There are times when I get inspired by people and the work that they do. Evan VanDerwerker is one of those people that inspires me by his work. In this post you will learn about workflow of a freelancer, what good “deliverables” means, and how to get a website for $100.
I ran across his website through a Reddit link to one of his blog posts. Immediately I was blown away by how much time and effort was put into the content. He not only created some really good content, he backed it up by facts and added graphical representations to add flair to the article. After consuming that blog post I went browsing around his site. Again, I was blown away at the time and care that he put into every single detail. From there I visited his facebook page. It was there that I noticed that he was very engaged with his online audience. He does a thing where he created cartoons of his fans. I thought that was pretty neat. I commented on one of his posts and a couple of days later he turned me into a cartoon as well. He did a very good job at that too.
Here is the cartoon that he made of me.
When you are on the homepage of his site one of the first things you see is his DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO A $100 WORDPRESS WEBSITE. Since I am a seasoned web developer this peaked my interest. So I dug into it and it was put together just as his website and blog posts were. Very on purpose and informative. It was at that point when I knew I had to get him on for an interview and have him explain to you guys how to get a website for $100. Below you can listen to the whole interview and read the transcripts. If you just want to skip all that and read the guide you can do that as well.
[ois skin=”100 Website ebook”]
- Evan’s Website: www.evanvanderwerker.com
- Evan’s Facebook: www.facebook.com/EvanVanDerwerke
- Evan’s Twitter: www.twitter.com/evanvanderwerke
Jason McCullough: Welcome everybody. This is the Free Marketing and Business Newsletter with Jason McCullough. Today we’re here with Evan VanDerwerker out of Blacksburg, Virginia, a super skilled and humble graphic designer and content creator. Thanks for being on the call Evan.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, I appreciate you having me. I’m excited.
Jason McCullough: All right. Now, tell us about how you got started and your first experience with design and development.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. I actually taught myself how to do much of what sources my business. Santa Claus brought me my first Adobe Creative Suite which is CS5 – and I still use it today – a few Christmases ago. I played around with it for the following six months before taking a part-time job as a graphic designer or primarily a graphic designer for my College of Student Affairs Department.
From there it was that job, a slew of other design-related internships and any freelance opportunities I could get, emphasis on “free,” where I picked up much of my technical skills.
Jason McCullough: All right. I assume you just made it out of college.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. Well, I graduated a little over a year ago but I picked it up during college and very much taught myself how to do all this today, as [0:01:26] [Indiscernible] as that sounds.
Jason McCullough: What was your major in college?
Evan VanDerwerker: My major, I was communications – the focus was electronic and print journalism. I had a minor in professional writing and a cognate which is required and similar to a minor in terms of credit hours in creative composition and graphic design.
So after I taught myself how to do it in the last few semesters where I had already really accomplished my major and was just packing on as much as I could, I picked up a couple of graphic design classes, both to improve the skills and to verify that I knew as much as I was telling people that I knew.
Jason McCullough: OK. All right. Now tell us how do you actually stay motivated to create all this content that you got on your site.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. I suspect like most others, Starbucks provides the energy and Facebook likes and Twitter retweets are like endorphins for me. Beyond that, as long as I stay constantly busy, I wish I do, it’s easy to forget how tedious much of the things actually are.
When it comes to my business, everything that I do, I keep it as lean and as automated as possible, so like setting up a basic WordPress site. It’s very cookie-cutter process. The unique design aspects of the individual projects, that stuff I actually enjoy, so it’s not so hard to stay motivated.
But the social media aspect, as you say, that’s really the trickiest in terms of finding time to sit down and get to it and truly the answer is I have a very hard time staying motivated. For example, I have a quota that I kind of keep to myself which is one blog post per week and I constantly fail to meet that. But I am glad there are people out there that view it as highly motivated. I try to keep that front up.
Jason McCullough: Awesome. So you mentioned lean and automated and actually lean like a lean startup method. So in graphic design, I know that you have to name your files and name your versions and keep all your stuff organized and you have to deliver certain files for the client, like the AI file or the PSD. How do you go through that process lean and motivated?
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, I mean I save it all in the same organized fashion that I’ve used for years that I picked up at the first part-time job. I think most of the tricks make it seem like a lot of content is – I very much reuse certain things. So whenever I find myself motivated, I might create a logo concept that sooner or later I will use in something and you can tell if you look closely enough at the Facebook page where I post much of this content. You can kind of see similar themes that go on throughout; a lot of the same fonts, a lot of the same types of colors and images that are slightly varied.
So it’s very much like that but the overlap is very much what keeps it pretty easy, so that I’m not developing new things every time I get a project.
Jason McCullough: Got it. OK. Now for the people who don’t understand graphic design, especially clients, could you break down just a little bit of what your process is where they can understand the complexity of? So let’s say I hired you for a logo project. What’s your process for that?
