The following is a quick interview of myself by Mason Wood, for a project in his graphic design degree at James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland.
So, to answer your questions:
1. What do you believe are the most critical skills or attributes needed to be able to successfully work in this area?

You need some creativity but you need to know that functionality always comes first. It may look awesome, but if it doesn’t do it’s primary purpose of communicating and is easy to navigate. And the other thing is determination/dedication as there are going to be days where you are doing repetitive or dull work, that may pay the bills but won’t be shooting fireworks into the sky for your portfolio of work. When starting out you will get the dud end of projects until you work out of the junior roles.

2. What activities or tasks do you typically engage in on a daily or weekly basis in your current work?

Typically? Time keeping, task management, client interaction, invoicing, and plenty of other office type duties. Design wise, developing logos, creating press ads, billboards, corporate stationery, web content – which can be anything from Facebook covers to featured image graphics, to website headers right down to reviewing site builds and making recommendations based on best user functionality or to make the site look better or more consistent across the whole website. Then there are the ongoing projects that keep ticking over, like updating Corporate Style Guides with new design directions, new web content specifications and logo variations. I wish it was all sexy creative all the time, but that just isn’t the case.

3. Is there a particular project that was completed that ultimately launched you into the website design field?
When I started in web, there were no courses, there was no formal training. This was back before the Internet bubble (and its later burst) so each project was HTML hand coded together in notepad, I think my first complete site was one for myself, but networking with other web designers meant that I found work in the field simply because I was one of the few people who could actually do it! First commercial project was for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and although it was an excellent design for the time I really only remember the 700 meg worth of PDFs they wanted added to the site, which had to be added one by one in the code. After that I worked on all sorts of websites but it was more the design and layout and not backend coding on top of the design work.
4. Are they any other personal recommendations/tips you have for an aspiring website designer?
Get to know the backend coding, it will give you a good handle on whether or not something can actually be done so you don’t have a programmer come back to you telling you it can’t be done. There will be times when the client will tell you to change a fundamental part of the design or layout, and you just have to accept that it might not be the best solution. Always make sure you keep a happy work/life balance, no one was on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time at work.