In this interview, Chris shares:
Why he recommends other designers to set up their own blogs.
- How he earns money from his blogs, from ads to the members area.
- What is his advice for designers who want earn money online.
Interested? Read on!
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Chris Spooner, a designer who runs two design blogs – Blog.SpoonGraphics where I post general design tutorials, and Line25 where I focus on web design content.
You run two popular web design blogs. Would you recommend web designers to start blogs of their own? Why or why not?
I always recommend that designers set up their own blog. I’ve always found my sites are a fantastic resource for keeping your own skills fresh and to date while giving you the opportunity to help others and benefit from increased exposure.
How did you come up with the idea to start your own web design blog at Spoon Graphics?
Back in 2006-2007 I remember seeing lots of similar design blogs springing up, all based on the WordPress platform. I enjoyed their content and had been wanting to try out WordPress for myself, so I simply set up an install to play around with it on the sub domain of my portfolio site. I began posting tutorials, they became pretty popular and the rest is history!
How do you come up with the ideas for a blog post and decide what to write about next?
My ideas for blog posts are all based on general inspirations from every day life. Whenever I get the urge to try out a certain design style or create a particular type of design I’ll simply do it, then create a tutorial on the topic.
What is your process for creating a blog post (from the initial idea to hitting the Publish button)?
I’ll first create the design at hand, then I’ll go back and dissect the design in order to take screenshots of the process. The next stage is to write the step by step instructions according to the screenshots, then compile it all into a WordPress post.
You have an e-mail list on your blog. What are the benefits of having an e-mail list? Would you recommend other web designers to start one? Why or why not?
The only email list I have on my blog is the people who choose to receive RSS notifications by email. I haven’t actually ever used any kind of email marketing or sent out affiliate links by email.
How did you build the social media following that you have today? Would you say that a decent social media following is a valuable asset for a web designer? Why or why not?
I have always posted out links to design content I have enjoyed reading, so I guess this makes my profile worth following so people don’t miss out on cool tutorials etc.
How did you promote your blog in it’s early days and how do you promote it now? What would you advise for someone who just started a web design blog and wants to attract more readers?
The process is pretty much the same as it was in the early days. Once a post has been published I’ll submit it to directory or news sites, particularly tutorial websites, then also send out timely tweets to spread the word of the new content.
You also run another blog, Line25. What is the difference between Line 25 and Spoon Graphics blog? When is it better to start a blog which is more personal and built more around a personal brand and when is it better to start a blog that’s more general?
Although SpoonGraphics is based on my design business brand, while Line25 is a separate brand in itself, I try to keep both sites personal to me in that I’m the only author and my name appears next to every post. Lots of design blogs have seen success growing as more of a magazine with multiple authors, but I like to maintain the feeling of a personal blog with my sites.
You’ve mentioned that the best way you’ve received clients is through your blog. Can you tell us more about it? How can web designers optimize their websites in a way that they would attract more paying clients?
Over the years as exposure to my blog has grown, the number of people seeing my design work has also increased. This has helped me build a name for myself as a designer and as a result I’ve landed lots of cool design projects from people who have discovered me thanks to one of my tutorials or articles.
You have a lot of experience in monetizing your blog through advertisements. How does that work? Would you say that displaying ads is a good way to earn some side income for someone who has a relatively popular blog? Why or why not?
Displaying ads on your blog seemed to be the natural step once its traffic reached a high enough level. It takes a lot of work to build the site to that level so it makes sense to begin earning something back from it when the opportunity arises. For me the revenue earnt from my blog has allowed me to cut down on client work and focus more time into creating tutorials and blog content.
What is your experience with affiliate marketing and what is your take on it? Would you say that promoting products and services made by other people is an effective way to monetize a web design blog? Why or why not?
I’ve only began looking into affiliate marketing over recent years, but it has allowed me to earn a nice little bonus every now and again. I like to keep all my revenue streams as non-intrusive as possible, but using affiliates links in place of standard links to products I’d be using anyway helps earn me a couple of dollars while sharing resources with my readers.
Are you planning to develop and sell your own products in the future (e-books, etc.)? Why or why not? Would you say that web designers in general could benefit a lot from developing and selling their own products? Why or why not?
My implementation of affiliate links is actually within a free ebook available for download on my blog. I have considered selling premium products, but giving away free stuff has benefited me enough so far. I know some designers have seen great success selling WordPress themes, icons packs and other premium design resources.
You have a members-only area on your blog. Can you tell us more about that? How does it work? How effective is this premium business model in terms of monetization? Would you say that adding a members area to a blog is a good idea once it becomes more popular? Why or why not?
The members area is working really well. For me it’s a way to treat my core community with some extra special goodies while bringing in a steady revenue stream outside of banner ad sales. It is a different type of monetization altogether though, because people are paying me directly for a service it requires much more attention and support, whereas banner ads and affiliate links are all third party services.
We’ve covered quite a few different ways to monetize a web design blog. What, in your opinion, is the single most effective way to earn money online as a web designer (besides client work)? Why?
There’s many different avenues a designer can take, from my experience a design blog is the most effective, but you don’t have to look for to see designers earning a living by selling WordPress themes and other resources.
What are your future monetization-related plans for your websites? Why?
I have no further plans with my own websites. I’m happy with the revenue they’re bringing in and while I could squeeze more out of them, I like to maintain a good user experience and keep my revenue streams as non-intrusive as possible.
Last, but not the least, what would you advise to web designers who want to use the power of blogging and social media in order to enhance their careers, get more clients and maybe even set up some passive income streams, but are at the very beginning of this path?
My advice would be to just set up a blog and begin posting content. Use the blog to have fun and develop your own skills and you’ll soon find an audience who are looking to learn the same things as you. Most importantly run your blog because you have a passion for it, not as a money making plan. Those who don’t always fail because it takes years of posting content with no return before it becomes a passive income stream.
Thank you, Chris!
In A Nutshell:
- It’s a good idea for web designers to have their own blogs, because it not only helps you to keep your own skills sharp, but also gives you increased exposure, which might lead to business opportunities.
- A good way to build a decent social media following is to post links to articles that are interesting and relevant for them (by the way, if you’re interested in getting more followers on Twitter, read this guide by Dainis Graveris).
- Displaying ads and affiliate links is a good way to earn money as long as it’s not intrusive and doesn’t reduce the quality of user experience.
- A membership zone on your website works well in terms of revenue, but requires more attention and support than ads and affiliate deals.
- Other ways web designers can earn money online include developing and selling WordPress themes, icon packs and other premium design resources.
What did you guys learn in this interview?
Share in the comments!