I live in central Pennsylvania with my wife (we just moved from New Jersey a few months ago). I work as a web designer and blogger through vandelaydesign.
I have been blogging for a little over three years. When I started I didn’t really understand anything about blogging, so it has been a learning process the whole way. When I started the blog I was just looking for an easy way to publish articles on my site. I had written several articles and published them on static HTML pages and then I decided WordPress would be an easier way to manage these articles. A while later the traffic started to come in as a few posts became popular with social media and that is when I got serious about building the blog.
I simply wanted to create some content on my site to attract search engine visitors, and ultimately to find new clients for design work.
I really don’t spend that much time on it these days. I publish 2-3 posts per week, and each one takes at least a few hours to write/prepare. When the blog was new I used to spend a lot of time on social media sites and commenting on other blogs to build my network and attract traffic to my blog, but I rarely do those things anymore, so it really cuts down on the time I spend on blogging-related work.
I think I made a lot of mistakes when I was starting my blog, but that was because I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was learning about blogging and social media on the fly. At that time I saw blogging as just article marketing on my own website, I didn’t really understand how personal blogging can be and the relationship that develops between the blogger and readers. I don’t really regret those mistakes though, because the whole situation was a great learning opportunity. If I had to pick out one thing as the biggest mistake I would probably say that my post topics were kind of scattered for the first 6 months. After 6 months I took a detailed look at my stats over that period of time and I saw what readers were responding to and I tightened up my focus.
I think communication is critically important. If you’re working on your own as a freelancer you will be responsible for all of the communication with clients. If you work on a team, communication is also critical to work well with the other designers and developers involved. Without effective communication even talented designers can struggle.
Also, I think a constant desire to learn and improve is important. The industry changes so quickly that it takes a real effort to stay on top of things and to keep learning the things that you need to learn.
I typically start work around 6:30 and I spend an hour or two going through my inbox, browsing through my feed reader, checking stats from the previous day, and then I get in to the real work of the day. I always have a to-do list with the tasks I need to get done that day. It may include writing a blog post, working on items for Vandelay Premier, client work, or anything else I have going on at the time. I used to work a lot of nights and weekends but I have cut back on that and I’m typically done work around 5:00 or 6:00.
I think it is overcrowded but there is still plenty of room for more, if that makes sense. What I mean is, there is room for quality blogs, and I think there will always be room for quality blogs. Running a successful blog in a niche like web/graphic design takes a lot of work, and I think many people that start blogs underestimate that. So even though there are thousands of design blogs out there, there is still room for more if they are good. I think that’s evident by the success of some newer blogs, one example is Design Instruct.
Put in a consistent effort and have a long-term focus. When I started designing it was just a hobby and I might design a site for friends or family here and there. When I started blogging a few years later I had no thought of making it my full-time work. But once I started to really enjoy the combination of designing and blogging I worked consistently to get to the point where I could leave my full-time job and support myself on blogging income and client work. Just putting in a consistent effort and having the patience to wait for the results is something that most people aren’t willing to do. If you are, you will get there in time.
I don’t think there is a whole lot I couldn’t live without because there are always alternatives or replacements that could be used instead. Some things that I use everyday: Photoshop, WordPress, Google Analytics. Recently I’ve also been using Illustrator more than I have in the past.
I use Twitter almost every day. Most of the interacting that I do with others in the community is through email. I have a network of friends and contacts that I’ve made over the past 3 years and every now and then I connect with someone simply through email.
Thank you Steven for taking the time out to answer our questions. Much appreciated.
Wilma Hamlin is a creative designer & writer. She writes for Crayonify. Being a designer as well she use to create amazing designs using many tools. In her lesuire time she love to read books and tries to learn new designs.