Ask Paige Anything: The business side of Squarespace website design
Q: How many hours did you put in your business in the first 6 months and how is it different now?
A: When I went full-time with my business, I was working morning to night, 7 days a week. Having a life was really not a thing I had, at all. I did that for about a year in the very beginning when I was really building stuff up.
Now, I work Monday - Friday (no more weekends!) and I average about 8 or 9 hours a day. During a course launch however, life gets throw out the window and I go back to pulling morning-night work days, including weekends.
I would like however to get to a place where I’m working 6 hours a day, and not having a course launch completely take over my life, that’s my idea of an ideal work-life balance which I’m currently working towards.
In terms of vacation, now I take about 7-8 weeks of vacation a year.
Q: How long does it take to make it?
A: This one is a little hard to determine as everyone’s definition of ‘making it’ can be different, but I have a feeling the thought process behind the question is probably ‘how long does it take to make it as a designer who’s booked consistently,’ as that’s also a question I get super frequently.
In that case, I have some pretty interesting insights from all the guest expert interviews I did in my Square Secrets Business course! I interviewed a handful of the top Squarespace designers and asked how long it took each of them to be booked consistently with clients. Their answers ranged from a just few weeks to 12 months. Which marketing strategy they chose was the biggest thing which impacted this result.
I chose blogging as my primary marketing method and I booked myself out from that within 6 months. (Blogging is a slow build, but definitely pays off big time in the long run.)
Q: Let's see your office and workspace!
If you go to my Instagram highlights (the ‘German Life’ one) you can see a little tour of my office. It includes the thing I’m most proud of in my office, the letter I taped to my wall congratulating me on paying off my 45k student loan.
Q: How did you get clients in the beginning when you had no portfolio?
A: I started off designing websites in the first place by building myself a travel blog, so when I decided to also design websites for others, that blog was a site I had already built which I could put into a portfolio. I also just so happened to meet some people who ran a non-profit that needed a site, that was my second portfolio piece. (The story all about how that happened is here.) Then, I created a few mock websites and had those to round out my portfolio.
Then, when I started getting legit clients, I swapped their sites into my portfolio and slowly started getting rid of my kinda mismatched previous portfolio pieces.
Q: Can we be friends? I'm kidding. My question is, Do you worry inexpensive countries like the Philippines will ever take over the US market for Squarespace design. I told my business friend who 29 years old what I was doing and he said he gets beautiful websites for $4/hour from Philippines and gauffed that I planned on charging over 2k for mine. I would loved to know your thoughts because besides saying that we should support local business in our town, ie, like his I didn’t have anything else to comment.
A: First, obv we can be friends, haha.
Second, legitimately, I don’t worry about this even in the slightest, and don’t think you need to either. There’s so much to say on this, but here’s a few quick thoughts.
There’s always going to be people who will go to the end of the earth (pun intended) to get a rock bottom price, and that person isn’t your ideal client. And I’ve seen that those are the clients who want the stars and the moon and your right arm too, and their max budget is $100. These people exist and convincing them otherwise is a pretty fruitless effort, so it might not be worth your time trying.
The real reason this isn’t a problem though, is a kinda sad truth all about connection.
Story time, I did a little coaching call one day with a Squarespace designer in eastern Europe who was baffled that I was booking consistently with 5k+ prices. And I learned pretty quickly that I had a super unfair advantage over her.
I have had very similar life experiences to my clients. I’ve gone to a big name US college, I am a native English speaker, I go to the conferences and events they do, I look like them, shop at the same places and take vacation to the same areas. That wasn’t the case for her. She couldn’t connect with clients the way I could, by no fault of her own.
I get on consult calls and shoot the breeze first with potential clients about the game day tailgate on the weekend, discuss the current Nordstrom sale or connect over the fact we both went to the same college. I build trust and connection with clients in a matter of minutes that someone struggling through a call speaking a language that is not native to them just can’t.
A lot of people hire other people like them, because they just ‘click’ better.
I’m not saying this is right or by any means fair, but I’ve seen it’s sadly true.
People working for $4/hour in the Philippines unfortunately just don’t have the same advantage we do in that they can’t connect as easily with clients in the US with bigger budgets.
Q: Where do you see your biz going over the next few years? What’s in the works for you?
All good friend, I’ve got an answer for you! Check out this post: A behind-the-scenes look at what's coming up in 2019.
Q: Is there a reason why you never wanted to learn how to code?
A: Honestly, it isn’t that I never wanted to, it just wasn’t ever a high enough priority for me to actually carve out the time to do it.
I was always able to create whatever I needed to with some creative Squarespace hacks and anytime I needed to code something I didn’t know how to do myself, Square Studio generally had the code and it was more efficient for me to buy it than to spend hours or days figuring it out myself.
Q: Do you use subcontractors to do most of the design since you're so busy?
Nope, I’ve never subcontracted out! When clients make an investment in me, I take it super seriously and really care for their project and value the trust they put in me. So I never said I was doing the work but subcontracted it out as that just feels like some super dishonest business practices to me.
A legit way I considered for managing how busy I was and how many inquiries were coming in was to start an agency and make it super clear that I would pair clients with another designer and then review and tweak the work before sending it off to the client. I ended up deciding against the agency route though, I explain why here.
Q: How did you grow your business & position yourself as an expert without having much experience?
I love the story from Nathan Barry, the founder of ConvertKit, on this.
Back in the day, Nathan was designing websites and learning CSS. Someone else named Chris was doing the same, but as Chris learned with each web design project, he’d post about it and share what he learned online.
Chris built a following. He was no more skilled in CSS than Nathan, but regardless, Chris became known as an expert in CSS. Nathan didn’t.
I did the same. As I learned new things in Squarespace, I shared about them on this blog.
As you can imagine, I spent a lot of non-glamorous evenings behind my laptop, typing away for hours at a time. A lot of web designers would have considered it a lot of additional work and not worth their time to write about what they learned on a new project.
But I can promise you - providing real value and information to the world, it pays off.
Q: Does the majority of your income come from your courses, course development/delivery or from being a SquareSpace web designer/evangelist?
At the time of writing this, it’s primarily courses, followed by affiliate income.
Q: How do you cost a project, by hours required, set costs, or other?
I do package pricing! I find that scope creep is a lot less of an issue with packages than with hourly pricing, and it’s also a lot more efficient behind-the-scenes to have 1 package and therefore 1 process.
Q: How do you feel or what do you do when you come across sites or content that are clearly modeled after yours, if anything?
A: Ugh, this is the worst. It’s honestly the most heart-sinking-into-your-stomach-feeling to read your exact copy and see your own images and graphics on other people’s sites. This has started happening so frequently now that I’ve began using copyscape.com monthly to write up a list of the sites doing it. That’s then followed up by a strongly worded email and if need be a cease and desist from my lawyer.