Maybe you’ve heard the myth that in order to make it as a web designer, you need to know how to code…
And if you want to land clients, and charge premium prices, you need some fancy degree in tech or computer sciences first!
Well, there’s a reason, when my team and I are chatting with past students, the first question we always ask is what they were doing before they became a web designer…
It’s because no two stories look the same, and 99% of those who join us inside Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ have zero prior experience!
They didn’t go to school for this, and career-wise, they were doing something completely unrelated before they started their dream business!
Today’s featured student is no exception!
Jenn Nash of Nash Franks Creative is sharing how she sort of stumbled upon this idea of starting a web design business by accident, and what it’s been like to run this amazing side-hustle she’s built for herself and her family!
Oh, but before I turn you loose to read her inspiring words, can we please talk about what a talented designer Jenn is?? (Click the arrows to scroll left and right)
No! I didn’t have any experience!
I was part-time in the Air National Guard, and so my design business kind of developed alongside that.
I like art, and in my personal hobby life, I like to do collages and scrapbooking! So when digital scrapbooking became really popular, that’s when I got into online designing and taking courses.
It was sort of by accident!
I wanted to have my own business and I was super into DIY and interior design. I gradually started doing more classes of graphic design, branding, etc. online.
Then I had my hairstylist who started her own salon, and she [needed] someone to do her website. We were just kind of talking about it one day, and I told her I had been dabbling in learning web design. So I just volunteered to help her and we decided to do an exchange [for hair services].
So she was my OG client, who I still actually work with! I’m actually currently redesigning a website for her (for a totally different company) and it’s cool to think of how long we’ve been working together and how much [design] has evolved.
I was trying to figure out how to do something in Squarespace for a client…like how to get a certain look. I’m sure I had been on Paige’s blog lots before because it always comes up when you search anything about Squarespace…
I mean, you can learn how to do anything for free through Google these days, but to have it all consolidated, and structured, and nicely laid out with just one place to go…I’ve referred back to it a lot!
Then I saw that she also had Square Secrets Business™️. You have the how to do the actual design in Square Secrets™️, but then also you have how to do this as a business…and since I was starting and had clients, I was like “I’m just going to get the bundle!”
So obviously Paige gives you certain techniques on how to create a certain visual, but one of the biggest things that I learned was how to think outside box of what Squarespace has to offer…
Like how to take a gallery block, or image block, or whatever, and think of different ways to use them. It really opened my mind be thinking “how can I use these elements in different and creative ways?” So I definitely have a lot more tricks in my bag now!
Before it was just an image block…
But now I know there are so many creative ways to use all these things Squarespace has!
Yeah, so I started the Facebook group a while ago…the idea behind it was, I have a lot of friends that are newer to starting businesses.
Everyone comes to me like, “Oh, hey, Jen, I’m going to start a business! What can I do to _______?”
And a lot of my clients are newer business owners too, so I thought this would be a great place to consolidate me being able to share information. I love teaching and sharing!
I’m a huge research nerd (I was a history major and undergrad) and I read all the time. So I like to able to share that with people…
I have also been in other groups, and this is an interesting usage of Facebook groups as far as marketing. For instance, that hairstyle client I have, she has a Facebook group just for salon owners. So she invited me to do this huge series on branding and websites for salons.
It was kind of like bartering or trade again…She didn’t pay me to come in and teach, I just knew I had some knowledge I could share with her group, and I ended up getting paying client leads from it.
I’ve also had random people off Instagram…
“Hey, this person is awesome! You should totally work with them!”
So I didn’t have any set goals at first because I kind of just started it by accident!
But as I started getting more referrals and things started taking off, I was like “Ok, maybe I should set some real goals (beyond just enjoying designing and sharing all this information I’ve accumulated in my brain!)”
Or maybe just use it to get some place in the mountains or something! I just wanted this extra resource to help [my family] spend time doing fun things together!
I started around $1K. And it was so much work…
So now my absolute minimum project is $3K!
Clients (especially if they have never had a website) just don’t have any idea how much work it entails. They have a lot of work to do themselves, and I have to spend a lot of time educating them on how to get imagery, or copy, etc.
So I’ve developed my process to cater to that, knowing how much extra time it will take. I’m not just making a website!
I definitely think that some of the projects that I’ve worked on could have easily been double what I charged.
I would never have felt comfortable charging that at the beginning, even if it required that much time and intensity!
I was like, “Oh, I’m still learning myself…” because I had my online courses that I was learning from and was working on their project at the same time!
