.

Karmen specializes in membership websites, which is her big differentiator from her competitors in the web design area. She reveals what inspired her to take her path and the problem she wanted to solve in the first place.

As an entrepreneur and a highly devoted business person, Karmen values the time she dedicates to her potential clients. That’s one of the reasons she offers premium pricing. Her pricing reflects the value she provides and how much she invests in her branding.

Key Insights:

Today’s Guest: Karmen Kendrick, Co-founder of Karmen Kendrick Creative and The Support Concierge

On top of Karmen Kendrick Creative and The Support Concierge, Karmen runs the premium newsletter called Tips and Tacos. It provides subscribers with weekly advice on all things business, design, and marketing, plus a chance to win free tacos every week.

Episode Highlights

Karmen Kendrick Creative: From an Idea to a Problem Solution

“In 2012, I started an ecommerce business and I was on Wix. I had a web design company build a site on Wix. It was beautiful. But at that time, Wix was missing a lot of the ecommerce backend features like order management. And they were not tracking numbers. So I made the decision to go over to Shopify. Shopify was there for a few months but I ended up running into some financial strategies here and there. I couldn’t afford Shopify anymore.

I ended up finding WordPress. And I ended up getting good at WordPress. And I was like, ‘Maybe I can do this for other people.’ It wasn’t just being able to design a great-looking website, but also understanding the business aspect of it.”

We Focus on Membership Websites Only. And That’s Why We Stand Out

“Right now, we’re only focused on membership websites. I don’t see a lot of agencies that say, ‘Hey, we specialize in membership websites.’ When I looked at membership sites, I liked that they were super complex, were not something that a lot of people want to deal with, and are not easy for the average person to build.”

I Moved from Free to Paid Consultations Because I Didn’t Want to Waste My Time

“I did free consultations for a while. But then you get people that are not ready to start anything six months or a year from now and are wasting your time at that moment. It may turn into something, but not always.

And then I went over to pay consults and said, ‘Hey, you can’t waste my time. At least I get paid for it.’ And I did an application process. In my application process, I ask them if they are ready to make that investment right now. That investment starts at $15,000. And then the next question is how this will make your business profitable. And so from there, I can automatically see if this is something that’s nice to do for them or if they have a plan and they need this website to take them to the next level so they can hit those revenue goals.”

You will Get to a Point Where Referrals Do the Job for You

“You get to a point where you don’t have to do so much because you started getting so many referrals. And then you have all these great clients in your portfolio, and you start figuring out ways to leverage the clients that are already there.

And those people, sometimes they don’t even work with you, will refer to someone else because they know what you do, they have some type of relationship, and they feel comfortable with putting your name out there.”

To Charge Premium Prices, I Must Invest in Premium People and Premium Things

“If I’m not presenting myself in a premium format, then people are going to ask, ‘Why should I pay her $10,000? She doesn’t even invest that money into her own brand.’ I don’t do a lot of courses because I can never find the time for it. But I would say that the main thing that I do to invest in myself is reading. And also, when I do come across someone I want to work with, I never say, ‘Oh, they’re too expensive.’ I won’t do it until I can afford it or until I can put that money aside to work with that person. So, not only do I charge premium prices, but I like to work with people that charge premiums.”

Valuable Resources to Learn From

“The Futur, a YouTube channel by Chris Do, is great. That’s where I got a lot of my ideas from when I was trying to figure out my pricing and my value to be a premium web designer. And they have a lot of free content. 

Get on Twitter, find that business circle on Twitter. We call it LLC Twitter. Find that business circle. Find your circle of people on Twitter. They’re active, even if you’re not as active. Find those people and start following them. Find your space on Twitter.”

Transcript

[00:00:05] Jon Penland: Hi everyone. My Jon Penland and Reverse Engineered is brought to you by Kinsta, a premium managed hosting provider. In today’s episode, I’m speaking with Karmen Kendrick, founder of Karmen Kendrick Creative, and the Support Concierge. Karmen, Welcome to Reverse Engineered.

[00:00:20] Karmen Kendrick: Hi, thanks so much for having me.

[00:00:23] Jon Penland: Yeah, it’s an honor to have you on the show. So, to get us started, can you take a minute and introduce yourself to our listeners? 

[00:00:31] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. Sure. So again, my name is Karmen Kendrick. I’m the founder of Karmen Kendrick Creative, that first business, of course, is my design agency. And then, The Support Concierge is a service where we help membership sites support and maintain their websites to keep their community members happy and everything running smoothly.

