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My Journey Towards Professional Independence

Posted on October 14 by in Customer Spotlight | 16 comments

My Journey Towards Professional Independence

This is a post by Elijah Lovkoff as part of our Customer Spotlight series. If you have an interesting story to tell and would like to share your experience with WordPress and Elegant Themes on our blog, please contact us!

A Bit About Me

I’m Elijah Lovkoff and I started designing websites using WordPress as my preferred platform a couple of years ago. I came across Elegant Themes by chance and since then they became my first choice for creating sites for customers. I do use other themes once in a while, but this comes mostly when client insist on using something else. Today I have my own company, Skylark Studio – but that’s the outcome and I’d rather tell how it all began.

How It All Began

Having a job that pays well is great, but at some point I’ve found myself spending close to 300$ a month on taxis… the mere idea of getting out of bed and dragging myself to the job that I disliked immensely resulted in constant oversleeping. I hated the alarm that reminded me it was time to go back to work that I’d rather not see at all. Even taking taxis and avoiding the morning subway wasn’t much of a consolation. I needed to change something. I made them fire me with a decent severance package and went traveling for a year. I needed a break and I needed a new perspective. I needed to get back to my roots where playing music was big part of my life, where the world was still big enough and wasn’t limited to the dull work with long overtime hours and occasional NBA TV games in the evenings.

frustrated

So I spent a year traveling the world – I covered most of Latin and Central Americas, a bit of Nepal and Europe. I wrote a book – which I always wanted to do – and then I realized… It seems like I’m gonna be facing a reverse culture shock if I go back exactly to where I started. Office job, boring email exchanges about the matters that nobody really care about, corporate events with feigned enthusiasm and ‘happiness-on-display’ attitude.

There’s gotta be more to life than this and there has to be a better way to earn my money. The only thing that came to mind at the time was web development. I told to myself that I’d be better off having less money but having more personal freedom. And this is how it all started.

Discovering & Learning WordPress

I felt helpless a bit in the beginning – after all, being able to perform complicated packet sniffing and firewall troubleshooting is not exactly what makes you a web developer or designer for that matter. It helps you with the basic stuff, but that’s it. I always credited myself with being creative enough and having enough taste, so I decided to take the plunge.

confusion

I decided at a time to start with CMS-based solutions and WordPress seemed like a natural choice. I didn’t know where to start, so I started using different theme providers. Themeforest has great themes but support was usually none-existent or unresponsive. Woo themes seemed to have a great foundation, but the design was stuck somewhere in the 80s. I needed the best of both worlds and Elegant Themes provided just that – great look, fabulous design and excellent support. Since nobody starts as a ready-made professional, having great support is always a pre-requisite not only for keeping your customers happy, but also for your own professional development. I’d like to use a chance and express my thanks to ET support guys – I learnt a lot just from having my questions answered.

I zeroed in on Elegant Themes and started developing my own sites. I was pretty excited since I had great design to start off and I was able to have all my questions answered. I’m pretty good with self-education and after all – all those credentials that I earned (MCSE, CISSP, CCNA) were the result of self-education. I never took a single formal course. So I was pretty confident I would be able to make it. The only question was ‘when’ and ‘how long will it take.’ I had luck of being able to dedicate all my time (10-12 hours a day) to learning new stuff. So with the help of ET guys I was able to move pretty fast.

The first site that I consider pretty decent was created with the GLEAM theme. My friend is a pretty good painter, but understandably knows nothing about websites.

skylark-example-1

I do enjoy his paintings and I was glad to be able to provide what he was long due – a good representation of his works. At this point I realized, I’m not only “doing my work”, I’m having fun with it. Then came other projects – for example, Yoga Studio that was based on the fabulous Nimble theme.

skylark-example-2

The thing that I like about ET themes is that besides being a great starting point, it gives you ideas as to how the design works, how code is turned into beautifully looking parts of the site – and you can take it not only as building blocks, but as a learning tool and inspiration as well. Understanding things that are “under the hood” gives you a better perspective and better understanding as to what the design is and how it is actually done.

I’m not sure where I would be at that point without having ET themes and their support. I would probably be still learning a lot of things, but I was able to fast-track my development because I had a great design examples with ET themes and excellent support. And I’m quite confident this is not an overstatement. Probably the biggest advantage to me is that I can provide now fast development times without compromising the quality.