I have struggled with this! I feel like everybody probably has in some way, shape, or form.
And for me, a lot of it goes around the fact that I only do this part-time.
So sometimes I feel like I discount myself because this isn’t my full-time job….this isn’t my sole source of income! So I get a lot of fraudy feelings through that.
And it’s hard when you have access to every other person’s designs and every other person’s ideas! That can get overwhelming!
So how I shield myself a little bit is when I first start a project, and I’m doing a lot of research, I will look on Pinterest…but then I shut my computer and look through books or magazines for layout ideas…and kind of get out of seeing this designer who I love, or this guy who does this awesome typography stuff…
So I’m like, okay, they do their thing, now I’m just gonna go in my own little world. So when I actually start designing, I don’t look at the other people’s stuff at all.
So when they see what I made, they are not comparing it to everyone else!
So I have kind of curated my own set of resources I can share with them to help them create their content (or whatever I’m asking them to do)…resources from copywriters or helpful tips I’ve seen for things like “how to write a headline.”
So in the mix of the Google Doc I use to collect their website copy, I put links to all these resources. I’m not a copywriter…but I want to be able to provide them with as much helpful information to move the process along.
Or if they need image sourcing, we can add that to their package or I can give them a link to a free image source.
It might be a tie…I mean if you’re doing Squarespace design, it’s pretty hard to create something super horrendous on the platform.
I mean, I’ve seen it…it is doable, but Squarespace is not that challenging.
So along with design, equally important I would say is people skills, and the ability to regurgitate what they’re saying to you back to them in a way so that you know how to design for them.
Because they may say something, and in their brain, it means ‘XYZ’, but when you say it back to them, they’re like, “No, that’s not what I meant at all!”
I just had a client where I designed completely off the rails from what I thought she wanted. We had to come back and go through it again completely. So that was kind of a challenge!
So no day is really the same…I have my other part-time job and so for the three days I’m doing that job, I’m fully focused on that…so it’s very compartmentalized. I’m knot doing that part of the day and then designing the rest.
I’ve got kids, a husband, and a dog and they wake me up at the crack of dawn. I’m not a morning person, so I’m not one of those people who get up at 5 AM to have my coffee and get all my work done before my kids wake up…they literally wake me up!
So I do kid things from like five until I walk my daughter to kindergarten, then I kind of start my day around nine.
I go through and prioritize…I try not to work on too many projects at once. I prefer to do just one project at a time and stay hyper-focused on one thing before moving on…
And my work is always mixed in with taking the dog to the vet, or ‘now I have to go pick up my son from daycare because he got sick,’ etc.
So kind of sporadic! And then I’m pretty much done by 3:30 PM when I go to pick up my daughter. I try to say ‘oh, I’ll work after they go to bed, but usually, I’m so tired that by 8:30-9:00 PM I’m in bed myself!
I mean, it’s good because I can like fit all those things in that pop-up! But it’s also bad because you can get easily distracted when something like that comes up.
(Ultimate mom hack! ☝️)
Just start it if you are interested in it!
It doesn’t have to be your primary mode of income right from the get-go! You can do it on the side to build experience…
Not just in the design sense—because there are plenty of people that are super creative and design very well—but the bigger struggles a lot of times are the business things (like how to get clients to give you their content and those types of things!)
Start simple! There’s so much information thrown at you like “you need this CRM tool that costs $300”…
But for someone just getting started or who is part-time, you’re not cranking through multiple clients a month, so for me, it’s better not to spend the extra money on those things.
Would it make it more streamlined? Probably! But being part-time, I don’t have the client volume to justify spending that sort of money to automate things when it takes me just a couple extra minutes to send it manually.
And I’m not worried about how many clients I need because I’ve accumulated all these extra expenses which in the end may not even be necessary…
So focus on the client experience, focus on creating your own process, and on honing your design skills.
I would say to just take it if you have the money to invest in it, and you have already experienced some of her teaching styles, and feel like it’s a good fit for you!
If you’ve consumed a lot of her content on the blog, and you get value out of it, or you’ve seen any of her videos, and they’ve resonated with you, then I would say to just get it, because it will streamline your learning process!
Also, it’s a very good tool to refer back to when you want to jog your memory or you want to check something out again, because maybe you glossed over it the first time you went through because it wasn’t top of mind…
I purchased Square Secrets™️ back when Squarespace 7.1 didn’t even exist! But recently, I logged back into the course and was like, “oh, there’s a whole thing on 7.1 in there now that I need to go through and see what else I can learn!”