Interview with Dainis Graveris – Founder of 1stWebDesigner, a Popular community for Web Design Professionals
Today we have Dainis Graveris with us. Dainis Graveris is from Latvia, a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. Dainis Graveris is Founder & CEO of 1stWebDesigner, a popular community for Web Design Professionals, which is internet’s 8064th most popular site in the world according to Alexa.
You should definitely follow Dainis Graveris on
Twitter – @1stwebdesigner
Let’s learn from his experience and start this interview.
1. For the people who don’t know about you, Can you tell us a little about yourself and business or websites that you run?
Hey, my name is Dainis Graveris. Right now I am 25 years old and I am originally from Latvia, though right now I have moved to Philippines to build the business. I am founder of 1stwebdesigner.com and co-founder of 1wd.tv site, where we help freelancers to acquire business and design skills to get more clients.
2. When and How did you get introduced to WordPress?
I got introduced to WordPress 6 years ago actually. It was before I even started with 1stWebDesigner! That was time when Flash was getting out of fashion and Joomla proved to be clunky as well. WordPress came as rescue – I suddenly could easily pick good WordPress theme, change visuals, leave the original engine and start serving clients better as ever! Clients were happy to be able to easily update their own websites. Ah, these early days..
3. Most of us either got started as a Blogger or Developer. How did you get started online?
You are right. Well, I started as designer/average developer. My biggest strength was visuals, graphical web design, but I knew basic HTML,CSS and PHP to be able to fulfill client orders. I was just 19 then so actually all of my clients were local. Real life online started with blogging as endless source of learning and growth.
4. Every website has a story behind it. Tell us story of 1stWebDesigner.com. What was the motivation behind starting the website?
Yes, so going back to freelancing life with local clients. One of my clients was blogger, who hired me to create Myspace layout skins for his side-project website. I worked with him for several months and I found out that he actually makes money online from his blog! That was such a big AHA moment for me – before that, I had no idea, you can make any money online, at least not by simply blogging! But he made very good income (especially based on my standards at 19). For me it seemed like dream come true – you can learn, create articles, people appreciate the effort and you can get paid doing that!
I guess it was my EGO, who said if this guy can do it, why cant I do it? I was waiting to prove myself, i was hungry and I wanted to put my energy somewhere. So it all started – at first I was freelancing on the side, studying in arts and design academy and also writing blog articles. After 6 months – I wasn’t freelancing anymore, I attended to academy rarely and the whole focus went to work for 1stWebDesigner. In school we were studying outdated practices, but online, I was getting addicted with endless information, opportunities everybody is suddenly exposed to.
I keep living and enjoying Information Age even now, after 6 years, after quitting college and living in Philippines. Everybody can be somebody online, if you have big enough why.
5. How long were you running the business before you started paying yourself? How did you live through those first few months/years?
I started making first 100$ from Google Ad sense after 6 months, when I finally dared to put ads on my website. I could have earned some money earlier, but I was afraid that everybody would stop reading 1stWebDesigner, because they would think I’ve sold myself. During this time, I was still living with my father, so it was quite easy. I didn’t need to worry about living and didn’t need to worry about starving. I didn’t have money to do much more, but I knew that would come. I think I was working 18 hours a day for the first year until income grew to 300$ per month. After that it started to be easier, i could hire some other writers, outsource some tasks and start working smarter.
But in the beginning it was all about hard, smart work, but it didn’t matter – I loved it. I think passion is a key, primary reason wasn’t money for me.
6. How do you keep up with latest SEO & Google updates?
If you check most established web design blog Alexa.com rankings, you’ll notice, that in general Google isn’t too kind to these blogs. Traffic is dropping down over time and it’s not that easy. It is clear that you cannot just write high quality content and rank high on Google anymore. You need to work for it.
For me Google updates always are a nice wakeup call. Usually we just get too comfortable, take Google traffic for granted, which is wrong. In the end there is nothing magical with SEO and Google Updates – if your articles are shared on social networks and they receive incoming links, you rank high. If your articles don’t engage people – they don’t rank.
7. What networking do you do that you feel helps your online business?
There are two things I would recommend:
1. Interview people, just like you are doing now. Once in past I reached out to 15 influential blogger designers and asked to each 5 questions. I didn’t know them, but by getting them interviewed I got to know them! It is so easy to meet with like-minded awesome people like that.
2. Conferences – the most meaningful networking I’ve done was when I went to Underground Seminar 8 in USA. I got to meet super smart people there and nothing is more genuine than spending quality time with somebody. There is no clear ROI (return on investment) in such events, but relationships I gained from conferences, have truly changed my life.
8. If there was one thing that you wish you knew before you started the site, what would that be?
While I believe everything happened as it was supposed to and all lessons where necessary, there is one thing, I would change if I could start again. I would definitely decide on specific focus of topics I would cover on 1stWebDesigner. In the beginning I just wrote about anything I wanted to write about – WordPress themes, Firefox plugins, wallpapers, pretty fonts, beautiful illustrations, photo manipulations. Everything design related. But it is very hard to really become leader in the industry if you are covering so many different topics. If I would start again, I would define strictly what topics we will cover at 1stwebdesigner and what topics we won’t cover. I would define our perfect reader. What kind of reader I want to have on our site and what kind of readers I don’t want on my site. If you try to please everybody, in the end nobody will like you.
9. Where do you see WordPress Five years from now?
We seriously bet on WordPress domination. Open-source is great, WordPress is great and powerful platform and I strongly think it’s still in it’s infancy. Right now there are 22% website users using WordPress, I expect this number only to grow. Of course, medium will change – mobile will take over, but WordPress is adapting to it as well. For most website owners WordPress can support all their needs. Many people just don’t know it yet.
10. Tell us few apps/services that you are using these days. (For example: Mailchimp, Clicky, Buysellads, Magazine3, etc.,.)
Nowadays we are using Mailchimp for our emails, Woopra for advanced analytics, Google Docs for all online documents, ASANA for project management, LeadPages for landing page creation and A/B testing lead generation.
ASANA definitely has made the biggest impact to our team though lately. If you have problems with collaboration, ASANA is way to go! We struggled with BaseCamp for several years, somehow ASANA seemed to be silver bullet that brought our team together.
—- Do let us know what do you think of this interview, if it has inspired you in your journey then please share your thoughts with us.