[00:00:50] Jon Penland: Yeah. You mentioned two projects there. When I was looking at your Twitter before this conversation, I noticed that you’ve got Karmen Kendrick Creative, The Support Concierge, and I also found a third one called Tips and Tacos, a premium newsletter. So, can you just briefly tell us a bit about all three of these different projects, how they fit together? You know, give us, kind of, the broad strokes of what you’re doing professionally right now. 

[00:01:16] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. So, I think as an entrepreneur, you always have these different, you know, I guess, urges, or like, you know, itch, you need to scratch, and so, I felt like all three of those, without, I guess, you want, like, a completely different business, they all, kind of tied into each other, but I felt like they all give you their own entity.

[00:01:33] And so, what I’m learning is, as much as I love web design, I’m kind of phasing out of it unless I’m working with certain clients or past clients from before. And so, I really enjoyed the support piece of that. So, I’m like, “Let me just branch it off.” And then, another thing was that, you know, someday somebody may want to buy The Support Concierge. So, if you’re out there listening, somebody wants to buy it. And so, you know, I don’t want to have my name connected to it, and I don’t want to always have to be the face of the brand anymore. And then, Tips and Tacos, it kinda gave me a chance to be Karmen Kendrick Creative, just being the blog and being the more informative person that I am, without having to actually put my name on that as well, but you know, it’s coming from me.

[00:02:12] Jon Penland: Yeah. It’s interesting. I feel like a lot of folks who end up with Kinsta or end up in the WordPress Space; we tend to have a lot of entrepreneurial folks. And so, they do tend to be involved in this type of project, which blends into this type of project, which turns into this type of thing. And something that I want to, kind of, explore through our conversation is what that process has looked like for you. Because I think a lot of folks who are listening to the podcast, or just folks who are familiar with Kinsta, are going to be able to really resonate with what that process has looked like for you. So, I think web design and WordPress is what started you down this road. Can you take us through that process? How did you first get into web design and WordPress? 

[00:02:55] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. So, I always say this is by accident. In 2012, I started an ecommerce business, and I was on Wix at first. I had a web design company build a site on Wix. It was, really nice looking, beautiful. But at that time, Wix was really missing a lot of the e-commerce backend features like order management, and they’re not tracking numbers.

[00:03:15] And so, I was like, “Okay, I gotta make the decision to make. Do I want to continue with this site that looks good? But I’m gonna really hard to try to keep up with orders and clients or customers at that point.” And so, I made the decision to go over to Shopify. So, Shopify was on there for maybe a few months, and I ended up running into some financial, I guess financial strags here and there.

[00:03:37] So, just learning how to, ’cause I think I was, like, maybe 19 or 20 years old. So, I had no idea what I was doing with business. Definitely intermingling funds, you know, spending the money on other things, buying inventory. So yeah, not being the best steward of my finances at that point. So, at that point, I couldn’t afford Shopify anymore.

[00:03:58] Another thing that I didn’t really like about the platform is that at that time, you paid the base fee, and you also paid a percentage of your sales. So, although it was 39.99 a month, I think at the time for that plan, it was also whatever sales I was bringing it, and they were taking a percentage of that as well.

[00:04:14] So, it just got to be way too expensive for me, and I just had to figure out, “Okay, what can I do? I couldn’t really afford to hire another web designer. Shopify was not going to be it.” And then, some kind of way, maybe I researched, found it on Google, but I ended up finding WordPress, and I think everybody goes this scope. They go through GoDaddy at first. 

[00:04:33] And so, you know, bought the hosting package, I think I bought a theme. I found out about ThemeForest, and I kind of just went from there. So, I built my website. It’s like, the first time I built a site that actually looked good, and I was like, “Okay, I can, kind of, do this WordPress thing.” And now that I look back at it, I’m just like WordPress as an absolute beginner; it just seems so difficult. And, I can’t, yeah, I think it took me maybe two or three months to really get that site up and going. But just, you know, I was amazed at what I had accomplished and, like, the site really looked good because all my other sites I built for myself, terrible.

[00:05:09] I was surprised people even trust me to buy from me those websites, but they did. So, I ended up getting really good at WordPress. And I was like, you know, “Maybe I can do this for other people.” And at that point, I said, “Hey, let me just try my hand at web design.” And I didn’t know that web design, it wasn’t just being able to design a great looking website, but also understanding the business aspect of it and managing clients, acquiring new clients. So, there was a whole other aspect.

