How to Be More Creative as a Web Designer

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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The creative process is pretty torturous.

I don’t say that lightly. I’ve experienced it.

When I was a full-time musician I would have an idea for a song that I knew was going to be my big break. I’d pull out my phone record a little bit of it and go to bed.

Then, I’d wake up the next day listen to that same recording and wonder how I ever thought it was a good idea. In fact, I’d get so discouraged I’d want to give up music altogether.

Web design has been no different and I don’t think I’m alone in my experience.

The Up’s and Down’s of Creativity

There are times when I’m working on a project for a client that I feel like a web design superhero. And, then there are times in that same project I want to call it quits…forever as a web designer.

So, what do you do?

How do you keep going?

How do you grow creatively without going absolutely crazy?

That’s what we’re talking about in this week’s episode of the Self-Made Web Designer podcast.

Gil Sandoval

My guest this week is Gil Sandoval. And, I actually met Gil when my band opened up for his band at a concert we were doing together.

Later on, Gil started a design agency around the same time I was beginning to learn web design and I reached out to him for advice.

He’s gone on to work on projects for companies like Disney, Lions Gate and Universal and has been a consistent source of wisdom and insight for me.

I’m so happy that Gil is sharing his wisdom with the Self-Made Web Designer crew this week.

The Truth about Creativity in Web Design

Being creative as a web designer is a lot of work. There’s this tension that you have to balance between being making a client happy and doing work that stands out.

Then there’s an internal struggle that happens that will make you want to quit altogether.

But, there are a few things that Gil shares that has helped him to stay creative as the CEO of a design agency things like:

  1. Putting people around you that will challenge you creatively
  2. Building a foundation of creativity as a core value
  3. Always striving to improve
  4. Exploring creative interests even if they don’t make money

Gil has done all of those things and through it all he’s built an amazing, profitable business that is serving big clients.

Gil gives away all his secrets in this episode.

You’ll Learn

  • How to figure out what you’re really passionate about in web design
  • How to stay creative as a web designer but still make a good income
  • How to grow creatively by competing with yourself
  • How to define success as a web designer
  • How to use failure to win in the end
  • How to be confident in yourself when you’re at a low point in the creative process
  • How to keep relationships healthy when there’s creative disagreements
  • How to start a project off on the right foot by asking the right questions
  • The truth about landing big clients


Chris: [00:00:00] The creative process as a web designer is pretty tough. There are moments when you're building a website or an app for a client and you feel pretty good about yourself. In fact, you kind of feel like a web design genius. You're like, look at this work. I'm incredible. And then. 30 minutes later, you look at that same work and you get super discouraged because all of a sudden you hate it and it sucks and you wish you could throw it away and you should probably go and hide in a cave and never design for the web ever again.

And then you add to the fact that there's this real delicate balance between the creative side of things and the business side of things. The artistic and the practical. And when you put all that together, it gets pretty tough to navigate through. And that is exactly what we are talking about in this week's episode of the self-made web designer podcast.

Hello, again, my name is Chris and I wish I could ask you what your name is. But this is a little bit of a one-way conversation. So even if you responded, I wouldn't be able to hear it and say hi back, but if you do respond, hi. Okay. This week's guest is Gil Sandoval, and Gil is the CEO of a design agency called Sandoval Agency.

And they have had some pretty big clients like Disney BMW, Universal, Lion's Gate, and a lot more. And that's been possible because they have stuck to, to their guns when it comes to creativity. In fact, their tagline is this. It says "creating work we're proud of with people who care enough to stand out."

Gil is a master of figuring out that balancing act between creativity and business, and it served him and his agency. Well, he's learned how to grow creatively as a web designer and yet still be profitable. And he is sharing his tips with you today. Are you ready for Mr. Gill Sandoval okay, here we go.

Gil. Thanks so much for being on the Self-Made Web Designer podcast. So good to finally have you.

Gil: [00:02:16] Yes. Yes. I'm really excited. Thank you for having me, man.

Chris: [00:02:18] Yeah. So tell the world a little bit about who you are and how you got to where you are today.

Gil: [00:02:24] Oh Man. I feel like that's, that's like a crazy long story, but I'm going to do my best to condense it down.

Um, my name is Gil Sandoval. I am the CEO and co-founder of a really rad agency. If I might say so myself, I'm here in downtown Chandler, Arizona. I'm called Sandoval, the Sandoval agency. And, um, dude, I started like, I started as like a lot of us did, you know, as a freelance graphic designer, not knowing what I was doing, you know?

