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!

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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