If you’ve been dreaming of starting a web design business, but have yet to truly take the leap to get started, there may be a few common myths and misconceptions that have been holding you back.
In today’s video/post, I hope to bust those limiting beliefs you might have believed in the past, and show you what is possible instead!
One thing I hear all the time, on-repeat that keeps people from ever getting started with their design business is:
“But Paige…I don’t know how to code.”
Well, let me tell you a little secret…me neither. Not really!
Coding is just not my jam! And while I have crazy levels of admiration for all the super-coding genius ladies out there killing it in their space, I’m here to tell you that you do not need to learn to code in order to become a successful, fully-booked out web designer.
And here’s why:
Sure, there are those that have their heart set on some super-custom, never-seen-before feature on their website…
But if sitting down to write out hundreds of tedious lines of code does not bring you joy, then those clients are not your people.
As mother would say, ‘there are plenty of fish’ in the client-finding sea.
There are hundreds of thousands of people out there starting new businesses every day who are going to need a website, but simply don’t have the time or inclination to learn to build it themselves.
They are looking for someone to swoop in and save the day, handling every last detail of the design process for them so they can focus on what they do best.
You might be wondering…
Every once in a while, I would get a client with a super specific feature on their wishlist that was outside the scope of what Squarespace could do.
When this happened, I would let them know that I was absolutely happy to research a solution, or find someone who did know how to code that into existence, but that if we went that route, they would forever be relying on developers to update their website, since it would take coding knowledge to maintain that aspect of the design, rather than them being able to easily update their own website in the future for free using Squarespace’s built-in features and functions.
99.9% of those clients would quickly decide that that feature wasn’t so important after all.
And for the other .1% that couldn’t live without it?
There’s no shame in outsourcing that aspect of the project to a coding pro!
Just make sure you are clear when setting your packages and prices that features requiring custom coding would be at an additional charge.
You can get a pretty good feel for who will need custom coding before you accept their project just by asking “what would you like your website to do?”
But this doesn’t mean you have to disappoint every potential client who comes to you wanting something custom on their site!
Clients love it, because they feel like they are getting this super high-end design customized exactly to their needs, without the overwhelm and expense of having to track down a developer every time they need a bit of content swapped out on their site.
I actually built my entire Square Secrets™️ course around mastering Squarespace’s built-in features to create completely-custom, nothing like the template websites, and I’m happy to report, it’s a 100% code-free zone!
I’ve had so many past students who had already been designing for years before joining Square Secrets™️ and were honestly blown away by what they didn’t know that the platform could natively do, and by all the things they were previously relying on complicated code to make happen.
So just know coding knowledge is not a requirement to create absolutely stunning, high-converting websites that your clients can’t wait to show off.
It’s pretty hard to convince a potential client to hand over their hard earned cash if you have no concrete proof you actually know what you are doing, right?
But does that mean you have to give away a whole bunch of websites for free in the beginning?
While offering work at a discounted price or even pro bono can be super beneficial when you’re first getting started, if you don’t do it right, you can actually end up harming your business and slowing your progress instead.
So when it comes to offering any sort of free work, there are a few best practices you’ll want to keep in mind:
Don’t post publicly that you are doing this.
You really only want to offer this opportunity to a very select few people.
Instead of becoming known on the internet as the designer who is constantly giving away free work to anyone who will work with her, and winding up with a whole bunch of portfolio pieces that you can’t really use, you want to get super intentional about who it is you are reaching out to with your offer of a free or discounted project.
Say you’re dreaming of designing websites for people in the wedding industry.
There wouldn’t be much point in offering to design a free website for your plumber, since that is not a piece you’ll be able to use in your portfolio.
So visualize the specific vibe or type of past work that your exact ideal client would want to see when they show up to your site, and then only share your special offer with people who fit that niche or vibe.
If you are having trouble finding businesses who fit with your idea for your future ideal client, then sometimes it can make more sense to do the free work for yourself, and create imaginary mockup portfolio pieces instead!
Obviously part of the benefit of offering work for free when you are first getting started is getting the chance to work out the kinks in your client process, and collect a few super solid client testimonials, but the benefit to creating fake website mockups is that you have complete creative control over the design.
Creating your own conceptual demo websites is an excellent way to fast track a super curated portfolio!
