She also runs hugely successful kids websites at FreeStuff4Kids, FunPlace Database as well as Homeschool Roundup which is about teaching your kids at home rather than sending them to school – which I think is a great idea. She is also, together with her husband, in the process of adopting a child from Russia.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was an Army brat, so while I was born in Texas, I was blessed to be able to live in many places, including Germany as I grew up.
Do you have any design qualifications?
I went to college in Texas, but it was for music rather than for anything design related. I just never had the opportunity to do much art and had no real exposure to graphic design – I discovered it later in life.
How would you describe yourself now?
Christian, wife, mother, teacher, learner, designer, coder, blogger and aspiring painter.
What made you decide to do design?
Hmmm… I don’t know really. It was something I discovered gradually. I got started doing web sites with Geocities (in the olden days, mid-1990’s), designed a few logos along the way and enjoyed that, and then in 2005 I started working with WordPress and tools like Photoshop and Illustrator and was hooked.
With little training, you’ve had amazing success in the last few years. What do you attribute that to?
I started RandaClay.com in 2006 as a way to try and get into professional web design. I had only done a few designs for my own sites and for churches, but really wanted to focus on designing for WordPress. God blessed me with plenty of work and in the end, success comes down to providing great service. Happy clients tell others about their good experience and referrals are the best way to keep regular business coming in. Also, building a good network of colleagues who do the same kind of work has been extremely helpful.
What persuaded you to keep going in the early days?
I kept going because I enjoyed the challenge of learning more about design and code with every new site. For me part of the fun is in figuring out how to make WordPress do something I’ve never tried before.
I believe your passive income (money from advertising, theme sales, etc.) represents a similar or larger income to your client work. Can you tell us about this?
Yes, my sites like FreeStuff4Kids.net and DivaThemes.com for example, are not completely passive, but they do continue to earn money even when I don’t have time to devote to them. FreeStuff4Kids earns money through advertising (Google Adwords mostly, though I have some network ads as well), and it has been successful because much of the traffic comes from search engines which is a good match for Adsense ads.
DivaThemes requires time for support, and new theme development, but it also earns passive income on all the themes that I’ve already completed and have for sale. DivaThemes works because I develop themes with a specific group in mind (women) and there are still relatively few reasonably priced, well designed themes for women. I am my own customer. I am a female blogger, so I know what my audience is looking for.
You have two kids, you run 8 sites (at least) and you homeschool your kids. Do you have any productivity tips that help you get through your heavy workload?
Well, the first thing to know is that just because I own that number of sites doesn’t mean I actually work on them all as regularly as would be best. One thing that helps with productivity is being able to work on projects in small pieces. If I have 5 minutes I can sit down and make a small amount of forward progress on a site.
What do you do to relax?
To relax, I like to watch movies and play games on my iPad, and read a good book.
And, lastly, looking back on the last 5-6 years, is there anything you wished you’d done differently?
I am not one to look back and wish I had done things differently much. I think everything we attempt, every direction we go, every success and failure we have makes us who we are. However, I do wish I had jumped on the premium theme bandwagon WAY earlier.
What advice would you give other graphic/web designers wishing to grow their own businesses?
Several things are key to building a freelance business. First, obviously you have to do quality work. Second, and equally important, is you have to exceed your clients’ expectations. Make it your goal to absolutely WOW your clients with your responsiveness, flexibility and excellent results. You want your customers to talk about you. Make your goal customer satisfaction, not income. The income will follow.
What can we learn from this interview with Randa?
I’ve interviewed a few web designers recently who’re adding passive income to their client-based income (Steven Snell, Andy Sowards, Tara Roskell) and they all teach us different lessons in running a successful design business. Here’s what Randa has taught me:
- Don’t be afraid of failure. 5 or 6 years ago Randa didn’t know anything about Photoshop, Illustrator or WordPress, and now look at her. She’s started so many successful sites. She didn’t do that by worrying about whether she could do it. She just did it.
- Product targetting. I think DivaThemes has done really well because it is aimed at a market Randa knows really well – mommy bloggers. Most themes seem to be made by men for men. Seriously, where would you go to get a specifically feminine theme for a blog? Divathemes – I can’t think of anywhere else! Genius!
- Positivity. Read what she said above: “I am not one to look back and wish I had done things differently much. I think everything we attempt, every direction we go, every success and failure we have makes us who we are.” It’s a good attitude to life. Don’t look back in anger. Don’t worry about the destination. Enjoy the journey. And learn!
- And, finally, produce quality. Make sure you really wow your clients. Another quote: “Make your goal customer satisfaction, not income.” Says it all!
Thank you, Randa!