Um, and I, I think it was like, I think I was, I don't remember probably 16, 17 years old or something like that, you know? And I learned graphic design in school. It was like a super basic class. Like, you know, an entry-level graphic design where you learned how to use the swirl tool. Do you remember that and how, how cool it was to use the swirl tool.

Um, and I did that and I thought that made me a graphic designer because I knew how to use the swirl tool. So I would use this role tool and then put, put like people's names over this world tool. And, you know, it's amazing. And, and I was a designer and then I learned really quickly. That doesn't make you a designer, right?

Chris: [00:03:39] Right.

Gil: [00:03:41] Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, from there I started like going door to door, to local businesses in downtown Los Angeles where I grew up. And just basically offering my services for free, you know, um, the thing that everyone, all the, all the design influencers tell you not to do, I did all that. Um, so I started doing that, man.

Um, and, uh, with the sole stipulation of. Um, I'll do this for free for you. I just, I want feedback. I want real honest feedback and if it's good and you like it pay me whatever you want and yeah. If it's not good, I want honest feedback, you know, like I want to learn, I want to grow. Um, I did that. For a really long time.

Um, I, in some ways I never stopped doing that. Um, and then, uh, you know, I, I, uh, I started a band. Um, the band started taking off and I traveled all over the world in the band. Um, you know, recorded, recorded, uh, I think, uh, four albums, three, three, four, four, I think. Um, and. Uh, man, that was probably some of the best times in my life.

Um, you know, traveling on the roads, I got to meet my wife that way, you know, um, and super grateful for that all throughout my musical career, I was, I was always freelancing, um, designing for, uh, um, anyone that needed design really just to make ends meet, you know, cause, uh, um, pretty difficult to pay the bills with music.

Um, so, so I did that for a while. Man travels all over the world. Um, one thing led to another and one of our songs got into a movie. And I met, I met some of the people that, that, that, uh, um, some of the producers of the film, et cetera, et cetera. And that led to, you know, me getting a job at the studio, you know, and, um, I was, um, I was, uh, the designer on, on, at the studio and.

I realized really quickly that design was a huge part of my life and I loved it. And, um, it's something that I, if I could do it for the rest of my life, that would be super awesome. Um, so I did, uh, I did what everyone advised me not to do, and I quit my job and started, started a business, um, which I had done a few times before.

Um, I had done that a few times before, you know, and, um, it kind of flopped, I think probably two or three times, I still have like all the business cards and flyers that are made back in the day from all that stuff, you know? Um, and uh, this time I, um, I started it and, um, it took me a year to convince my brother to quit his job, to join me.

Um, but it finally, he finally did and we, we, um, we took a stab at it, man. And, um, it, it, one thing led to another and it escalated and we just started with no clients, you know, um, no real work and. Took the same approach, you know, and just start knocking on doors, went door to door, restaurants, bars, um, local businesses, really anything.

Um, and, uh, we want have to learn, you know, we wanted to learn what, what to do, what not to do, um, and, uh, cut our teeth, doing that. And then one thing led to another, um, the agency started to grow. And that we work for a ton of fortune 500 companies, man, I'm I'm oversimplifying the whole thing. Obviously there was a lot of, a lot of ups and downs through that, and there were a lot of bumps in the road there.

Um, but it was, it was super fun, man. And, um, it's been great. Uh, I love what I get to do, and I loved that. Uh, we built our agency, um, With the, with the foundation of creativity, you know, a lot of agencies are built with the foundation of sales, um, or, or, you know, uh, heavy marketing tactics or, or, uh, you know, ad buying and, you know, that kind of stuff.

Our agency was built on top, on the foundation of creativity. We wanted to be creative. We wanted to do things that we were proud of. We wanted to do things that stood out. Um, and I'm really proud of that. You know, um, we, we stuck to our guns really early on and, um, it's paid off for us, you know? Um, and now we get to do a lot of really rad things for a lot of really rad people.

And, uh, it's exciting.

Chris: [00:08:15] That's awesome, man. And I love your story because we have such similar stories. In fact, our, our story first intersected, when we were opening up for you guys, I'm at a gig that we were doing together, and then we opened up for you again at another gig that we were doing together. And then, you know, right around the time.

