Kurt Krumme is a User Experience Consultant who's spent most of the last decade creating sites and apps for clients ranging from small not-for-profits to evil billion-dollar companies. These days he gives talks, writes articles and helps clients keep the focus on their users, where it should be.
1) Tell us about your early beginnings, how did you get your start?
When I graduated university I went to teach English in South Korea. Upon returning jobless and broke, somebody told me that the company they worked at needed a website. They asked if I knew how to make one and I lied and said i did. It was 1998 so you could do that. I had them buy some WYSIWYG software, read the manual and presto - a web designer was born.
2) You've worked both for companies and independently, what is the thing you like most of each of those?
When you work for a company things like HR, taxes, billing, project management and such are taken care of for you. When you're independent you have to take care of every aspect of your business yourself, but pants are optional. Jury's still out on which is better.
3) For those new to freelancing, how do you recommend they get started?
Honestly, the best way to start is to get a job and then start freelancing on the side. If you're young and don't have a ton of connections, going full freelance is a great way to increase the likelihood of starving to death. Get an income, then start to accept freelance jobs that will build a portfolio to reflect the kind of clients you want to work with. If you're already employed then you can pick and choose what work you do instead of swinging at every pitch.
4) Can you share with us your latest project?
I just finished a job doing some UX design for a smallish Telco. It was a simple enough job but as a consultant I've got two clients, the one that asked for the work to be done and the company that hired me to help them execute the project. Add to that about a hundred different approval points and it makes something that should be straightforward a bit trickier.
5) You'll be presenting "Getting Along With Clients" at Spotlight: Freelance, what can we expect to learn from it?
People love to bitch about their clients and how dumb, irrational, cheap or clueless they can be. I'm saying that we need to take some responsibility for bad client situations and try to sort out ways to avoid them entirely by examining why things go bad.
6) If you weren't doing what you are now, what would we find you up to?
I was thinking the other night that I might enjoy being a landscape architect. You can't stand in the middle of a website, breathing in fresh soil and cedar chips, seeing all the different plants grow in unexpected ways. I like designing interfaces and experiences, but I'm working with static or tightly controlled elements and people are the only x-factor. With a landscape it's a living, growing thing and I think that adds a level of complexity and satisfaction I'd enjoy. So probably that or Gigolo.
Appreciate your time, Kurt!