[00:05:38] Jon Penland: Yeah. And so, I am curious about that because you’re in this place where you said you first started using Wix and Shopify and then ran into some limitations and end up moving over to WordPress. And I’m curious though, as you’re in that place and you’re deciding to start your web agency or web design agency, something must have told you, like, “There’s an opportunity here.” Like, something must have said, “This is something worth pursuing.” And I’m curious, it, was it simply a case of, “This is something I can do. Let me go find customers,” or did you see, kind of a deficiency in the local market that you were like, “Here’s something that I can, here’s a problem I can solve.” I’m curious what that launch process looked like for you as you’re first launching your web design agency? 

[00:06:27] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. So, thinking back about it makes me cringe because I was not filling any type of need at that time. It was strictly, “I can do it.” And, I figured that I mean, of course, there had to be other business owners like me that needed a website, probably could not afford it, and you know, at this time, people, they, I guess, I felt like web design more, is more common and you can find more people. Facebook friends are like, “Hey, do you want to buy web design websites?” And like, it’s out there. But at that time, I felt like it was still something limited to either you did it on Wix, you did it yourself, or maybe you had enough money to hire a big web agency. And that’s something that I didn’t see, you know, at that time. And so, I guess subconsciously, I thought about that, but the thing that really just showed me to do was the fact that “Hey, I can do it.”

[00:07:10] Jon Penland: Yeah. I mean, sometimes that’s just the way it works.

[00:07:14] Sometimes you stumble into almost a happy accident, right? Where it’s like, “I’m, I’m in the right place at the right time to meet this need. I don’t even, I didn’t do this on purpose but here I am.” And, and I, you know, a part of success in business is being prepared when a lucky coincidence comes along, right? So. 

[00:07:32] I am curious, though, today. As you alluded to, today there are a lot of web design agencies out there. How do you think about the unique value proposition for your agency? Why would somebody pick your agency over a competitor? 

[00:07:50] Karmen Kendrick: Sure. So, right now, we’re only focused on that membership websites. And, I will say that I don’t see from my little bit of market research I have done, I don’t really see a lot of agencies that say like, “Hey, we specialize in membership websites.” A lot of times, when you do see agencies, they help a whole lot of people, and that doesn’t mean you’re not good at everything that they do, but it’s not something that you know they are specialized in. And so, I feel like if you have heart problems, you’re going to the heart doctor. You’re not just going to go to your general practitioner if you’re feeling something specific that’s going on in your body. Even like dermatology or something like your skin issues, you’re going to the dermatologist, for example. So, I feel like just having that, having that niche and membership sites is really what allows me to set myself apart from other designers in my space or agencies in my space. 

[00:08:39] Jon Penland: Yeah. I am curious because I did notice that The Support Concierge specializes in support for membership sites. So you have kind of that membership theme working across both of those projects that you’re involved in. What caused you to dial in as membership sites that that was going to be the thing that you focused on? 

[00:08:59] Karmen Kendrick: I had a really hard time trying to decide what I wanted my niche to be in. When I looked at membership sites, I liked that they were super complex and they’re not something that a lot of people want to deal with, and they’re not easy for the average person to build. So, I definitely looked at that part of it and just the fact that now a lot of people, especially with COVID, are building online communities. And, that’s what a lot of, I guess, a lot of the marketing people and branding people are pushing is having your own online community outside of your following on social media.

[00:09:29] Jon Penland: Hmm. Yeah. It’s funny that you mentioned, you know, that not every web agency wants to handle that. Before I came to work at Kinsta, I did a very limited amount of freelance, I wouldn’t even call it design. I set up some websites for some folks and got paid for it, right? And man, like, a membership site, I did one membership site, and I did not enjoy it.

[00:09:53] Like, it was definitely a significantly heavier lift just in terms of, like, thinking through… There’s just so many different, you know, log in, log out and profile pages and just all these different steps that you don’t really have to think about, even if you’re doing an e-commerce site, there is so much of it is hidden from the public user.

[00:10:11] But when you’re doing a membership site, virtually everything is public to the user. And, there’s just so much more to think about, so many more angles. So that, I see that. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that what I’m hearing is you saw the opportunity to specialize in something complex that other people didn’t want to do.

[00:10:30] And that, that allows you to stand out a little bit because a lot of folks just don’t want to touch something that complex. 

[00:10:39] So, yeah. In preparation for this conversation, I read a blog post that you wrote, and there was a line in it that really jumped out to me. And so, the title of the blog post was, “How much should I invest in a website?” And, in the article, you say, “Notice, I said, invest in, not spend. When you spend money, you are more than likely not going to see a return other than the thing that you got out of it. That’s not what you want when you hire someone to build your website.” So, my question is this, how do you make sure that your clients, when they come to your company, how do you make sure that they’re making an investment, not just spending money on a website? 

