Webmaster By Design
On this, what is considered International Web Mistresses Day, I want to share how I fell into the field, so maybe you'll know how to tell if it's meant for you too.
A webmistress is a female webmaster—a person whose job is to create and maintain websites. The terms 'webmaster' and 'webmistress' sound kind of archaic, which explains the low search volume for them. Save for search volume relating to Google Webmaster Tools, the profession of webmaster/webmistress I'm suprised isn't as searched for. For me it has been soo fulling that I think more girls and women should seriously consider it.
There are more than 1.93 billion websites that are currently being maintained, developed, and created by women today. And fun fact: Did you know that Ada Lovelace was considered the first ever female programmer? 👩💻 That's why I chose to have her in the hero image for this article above. She developed the first computer program back in 1843, when she was working on an algorithm for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.
The Perks Of Being A WebMistress
- Work-Life-Balance: You usually can work remotely on this career path and have way more control over your schedule and work load.
- Stimulating: If you develop more skills to offer clients, then you never get bored—and the better the website you manage for them!
- Empowering: There's something about being a woman and feeling like you're delivering something of value that isn't usually expected from someone like you. You feel you surprise yourself a lot at the beginning of your career (a little imposter syndrome), but eventually you know that you are delivering value because you put in the work and are talented.
- Nice Pay: Of all the desk jobs a women have had in the last century or more, webmistress work is so much more fairly valued when it comes to compensation.
- So Much Potential: Whether it's developing your tech and computer skills or the professional network you grow, being a webmistress you have the potential to work with big brands you grew up with or high profile public figures you'd never dream in a million years would require your help.
With all that, let me get the profession itself.
How Do You Fall Into Being A Webmistress?
At Least One Personal Connection
I like to believe that I fell into being a webmistress and the digital field because of my mother. She emigrated to the United States when she was 8 years old from Bosnia, and went into Computer Science at Purdue University...but then switched to Communications. Classic tale of a lone woman in classrooms full of male students, going for a male dominated career. She felt ill-equipped but clearly she was intelligent! Even though she will tell you herself that she's not tech savvy, why has she always experienced less issues using their home computer and home entertainment system? Can you picture little Stephanie at age 6—calling her mom for help with getting a VHS to play on Baka and Deda's limited television (that only has 12 channels)? I don't mean to over idolized my mom, but as a late Boomer, you can't blame her for not betting on a career in Computer Science.
I too always felt like computers and tech were out of reach for me, for most of my life. What changed my course I think can be attributed to the guides and encouragers along my way, who saw through my natural love of making things look their best on the computer. And my biggest champion (as cheesy as it sounds), who helped me build the confidence to pursue this career path, was my husband. That's not to say that you have to sleep your way into this career! What is crucial though, in your becoming a successful webmistress, is having people you can count on for guidance. Whether it's in your genes or not, computer skills can only take you so far..Having at least one steadfast personal connection who you can count on for advice and support, helps most in my opinion.
A Natural Inclination To Get Better At Computer Stuff
I always put so much effort in learning how to make my school assignments and projects as beautiful as possible with computer programs and software. I have fond memories of trying to master Microsoft Publisher, Word, and PowerPoint—then everything Apple computers came into my world at the end of high school when I became editor-in-chief of the school newspaper (The Pioneer) at Maine East in Park Ridge. Being able to go between computer operating systems easier than other girls my age I think was a tell tale sign that I had the capability to start on this path sooner than I did too.
Regardless of your age, if you are creative by nature, web design, web development, and other facets of being a webmaster/webmistress are totally within your grasp in the tree of knowledge so-to-speak. No matter how much more you think you are bugging your teachers for help with computer stuff, know that that is normal! Giving up on yourself because you're trying to learn a skillset that you're not used to is a lot like trying to learn a new language—but trust me, it gets easier as you go alone.
A Strong Sense Of Responsibility
Now that I'm a mom, it's funny how much being a webmistress feels like being a mother to a website. The most obvious aspect is that you're taking care of something like you do a child—making sure it has everything it needs to run and troubleshooting any issue that may arise. The fun part for me though is the "primping" aspect—looks aren't everything, but I take pride in making my client websites look good as if they were my child. Also, like a child grows and develops, so do websites. If you maintain long clients as long as some of mine, you will have the pleasure of seeing the evolution of the website and the business behind it. You aren't a part of the day-to-day of your client's business, and often times you aren't a part of the brand decisions—but you help execute the dream and you are caretaker and custodian of a huge part of it all.
You have to have a strong sense of responsibility for your work and your relationships with others if you want to be a great webmistress for the long haul. There is no room for ego or primadonna behavior—for the ARTISTS out there, you are a part of a TEAM, and your opinion is not the be-all-end-all. Check yourself before you get onto this career path.
While not every webmistress is an artist, those of you who want to be a webmistress who also handles the branding and web design aspect of your client websites—you bring more to the table but you have to remember that you are meeting your client's vision. You have to respect that this is their baby, and you are helping that baby grow and develop into a kickass spokesperson and beacon. Don't take your sense of responsibility too far into possessiveness—keep a balanced approach to your caring. Avoid burnout too!
Computer Class — It's Never Too Late Or Too Early To Start
In terms of learning the craft of website management and web design, my first "computer class" was in 1st grade, at St. Ita Catholic Academy in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. Almost every morning a half dozen of us kids would rotate going to the computer room on the top floor. My thing was Microsoft Paint—my favorite trick was sort of Jackson Pollack-ing all the different colors of the rainbow with the spray paint tool. Then computers came back into my life in 4th grade, as we were learning about how to use the school library's Dewey Decimal System and school projects were starting to be expected through computer programs like PowerPoint and Word. Like I said at the beginning of this, I always loved making my school projects and papers as great looking as possible—I wanted them to be snazzy for whatever reason—and it was cool to see how classmates were getting more confident with their skills as we learned the ropes of presentation together.
All those very basic and essential computer software learning experiences prepared me for the next level, which I feel really peaked when I started graduate school at Loyola Water Tower Campus.
Before graduate schoool though, I did actually do my first bit of web consulting at my undergraduate university after I wrote a crital article about the behind-the-times website at that time, for the off-campus student newspaper. My article got the IT Department's attention and so began the effort to modernize the University of Illinois at Chicago's website.
With computer classes you don't need to pay exorbitant amounts or attend an Ivy League college, but you do need to be a self-starter and a person who enjoys lifelong self-developement. It's so much easier to learn computer and tech skills today than when I was getting serious about content management systems and all things Internet. Check out the online learning platforms your local library subscribes to first, like Libby, and go from there. Libraries and community colleges offer affordable and cheaper in-person options for getting your feet wet. From there, you will get great referrals for where to go online for more advanced classes and resources.
One of my favorite new YouTube channels that I learn some helpful tricks with Wordpress sites is Pootlepress founder Jamie Marsland's channel. https://www.youtube.com/c/JamieMarsland. The Internet is full of online learning resources, from there the sky's the limit for you.
What Comes With The Territory Of Being A Webmistress?
Finally, in terms of what to expect, guaranteed you can expect to experience peace and quiet when you work (unless you like working with music), difficult technical issues for which you will need to reach out to tech support (no shame in that), and clients who don't understand what you're saying most of the time (you need to know how to talk to clients in a way they can understand). You also, unfortunately, will sometimes encounter some shady characters, but ultimately you need to make the call that will benefit your mental health above all else. Geoff and I have had to save a handful of clients from predatory agencies that were holding their websites hostage for big payouts, as well as some other unprofessional behavior. You'll learn with experience how to shepherd through those wolves, but it sure helps when you have a great mentor or partner working with you.