Finding clients as a new Squarespace designer – 7 costly mistakes to avoid (60 min on-demand training)
Pretty much every week like clockwork, I can expect the following question to make it’s way into my DM’s or email inbox:
“But Paige, if I niche right away, won’t I be narrowing the pool, making it even harder on myself to find paying clients!?”
And it’s a totally valid question! The fear of not being able to land enough clients to pay the bills is very real when you are first starting out!
But I wanted to give you a real-life glimpse at just how powerful niching can be for new or struggling designers trying to find a way to fill their books!!
And I can’t think of a better example of really niching, and niching early, than lovely past student & designer Charlotte Duckworth!
…all as a brand spankin’ new web designer!? ♀️
Here’s that complete interview! (Plus a few amazing portfolio pieces scattered throughout that she recently created for her niche clients…authors!)
So I’ve had a lot of different jobs…
I initially trained as a journalist, working for interior design magazines. I actually used to help out quite a lot with their websites because everyone in publishing was very “anti-websites,” since they were taking all the traffic.
So I have always sort of been involved with websites, but not building them—more just providing the content, and writing the features, etc.
After that, I ran a digital marketing agency for a little bit doing content marketing for interior design companies and social media. But I really don’t enjoy doing social media for other people…just not my thing!
I sold that business when I got pregnant, and then had my baby.
I was a bit clueless as to what to do after that, because journalism has sort of died…it’s very competitive, and there’s not a huge amount of money in it anymore.
I did write a novel while I was on maternity leave and it actually got published, which was amazing…but the thing about book deals is the income is very unreliable. You get one payment up front, and then another one, like, six months later, and another one year later…it’s quite sporadic.
Also, authors do not earn as much as people think they do (unless you’re JK Rowling who’s obviously loaded)…but yeah, the majority of authors are really struggling.
So I knew I had to do something else alongside it.
So I thought, “well, I’ve always enjoyed doing websites, and I obviously did my own author site…maybe I could offer this as a service to do it for other people!”
There’s two sides to web design…there’s the technical side, and then there’s making it look good, so I didn’t just want to learn code, because that really wasn’t going to help me.
I’ve always loved Squarespace—it’s great for authors because of how easy it is to use—so I was just Googling for Squarespace courses, and that’s how I found you and your web designer courses!
So cool! I didn’t it expect when I was creating the courses but apparently this is a super common reason for why students decide to join me inside the courses—they get pregnant or have a baby and quickly realize “my old job is not gonna work with this situation!”
Yeah, it’s a lovely thing to do around having a child!
I do a lot of my web design in the evenings when she’s in bed.
Every now and then I think about taking a CSS course, because you do get some clients that want really specific things, and one thing I struggle with is telling people “Sorry, Squarespace doesn’t do that” without sounding like I’m the one who can’t do it…
But to be honest, I haven’t needed to take one, because I’ve always managed to find answers for the things people wanted by Googling or visiting Squarespace forums.
So yeah, maybe one day. But not right now…
Exactly! Not because you have to learn to code! That’s a big common misconception!
But same with me…I was never a strong coder. I can find my way around and tweak things here and there but I was never writing it from scratch. I just find snippets or plugins for what I need online, or worst case scenario, just hire someone for like a half an hour, and they can just fix it for you very quickly.
Yeah, I did. And I still do.
I think my biggest hangup is that I didn’t [study it] in university (even though I don’t actually know what you do at university to become a web designer…)
Because I worked in interior design magazines, I worked with lots of graphic designers and stylists…they are very visual people and I’m more of a words person.
So I still find myself feeling a bit of imposter syndrome. But then I get such great feedback! And everyone’s so nice!
So I think I did the first one in like, honestly, a week or maybe 10 days, because I was building my site at the same time.
And I was obsessed.
My other half was like, “Oh, is that Paige again?” because he could hear you in the background.
I mean, I ran a PR company. We had staff. So I knew all the sort of tax stuff.
But it was more for the process…how to work with clients and, like, get the right information out of them. So yeah, I bought Square Secrets Business™️ pretty much straight away after taking Square Secrets™️.
My niche is authors! Primarily published authors, or authors with a book deal, like “debut authors” that have got something coming out.
Obviously, as an author myself, I knew a lot of authors, so that did help massively.
I just said, “I’m thinking of doing this…would anyone be interested [at a discounted rate]?”
I personally don’t believe in doing things for free.
I feel like people value your view more if they’re paying for you. So I never offered anything for free, but I did do it for pretty cheap.
I had loads of people from that group interested…actually too many. So I said I could only do three websites [at that discounted rate.] That really helped!
I was like, “If I’m doing your website, you need to give me a testimonial, and let me include your site in my portfolio, and have my link at the bottom or your site…”
So I did the first three and they were really happy.
Then I started doing a lot of content marketing. I was blogging consistently, wrote a free ebook with a friend [for authors on getting their first book deal and dealing the pressures that go with]…I tweeted about that and then I got a lot of downloads so that got people on my mailing list.
But yeah, blogging weekly was the main thing and then sharing it in that Facebook group full of authors.
I was very careful that nothing was too promotional. It was always very helpful information rather than me sort of pushing.
