Running a Blog Design Network, Interview with Eric Shafer from CreativeFan

This time I had the opportunity to do interesting interview with the owner of my favorite blogs, Eric Shafer of CreativeFan. CreativeFan is one among several major design sites that regularly share the design inspiration and tutorials quality.

1. Tell us about your site. Presidia Creative, CreativeFan, and all their network. How do you find time to manage them?

Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit about myself and my ventures with your readers. Presidia Creative was my initial venture into blogging, starting back in 2008. Originally, I had been writing guest articles for AudioTUTS+, just sharing some information I had learned while working at a recording studio here in Chicago, but I had started developing an interest in graphic design and digital art, and I also enjoyed sharing information with readers. At that point, I had almost no idea what I was doing, but I got myself a WordPress installation and a free theme, and just started posting digital art inspiration. The site was rather well received, and I was able to provide inspiration and resources to readers on a daily basis. However, in late 2009 I was looking to build a bit more of a community feel, and I was also interested in publishing tutorials on digital art subjects, so I came up with the concept of CreativeFan as a network that could meet this need. I love digital art and enjoy learning about 3D, painting, graphic design and other creative media topics, but I found most of the tutorials on the web were lacking and didn’t cover techniques that were applicable beyond just the tutorial artwork.

So, in December of 2009, CreativeFan officially launched, starting with the main site, and shortly after, Design.CreativeFan launched, where I hire some of the best digital artists I can find to write up about their work. I have a few regular authors for it, namely Joe Moore, a friend who I recruited from deviantART, and Bruno Kenzo, a graphic designer whose work I stumbled across on a number of websites. CG.CreativeFan launched a bit later, and has had some absolutely incredible contributions, with my personal favorites being the matte painting tutorials by Stas Lobachev, although all the tutorials I’ve gotten a chance to publish so far have been very well received.

Finding time is definitely a challenge, but it just helps to remind myself that there are readers out there who are counting on the daily inspiration and weekly tutorials to stay inspired and to learn new things, so for the most part, it’s the community that keeps me going.

Running a Blog Design Network, Interview with Eric Shafer from CreativeFan

2. Based on your experience running these sites, what’s the secret to a successful blog?

For a successful blog, there’s a few main characteristics of successful blogs that I’ve found. First, a blog has to provide quality and original content. Even if it’s just original roundups, it’s important to provide something that people can’t find elsewhere, so whether you’re finding tutorials that no one else has seen, publishing useful tips or tricks, or your own tutorials, providing a unique aspect is incredibly important. The second is just promotion of the site. It’s a sad reality that the best blogs and sites on the internet often go unnoticed, because they are impossible to find through search or social media. Once you have some great content, you have to get the word out. Community news, social media and SEO are great ways to get this done. Lastly, you just have to be dedicated to what you’re doing. Pick a niche that you care about, and then stick with publishing articles on your schedule, and you’ll achieve at least moderate success through blogging.

3. Is blogging just a hobby or it has become a business for you? What’s the best about blogging in your opinion?

Blogging for me right now is a mix between a business and a hobby. While I’d love for CreativeFan and Presidia Creative to provide the financial support for me to take it full time, currently, with tutorial expenses and other costs, it’s not quite there yet. However, with future sites and ventures, along with growing traffic and advertising revenues, hopefully it can get to that level. At the end of the day however, I’d rather provide great tutorials that people appreciate. Knowing that you’re providing value to the community and keeping people inspired, motivated and happy is by far the best part of blogging.

Running a Blog Design Network, Interview with Eric Shafer from CreativeFan

4. You post so many inspiration on the site. Where do you find inspiration to share?

I find inspiration everywhere, from major art sites, other bloggers, technology updates, friends, pretty much anywhere I can find it. I watch a lot of people on deviantART, read daily inspiration posts wherever I can find them, and am really active on social media, so that’s where I tend to find most of my inspiration. A post usually starts with either some SEO research about a good keyword to target, or more often, a really cool artwork appearing in my deviantART watch. That single artwork alone can serve as the inspiration for a post, as long as I can find some other examples of a similar topic, effect or style.

Running a Blog Design Network, Interview with Eric Shafer from CreativeFan

5. You are very active in social media with 3.000+ twitter follower and 1.000+ follower on Digg. Do you have any tips or trick on social media to share?

Social media is one of those things where you get out of it what you put in. Basically, if you’re there to spam or promote useless content, you won’t see any success. But, if you team up with people who are dedicated to providing quality posts, and then you contribute your own material, you’ll do really well. So, if you’re on Twitter, don’t just tweet your own links, on Digg, don’t submit all your own posts. It’s really easy to start chasing the traffic and revenues, but in the long run, you won’t be as successful. People often boast that they know some secret trick to control social media, but in reality, the best tips are the simple, common sense ones. Be active, talk to people, share quality, and you’ll build your own following.

6. I have seen your 3D work on DeviantArt, you also wrote on AudioTUTS+. Are you a jack of all trades type? Do you other hidden talent on your head?

Well, formally, my education is in computer technology with a focus in information systems, so I’ve worked a lot with software and database design, but in my free time I love to learn new things and challenge myself. Creativity and artistic ability are actually two of the biggest challenges for me, as I tend to be more technologically-oriented. Freshman year of college I started working with audio production just out of curiosity, and then I landed an internship at a local recording studio here in the Chicago suburbs over a holiday break, and learned a lot from the engineer and one of the producers who rented space there. So, using that knowledge, I continued to study on my own, and then started working for AudioTUTS+ because I found that a lot of people were interested in audio production, but since it’s hard field to get started in, there was a lot of demand for knowledge that I had. While working for them, I also picked up a bit of an interest in web & graphic design, and did a bit of freelance web design in addition to attempting to create space-related artworks. Over time I have just continued refining my interests and adding more to them, and right now I’d say that I’m interested in creative media as a whole, from design, music, blogging and art.

One of the best things about the internet is that there is a ton of information out there all available and accessible, whether it’s through a site like CreativeFan, or just on Wikipedia. If you’re curious about how something works, or how to do something, or you ever wished you could do something, just browse the web and you’ll find that you’re not alone, many people have a similar interest and there are training resources for it. For example, right now I’m working on learning to play piano, since musical knowledge is important for audio production as a whole. Just browsing YouTube alone, I’ve found tons of useful videos on technique and music theory.

So, hopefully as I continue to grow, I can keep adding new skills and knowledge to my toolbox, and continue to provide lots of inspiration, training and help through CreativeFan and Presidia Creative.

Thanks again Mohammad and all the readers at Desain Digital.

Running a Blog Design Network, Interview with Eric Shafer from CreativeFan

You can find Eric Shafer in these sites:

A big thank you to Eric for his time doing this interview. I hope this interview inspires our community to stay creative and keep sharing.

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