With Ziggy

On the first day of 2013 I took the big leap into the land of self-employment. I’m about to celebrate one year out on my own, so I thought I’d share how things are going. First, the numbers:

  • Launched 2 (sizable) client websites
  • Published 40 blog posts and 98 links on my blog, published 1 magazine story
  • Tracked 1,279 hours in Harvest (which doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story. I’ve only recently gotten better at tracking my time.)
  • Worked 6 months straight without a day off
  • Traveled over 87,476 miles to 39 cities in 8 countries
  • Spoke at 18 conferences, gave 22 talks, and conducted 21 workshops and consulting sessions

It’s been a pretty busy year, and I expected as much in order to get my own business off the ground.

Questions Answered

I had a few questions I wanted to explore as I began work for myself. Besides “Can I make rent?”

  • Can I do good work living and working in Pittsburgh rather than a larger “tech hub” like New York or Silicon Valley?
  • Can I be as transparent as possible and still be successful?
  • Can I build a viable business by simply being myself?

I’m happy to report the answer to all of these questions is yes.


I’m so happy to call Pittsburgh home. Melissa and I are settling in after a year and a half of living in the Burgh, and it’s great being a lot closer to my family. I wasn’t able to be more involved in community events like Refresh Pittsburgh this year, but I hope to be more involved in 2014. I spent a lot of time on the road this year and started to feel a little like an ambassador for Pittsburgh. “Where do you live?” “Pittsburgh.” “…really? Pittsburgh?” “Hell yeah! It’s a great city.”


This year I had a pretty big epiphany about what to do with my time and why I do the things I do. Making things is great, but sharing things is even better. I can’t begin to explain how amazing it is to see people take your little ideas or tools and do huge things with them. Now that there’s no boss to tell me what I can and can’t share, I’m looking to be as honest and open as humanly possible.

Being Myself

I took a business class in college. It was awful. I vowed never to proclaim myself a “thought leader in the mobile space” or a “responsive design guru/rockstar/ninja” or practice any other marketing bullshit. I’m just a person who loves making websites and helping other people make websites better. I’m extremely happy to say that I can make that work without sacrificing my principles or resorting to business-school bullshit.

What’s Next

I can already tell 2014 is going to be a hell of a year. I’m making progress on a lot of different projects, and have a lot of things that will be consuming my time next year:

  • Two client projects, including our redesign for the Pittsburgh Food Bank and another site I’m excited about.
  • A product–me and a few people are working on a product that we’re really excited about. It’s a bit too early to talk about it just yet, but I’m already having a blast doing this kind of work. It’s a lot different than client work and I’m looking forward to sharing the journey.
  • Working on Pattern Lab with Dave. Thanks to Dave and the encouragement of the community, Pattern Lab is maturing into a really great tool. I’m looking forward to help make it better in 2014.
  • Writing a book about atomic design. It’s still early days, but it’s in the works. Book-writing is hard, but I think I’m up for the challenge.
  • Workshops and Consulting–I’m looking forward to helping organizations and agencies tackle responsive design, atomic design, process & workflow, and more. If you’re interested in having me give a workshop or consulting session, feel free to get in touch.
  • Speaking–It seems like there’s no shortage of exciting things to talk about. I’m looking forward to speaking at more conferences and events in 2014.


A lot happened this year, but here are some things that stand out.

Thanks to everyone who made 2013 so great. I consider myself to be so fortunate to work in such an amazing field surrounded by so many amazing people. I’m really looking forward to the new year!