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?
Hi Richard. First off, thanks for having me today!
My name is Tom Ross, and I run the Photoshop blog PSDFAN. I’m from London, England and recently graduated from University. I’ve always loved the idea of creativity (in my mind: building something from nothing). As a result I’ve always preferred to create my own stuff, rather than fit into a pre-existing model. For example: after picking up guitar I quickly got bored of learning other people’s songs and started trying to write my own. This extends to the world of design, which I feel is the perfect creative outlet for millions across the globe!
Q2. How long have you been blogging and how (or why) did you start a blog?
I’ve been blogging for almost 3 years. Originally I started a personal blog as an extension to my portfolio, and it’s fair to say I got pretty hooked!
Q3. What was your goal when you started blogging?
I never really did the personal diary style of blogging, as that’s always seemed a little self-indulgent to me. What does someone care what I ate for breakfast? Instead, despite having no prior blogging knowledge I started making observations about the blogging community. I’d spent a few years reading up on the subject as it interested me, so felt that I had some decent ideas to share. I guess you could say that I actually did end up writing a diary, but one about my experiences starting my first blog!
But anyway, that was just my first blog! Looking forward to PSDFAN, I guess you could say things were similar. I started off posting tutorials as a creative outlet, but also had an inherent desire to teach people, and share some of the knowledge that I’d picked up from my previous years freelancing.
Q4. How much time do you need to spend daily on the upkeep of your blog… do you ever sleep or play?
This really varies, although with the expansion to a large network fast approaching the hours are certainly racking up. Unfortunately for my business I do like to sleep and play a lot too :). I will say that work hours are particularly crucial when starting up, as you need to start with a bang in order to get noticed. For the first 3 weeks of PSDFAN I was probably doing 18 hours a day solid work just trying to get the word out.
Luckily it worked!
Q5. What would be the biggest mistake you’ve made as a designer / developer / blogger / entrepreneur?
As cheesy as it sounds, there aren’t really mistakes, so much as learning experiences. That being said, I’ll respond to each of the positions
Designer: Not being active enough in learning new techniques. You shouldn’t wait for new styles/techniques to find you, instead you should constantly look for ways to improve/adapt your methods. Blogger: Similar to the designer point, never sit back and leave your blog. You should be constantly tweaking it, getting back from readers, and looking for ways to improve. Entrepreneur: Probably not planning in enough depth for a launch. Nothing is worse than launching a site or product and then realizing that due to poor planning it just won’t be as success as you’d anticipated.
Q6. What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have/develop?
Attention to detail. The best designers spend the extra time to really focus on the minute details.
Q7. A typical day in the life of “Tom Ross”, how is it like? What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I like to sleep in when I can (I’m not a morning person). Then I’ll check emails, favorite blogs, respond to people etc… Then I’ll update my site and promote the article. I’ll look at wider projects (such as our upcoming network launch) and work on those, brainstorm etc… In the evenings I’ll either work right through, or hang out with friends.
Generally I’ll have music blaring, or be strumming away on my guitar, and often work is accompanied by some good movies or Two and a Half Men ;).
What I enjoy about my work is seeing it grow. Whenever I think of doing another job, I just think of the feeling I get when a site launches and becomes popular, there’s nothing better! Plus it’s awesome to know that you’re constantly improving. I couldn’t bear to do a job that’s the same day in, day out.
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.
Honestly, I think it is overcrowded. That being said there is always room for newcomers. I think the main problem is that too many sites simply re-churn out existing information, in a series of unoriginal roundup posts. The best blogs come up with something original, be it awesome tutorials, or unique ideas (such as our 30 Minute Redesign post series).
Q9. If you could give a single piece of advice to people who would like to follow your steps, what would it be?
Really to follow what I mentioned in the previous step. Just be unique, and show a true passion for the niche. You need a unique brand, and then frequent, quality content (make sure it’s original!). You can’t really go wrong with that formula and a bit of perseverance.
Q10. What are the tools you couldn’t live without?
Photoshop! That and WordPress.
Q11. Do you have any favorite websites for interacting with others in the design community?
Twitter is my favorite website in terms of interacting. However, as part of our upcoming network we’ll have some tools for connecting designers.
Q12. What are your favorite websites at the moment?
Thank you Tom for taking the time out to answer our questions. Much appreciated.