I recently decided that I need to do more interviews with great people in SA. The first person I chose is Adii. He is a freelance WordPress designer but he’ll tell you more about that. Recently Adii has gained huge exposure on some of the biggest blogs around and this caught my eye. His portfolio is large and extends across the world.
So here goes:
Hi Adii – can we call you that? – thanks for getting involved in SA Rocks! Tell the SA Rocks readers a bit about what exactly you do.
Hey Nic – thanks for having me – it’s always a honour being recoqnized by one’s peers. And sure, I’m Adii all the way – nobody calls me Adriaan online anymore!
I basically see myself (and thus promote myself) primarily as a WordPress designer. which means I do a whole lot of custom WordPress blogs for clients weekly… I have however also moved into strategic consulting (ito new media / social media) lately and I believe that gives my work an edge over other designers – my sites aren’t all about just looking pretty. Apart from that, I’m also a very active blogger and I can contribute most of my successes to my blog – it’s been the starting point for most of my new jobs and ventures.
You haven’t been blogging or designing for very long. How’d you get yourself out there so quickly?
Simply being bold and connecting. I’ve never been afraid to get shot down when I’ve approached the big guys and girls – that’s how I got an interview with Matt Mullenwag (Mr WordPress himself). And the whole 9 months that I’ve been blogging has been about that – making new friends, touching base with well-known and popular developers, designers, bloggers etc. and then begging for some linklove! The few free WP themes that I released didn’t do any harm either…
You represent SA quite effectively in your reputation. Is this an integral part of what you do? Your South African flavour?
I wouldn’t say that my nationality is integral to what I do, but I’ve never been afraid to hide it either. When I registered the domain name, I didn’t even consider getting an international .com / .net etc. – there’s just no need to hide the fact that we’re South African. And judging by my own successes this year – my nationality hasn’t hampered my business either.
I actually complain to international clients about our crappy broadband speeds on a daily basis… It’s all about embracing who you are and where you’re from – and from what I’ve found clients love the fact that a person is being him-/herself. Funny thing is that my blog has gone mad since I launched the original polaroid design (V1) back in June and I simply attribute that to the fact that the more personality a blogger brings to his / her blog, the more readers can relate to the blogger.
I’m a good old Afrikaans boytjie, who loves my beers, braais and good rugby (Mark F – wishing you had that over in the UK?). That’s me in real life and online – can’t change that.
You’re based in Stellies, tell me about that? Has at made any sort of impact on your career so far? Do you plan on staying down there?
I’m finishing up my four years at Stellies this year and I seriously can’t wait to get out of this place actually. Stellies is great for the first half, but as you get older the people and situations around you get more immature… That said, I’ve loved doing my Honours this year and I’ve had some great lecturers who have truly taught me strategic thinking (which is a great asset). I was doing a bit of a dead-end undergraduate degree (Chartered Accounting), but this year has been a breath of fresh air.
I will always look back at my 4 years at Stellies and smile about it. It has most definitely sculpted me as a person and it has definitely contributed to my career – quantifying that is probably more difficult, but the measure is whether I’d do it all over again if I could (and the answer is for sure).
As for staying here… I’ve accepted a job at a top corporate communications company in Cape Town and I’ll be heading up their New Media division from 2 January 2008. I will also NEVER consider living anywhere else in SA – if it’s not Cape Town, then it’s Europe…
WordPress is your specialisation and template design is your forte, how and why did you get into template design?
Seriously I don’t know actually… It started out as a hobby really… Last year around June I decided that I want to blog as well (and make money), so I searched around for a open-source blogging platform and came across WP. I taught myself to skin it for my own blog back then (not adii.co.za), then I started doing the odd “help-out” for friends and everything just snowballed from there.
I’m still amazed at the vast open spaces I’ve found in this niche however. When I started I thought that there must be so many quality WP designers out there, but fact is there’s a bucketload of average WP designers out there and only 10% of them are good enough to get the top jobs. That’s why you’ll find that guys like Brian Gardner and Micheal Pollock (Solostream) are fully booked all the time. In hindsight, getting into WP – although by “accident” – has been one of the best choices in my life!
Has it been tough living in SA and making an international name for yourself?
Not at all! Most of my clients don’t even know where I’m from and the one’s that do know noticed it from our time differences (and subsequent delays in responses or concepts).
You’ve had some noteable debate going on with some “high profile” WP designers. Has their opinion or public slamming of some of your stuff made you change your approach at all?
Haha! I’m actually not going to say much about that situation, as there are too many brainwashed people out there that won’t recoqnize the truth of the situation even if it was standing before them.
I have however not changed my approach or strategy and I don’t intend to do so. I’ve reached the heights I have due to me being me and not being afraid what the community might say / think. Instead however of fighting fire with fire in this situation, I’ve gone back to the drawing part, strategizing and formulating a plan that’s going to take everyone by suprise. My aim is to become the WordPress Rockstar (thanks for that term Dave Duarte), but you’ll see that all happening when the plans start rolling out… (Hint: My new Premium News Theme is part of this plan).
I’m interested to know what motivates you, what inspires you and what keeps you going?
I would say money and greed, but that would just be shallow! Nah, only joking… This might sound corny, but my fiance is the sole reason for all my drive and hard work. Through working hard (blogging, designing, consulting etc.) I’m effectively building my dream life and at the center of that, there’s my fiance. So she has been my motivation, inspiration and the center-piece of the amazing life I’m building with her!
I’m obviously inherently ambitious and there’s nothing like a good challenge to get my over-excited. But that’s just part of my character – I will always have this drive to succeed, irrespective of whether I had a fiance or not. But having something so dear to you supporting your every move, definitely makes the journey so much more fun and rewarding!
And finally, do you love being South African and if so why?
Oh hell yeah! I love the fact that we, as South Africans, are actually so inherently diverse and multi-cultural. People say racism and apartheid, but I see a whole new generation emerging where it’s all about embracing the obvious differences to work together and produce something great. I get warm fuzzies in my stomach when typing that… But that is true!
I’m proud to be called South African due to everything that our country has come through. I’m a proud South African due to the future that we’re creating and the relationships we’re building… If that’s not enough reason to be proud, I can always add a good braai, Western Province Rugby (in their glory days) and a chilled glass of Amarula on ice to the mix…
If you are interested in good design and an example of great marketing of oneself, check out Adii’s blog!
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