Ashley Hiya Anna! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Anna Hi Ashley! I am a Florida native who moved last year to Memphis, TN. I first started designing when I was eleven, I decided I wanted to figure out how these whole website things worked and so I found sites that I really liked and picked apart their code until I found out what made what work. I was really into coding first until I discovered designing—I’ve always been a visual person so it doesn’t surprise me that it eventually took over. Other than that in my spare time I do a lot of other things, like read, write, I live on music, I love my fur babies, and I’m a pretty big gamer.
Ashley What kind of design services do you provide?
Anna I provide just about any sort of design service, from blog design to full websites and print design. I got the chance recently to do some animated book covers for Scholastic and that was fun! I’m even branching out just a little bit with a new friend Rhana and getting to dip my feet into some package design for her awesome organic vegan soaps and stuffs.
Ashley Do you design full time or on the side?
Anna Full-time. I’ve never really done anything other than build websites. My dad got onto me when I was a teenager to get a “real” job and then my dog ended up breaking her leg, and I was able to pay for it (it was not a small bill) so he kind of backed off. I’m lucky that when I was younger my parents were supportive of what I wanted to do, and were encouraging—usually when I’m working on something, even though I’m almost 30 and don’t live at home, my mom still asks to see it.
Ashley Have you faced any challenges or struggles as you’ve turned your designing into a full time business?
Anna I get really lucky for the most part because I get great clients. I would say the only struggle that I’ve had other than the same thing most freelancers have (generating clients/livable income/etc) is separating my work life from my life outside of work. A few years ago after my father died I wasn’t able to really separate myself from it enough to be able to run my business properly. It was a really big blow and the first death in my family for me and I didn’t know how to deal with it. It left me in a really bad headspace and on the bad side of a few clients, which I regret. Luckily I did have some really great friends who were there for me and really supportive and I was able to get through it. I’ve learned a lot in that time since then and I’m just now coming out on the other side of it, but everyday things seem to look a little better.
Ashley How long have you been designing for?
Anna I made my first website when I was eleven, so I’ve been designing total for about seventeen years.
Ashley How did you get started? Are you self taught or did you go to school for design?
Anna I got started on a little site that no one has probably ever heard of (minus designers my age) called Geocities. It was a great resource but it had it’s limitations. After about a year I think I grew out of Geocities and I started to teach myself to code and design.
Ashley OMG GEOCITIES!! Girl, I’m right there with you. I totally had a few Geocities sites. I’m pretty sure I tried to start a Neopets help/tutorial site on Geocities.
Ashley What’s your favourite kind of project or style? For example, do you love designing author sites? Or whimsical blogs? Or complex, graphic-heavy sites?
Anna Oh wow… ahhh. I love all sorts of sites really. I love blogs, they’re where I started and I really have no want to ever stop. Having said that though I love to being able to make a visual representative for an author’s book(s) as well—kind of like a cover—you get to give someone a visual that translates a vibe before they know anything about the books or the author—it’s a great honor. I think overall though, it’s probably more about the client. I love all of them but some clients have a very clear idea of what they want and just sort of use a designer as a tool to accomplish that, and then there are some who just love your style and your ideas and they want you to do what you think is best to match their site, personality, and their goals. I don’t mind helping someone bring their ideas to life, it’s a great feeling when someone says ‘that’s exactly what I was seeing!’ but it’s an even better feeling when the design is all something you cooked up and a client loves it just as much as you do.
Tom Isbell’s website design by Anna Marie Moore
Ashley Do you code your designs, use a template, or outsource the development work?
Anna I used to do development for WordPress, but I kind of came to the conclusion that overall I very much prefer designing on it’s own, so I’ve started outsourcing development (pretty much to you! haha)!
Ashley How long does a full blog design usually take you?
Anna Hmm, not easy to say! The majority of the designs I do, I can talk to a client and get a really good sense of what they want and I can spend about two days (10-12 hours) going through stock, getting everything together and then actually designing out the blog, making tweaks over a few days, and having a draft to them within the week. A good example of this would be the Novel Tea design I did—I was searching through the portfolio of one of my favourite designers on Shutterstock (yusuf doganay) and I found the cat girl in Diana’s design and I knew Diana had a beautiful cat named Chapter, and I just knew she’d love the cat girl, it was 110% her—and she agreed. Sometimes though it takes much longer because we’re searching for a certain stock, or elements that are very particular for the story or the direction the client is trying to go. A great example of this would be The Windy Pages site—Kimberly and I went through a ton of rounds of stock trying to find just the right elements to include in her header and the rest of the site (her design has 17 different stock images!) I actually would feel 100% confident saying we probably spent more time going through stock for this design than the time I actually spent designing it.
Ashley How do you begin a new design project? What’s the first step you take? Do you create a mood board with your client? Start with a colour palette? Start with a font? Walk us through your first design steps.
Anna The first thing that I usually do is have the client tell me about some sites they like—what do they like about them, what do they not like. Some clients are okay doing this, some aren’t—from there (whether they did that step or not) I ask them to put together a Pinterest board—start with absolutely everything you could want to put on there. Fonts, colors, design elements, websites you like, photos you like—absolutely anything. Let it sit for a day and then prune through it. Take out all the things that don’t match up with the direction they want to go so that they have a clearer and more cohesive idea of what they want—which in turn, helps me know what they want as well!