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. So I have a pretty large font directory that I like to use, borrowing any logo design projects that come with super unique concepts and very seldom do I get people who know exactly what they want.
They will give me a concept. I will bring in whatever name they’re going to want on their logo, typically a company name, sometimes a tagline. I will do a Replace All in this file that I have, go through, pick out the types, the font that I like. Very often I do the font first and then into another program I will design an icon and typically follow that same formula, type on it with a tagline and some sort of icon. If I feel inspired in any way, sometimes you will see I incorporate an icon or a visual within the text but it’s very much up in the air. I mean I like logo design enough that I stay interested and motivated when I’m doing it and it comes down to playing around until I find something that I like and doing that close to a dozen times for each project.
What I tell all my customers, all my logo design customers that is, is I will do as many reworks as you want. I will give you as many drafts to look at as you want and you only pay for the one you pick.
Jason McCullough: OK. Now, when it comes down to revision, what do you define as a revision?
Evan VanDerwerker: How do I define the vision, you said?
Jason McCullough: For a revision or rework. Yeah.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. I mean it’s really the point of the logo and what happens usually is the logo comes in addition to a website and my goal is just to get you exactly what you want in terms of the logo. So I will give you the draft based on maybe an initial conversation or a questionnaire. I will do what I sort of like and I’ve had clients at times that say, “This isn’t for me.” Try again basically.
I just continue to do that until we find something that they like. I do find this is a pretty unique process. I don’t limit any changes. I’m happy to give you 12 logos and then you change completely what you want. I say that and it sounds nice but when it happens, I can’t say that I don’t talk about the client at the dinner table. I will completely admit.
Jason McCullough: Now, as far as delivery methods, what are your delivery methods to the client?
Evan VanDerwerker: I will share a PDF with the drafts for the most part and then whatever they’re going to use it for. Obviously I give them the source file. For the most part, the people that I work with don’t have capabilities of editing an Adobe Illustrator file but I will save it in any version I think they might need. Typically JPEG is what they’ve heard of. PNG comes with it, EPS. I will save it down for web in case they’re going to use it on their website but yes, typically the client base that I have more have been willing to sort of go with my expertise or recommendations in terms of the logo. I give them of course the source and the various other standard logo files you would get.
Jason McCullough: Awesome. Now can you give us a one-minute synopsis of where you are and what you’re doing today?
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, I’m very much just trucking along really. Nothing so out of the ordinary, just slowly increasing the size of my social networks. The Facebook a couple of months old, still trying to increase that. Twitter, I’ve had for years and build sort of at the same pace in itself. I’m trying to increase the popularity of my website, a laundry list of design projects and a few websites in the works. It’s very much the same old, same old. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clever or an interesting response.
Jason McCullough: OK. Now speaking of increasing your popularity, I want you to go behind the history of why you actually create the cartoon avatars for people on your Facebook page. I think it’s kind of a cool little thing that you do.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, yeah. A lot of the way I learned and the way I sort of developed things that I do is through trial and error. Needless to say with that model, the error is inevitable. So I’ve had a number of Facebook promotions that crashed and burned. One reason was I had offered to create desktop background images for people if they submitted me a picture and a word and just made this design that I have in mind
Not much interest. Did not go very far. The cartoon avatars, they just happened to be an idea that I had of which I was capable of. That seems to work. There’s wasn’t rhyme or reason in the beginning when I first started doing them but it has become a great way to involve people that I don’t know and there are a number of people, both of whom I know and realized – who I have met through the networks that use them as a profile picture, which isn’t as I say bad for business.
Jason McCullough: OK. Now, do you have any numbers on like when you started this little campaign? I understand that you started kind of haphazardly with no end goal in mind. But do you have any numbers since you started it? Have you increased your social network or has it flat-lined?
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. I don’t have numbers just because this is one of the first promotions that I did. I mean the week that I created the Facebook page, I had one out. I had created one. So I had been doing it ever since. It would be up to you if you attribute the seemingly success of the page and stuff like this. Both this, the cartoon avatars as well as the input post that I have of which do you like the best, which is typically a project that I’m working on, where there’s a couple of logo options out there and I ask the community to vote.
Jason McCullough: Yeah, that seems like a pretty cool idea, to get the community to vote on a project. That way you get [0:12:07] [Indiscernible] type of feedback.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, yeah.
Jason McCullough: Where you present it to the client. Now you can present all this other feedback. This is what the public likes. Now let me know what you like. I think it’s kind of a cool idea.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, it’s a cool idea and it’s always funny when the public overwhelmingly votes for one that maybe I like and the client isn’t the biggest fan of it.
Jason McCullough: Well, I actually found your website through a Reddit – I think it was a Reddit link in a question that …
Evan VanDerwerker: Oh, really?
