Kevin is the owner of WizOne Solutions, which offers Drupal development as one of its services. He is also active in the Drupal community; he maintains several modules, most notably FillPDF, and regularly contributes patches and comments to other contributed modules. He has attended several Drupal events a year, and in general, his involvement has been a good thing for those who choose to work with him.
Cloudways: Hello Kevin, and thank you for taking time out for this interview. Firstly, would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Sure. My name is Kevin Kaland. I grew up in New Jersey on the east coast of the US, and have also lived in California (same country), Norway, and Slovenia.
Cloudways: How did you first come across Drupal? What sparked your interest in Drupal?
I got started with Drupal through some volunteer work in California around mid-2007. It had already been selected, so I started learning it. I first worked with Drupal 5, and most of the software development I’ve done since has been with Drupal.
Cloudways: Do you think Drupal is still able to compete with the other popular CMSs?
In the CMS space, yes. The mix of technologies used to develop companies’ web presences has been changing, but when it comes to traditional content management and distribution, Drupal is still in a very strong position. There are a few tools that strike the same balance of ease of use and flexibility as Drupal.
Cloudways: Starting a Drupal agency is a daunting task. What prompted you to start one on your own? And how has the experience been so far?
I had built up enough experience with Drupal and web development to offer professional services and was considering it. My goal, as it probably is for many others, was and is to build standardized offerings as products and services and sell those over and over.
I had a friend who was working for himself, and I asked him a lot of questions about how it was working out for him. His answers made it seem like a good idea, so I put together a plan on what I wanted to do and I did it. No regrets, despite difficulty finding work and trouble with clients in the beginning.
Cloudways: What were some of the major challenges you faced when starting WizOne Solutions?
It took me 9 months to start making money. I started it while I was working on a fixed-bid project, and that was taking up most of my time.
I actually wound up reaching out to a volunteer SCORE mentor, who made the (in hindsight) obvious suggestion of simply trying to find additional work.
So I went on oDesk (now Upwork) and started applying for stuff, and once I managed to get one job, I started building up momentum, and my problems were eventually a thing of the past.
Cloudways: What advice would you give to aspiring freelance Drupal developers?
Currently? Drupal is a good technology to know, but don’t limit yourself to it. Also, don’t sell Drupal. Sell the solutions you can build with it. The more of a holistic experience you can provide, the better. I, for example, can work on backend code, themes on the frontend, work with the actual Drupal tools and user interfaces, and administer the systems (cloud servers, Docker containers, etc.) that they run on.
Server administration, in particular, is something many developers aren’t learning anymore, but I still find that it’s a very valuable skill. It helps understand modern approaches (such as container orchestration) more easily.
Cloudways: How much of an importance do you think Drupal events are for the Drupal community?
There would likely be no community without events. They’re critical.
Cloudways: Ok, that’s enough talk about work. What do you like to do in your free time?
I like learning foreign languages (I speak five to varying degrees). It’s easier to connect with people when you speak their language. Other than that, I like nature walks and hiking when I can.
Cloudways: Could you share a snap of your workplace with our readers?
I’m always trying to optimize my ergonomics. Since this picture was taken, I’ve lowered the angle on the keyboard tray while standing, and started sitting in a Salli saddle chair (not pictured). The desk is obviously electrically adjustable. I have one big (38” ultrawide) monitor to try to reduce neck strain. (It’s still a bit big to solve it entirely, but it is a pretty nice monitor!)
Cloudways: What are your thoughts about Managed Cloud Hosting for Drupal Projects? Have you tried Cloudways, what do you think about it?
I have experience with Pantheon and Acquia Cloud. For pure Drupal projects, they’re pretty good and well-integrated. I’ve heard Platform.sh is quite good, too, though I haven’t tried it. Platforms like this typically achieve good performance by limiting what site owners (and developers) can do, but, in turn, satisfy the “80% case” and provide value.
I haven’t tried Cloudways yet, but I just took a look at the pricing page. Have to admit — my first impression was better than I expected. Managed hosting usually costs much more. You’re basically just charging a bit on top of what DigitalOcean does. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a $7/month entry point for managed hosting! I imagine that you have the “management” part fairly well-automated to be able to achieve that.
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