Ashley Have you ever had any problems connecting with a client’s vision for their site? How did you handle it?
Anna I don’t really get this issue too much—there have been a few times where it seems like the client is totally on board with what I’m thinking/feeling for their design and it turns out once I actually start pulling stock together they’re not so 100% on board anymore. If a project starts going that way usually I try to have a discussion with them about why I choose what I did and how I think it fits in and then talk about what we can do and change to steer it back into the direction they want to ultimately go. I can count on three fingers the times that I’ve had a client not actually like what I was designing to the point that I had to start all over or they wanted to cancel the project.
Ashley What platform(s) do you design for? Blogger? WordPress? Other?
Anna When I was also doing development I only worked with WordPress. Blogger—the way Blogger sets up it’s coding is really confusing to me and because I don’t think it’s a good platform in general to host your precious hard work and content on, I never really got into trying to learn it from a development standpoint. However as a designer—I will design for anything. I know even with it’s difficulties, if you have a developer who knows what they’re doing Blogger can look like any other website—it has it’s bumps but you can implement any design into Blogger that you could for WordPress.
Novel Tea’s blog design by Anna Marie Moore
Ashley Do you use any tools or resources for the business side of your design work? Such as invoicing systems or project management platforms?
Anna I actually have a page on my site of resources that I use. I think the most vital to my actual business though (other than my beloved Photoshop) is probably the Pancake App—It’s an invoicing system that I’ve altered a bit so that it not only invoices but also sends out my contracts. The thing that I love about it the most is that there is no monthly fee—you buy it once, install it on your server and you’re done! You have to purchase upgrades (about once a year) but if you’re a current client you save on that (I saved $100 on the last update.) I love the Pancake App but I’m also really, really, interested in seeing where 17hats goes. They seem really on top of their stuff, and from using the trial I can already tell they’re going to be great. Once they allow registration for clients, branding and being able to assign tasks, I think a lot of people will be cancelling things like Basecamp and Freshbooks for their service. I think it has some really great potential.
Ashley Do you have a blog? If so, how do you think it has helped or affected your design business? Do you think a lot of your clients find/hire you because of your blog?
Anna I have a failure of a blog. I used to blog about books—which is how I got involved with the book blogging community originally—but I have a conflict in my brain now about all of this. I want to help out and lend my knowledge and the things I’ve learned but I’m not sure exactly what people are interested in knowing? I’ve thought about reviewing books on the site too since I still love to read but then I think about… should I really be reviewing books for my possible clients? An author that I worked with previously got really, really, kind of worked up about when I had reviewed their book when I was still doing book blogging to the point where I was asked to remove it from Amazon, Goodreads, etc. So, I’m trying—but it’s still on a bit of the flop side at the moment—and because of that I would probably say no one hires me because of my blog haha
Ashley You heard her, folks! What are you interested in knowing??
Ashley Do you do any design work outside the book blogging community?
Anna Not very much. Memphis has a great small business community so I’ve been hoping to possibly be able to work a bit more within my community as well as branch out to some different kinds of blogs (photography, lifestyle, etc)—but I love the book blogging community and I’ve made some great friends here, I don’t plan on leaving completely even if I do work outside it.
Ashley Will you be offering any new services in 2015? Or will you be doing anything to expand/change your business?
Anna I’m working on something that started as an e-course, but is ending up more like a group project. I did a test run of it and we’re still working on it but it seems like the girls involved really love interacting with each other and getting feedback/ideas from the others involved. It started originally as an e-course you could just download but I wanted to be more hands on with it, which meant it eventually evolved into a course that had me interacting with the “students” every single step of the way through each part of their course. It also started as a full course from design to wordpress, but there seem to be a lot of people putting out courses for the coding part (like your Make Your Own WordPress Theme course!) and now that I’m not offering development anymore I’m thinking of shrinking it down to a more affordable design course. I’m also planning on releasing a pre-made WordPress theme every month of 2015, which isn’t so new, but will be much more frequent compared to how I release them now.
About to Read blog design by Anna Marie Moore
Ashley Are there any services you don’t currently offer that you would LIKE to offer in the future?
Anna Not really, no. I would love to get into more—wait. I take it back. Covers. I would LOVE to get into making book covers, be it for indie authors or whoever else. Though, I’m down for anything, pretty much. If you’re passionate about what you do, and you love it—I will probably want to work with you even if that means designing cheeseburger wrappers.
Ashley Is there any advice you’d give to aspiring designers?
Anna As much as you’ve probably already heard it—you will ALWAYS be your own worst critic. You’re allowed to not like your designs, you won’t like all of them, sometimes you’ll design something, code it and get ready to put it up and decide you hate it—it happens to us all—it’s part of the process. It doesn’t matter how many you scrap, what matters is that you keep designing. The only people who fail are those who don’t try. Doing your best and not giving up is literally, to me, the definition of winning.
Ashley Is there any advice you’d give to someone looking to hire a designer?
Anna Be respectful. Yes, we get to sit at home in our pajamas all day (we really don’t *) but just like we respect your time and what you do for a living, remember to respect ours and realize that we’ve done a lot of hard work to get to where we are. Our time is valuable, just like yours is!
Ashley * Speak for yourself, Anna. I totes sit at home in my pajamas all day. 😎