When I first got into the online world I was absolutely clueless about how to set up a website, how to edit things on that website, how much it should cost, what platform it should be set up on, how it should navigate, what the design should look like, etc.! As a result, I spent way too much money on things I didn’t need and it became an expensive learning curve. When you have a dream, there are a lot of logistics you need to deal with and building a good website is major one.
When I met Amanda I was so impressed by the very unique way in which she’s empowering women to gain control over their online presence through web design. All I could think was how much heartache I would have saved myself if I had only known about her unique services. Whether you want Amanda to design your site herself or to teach you how to do it through her Girl’s Guide to Web Design program, her tech and online business savvy ways will save you time & money, so you can focus on what’s important, your dreams.
Enjoy this interview with her & learn more about her unique services!
Amanda, you do something really unique to empower women, you teach them web design and code! What led you to create a business around teaching women web design?
People often ask me why I would teach other people the skills that are my “bread and butter”. The truth is that I felt a little guilty keeping the supposedly highly complicated, sacrosanct knowledge of how to design and code websites to myself. Even though I knew I was delivering an awesome service and a wonderful end product when I created sites for others, a little part of me felt bad that these creative and design-minded women had to come to me to have their websites made. I always had the urge to whisper to my clients, “you know, you could do this too! It’s not that hard!”.
So on the not so businesswoman-y side of things, there’s that. And on the other hand, there’s the fact that I knew I wanted to start generating more passive income for myself. I loved the idea of pouring all my love and energy into a truly groundbreaking product or course, and I thought passing on my expertise in web design, HTML, CSS, WordPress and Thesis (the framework that I teach our students to build their sites on) would be a great way to do that. Little did I know how rewarding this whole “teaching” thing would be though! Even though everything is done online, I feel a real bond with our students. It makes me so proud to see them master all these new skills, and it’s even better to see them get their amazing ideas out of their heads and onto a computer screen so that they can make an impact with them in the world. Not to mention when our graduates start to earn extra money with web design “side jobs” – or even when they are able to quit their day jobs entirely to focus on designing sites for clients full time!
How does the work you do make it easier for women to follow their biggest, boldest passions in their own unique ways?
I like to say that learning to code is the ultimate vehicle for making your dreams a reality. On the surface, it seems like you’re just learning HTML and CSS, but when it comes right down to it, you’re actually gaining the skills you need to take an idea out of your head and put it “out there”, so that it can make waves across the internet, touch people’s lives, and maybe even spark a worldwide movement.
And The Girl’s Guide to Web Design is really focused on helping our students stay true to themselves by creating totally unique sites and blogs. I’m all about individuality when it comes to web design, so I teach our students to create something entirely new, from scratch. That’s the beauty of the Thesis framework for WordPress: it’s very bare-bones to start with, and then you dress it up with the layout, look and feel, and functionalities that best serve YOUR vision and YOUR goals for your business or project.
I love knowing that The Girl’s Guide to Web Design is out there as an alternative to using a theme or template that tons of other people are using – and also as an alternative to working with a designer. While there are many, many talented and wonderful designers in this world, it can be tough to communicate your vision to a designer and be 100% happy with how it turns out. Plus, many people just don’t have the budget for it. My goal is to give women the tools they need to execute their vision exactly the way they want it – and in such a way that they can tweak and even totally transform it later, as their business evolves.
You are clearly doing work that’s been your passion since you were a young girl. Did you have any fears around following your passion? How did you move past those fears?
I had huge fears! I spent about a year absolutely hating my last “real job”, covertly working on side projects while at my desk, and desperately hoping I would someday get up the nerve to quit. In the end, I decided that I should propose that I continue working for my company part time, which felt safer to me than full-on quitting. I figured I could spend my newly freed-up time building my fashion copywriting and web design businesses, while still having some reliable income coming in. But my company didn’t like my proposal very much, and within a couple of weeks of suggesting that I scale back my hours, I was being called into a meeting room and summarily told that my position had been “abolished”. Suddenly, I was free. Despite the heart palpitations, it was the most amazing feeling. And strangely enough, all the fear was gone the moment I walked out of that door. I never looked back – and I can safely say now that NO amount of money would be enough to get me back working for somebody else.
I love that you partnered with life coach Sally Hope to help people move past their own fears around pursuing their passions before they work with you to build out their websites. What feedback were you getting from clients that led you to believe they needed coaching before creating websites that reflected their passions?
Partnering with Sally Hope within my web design business has been so amazing – both for me and my clients. She is a truly gifted coach and over the course of a one-hour Website Therapy session, she really helps my clients crystallize their vision and goals for their web presence. This makes it a lot easier for my clients to fill out the questionnaire that I give them before I start designing, and the clarity they feel thanks to their session with Sally comes through loud and clear in their questionnaire answers – making MY job easier!
I came up with the idea to get Sally on board because I felt many of my clients were not totally sure what they wanted their website to communicate. They were a little fuzzy on what the the “essence” behind the site should look and feel like. And without being able to identify that essence, they couldn’t communicate it to me, the designer. So they might end up with a gorgeous site but the site wouldn’t always feel truly authentic to them a few weeks or months later. Sally has totally negated that problem by working with my clients in the context of “Website Therapy”. She’s awesome and I’m so lucky to have her as a partner in this.
In fact, we’re getting ready to start offering Website Therapy sessions with Sally through The Girl’s Guide to Web Design too. Because even if you’re DIY’ing your site (or learning how to design sites for other people), you still need to be extremely clear on your vision and what you want to do with that site. It’s kind of a non-negotiable.
Do the words “gentle but powerful” resonate with you or your work in any way?
Definitely! I make a point of teaching web design in a very warm and friendly way. The knowledge I’m imparting is serious, life-changing stuff, and code is intrinsically kind of cold and intimidating, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be presented in a way that scares people off. Too many people try to learn this “web stuff” and give up – not because they can’t do it, but because it’s not taught to them the right way, or in the right kind of supportive, community environment. In many ways, The Girl’s Guide to Web Design is all about gentle teaching with powerful results.
What important life lesson can you share with our readers that has helped you to get where you are today?
Do what you love and the money will follow. It may sound cliché, but it’s so true.
Amanda Aitken is the Founder and Head Chocoholic at Better Than Chocolate Web Design, as well as the Creator and CEO of The Girl’s Guide to Web Design, the oh-so-empowering online web design and coding course for creative women on a mission. You can find out more about the course (and sign up, if it floats your boat!) at http://
– Follow Amanda on Twitter at http://twitter.com/amandaaitken
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