Learn as you go.

Sure, I went to college. Absolutely, I took as many art & design courses as I could. When I got out into the real world and began to look for work however, I found that half of what I had been taught was 10 years out of date. Fortunately for me, I am curious.

My favorite method of learning how to do something is the “let’s see what happens when I do this” method. I’m mostly referring to digital arts and computers because any artist who sketches, paints, or sculpts does everything that way. There was no IT/tech support team around our house, so when I would experiment there was always a chance that it could have a devastating effect on my system. Like a kid with a toy, I had to pick apart Photoshop and Illustrator to see how they worked, and it would give my computer fits on occasion, but that’s how I figured out how my graphics apps work and how they work within the system. The mistakes I made were responsible for how I learned the workings of the operating system and the hardware as well. I’ve been my own tech support since the early 90’s and have learned enough to be able to diagnose nearly every issue that pops up. My friends seem to like this too.

Nowadays there’s a ton of information out there, all of which can be easily tracked down by anyone with a simple Google search or two. The forums available online these days can guide a person through just about any problem without having to take your system or software to some expensive repair shop. That only works if you are willing to learn and do a little work yourself. Anyone who does knows it’s not really that difficult. Troubleshooting and repairing your own stuff isn’t like climbing Everest anymore; if you have ambition, you can do it.

Recently I’ve been spending lots of time working on my websites, blog and all of my other online profiles (Facebook, Flickr, Google, etc.), trying to link as much stuff together as I can in an effort to generate some income from my sites. Until now they’ve mainly been for displaying my work (portfolios) and communication. I began the search for advertisers a few months ago knowing that there are other designers out there making money from their services but supplementing their income with advertisements on their sites. I’ve always wondered how these guys hook up with these resources.

There are a few magazines I read every month to keep up with what’s current in the industry. A couple of my favorites are .net magazine (Practical Web Design in the USA) and Computer Arts. There’s something useful and relevant to what I’m working on in every issue. For example, right in the middle of my seemingly hopeless search for advertisers, an article in .net magazine (Practical Web Design in the USA), issue 196, jumped right out at me and there in big print was the answer to my problem. “Sell .net via your website” was the article, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Practical Web Design always has an article, or a tech tip, that makes me get up and run to my computer to try it. It’s easy to advertise for something you believe in and more importantly, use every day. I began the process of setting up my account immediately.

The service that provides these merchants and affiliates is called AffiliateWindow. The article provided a brief version of how to set up your account. It takes some time to go through the whole process but it’s worth it. There are tons of merchants with content relevant to nearly any business so it’s easy to find relevant content. I spent a little time selecting merchants complimentary to my own services and soon had what I needed. You’ll see them in the list on the sidebar.

I’ve purchased several books on CSS, XHTML, PHP and Javascript to get to where I am, but there’s still so much to learn. That’s the one thing I love and hate the most about design for the web: constant change. As you go about learning some language or technology, a new one is being developed. It sometimes seems like an uphill battle but it’s never boring. Most things I pick up on my own by doing research and practice, and up to this point that’s true for everything I know about web development. With more and more stuff being driven by PHP and Javascript however, I think I’ll be taking a course this summer to give myself a little bump ahead. Until then, it’s back to the books and Google!

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