I am forever fascinated by the different backgrounds of my fellow designers - Connie used to be an Air Force pilot! As a former airline employee and wife of a privat pilot I have a soft spot for aviation people and a lot of respect for women in the cockpit. Connie and I met through one of my favorite Facebook Groups - Ladies who Squarespace - and I was instantly impressed by her example of finding a niche market – fitness – and making it her own. Make sure you read her five tips at the end, I especially love the last one, it's so true!
Next interview → Seana Peele from Brandhabit on September 13, 2018
Hi there! I’m Connie Holen, owner of Pixality Design, where I create Squarespace websites and online marketing plans for boutique fitness and yoga studios. I’m also the Digital Designer for Live Happy Magazine and – as an Authorized Squarespace Trainer – I teach website workshops as part of Yoga Journal’s Business of Yoga team.
I live just outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, with my husband Wade and our four boys, which means I also spend a lot of time at little league games and soccer tournaments.
1) What is your professional background and how did you get into Squarespace web design?
Design is a second career for me. I graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a degree in Management and was a pilot in both the active duty Air Force (full-time) and Air National Guard (part-time). Along the way I started an Etsy shop selling handmade leather bags as a hobby and that led me to the world of websites, branding, marketing and entrepreneurship in general. While learning how to make a website for my Etsy business I found Squarespace and quickly realized I loved how creative I could be in the digital realm (and how much cheaper playing in pixels was vs making a mistake on leather!) I soon realized that I enjoyed designing websites more than handbags and went full-force into learning all I could about it.
2) What was your safety net (e.g. a partner, another job, savings etc.) when you first started out and how did that help you?
When I first started out – and actually for about 3 years – I still flew part-time in the Air National Guard while I was figuring the design business all out. That income, along with my husband’s job really helped make this feel like an exciting opportunity vs a must-succeed job. That definitely gave me the ability to pivot and boldly try new things, although it was also exhausting at times.
3) How many websites did you design during your first year and how did your clients find you? Please share three sites you designed during that time.
Maybe 6? I have a hard time defining when my first year was. When I started I was doing more branding than web design and the transition to Squarespace websites as my main service was gradual. Most clients found me via Facebook groups when I first started. Oh yeah, and family. That’s my in-laws catering business below :) Here are a few of the websites I did during that time:
4) Do you have a niche market, or a speciality, or are you more of a generalist?
Specializing has been the best thing I’ve done for my business! I work with boutique fitness and yoga studio owners and specialize in integrating MINDBODY and other studio scheduling software with Squarespace. This has been helpful in so many ways: quicker to grow real expertise, easier marketing and faster projects to name a few. I can’t say enough about how I love having a narrow market position.
5) What are your five top tips for starting your own business?
Find a single expensive problem you can solve. This is the heart of a good market position and is easier said than done, but have real conversations with real business owners and LISTEN. You’ll start to see trends.
When you find that expensive problem, don’t be afraid to go narrow with an industry specialty. For more on that, binge listen to the whole first season of Philip Morgan’s podcast “The Consulting Pipeline Podcast”. Seriously – episodes 1-24. Queue them up.
Do some free/cheap work in the beginning to build your portfolio – just be sure it feels right and it’s in an industry you are genuinely interested in.
Use a paid accounting tool (like Freshbooks) as soon as you can. Tracking Paypal invoices and expenses come tax time will be the worst otherwise.
Don’t underestimate the power of one. One mentor, one thrilled client, one introduction. As online entrepreneurs, we hear a lot about list growth and audience size. I can honestly say that all the real growth in my business has come from interactions and relationships with a handful of individuals. So start with the opportunity you have in front of you and take it one person / one project / one conversation at a time.
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