Why website design is the best online business idea
If you want to work online, there are a LOT of potential options! A lot of girls my age who go to start an online business run through the list of potentially realistic options: social media management, graphic designer, virtual assistant, Facebook ads manager, blogger, web designer, etc.
Today, I’m going to make the case for why becoming a website designer is a hellah-good option!
(Oh and no - you don’t need to be some coding genius to become a website designer. I was a designer bringing in 10k/month, and believe me, I’m still far from confident in the coding department.)
I know the second people think ‘website designer’ they automatically think “oh but I can’t do that, I don’t know how to/want to learn how to code.” Honestly though, good news friend, coding is totally not necessary as a web designer!
I use Squarespace for my own website and the websites of my clients.
(Use the code PAIGE10 for 10% off your first Squarespace purchase! Yes, that’s an affiliate link!)
The fab thing about being a Squarespace web designer specifically is that it’s easy enough to hand over to even the most tech-phobic of clients and they are quite capable of updating and editing their website content themselves in the future.
If you do a lot of coding work on their website though, it makes it harder for them to maintain, so I’d argue that if you become a Squarespace designer, it’s best to NOT add any additional coding on your client’s website, so they actually can work the thing after their project with you is complete.
So anyways, now your coding fears are all calmed down, let’s get into specifically the reasons why I think being a website designer takes the cake in terms of potential online businesses.
You get to choose to have recurring revenue or complete freedom
A lot of potential online businesses (eg. social media management, virtual assistance, Facebook ads management) require constant work/maintenance and for you to be available for your clients 365 days a year.
For me, my thought process was, “Ugh, what about a weeks vacation? Or just having some time to work on something else in my business for a week to give myself a mental break from client work?”
That’s one of the reasons I loved being a website designer.
I’m the type of girl who wants to pack up her bags, head to Cuba (which has notoriously horrible internet) and be needed by no one. I love to take a week or a few weeks here and there to truly have time off from my business and not be stressing that my inbox is filling with issues from clients for which I’m needed all the time.
As a website designer, I end each project with a 1.5 hour lesson. I’d hop on a video screenshared call with my clients and teach them how to use every aspect of their website, so they were able to easily update and edit it over time.
I recorded the call, and put it in the back end of their site, so if they ever wanted to do something and forgot how I did it, they could easily go back to watch the video.
I didn’t keep clients on retainer to do updates and edits for them purposefully because I wanted my freedom and to not be needed year-round.
Now, that’s just one side of the coin and was my preference.
If you love recurring revenue, being a website designer is still a solid option for you.
Keeping clients on retainer, that is, having they pay you a consistent amount monthly, and you providing help to them (designing new blog post graphics, updating content on their site, creating new pages for new offerings, etc.) is also very common in the website design world.
Basically, the amazing thing about being a website designer is that you can choose whatever you prefer, you can decide for the recurring revenue by keeping clients on retainer or decide for freedom by teaching them how to update and edit their site.
The choice is yours! And not a lot of online businesses offer that option to choose.
If the freedom to travel with off-the-grid trips is important to you, don’t do retainers. If consistent, reliable income is important to you, do retainers. If you want to change in the future, you can do that too! Being a website designer is pretty flexible, so it’s a big win in my book.
2. Clients book well in advance, so you can have a semi-predictable income
Now, let’s be real, working for yourself is unpredictable.
That’s just the price you pay for not having the comfort and security of rocking up to your 9-5 every day and walking out with paycheck in hand every couple weeks like the rest of the world.
(Though, as you can tell from my income reports, while self-employed income is unpredictable, it can be darn good income indeed!)
The good thing about web design however is that this is the type of project that clients tend to book well in advance. For clients, a new website is a big deal in their business and something they plan for and look forward to. It’s not a rush job like quickly whipping up an eBook as is common for graphic designers.
Everyone knows that the really good designers are booked out, and clients really don’t like waiting to get to work with their preferred website designer. I’ve had clients book 6+ months out with me. Yeah, there were other Squarespace designers available a lot sooner, but they preferred to wait in order to work with me. (Aweee! I’m touched.)
All this to say, when you get known as a go-to designer, you can book clients out months into the future and therefore it’s pretty easy to guesstimate what you’ll make a couple months out, based on the price of the projects clients have booked in for.
3. You can plan project timelines around your ideal lifestyle & travels
I started my web design business while still in college. I was doing a full-time masters degree, working as a Graduate Assistant 20 hours a week for my department, running a travel blog and I started my web design business in this time too.
Clearly, my plate was pretty full. If I had client projects running long and then start overlapping with other client projects alongside my job for my college and all the work that went along with my classes, I’d be in a real situation.
So I decided to define my projects by timeline. I took on one client at a time, and did their full site from scratch > launch in 2 weeks.
When I graduated and wandered out into the real world, I really loved my 2 week process and had no intentions of changing it.
A major reason for this again was travel. (And sanity TBH too, haha.)
I wanted to be able to book a flight and head away to Scotland with friends, and know that some client project wasn’t going to be dragging into the time I should be out exploring and enjoying a new country with friends.
That, and I wanted to set aside a week uninterrupted to accomplish big business tasks, like filing taxes, redoing my website, mass-preparing and batch working through blogging, etc.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’m exceptionally bad at juggling multiple expectations at a time. Yes, I can do it if need be, but I also hate it.
I find it superrr stressful to have multiple clients relying on me at a time or students expecting something from me. When all those responsibilities pile up and overlap at the same time, I go into hot mess mode and it’s not a good time.
Website design is one of those businesses where you can plan project timelines and stick to them. I didn’t once have a web design project take more than the allotted 2 weeks and run long.
When you know with certainty that a project will start and end on specific dates, it’s a lot easier to book clients in advance, knowing with certainty that when their date arrives, all your other work will be completed and you’ll be ready to serve them.
At the same time, this guarantee that I’d be free any weeks I didn’t book in a client meant that I could book flights and trips and events with friends and family stress-free.
4. Income as a website designer is higher than a lot of other online businesses
The going rate for a small 5 page Squarespace site is currently about $2,000. Bigger websites with more pages, websites with added functionality (eg. an online shop) or website + brand projects tend to go for a lot more. I’ve done projects up to $9,000 before. (Yes, in 2 weeks.)
I’m not as familiar with the exact going rate on graphic design, social media management and virtual assistance, but I know with certainty that they do not command nearly as high of a price point as website design.
Facebook Ads management however does come pretty close to website design, with ads management with a good manager starting at about $2,000/month. (Granted these good managers tend to have a team of copywriters and graphic designers, so the income is split between a few people. Though ads managers do typically take on multiple clients at a time.)
Basically my point is, if you want a high-paying online business that can easily cover your cost of living, business expenses and taxes, website design is a really good option. In terms of income, website design definitely wins over social media management, virtual assistance, and graphic design.
A couple years back, I actually fully booked myself out for web design projects and was presented with the decision to book myself years in advance, hire and manage a team of designers, or teach everything I knew in a course.
I choose the course route and created my course Square Secrets, which teaches how to build truly fabulous, nothing-like-the-template Squarespace sites.
And once students went through it, the next thing they said to me was, “I love designing sites! I feel really confident doing it! Now how do I turn this into a business, work with clients and bring in income?”
I actually had no plans at all to create a course on how to become a Squarespace designer, but past students kept asking for it, and my second course Square Secrets Business was created!
So if you’re currently sitting over there thinking, “yes! I want to be a website designer too . . . but I have no idea how to get started,” be sure to check out the course!