Chelsea Kardokus — Squarespace Circle: Build your web design business

Art director

Chelsea Kardokus

Chelsea is a Washington D.C.-based art director, web designer, Authorized Trainer, and the founder of 23&9 Creative, a web design company that brings women-run small businesses to life. She helps her clients’ brands shine by creating functional, beautiful, easy-to-use sites.

Circle: How did you get started building Squarespace sites for clients?
Chelsea: I was living in NYC doing some branding and resume design on the side of a full time job when a few clients started to ask me if I did website design. I had designed a few websites in college using Squarespace 5 but I quickly realized there was something more to this than just designing a website here or there. This was truly something I could create a business around.

Circle: How did you find your niche?
Chelsea: When I first started seriously designing Squarespace sites, I took every project I could to build up my resume. I did everything from home builders to salons to lawn services and photographers. But after a few years, I sat down and took an inventory of all the sites I had done, what my favorites were, who my favorite people to work with were, what I was interested in, etc. I decided I was going to start being picky about my clients and only go after my dream clients—women entrepreneurs running small businesses. I connected with them, I loved telling their stories, and my bold aesthetic was usually in line with theirs. I changed my website copy, photos, and design to reflect my dream client. I started posting on Facebook groups that I knew they were in, commenting on Instagram posts, etc. Slowly but surely they started to find me, and the rest is history. Now, I almost exclusively get inquiries from dream clients and it makes the process and the job so enjoyable!

Circle: Why do you work with Squarespace over some other website building platforms?
Chelsea: Squarespace is the most user-friendly platform out there. Sure, you can make extremely customized sites with code and built-in widgets that your clients are never going to be able to update or understand in a year, but the usability is what makes Squarespace so incredible. My clients are busy boss ladies on the go; they need to be able to blog, update their shop and upload new photos in the snap of a finger without worrying about the back end.

Circle: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about joining Squarespace Circle?
Chelsea: There is always room for more. Don’t be discouraged because you think there are too many website designers out there. There is a niche for everyone, a place for everyone, a design for everyone. You just have to find exactly where you fit into that puzzle! I have met some incredible friends in the Squarespace design world and we all help each other out and collaborate on projects. There’s always enough work for everyone!
 

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I’m able to tell stories and work with some of the most incredible, hard-working women out there.

Circle: What do your family and friends think of the business you’ve built?
Chelsea: They are so supportive and love it! They think it is truly incredible that I am able to use a platform like Squarespace to create a dream job for myself. 

Circle: How does Circle help you maintain a work-life balance?
Chelsea: Because of all the behind-the-scenes support and products that Squarespace offers Circle members, it saves hours out of my workflow. I am so grateful to always have insider tips on new products coming out, beta testing, and being able to hop into the Forum any time I am looking for an answer. 

Circle: What kind of business results have you seen over your time in Circle?
Chelsea: From when I first started taking Squarespace seriously as a profession, my business has at least tripled if not quadrupled in the past 3 years. I used to be crossing my fingers I would get one client a month, and right now I am booked two to three months out. I am also so excited to be a part of the Authorized Trainer program, getting to work one on one with clients and teach them all the awesomeness of Squarespace!

Circle: What work are you most proud of?
Chelsea: I have a few specific websites that I love but they all have the same things in common—behind the pretty website is an incredible, passionate, driven woman who has a heart and vision for her business that can’t be stopped. Telling these stories, no matter if they’re a photographer, a wellness coach, or a mixed media artist, is the most fulfilling and exciting thing for me because I get to help them bring all of their hard work to life. Seeing their businesses thrive is the most I could ever ask for out of my job.

Circle: Were there any roadblocks that Squarespace Circle removed for you?
Chelsea: Having a community on hand 24/7 that answered questions and helped me figure out solutions was huge. Especially in the beginning when I was really teaching myself, I looked to the Circle Forum community for help with everything from design questions, CSS questions, help off-boarding clients, and more.

Circle: What’s been the biggest change you’ve experienced since starting?
Chelsea: Being able to grow with the platform has been an incredible experience. Every time Squarespace launches a new product, I get excited to try it out for myself and I get excited that I am able to offer even more to my clients. If you look at the very first website I ever designed and look at the latest one I just finished, things have changed!

Circle: What would you tell your former self to do differently?
Chelsea: To take more advantage of the community in Squarespace Circle. I love being able to talk to other designers, bounce ideas off each other, and be part of a community. For me, it’s not about competition but helping each other and learning from each other. I was afraid since I was new that I wasn’t a “professional” and wouldn’t be taken seriously. But that is not the case! Everyone starts somewhere and has to learn somehow! So why not learn and grow right along with others?

Circle: How is Circle helping you pursue your passions?
Chelsea: As a little girl I loved scrapbooking and putting photos, stickers, and words together in a fun way to tell a story. In college, I studied journalism graphics which at the core is all about presenting facts and telling a story through design in a visually appealing but very clear and concise way. Squarespace has given me the ability to bring both of these together in a way I never knew was possible. I'm able to tell stories, create pages that flow with personality and functionality, and work with some of the most incredible, hard-working women out there. It is truly the best of all worlds.

Special thanks to Chelsea for sharing her story.
Find out more about Chelsea’s work on
her website.

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