Ida Winstead on finding ideal web design clients
Enrollment details on Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ courses
If you want to earn money 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, influencer, web designer, etc.
Today, I’m going to make the case for why becoming a website designer is IMO a hella-good option!
Oh, and no – you don’t need to be some coding genius to build a successful design business! Back when my focus was still serving clients 1:1 (rather than teaching 1000’s of web designers like I do now) I was consistently bringing in $10k months!
And believe me, I was (and still am, honestly) far from confident in the coding department!
So if the second you hear ‘website designer’ you automatically think “oh but I can’t do that, I don’t know how to code” or if you’re like me and you have zero desire to learn to code, then good news…
Oh, if you’re reading/watching this and you’re new to my business, you should probably know that 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 those specific reasons for why I think being a website designer takes the cake in terms of potential online businesses.
So let me explain what I mean by this!
A lot of potential online businesses (ie. social media management, virtual assistance, Facebook ad management) require frequent check-ins and constant ongoing work and maintenance, which means you pretty much need to make yourself available to your clients 365 days a year.
For me, my thought process was, “Ugh, what about a week’s 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, btw) 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 call with my clients where I share my screen and teach them how to use every aspect of their Squarespace site, so they were able to easily update and edit it over time.
I would record the call, upload it to 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 monthly retainer to do updates and edits for them purposefully because I wanted my freedom and to not be needed year-round.
But that’s just one side of the coin and my personal preference.
If you happen to love recurring revenue, and want to prioritize that over complete freedom, at least for a season, then being a website designer is still a 100% a solid option for you.
Keeping clients on retainer—that is, having them pay you a consistent amount monthly for you to be available to help them with things like 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 on the recurring revenue by keeping clients on retainer OR decide on 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.
If the freedom to travel with off-the-grid trips and zero cell service is important to you, don’t do retainers. If consistent, reliable income is important to you, then do go for retainers.
Then, if you want to change your mind or priorities in the future, you can easily do that too!
Being a website designer is pretty flexible, so it’s a big win in my book.
Now, let’s be real, working for yourself is nothing if not unpredictable.
That’s just the price you pay for not having the comfort and security of clocking in 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 the income reports I shared earlier on in my business, 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 save up and plan for and look forward to for months. 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, so they don’t want to leave it too long to book you.
I 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. (Very touching!)
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.
So obviously when you are first starting out as a web designer, you aren’t going to be charging top dollar. But as your skills and confidence quickly increase, so should your rates!
My team and I were recently chatting with a past student of my Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ courses, Ida Winstead, and she shared that she actually increases her rates by a couple hundred dollars with every new client!
Whatever she wants to make with her next project, she just lists that amount as her starting rate on her services page. Then, when that slot is booked, she bumps it up again.
If she has multiple clients contact her at the same time, she does it all first-come-first-serve, so it’s a fabulous way to get fence sitting clients off off the fence and also to challenge herself to keep improving as a designer!
(You can catch Ida’s full interview here!)
So now let’s look at what it would take to raise your prices as, say, a virtual assistant or social media manager. Due to the nature of the work, you’ll probably be sticking with the same clients for an extended period of time, rather than attracting new clients for one-off projects every time you want to fill your books.
So if you are thinking of raising your prices, you have to find a way to break it to your current loyal clients first, so it’s really something you’d want to plan for well in advance and do only once or twice a year.
Plus, if you’ve signed some sort of contract with that client, say for 3-6 months or even a year, you cannot raise your rates on that client until your contract has expired, and you’d want to give them plenty of notice before they rebook you that your rates will be going up so there are no nasty surprises.
So if you’re going to ditch the 9-5, it might as well be for something where you are in complete control of your prices at all times! Kinda the whole point of being your own boss, right?
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 quickly find myself in a real sticky 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 just general sanity TBH.)
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 a new country.
That, and I wanted to set aside a week uninterrupted to accomplish big business tasks, like filing taxes, redoing my website, mass-preparing and batching out a bunch of blog posts in advance.
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.
The going rate for a small 5 page Squarespace site is currently about $2,500. That’s just for the website, btw. That doesn’t include copy, branding, or anything else you might decide to offer as part of a more all-inclusive style package.
And bigger websites with more pages, or websites with added functionality (like an online shop, blog, or online scheduling) tend to go for a lot more. I’ve had these projects range from $9K-$13K before. (And yes, that was still for just a 2 week project.)
I’m not as familiar with the exact going rate on graphic design, social media management, or virtual assistance, because I never opted to offer those in my business, but I can confidently say that rarely do any of these other options command nearly as high of a price point as website design, especially for such a short project timeline.
One exception mightttt be Facebook Ads managers, with a good manager costing anywhere from $2K-10K per month depending on the size of your account and how many campaigns you are running. But good ad managers tend to have a team of copywriters and graphic designers, so the income is still split between a handful of people, so you’d have to take on multiple clients at a time to hit that $10K month benchmark.
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.
In fact, a few months into going full-time in my web design business, I had actually fully booked myself out for several months in advance. I couldn’t possibly take on more projects, and I was already charging pretty premium rates, so I was faced with a decision.
A) Keep raising my prices and book myself literally years in advance?
B) Start an agency and hire and manage a team of designers?
C) Teach everything I knew in a course.
I personally choose the course route and I’ve now taught thousands of students the secrets to building completely custom, killer-converting Squarespace websites without the use of code through my Square Secrets™️ course.
Of course, after taking Square Secrets™️, students who might have originally just planned on DIYing their site for a completely different business had fallen in love with designing websites in the process!
Suddenly my inbox was full of questions, asking how they, too, could turn their fancy new design skills into a thriving business designing for clients as I had done!
So this is how my second course, Square Secrets Business™️ was born! I basically rounded up everything I had learned about starting and running a successful web design business, and packaged it all up into a proven, step-by-step game plan for aspiring designers so they could skip the expensive trial and error period and get on with the sexy stuff!
(Like seeing inquiries coming in from their dream clients, and having more than enough money left at the end of each month to treat themselves to those fancy new boots, finally cross that trip off their bucket list, or finish paying off that student debt for that totally unrelated degree they spent years earning.
Basically a customizable business in a box!
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,” then I invite you to join me and thousands of happy past students inside my courses so you can get started building a fully booked-out design business that actually supports a life you love!