[00:11:19] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah, so it comes down to my vetting process. And so, I’ve had to work a few times to get this right. At first, I was just doing paid content. Well, I did free consults for a while, but then you get people that they’re not ready to start anything six months or a year from now, and, kind of, just wasting your time at that moment, maybe it may turn into something, but not always.

[00:11:39] And then, I went over to paid consults like, “Hey,” you know, “you can’t waste my time. At least I get paid for it.” Then I was still running through the same issue where people, you know, they will pay for the consult, but they’re not really ready. So, I’m like, “You know what, let me do an actual application process.”

[00:11:52] And, in my application process, of course, I ask them are they ready to make that investment right now? That investment starts at $15,000. And then the next question is like, “How will this make your business profitable?” And so, from there, I can automatically see, like, “Hey, this is just something that’s nice to do for them,” or I will see that, “You know what, they actually have a plan, and they need this website. It’s going to take them to the next level so they can hit those revenue goals.”

[00:12:17] Jon Penland: And, there are actually two pieces of your answer there. I want to ask. So, what I want to come back to is the pricing piece, but I’m struck about this concept of moving from free consults or even paid consults to actually having an application process. And, I just feel like probably a lot of folks who are freelance web designers or who have an agency, the idea of turning away leads, turning away potential clients until they’re ready to make that investment going to seem so foreign to them.

[00:12:53] Right? Like, they’re going to hear that, and they’re going to go, “I need every client I can get. There’s no way I’m going to tell people they can’t work with me until they’re willing to fill out an application.” And, and so that tells me that there’s something about lead acquisition that you figured out that allows you to have that confidence in saying, “I’m going to niche down and focus, and this is how I’m going to go about finding clients.”

[00:13:24] I guess, what I’m curious about is how do you think you got to the point where you’re able to be that selective in working with potential clients where many agencies feel the need really to talk to anybody who might want to do business with them? 

[00:13:43] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. So, I think the two biggest things for me, of course, were mindset, just me just understanding that, and just the fact that, you know, you think you’re busy, you think you’re doing those lead generating or those revenue-generating activities by talking to all these different people, but when you look at it, you just wasted a lot of time that could have been done doing something else. And so, it just takes a minute. I feel like, we’re maybe having a minute, but just, I guess, some work within yourself to just say, “I’m going to have this mindset.” Because I mean, you can talk to all these people that aren’t serious, but, like, what has it gotten you at the end of the day?

[00:14:20] Like, maybe in the future, they may think about you, but at the same time, you know, your bills are coming due now. And so, my time is better spent, you know, working on real projects or with people that are actually trying to do something in the near future.

[00:14:34] Jon Penland: Yeah. So, how do you actually find clients? Like what, what does that process look like for you?

[00:14:40] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. So, initially, it was just like getting myself out on social media. On Twitter, I’ve grown a really nice following, so I get a lot of referrals now. And I think, that’s the main advice I would love to give, I guess, a lot of people starting out, you get to a point of your business where you’re not always having to do, like, some type of, you still should do some type of lead generation activities, but you get to a point where you don’t have to do so much because you just started getting so many referrals, and then you have all these great clients in your portfolio, and you start figuring out ways like, “Hey, how can I leverage the clients that are already at?”

[00:15:13] So, sometimes I’ll do a coffee call, and I’ll send my past clients a Starbucks gift card and, like, “Hey, whether you want to get on the call or not, just get this $10 gift card to Starbucks and enjoy,” you know, “a drink or whatever you like at Starbucks.” Just so, I feel like I stay on top of their mind.

[00:15:29] And so, I worked with a coach, his name is Ryan Cox and he always talks about building relationships, building relationships. And so, I would say, that’s the next part. When you build relationships, you don’t go into it with, you know, “Maybe I can do something for this person, or they can do something for me.” Just being genuine with them, like, ’cause you never know, and those people, sometimes they don’t even work with you, but they will refer someone else use because they know what you do and they have some type of relationship, and they feel comfortable with putting your name out there and not feeling like they’re going to get burned or you’re going to do somebody wrong that they referred to you.

[00:16:03] Jon Penland: Yeah. So, if I’m hearing that correctly, you started with some active lead generation activity, focused primarily on social media, but at this point, you’re still active on social media, but as far as lead generation, it’s primarily, word of mouth, maintenance, or maintaining good relationships with existing clients who will then refer additional folks to you. Did I get that picture right? 

