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?
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?
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?
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!