Interview with David Leggett / Tutorial9

I want to thank David Leggett of Tutorial9 for taking the time to do this interview for Fuel Your Creativity. David lives in Atlanta, GA and is a talented Blogger, Website Designer & Independent Publisher.

Are you a freelancer?
Yes, right now I’m a full time blogger.  I’ve actually never been employed outside of my own work, except for being a paintball referee, but we don’t talk about that…

What is the best part about being a freelancer?
You know, I always feel like EVERYONE is telling me, the best part about my line of work is being able to set my own times, and being able to work at home.  Let me tell you that from my experience, being self employed does not mean setting your own hours.  It really actually means you forget about hours entirely since you never stop working or thinking about your work.

For me, I think the best part about being a freelancer is the feeling of achieving a personal goal.  I always find myself striving to accomplish more and more, finding ways to please clients, readers, and in the end myself as well.  It’s very gratifying when you reach that point which was sought out to reach.

What are your best methods for finding/attracting clients?
I used to be into Web Development on a more frequent basis for the more usual clients (you know… Mom, Pop, the painter looking to sell their work online from down the street), but I eventually found that such work really wasn’t for me.  My clients nowadays are the readers on my blogs.  Attracting readers can be tough at first, since finding something important to write about doesn’t always come easy – but persistence and lots of effort put into publishing high quality articles has always proven to work for me.  I probably spend at least 60 hours a week writing, or developing ideas to write about for my readers.  The rest of my week is usually spent responding to my readers (I really enjoy being on a personal level with them), taking out my rage on children over Xbox Live, and I’ve recently grown a serious passion for cooking.

Do you run any sites or companies?

Tutorial9 is sort of my dream come true website.  It has a long ways to go, but it’s definitely doing much better than I had ever hoped it would for the amount of time it has been around.  My main goal with Tutorial9 is to provide the most helpful, free platform for learning various skills online, currently including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Photography.  As for the name, it’s simply a play on the phrase “Cloud 9”, which is why our slogan is “Tutorial Bliss”.

I do run some other websites, but none that are quite as dear to me at T9.  Being the avid gamer I am, run some blogs focusing on my favorite games in my spare time, and hope to someday start a blog encompassing both Games & Design, as well as Coffee.

Why did you start your site / company?
Learning is great, but Teaching is something I love to do.  When I figured out that I might be able to make a living off something I loved doing, I immediately pursued it, and haven’t looked back since.  Since starting, I’ve actually found that I’m learning more and more along the way as well, by communicating with artists and designers (who I might add, make me feel totally incompetent for being interviewed) and even through the power of observation.

How did you get started? Did you study something in particular or are you self-taught?
I’ve actually never taken a course for design, art, or web development.  I attribute a lot of my interest to my parents.  You see, when I was only 10 years old, my family’s house flooded.  I guess my parents felt bad for my sister and I, so they bought us both a gift.  Being the awesome Mom and Dad they are, they bought me Adobe Pagemill (trust me, it’s every 10-year-olds dream).  My interest in graphic design and website design has flourished ever since.

Please tell us more about your art and design background and what made you become an artist and designer?
Actually, I don’t consider myself to be much of an Artist at all.  On top of a total lack of talent and knowledge on that front, I feel very undeserving of being called an artist when I have so many talented friends who don’t get the kind of recognition I think they deserve.

I’ve always seen myself as more of a designer – someone who tries to develop systems that work, and someone who tries to make things more usable.  For me, Art is a form of communication, and I’m constantly thinking of ways to communicate ideas better through various mediums.  I guess I’ve grown a passion for design through my aspirations to convey thoughts in a way that can be easily understood.

What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have/develop?
Perhaps not a skill, but a trait that I see in the best designers I know is their ability to be humble.  I do not believe that design is a field anyone is perfect in.  Our ability to learn from our mistakes, take the advice of others, be inspired through the works of others, and look at our work through the eyes of someone else all seem like important components of a good designer.

What does your typical day look like?
My day usually begins with a hole in the wall – my alarm clock firmly slammed several inches into the outskirts of my room.  After crawling to the Coffee (Black please.) I immediately check to make sure my sites are all in good order, followed by flipping through my favorite feeds.  Once the caffeine starts to kick in, I force myself to start writing, or at least think about things to write.  Blogging is something I really find enjoyable, but for me at least, it’s A LOT of hard work coming up with new ideas to write about on a day to day basis.  It’s a task that I’ve spent several years training myself to do, and it’s likely something that won’t ever come easily to me.  Throughout my work day, I’ll try to take a break or two, play tennis, Frisbee, Halo, go swim, read, cook, but by 11PM I’m back in the office, working up a storm until 2 or 3AM.
What are your 5 favorite sites online?
I’m going to try and list my 5 favorite sites that have nothing to do with design:

Compassion – If you’ve got an extra dollar a day you can spare, you can save a child’s life.  Really a wonderful program.

Bungie – The makers of my favorite series (Halo).  Gaming aside, they also have some really great writers that make reading their site updates plenty of fun.

xkcd – Ok.  I’m a geek.

Amazon – Not much of an original choice, but I’ve built quite the CD collection through Amazon.  This is usually my first stop for any of my shopping needs.

Rotten Tomatoes – I’m not a huge movie junkie, but the few I do watch are typically flicks that I invest more time into than I imagine the Average Joe does.

Where do you go for design inspiration?
I’ll try to limit this to 5 as well, and I’ll leave out FYC for obvious reasons (though it’s one of my favorites!):

Swiss Legacy – A daily inspiration.  In my opinion, one of the best design blogs out there.
Aisle One – Another great design blog.
Abduzeedo – While I haven’t gotten to know Fabio as well as I’d like to, he runs one of my favorite blogs, and constantly offers a source of inspiration.
DesignFlavr – I first learned about Design Flavr after a sponsorship on Tutorial9, and it’s become a frequent stop for me ever since.
Creative and Live – Insightful, well thought out writings from some brilliant minds.

Do you have any favorite websites for interacting with others in the design community?
The whole Social networking thing doesn’t make much sense to me in its current state.  While I use Flickr and Twitter on an occasional basis I’m not ready to commit myself to any one service yet.  I’m already aware of some great looking hopefuls on the horizon that I’d like to see pickup speed in the next year or two.

Who, in the online world, would you say has had the biggest influence on you?
I’d say my readers have the biggest influence on me.  Quite honestly, I don’t feel like much of an artist compared to some of the folks who visit Tutorial9.  My readers help me find other incredible designers and artists, teach me new things almost every day, and make me strive to accomplish more.

What are the tools you couldn’t live without?

Photoshop, my Blackberry (I once stopped a scam to sell Tutorial9 with my handy cellphone from the mountains of The Middle of Nowhere), Outlook, ConTEXT.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fuel Your Creativity?
Going into this interview, I didn’t feel like I was by any means worth anyone’s time here.  I see myself as a young, inexperienced individual compared to some of the other great minds in the design community.  But perhaps my angle has something unique to offer to other entrepreneurs – and I certainly hope that any insight I do have to offer helps someone out!  I may not be much of an artist, and I still have a heck of a ways to go as a designer, but so far I’m getting by alright doing something I have a strong passion for!

I hope some of you stop by Tutorial9 if you get a chance.  Oh… and if you’re interested in my hopeful Coffee… Gaming… Design endeavor, maybe you should bookmark AMGamers.


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