Andy Sowards, Your All-Around Web Guy

Andy Sowards is your all-around web designer and developer. In this interview, he talks about his 12,000 Twitter followers, making it in the industry without any formal training, and juggling his work and family.

Hello! Please give us a short background of yourself – age, current location, hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc.

Hi Guys! I am a 24 year old happily married father of three beautiful boys (soon to be four! Its a girl!), currently residing in Lynchburg, VA (very small town). I enjoy hanging out with the family, playing video games, and working out when I am not designing or developing something. I like learning new things, computers, food, and gadgets. I dislike watching sports, waking up early in the morning, and hate traffic. (Ed – Don’t we all, lol.)

How did you get into web design and development?

Well, I have always liked Web Design and Development since I was in high school – this then ‘hobby’ was basically just playing with graphics, Photoshop, and MySpace code. Then the hobby was turned into a career after me and my wife had our first child. I started out as a ‘design guy’ at a small but successful web development firm in my town. After several years (of hard work, dedication and learning) I went from design guy, to HTML/CSS/JS guy, to PHP/MySQL programming guy, to all of the above – until I was the lead developer/designer at the firm and was needed on lots of different projects.

You’re a self-taught web designer and developer. Does that get in the way of finding clients? Or is it irrelevant in this industry, as long as you have the necessary talent and drive?

Great question: I find that being self taught versus having a degree is irrelevant in this industry to land great clients. I have a long list of clients at this point, some big businesses, some small – but never once has anyone said “Can I see your degree?” or “Did you go to college for this?” I think that some of them probably assume it, and others just don’t think about it, but as long as the end result is what the client wants, then they are happy. A lot of the time clients approach me because of something else I had done that they liked, or from a referral, but being self-taught has never kept me from landing a client.

I understand that you have a full time job in a web dev company – how do you manage to fit it all in a day? Does the quality of work suffer, and if not, how do you do it? I’m sure everyone would love to know.

Yes this is true, It is definitely a LOT of work, but I love every minute of it. Like I said above, I am married with three boys (and soon to be girl, yay!) and I am the only source of income for our household, so every little bit counts. It is knowing that my family depends on me, and that I love doing what I do, that drives me through each day. The quality of work never changes in my eyes, because with each thing I do, I try to do it as best as possible for the most desirable outcome. There comes a point where when you put out crappy work, you get crappy things in return – and that doesn’t help anyone! So always do your best and it will definitely make things easier for you and your clients.

Where do you find inspiration as a web designer?

I find it all over the place, you can never have too much inspiration! I find it in nature, art, music, things around my apartment.
I find inspiration when I watch my kids play, I find inspiration while browsing the internet, Flickr, etc.
I find inspiration in other web design blogs. Pretty much everything around you is inspirational in one way, shape, or form.

What makes you stand out in a soup of designers and developers?

Wow that is a tough question. I would have to say that since my career has had me involved in so many different things, what makes me stand out from the crowd is, that I can practically do anything. I have done everything from design, development, programming, even some Enterprise Linux Server admin type stuff. Some designers only do logos, graphics, and so on while other developers only code html/CSS. Still many others only program, or do advanced Javascript.

Me? I do it all, and love doing it all. I like working with teams that design the site, and I build out the html/CSS/JS and program it. I also like working alone, and doing it all from start to finish. I can go from designing a logo in Photoshop one second, to creating a MySQL database scheme to integrate into a new web app I am building the next. Doing it all really raises my value to my clients, as well as keeps my days from being monotonous, boring, and lifeless. I love putting together all the pieces to create a fully immersed experience!

What was the last project you enjoyed working on?

My most recent project was pretty fun, I had the pleasure of working with an IT firm that develops productivity applications. My task was to take their current design and work with them, and their company goals, to create a new and fresh site design and layout for the site. Basically I had to breathe some life into it, without changing everything. It was a great project with a great client, it required some design skills in Photoshop, as well as some programming in the WordPress platform. I also spruced it up and brought it into the new age by adding some Javascript trickery in there with jQuery. The final result turned out well, and there are plans for more changes in the future, but the finished project can be found here.

Twitter has skyrocketed my web design and dev career.

You’ve got 12,000+ followers on Twitter! How did you build your following? What are the topics that you usually Tweet about? How has your success in Twitter crossed over to your web design and dev career?

Ah yes, I am a huge fan of Twitter! It took a long time to build my following, lots of dedication to tweeting in 2009 lol. I basically built it by engaging with my followers, listening to their needs, helping out people and their problems, tweeting awesome links, but most importantly, just being myself. I tweet about anything from logo design, freelancing techniques, Javascript tutorials, to advanced regular e|Expression and programming. I basically tweet about design, development, programming, computer science, and nerdy stuff.

