I often get asked how I got started in website development, so by way of introduction, I thought I’d share that story here!
How I Got Here
Right off the bat, I’ll get this out of the way – I don’t have a degree in Computer Science and I’ve never formally trained in Website Development. I learned everything I know simply by doing it!
I studied History and Cultural Anthropology in college – I thought I wanted to be Secretary of State (pipe dream! or just the thing you tell people because it looks shiny). I moved to New York City after college, got an internship at a foreign policy think tank, and eventually landed a job with a humanitarian mission to the United Nations. Then I started a Masters program in counterterrorism, and became the volunteer executive director of a nonprofit that did leadership development for young professionals in international relations.
…And then, my health started to suffer. I was busy in the worst way. I had anxiety, difficulty sleeping and was managing both my acne and my cycle with hormonal birth control. I finally realized something wasn’t right, and that I wasn’t even working towards a goal I truly wanted.
What did I want? To be home in time to cook dinner most nights – like a really good dinner. To travel for pleasure, not for work. To be home with my kids when I had them – and thank goodness for that foresight, because I was so happy to be able to work from home during my pregnancy even (like when I was just about 9-months preggo in this photo up there!).
Enter Health Coaching
I wasn’t quite sure what job was going to offer me all of that – but in the meantime, I started working on my health. I couldn’t get off hormonal birth control without experiencing terrible acne and losing my period – so I started researching how to get off of it while supporting my body holistically. And oh boy, did I learn a lot.
This led me to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, for my own benefit, and also because I wanted to be better able to help other women achieve the health that I had. IIN introduced me to the idea that I didn’t have to work for someone else – I could work for myself. So that’s what I started working towards.
I got more training and opened my first health coaching practice, which turned into Quit The Pill. I no longer do 1:1 coaching, but raise awareness and provide resources to women through the website still
While launching my coaching practice, I cut my work at the UN Mission back to part-time – which was great, but the thing was, while Quit The Pill is profitable now, at the time I still wasn’t getting enough clients to pay my bills.
Enter Virtual Assistant-hood
To make ends meet, I started working as a virtual assistant. This was also a bit of a happy accident because what I really did was post in various Facebook groups that I was looking for more work and simply listed all of my skills (writing, editing, organizationally strong, etc). Because I had made my own website for Quit The Pill (then Libera Wellness) I had some skills in this area, and the people I worked with trusted me to update their sites, and eventually to re-do them. Meanwhile, I continued to build my coaching business – mostly through in-person contacts, and then by again, posting in Facebook groups and then by referrals from previous clients and friends.
The True Beginning of My Website Building Business
Eventually, other coaches I came across were impressed by my website and I received more work from them. Trainings I did simply to improve my own health coaching business ended up yielding more website clients – and I eventually grew two of these into important referral channels.
When I decided I wanted to also work in SquareSpace and I only had WordPress websites in my portfolio, I – again – turned to Facebook groups. I offered a discount (a steep discount) to ladies who would have me build their SquareSpace sites.
I also worked through Upwork – the freelancing platform. I literally started out at $13.50 an hour. Isn’t that crazy? But it helped me land work which got me hours and reviews. Within a year I was up to $40/hour. Now I charge much more.
I share all of this to be transparent about what it takes to truly establish a business. While I now have referrals, people who find me on the internet, and am able to generate some traffic through social media (both for Quit The Pill and this business), its rare that this happens from the get-go!
My Life Today
As of writing this, I have a husband, a golden retriever and a little 3-month old baby girl. I split my time between Astoria, just outside of New York City where I sometimes meet with clients, and rural Connecticut.
For a good long while, my work enabled me to spend mornings horseback riding in CT, to travel and work from anywhere and to always have time to cook dinner. These days, it affords me the luxury of really being present for my daughter during this time when she seems to be changing every day.
This isn’t to say it’s all easy – like right now I’m writing this at 8:30 PM because I couldn’t find time today while my daughter was awake. I also had to get off a client call early today because she just happened to have a fussy moment – but for the most part I get to blend my work life and my home life – and the women I work with are lovely and seem to enjoy the addition of this little life into the mix!