Jason McCullough: I think it was a Reddit link or it was through Behance. I can’t remember actually how I got there but I remember going through a blog post. So I got to the blog post. I was blown away like wow, like all this stuff is on purpose. So this guy creates a blog post literally on purpose and I started clicking through your website. I think that everything else was on service [Phonetic]. I was very impressed. One of the things that stood out, you have a free ebook on your site with all the $100 website.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah.
Jason McCullough: So tell everybody how they can actually get a website for $100 and how that ebook can help them achieve that.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. Well, first of all, thank you for the kind words about the website. I appreciate it. The ebook that you’re referring to is the Definitive Guide to a $100 WordPress Website. It’s a do-it-yourself guide to creating a high quality website for under $100. The title is pretty self-explanatory.
There are tons of small businesses I found that have sub-par websites that have a little – being maintained by a web dev company that overcharges them either during the set-up or in this monthly management fee.
Most of the people that have a website think that creating or managing a website is one, costly, or two, over their heads and I would argue that that isn’t true. At the same time, there are a lot of people who are like I was years ago, confident that they can do it themselves but are in the early stages of trial and error and discovering the easiest or cheapest route.
For either group of people, the point of the ebook is to guide them through the process that I use which happens to be both pretty intuitive and cost-effective. Truthfully the process isn’t original. I mean it’s exactly what WordPress is sort of built to do. You purchase a hosting package from a top vendor. You click to install an instance to WordPress and you select and you upload the theme and you have a ready-to-populate website.
Needless to say, that’s a pretty simplified explanation of what it is. There are always the questions of what hosting package do I pick from what vendor. How do I access my instance to WordPress? What do I look for when I am picking a theme? These are all questions that I have answered through trial and error, much error over the years, and I sort of put it together in this ebook of what I would suggest. So it’s easy. It’s cheap. You can do it yourself and the ebook walks you through with step-by-step commentary and answers to the questions and a few corny jokes.
Jason McCullough: Well, that’s pretty awesome. Just want to let everybody know that the link to the book is going to be in the show notes for just a little blog post and then the link to the ebook will be in the show notes.
So are there any final thoughts from you or any messages that you have to small businesses or anybody who is looking to create a website or that’s looking to get or hire a designer?
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, please download the ebook. If at any point you’re reading it, you get stuck or have additional questions, just shoot me an email. I’m pretty quick in answering them and I’m happy to help. In the spirit of a shameless plug, if you like me to set up and populate the website for you, I’m happy to do that as well but of course for a price.
Jason McCullough: All right. Now aside from that, let’s say a small business or someone comes to you for graphic design or web design. Now what are the things that they need to come to you with? Do they need to be ready? Do they need to be prepared? What do they need to have done before they actually approach you?
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. Very often the people that I work with have an idea of what they want or at minimum a vision and they just need help sort of bringing it to fruition and I’m happy to do the legwork in going above and beyond what a typical person might in helping you find exactly what you’re looking for.
If you shoot me an email and even if you’re unsure, I typically have a questionnaire specific to the project. Short, easy-to-answer questions that help me guide myself in creating what you want and again, I am more than willing to continue to draft things, show you things. Trial and error is my mantra and I’m happy for a project to do that with anyone.
Just to answer your question, you don’t have to have anything to talk to me. The more you have, of course the quicker or the easier it might be. But if you’re unsure but still interested in a website of some sort, I’m happy to talk you through it.
Jason McCullough: OK. Now so basically what you’re saying is the discovery process of design and development is actually the most important process.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah, I would say that. Yeah, absolutely.
Jason McCullough: OK. All right. Now, we’re going to go ahead and start wrapping up the call. If you could just tell people where can we find you on the big, big internet.
Evan VanDerwerker: Yes. First and foremost, my website is www.EvanVanDerwerker.com. My primary social network is Twitter, at my name, with no spaces and minus that final R because my name is too long for Twitter. I have a relatively new Facebook page which we’ve talked about at Facebook.com/EvanVanDerwerke, still my name, no spaces and still minus the R for the sake of simplicity. I know my name is pretty difficult to spell but I assure you if you Google, if you don’t remember this and you Google anything, I have a monopoly on all of the Evan Vanderwinkles, Vanderwiggles, Vanderwinklers, all that. I assure you, you will find me in some way.
Jason McCullough: Well, that’s awesome. So, actually before we wrap up the call, that’s actually an interesting topic. So how did you actually monopolize those search results?
Evan VanDerwerker: Yeah. I mean I do have a bit of SEO knowledge. I’m pretty dangerous with the strategy and luckily, I have a very unique name. So I of course own the first however many pages of Evan VanDerwerker, if you Google that and anything close to that. Google and I have an understanding but if you type in “Vanderwinkle,” then you will get to me.
Jason McCullough: All right. Well, thanks again for being on this call and like I said, you actually motivate and inspire me to be better and humble.
Evan VanDerwerker: I appreciate. I appreciate it. All right. Thank you.