Student Spotlight: Sarah Juliusson, The Story of a Birth Doula who Became a Website Doula
Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Juliusson of The Website Doula.
Sarah is smart, innovative, and is determined to change the birth culture through her web design work within the birth community. One of the things we admire about Sarah is her ability to pair her two passions—web design and all things birth—to create a unique business that her clients feel very comfortable with. You will also find Sarah active in the Web Design Support School, giving great advice as the need arises.
Let’s get to know Sarah!
Tell us a little about your journey to be a web designer. How did you get interested in designing and/or developing websites?
I first started learning this stuff 15 years ago upon the insistence of my husband and brother who were tired of helping me do updates on the website for my childbirth education and doula business. I will admit to an initial high level of resistance to learning code that luckily (and very quickly) gave way to excitement as I took control of my site and began to play with CSS and HTML. Each year I added to my skill-set and grew in confidence, and was surprised to find that my passion for website design had grown to be equal to my love for birth work.
I began offering business and website support for other birth and postpartum professionals (doulas, midwives, prenatal yoga teachers, etc.) in 2011, and launched The Website Doula in 2013.
Can you describe your design and/or development skills BEFORE you started this course?
I was a relatively solid 100% self-trained DIY developer with a lot to learn. I could take an existing site and make changes to it with confidence, but had never built a site from scratch. I was, however, relatively fearless; always willing to try a new idea or design feature and keep going until I figured it out. Most of my experience was with sites that had been built from scratch using code rather than WordPress.
Can you recall what you were struggling with?
I felt as though I had taken my skills as far as they were going to go on my own. I wanted solid guidance to increase my technical skills as well as the capacity to build sites from scratch.
Can you recall your #1 concern, fear, or challenge that you had before making the decision to join the course?
Same fear as I have with every course I’ve ever taken—will I actually follow through and do all the lessons?
What did you discover was actually the case?
Well, truth be told I still haven’t done all the lessons. I got the foundation I needed for custom design, however, and whenever I’m ready for a new trick or need to polish up on a particular skill, I can go straight to the course videos and get the guidance I need.
I feel so abundantly supported in the Beauty School, and this nourishment helps facilitate the depth of support I offer my clients.
What is the #1 result you saw as a result of participating in this course?
Confidence! I feel a wonderful sense of freedom in this work. Each client brings a new challenge or learning curve, and each time I know I have the tools and resources I need to not only meet their expectations but exceed them.
What are three other benefits you received?
1. I love that I am challenged to continually grow in my capacity for both design and development, and that I am given the resources I need to do so with ease.
2. Even with a comprehensive course such as this, sometimes we get stuck with a tricky piece of code or a client request that is outside of our realm of expertise. I always know that I have the support gurus and a whole community of other designers to draw on for guidance. This means WAY LESS STRESS in my life!
3. My favorite benefit has, of course, been the sense of community with others in the support program. Web design can sometimes feel lonely, and I greatly value this online exchange of advice, encouragement, and inspiration.
What are you doing now that you didn’t know how to do before you took the course?
My CSS skills have definitely increased considerably, along with mobile responsive design and, of course, building sites from scratch!
Can you describe your current work situation? How do you balance it with “life”?
Pretty blissful. We’re living in rural Costa Rica for the next few years while my husband works with a local school. I am very fortunate to have work that I love that I can continue doing while we are here. (Thankfully our small mountaintop town has great internet!) I am able to schedule my client meetings and coding work within designated windows of time, allowing me the flexibility to go for daily hikes, enjoy lunch dates, and be with our sons after school.
How has your attitude and perspective shifted as a result of the course?
I think at the beginning I saw design and development as more of a practical tool. Now I cherish this work as one of the ways in which I live my creativity.
On a more energetic level it is increasingly clear to me that my role as a website designer with birth professionals contributes in a small but important way to my dream of changing our birth culture. Each new website becomes a tool to raise awareness and interest in the support that doulas and midwives can offer local families.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m excited to be creating more video tutorials for both my clients and site visitors, helping them take ownership of their sites.
What’s coming up next for you? Are there any projects you’d like to share with us?
I’ve just finished a few really lovely sites that I’m pretty excited about. The Birth Bag is a new e-commerce website featuring a new pre-packed hospital bag with labor support tools hand selected by an expert doula. Support for Growing Families features a unique blend of birth, postpartum, and parenting support. I enjoyed the challenge of conveying the diversity of her offerings and packages in an accessible way. Dancing Star Birth is a thriving birth and postpartum practice in Vancouver, BC featuring Birthing from Within prenatal classes and support groups for new moms. Our goal was to build a site with a strong sense of community and connection, conveying the years of expertise they have in the community and inviting site visitors to join them not just for a prenatal class, but postpartum as well.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received to date about your work?
Many clients comment on my patience and gentle guidance, as well as the unique blend I offer of website design together with knowledge of the birth industry. My favorite bits of feedback, however, are the times when a client shares how my design work and business support have helped her grow in confidence. This is my ultimate goal in web design: striving to help each client feel confident in her ability to use her website as a creative tool to grow her business.
What is it that you love about our community?
I love feeling challenged, nurtured, inspired, and encouraged by the women of the Beauty School on a daily basis. Most of all, I love that I can be sitting in my office in Costa Rica exchanging ideas with designers from around the world. Plus, you make me laugh.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in web design?
I have found it very helpful to think of this learning journey as simply learning a new language. There are clear rules and structure and each new skill you learn will become part of your tool box. The knowledge is, of course, cumulative, but will also lead to a remarkable sense of confidence, allowing you to take leaps of your own even without the guidance of WBDS.