[00:16:27] Karmen Kendrick: Yes. An, I think lead generation is always something that’s going to be changing in your agency because I have a pretty big goal for the end of this year. And so, I’m like, “Okay, Karmen, what are my, what am I going to do to try to produce these results?” Or, “What am I going to do to produce, not try, but to produce results?” 

[00:16:43] Jon Penland: Yeah, sure. 

[00:16:44] Karmen Kendrick: And so, right now, it’s going to be Facebook groups, I think. If you don’t have a large following on social media, you don’t need a large following to be in a Facebook group. So, you can, and, it’s so many out there that super-niche down to what you want to do. I’m in several membership-community Facebook groups for people that just want to build membership, and, you know, they don’t understand the tech behind it, or, you know, should I go with a hosted platform like Kartra or Kajabi, or should I use WordPress? And so, just joining groups like that and being helpful and not salesy, sometimes you can sell, but you know, just being helpful in those types of groups, that’s another great lead generation activity. It doesn’t really require for you to just be, you know, have a huge following on social to get that.

[00:17:26] Jon Penland: Yeah. And I’m curious, something that personally, I’m fortunate to work for Kinsta because a lot of what you described intimidates me, particularly the outreach stuff, like, I’m not good at social media, right? Like, I have a Twitter account. I tweet about once every three months, right? Like, almost everything is retweets.

[00:17:46] I have a Facebook. I’m never active on it. Has social media always come naturally to you or is that a skill you have to develop? 

[00:17:56] Karmen Kendrick: No. It’s definitely a skill I had to develop, but I remember when Twitter first came out or for me, I feel like I realized it was a thing in 2009 or 2010, and that’s around the time it came popular. And so, I was always one of those people that, you know, I would just, you know, especially what Twitter was for to just say what’s on your mind, and that’s literally what I would do.

[00:18:18] And so, now that I use Twitter from a business aspect, I really just think of, like, nothing I don’t even think about. It’s just things that are already on my mind, and I’ll put it out there by learning something new. I found this plugin; I think it’s called “Multiple Page Generator.” And, instead of you, ’cause I had a client where we have to create a post for every single US city, which is like 35,000 cities, I believe.

[00:18:39] And I’m like, “It’s going to take us forever to actually create this.” And so, that plugin, it allowed us to create those pages without even really creating those pages on the website. It’s like, all, whatever the plugin’s doing, it’s doing its thing, basically. And, I said that on Twitter, and somebody was like, “Oh my God, I’m, I have something that’s similar to that.”

[00:18:56] And then, people, they would just gravitate to that. So, these are things that are already inside of your head. You’re already thinking about it, and just by sharing it, even if it sounds dumb, just say it anyway, because people are going to, they’re going to gravitate towards that.

[00:19:10] So, I always hear, “I don’t know what to tweet. I don’t know what to say.” Like, you’re already thinking it. Just put it out there. And, when it comes down to things like Instagram, I don’t have an Instagram account anymore. I did, crazy stuff happened with Instagram, and my account ended up getting shut down.

[00:19:25] Nothing that I did or anything, it’s just, I guess how it worked or whatever. But Twitter, I will say, is one of the easiest places, especially for my business, as you can just put information out there, not saying, “Hey,” you know, “sign up to work with me.” Or, like, “Buy my product.” But just being a person.

[00:19:41] Jon Penland: That’s what I was struck by. I was looking at your Twitter, and I scrolled down, like, I don’t know, 50 tweets, and I realized that was, like, two days back, right? Like, I wasn’t, I hadn’t made it that far into the past. And, if you go to mine and go down 50 tweets, like, you’ve only actually seen two of my tweets, the rest is all retweets, and you’re four years into history, right? And I was struck, I was like, “How does she have so many things to say?” I found a lot of little one-liners, like, one that you had just posted on, there was something like, “You can’t out-earn bad money management habits,” or something like that. I was like, “She’s absolutely right. That’s a great thought.” Right? And so, I’m just curious, I know I’m kinda coming back to the same topic, but like, where do those ideas come from? 

[00:20:28] ‘Cause there was a lot of that type of thing. A lot of these short one-liners that I was like, “Yeah, that’s a great thought.” Are you reading a lot or, or does that, where does that come from? 

[00:20:39] Karmen Kendrick: Yes, I read a lot. So, I do a lot of Audible books just because, you know, it’s easier. Lately, the books I’ve been reading, I can’t find them Audible. And so, I have to read, you know, physical books. I’m always on YouTube, and so always just feeding my mind, it’s giving me these different thoughts. But that tweet this morning literally came from me.

