Stay honest. Be creative. Work hard. Leo Estevez from Small Green Door talks with Adam Broadway

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 Stay honest. Be creative. Work hard.

I've found, when I truly care about what I’m doing, the results are incredible.

So what is the secret to going from an idea that I'm passionate about to an incredible finished product?

At the end of the day it really comes down to sticking to my guns, giving myself permission to pour my heart and soul into the project, then working like a dog until I see it come to fruition!

Before founding Small Green Door, I was an artist making interactive digital installations.  This passion led me to constantly scouring the internet for DIY coding projects.  I have always loved experimenting with code, but I never thought it would become an addiction!  Letting my curiosity take over is how it all started.  

My passion for coding and interface design is ultimately what led to founding Small Green Door.  It began as an experiment involving myself and a few other creative freelancers.  Our collective goal was quite simple at first.  We wanted to bring a fresh perspective to the way websites were being made.  The implications of this mission statement, however, were far from simple.

Our little experiment has since evolved into an amazing team and a great business.  We have accomplished this by staying creative and true to our roots, while making a profit from doing what we love.

This brings me to the title of my article. So, what exactly do I mean by the phrase "Stay honest. Be creative. Work hard."?  Let me explain myself by defining each of these three statements.

What does it mean to stay honest?

Staying honest is buying what you sell. It’s delivering what you promise. It’s standing behind what you create. It’s not being perfect. It’s not lying to yourself. It’s not making a quick buck. It’s trying till you fail and getting back up till you get it done right. And, it’s letting the people you work with know that they can do the same.

Now for the being creative part...

The creativity itself is the simplest and most rewarding part of the process.  The challenge presents itself when it comes to transforming the creativity into a finished product! I may sound naive in saying this, but I truly believe that each and every person has hundreds of ideas that could change the world. So why doesn't everyone set out to make their world changing ideas a reality. Well, I can tell you that having only actually made a hand full of my ideas a reality.  The reason....IT'S REALLY HARD!  So choosing the right idea to work on really matters because it is going to take tremendous amounts of energy to see it through.

Now for the most important statement....Work hard.

The real question is "How do you make yourself work hard?" I’m just like everyone else.  I get totally into an idea and then weeks later I’m still trying to find a way to get it off the ground.  This is the time when it’s critical to just start building.  Make that first prototype, make a schedule with deadlines that you can stick to, sketch, research, just DO SOMETHING take the idea one step closer to a reality.  During this time you may find that the idea isn't worth your energy but at least you will have produced something physical rather than simply thinking about or talking about the idea. If you can’t take that first step, you will never have enough energy to see the idea through to a finished product, so scratch it off the list and move on to something that can ignite your passion and drive!

I am sure you have heard this before.  "Follow your dreams, work hard and things will just work themselves out." hear it because it’s true.  If I could edit this phrase the only thing I'd change is the word "follow". To me, "follow" suggests that it's as easy as walking, when in reality it's more like hunting the dreams down. When you "hunt" your dreams, you find yourself working till 2 am every night and still wishing there were more hours in the day to work because you are really enjoying it!  When you "hunt" your dreams you're having the courage to take on jobs that truly challenge you to grow rather than just taking the easy way out and following in someone else's footsteps.  

 My strategy is to think BIG.   This strategy usually forces me to learn a few new tricks along the way but the big goal makes this learning experience pleasurable by continuing to add fuel to the "internal motivation fire" so to speak.

This strategy also helps me learn only what I need to know to accomplish the BIG goal.  For instance, I don’t need to learn everything there is to know about jQuery, objective-c or whatever. I only need to learn the pieces I need to make my idea work then move on. This makes everything much more manageable. On the contrary, if I thought I needed to learn everything first, the fire would be extinguished before I'd even get the chance to start working on the big idea itself.

Ok, now all of this is great, but you're probably thinking, "How do I get paid for these big ideas?"  The truth is, in the beginning you might not. 

What I did was "partner with" my first clients rather than asking them to hire me for a flat fee.  I convinced them to pay me once the profits started to come in. That way they knew I was fully committed to seeing them succeed. This allowed me to work on the projects I actually wanted to work on, while pushing me to learn as fast as possible so I could start seeing the rewards. Not all of these attempts were a success but all of them helped me grow and improve so that the next project would be an even greater success.  I definitely had some problems with some clients and their expectations, but I was open and honest with them and we were able work through the problems and reach an understanding.

Through those first jobs I was able to find my strengths and have working examples of my vision. Once you have a hand full of working examples (portfolio pieces) it’s a lot easier to sell your service to new clients!  

Now that you’ve made it this far it’s critical that you stick to your guns. The sooner you define your principles the stronger your business will be.  I have always tried to keep things simple. What I mean by that is I like to find the core of the idea/project. What makes it work and what’s unnecessary clutter. I like to think of this type of problem solving like rearranging a room.  By doing this, I can actually see challenges visually. This process helps me see the pieces that need to be fixed. The key here is continuing to build and progress, while making the critical decisions needed to efficiently reach the end goal of making the idea a reality.  In other words, If you can’t explain it in a simple demo then its probably way to complicated. It’s time to strip away the fat.   

Finally, don't let excuses and perceived limitations slow you down. Thoughts like "If I only had that software, or that computer, or that office, etc. then I could get the projects I really want." In the end, these are all just excuses for not working because there is always a way around these perceived limitations.  For example, some of my favorite movies are low budget independent films that had to make do with what they had available to them.

I find that the most innovative and creative moments have come out of situations where I've had to think on my feet and solve problems on the fly without a lot of resources.  This goes back to keeping things simple. It’s never what you have that makes the projects work. It’s what you do with what you have. Start with what you have access to and try to get the most out of it. If you really hit a wall, reach out to your community and you’ll be surprised to see how helpful most people are. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

I would like to take this opportunity to reach out to the BC partner community to let you all know that you are always welcome to drop me a line. I hope this has been useful information and I look forward to your comments and feedback.

All the best, Leo Estevez.

In Adam's last Blog Post:

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