When I used to tell people I was a web designer a common question was, ‘oh, did you study computer science?’

No ma’am. This girl has an undergrad and Masters degree in – wait for it – Recreation and Leisure. I never took a computer science course in my life.

In this post, I’ll be sharing the story of how I went from clueless about how to build a website, to successful, fully booked-out, digital nomad-ing web designer.

My hope today is to show you that without a doubt, it is 100% possible to change lanes and go a completely different direction and become an expert in that field if that is what you want to do!

So here’s my entrepreneurial story, or at least the first few years of it!

(And yes, I’ll explain more about the degrees in recreation along the way.)

I’m not a huge poster of my personal life, or the BTS-type photos, but to help paint a bit more of a picture of my early years in business, I’ll give ya a few oldies but goodies.

Spring 2014

Started a travel blog from my college apartment

I was just polishing up my last year of undergrad at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and was sitting in my (let’s be honest) totally shabby university apartment.

Granted, that terrible student apartment has some of my fondest memories in it. Every time I drive by it, I still want to go back to that year again and relive it over, even if I did live in truly a hole of an apartment at the time.

I lived with two amazing roommates and then there was always another 3 or more friends hanging out in our living room, even though they technically didn’t live there.

My two best friends/roomies and I spent the previous summer having too much fun to pay attention to coordinating furniture so once we all showed up we realized we had an almost completely empty living room and kitchen.

We were graciously left a questionable, used futon/couch from the previous students and our landlord found us an old kitchen table from the side of the road which we then reinforced the legs with duct tape. #livingthedream



As much as I tease that old apartment and my time there – that’s where it all started.

Not to mention, the amount of fun I had in that last year of school with my best friends almost shouldn’t be legal.

As one hell of a year came to a close and my last exam time rolled around, I was so thoroughly over studying that instead I took to binging on Rosie The Londoners blog.

I had spent a semester the year before also having a life-changing, amazing good time at Keele University in Stoke-On-Trent, England and have always had such a fond place in my heart for England and London.

(So much so that fast forward 8 years, and a cute little London flat is where I’m currently hang my hat!)

Anyway, so Rosie’s blog really spoke to me…and it took me away to somewhere more exciting than my textbooks and my apartment- London!

I was sitting in my bed in that apartment, reading Rosie’s zillionth blog post that I decided I wanted to be a travel blogger.

I had traveled a bit in my life but had no idea how to blog, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

But let’s be real – when I started the blog it was completely useless and as lovely as my friends are, they definitely teased me a bit here and there for what I was starting.

Lesson #1:

When other people hate on your passions, keep going anyways

Blogs often start out as something small, useless and undefined. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Not one bit.

If I had let those initial teasings stop me from what I wanted to do, my life would be so drastically different – and I’m quite pleased with the life I’ve built myself now!

Lesson #2:

If you feel a passion, chase that thing to the end of the earth, even if you have no end goal in mind

You don’t need a defined end goal. You don’t need a perfect game plan. You won’t ever be guaranteed that something will work out in the perfect way.

That useless first blog led to this (then multiple 6-figure business…now over 7-figure) business that supports my life as I travel the world. #worthit.

Suggested reading:

Storytime: During one of my first launches of my course Square Secrets™️, I actually had a subscriber asking me if she should join because she had a passion to create a website but didn’t know exactly what it would be about. ‍♀️

I was so excited to write her back a response that I also decided to share it on Facebook. You can see my answer to her in this oldie but goodie video, starting from the 7:45 timestamp. Basically, I get more in depth into my advice on following your passion!)

Summer 2014:

Went to Oxford, MS for my Master’s Degree

Earlier that year I had come to the (highly logical ) decision that if I had so much fun at university, I may as well keep going, right?

Granted, I also knew that one day in my career I wanted to be in a management position and I knew from speaking to those in my field that a Master’s degree would be a requirement for that.

I started applying to schools for a Masters in Recreation Administration and a graduate assistantship that would pay my way through another degree.

