Q1. Many of us may be familiar with you because of your website, for those who are unfamiliar with you, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your life?
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.
Q2. How long have you been blogging and how (or why) did you start a blog?
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.
Q3. What was your goal when you started blogging?
I simply wanted to create some content on my site to attract search engine visitors, and ultimately to find new clients for design work.
Q4. How much time do you need to spend daily on the upkeep of your blog… do you ever sleep or play?
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.
Q5. What would be the biggest mistake you’ve made as a designer / developer / blogger / entrepreneur?
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.
Q6. What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have/develop?
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.
Q7. A typical day in the life of “Steven Snell”, how is it like? What do you enjoy the most about your work?
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.
Q8. What do you think of the web design blog niche? A lot of designers say it’s overcrowded, but many say there’s still room for new blogs and tutorial sites.
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.
Q9. If you could give a single piece of advice to people who would like to follow your steps, what would it be?
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.
Q10. What are the tools you couldn’t live without?
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.
Q11. Do you have any favorite websites for interacting with others in the design community?
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.
Q12. What are your favorite websites at the moment?
Thank you Steven for taking the time out to answer our questions. Much appreciated.