I think the most popular one I did was “Why Squarespace is better than WordPress for authors.”
There’s a lot of authors who use WordPress, I think just because it’s what they’ve heard of.
I’ve used WordPress loads in the past, and it’s great if you like technology…but if you don’t, it’s a nightmare.
It’s constantly changing and you’ve got to keep on top of stuff.
So that was one that was really popular and got a lot of traffic because a lot of authors had WordPress websites that they were fed up with.
I also did “The perfect Squarespace template for authors.”
And I wouldn’t say it went “viral”,” but I got a lot of good SEO and traffic from that, probably because there aren’t that many Squarespace posts specific to authors.
So nothing generic…always very specific to what was good for writers. I stayed consistent, and it was all very practical information, nothing pushy. Like I said, I think people can smell that a bit.
It was pretty immediate, actually.
So I built those three discounted ones, and then they all talked to their friends, so it was a lot of word of mouth.
[I started my business January last year] and between then and Easter I was slightly worried thinking, “Am I going to book people?”
But then by summer, I was completely booked out for the rest of the year. Then, by Christmas, I was already booked out for this entire year, too!
At the moment, I have three packages. And then I’ve introduced one sort of secretly…like “soft-launched” it. So I haven’t really talked about it much.
So I have a one-page website, which is the cheapest thing (apart from this new package I’ll talk about)…
And then I have like a mid range one, which is pretty much just a standard website. I [base my prices] on many books people have published, because I’ve realized over time, that’s the biggest determiner of how long it will take me to create their site.
Then, I have a higher rate package, which is very expensive. And that’s for people who are very established—successful authors, who’ve been writing for years and have a lot of books.
Then I got a few people saying, “Oh, I can’t afford you. But I’d really like you to build my website.”
So what I’m sort of soft-launching (and I’ve done a few over the summer) is a one-day website.
So they’re basically trusting me, because a lot of authors are not that interested…they just need a website that works and looks nice.
So the one-day website takes the pressure off them…I just say “Trust me, and I’ll build you a nice website, that will be the best that I can think of for your book.”
I’ve done a few and they’re just a dream…so easy!
So same as you, there’s no real typical day…
If I’m doing a project, then I usually do the homepage on the Monday, although I probably started on Sunday, and send it to them by the end of the Monday.
Then they get the chance to comment on the homepage and any changes they want. (This is if I’m doing a normal website, not a one-day website).
Once we’ve agreed on the homepage design, I will build the rest of the site and send that to them on the Friday.
They’ve got the weekend to send me the changes by the Monday, and then we keep going until the following Friday where we would launch.
Mondays are the intense days because that’s the day when I’m really like working on their websites.
When they send the [edits] over, I’ll usually fit that around other things I’m doing (marketing, my own writing, etc.)
I try to write 2000 words a day for my own books—that’s my biggest priority, and the easiest thing to not do…so I have to be quite disciplined with that.
Definitely! When taking the courses, I did it all in the evenings.
I was obsessed…I mean, it was all what I wanted to do!
This summer, for example, I haven’t done very much work. I haven’t had any editing to do for my novel, and I just did these one-day websites my daughter was in camp, and then the rest of the time we’ve been away traveling and visiting people.
I’ve had at least a good five weeks off with the odd day working.
It’s a totally different mindset from the 9-5!
If I need to earn more money, all I do is ramp up my [marketing].
I’m currently doing just one or two websites a month to leave time for my books, and I’m all booked up. So I’ve sort of pulled back a bit on marketing.
But I know now that if suddenly I was like “I want to pay for a holiday,” I just do a massive marketing push and book a few more websites.
The nice thing is, is I’ve got a career…if nobody ever published my novels again, that’s fine. I could be a website designer full-time.
The main thing I would say is, you’ve got to love it. (But I mean, obviously, most people—if they got to this stage—realize it’s something they would really enjoy.)
Also, just always be positive. I know it’s hard sometimes. The comparison thing is really difficult.
But if you if you’re consistent and positive, and you do good work…I think this is the most important thing.
Be authentic! Find something you’re really interested in and passionate about, and really involve yourself in that community, because then you can talk to them on a different level!
A lot of authors I’ve worked with have gone to [general] web designers who do lots of different sites, and don’t really understand what an author’s life is like.
If it’s something you’re passionate about, learn as much as you can about that industry and the challenges those people are facing.
And be specific when you’re marketing to them! And generous!
But, yeah, just keep going…you have to be consistent.
It’s very easy to give up. I’ve had so many blogs in the past for other things where I’ve given up after a couple of months. It’s tough sometimes when you’re like “I don’t want to write another blog post!”
But if you are consistent, it really, really pays off.
Oh my god, it’s amazing.
Like, don’t be on the fence. There’s just so much value, and I still come back to it even now.
It’s very helpful and reassuring when you can see somebody else has done something, and they’re giving you the exact formula that they used.
Paige is very generous with what she shares, so you won’t feel like you’re being shortchanged!
I’ve done a lot of online courses, and some of them are really feeble…there’s like 5% of value in there, and the rest is all marketing and noise.
I definitely didn’t think that with this course! It was 100% worth it.