You were starting your agency. I was starting to dip my toes into web design, and I remember having some conversations with you, like, how do I do this? And you were gracious enough to give me advice and have hung out with you guys and connected along the way. So it's been fantastic to see the success of like the small office that you started in.

And then to go into the bigger offices with a full team of people. So I love what you said about knowing what you are all about from the very beginning and, and sticking to that. And I think a lot of people, when they start in, in design or freelancing or a business, it's really easy to kind of let it.

Overtake you, you know, like let the, the lowest common, common denominator B what is, is actually making the decisions for you rather than your, your values. So talk about some struggles along the way, way that, you know, maybe were you, you had to come back to what you said we were going to be all about from the very beginning.

And, and, and what type of things helped you to kind of stick to your guns on that?

Gil: [00:09:43] The big thing is that. Um, it took a long time for me to realize what we were about. Right? Yeah. It took years for me to it wasn't like I knew from day one, what I wanted to do. I didn't, you know, and some people do and that's awesome, you know, but I think for the majority of us, we kind of have to work on it and work at it a little bit more and take our time.

So for me, it was a long line process of. Trying things and realizing that's not what I want to do. You know? Oh, Nope. That's definitely not what I, when I'm about. Um, and then, but when I found what I was about and when I, when I found what I wanted to do, and I'm not knocking on people that, that like, like the have found it agencies on, on, on solely like business sales and, and all, all of these things like, like businessmen that, that, that like create agencies.

I'm not, I'm not. Looking down on them at all. Like they're obviously incredibly successful, you know, it's just, that's not me. That, that wasn't me. I consider myself a businessman and an entrepreneur, but. At the very core of who I am. I'm a creative, which is why I'm also a musician, you know, which is why I I'm a fraternal w which is why I'm a designer, which is why I'm an aspiring illustrator.

You know what I mean? Like I want to be all, I want to be as creative as I possibly can, you know? Um, I love, I L I love watching and looking at what people used to do. And, and where graphic design starts, you know, and how physical it was and how like tactile it was back in the day. Um, and I love.

Everything about design. I love typography. I love, you know, print, design, layout design. I don't, I guess I love layout design, but, but, you know, I love the idea of it when I see it and it's done super well. I just, I get it, you know, and I love that. I love everything that has to do with, with design and creativity and just, I can appreciate good ideas, whether they.

Where, what, whether they work or not, that's a very different story, right? That's when you, when you started entering into the marketing side of things and when you start entering into the business side of things, and my life has revolved around how to marry the art of design and the business of design, and how do you bridge that gap and make those two, um, work with each other, which has been a lot more difficult than I originally anticipated, but.

It took a lot of trial and error for me. It wasn't, it wasn't something that was natural. It wasn't something that came easily. It was very much, um, a very difficult road for me to find what, what I really wanted to do. Um, the, what, what I had going for me. Really really early was the fact that I didn't really care too much about money.

Um, I didn't care too much about making six figures and I didn't care too much about, you know, a big old house and really nice car, et cetera, et cetera. All I really wanted was I wanted the experience of things. I knew the nice, the nice house and the big car, a nice car would, would come eventually, but I didn't really worry about it too much.

My dad used to tell me this all the time, growing up, he used to say, your twenties are to learn to experience and to learn everything that you can, right. Like, just learn as much as you possibly can, um, experience and learn everything. And your thirties are for you to work, you know? Um, um, Yeah, his actual words were your thirties are for you to work your ass off.

Um, and then, and then your forties, that's when you start seeing the fruits of your labor, right? Um, now granted, this is as a, you know, uh, a old school immigrant from Guatemala that grew up with absolutely nothing, right? Like poor, like very, very, very poor. And he's a self-made, you know, uh, entrepreneur businessmen, you know?

Um, so. For him, that's how it played out for him. Yeah. And I took it very literal and I took that as, okay. My twenties. I'm not going to worry about anything. I'm going to, I'm going to experience everything I can. I'm going to travel the world. I'm going to, I'm going to do what I want to do. What I feel that my calling or my passion is I'm going to, I'm going to pursue it.

Um, and then it was music and then it was, you know, it was entrepreneurship, then it was sales. Then it was, you know, selling stuff like on Craigslist, you know, flipping things before it got popular, right. Like back in the day, I just, when Craigslist was out, I was like, are you kidding me? This is amazing.

