The Design Business Show 145: Leverage Your Online Platforms with Michelle Martello

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | June 21, 2021
Check out episode 145 of The Design Business Show with Michelle Martello to learn all about leveraging your business online!

Michelle Martello is an award-winning designer, digital strategist and founder of Minima Designs.

With over two decades of e-learning and interactive design experience, she’s been around since the start of the digital education revolution. Michelle has worked with a wide variety of diverse clients including MTV, the National Park Service and Elena Brower creating hundreds of sites, courses and products and mentoring thousands of students.

These days Michelle helps entrepreneurs leverage their online platforms to share (and sell) their knowledge to the world. And she’s devoted to helping designers build their own sustainable businesses doing work that matters. She regularly shares her real-world insights around design, strategy and building a business that loves you back through speaking, mentoring and group training programs.

Michelle lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband Zane. In her down time, she’s a Peloton fanatic and she’s obsessed with her new spring loaded dance floors.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

Michelle’s Current Business Model + Implementing SEO

  • We originally met Michelle in episode 32 of The Design Business Show 
  • Michelle shares that 2020 for her was all about getting more clear and focused, which made it her highest revenue generating year
  • Now, Michelle is staying focused and trying to get clear on the next journey and says it’s not about building a ton of websites because she’s honestly only building one this year, but maintaining and doing stuff with clients
  • Michelle has been doing a lot of what she calls rescue work where people have hired designers but need a fresh perspective from someone and shares that she helps give them direction which they can then pass on to their designer
  • Michelle explains that a third of her business is affiliate business and that she’s been focusing on her newsletter, which is very story-driven and explains that she makes sure she’s selling within it and not just writing for the sake of writing
  • How Michelle has been focused on working smarter and explains some of the things she’s implemented in her business to do that
  • When Michelle first started her business, there were a lot of things she avoided like e-commerce and SEO but says now when she blogs it is very SEO intentional and she helps teach her audiences how to use SEO to help them stand out
  • Michelle suggests getting some knowledge on SEO and testing it out on your stuff first as a designer, because it is important and can help you be more effective, and says you should use multiple different channels for SEO
  • During the year Michelle offers mentorships with designers and shares she really enjoys helping people build personal brands and has started to develop a program for how to build a memorable brand online
  • If designers can focus on specialties, having certain aesthetics and learn the systems people use, along with some of the back-end work, Michelle says those designers will become so flexible and be able to charge premium rates

Michelle’s Journey

  • When Michelle first started her business she met with a business coach who gave her the first 6 clients she worked with and says she would hand code 3 website designs for them to pick from and said she was only charging around $1,800 for the whole process
  • How Michelle taught herself WordPress around 2008 and started doing WordPress websites for the yoga community—with each project she would bump up her price $100-200 and slowly she got around $3,500 and shares she really started to burnout in 2010/11
  • Michelle shares that she started to phase out the web design work she was doing because she was also working with a company that would pay her $5,000 – $10,000 to create comps of maps for universities
  • Why Michelle has never been able to rely on one source of revenue and why you shouldn’t either, because if they go away, you’re screwed
  • In 2011, Michelle took Marie Forleo’s B-School, where she learned about marketing and all the things she had been avoiding and says Marie noticed her in the comments and put her in a video, which led to 70 people calling Michelle in one day
  • After B-School, Michelle went to Marie’s live event and was in her mastermind group where Marie told her that she could consult and that she should triple her rates, which she did eventually
  • Michelle wants other designers to know that you have to make your own name for yourself whether that’s through publicity, your credit line, co-teaching with your clients, because all of those things will help give you confidence which will help you on your sales calls, it will help you close deals, etc

Working With Clients + Networking

  • Michelle explains how she knows if a client will be a good fit for her, red flags she looks for and how she keeps her prices pretty solid so she doesn’t get taken advantage of and shares a story of someone who tried to get services for free because they were a celebrity
  • The majority of people Michelle works with have an expertise, they just might not have it in an online capacity or they might not know how to package it up to sell, but they know what they’re talking about
  • If a project is not going well, make sure you have a plan to get out as soon as you can; get paid upfront and make incentives for you to show up and for your client to show up
  • We talk about having strict guidelines to help ourselves out with clients and share stories of times our work has been taken by someone else
  • One thing Michelle wishes she would have not given so much time to is caring what other people thought about her
  • How building your network is so important, so talk to other designers who you can collaborate with and who can send you clients
  • Michelle’s advice is to spend time where it matters by connecting with other designers, groups, people working in different industries that can share you with others and don’t compare yourself to other people you see online because there’s a lot of stuff they aren’t showing
  • Connect with Michelle on her website, where she has a lot of different free opt-ins, check out her design mentorship program and get on her email list to hear more updates about her personal branding courses


Links mentioned:

Michelle’s Website – Minima Designs

The Design Business Show – Episode 32

Marie Forleo’s B-School

Michelle’s Free Opt-ins

Michelle’s Design Mentorship Program

Join Michelle’s List


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