While sitting in my bed again (I really like my bed), I opened my inbox to the acceptance email. I got accepted and given a position that would pay my full way at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)! ‍

I was so freaking excited and emotional I actually couldn’t get words out. I couldn’t believe what I had been dreaming about all year, going to grad school on a full ride, was actually happening!

I ran out into my living room (where as you now know there were always people hanging out) and placed my laptop in front of my roommates.

I couldn’t actually speak to tell them what happened, so they read the email instead while I stood mute with a giant smile.

Per usual, the crew gathered in our living room that night with cheap wine for a celebration and, naturally, we watched the movie The Blind Side.

(If you’re unfamiliar, The Blind Side is a movie with Sandra Bullock where a young man from a difficult background goes to Ole Miss to play football.)

I spent the summer in Canada working as a summer camp supervisor and honestly spent my camp planning time working on the new site for my blog instead of actually working.

I found Squarespace and fell quickly in love with everything I was able to create on it.

I blogged throughout the summer, slowly but surely defining it from a writing-about-anything-blog to a travel-blog and was all excited to share the new adventures in the south on the blog too.

In the fall, I packed my Mom’s orange Mazda 3 literally to the point of bursting and she drove me 16 hours south to Oxford, MS.

News flash—things don’t always turn out the way you expect them too.

I soon learned a Master’s Degree isn’t nearly as fun as undergrad and I felt a disconnect with the culture in Mississippi.

It wasn’t nearly as easy to connect and make friends at Ole Miss as it was back home and culture shock was a real thing which I had totally not expected.

Luckily, I met a very charming German boy in a bar one night and we totally hit it off and began hanging out. (I married that German boy, if you’re wondering!)

Still, one really good friend doesn’t fill a ton of time, so I had plentyyy of time to work on my blog and I was always Googling to learn more about how to build a successful blog.

I joined blogger networks, landed a first few sponsored posts and had one post really blow up on Pinterest.

I was also lovinggg working on my blog website and the site was in a constant face-lift phase.

It was at that time I toyed with the idea of actually building sites for clients, but of course I didn’t know how to get started and didn’t think anyone would hire someone who had no education in the field.

Around that same time the charming German and I decided that while he was going back to Germany at the end of the semester, we didn’t want to be with anyone else, so we started dating and knew we were in for at least a year of long-distance.



Spring 2015

Built my first client site

I tell the full story of how I found my first web design client in this post, but if you want the SparksNotes version, here it is…

I was doing a Masters in Recreation Administration and so we took a little field trip one day to a local recreation organization, an environmental nonprofit. It was our task on the trip to learn about their organization and then formulate ideas on how to solve the problems the organization was facing.

One of their primary problems was marketing, and—by extension—their website.

I offered to build them a new site for free and that was my first portfolio piece!

That first ‘client’ site helped with my confidence greatly in actually believing I could do this whole web design thing. They knew I wasn’t a professional web designer, but they also weren’t paying me so I didn’t have to feel like such a fraud, I was just helping someone in need.

I treated it as a legit project even though I wasn’t getting paid. I tested out my complete client process I had in mind, met deadlines I set and produced a really fab website I was super proud of.

I got my first testimonial, proved to myself I really could work with clients and decided to open an Etsy shop.

2016

Etsy shop & graduation

I knew I didn’t always want to be a web designer on Etsy, but at the time I needed to find clients and there was no chance I was going to crack the first page of Google for ‘Squarespace website designer’ within a few weeks.

Etsy was fabulous because people were on there searching for exactly what I offered and I actually had a chance of being seen by them.

I spent days making the perfect Etsy images and analyzing every other competitors’ shop. And while, looking back, I’m embarrassed to admit I was charging just $580 for a website, I did indeed land quite a few clients through it.

My social life was nothing like what it had been back home in Canada, but still, my days were pretty dang full for that entire year.

I did a full-time Master’s Degree, worked on my graduate assistantship for 20 hours a week, ran my travel blog and did designed custom Squarespace websites for clients.

Just as I was about to graduate again, a design agency had found my work on Dribbble and brought me on to be one of their contract designers.