You know, I used to buy like old laptops and Reese and like, uh, uh, sell them on Craigslist or buy like used gear and sell it on Craigslist. Um, I ended up buying like. For like furniture and like appliances, like washers and dryers, which was nice. Good idea. Cause they're heavy. I realized if you go like, well off neighborhoods, we'll sell washers and dryers that still work.

They just have to like live a crack or something like that. Right. And they'll sell them to you really cheap. And then you kind of like dress them up and then sell them to people that don't really care about. The aesthetics of it, they just want the functionality of it and you can make a hundred, 200, $300 off a set off a good, a good Maytag's.

Gil: [00:15:23] I did that for awhile and then I realized that at the core of everything that I was doing, it was my need to be creative. It was my need to be different, my need to, to scratch an itch that I had inside of me, um, which was, I wanted to do different things. I wanted to do things that stood out, you know?

And, um, so when we started the agency, uh, the, this last time. I knew clearly what I wanted to do. You know, I knew clearly that we, I, I, I wasn't able to verbalize it immediately, but I knew in my head and in my heart that I wanted, we wanted to, we want to create an agent. You see that that would grow beyond our own limitations and would grow beyond who we currently are right now and would become a.
Um, awesome, amazing content producer, right? Um, so, so like films and documentaries and TV shows, and we would be known not necessarily for films or documentaries or TV shows or products or, or, or ad campaigns, but we, we would be known for the way in which we do what we do, the creativity, the, the, the, uh, The standout product.

Um, and, uh, that's what we're, that's what we're aiming for man. And that that's where we're headed. And I knew that all along. So. Um, uh, I, we always drive for that, um, since day one and I heard Tom Brady, I heard it. I heard an interview from Tom Brady once and, uh, he said this, I don't know Jack squat about football and full disclaimer.

I just, I know who Tom Brady is. Um, she was, he was talking about how, and I've always believed this and he was talking about how. Um, his success came from the fact that he didn't want to be the best. He wanted to be his best. And if you want to be the best, you'll be marginally better than whoever the current best is.

Right. But if you want to be your best. Then you're, you will always be better than who you were yesterday. Um, and I full-heartedly believe it, you know, and I think that's something that we've always lived by. And even at the agency, you know, we tell our team all the time, like we're not in competition with any other agency.

We're not in competition with anyone we're in competition with ourselves. As long as we are better today than we were yesterday, then we're on the right path. Whether we fail, whether we, whether that campaign was great or not, whether whatever. As long as we're better today than we were yesterday, we're on the right path.

Chris: [00:17:59] Because it's so easy, easy to look to the left and look to the right and either feel like, really good about yourself.

And so that makes you kind of calm down a little bit and maybe not push as hard, or it makes you. Like really discouraged. And you say, man, look at what all these other people are doing. And I'm not anywhere near that. But I think a follow up question would be, you know, what, what is the litmus test for you guys to keep going?

If it's an internal look to say, we want to be improving upon ourselves. Like, like how do you know that that's actually happening? What's the gauge for you?

Gil: [00:18:36] There's always some form of metric. Right? Did it work? Do we feel proud of it? I think our, our, our biggest metric is, is this something that we could be proud of?

Um, and looking back, realizing you're always gonna, it's like your first song. Right? And then the moment you're so stoked about it, and it was the best song you're going to be YouTube and Coldplay all put together into one. Right. And then you look back at it four years later and you're like, Oh no, I wasn't that good.

You know, um, we've built things and we've made things and we've shot things that in the moment we're like, man, this is so good. I'm so proud of it. And to a certain degree, you gotta be okay with that. You know, you're always going to be your worst critic. Um, and to another degree you look back at it and you're like, I see I would have done that so differently.

Know knowing what I know now. Um, so I think our. Our measure for success in that if I can make it like a blanket statement would be, we need to be proud of what we do. Um, and to tell you the truth, we're not always, you know, because there are, there are other stakeholders involved. All right. Um, you know, that there's clients involved, there's, there's third parties involved, you know, there's, there's all kinds of people that are involved in the process of what you do.

So you do your best to fight for the product. You do your best to fight for what you believe in. Um, is going to give the client or the business, the best outcome possible, but at the end of the day, paid to perform a service. So yeah, it's in the way that you position what you do and in the way it's in the way that, that, that, that you deliver and you pitch the ideas, et cetera, et cetera.

But, you know, it's, we lose that battle all the time. You know, like to be fully transparent with you. We lose that battle a lot, you know? Um, and sometimes we win and, you know, the, the ironic part is that. You lose that battle sometimes. And sometimes it takes a completely different direction, a different shape, and it works out for the better.