[00:21:00] I was getting out of the sauna at the gym, and I was kind of like, just resting before I changed clothes to leave, so I wouldn’t be all sweaty. And that thought just came to mind. So, I don’t know if that’s normal, but I do feel like, you know, when it comes down to reading and YouTube and just different things, it’s out there, that’s what’s really feeding my mind and feeding these thoughts and make me want to tweet things like that.

[00:21:19] Jon Penland: That’s something you’ve, you’ve touched on a couple of times in different places so far in this conversation. Is this idea of feeding your mind or of working on your mentality, I’m completely sold on the value of that, but I’m just curious what that looks like for you? Do you have some structure built around the sorts of things you do, the sorts of things you don’t do, to try and feed your mind? 

[00:21:47] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. So, I think I’ve always been a curious-minded person, always, you know. I remember I used to just read the dictionary when I was little. 

[00:21:56] So, just little things like that. I’ve always had that inside of me, but, I mean, mainly I just, I’m to the point now where I’ve realized, I felt like, I was holding myself back in my business by always focusing on the business itself and not having a life outside of that.

[00:22:14] And, I always read that if you want inspiration, go outside, look around. And so, I’m like, “Well, let me start doing things where I’m not always focused on the business.” And, it seems like since I’ve been having a life and just been trying to just try different things, the better I feel. It feels like even when I’m not working, I still get opportunities. And, because I’m not so fixated on my success as much, not saying that I don’t care about my success, but I’m not fixed in it as I was before, I feel like things just happen better for me just because I’m this out and I’m more open to things. So like, recently I started skating, so it was just like, you know, little things like that getting me out there, you meet people and you just see different things. Like, every time I go into, like, a new business or I try something new, I see a problem that could be fixed. Like, how could this be better? There’s a restaurant, you know, it’s like, now there’s no menus. You’re actually scanning your phone. But I was like, “You know what? What if,” you know, “you would text a number, and they would send the menu your phone. So, that way, they at least have your phone number, and they can, you know, remarket to you in the future.” So, little things like that and just like, getting outside of my work area and just being open, I think has, helped me a lot with mindset.

[00:23:25] Jon Penland: Yeah. It’s funny. Yeah. I was just talking to somebody, actually, for the same podcast earlier this week, and they highlighted, I feel like it’s the same idea applied slightly differently. What they highlighted was the importance of mindset to your effectiveness and work, right? So, they were highlighting how just being positive and proactive and just mentally healthy in how you approach your work makes you more effective in your work, right? And, and I was, kind of, echoing that back to them knowing that when I am in a positive frame of mind and I have to deal with something that’s challenging or difficult or whatever, I’m more effective. I’m faster. I think more clearly, and I respond more appropriately to difficult situations when I’m in a positive headspace. 

[00:24:17] I just feel the confluence of the same concept hitting repeatedly here, just having this idea that having a positive mindset is not just about feeling better in the moment. It actually has tangible, a tangible impact and how effective you are in whatever it is that you’re doing.

[00:24:38] Karmen Kendrick: Exactly. ‘Cause, you’ll still have your bad days, no matter how, you know, positive that you are, but when you have those bad days, like, you have that moment inside of yourself, like, “You know what? I am having a bad day,” you know, “I just, my jacket got caught on the door,” or, you know, “I walked away in my,” this literally happened that I was having a bad day, and I can’t think what you call those things in your living room where you kind of, eat on, like an eating tray. And I put it against a wall, and I walked away, and it hit the back of my Achilles tendon, and I was, like, “I’m having such a bad day.” But I’m like, “You know what? I realized exactly what this is.”

[00:25:11] And so, instead of letting that defeat me and it’s like, “You know what? Everything just happening to me, I can, kind of, just see, like, you know what? This is just one thing, and I can keep on moving along, and that let this continue to make my day bad.”

[00:25:23] Jon Penland: Yeah. So, a while back, I said I wanted to ask about pricing. So, I want to come, I want to come back to that idea. So, something I noticed while I was looking at your website is that you do charge premium prices. And, a little while back, you were on the Being Freelance podcast, and the topic of pricing came up, and you said, “I feel that when people look at your work and look at what you do, especially the prices that you charge, they want to see that you’re invested in your brand.” Can you explain what you meant when you said that? How does pricing demonstrate your investment in your brand? 

[00:25:59] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. So, if I’m asking or maybe just everyday terms, if you’re buying a car and this, I don’t know this, Ford Taurus, 2004 Ford Taurus is, I don’t know $5,000, and you’re just like, “What?” I can get the same, I can pay the same amount and get something a little bit better, something newer than that.

