I met Roland when he reached out to me via one of the Facebook Squarespace groups and we’ve been exchanging thoughts and questions about Squarespace ever since. He lives just across the border from where I am and sometimes it’s just nice to talk shop with someone ‘local’ who is also a fellow European! I love how he started his own business by telling everyone in his rolodex (remember those?) what he was doing, that’s similar to what I did and something I recommend in my BizBox course - don’t underestimate the power of networking!
Hi everyone! I am Roland van den Hout, managing partner at FuseHub Creative Group located in Vancouver, Canada. I was born and raised in the Netherlands and emigrated to Canada at the beginning of 2010. I have been fortunate to have met a beautiful girl who said yes when I asked her to marry me, and we have two amazing daughters who changed my life forever.
1) What is your professional background and how did you get into Squarespace web design?
I started my career at a company I tremendously admire to today: Nike. Later on I moved on to ASICS where I truly developed my skill sets. I consider myself a classically trained marketer who started his career in an era where platforms like FaceBook, Twitter, and CMS providers like Squarespace just didn’t exist. So the way we reached our target audiences was through magazine and TV advertisement or event marketing (can you imagine?). I am convinced that the knowledge I gained during that period helped me tremendously because I am able to morph the old-school with the new-school thinking.
During my tenure at Nike and ASICS (1997-2009) it did become clear to me that the power of the Internet was the way to go to engage with the end user. Under my guidance we launched the now global initiative called My ASICS in 2003, which allowed runners to develop interactive running programs, use a logbook, connect with peers through an online community and many other social elements we are so used to today (again keep in mind that Facebook became a public domain in 2006 so we were way ahead).
2) What was your safety net (e.g. a partner, another job, savings etc.) when you first started out and how did that help you?
I was fortunate that I had a great network of referrals right out of the gate and was booked out for 4 months within 3 hours of announcing my business. If you are starting your business without a network of referrals, I recommend to have a minimum of 3 months living expenses in savings and start getting the word out about your business. Tell friends, family, former colleagues, anyone! Keep your expenses to a minimum. You do not need to break the bank to get up and running. All of the above I would have to say. From an early stage I started to build and maintaining a strong rolodex with contacts I worked with. When I started FuseHUb Creative Group, I reached out to all of them and working with them on projects. The fact that my wife was working full-time helped tremendously as well of course. But more than the financial support, I thank her for believing in me and support me on this crazy but rewarding journey.
3) How many websites did you design during your first year and how did your clients find you? Please share three sites you designed during that time.
I combined building websites with offering marketing consultancy to a diverse group of clients so my initial output was (and is) not that high. But whenever a website development came up, I was able to convert them from platform X, Y or Z to Squarespace.
Some of my earlier work:
My more recent work clearly shows the progress, fueled by more confidence, I made to try new things and wow clients. An example is Luscious Brush Painting where I opted to translate her creative side into a more creative site. The responses she is sharing with me were exactly what I was hoping for. It was a gamble, but it paid of in a major way for her. (Note: Most clients I train to update their sites themselves so some of the changes are… not what I would have done.)
As mentioned above, word-of-mouth and a massive database of solid opportunities helped me in those first years.
4) Do you have a niche market, or a specialty, or are you more of a generalist?
I position myself as a generalist with a deep understanding of a customer journey and what are the most efficient ways to deliver a message which converts.
I love to learn and will never walk away from a potential client even though his/her industry is one I do not know. Recently I developed a site for an eyelash extension business and, well…. I didn’t know anything about lashes besides what I see my wife do (horrified when she uses one of those ‘lash curlers’).
5) What are your five top tips for starting your own business?
You might have a slow month, or waiting for that client to deliver content… I had to learn to just take a step back, fully enjoy being around my wife and kids and free my mind. A nice run mid-day or a long hot shower helps as well I noticed.
Trust in yourself.
I might not be a CSS expert, but I know I have the skills to deliver perfectly working websites for my clients.
Never stop learning.
When I worked at ASICS my first hire was great, but I had to hold his hand 24/7. My next hire was as great, but knew more about a subject than I did and so in that process the whole team took that next step and became better. I know I started rather late, but I love to read, connect with like-minded people, and surround myself with people that are smarter than me and thanks to them I continue to expand my knowledge. For which I am extremely grateful.
It might be because of my years at Nike, but I learned there that “to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” (quote from early Nike athlete Steve Prefontaine) and I live by that. Why deliver mediocre work when you know you can do better? So keep pushing that boundary and never give up setting new goals.
Invest and be kind.
We at FuseHub Creative Group want to give back so every year we work with one client in the non-profit field and support them in their journey to develop their website, (re)brand, increase their online presence, etc. It just feels right to do that and we will continue to do that as long as we can.
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