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Meet David Leggett from Tutorial9.net

by Grant Friedman

on January 22, 2009

in Interviews

This week, I had the opportunity to interview David Leggett from Tutorial9.net.  David was recently named by Retire at 21 as one of the web’s top young bloggers – 21 and under.  An amazing achievement like this deserves some recognition so I decided to interview David with some pointed questions regarding both his youth and success online.  I realize that many of my readers are either students of design or fellow bloggers, so I believe that David’s insights can be very revealing.  I hope that you enjoy this interview and when you’ve finished reading, feel free to visit David’s sites and connect with him using the social networking site of your choosing.

David, thank you so much for participating in this interview. I have been following you for some time and really respect what you do. Can you begin by telling us a little about your background? Where are you from and how did you get your start as a designer?

I’m a 20-year-old blogger from Atlanta, GA with over 10 years of experience in website and graphics design. As you can imagine, there is very little someone ten years of age can contribute to the Internet, so I really consider myself to only have worked professionally since the age of 16 when I bought my first copy of Adobe Photoshop.

My passion is teaching, and I started my first successful website without any goals in mind except to post the few things I knew about Photoshop for the world to see. Within a few months I discovered there was a huge audience for tutorials and learned I could at least make a part-time income doing something I loved. Since then I’ve turned my desire to teach into a full time job where I get to talk about design, blogging, and even videogames (another hobby of mine) on a day to day basis.

I consider myself very lucky to have gotten such an early start in my career. By no means do I consider myself an expert in design, blogging, or anything else really, but I certainly have experienced a great deal more than expected at this point in my life. Recently I’ve been sharing those experiences with the design and blogging community in Atlanta, speaking at meetups, and doing what I can to teach others on a more personal level.


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Most of my readers probably know you from your website, Tutorial9.net. Tell us a little about your website. How did it come about? How did you initially envision this site and has its direction changed over time?

Tutorial9 is my second attempt at a tutorial website. After my first site hit rock bottom from being hacked and destroyed, I took a year off the design niche to focus on blogs across various other niches. All the while, Tutorial9 sat on the backburner as a dream project of mine. I envisioned it as place where anyone could find a tutorial for anything.

The original plan was to launch it off as a Photoshop & Photography tutorial blog, and slowly expand into other topics. In the first 6 months after our official launch Tutorial9 has exploded in popularity with recognition from Universities for the “School of Photoshop”, gained attention after being featured on sites such as PSDTUTS and Smashing Magazine, and has grown into a community with nearly 10,000 subscribers. While it has expanded, it’s hard to say whether or not it will continue to grow into other categories outside of the design world. At this point, the plan is to stay on course with what we’re doing since it’s loads of fun.


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While many of my readers may know you from Tutorial 9, a lot of them may not know that you either maintain or are involved with quite a few other websites. Can you elaborate on some of the other websites that you’re involved with? Explain a little about these websites and then, if you can elaborate a little about your roles.

UX Booth is the newest project I’m involved with. It’s actually the first project of mine where I’m not the only founder, and having people to work by my side is a wonderful feeling. UX Booth is a blog where we talk about User Experience and offer the web community free usability reviews. I helped co-found and manage the project since it’s start in late 2008. My current role is to write, assist with design aspects, and offer my advice to make the blog as successful as possible.

There are loads of other blogs and websites I’m involved with, but I won’t bore you with the details. If you must know, I designed and help manage Use The Dollar, have a number of videogame-specific blogs, and do an occasional update at my own personal blog TheLeggett.


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A lot of my readers are also students in addition to being designers and bloggers. I am always interested in learning how young bloggers/designers make the time for school as well as their blogs. As one of the top young bloggers, can you explain a little about how you’re able to balance your time?

It’s sort of an impossible task really. Blogging takes a lot of time, despite what some may say. My best advice is to devote as much of your time to being a student as possible, and do what you can to hone your blogging abilities on the side… at least until you know that you can make a full-time income online. It’s the same advice I give to people with full-time jobs. It’s not worth risking your education or job to learn blogging when somewhere around 75% of bloggers earn less than $1000 in monthly revenue.

If you manage to make 6-figures online, my opinion is that it’s completely up to you for how you spend your time. Personally, I think an education is a great thing to have. I’m actually taking a semester off, but my reason for doing so is to get all my ducks in a row and streamline my business so that much more of me can be focused on college come next semester.

I spend a lot of time in To-do lists (currently in love with some of the products offered by Action Method) organizing my thoughts, events, and tasks. With group projects, I really find that Basecamp has helped me keep on schedule with different things, and there are free alternatives if you can’t afford to shell out $10-$30/mo.


