1. Can you briefly tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Northern Indiana with my wife Carrie and son Jackson, and run an independent design/development/consulting/training company named Ordered List. When I’m not doing that, I enjoy golf, guitar, music, and spending time with friends.
2. How long have you been 100% self-employed?
I am fully self-employed. I’ve been running Ordered List since January 2007, and it’s been a blast.
3. What did you do before you took the leap to full-time freelance?
I was a Senior Web Developer for the University of Notre Dame, working in the Public Affairs division. Mostly programming, with some IA and training involved.
4. Was it an easy transition and why?
Surprisingly, yes. I had done some freelancing before, but not nearly to amount that I deal with now. I suppose it just kind of came naturally, and my work habits fit freelancing much more than ‘corporate work.’
5. Can you briefly walk us through a typical work day for you?
Well, nearly every day is different, but if I’m not watching my son (he’s 14 months right now), I usually wake up around 9, check and reply to email, then head into the office about 9:30 or 10. Work on a few things, maybe take a lunch break, then leave around 4 to pick up Jackson. Once I’m home, I’ll tinker with a few things, maybe write a little, but mostly play with the kid, and relax a bit. On days when I have Jackson (which is 1-2 times a week), I work whenever he’s napping (which totals about 3-4 hours in a day.
6. In a typical week, how many hours do you work on the following:
- Client Work: 25
- Personal Projects: 8
- Blogging: 1 (sadly)
- RSS reading: 3
- Learning: 4
- Other (describe)?: 4 in business admin time (paperwork, emails, etc.)
7. For you, what do you think is the best way to attract new clients?
Be excellent at what you do, and participate in one or more communities. They can be digital communities (like forums, Flickr, commenting on blogs, etc.) or personal communities (like a Chamber of Commerce, conferences, or networking meetings). For me the web business has been completely about word-of-mouth and referrals. Either person-to-person referrals, or clients who read about your work online.
8. If you had to list several industry 'mentors' or 'heroes' who would they be?
When I was just learning CSS and web standards, I’d have to say the work of Dan Cederholm was most inspiring. His blog just seemed to ask the right questions at the right times to make me think about my methods. And I can’t forget the Zen Garden, that’s what prompted me to get into web standards in the first place.
9. What is the biggest blunder you see other web design companies do?
Never improving their product or their process. You’ve got to adapt along with the technology, and continually discover better ways of making websites. I’m also completely bewildered by the distinct absence of basic usability testing in nearly every shop around my town.
10. What is the most under utilized web element/technology in your opinion?
As mentioned in the previous question, I think it’s Usability testing. So much CAN be done today to research new methods, or verify existing ones, but it just doesn’t seem to happen.
11. On the flip side, what is the most over used web element/technology in your opinion?
Internet Explorer? Anyone? Seriously, I would have to say ‘white.’ White has always been used as a safe color website backgrounds, but I think it’s high time we start adding some color to our world.
12. Rapid-Fire Recommendations (URL and optional comment):
13. If there was one bit of advice would you have for those interested in creating or growing their web design business, what would it be?
Don’t undervalue your service. Doing work on the cheap is bad business habit to get into, and one that’s hard to get yourself out of. Remember that you’re doing a service for your clients, and that your time is valuable. Turning down work can be tough, but working on the right projects with the right clients will ensure a solid business that you can profit from and enjoy.
Some excellent links this week for your small web design business. Each week these bookmarkables should be giving your more and more ideas on how to run your own company. If you've found something to be bookmarkable this week please send it to me or add it to the comments below.
- Top 10: Penny Pinching for Your Business - some great small business money saving ideas.
- 10 Essential Steps to Making the Perfect Pitch - provides some nice tips on how to really 'sell' your services.
- WordPress as a CMS - Content Management System - a nice list of examples, tips, and links on how to use WordPress as a CMS.
- Logo Design Process - a good look into another designers logo design process.
- Define Project Boundaries (and Keeping your Client Within Them) - an excellent article on the scope creep (those clients who like to go outside the scope and expect it to have been understood as part of the quote). A Must Read
Andy Budd is a web designer, author, and speaker. People know him for his blog and most notably for his book CSS Mastery. He doesn't know this, but that happens to be the first book I ever purchased that had anything to do with CSS. I was not let down and you won't be either.
I love looking over the previous month's popular posts. Which ones received the most comments, the most traffic, the most link backs and practically every other statistic you can think of. I thought I'd share with you what posts were the most popular last month.
- 7 Ways to Foster Passion in Your Web Design Business - Glides into the #1 spot for most traffic.
- What Happens If Your Clients Don't Pay? - This article takes the price for the most commented on and was #2 on highest traffic.
- 13 Questions with Andy Rutledge - takes the #3 spot. This was due in part to Andy linking to the interview from his website. Thanks Andy!
- Make Mistakes Early - #4 for traffic this month.
- Writing Web Design Contracts for the Non-Legal still rides towards the top of the popularity for all-time popular articles.
- My interview series has been a huge favorite as well. Logging a total of 6 published interviews, with 2 more ready to be published. I am looking for more freelance web designers and developers to interview, so if you know of any you'd like to read about just let me know.
As always if you would like me to write about any topic in particular, do not hesitate to contact me and make a request.
Also if you haven't subscribed to Focus Minded's RSS Feed, don't delay and do so now.
Each week I share links that I run across that should come in handy when creating, maintaining, or growing your own web design business. This special Labor Day edition only has 2 links, but they are very good resources. Worth the extra time necessary to read these articles/resources. If you've found something to be bookmarkable this week please send it to me or add it to the comments below.
- Yoav Ezer of Codswallop presents us with a large web application list. The Freelancer's Toolset: 100 Web Apps for Everything You Will Possibly Need.
- Leo on Freelance Switch writes The 10 Biggest Mistakes Freelancers Make, and How to Avoid Them.