Interview with Nate Whitehill of Unique Blog Designs
Nate Whitehill of Unique Blog Designs is a 23-year old serial entrepreneur and multiple business owner. Nate founded Unique Blog Designs in August of 2007 and has now designed new blogs for John Chow and Shoemoney, two of the top bloggers on the Internet. Unique Blog Designs is making quite a name for itself in the blogosphere and in November 2007, Unique Blog Designs exhibited at the Blog World Expo in Las Vegas.
Interview with Nate Whitehill of Unique Blog Designs
Hello Nate, thank you for agreeing to our interview – we know you are a very busy man.
First question – What gave you the idea to create Unique Blog Designs? (Was it your first Web Design Business?)
The idea for UBD began when I started blogging myself, back in early – mid 2007. After several months of consistent blogging, I started to customize my own blog design. After I customized my blog a little bit, I started to get a lot of people asking me if I would customize their blog too.
In July of 2007, I put up a small banner on my blog that advertised customized blog designs, and shortly after, I started receiving 2-3 requests per week for blog designs. It was also at that time I decided it would be best to create a company specifically tailed towards blog design. Prior to that, I had owned a local web design company, infinFX, which specialized in e-commerce integration.
Also what was your first website and how old were you when you got online?
My first commercial website was for the Northwest Junior Golf Tour. I completed the site when I was a sophomore in high school for my local golf coach. Funny enough, they are still using the same design for my website. I first started using the Internet when I was in 4th grade (this was back in 95-96). It was AOL 2.5 and we had a 28.8k dial-up modem, which was the coolest thing at the time. Even though I used the Internet more than any of my other friends, I still wish I had spent more time online.
What advice would you give someone who wants to make money as a designer or programmer?
Searching out and targeting a niche is the best thing anyone can do who wants to make money online. Add that to providing great customer service and a high quality product, and you will develop a solid
referral network. UBD has surprisingly done very little advertising – almost all of our leads come from word of mouth and of course, John Chow and Shoemoney.
You have an impressive list of clients, including: John Chow and Graham Langdon. How did you manage to make contact with these clients? How do you promote / advertise your services?
I have been following John Chow since before I began blogging. When I started my personal blog in January of 2007, I made an effort to link to John Chow, and I always referred to him as one of biggest motivators in blogging. In August of 2007, I wrote a post which John ended up linking to. After that, I started talking to him and eventually we started talking about redesigning his blog. I met Graham at Blog World Expo in November of 2007. Being both in our early-twenties and passionate about online business and blogging, we quickly started chatting about how our businesses can benefit each other.
UniqueBlogDesigns.com is a very impressive looking website – can you share some of your best tips for Blog Design – for example any ways you have found that helps to build up the RSS Feed or get more comments on Blog posts. (assuming of course that the content is GOOD)
Assuming the content is unique and useful to the given niche, we best thing one can do to increase their number of RSS subscribers or comments is by giving prominence to those areas on their website. For example, people are much more likely to click on a big, shiny RSS button, that one that is smaller and out of site. Call to action statements are also important, such as “Subscribe to this blog to stay up to date.”
As far as increasing comments, emphasizing the community is very important. This can be done by listing the recent comments or providing a linkback to the top commentators. It is also important to
ask the readers questions in the article so as they feel a part of the blog/communication process.
What do you spend all of your hard earned cash on?
At the moment, we don’t really spend any money. Growing and trying to sustain a business takes a lot of cash flow to operate. In the past six months, we have managed to increase the quality of our life by
moving into a bigger house, but only through a lot of hard work while trying to live as meagerly as possible. For the past six months, my business partners, Josh, Matt and I, have lived and worked out of a 1000 square foot apartment. We just moved into a 3000 square foot place where we are using a huge master bedroom at the office. This would not have been possible without extreme dedication and a non-willingness to give up during extremely difficult times.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started. What business related advice would you give yourself?
The business advice I would give to my younger self would be start researching online business now – don’t wait and don’t procrastinate. There is so much to learn when it comes to effectively doing business online, including branding, design, layout, SEO, programming, analytics, etc. that it is very overwhelming for most people just getting into the game. That fact is that none of these topics are
rocket science and almost anyone can become an expert in any given area of online business. My advice is to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and once you know all the basics of everything, settle down and target a particular niche.
Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
I have always been interested in business, specifically online business. I think it is something that is learned through observation and dedication. In other words, it is something which can be learned if one is put into the right situation, i.e., that of a group of highly dedicated and other entrepreneurial-minded individuals. I made a conscious choice several years ago to only surround myself with people who were better than me. In other words, I know that by hanging around people who are more skilled, intelligent, or talented than I am, that eventually their good traits will rub off on me. That is something that is hard to accept for many people because we all want to feel a sense of status and importance within our chosen social circles.
Is there anyone that you look up to and model yourself on?
There are a lot of people I look up to, including my dad, my best friends, Josh and Matt, Mark Zuckerberg, etc., but there is not really one person who I model myself on. As I mentioned before, I try to hang around people who are better than me in some ways, so that I can learn from their knowledge or specialized skill. My dad is one of the most dedicated people I know, and he is very inspiring to me.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I have ever been given is “Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish every goal you set for yourself.” Anything is possible and where there is an extreme amount of dedication, people will stop at nothing to accomplish their dreams.
What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Two things. One – find an advisor. There is a lot of trial and error that goes along with any kind of first venture, so it is best to seek out the most qualified advice you possible can to help guide you along
My other piece of advice is to get used to making sacrifices. Running a business is hard, and growing one is even more difficult. Get ready for long, sleepless nights, goodbye to partying, hello to being frugal and not spending money. Those are some of the things that go into bootstrapping and building a business to be successful. It is not easy, but is it worth it? Heck yeah!
What do you like best about the Internet?
What do I like best about the Internet? Hmm… I like that we can have instant access to so much valuable data. The more information we have, the more knowledge we have. Applied knowledge is power!
What do you like least about the Internet?
I think people tend to be more judgmental and outspoken than they necessarily would in real life. This is, of course, inevitable given the anonymous interaction that is networking on the Internet.
If the Internet had not exist – what do you think you would be doing?
I probably would be sitting on a beach making coconut milk or something.
What are your plans for the future?
Have fun. Keeping saving money. Start a few more businesses, and hopefully, eventually become a venture capitalist.
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