The Only Known Cure For Roadblocks
At the end of a recent shoot day, I was taking down a nine foot seamless backdrop with our new production intern Dana. What we were talking about as we exhaustedly tried to manage that enormous tube of paper was how tiring and hard running a business was. Mostly because it never quits, and you find yourself wrestling with a nine-foot paper tube at the end of a long day because no one else is going to do it (and you also know you still have to get the monthly budget balanced).
What I learned in art school (besides all the useless psychological pseudo-science of experimental acting training) was that the cardinal rule of art was showing up to do the work. Every single day, you have to work. Not inspired? Too bad. And like acting training, running a business is an (possibly spiritual) exercise in just showing up, because you have no other option. When I worked for bigger companies, I was a cog in a pretty big machine. I liked to think of myself as a not unimportant cog, but still. The entire company was not going to fail because of my actions. Running a business, that’s not true. Each of my actions matter. The way I manage people, the way I build our editorial calendar, the way I craft our business strategy, the way I set up our budget—all of those are important. And every time I make a misstep, I have to live with it. So I show up, and try to do the work and do it well, inspired or not.
Two weeks ago, we talked about our roadblocks—those mountains we make out of molehills. Those things we can’t just seem to get past to make it to the next level. Today, I want to talk about the only known cure for roadblocks, which is (sadly) just doing the work.
As discussed previously, my always and forever roadblock is websites. It’s embarrassing to admit as an online publisher, but I’m just not that technical. When you combine “just not that technical” with my overwhelming fear of first steps, setting up a website is one of the hardest things in the world for me. And judging from some of the comments in that first post, it’s the same for some of you too. So this week, with the help of Squarespace, I sat down to start setting up a website. Partly because doing the work means showing up and breaking down your roadblocks. And partly because, if I can do it, so can you.
Let’s Talk About Squarespace
This is where we get to confession time. Because Squarespace is such a well built, user-friendly platform, I secretly hoped it would build my website for me. Possibly it would just know how I should lay out each page, and what photos and copy I should put where, and what exactly I wanted my messaging and branding to be? I was, in fact, willfully ignoring the fact that projects that you don’t have to work on are projects that end up useless to you. If you don’t have to put some elbow grease into something, you’re never going to value it, and you’ll never figure out what you want from it in the first place. So here is what I learned, for the zillionth time: I had to do the work.
Squarespace is fundamentally a platform built for entrepreneurs. And that means, they give you a great set of tools, and beautiful templates, and super helpful examples. But at the end of the day, you have both the power (and hence the responsibility) to figure out what kind of site you want to build. Squarespace does not, in fact, give you those useless unalterable templates that you have to find a way to somehow live with. Instead, their tools allow you to figure out what kind of message you want to send, and what important parts of your business you want to feature. And then they allow you to carefully and easily build that website.
Squarespace is also really clearly a company run by people who care about the product, and care about the user experience. You can tell by how thoughtfully the site is set up: there are tutorials, guides, and seriously intense, awesome video workshops to guide you through each step. Plus there’s the 24/7 customer service. In short, it’s a really powerful tool at a surprisingly affordable cost: the most expensive plan is $24 per month, and if you’re building a wedding website or a personal site, you can probably even get away with the $8 per month option. With that you can install photo galleries, storefronts, blogs, the works, without having to know anything about coding. Which, achem, is something I wish I could do on this website. Things are rarely that easy in web design.
Tips and Tricks
For those of you who share my website roadblock and are ready to try to hurdle it already, here are some of the things I learned:
- Squarespace makes the basics easy. The things that always scare the daylights out of me, like setting up hosting and linking your site to a custom URL (WHY IS IT SO HARD)? Done with the click of a button.
- Modifying Templates is intuitive. Squarespace provides you with templates to play with, but what I found the most helpful (and will continue to find the most helpful) is that they show you tons of user examples on any given template. For my non-technical non-designer brain, I want to see what other people did that looked good, and then copy that. Fake it till you make it.
- There is a Logo Maker! I have a lot of graphic designer friends who find the idea of a logo maker preposterous. Which: NICE FOR THEM. I, however, designed my first logo in Word, and would design the logo for this site in Word, if left to my own devices, so thank god Squarespace isn’t leaving me to my own devices.
- Leave yourself time to play. Apparently Squarespace isn’t just going to design and build your website for you, and pick all the pictures and write all the text? THE NERVE OF THEM. Leave yourself some time to create something that’s as awesome as you are. You’re worth it.
- YOU DON’T HAVE TO COMMIT RIGHT AWAY. Unlike most platforms that offer a free trial, Squarespace doesn’t make you commit with a credit card, so feel free to try them out for two weeks, no strings attached. And if you do decide to stick with them, Squarespace is offering you guys a 10% discount on an annual subscription. Just use the code APW14 when placing your order.
- The little plus sign is how you add things. If I’m being honest, there was a point at which I wanted to give in and let my roadblock win. I couldn’t figure out how to add new elements to the page, and I felt dumb for not understanding something so basic. But Squarespace gives you a ton of resources at your fingertips, and they make it really hard to give up. So I pushed through, found the right tutorial, and eventually figured out the answer to my problem (I was thisclose to logging a ticket with their 24/7 support team, but I was too embarrassed because that’s what a roadblock does to you.) If I can, you can.
A Note About Wedding Websites and Squarespace: Building a wedding website is about a zillion times easier than building a business website, pretty much always. That’s because building a wedding website is kind of a fun game. (What do we want to say about ourselves? What funny ways do we want to say it?) Squarespace makes it really easy to put that together in a killer way, particularly if you have hot engagement photos that you want to show off. Leave yourself a weekend afternoon to play with it together, and you’ll end up with something rad. (Plus, if you’re really stuck, they have a twenty-minute video workshop on creating a wedding website that takes you through the process, step-by-step.)
Doing The Work
This week I tackled my roadblock. MegKeene.com is halfway to something (that’s a sneak peek up there for any interested parties), and I’m feeling empowered to finish it out sometime… this year. So now it’s your turn. What first steps will you take to tackle the roadblocks you listed in our open thread?
Your homework? Take one small step this month.
To help APWers tackle their web-related roadblocks, Squarespace is offering a 10% discount on all annual subscriptions. Use the code APW14 to redeem!