How I went from clueless with website building to a full-time website designer
When I tell people I’m a web designer, a typical follow up question is ‘how did you get into that? Did you study it in college?’
While I do have two degrees, neither one was in anything remotely related to website design. 😂 Life’s a funny thing, isn’t it?
So, how’d I do it?
I know you want to hear the specific details, so here goes.
Back in undergrad I decided I was going to be a travel blogger! I knew how to travel, so that wasn’t an issue at all. The problem was, I had no idea how to blog or build a website.
Though I had a boatload of determination and drive to figure out how to build a website I quickly learned it is HARD and straight up overwhelming.
Uh, can you say holy moly decision making?!
Even just picking a platform was a major decision with serious pros and cons to each option.
Not to mention, I knew full well I didn’t want to have to make the wrong one, and then need to start alllllll over on a new platform. From the little I knew about site building, I got the fair idea that it was a time investment and a half, so I wanted to do it right on a platform I could stay with long-term.
I did the usual, all the Googling!
Platform comparison charts, blog posts of experiences from others who had tested out different platforms, and if there was a free trial, I hopped on that too to get a feel for the platform myself.
I considered WordPress, Wix, Blogger and Squarespace.
I actually started on Blogger only to realize that trying to do any customization to my site from the original template involved a wholeeee lotta coding knowledge and super time consuming trial and error.
I hopped ship on Blogger and moved over to Squarespace where I finally was able to create what was in my mind on a page!
You can sign up for a free trial of Squarespace here and I also got ya a little off the price, use code PAIGE10 for 10% off your first year. (Yes, that's an affiliate link!)
Granted, I quickly found out there was a LOT to learn.
Literally a year after I was on Squarespace, I was still finding features and little hidden settings that were there all along, but I just had no idea they existed.
I admit, learning Squarespace wasn’t the simplest thing in the world. I was a little frustrated there wasn’t a one-stop-learn-Squarespace shop.
I spent an absolute eternity finding all the support articles, forums, YouTube videos and blog posts, and piecing together all the information in order to be able to tweak my site to perfection.
I found the absolute most valuable advice always came from blogs that really explained the different ways in which the Squarespace blocks could be used IRL to accomplish certain layout and designs on an actual site.
(This might have a little something to do with why I share similar information so frequently on my blog now, because I so appreciated it back then and I haven’t forgotten what starting from absolutely 0 site building experience feels like!)
So, I self-taught myself all the Squarespace things, and quickly realized I LOVED playing around with my websites design and layout. No joke, the thing was getting a constant face lift, which I quickly realized wasn’t good for brand recognition, but honestly I just loved trying out new ideas every week so it was hard to help myself.
Finally, I had found a platform that just clicked with me, and creating a website was a legitimate joy, not a constant struggle.
One day I had the crazy idea ‘… I wonder if I could design sites for other people too?!’
Now of course, I had 0 formal education in web design, had only ever built a site for myself, and didn’t know the first thing about building a business.
But, a passion is a passion, and I followed it.
The universe clearly got to work creating the perfect situation to enable me to start down the path of becoming a web designer, because just a couple weeks later, I was introduced to a non-profit that, wouldn’t you know it, was in desperate need of a new website.
That non-profit described their struggle to me, having a website on a super outdated platform that was an absolute nightmare to make even the smallest changes on. Not to mention, they almost avoided marketing opportunities, even though they knew they shouldn’t, because they were just too embarrassed to send people back to their site.
So, we worked together to piece together a new site and I loved the opportunity to get to actually be designing with a purpose. Finally I was’t just designing for my own entertainment, but I was able to truly help a struggling organization with the skills I had taught myself!
That first project (and portfolio piece!) helped me get started.
Now I don’t want to paint a perfect picture, there was still a lot I learned, both in web design strategy and entrepreneurship along the way building my business. I spent almost 2 years side hustling my business part time on the side of my Masters before finally taking the leap to go full-time.
On the side of my degree (*ahem - actual school*) I was still playing the role of a student to learn all the things I needed to know to run a successful web design business. I devoured all the entrepreneurship, online business, marketing and web design strategy content online. I took online courses and waited (rather impatiently) as slowly but surely, more and more booking inquiries made their way through my website and into my inbox.
I kept at it and kept my eye on the prize, becoming one of the go-to Squarespace designers and informational resources online, in attempt to help those that also had big dreams, but needed a website to share their thing with the world too.
My goal today and the purpose of this post is simple to share that, if I can go from website-clueless to a website designer, then you my friend, wether you want to be a web designer or just to build a website for your business or passion project, can totally do it!
I hope my story shows that it is totally possible to start truly at ground 0 and build a website and business that enables you to live exactly the life you want!