Twitter has skyrocketed my web design and dev career. When I started tweeting a little over a year ago, not many people knew who I was – now it seems like everyone (in the design/development community at least) has seen me or my site, or recognize my twitter avatar. It has presented me with some fantastic opportunities, new friends, new clients, and in the past few months alone I have been approached by several companies trying to recruit me. So it has definitely proven for an interesting ride, and I will definitely keep tweeting to see what happens next.

You seem to be quite the family guy! Do you find it difficult to keep up what with all the stuff that’s on your plate?

I LOVE my family, they are seriously the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I am 100% positive that I would not be where I am today without them. Having said that, the obvious answer to this question is yeah, sometimes it is a little difficult to make sure everyones needs are met and nothing falls off my radar, but so far everything has gone fairly smoothly, and it is definitely worth all the hard work it takes to make it. Going to bed at night (or staying up all night) knowing that everything is taken care of is a great feeling. The key is to never give up. I have never been a ‘quitter’.

Its going to be a busy future, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

What are your plans for the future? Anything else you’d like to learn and go into?

I have a lot of awesome things planned for this year! I will be helping launch a few blogs in the next couple of months, as well as a personal project that will be going live in a few months from now which is very exciting! I am also fully redesigning my personal site so stay tuned there for when all of this stuff launches soon.

And so, there is always something I would like to learn! I am CONSTANTLY trying to learn everything there is to learn about design, development, programming, and computer science as a whole. I am also studying a lot about businesses and startups because I plan on launching a few startups in the next year or two. Its going to be a busy future, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  1. By Victoria Blount posted on January 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm
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    There is no end to Andy Sowards talents, he is a designer/developer that puts us all to shame. I find myself in awe of Andy’s achievements, and the amount of skills he has under his belt. These interviews are inspiring and insightful but at times intimidating.

  2. By Annukka (@kerppu, tweet!) posted on January 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm
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    Nice article, I follow his tweets and always interesting to have a peek at the person behind the @.

  3. By Andy Sowards posted on January 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm
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    @Liz – Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me! I am honored! Keep up the great work!

    @Victoria – Thank you! You are too kind 😀

    @Annukka – Thanks for following me my friend 😀

    I appreciate you all!

  4. By lizlanuzo posted on January 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm
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    hi guys! thanks for leaving your comments. Andy – it’s my pleasure. keep up the great work as well. 😀

  5. By Domenick posted on January 20, 2010 at 7:38 pm
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    Nice bio brotha. I’m alot like you in some ways{ got in the game a little late 32yrs old}, I do freelance SEO and basically taught myself through reading and experimenting with my own sites when I first started internet/affiliate marketing. As time went on I started getting rankings and making money in some competitive niches, so not too long ago I got into the biz of helping brick and mortars get rankings and leads which is alot easier than doing niche/affiliate marketing at least with me anyways.

    Your story is inspiring to me, hard work does pay off. I’m following you on twitter and digg and think you are very talented.

    Question, coding is not really my thing, but I learned html, and a little php and css, is there anything you can recommend that I read maybe to get my skills up a little more so I can get better at customizing wordpress themes?

    Once again, keep doing what your doing brotha, Peace, Health & Prosperity to you and your family.


  6. By Andy Sowards posted on January 21, 2010 at 8:25 am
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    @Domenick – Thanks for the kind words bro! I am glad to hear that you seem to be doing very well with your SEO stuff! SEO is very important these days. Glad my story has inspired you, and Yes, Hard work does pay off!

    As far as your question goes – In my experience, HTML/CSS/PHP/JS etc. all take time and dedication to really be ‘good’ at them – Since there is so much there to learn, you could probably sit down right now, and study them non stop for months, and still not know everything. However, with practice, you can learn enough to get by fairly quickly. So basically just dive in, and get your hands dirty often, and you will have it down in no time ;).

    If your main goal for learning them is purely to deal with wordpress, then perhaps you should just check out some sites dealing with wordpress tips, and focus on that. If you focus on wordpress, you should learn the other stuff pretty easily with some supplemental studying on the subjects (html, css, php) here and there.

    WordPress can be very confusing for people that don’t know a lot of PHP, or how it works, so perhaps studying PHP more would be the most helpful – since WP is built on PHP and inherits a lot from it.

    If you need some good WP resources – I would recommend the following sites to browse through:

    http://digwp.com/ by Chris Coyier and Jeff Star

    and posts like this are always helpful:


    You can learn a lot from just going through the examples and trying to wrap your head around them.

    Good luck on your Ventures!

  7. By Misty Belardo posted on January 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm
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    Great interview. I always enjoy reading about Andy’s work and how he has progressed with his work. His dedication is tireless and his love for his family is inspiring. He will always be one of my teachers! Love following him on Twitter as he always has wonderful things to share. And truly honored to be co-writer with him at BitRebels.com! Rock on Andy!!

  8. By Andy Sowards posted on February 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm
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    @Misty – Thanks for the kind words Misty! You are an inspiration as well! Keep on rocking!

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