Um, so a lot of it's your own ego, trying to keep your idea in play and trying to keep your, your thing in trying to get your thing out there. And then when you let go of that ego and you realize that once it's out there, it's no longer yours. It doesn't even matter, you know, you did your job, you do what you set out to do.

It's out there now. And now it's, it's, you know, it's the market that will tell you whether it, whether it worked or not, whether it's good, quote, unquote good or not. But, um, I think Gary V says this all the time that you can't drink your own Koolaid. You know, like you, you have to be, you have to be in the middle.

All the time. You can't listen to your critics and you can't listen to your fans, either. The people that say that you're super great. You can't listen to them either, because then you're going to drink your own Kool-Aid and you're going to think that you are great. And then that's when you start slowing down and you start resting and you start stop growing because you're not, you know, no longer have that chip on your shoulder.

So, yeah, man, um, I think at the, at the end of the day, If, if I can condense it down to it, like boil it down to one thing, it would be like getting home, I think, in the mirror and saying, I'm proud of what I did today. You know, and there are days that I'm not right, but as long as there aren't too many days like that in a row, um, I'm heading in the right direction.

Um, so I want to make sure that there are more days that I get home and I'm like, man, today was tough and you know, it probably sucks, but I'm proud of what I did today. I'm proud of the fight that I fought today. I'm proud of, you know, the stuff that we put out today. Um, and we lost them and we won some, but, but I'm proud of it.
And I think at the end of the day, that's, that's what we, that's what we all want.

Chris: [00:22:33] And, the creative process is, is such a fight. It is, it's such a battle and, you know, having written songs and done other creative. You know, ventures with whatever it is that I've been doing. Um, like I have found, I don't necessarily like the journey, but, but I love the outcome, you know, like there's a, a songwriter who said I don't like writing songs.

I like having written songs, you know, like being able to look back and go like, yeah, I made this thing, you know? So in a lot of ways, yeah. It's like that creative struggle and even feeling like you're losing and then sometimes looking back and going, yeah, it wasn't that as big of a loss, as I thought it was, you know, like it's actually not bad, you know?

Cause the creative process is like, you start here and you're like, this is amazing. And then you look at it the next day and you're like, wow, this is the worst thing ever. I shouldn't even be doing design at all. Like, I don't know why anybody pays me and then you start like stair stepping up a little bit, you know?

So what, what, what keeps you going on those days that you just feel like now we missed it and I don't know how I'm going to stick with this very much.

Gil: [00:23:46] I mean, you're, you're absolutely right. Right. My, my wife tells me this all the time that she doesn't understand. She doesn't understand what I do. She doesn't understand how I'm able to like, maintain.

Like w my sanity, because I told my wife everything, obviously she's my wife. And, um, you know, like in the same day, especially lately, right? Like Mo like more lately, late lately, it's just been quantified by a hundred, but in the same day, I'll be like, Oh my gosh, like, I am the worst at this.

Chris: [00:24:22] Yeah.

Gil: [00:24:23] It's like, like to your point, I am the worst.

At this. And then literally in that same day, I'm like, I got it. I'm a frickin genius, man.

You know, I'm unstoppable. Like, dude, like this is so great. This is such a genius idea. And then immediately in the next 30 minutes, it's like, what was I thinking? You know, I'm an idiot. Oh my gosh. And it's just such a roller coaster ride.

I, um, I love like, I love hearing other people's stories and that's like, uh, one of the reasons why I started that, that one podcast I was telling you about the secondhand wisdom podcast is because, um, I have, I've always, people have always come to me for advice, you know, and it's something that I, and I don't say that to toot my own horn or anything like that.

It's just, it's always, I don't know if it's because I'm the older child. I honestly, I don't know, but I've always been that guy with my family, with, with, with, um, you know, circles of friends with a church, whatever. Right. Like I've always, I've always had people coming to me for advice and. I've always felt that the wisdom that I am able to give comes from elsewhere, and I'm not even talking like a spiritual author, I'm talking about literally like someone else.

Right. So I'm always quoting someone else and stuff that I've heard and stuff that I've listened to, stuff that I've learned from someone else. Um, and it's always, it's always been that. So for me, like, Gaining that knowledge from someone else and learning from all these different people. Um, I, I find it fascinating because we live in an age where that's so readily accessible to us.

