Allow yourself to be happy

Oana Filip

Vlad wrote an arti­cle for Hero­Press about how Word­Press was the best avail­able solu­tion to start a cre­ative busi­ness. Dur­ing his jour­ney of tai­lor­ing the right words he couldn’t stop and instead of one bril­liant sto­ry he showed up two dif­fer­ent facets of the same coin.

This arti­cle was a real tough one for me. How to tell our sto­ry, the crew at Pix­el­Grade, with­out repeat­ing myself? I’ve already writ­ten about our saga, about the ups and downs of get­ting where we are today, we’ve been trans­par­ent about our finances, our team growth, and so on. “Is there any­thing else left to say?” kept nag­ging me.

This made me dig deep­er into who we are and what led us here, both as a team and as indi­vid­u­als. And then it hit me. I haven’t explored the way we felt on this jour­ney, what has kept us moti­vat­ed and mov­ing for­ward.

If that sounds inter­est­ing, join me while I try to make sense of things I rarely think about, of things that just seems to pop and feel right.

Oh, and for those of you who haven’t stum­bled upon our Word­Press themes (can’t imag­ine how that could hap­pen :)), I am Vlad, Co-founder of Pix­el­grade, self-enti­tled web enthu­si­ast.

Build your tribe and explore your poten­tial in dif­fer­ent ways.

It sucks doing it alone

Both me and my broth­er George, the oth­er Co-founder, care deeply about work­ing togeth­er with oth­er peo­ple, putting our beliefs and ideas to the scruti­ny of anoth­er. I don’t think this comes from a lack of trust in our capa­bil­i­ties (we can be cocky at times), but rather from a clear under­stand­ing that we are only humans, and we are sure­ly prone to mis­takes and nar­row-mind­ed­ness.

I was for­tu­nate to have the per­fect com­ple­ment right at hand, in the form of a lit­tle broth­er with sim­i­lar inter­ests in all things web relat­ed.

I know there are plen­ty of Word­Press authors who pre­fer to go at it alone, even after they achieve a cer­tain degree of suc­cess. If they feel hap­py in those shoes, all is good. But our expe­ri­ence of doing it solo (as free­lancers in the ear­ly days) has deeply seed­ed the belief that it sucks in the long run. Life is too short for that.

Now don’t go all des­per­ate and pick who­ev­er you can find as your team­mate. It’s best to be very picky. Luck­i­ly, I was for­tu­nate to have the per­fect com­ple­ment right at hand, in the form of a lit­tle broth­er with sim­i­lar inter­ests in all things web relat­ed, but with enough of a dif­fer­ent take on things to keep it inter­est­ing (he is a design­er after all).

Bring the right peo­ple around the same table and you’ll achieve more.

Getting an edge and keeping it sharp

A sharp edge is only use­ful if you are pre­pared to cut with it. Are you see­ing nin­jas fly­ing through the air yet? Good…

I am not talk­ing about an edge in your skills set (like cod­ing, design, etc.), although that is sure­ly handy to have around. I am talk­ing about hav­ing a prin­ci­ple or two right from the start. Avoid get­ting all mushy just because you are start­ing out and you prac­ti­cal­ly don’t know much. You know what you want. What you real­ly want I mean.

We knew that this thing had to be fun (like in enjoy­able) to keep us doing it day after day.

For us it was like this…

We always knew that mon­ey would come sec­ond. Maybe it’s because we rarely had to wor­ry much about mon­ey — we had enough for our child­ish needs (our fam­i­ly would qual­i­fy as upper mid­dle class, I think). More like­ly it’s due to the way we were brought up; we’ve been told (and shown by our par­ents) that hard, hon­est work will always pay up in the long run. And noth­ing real­ly hap­pened that would crum­ble this cre­do.

We knew that this thing had to be fun (like in enjoy­able) to keep us doing it day after day, year after year. So we come first, work comes sec­ond. But not in a hip­ster­ish, do-what­ev­er-you-like kind of way. No, we would work hard (too hard at times), but only take on work that we felt com­fort­able with.

We will not be chas­ing all the poten­tial cus­tomers out there. And you need to remem­ber that we’ve start­ed out as a web agency doing only cus­tom projects. This was a tough rule to fol­low. One that we broke at times, to our own dis­ap­point­ment (and finan­cial loss­es most of the time).

Step out of your com­fort zone and you’ll start to evolve and become bet­ter.

It’s ok not having long term goals

With all the hype about plan­ning, set­ting goals, deliv­er­ing on them, get­ting from zero to one, mak­ing your first mil­lion, mak­ing an exit, and what have you, it sounds kin­da counter pro­duc­tive not hav­ing goals.

Well, we’ve nev­er had them, at least not in that sense. Our goal was, and it still is, to keep hav­ing fun doing what­ev­er it is we are doing at one point. It doesn’t mat­ter if it’s client work, web apps or Word­Press themes, at this moment. Those are just details of imple­men­ta­tion. We are after enjoy­able results. For our cus­tomers but first and fore­most for our­selves.

We do how­ev­er set short term goals, and we try to make them as tight as pos­si­ble. Like set­ting a dead­line for releas­ing a new theme, or improv­ing some met­ric on our sup­port. This way we can have some wins and keep the moti­va­tion up.

Long term goals would only demor­al­ize and defo­cus us because they are hard to track and hard to achieve, thus very risky for our gen­er­al well being.

So do your­self a favor and avoid them. Take it each day/week/month at a time. Be proud of what you achieved yes­ter­day, strive to do bet­ter today, and you are on the right track.

Play smart. Work hard­er.

Don’t play games you can’t win

From ear­ly on, we’ve steered towards niche themes. They were in line with our “pol­i­cy” of keep­ing it sim­ple, they were man­age­able regard­ing tight deliv­ery dead­lines, and they allow for a clos­er rela­tion­ship with the cus­tomer. It’s good for your kar­ma to see tal­ent­ed peo­ple choose your prod­uct to com­ple­ment their cre­ative work. Again, small wins.

Craft­ed themes are more in tune with who we are.

How would you be able to get that from the mul­ti­pur­pose “niche”?(it’s hard to call it a niche when it’s half the mar­ket, at least). You would be forced to play by the rules of a hand­ful of authors that struck gold with a theme or two (most­ly just one), and kept bang­ing at it month after month, some­times year after year. Don’t ask me how they man­age to stay moti­vat­ed. Apart from the ridicu­lous amounts of sales. 🙂

For us, the small, craft­ed themes are more in tune with who we are and where we want to be in the near future.

So there you have it. A short self-analy­sis about why we do what we do at Pix­el­grade. I am keen on hear­ing your thoughts about it (more so if you dis­agree). Also, show us some love. 💚

Oana Filip
Oana Filip

Digital storyteller @Pixelgrade and community builder for creative industries. A true believer in the power of making the world a better place.