I recently had the opportunity to interview Jason Walker of Two24 Studios. Many of you may be familiar with his work as it has been featured in a number of galleries and design blogs. Jason has some great insight, so I hope you enjoy the interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do?
Currently, I’m an interactive designer & developer. Most of my time is spent in front-end development, creating modern websites with a focus on user experience and web standards. I’ve always been interested in the web since I was young, but never pursued it as a career until after college. I’m self taught, most of my knowledge comes from experience and my passion to create beautiful websites.
You offer a variety of design and development services. Is there any type of work that you prefer over others?
I’ve always been a pretty visual person, so, ideally I’d prefer to spend much more time designing than developing. With that said, I think a good balance helps keep things fresh and keep the creativity coming. Lately I’ve been working with a lot of artists which has also been a great source of inspiration.
Your portfolio site mentions that you do a lot of work with WordPress and ExpressionEngine. If a client has no preference of CMS how do you go about deciding what would be the best fit for them?
Initially, I meet with the client to discuss their project. After learning more about the project, I usually have a good sense of which system will be best for them (if any). WordPress is definitely one of my favorite platforms. I love supporting open source projects and there is such a great community of developers for it. That is not to say anything bad about ExpressionEngine, it definitely has some advantages over WordPress. I think understanding how both work is crucial to deciding which is best for your project.
How would you compare your experience freelancing as opposed to being an employee? Do you have a preference?
Freelancing is a great option if you are responsible enough to handle it. You really have to maintain a high level of focus to stay on track and progress your business. It allows you a lot more freedom with your work and schedule which can be very nice. I find that I’m much more productive in the evenings as opposed to the mornings. As long as you set expectations with your clients, you won’t need to worry about minor details like being to work on time.
Working for an employer has it’s advantages too. I find that working for an employer lets you focus much more on your role. If you are designer, then you are there to design… you won’t need to worry about collecting payments from clients, maintaining a pipeline, and managing a business as well.
Your portfolio site is rather unique with the large background image of the city and transparency. Did you have any specific inspiration for this design?
I spent a lot of time working on this design and tried to create something I thought was unique and forward thinking. The city in the background is Tokyo, which I’ve always wanted to visit. Everything about Japanese culture inspires me so I wanted to include this photo as a center piece to my site. Since I went with mostly blacks and grays, I used the bright fluorescent colors to help make the sections pop. Overall I consider this design one of my most successful… it’s received a lot of recognition and praise and I’m very thankful that it’s been well accepted.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspects of being a freelancer and how you do overcome those challenges?
The most challenging aspect of being a freelancer is being responsible for all aspects of your business. You need to be comfortable managing your clients, tracking expenses, finding new work, creating proposals, providing customer service, etc. You are responsible for everything and for some that can be overwhelming. If you are aware of all the responsibilities you’ll have and can set a routine, you can lead a very successful, happy life as a freelancer.
What would you say are the most important factors for achieving success as a freelance designer?
I think one of the most important factors is keeping your clients satisfied. A satisfied client can lead to lots of referrals and the opportunity to work on future projects with them. Another important factor is choosing the right projects/clients. You’ll be far more successful if you can spot which projects you’d be a good fit for and which one’s you won’t. It’s best to let the client know upfront any concerns you may have so that you can reach a resolution that works best for both… or you can part ways before either has wasted too much time. In a perfect world, there would be no ‘bad’ projects, but it’s up to you as the professional to make that determination before making a commitment to the client.
How do most of your clients find you?
Most of my clients come from referrals. I’ve always tried to focus on my keeping my current clients happy, without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Most of them of more than willing to recommend my services to a friend or family member, and typically I’ll give them a credit for doing so. I’ve also been receiving quite a bit of requests through my site.
What are some resources/tools/apps that you use in your work on a daily basis?
Twitter has really been a great resource for me. I find that the short postings allow you to easily scan the timeline and find really useful bits of information quickly. I tend to follow people who inspire me, popular blogs, etc so I can keep updated with the latest from them. Other than that I’m a pretty big mac fan, so these are some apps I use daily:
- Tweetie – The mac’s best twitter client
- Adium – Instant messaging that connects to almost everything (especially like Facebook chat)
- MAMP – Local website management
- Textmate – One of my favorite editors
- Dropbox – share your files between multiple computers
- Virtualbox – a great, free, virtualization app (to run Windows to text IE versions)
Can you tell us something interesting and unique about yourself that readers wouldn’t know?
I love collecting designer vinyl toys… a hobby I started as I was beginning my web design career. Although I’ve thinned my collection over the years, each one is unique and brought some kind of inspiration to my life. Ideally I’d like to turn Two24 Studios into a hip, retail store that features great artistic products like these and many others from artists that inspire me everyday. Check out my flickr gallery of my Kidrobot toys!