Right. Like, it's just, so there all the time, like if you imagined back in the day, wanting to listen to Brett Farb for four, for an hour, you couldn't. Right. You couldn't, unless you knew him. I just listened to Tom Brady for an hour on a podcast. You know what I mean? Like I, I imagine listening to Rockefeller, like give, give examples of what he does and give a speech and, and, and being just so like repeatable all the time, back in the day, you couldn't do that.

But yet we, we can listen to Damon John, all day. We can listen to Gary V whenever we want. We can listen to them, all of these, like Uber, successful entrepreneurs and business people that are so generous with their advice and their wisdom. Um, so. The way that I, I, um, am able to stay in there is because I realized that the one common denominator, and again, I don't know Jack squat about football, American football, but the one common denominator, all of that, that, uh, all great quarterbacks have, as far as I've I've heard.

And I've learned is their ability to stay calm under pressure. Right. Their ability to stay in the pocket when, when the game's on the line, when, when, you know, when just the craps hitting the fan everywhere, your ability to stay calm and your ability to stay in there. I mean, it's the Jordan, the Jordan documentary is a perfect example of this, right?

When would we ever have been able to see something like that? Like back in the day, we wouldn't have been able to do that. These dudes shot that throughout, like all of that. And it was just released now. So we're able to see like Jordan in his composure and his like desire to just like stay calm and just like his ice cold demeanor when taking game-winning shots, you know?

And they ask him like, like how, how are you? So like, are you nervous? Like where are you? Where are you afraid of that shot? Because anyone. Any other human being would be pooping their pants, right. You'd be crapping your pants at the thought of, I make this I'm a legend and I'm a hero. I think this, and I will be hated right.

Yet he does it and he does it so effortlessly. And then he says in the interview, like, why would I be afraid of something that hasn't even happened yet? Why would I be afraid of a shot that I haven't even taken yet? And I was just like, my mom's like, right, because you're like, dude, like, that's it. That's, that's the secret.

It's just that, that calmness, that, that this could go either way trust in your preparation trust, in what you know. So it's almost, it feels arrogant in a sense, you know, it feels cocky in a sense, but you have experienced, I have experienced. We have to trust that experience. And is, is it going to be enough to get us through this time?

Sure. Maybe, you know, maybe not, but, but regardless of whether it is, or if it's not, that's what we have, you know, and, and we have to use, we can only use what we have. So there's no sense in, in panicking and, and, and, and worrying and jumping ship early. Um, when. What we're, what we're afraid of hasn't even happened yet.

Chris: [00:29:45] For Me like I have to make the decision before it happens, you know, because if, if I'm making the decision in the middle of the moment, I'm always going to choose incorrectly. And, and so knowing like, Hey, I'm working on this project. There will be plenty of moments where I feel like throwing my computer against the wall and forgetting it altogether.

And so when that moment come, I've got it. I've got to stay cool. I've got to stay calm. And more importantly, I I've just got to keep, you know, um, cause it's it's when you stop short that. You kind of do a disservice to the creative process because that's kind of the beauty of the creative process. I talk about this with, um, the director that I work with with the company I'm at right now, like, you know, struggle is all a part of it.

So if you, if you can like learn. To love that struggle. Like you can save yourself so much heartache of like questioning yourself and questioning whether or not you're crazy and all that stuff. I'm just going, ah, this is just a part of being a creative person, you know?

Gil: [00:31:00] That's so true. Because if, if you feel that it's something that's happening to you, right?

Like an almost like life is attacking you. Um, you're going to be offended. You know, you're going to go on like on defense, right? You're you're going to react to that. But if you take it as a part of the process, that's meant that that's already like ordained. This is how it goes. You're going to have bumps.

You're going to have issues then it's just, it's you, you roll with it. You're able to roll with it. Better.

Chris: [00:31:34] I think another part of the creative process that is difficult as something you've mentioned is, is you've like, if you're going to get bigger than yourself, And even if you're not bigger than just yourself, you've got clients that you've got to work with. You know, you're going to have other people that are speaking into it.

And so talk about how you navigate that with clients, with team members, with people that are working for you. How, how do you keep your agency? You know, all. Copacetic and friends and not hating each other because you've got a difference of opinions on the best way to do a project. But at the same time, still always fighting for that top level creativity.