2016

Moved to Germany & designed websites part-time

In order to end the long distance aspect of my relationship, I took off from graduation, drove back up to Canada to see family and friends quickly and and then moved to Germany.

I knew that without speaking German and not living in the most international city, I’d be hard-pressed to find a job in my field in Germany.

I spent 3 months going to (the most painfully boring) intensive language school over the summer and then decided I wanted to go full-time with my business.

I also determined that I couldn’t do both a travel blog and design business justice at the same time, so I shut down the travel blog so I could focus on a business that actually had the potential to pay my bills.

After all, I had been making decent side income from my business for a couple years, but it wasn’t quite enough to pay my bills and fully fund my life – yet.

I had always been running my web design business on the side of school AND another part-time gig, but I just knew if I had full-time hours to devote to my business, I could make it into a legit, well paying job!

Well I tried and if you’ve read past blog posts, you know I failed.

I was constantly on the verge of tears. I was so stressed. I had very few friends in my new city where I still wasn’t confident in the language and my boyfriend had just started an extremely stressful, basically takes-over-your-whole-life training program for his new job.

I was sitting in our apartment by myself working from morning until night feeling totally isolated and terrified that if my business didn’t make enough income, I’d need to end my relationship and go back home.

We went out for drinks one day and my boyfriend met a friend who worked at a bilingual kindergarten. Their last English speaker at the kindergarten had gotten into a bike accident and they desperately needed an English-speaker to work there part time.

After just two weeks of running my business full-time I was back with another job which I saw only as a distraction of what I really wanted to do – build my business.

Not to mention, I felt completely frustrated and embarrassed in myself.

I had just finished up a Masters on full-scholarship, graduated with a near perfect GPA of 3.7 and scooped up the award for the most outstanding student in my program. My classmates were off working legit jobs in our field and I was reading English books to 3-year olds.

I’ll admit, feeling successful and being ‘the best’ has always given me satisfaction.

I didn’t want to meet people because I was embarrassed to tell them what I did.

I knew I was capable of so much more but there I was cleaning up kid’s pea soup from the floor. I knew I had so much more to offer the world and the words ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’ definitely left my mouth on multiple occasions.

Not to mention, the vibe at this job was terrible. I’m pretty sure everyone at that job hated it as well because there was multiple staff members ‘sick’ every single day of the week.

I distinctly remember never being so tired in my life. I only worked 4 hours a day at that job but every day I’d wake up and feel completely exhausted and struggled so hard to get out of bed, knowing what I was walking into again that day.

Taking the subway to work felt like sitting on a train taking me unwillingly into a nightmare every day.

*Disclaimer: Please hear me when I say that teaching and working with children is one of the most valuable jobs a person can do in society, especially if that is what lights a fire in you! It just wasn’t what I had personally set out to do, so therefore, I hadn’t felt successful in terms of the plans I had laid out for myself!

2017

Finally…a full-time website designer!

So I guess there’s nothing like a terrible situation to light a fire under you to chase what you really want.

I was determined to take my business full-time again and make it work this time. In January 2017 I took a second crack at it and actually made my business work.

I started with getting my mindset right because clearly my own mind, stress and fear is what had brought me down the first time and I wasn’t going to let it happen again.

I read all the self-help books, joined B-School, started blogging here consistently to bring in clients and generally worked my ass off.

And it worked. Clients started coming. The blog grew. The email list grew. I actually had control over my day and lifestyle.

My boyfriend noticed how much I freaking loved my job. I told him about client projects I just couldn’t wait to start, about the new ideas I had or other designers I met.

I went home to Canada for 2 months and continued to run my business from there. I had built a business that worked for my life.

My clients didn’t care where I was, as long as their site turned out fabulous and on-time, I finally had the freedom to live the way I wanted!

I could have my relationship and live in Europe and still see my family and friends back home for months at a time.

I travelled to 7 countries that year.

I controlled how much money I made, and distinctly remember the month I made $7,500 in my first year full-time.

