Interview With Steven Snell From Vandelay Design & DesignM.ag
I first connected with Steven back when I used to run Freelance Folder almost 2 years ago (Steven wrote some great articles there) and we’ve been in contact ever since. Here’s the interview I did with Steven recently, I hope you like it! Make sure you stop by in the comment section and feel free to ask Steven questions! :)
Hi Steven! First I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Can you tell our readers a little about yourself, what you do, where we can find you online and where you’re from?
Hi Jon, thanks for inviting me to be a part of your blog. I’m a web designer and blogger and I currently live in New Jersey (Philadephia suburbs), although I am originally from Pennsylvania.
Over the past two years I’ve done a lot of freelance blogging in the design and blogging niches.
How long have you been blogging and how (or why) did you start a blog?
I guess it has been about 2 1/2 years now. When I started my first blog I didn’t know anything about blogging and I had a lot of misconceptions about what it really was. I had written some articles for my portfolio site that I thought would be helpful for attracting search engine traffic (for potential clients) and WordPress looked like an easier way to manage that content as opposed to just using static HTML pages, so I installed WordPress, customized a free theme so that it matched my site’s design, and I moved the articles from the static pages and published them on the blog.
I was doing some article marketing with article directories around the internet, and from my perspective at the time all I was really doing through the blog was article marketing on my own domain.
My efforts the next few months were pretty sporadic and I had no traffic, no comments, and only a few subscribers. I had been reading about social media and it seemed like a great way to get some traffic, so I worked on some posts to target that audience, submitted to a few sites, and before long one of my posts was on the front page of Delicious. That gave me a lot of encouragement and I quickly saw the potential of blogging, so my efforts have been consistent ever since.
Shortly after that I started to get inquiries through the site about design work. It didn’t take very long before my blog posts moved to targeting designers rather than targeting potential clients.
A typical day in the life of Steven Snell, how is it like? What do you enjoy the most about your work?
My typical work day starts at 6:30am. For the first hour or two I am dealing with email, blog comments, quickly checking stats from the previous day for my sites, publishing content on my galleries and catching up with my feed reader.
After that, I have a to-do list of my priorities for the day. They’ll typically include working on a blog post or two, freelance writing, design work for clients, site maintenance or updates for clients, and things like that. At the end of the day I start over by setting my to-do list for the following day.
What does your workspace look like? Clean and organized, messy and chaotic or somewhere in between?
It’s somewhere in between. I actually like to work from several different places, so I’m not at my desk in the home office that much. In the mornings I’m usually on the couch for a while with SportsCenter on while I’m getting started. I also work from the dining room table sometimes. Right now I’m working from a local library as I’m answering these questions. I find a change of scenery to be helpful.
What would be the biggest mistake you’ve made as a designer / developer / blogger / entrepreneur?
That’s a tough question. I’ve made plenty of mistakes because everything has been a learning process for me and I’ve had to figure things out on the fly about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. I do have a degree in business so it’s not that I don’t have any knowledge or background there.
When I started Vandelay Design my only intent was to take some projects and make some money on the side. I had a full-time career that I was happy with at the time, but things kind of took off unexpectedly. So I didn’t start the business with plans to expand or with growth and the full potential of the business in mind. I’d say that was probably my biggest mistake. In some ways almost 3 years later I feel like I’m still trying to figure out what direction I want to take with my future.
If you could give a single piece of advice to people who would like to follow your steps, what would it be?
Be consistent and don’t give up easily. Whether you are working on building a career as a designer or starting a blog that you hope will provide significant income, there is a lot of competition out there.
Most of the people who are just getting started (especially with blogging) will give up before they ever have a chance to experience real success. If you give a consistent effort and stick with your work you’ll have a great chance to make it work. When I think back to when my blog first started moving and when I was working to get my design business off the ground, there were a lot of other bloggers that I was networking with that were in a similar situation as me, as far as just getting started and having high hopes. Some of them were really good at what they did, but almost none of them are still active.
Maybe some of them gave up on blogging because they moved on to bigger and better things, but I think in most cases they didn’t have the persistence to keep giving effort when they weren’t getting much in return. I didn’t get much of a return for my work at that point either, but it all has paid off now. Those early months of work have led to more search engine traffic which results in more inquiries from potential clients, and more traffic which results in ad revenue.
What project are you currently working on that you’re particularly proud of, or excited about (other than VandelayDesign and DesignM.ag)? If you can’t talk about it for some reason, can you tell us what project you had the most fun working on in the past?
I don’t really have any new projects at the moment. Most of my time goes towards maintaining my sites, freelance writing, and on-going work for existing clients. I do take some new work, but for the past few months I haven’t had much of an opportunity for that. I have been encouraged by steady growth at a few of my gallery sites, particularly Folio Focus and CartFrenzy. I think they are quality sources of design inspiration, so it is encouraging to see growth in submissions, traffic and subscribers.
If you had to chose only one typeface or only one app or software, what would it be and why?
If I had to choose one software it would be Photoshop. I know there are some alternatives but I don’t really have experience with any of them except an old version of Paint Shop Pro from when I was in college. For code editing and other things involved in design and development there are a number of good choices, so there is nothing that I couldn’t live without.
Your 3 favorite blogs or online resources (not necessarily design related)
I’m a big sports fan and college football is by far my favorite. I have an unhealthy love for University of Miami football, so my favorite blogs are the University of Miami blogs from the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald. That’s always the first thing I check in my feed reader. For the third choice I think I’ll go with Delicious because it’s a great resource that I use all the time for keeping track of content.
What’s in your iPod?
The only place I ever use it is at the gym. Recently I’ve been listening to Anberlin, Skillet, and Fall Out Boy.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Steven! You can find him on Vandelay Design, DesignM.ag and of course on Twitter. Don’t forget to stop by his niche gallery sites for a great dose of inspiration!
Stay tuned! We’ll have more interviews with more awesome designers in the next couple days! :)