Gil: [00:32:16] It starts at the onset, right? It starts at hiring the right people. Um, we have a, we have a saying that we say, uh, when you surround yourself with great people, great things are bound to happen, right? Horschel do you know? That is Horsham. He was a CEO, a Ritz Carlton. He was one of the founders. Oh yeah. Um, we had the, we had the, we had the privilege of working on one of his projects and, um, through working on this project, I struck a relationship, struggled a relationship with him, um, to the point where like every, every now and then he'll like call me.

And I always, literally, I always like, like. Get freaked out when I see his name on my phone, you know, and he says this all, all, all the time, that when, when you have, when you have a mission and you have a vision, you have clear direction or where you're going, um, everything. And also it's just something to overcome on the way to on, on the way.

I know on your journey to getting to where you're going. So he makes the, he makes the analogy of you as the boss or the CEO. You're the bus driver. Um, and you pull up and then you ask someone we're heading over here. We're heading to, we're heading to the park. Um, do you want to go to the park? Is that some, is that somewhere that you feel that you would want to go right now in your life and in your, in, in your journey, does that fit with your life?

If the answer is no, no harm, no foul. That's not, that's not a big deal. That's just doesn't fit with your life. It's not anybody's fault. That's just doesn't fit with where you're going right now. Great. Awesome. Thank you for telling me if the answer is yes. Awesome. Come onto the bus. Let's go. This is where we're headed.

So I learned the hard way that immediately you have to communicate clearly where you're going and what the purpose of what you're doing is once you do that, everything else aligns behind that. Once you do that, you give not only your team, but you give your, you give every task, a purpose, um, everything from, uh, you know, um, from doing a project for Disney to responding to an email to so-and-so, right?

Like everything has a purpose because everything is leading us to that point to where our destination is. Um, and when you align behind that, everything else is just something to overcome. So the way that we handle. Um, that, you know, in creativity, you're all in creativity. You're always going to have egos, right?

You're always going to have, this is my idea. This is my idea. This is what I want. This is what should be, this is what we should do. And you're always going to have a difference of opinion. We handle it. Um, and you know, again, not to toot my own horn, but we, we handle it. Well, as opposed to a lot of places that I've been at and a lot of places that are.

And even today that, uh, that I, I look at and I attribute that again to the second hand wisdom from people that, that, um, has spoken into my life and into our lives. And the way that we do that is one assuming best intention from someone. Right. Always assume best intentions. If we, if, if, if I did my job, right.

And I, and I build a team and hire people that truly care about their job and truly care about what they do and they have best intentions in mind and they are professionals and they are, they are creative. Great. We're all a team of great. Yeah. Let's just assume facts, right? Not our emotions, not what we feel.

That's center ourselves in facts. We're all great creatives. We all are professionals. We are all good at what we do. No. Are you there? Cool. Awesome. We are. We're all in that, on that same boat. We're all in that circle. Now we have difference of opinion. So number one, realizing that, um, and, and honestly like training your mind to assume positive intent, always.

So when someone speaks to you, it is signs that trick us saying you're trying to attack me. You think I suck you think my idea sucks and therefore you think that I suck, you know, and we get offended. That's that's our egos talking. That's our, our, our, our mind tricking us into, you know, diff being defensive about something.

But if you assume positive intent, you start to realize you don't, it's not that you think I suck it's that you think that there is a better way of doing this. And if I am a true professional dedicated to learning and growing, then I want to hear all of the ideas, because it's not about my idea. It's not about, it's not about your idea.

It's about the best idea for this call and marrying art and, um, And the business of design, marrying those things, those two things together, it's not easy. You're going to have diff differences of opinion, but at the end of the day, if we have our client's best intentions, uh, or, or client's best, uh, outcome in mind, then we are all going to align behind.

The best way to approach and tackle this problem, the solution it's no longer, what do I think it's no longer what I want and what I think it's about. What's going to work and what's going to get us not only us as a team ahead, but get our clients ahead as well. Um, so it's really important to hire the right kind of people and to make sure that, that you are, um, aligning yourself with likeminded people, um, not, not.

Not re not a, like, not a yes, people, but people that are willing to challenge you. Um, and at the same time, their objective is the same as yours, which is to get to where we're going. We want, we want to go here. This is where we're headed, and this is what's gonna get us there. So when you align with people like that, you're still going to have the arguments.

You're still going to have the disagreements. But they're all going to be for a purpose. And at the end of the day, you realize that you're not trying to it's personal, but you can't take it personally. Right.

