Why I am training to become a web designer

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A year ago today I had my book launch for The Rival. One of those dream evenings - at Waterstones Covent Garden, no less - when all my friends and loved ones got together and we drank prosecco and ate cake in the shape of my book cover. It’s a night I’ll never forget. A true milestone moment - something I’ll always look back on with huge gratitude.

some of the best bits by far have been the other authors I’ve met, the community of publishing professionals I’ve worked with and the clarity it has given me on my ‘dream’ career

It’s true what they say - being published has changed my life. But not necessarily in the way I expected. If I’m honest, I don’t suppose I really knew what to expect. I didn’t really think that far ahead. But with a year’s hindsight, I can see that some of the best bits by far have been the other authors I’ve met, the community of publishing professionals I’ve worked with and the clarity it has given me on my ‘dream’ career.

I love writing. I should say here very strongly that I have no intention of giving it up!! I’m currently working on my edits for book 3 and already have two other book ideas sketched out. But it has its challenges. It’s lonely and unreliable and stressful. So much about publishing is out of your hands - not least whether or not your book will actually sell more than ten copies.

I have sold more than ten copies, but even so, I am a control freak and for my own self esteem I know I need to feel in control of at least some element of my career. I’ve had a ‘portfolio’ career for a while now - with a mix of revenue streams - and it really suits my personality. I like the variety, and I find it gives me a sense of security that I need as a freelancer (I’m a Capricorn, what can I say?). I also know that the life of a full-time writer is not for me. It’s too solitary, too unstable, too introspective.

Daphne starts school next week (that’s another post in itself!). In my head this was always the deadline by which point I wanted to have decided on a new ‘career’ - something that would have longevity, that I could do alongside writing. I didn’t know what that would be, I only knew that I didn’t want to go back to journalism or content marketing. If my book had been a global bestseller and I’d sold the film rights and money was no longer a concern, I probably would have started doing some volunteer work just to make sure I didn’t go completely mad. But although I’m grateful to have earned a really nice income from writing over the past two years, it is certainly not yet enough to live off. I have to combine it with something else. And finally I have found that ‘something’.

I’ve had a blog since the long lost days of Livejournal and one of my favourite things to do was to redesign it

I have always loved fiddling with website designs. I’ve had a blog since the long lost days of Livejournal and one of my favourite things to do was to redesign it, change templates, add clever little bits of code and functionality. I probably enjoyed that more than the actual blogging, if I’m honest. I know, this is quite weird. Most people hate this stuff. But I find it really satisfying (and frustrating too - but ultimately satisfying!) and over the years I have found myself designing websites for a few friends. It became a bit of a hobby really. When I had my PR business, we paid a web design agency to build us a site but then about a year in I decided I didn’t like it and I rebuilt the entire website myself. 

As a journalist I was quite an early adopter of all-things digital and was one of the first to move across to working online from magazines. I knew all about SEO way back in 2004, and I’ve worked online ever since, whether that’s doing content marketing for clients, or social media or digital PR. I find the internet endlessly fascinating.

But I’ll be honest - I never thought I could be a web designer. I don’t have a design background. I’m very much a words person. I only have very basic coding knowledge, and it’s all self-taught.

But times have changed. Website design platforms have evolved.

Last year, I switched my entire blog and website over from Wordpress to Squarespace, an online web design platform that allows you to build pretty much any kind of website without any knowledge of coding. And then a whole new world opened up to me: a world of Squarespace web designers, who only build websites using this platform. I won’t bore you to death with the reasons that I left Wordpress after using it and defending it vigorously for years, but suffice to say that I now love Squarespace. I started researching, and I realised that so many freelancers were making a living offering Squarespace web design services. And I thought: why couldn’t that be me too?

Imposter syndrome tried to put me off, but thankfully I’ve managed to silence it! I’m currently doing an intensive course to make sure I’m up to speed with everything that Squarespace offers, and to nail down the fundamentals of what makes a good website. And I intend to officially launch my new business - Charlotte Duckworth Studio - in January.

To begin with, I want to focus on building affordable websites for authors. Many web designers will charge around £2000 to build a simple website, which is understandably out of reach for most writers. It feels like there’s a real gap in the market for this service - affordable, simple but beautiful websites for authors. In fact, I know there’s a gap, because as soon as I started talking about it with my author peers, the response was a resounding ‘yes, please offer this service, I need it!’.

So many authors hate tech, and yet having your own website really is becoming more crucial

Better still, as an author myself, I know exactly what you do and don’t need on your website. So many authors hate tech, and yet having your own website really is becoming more crucial - not least so that you can build your mailing list. With time, I’d also like to offer an even more affordable online course option, to teach authors how to use Squarespace to build their own website. I’d also like to offer website audits, and short but sweet courses on content marketing for authors and building your mailing list - but that will be further down the line!

I can’t tell you how excited I am to get started. I started my training earlier this week and am already absolutely loving it. Better still, I already have two customers signed up, and I haven’t even launched yet.

It’s exciting to be starting something new, and also absolutely terrifying. Much like writing!

It’s funny - I really feel like this career option would not have occurred to me if it hadn’t been for my book deal, and for all the authors I’ve met since I got published. In that way, I feel more grateful to have a book deal than ever before. To be able to continue to work with one of the loveliest communities I have ever worked with in a slightly different capacity is a serious privilege.

It’s exciting to be starting something new, and also absolutely terrifying. Much like writing!

So, if you are an author and you’d like to hear more - please head over to my shiny new website and sign up to my mailing list. As a thank you, you’ll get 10% off any product or service when I officially launch in January. EEEEK!

You can order my debut, The Rival, here. Unfollow Me is out now!