In this week’s interview, we talk to Squarespace Authorized trainer Justin Mabee.
How did you get into the industry?
Back in 2012, I was getting ready to graduate college and knew I wanted to come up with something to help musicians have better web presence. I was about to graduate with a degree in music business and saw a need from artists to have less expensive platforms to get their music online and was frustrated with the state of online presence in general for musicians.
I was also writing music reviews on a regular basis and tried my hand at a Wix website to write my own blog posts for reviews. I found Wix really hard to make look just the way I wanted it to and wasn’t happy with how the platform itself handled a lot of the elements on a page. I saw a friend’s website which was built in Squarespace and built myself a Squarespace website relatively quickly. I found I loved the sleek style Squarespace offered and was hooked on making the site more customized with the tools Squarespace provided.
Over the next 7 years, I began building small and medium-size business websites for clients while working full-time at different startups, including retail at Apple, Lyft, and Postmates. Finally, in 2017, I decided to quit my full-time job and freelance full-time, with my focus being on building Squarespace websites for all manner of businesses. I saw a need for lower cost websites that looked beautiful and got the job done with stellar web presence, and had moved away from focusing on the music industry.
Why do you work with Squarespace over other platforms?
I focus on Squarespace over other platforms because of the versatility the platform offers. I consider Squarespace to be the high-end of the do-it-yourself website platforms out there, and while there’s certainly a decent learning curve to knowing just what Squarespace is capable of, it’s still a very entry-level platform that just about anyone can pick up and understand.
I also find that most of my clients are looking for a more stylish vision when it comes to their websites, and Squarespace fills that need very well. Plus, unlike Wordpress and other bigger website builder platforms, there’s no software to update, no plugins to maintain, and you can do a ton of things with the standard Squarespace template before custom code is necessary. I’ve seen too many businesses waste money on a custom built website that doesn’t do everything they need it to, when Squarespace has the features to make things a lot easier for them.
What makes your business unique?
In addition to being a Squarespace Specialist and Expert, I’m also an Authorized Trainer. With every website I do, I offer training for every client I work with. The training is personalized per website, so it’s not generic or limited to a certain template, and I offer both live training and recorded videos going over specific features used on a particular client’s website.
Another unique aspect of my business is that I take a Squarespace first approach, rather than a code first approach. If we don’t have to use custom code to make something happen, I’d rather go that route, so my clients have the knowledge and power to make their website their own, even when I’m done with the website for them. If we need to use custom code, I use it as sparingly as possible, to allow my clients the ability to keep things updated themselves without knowing HTML or CSS.
What services do you offer?
I offer full website builds in Squarespace, along with redesigns, small tweaks and changes. I offer third-party integrations, like Memberspace, AcuityScheduling, Typeform, and Calendly (among others). I also do domain transfers, business email set up, and ecommerce set up in Squarespace. I also provide some light custom code, and light graphic design.
What work are you most proud of and why?
Some of the best projects I’ve worked on are the ones where I’ve been able to take a site a client really hated and turn their business website into something they absolutely love. All Knowledge Clothing in California comes to mind. Their original Squarespace site had a great number of products but they weren’t able to tell the amazing story of their brand and why it exists on their site well. I created a lookbook with the awesome photos they had of their shirts and hats and allowed them to be able to showcase how they intended their clothing to be worn and shown off, and it really does their brand some great justice now.
What are your preferred industries to work with?
I love working with everyone! Truthfully, I prefer to work with any client that really loves my work and wants to learn. I tend to do a lot more art-focused websites, and small-time entrepreneurs trying to establish their web presence well. I work really well with people who can trust me to give them exactly what they need for their business to succeed.
What is one piece of advice you would give clients?
If there’s one thing I could recommend to clients, it’s that you don’t have to have it all figured out before you do a website with me. I regularly help my clients figure out their marketing ideas, design direction, site styles, sitemaps, etc. Just be prepared to put the work in to make something great. You don’t need all your content ready to go right as soon as we start on your website, even if it definitely helps the process. I’m here to help you make the best thing possible.
What inspires you?
Great design really inspires me. Thinking strategically about how I can work with a client to grow their business exponentially. Believe it or not, these things have inspired me to build some of the best sites I’ve worked on, in addition to great photography.
What do you do to overcome creative blocks?
I think talking through things tends to help me blow through those blocks. Sometimes a website can be pretty straightforward, but if I’m stuck, I find that sitting and talking with the client more about their website, their business, getting to know them as a person and a business owner can really inform the creative process and power through those blocks. Plus video games help :)
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a pretty massive website for a podcasting platform for young entrepreneurs. It’ll be live soon at podcastersclubhouse.com. I’m also working on a redesign for a love life coach that I really get along with, and the collaborative process is really easy with her. Her site will be lovequestcoaching.com. Lastly, I just helped a friend from Philadelphia relaunch her business website for wine recommendations, it’s live now at winelala.com.
What is your favorite website to use and why?
I found a lot of inspiration and joy in Gimlet Media’s website, and it’s where I discovered my current obsession, the podcast The Pitch. Gimlet was recently bought by Spotify, but their website is still one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. It’s simple, focused, and has such a great presence for each individual podcast. https://www.gimletmedia.com/https://www.gimletmedia.com/the-pitch
What are your interests outside of your business?
I’m a gamer (PS4 Pro) and I’m playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider right now. Jumping back into Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Division 2 as soon as I finish that one. I’m also a big Philadelphia sports fan and obsessed with NFL football. Philadelphia Eagles (SBLII Champions), 76ers, Phillies, and I’m a Nashville Predators fan (Flyers are ok) I also have this nasty habit of collecting sports hats. I’m an avid coffee drinker and I’m always looking for the latest and greatest coffeeshop.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well I just got married in November 2018 in Iceland, and my wife and I went to Paris for our honeymoon, so we’ve done a ton of things in the last year, in addition to my business! In 5 years, I’d likely to have at least one kid, hopefully, a boy I can bring up as a loyal Eagles fan, and still be making some incredible websites for awesome clients on a regular basis. I don’t see myself running a giant agency or working for a massive startup, but if Squarespace wanted to hire me as a consultant, I wouldn’t argue! :)
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