How did you get into this line of work?
In 1995 I was VP at Whole Systems Design, Inc., a company involved in product production and promotion. My duties at WSD included producing ads, brochures and packaging for our products. The internet was just getting off the ground and we were interested in the possibilities it represented for marketing. We looked into procuring a website, which represented a substantial investment. Our co-worker was an accomplished Apple tech and convinced us that we could DIY the project. He arranged installation of a T-1 line and set up a server, initially just to host our own website. The first website I built was for our product Masterball, a 3-D puzzle. I'm sure there are more sophisticated sites being built by grade schoolers today!
It didn't take long to realize that there was tremendous potential in providing internet hosting and web development services to other businesses, even though at the time most of the people we pitched to didn't know what the internet was. I left Whole Systems Design in 1998 and have since worked as a freelance web developer.
Were you an artistic child? Is being artistic an attribute you need to be successful or are other skills more important?
I have always had a passion for art, and having a good design sense is a very useful skill for a web developer. However, there are many aspects of web or app development outside of graphics creation. There are jobs for anyone with good communications and analytic skills.
How do you keep your designs fresh and interesting?
It's hard to believe how much has changed with the internet since I first started working on websites in 1995. I can remember having conversations with clients convinced that no one would ever be foolish enough to buy anything online! And, just as with fashion, cars, or haircuts — styles change. To stay current with trends, I spend roughly 10 hours a week reading about new web development tools and trends.
Please give a rundown of the services you provide. Is it common for you to stay on to manage a website you’ve created or can a customer hire you only for the initial setup? Do you have a specialty or an area where you devote most of your time?
About 80 per cent of my business is building new websites or redesigning existing sites. Some of my clients want to maintain their own websites, and there are others that I work with for ongoing updates and continued development of their sites. I produce regular email newsletters for several clients, and also do some work with print graphics such as brochures, flyers, advertising and postcards.
What sets your business apart from similar operations in this competitive field? How do your clients find out about you?
When I first started building websites there were no WYSIWYG web software programs or content management systems, such as WordPress. I learned to write html code from scratch. So in addition to creating the graphics and design for a site, I have a strong understanding of what is ‘under the hood.' Most of my new work comes from client recommendations.
Describe a typical day, assuming any of your days are typical. Do you have any tips or tricks for staying healthy and engaged while spending a good part of the day in front of a computer?
I am lucky in that I have never had any problem being self-motivated. Freelance work definitely requires discipline and good time management. I don't think I can describe a 'typical' day, as every day is different, depending on what projects I have ongoing. Last week I had two major jobs in progress. I was working with a client in France that was texting me starting at six in the morning (noon Paris time), and migrating a site from a server in Fiji, where they were just getting into the office at six in the evening, my time.
Tips for staying healthy while sitting at a keyboard all day? Don't do what I do! Get up and exercise!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is when there are checks in my mailbox.
Can you give us an idea of your client base?
Over the past 20-plus years I have done work for World Bank, AOL/Time Warner, Lockheed Martin, and Sony, as well many local businesses and organizations.
What are your other interests and hobbies when you’re not working?
In addition to graphics and web development, I have worked in the travel industry for over twenty years, representing classic barges cruising the canals and rivers of France. Learn more about this fabulous way to tour France at my website, https://BoutiqueHotelBarges.com
In my spare time, I enjoy photography and relaxing with friends. I also make several yearly 'field trips' to art museums in Washington, Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia. Over the past year I have taken dog agility classes with my Briard, Mr. Muddy Waters. He is a very shy dog and it has been great fun to see how much self confidence he has gained learning to tackle the various agility obstacles.
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