Blog > STEMStories

#STEMStories: Clare, WordPress Web Design Specialist, UK

  1. Say hi :) who are you what do you do?

Hello! My name’s Clare McDonald and I’m a WordPress web design specialist.  I run my own freelance web design business and I am also the co-founder of GoWithThePro a membership which supports entrepreneurs and freelancers during the launch and early growth phases of their new businesses.  We specialise in digital marketing from social media management to content marketing and branding.

  1. How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

Erm, no!  The internet didn’t exist when I had my first careers advice chat!  My background is in the humanities. I have a degree in English Literature and History and my initial career was in publishing advertising sales.  I worked on the launch of a major consumer website in 1998 which started my love of the web. I was one of the first people in the office to have an email account (dial up of course!) and in 1999 I had my first training about the dark art of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

When my daughter was born, I freelanced for a few years in a variety of jobs including for an SEO agency and as a project manager and copywriter for a web design company.  I quickly realised it was easier for me to liaise with the client and make the changes than wait for the web developer to do them.

I’ve been building websites for about 18 years, but everything changed when I discovered WordPress and just how much was possible.  My first client still probably has the biggest site I’ve ever built so it was a very steep learning curve but I loved every moment.

  1. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

I’m very lucky that I work from home, so I don’t have to worry about the cold and the dark!  Working from home doesn’t work for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend it when you’re just starting out because it’s so important to have social interaction at work.

The sheer variety of my day makes me (not quite jump out of bed) sit down and enjoy my working day.  At the moment I’m working for a variety of clients including creating the digital version of two university publications, a French brewery, a company who has created stylish and comfortable hospital clothing and a brewing machine manufacturer.  No one day is the same as another! You meet so many different people and learn so much about different industries that you are constantly finding out new things and challenging yourself to try new solutions to convey their messages.

  1. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

This is really important for us at GoWithThePro because we have seen time and time again people struggle with what we call “overwhelm” and also “Imposter Syndrome”.  Overwhelm is the feeling that you have too much to do and no time to do it, so you start to panic and that usually means you achieve even less. Imposter syndrome is also interesting because it’s the feeling of doubt, that one day you will be “caught out” and people will realise you’re not actually any good at your job.  This can apply to people at any age too, we all remember being at school and thinking you’d fluked an exam or assignment. In reality we know deep down it’s because we knew what we were saying but it’s often hard to believe positive things about ourselves.

A really good way of dealing with this is to write it down.  Make lists. If you have a million and one things to do, write them on a piece of paper and then go through and deal with the straightforward tasks.  Once they’re gone you can focus on the ones which are more demanding.

I find my most productive days are the ones where I give myself shorter to-do lists so I don’t feel overwhelmed by all the jobs.  As a freelancer you are completely in control of your time so it’s important to be strict with yourself. It’s a skill you have to learn!

It’s also important to step away sometimes.  The school run was always a good problem-solving time for me.  I was away from my desk, there were no notifications, so I could think things through.  I solved many a problem walking to and from school! Taking a walk and clearing your head (or even just getting up from your desk in the office and standing outside for five minutes) can work wonders!

  1. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

That’s a really good question!  There are a few people I admire like Emma Thompson and JK Rowling who are not afraid to speak their minds and champion women in all walks of life.  The obvious answer is Ada Lovelace as a woman working with computers but there’s nobody I would point to and say, yes, her. Perhaps I’m lucky that I’ve always worked with great women!

I will say that I have a card stuck to my desk with a quote from George Eliot; “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”.  I’ve had it for years and for me it became a reality when I turned 40 and started this new career!

  1. What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

Enjoy yourself!  Work hard but don’t worry about choosing the course of your life.  Things change, people change, circumstances change and you go with it.  Things happen for a reason. It might seem like a shitty reason sometimes but it usually works out in the end!

  1. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

Bit biased here but keep your horizons broad.  Pursue art or music or literature too if you enjoy it.  There is a lot of pressure on girls to succeed if they are in STEM but you also need to have an escape and time away from your chosen field.

Support each other!  It’s hard enough to succeed in a male dominated world without competing against each other.  I work with four other incredible women so I promise it is possible (with the occasional bump in the road!).

Trust yourself and your instincts.  Banish Imposter Syndrome and recognise your abilities and achievements.  There’s nothing wrong with saying “you know what? I had a really great day today and I’m really pleased with myself”.

  1. How do you measure your success?

By how long my to-do list is?!  Seriously though I’m not sure I do.  I get so involved in projects I usually hate them visually by the end of it so I have to come back to them months later and think “that looks really good”.  We’re often too close to our own work to really measure how good it is.

My “success” is probably other people looking at it and saying “that looks really good”!

  1. Where can we find out more about your work?

Certainly not on my website!  I’m afraid I’m like the apocryphal builder whose house is a ruin; I’m a web designer who hasn’t touched her own site for years.

You can find out more about GoWithThePro at https://gowiththepro.uk

If you are a UCL Alumni you’ll soon be seeing my work too!

  1. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

You can find me on:

Twitter: @wexy8 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clarejmcdonald.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clare-mcdonald-0897b7b1/

Please can you share a few photos with us, our young women love to be able to put a face to their role models!  

One of my co-founders Cathy and I (on the left) doing a Facebook Live.  Cathy is a superstar and knows so much about digital marketing I am very lucky to work with her.

This is the GoWithThePro Team!

Finally, this is me on my 21st birthday about to embark on my “life” as we’re told it should be.  I’m a million miles from there but I did marry the man in the picture and we have two children so it’s not all bad (apart from the length of my dress)!