[00:26:23] And so, from the outside looking in, because we always look how things, look and that’s how we, kind of, determined things without knowing it. They always say, you know, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we’re human, and that’s what we do. And so, if I’m not presenting myself in a premium, and I guess, in a premium format, then people, they’re not going to want to believe that, you know, “Well, why should I pay her 10,000? She doesn’t even invest in that money into her own brand.” So, when it came down to, you know, just having professional photography, also just copywriting and things like that, that just shows like, “Hey, I’m invested. I’m not just going to get your $10,000 and run off with your money.”

[00:27:01] Jon Penland: Yeah. That’s interesting. So that really clarifies that answer to me. When, when you say you’re charging a premium price, this isn’t just you saying, “This is what I’m worth.” This really is you saying, “You’re going to get a premium result, like, I’m not going to go cheap on the photography. I’m not going to go cheap on font or whatever, right? Like, that money’s going to come back to you.” Right? Like, “It’s not simply that I feel that I need to charge a price this high, but I’m not skimping, right? We’re going to do this the right way.” 

[00:27:38] Karmen Kendrick: Yes. 

[00:27:39] Jon Penland: I love that.

[00:27:40] Karmen Kendrick: And this experience.

[00:27:41] Jon Penland: So, I feel like branding is something you prioritize. And, I’m curious, you know, you’ve talked about spending enough to make sure that your brand is reflected properly, charging premium prices so that your, your product is premium, reflects on you the right way. Are there any other things specific things that you do to try and invest in yourself? 

[00:28:07] Karmen Kendrick: That’s a good question. So, aside from, like, the reading, I don’t really do a lot of courses just because I can never find the time for it. But I would just say the main thing that I do to invest in myself is reading, and also when I do come across, maybe someone I want to work with, I never say, “Oh, they’re too expensive.”

[00:28:24] Like, I just won’t do it unless I really just need to just get something out there, I won’t do it until I can afford or ’till I can put that money aside to work with that person. So, not only do I charge premium prices, but I like to work with people that charge premiums. I was doing something recently, and someone’s like, “Oh my God, that’s, you know, that’s so much more expensive than what I was looking for.”

[00:28:44] And I’m just like, “You know what? If I want people to invest in me, I have to invest in other people, other things that are also premium.” So, I understand what that looks like. And, I feel like it helps me as a business person as well.

[00:28:55] Jon Penland: Yeah, it, kind of, staying on this topic of pricing. As somebody who has had to set pricing, one of the things that you have to think about is how do you, how do you determine your prices? So, when you’re establishing your pricing, do you take a cost-plus model, or are you looking at, “What’s the value I’m creating?” Right?

[00:29:16] So, like, does your pricing reflect the cost of doing business, or does it reflect, “What’s the value I’m creating?” Or is it some combination of the two? 

[00:29:24] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. I like to say it’s a little bit of both, and for a while, I had no idea what I was doing. I would just throw random prices out there. But I read this book called “Profit First” by Michael Michalowicz, and it has an awesome breakdown of basically taking the owner’s pay, operating expenses, your taxes, and making sure you actually make a profit, which is very important in business. And so, once I did, then it’s like, each one is, like, a percentage. So, I think it’s, like, four different things I named and just for the sake of simplicity, 25% per each thing. So, it’s just like, “Okay, if I take 25% from 10,000, and that’s my owner’s pay, is that enough for me to pay my bills this month? It’s 25% for operating expenses. Is that enough to pay my contractors? Is that are enough to pay, you know, my business bills I have, you know, coming due and my taxes and things like that? So, that’s really where I come up with my, how I price my projects is based on, that’s what I learned from “Profit First.”

[00:30:20] And then, also just thinking about the future because you’re going to have slow months, you’re not always, having great times, I mean when dry seasons come in and so I, I’ve got it down to, I know that, what is it? I think it’s fourth quarter. No, fourth quarter is, kind of decent. First quarter is, kind of, slow for me.

[00:30:38] And then, third quarter is always slow for me. And so, like, once you do this for, like, a few years, you start, you know, understanding those patterns and you go, “Okay, let me make sure I pay my projects so that way I have enough money when those slow seasons do come around.”

[00:30:51] Jon Penland: Yeah. Kind of, sticking onto the same topic a little bit more, we’ve talked a lot about web design, but, but something that I’ve noticed is that it seems like you’re making a shift a little bit, and I think you may have alluded to this a little bit earlier as well. One of the challenges that everybody who I’ve talked to, who does web design or creates websites or does development for a living, is it’s so project-oriented, right?