You aren’t having to wait on a client to get you their sometimes meh-quality content, and you’ll have a super cohesive highlight reel of what you can do, instead of a mishmash of different styles that only sort of relate.
You don’t need an endless amount of portfolio pieces to start landing clients.
Three super curated and high-quality past projects will go a lot farther in attracting the right type of client than 30 random freebie websites you did “to gain experience.”
So set yourself a firm cut-off date for when you will stop taking free projects or collaborations and take the leap to start charging legit designer rates. Then frequently increase your prices from there.
These clients are often more demanding, expecting more for less, and the actual clients with real budgets that you do want to work with will take one look at your low rates and wonder if maybe there is something wrong with your services.
So while building your portfolio is definitely priority #1, you don’t want to get stuck there, or let it be what keeps you from really getting started!
You need to make a solid plan for when you will stop working for free or discounted rates, and start actively marketing your business in a sustainable way that will fill your books with actual paying clients!
Which brings me to the next myth we are busting today!
When you see other designers out there killing it, it’s super tempting to hop on board with every last marketing strategy that seems to be working for them.
So you convince yourself you need to create a podcast, start a YouTube channel, build a blog, and show up every 5 minutes on every trending social media platform under the sun in order to get seen by your audience.
And I totally hear you!
When I first started my little web design studio, I felt major obligation to do all the things.
But let me tell you…the stress and overwhelm of having to be everywhere at once quickly snuffed out any excitement and confidence I previously had mustered in my business.
Every morning when I woke up and looked at my to-do list, it was just filled with all these things that I honestly hated doing.
It made it way too easy to procrastinate, and made it feel like it was impossible to even get started, which is why my first attempt at going full-time with my web design business was actually a total flop.
So what did I do differently the second time?
I chose to focus on one single strategy that I actually did enjoy (which for me was blogging) and that knew I could commit to doing consistently and then I marketed the out it.
It was only when I gave myself permission to drop the juggling act and focus on doing ONE thing well that I started to see progress in my business.
Your potential clients have about a bajillion decisions a day to make in their businesses, so outsourcing the giant task of building a website should make them feel like a major weight has been lifted, right?
This means your aim as a web designer needs to be to make it as easy and painless as possible to get started working with you.
You do not want to go presenting them with endless options for them to have to wade through before you can ever even sit down to start designing…
Overwhelming your potential clients with too many options can cause them to want to pump the brakes on the project…or worse, go in an entirely different direction and work with someone else who does make it easier on them to get started.
In the end, what they are looking for is someone to take the lead, and if they’ve fallen head over heels in love with your portfolio, they are not going to think twice when you confidently recommend your platform of choice.
If for some reason your consultation call reveals to you that your platform is not a good fit for their website…then it’s 100% ok to tell them!
Just be sure to have a few trusted designer friends from other platforms that you can recommend them to.
Chances are those same designers will come across clients who need exactly what you offer and will send them your way, and suddenly you have this super tight knit network of high-quality referrals.
Your clients will be happier that you were honest, and you won’t be stuck faking it until you make it on a platform that you honestly haven’t had time to properly learn.
That being said, on the off chance that your potential client has done their homework and has their heart set on a specific platform, which happens to be the one you use, then you want to make dang sure you are the obvious choice!
Sticking to one platform helps you to master your design skills, and to further niche your web design business, so you can be speaking to one exact audience with everything you do and everywhere you show up online.
Not to mention it makes keeping up with tech updates wayyyy easier when you only have one platform to manage.
Do you know what most of my students studied in school prior to becoming successful web designers?
Pretty much anything and everything EXCEPT tech and design!
They were bakers, artists, coaches, therapists, copywriters, stay-at-home moms, photographers, yoga instructors, consultants, florists, event planners, nutritionists, architects, and boutique shop owners!
Many of them weren’t even planning on becoming web designers, but after taking my Square Secrets™️ course to help them DIY their own business or side hustle’s website, they had people legit asking them:
And for those students who did have aspirations of becoming a web designer prior to joining my Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ courses most of them had no formal education, but just knew they wanted a way to be able to ditch the 9-5, become their own boss, and start earning from wherever there was wifi.
So just know that with the right guidance, and a little grit and determination, it is 100% possible for you to start today, even with zero experience, and build a successful, fully-booked-out design business that supports a life you love!