I've known Matt Malone for around three years now, since he was at school studying for his GCSEs. We met with a tweet, when he asked if anyone could build him a website for his charity, and from there he helped me out countless times on various projects as he was keen to get to grips with web design. Now that he's a fully fledged Digital Designer, I asked him to give us a few details about the path he followed to achieve his dream. Perhaps it will inspire other young people who are keen to get into this fascinating line of work. Well we think it is anyway!
Around three years ago I was in year 11, studying for my GCSEs, with no real idea of what I wanted to do other than “something IT-related” and I planned to go University to study this same “something IT-related”. Now I work in a web design agency with some incredible people doing some incredible things, and have a massive code addiction. This is the story of how that happened.
I was studying for my GCSEs and decided I wanted to something for charity to raise a bit of money for some good causes. Being a bit crazy, I thought I would do a Year of the Mad with the mission of “raising money for charity in the most ridiculous ways we can”. I soon realised that a website would of course be of great importance but it occurred to me that I had no clue how to make a decent looking website and was terrible at design.
To fix this issue, I sent a tweet along the lines of “who can build me a website really cheap?” on the off chance. This turned out be a good decision as my first reply was from none other than @ManageMyWebsite asking ”what's the project, and what's the budget?”. So I explained how I had no budget, and it was for charity. Long story short, I ended up with an awesome website and an even more awesome looking logo to proceed with my endeavours! I'd established a great contact and so for a while I continued my “studying”.
A little after this, when I'd finished my exams, was waiting to start Sixth Form, and had seen how easy it was to make websites on platforms such as Squarespace, I decided I'd register as a sole trader and do some freelance web design.
There was a local printing company who I had been in contact with when doing Year of the Mad who I requested business cards from. When they found out what I was doing for a living, they asked me to go in for the summer to look after some websites for them. I had no clue what I'd really be doing, but I happily agreed. I learnt a bit of Joomla to prepare myself and dived in head-first, bearing in mind that at this point I knew pretty much zero code.
The good news was they worked mainly from templates and I cruised along modifying these and the content to the best of my ability. At this point when I polished off all their work in record time I thought I would make my own template. I became intrigued by HTML and CSS and kept studying these codes after I left, mastering the whole custom template thing, winning a few more clients and making a little more money.
A guy who had been in the year above me at Sixth Form asked if I wanted to join his new business venture to make a social network just for students as I knew about all the web stuff. I decided to duck out of university at this point and join him with this grand plan instead. It was Student Junction. I got the website polished front-end, and running off a Joomla back-end, but to be fair it hadn't made us any money in a year and my role was coming to an end in the grand scheme of things. However I had picked up a ton of CSS and HTML skills and was now ready and raring to go.
After finally realising that freelancing wasn't for me, I opted to get a proper job. I talked to a few recruitment agencies, went to the wonderful JobCentre, and then on the off chance emailed about 20 local web design agencies asking if they had any Junior positions available. Two replied, one saying they didn't have anything in particular but I could have an interview and they'd see what they could do. I had the interview and got a job. Junior Web Designer.
That was in November 2012, and a year later I'm a fully fledged Digital Designer and loving every second of it, with what is probably a medically diagnosable addiction to code.
It just goes to show, you never know where you might end up.
If you're thinking about a career in web design or web development and would like some advice, feel free to get in touch for an informal chat. We'd love to see you achieve your goal!