I walked down the road feeling on cloud 9 – right into one of the nicest shoe shops in town to treat myself to some brown leather boots I had been dreaming of.

As most first-year entrepreneurs do, however, I did work myself into a little burnout.

My boyfriend was still in his training program that had him working around the clock, every day of the week and weekends. So I did the same and by end of November, it had caught up with me.

I took the entire month of December off, flew back to Canada purely for my friends and my annual Christmas party (it’s a hell of a party that’s worth the flight home) and decided I was going to make 2018 different.

I wanted more life, less constant work.

My boyfriend was also finishing up his training program and was going into his full-time job where he also decided he didn’t want to be a slave to work anymore.

I was finding that I didn’t have enough spaces in my calendar to take on all the web design projects that were coming my way and I wanted a way to help the thousands of blog readers with their website designs at a more affordable price point than just my custom sites.

I determined that I had built enough of an email list to launch a product and was excited to dive into course building.

I figured doing it might take me 6 months to build the course along with doing client work. I did however want guidance on building the course and that’s when I found Mariah Coz’s Accelerator program.

I had a mini heart attack when I learned the price of the investment, but went for it anyways.

2018

Designing a business that supports my life

In 2018 I decided it was again ‘me time.’

No more working weekends and all hours of the day and night.

I wanted a business that supported me financially and in my preferred lifestyle – running a business that allowed me the freedom and time to travel. I decided to split my time this year between designing sites for clients and teaching with my online courses.

I started off the first week of 2018 on a ski holiday in the Austrian Alps – my favorite way to spend my time!

I then took the first 3 months of 2018 and went to Bali while I built my Square Secrets™️ course.

As I built the course, launched it and got to support students through it, I knew this is the direction and way I wanted to run my business.

I could serve more people, have more freedom and bring home more income.

Win-win-win.

At the time of writing this golden oldie post, 2018 wasn’t even near over yet, but I already knew I would breeze past the 6-figure income mark that year!

(And breeze I did! I rang in the New Year in 2019 having already passed the multiple 6-figure benchmark!)

Oh and I paid off my $44,895.00 student loan in full! (Pretty dang proud given I had graduated less than 2 years prior!)

I took a full 3 week holiday back in Canada with my boyfriend that summer and then hung out there for 2 months again while spending time with family and friends and working online.

2018 Continued…

It was about this time that I was also just finishing up the content on my second course, Square Secrets Business™️!

After taking several groups of students through my first course, Square Secrets™️ (teaching them the tech, best-practices, and secret hacks of designing completely custom websites in Squarespace without the use of code) the questions landing in my inbox from past students had a prettyyyy common theme…

“How do I turn my fancy new Squarespace skills into a profitable business designing sites for clients?”

And so I created a course that taught them just that!

I basically outlined exactly what students had been asking and therefore what I wanted to teach, module by module and I was so excited to get it in the hands of my Square Secrets™️ students, and even designers who used platforms other than Squarespace.

Why?

Because how many jobs out there allow you to…

  • Dictate your own income, and give yourself a raise whenever you want?

  • Have literally no ceiling to how much you can make?

  • Work with people you love and vibe with and skip out on those you don’t?

  • Take a 3-week vacation whenever you want, without needing to ask permission first?

  • Hit the gym at 10 AM when it’s the most empty?

  • Live abroad but fly home anytime you want for something like a Christmas party? (It’s a reallllly great Christmas party y’all!)

  • Work from the beach in Bali, or your parents’ house back home, or slope side in the Austrian Alps, or from the cabin at the lake for as long as you want, any time of the year?

My business has given me passion! It’s given me freedom! It’s given my flexibility!

It’s given me an income I couldn’t EVEN *dream* of getting at a 9-5 just a couple years out of university.

And I’d love for you to have that too!

If you’d like to skip over my whole messy first few years of figuring out how to build a successful web design business that didn’t take over my life or constantly make me want to throw in the towel, I’d love to show you the behind-the-scenes of exactly how it’s done!

You can get all those deets inside my course, Square Secrets Business!



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My entrepreneurial story: How I became a successful Squarespace web designer