So, thanks a lot guys and keep the great things coming :)

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16 Comments

  1. Great post, Elijah. You’re not alone. I have a lot of similar background, and when I got bogged down with corporate nonsense, I moved to IT consulting – so still involved in that world, but it’s given me more flexibility to focus on web design as an enjoyable hobby, and side income/networking tool.

    I started with WordPress in 2004 (1.2) but was really off and on. Nowadays, like most other things IT related there’s so much that it can overwhelm newbies. But on the other hand, it shows that there’s a broad market – and means that someone just getting into this can easily collect the tools and resources to make compelling, responsive sites. Sheesh, with just the WordPress Codex, and Elegant Themes, it untethers the technical bonds of the past and allows you to focus on the creative freedom of how to deliver a message to an online audience.

    Good luck! Look forward to seeing what else you come up with.

    • Thanks Brandon!
      Having an IT background can really help once in a while. Especially when you have to deal with hosting support guys. They have a tendency of blaming pretty much everything else but not their platform (hello Bluehost). Even if you send then precise analysis with script loading times, they would say it’s WordPress.
      It took them datacenter failure to acknowledge that not everything is peachy in Dutch Kingdom :)

      As to being overwhelmed, I agree with you – sometimes it feels like you are in a candy store and everything is so accessible, sometimes it feels like ‘it will take forever to go through all this :)

  2. It’s very much encouraging by hearing you people’s story. I too got bored with the same thing and now I’m in affiliate marketing and doing marketing for the affiliate themes. Gradually improving now a days.

  3. Hi sir,
    I want to build a online marketing and i want to chose the right theme for that,
    Can do please suggest to me which is the best theme can i buy it from your company ?
    in this case, is the e-commerce plugin (WooCommerce) is ready ?
    and what i need more to buy it to build my theme ?

    Best wishes
    /Ashraf

    • Hi Ashraf,
      I think it is best if you ask ET support guys…
      Plus… you have ot provide more information. I find that a lot also depends ont he clients – sometimes they are pretty adamant as to how they would like the theme to look, so you might be limited in your choices or have to deal with heavy customization.
      ET have a couple if themes designed for selling stuff online.
      On top of all that – a lot depends on what is actually involved. Woocommece is good for basic setups, but they charge quite handsomely for add-ons.
      Open cart is a good solution but requires a lot of customization usually.
      I guess it would be hard to answer the question without knowing a bit more…

  4. Great post. I saw work of Elijah Lovkoff at Skylark Studio portfolio. That’s an awesome. Very good use of Nimble WordPress theme in http://sfyogastudio.com/ .

    • Hi Dipak, thanks, much appreciated.

  5. Great story Elijah and sounds like you’re managing that every elusive life balance pretty well there :-)

    Out of interest what is the theme used on your own site (Skylark Studio) that’s a great visual theme and the mobile views work really well.

    Regards

    Andrew

    • Hi Andrew. I used Furies from themeforest, but only because I wanted specific things for my site. It’s OK, I don’t expect Elegant Themes to cover every possible angle – but I’m heavily biased towards them for the reason I mentioned on my post.

    • And just in case, if you need to figure out what WP theme a particular site is running, you can do it on http://whatwpthemeisthat.com/
      It will show you the theme name as well as plugins running on the site.

      • Thanks Elijah,

        Will take a look at it but the site looks great in all responsive views.

        Hadn’t heard of that site before but looks like a very handy resource and one I’ll bookmark :-)

        • Don’t be carried away though :) and make your best judgement. You can look it up on the internet – a lot themeforest themes lack support to a point that people take their frustration to the item comments pages. In fact the official Themeforest statement is “Support is not mandatory and theme authors have no obligations whatsoever to provide it in a timely manner and have all the rights not to support their items”.

          In other words – you should be pretty confident that you’d be able to do a lot of things on your own. For some people it is not a huge concern, for some – having an adequate support is a prerequisite.

          Not all of them of course lack support, some have actually very decent one, but in my experience it is rather a ‘rare-case scenario’

  6. Your story is really interesting and eye opener for those who are stuck with their jobs and wanting to get out. Your Web designing skills are great. The yoga website is simply AWESOME!!!

    • Sorry Arka – just revisited the page and so your comment. Thanks for kind words, much appreciated.

  7. Fascinating story , very inspiring personal narrative. I feel a very close connection with the narrator’s spiritual path of discovering his passion.
    Would be happy to hear a comment .
    Thank you,

    – птица

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