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There are a lot of design blogs out there. Why do you believe that your blog/s have become so popular? At what point did you realize that the time you were investing in blogging was really starting to pay off?

I don’t think there is anything extraordinary about my blogs. I attribute most of my success to simply developing content that helps people. That’s really what blogging is about: creating content, offering services, or developing resources to help a specific audience.

Tutorial9 is my favorite project, and it is definitely gaining relative popularity (compared to other projects of mine, it’s just a speck in regards to daily traffic). I think that a lot of people mistake Tutorial9 as my main form of income and business, when it really is just my fun project where a lot of the revenue is reinvested into itself by paying new authors and starting community projects like the Gift of Knoweledge Giveaway. Other projects of mine see as many as 300,000 Unique Visitors a day and are far more profitable. They just aren’t as fun or community driven.

I think blogging started to pay off as soon as I started. For me, it’s all about teaching and helping. I’ve been lucky enough to turn that passion into a means of generating revenue, but it’s the ability to help others that really makes blogging worth it.


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What role has social media played in your blog’s success?

Not a whole lot. Social Media is young, and for all we know, it might just be a trend.

That’s not an attack (I’m addicted to Twitter), but it seems strange to me that there are so many “Social Media Experts”. That’s roughly equivalent to calling oneself an “expert at talking to people online over several mediums”. It just doesn’t make much sense to me.

I grew up on the Web, so a lot of the online social scene is just a natural thing to me. It’s a great way to chat and connect with people, and it’s definitely offered a great deal of opportunity to entrepeneurs. Maybe it’s contributed to sending some traffic my way, but it’s miniscule compared to the tried and true methods of just developing quality materials.


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Are you working on any exciting new projects that you would like to share with my readers?

Yes, a Big One, but shucks, you know what?  I just can’t say anything yet :(


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What would you consider to be your dream project?

Tutorial9 is a blast, but something else I’ve considered is creating a network of blogs for videogames, music, and coffee. I actually have tentative plans and ideas, just no time to get it going. I even have a name picked out, AM Gamers.


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Aside from the Adobe Suite, what are some of your favorite design tools? Are there any plug-ins or web tools that you couldn’t live without?

Well, Firefox is a given. The Web Developer plug-in for Fx is a huge help.

Then there is Snagit which is great for capturing screenshots and videos for tutorials.

I love my Wacom tablet, and as I mentioned earlier I really like some of Action Method’s products such as the Dot Grid book and Action Pad.

Aside from that, I have some capture utilities and hardware for my video game work, and that’s about it.


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Which designers have influenced you the most? Are there any areas of design that you would like to experiment with?

So, so many.  I’m most inspired by simple and pretty design that facilitates function, so Jonathan Ive is an important name that comes to mind (and by extension probably a lot of the important names associated with minimalist philosophy).

As silly as it may sound, I’m enthralled with user experience design in video games. The Halo Matchmaking System, the freeform controls of Mirror’s Edge, the simplicity and complexity of games like Braid and Portal… This might mean very little to people reading this, but there is a lot to be said about game design and what can be learned from it for design in other sectors.


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What advice would you give to any aspiring designer or blogger looking to make it in the industry?

I actually have a poster I drew up for a recent meetup in Atlanta with 5 points to answer this exact question. So this is sort of like a bonus answer for the interview… or something.

  1. Be Helpful.
  2. Offer a Solution for a Strong Need.
  3. Provide a Free Resource.
  4. Do it first or Way Better.
  5. Work Hard.


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Finally, do you have a mobile device? If so, which one? How do you use it to improve your productivity?

Heck yeah. I don’t leave home without my Blackberry. I currently am using the Blackberry Pearl with an unlimited data plan. It’s a lifesaver.

With it I’ve foiled plans of Scammers pretending to Sell websites of mine while in the wilderness, contacted hosts to deal with downed servers while watching boring 3-hour movies, and even use it to handle email on the go. Aside from that, it’s a great deal of fun being on Twitter, uploading photos and video to Flickr, having AIM and GPS all at my fingertips.


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DAVID’S WEBSITES

Tutorial9
Tutorials for Photoshop, Photography, Blogging, and more.

UX Booth
User Experience Blog and Free Usability Reviews.

TheLeggett
David’s personal website.

UseTheDollar
A website geared towards students, the economy and personal finance.

CONNECT WITH DAVID

Twitter
Flickr
Stumble Upon
Digg

About Grant Friedman

Grant Friedman is a graphic design, blogger, and author. In addition to being the founder of this website, Grant is also the editor of Psdtuts, one of the world's most popular tutorial websites.