Why I Switched From Wordpress Web Developer to Become a Squarespace Designer
Being a Squarespace designer has some huge perks. I get to work with some amazing, inspiring entrepreneurial women, I’m able to use the skills I honed working in both the web development and education sectors, the creative and technical sides of my brain are equally stimulated and let’s not forget I set my own working hours, I can work from pretty much anywhere with a desk and a good internet connection and I don’t have a boss to answer to (I do, it’s me, but that’s for another blog post).
If you asked me to come up with a downside, I’d have to think for a while. But there is one question or comment I hear pretty consistently – that I’ll admit, used to bug the hell out of me – but I’ve come to accept and come up with the perfect response for.
It can be phrased in many ways…
“If you build websites on Squarespace, you’re not a real web designer are you?”
“Isn’t that just charging people money for something they can do themselves?”
“Real businesses need Wordpress sites, Squarespace is for hobbies and Am-Dram groups”
…etc, etc, ad infinitum.
Let’s get one thing clear from the beginning. I can code. I’ve been coding for more than half my lifetime and taught myself HTML in my attic bedroom at 14 because I was then as I am now, a voracious learner with the added bonus of a non-existent social life. Thankfully, my braces came off, my acne cleared, boobs and a butt appeared and I got over my crippling social anxiety – only the coding stuck (phew!). Since then, I studied Web Design & Development as a minor in college and picked up a ton of other coding, tech and design skills along the way. I’ve been building websites for myself and others in various guises my entire adult life and I’ve used pretty much every platform out there. But Squarespace is best for my business.
I love Wordpress. It’s flexible, powerful and has changed the way the websites are built these days. You can do (almost) anything with Wordpress and there is an enormous wealth of information available online to help you navigate building and managing a website, store or blog on it. If you want a Wordpress site, go for it. For some people and businesses, it is 100% the best option and in another time, I would’ve happily built you a website on there.
But I didn’t start my own business to show off or be precious about what ‘real’ web development is. In early 2017 a friend of mine went freelance as a copywriter. She asked me how much it would cost her to get a website built and I gave her a rough estimate for a Wordpress site, including theme, hosting and of course the cost of me getting it all set up for her based on a rough hourly rate. Needless to say, it was way out of her budget, even with the hefty ‘mates rates’ discount I gave her. She resolved to do her own thing on Squarespace. I agreed I’d take a look at it once she’d done and give her some thoughts.
That’s how I discovered the possibilities of Squarespace.
The website my friend made kinda sucked. The navigation was too busy, the layout wasn’t intuitive, there was little to no consistency in branding. She gave me her login details so I could jig things around a little.
In looking through the back-end of her site, I discovered quite how flexible Squarespace can be. Even I, designing for years, had written the company off and scoffed at ‘templates’. But it actually had all the tools to make a freaking great site, for a fraction of the cost of a full Wordpress development and after I shuffled (*cough* overhauled) my friend’s site, it looked just as good as what I would have built for her on Wordpress. And she could easily add things to her portfolio, upload images, change text or add a page if she needed to, without any further help from me.
I suddenly saw a huge gap in the web design market. At the time, I was unhappy in my full-time gig and had been considering going freelance in ‘something’ but even doing big web development projects as a full-time freelancer didn’t appeal, because the people that could afford my services weren’t the kind of clients I would enjoy working for day-in-day-out. I knew Squarespace was exactly what I had been looking for.
I started my business to give myself a certain lifestyle and to do work that I love and look forward to. I wanted to work for a company with integrity. I dreamt of working on projects that excited me, with clients that I could connect with. I wanted to feel I was really helping people not companies.
Now, I get to meet clients over coffee, rather than in a boardroom. I get GENUINELY excited when they tell me about their budding business, rather than listen to a well-rehearsed schpiel from a man in an ill-fitting suit and horrendous tie.
I’m Kayleigh, not an employee number or a freelance contract. My skills, opinions and knowledge are valued by my clients. We talk about what they want to achieve (without the latest business buzzwords) and I’m usually close enough to their target market that I can put myself in both their and their ideal client’s shoes. We talk about entrepreneurial successes and struggles and often about what we’ve been watching on Netflix, where we’ve been travelling to, which business books we have been reading and it’s so easy to get referrals to other girlbosses when I’m looking for services such as copywriting or social media management.
I love it.
Truly, running my business is a dream come true. It’s not always easy and there are sometimes tears, sometimes late nights and early mornings and often technical troubles too. But being a Squarespace designer has ticked all of my wishlist boxes and the biggest one of all is that I get to be an integral part of getting other kick-ass ladies taking their business to the next level too.
Plus, no one seems to mind too much when my cat jumps up on my desk in front of my webcam either.