[00:31:16] Like, you have a client, you do a project, you get paid, you got to go find another client, right? That revenue generally comes in once. And then, and then you’ve got to move on to the next thing. And, I’m struck that with the other two projects that you have going, Support Concierge and Tips and Tacos, they both have a recurring revenue model. And, I’m curious, was that an intentional choice, that you said, “Let me, let me launch these other things that have a different revenue model.” 

[00:31:43] Karmen Kendrick: Yes. That was very intentional that they’re both recurring revenue models. That was very important to me. And, I think maybe a year, well, I would say when COVID, kind of, first hit and I was starting to think, like, “COVID wasn’t as bad, as far as the business side.” For me, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be as far as getting projects.

[00:32:01] But when it first hit, I was like, “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” And I was like, “I need something that is going to bring in revenue regardless.” And my first idea for the Support Concierge was, kind of just basic support for WordPress sites and making sure I include hosting because there was, like, just one thing, like, when businesses, if they have to downsize and, kind of, get rid of things and cut expenses, that website is probably going to be the last thing that goes because that’s what’s getting them business. And, I was like, “Especially if you’re hosting it, that makes even more sense.” And so, just thinking about things like that, and it’s like, “That’s going to bring revenue even when I’m not getting projects.”

[00:32:39] Jon Penland: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny that you say that because both of those pieces are actually a part of Kinsta’s story. I wasn’t part of the founding team, but the founding team actually did a lot of web design and marketing, and development. That’s what they did before they did Kinsta. And, they were like, “Hey, we’ve got to figure out how to do… we need some recurring revenue.” Right?

[00:32:58] Like, “We’re doing too much feast or famine cycle here.” Right? So they decided they wanted to do recurring revenue. And then, we did find the same to be true during, when, when COVID first hit, is at first, we, kind of, got really nervous, and then we were like, “You know what? People need their websites.” And, and there was a little bit of, I would say instability early on, but, we certainly have had some team members affected, but as a business, really, the website, web hosting spaces has, seems to have weathered the challenges pretty well. Okay. So, as we wrap this conversation towards a conclusion, I have two wrap-up questions for you. So, the first is this, what is a resource you would recommend to the listeners of Reverse Engineered? It could be a book or a blog newsletter, really anything. What’s something our listeners should check out? 

[00:33:49] Karmen Kendrick: Definitely The Futur YouTube channel by Chris Do. Very great. That’s why I first, kind of, when I was trying to figure out my pricing, figure out my value. Can I actually be a premium, you know, web designer? That’s where I got a lot of my ideas from. And so, they have a lot of free content.

[00:34:10] I mean like, hours and hours you could just binge-watch The Futur’s content, like, while you work on other things. So, definitely, The Futur is a great resource. And also, just getting on Twitter, finding that business circle on Twitter. We call it LLC Twitter but just finding that business circle or whatever it is that you do, find your circle of people on Twitter.

[00:34:29] They’re active, even if you’re not as active, find those people and start following them, like, you will just, so much game is just dropped, so many jams, as they say, are dropped. Like, there’s so much out there. So, The Futur and finding your space on Twitter.

[00:34:42] Jon Penland: Yeah. So, the YouTube channel was The Futures, is that right? Or The Future? 

[00:34:46] Karmen Kendrick: Yeah. Yeah. The Futur, it’s spelled F U T U R, no E.

[00:34:50] Jon Penland: Okay. Very cool. Yeah. And, and the, the Twitter advice is some that I need to take to heart myself. So, so finally, where can our listeners go to connect with you or [00:35:00] to learn more about the work you’re doing? 

[00:35:02] Karmen Kendrick: Yes, of course, you can always visit my website, which is karmenk.com. And, as far as social, I’m always on Twitter. It’s @iamkarmenk on Twitter. 

[00:35:11] Jon Penland: Yeah, and that is Karmen with a K. So Karmen with K. 

[00:35:14] Karmen Kendrick: With the K as well.

[00:35:16] Jon Penland: All right. So Karmen, thank you so much for being on Reverse Engineered. It’s been a pleasure to have you on show. 

[00:35:22] Karmen Kendrick: Thank you so much. 

[00:35:23] Jon Penland: And, thank you to our listeners. That’s all for today’s podcast. You can access the episode show notes at kinsta.com/podcast. That’s K I N S T A.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to Reverse Engineered and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or the platform you’re listening to right now. See you next time.

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