In the fourth of five interviews with web designers and developers who are self employed I chat with David Longworth. Much like Jon Hicks, I’ve never actually met David… I just kinda dropped him an email and he’s been kind enough to give some of his time for my 10 questions. David is a web designer & design consultant based in the Uk and has a business called Orange Tape Studios.
Nathan: So what was it that made you decide to ‘go it alone’?
David: I had recently finished a project I had done for a friendâ€™s friend and I thought to myself why not make some money out of this because before that I had just messed about in Microsoft Publisher â€™97 creating sites (Nathan: You’re a brave man.) that I had to host on one of those free, advertising pasted hosting sites (Bravenet if I recall).
Ch ch ch ch changes
Nathan: How did you prepare for the change in employment, did you ‘do it proper like’ and write a formal business plan before you started?
David: No, nothing like that. Although I keep an idea of where I am up to using Ta-da list amongst other things.
Nathan: On your first day did you do a shed load of work or just play PlayStation?
David: I donâ€™t actually recall a first day; I suppose everyday is a first day for everything because I am constantly learning new stuff from more talented folk. Great answer eh?
Nathan: If you charge by the hour, how did you decide on your hourly rate? Did you pluck a figure from the air or work out a rate based on the salary you required?
David: I did my research for this part. I read a couple of articles on how fellow designers set their own rates and what they were, particularly John Oxtonâ€™s article which had some very useful comments on it. This led me to Â£20 an hour/Â£200 a day â€“ it sounds reasonable to me because I think I have style :)
Nathan: What about marketing then… do you advertise your services in local rags, wear a short skirt and tout yourself on street corners or just rely on word of mouth?
David: Me and Andy have talked at length about this, everything from telephone sales to flyers through the letter box however the best way by far is having a chat to people you meet and ask friends/family if the know anyone who needs a website.
Nathan: How does your average work day pan out? For example do you have specific times during which you respond to prospects and clients, read blogs and eat biscuits, or do you just go with the flow?
David: After I get up first thing I do is switch on the PC (thatâ€™s right not a Mac) and check my emails to see if there has been any overnight activity, which there usually has been so depending on the urgency of the email I will either respond straight away or leave it until I have more info available to answer it. Then I usually fire-up my copy of FeedDemon and check for any new posts from my favourite blogs and have a read of those. I will usually work as long as I feel up to it, with plenty of breaks and refreshments along the way.
Work and play
Nathan: Does working freelance ‘actually’ give you more free time for yourself and/or your family? Or in reality and do you actually spend every waking hour sat at the computer trying to make sure that you can pay the bills each month?
David: I would say it offers more flexibility because I can pretty much work whenever I want, as long as I do work eventually; whether that is 2am or 4pm. I can also change things around if any social events pop up that I want to go to.
When disaster strikes
Nathan: What’s the one single biggest disaster that you’ve had to face, and how did you deal with it?
David: Thank God there has only been oneâ€¦so far. To cut a long story short a client decided that he didnâ€™t like what he saw, even though he had said ok to it all the way through. So in the end I redid the whole site in a couple of hours and everyone was happy â€“ just goes to show that my best work is when I am under pressure.
The future (is bright hopefully)
Nathan: Being self employed you must have some ambition… where do you want your business to be in ten years time?
David: Mainly expansion, I would like to get some office space and hire some more talented folk to work with. Maybe even move into other areas of new media and see how I do, but it depends on how many clients I have/how much money I earn.
Nathan: And finally, what single tip would you give to someone who is considering going freelance to help make the leap into the unknown that little less daunting?
David: The most important piece of advice I can offer is that you should really have a blog/website of your own. There are two distinct advantages to this, one being you can show off you design skills while having a laugh writing and discussing with other people about whatever you like, the second is that through the links that you (might) get, you also get potential clients you your inbox. Take this answer you are reading, it would not have been here if Nathan hadnâ€™t found my email address on my site.
Sites like the CSS Reboot are also a great way to get linkage. I was getting a small amount of traffic that I was pretty happy with, but you know the more the merrier – then almost overnight things exploded and I had a full inbox and lots of site activity thanks to Benjamin Adam and his great idea.