1. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Chris. If you remember we actually published an interview with you roughly a year ago. It’s great to see that you’re still very much active in the design community! Today I would like to ask some different questions, and focus on what you’ve been
up to over the course of the last year.
Some designers and bloggers seem to have a habit of fading out of the public eye, and enjoying a very short-lived popularity. You’ve been regarded as an important figure in the design community for some time now. Could you share some insight into how you maintain your activity and ‘personal brand’ if you will, within the design community?
Thanks for having me back, Tom!
Whenever I offer advice on blogging I always recommend doing it out of passion, rather than purely for fame or fortune, as it’s the early days that are the hardest. There will be months of churning out topics and it seeming like no-one’s reading, there’s no revenue and it takes stacks of time! I think this is a big reason as to why some blogs fade away, as the owners might lose faith or interest. I’ve basically maintained my activity because I have the same interest in all things design as I did on day one of setting up my blog. I’m still reading the same old feeds (with a good selection of new ones!) and still being inspired by the work of others. I think personal branding just tags along for the ride; if you’re posting out design topics or design tweets, it’s only natural that you’ll be associated with the subject.
Since the last interview I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my site more than double in RSS subscribers to over 27,000, so this is a great incentive to keep it up. I also moved more into blogging as it started bringing in a revenue alongside client work, which is when I started Line25 (which we talk about later!).
2. Could you give us a sneak peek into an average day for you?
An average day usually starts with me struggling to wake up and get out of bed. I love getting up early, but it never works out! Lately I’ve been getting into my home office for 9:30 after the short commute upstairs. I’ll then check out a bunch of my sites and online profiles for new comments and updates, these include Blog.SpoonGraphics, Line25, ChrisSpooner.com, Twitter, YouTube, and DailyBooth. Depending on my work load I’ll either continue on with some client work, or start work on an upcoming blog post. Either way I’ll usually have a hand-written to-do list controlling my daily activities. After my first job I’ll usually brave my email inbox and clear out a few messages, although sometimes this is a scary scene and I’ll immediately close it to deal with later! The workflow tip from Tim Ferriss (I think?) of only checking email once a day has been an awesome productivity boost for the year or so I’ve been employing it.
I’ll work through jobs on my to-do list throughout the day, combined with random tweets and getting sidetracked by following interesting links or intriguing YouTube videos. I’ll usually work into the evening before leaving for food, after which Laura and I either watch some TV, head out to the Cinema or do a session at the Gym.
That pretty much sums up an average day, although with myself and Laura having the freedom of being self-employed we often make last minute decisions and take the day off to go to the theme park.
3. Your blog, attached to your portfolio Spoon Graphics continues to publish quality, unique content month after month. Could you give some advice for people wanting to maintain high standards in blogging and design?
Thanks for the kind comments! It’s always hard creating new content, especially with tutorials. I think I’ve almost given away everything I know! Not sure how many ideas I’ve got left! It has become easier over time in a way, as it’s just part of my weekly routine to create a few blogs posts, so I’ll be constantly thinking of new topics. If I spot something on or offline that could be worked into a tutorial or article, I’ll note it down.
I suppose the best advice to maintaining high standards in blogging is to always try to post something that people are going to find useful or interesting. That way you’re more likely to get a better return on the time you’ve invested because people enjoy sharing what they find online. A consistent schedule of interesting posts is more enticing to subscribers. The higher traffic levels you’re getting, and the higher revenue, the more time you can and want to put into it. This also tends to help me out with my design skillset, as I’ll use blogging to experiment in new areas or put ideas into practice that would otherwise go unused.
4. Not too long ago you redesigned your portfolio Spoon Graphics. Firstly let me congratulate you on an excellent job, I certainly know how much work can be involved in a major redesign! You mention in your blog that you wanted to give the site a more ‘personal’ feel. How did you work to achieve this, and what other goals did you have for the redesign?
With my blog continually growing, it’s become a far more superior source of clients and work than my portfolio. Plenty of past clients never knew about the spoongraphics.co.uk site! On the flip side the leads I was getting from my portfolio were of lower quality, usually people stumbling onto my site from a Google search for freelance designer. These were the typical clients with huge demands and low budgets!
The aim of the new spoongraphics site was to give more of a personal touch that gave more info on my background and my interest in blogging, rather than promote myself as a freelance designer. To do this I typed out the whole content as if I was saying it aloud, which loses the whole ‘professional’ image, but has helped tailor the types of clients I enjoy working with. Now I receive emails like: “Hey Chris, love your work, how do you fancy designing our site” rather than: “For the attention of Mr. Spooner. Proceed to sign the enclosed NDA. Upon completion you shall provide design concepts for our website”.
It was also about time I gave the design and code a refresh, after time we all learn new things we’re looking to put into practice, and discover more streamlined ways of working.
5. I couldn’t publish this interview without of course mentioning your newest blog ‘Line25′. Despite only being a few months old I’ve seen plenty of great content published there. Could you tell us a little bit about the blog, and your experiences running it so far?
Line25 has been awesome to grow over the past few months, it has been great going back to square one and establishing a new blog, although I did have a head start with the already established userbase on Blog.SpoonGraphics. Still, there were slow times in the beginning, but it seems to have picked up nicely and recently surpassed 13,000 subscribers in the 7 months it has been live. It has also been nice to have a standalone site, unlike Blog.SpoonGraphics which is attached to my portfolio. This has given me a little more freedom creating some types of posts that just didn’t feel right on my portfolio-blog. Although saying that I’m now ditching the whole ‘Oh, I can’t post that on my ‘business’ site mentality’ and looking at posting whatever I fancy on there.
I’m looking forward to developing the content on Line25 and kick up the traffic stats to the next level. I’m also considering opening up the site to more guest posts, both to ease off my workload and to offer another platform for people wanting to get their name out there alongside their content.
6. Do you have any more projects lined up for the near future?
I’m currently working off a few client projects with an aim to take a little break and concentrate on refreshing my blog designs. They’re both due a few little tweaks here and there. I’m also considering taking a direction with Blog.SpoonGraphics that’s similar to a couple of other big design blogs and offering a membership scheme. Here source files would be supplied, exclusive content would be posted and a range of discounts from some top companies would be offered. I don’t have any plans set in stone as yet, but it would
be cool to gather some initial opinions - What do the PSDFAN readers think?!
Otherwise, I’ve been enjoying experimenting on the video blogging side of life over at ChrisSpooner.com. This has been a great way of developing myself personally by building confidence in uncomfortable situations. Anyone who’s tried to talk to themselves while holding a camera to their face will know the feeling! Now video content feels natural, I’m considering creating a video version of my Blog.SpoonGraphics weekly favs. Video content seems to be the hottest thing on the web, so I’m up for jumping onto the bandwagon!