It's not a personal attack. And, um, that's something that I had to learn the hard way. I thought I thought that, that my, my identity was in the design work that I did.
So. If, if someone didn't like it, it meant that they didn't like me. And then it meant that I sucked and I realized the hard way. That's not, it's not true.

Chris: [00:38:56] For myself, most of the time when there's conflict, it comes from my own insecurity. Personally, you know, like more times than not, it is not because of something someone else did or said, it's not because a client is being a jerk, even though like, you know, especially in the business world with, with agencies, especially with freelancers, like there's all of these running jokes about, you know, the stupid demands of a client, you know, like there's the, the, the, make it pop button on Photoshop or make the logo bigger or whatever.

Like, yeah. And those are funny and we can all kind of relate to it. But at the end of the day, it's like, that's kind of just an excuse to not really look inward and to try to figure out what are they asking? Why are they, why are they, why don't they feel like it, that what you're giving them pops, you know, like, like digging into that, taking the.

The own, your own responsibility for why, what you're giving isn't meeting an expectation.

Gil: [00:39:59] And setting that expectation clearly up front, right? Like I think when, and this is another lesson that I learned the hard way, um, uh, I think Chris DOE talks about. It gives the analogy of a mechanic. And, um, he says, you take your car to a mechanic and you say, Hey, Mr. Mechanic, or, um, my, my transmission is shot and I need a new transmission. That's why it's making the sound. And the mechanic says, okay. And he swaps out your transmission, right. And then you drive your car off and it still makes the same sounds. It has the same problems. Then you're mad and you go back to the, to the mechanic who's fault.

Is it, is it the client's fault because they, they told you was drunk or is it the mechanic's fault for not doing his due diligence and doing his job? And we are the same way as designers and the strategists. Right? When someone comes to me and says, I need a new logo, it's my duty. And it's my job to say why what's wrong with your current logo?

And what's the point. Of having a logo for you. You know what I mean? Like, why do you want a better, a better logo? Why do you want a more modern logo? Um, then so having the strategy behind what you do is incredibly important because then you move away from the. Make this pop conversations, we move away from make this bigger, make this smaller and the conversations, or how is this going to work?

How is this going to achieve my business objectives? How is this going to, how is this going to, uh, um, um, Push my business forward, you know, um, early on, I always had those conversations make this bigger, make this red, this red isn't really red. It looks more pink than red. You know, I'm like, Oh my gosh, that can't be more red than what it currently is, you know, literally the RGB for red.

Um, and, and it's just like, it's like, When, once you start centering yourself in strategy and cinching yourself on the purpose and the why behind why you're designing something, you move away from those conversations. Um, you start, you start talking about business objectives and not just what I like, because you start realizing what you like.

Doesn't really matter. You know what I like it doesn't, that's not what matters is what's going to work. And again, art and, and. Like the business of design, right. Design and art. There's two big differences. And both of them have a function in our lives. And both of them are very, very important. We try to marry the two, which is literally, I personally sometimes feel like it's, what is it like oil and water?

Like, do they just don't go. Um, but. But in that fight in that tension is where I find the joy of what I do, because when it does work, it's glorious, you know, it's beautiful. And I love it. And when it doesn't, it's sometimes it's heartbreaking and sometimes it is what it is. Um, But, but yeah, you, you have to get away from those as a designer, you have to get away from those conversations.

Um, because if you're having this kind of, if you're already having those kinds of conversations, you did something wrong 10 steps ago, you know, and, and, uh, there's no going back, unfortunately, at least not that I know. Um, there's no easy way of going back, um, backwards. You're already there. You might as well, you know, do the job, do the best that you can and move on, learn and move onto the next one

Chris: [00:43:33] Yeah, that's great. You've mentioned quite a bit, the idea of, of marrying the creative and the practical, the business side of things, and, and I've known ton of people who are, are more of the creative side. Where, you know, they, they stand by their art and they're like, I'm not changing it. This is what it is.

You don't even have to pay me. You know, even, even though you commissioned this piece, like if you don't want it, then don't take it. And I'm just going to keep it in, hanging up in my house or whatever. Um, you know, and then there's the other side of the people who, you know, like, you look at them, you look at the agencies that they've built and you, you look at the work that they have and I'm in.

You're like how, who is paying you, you know? But they've, they've figured out a way to to market themselves and, and reach the right people and do the things that those, those people are are, are needing. And so it's a really unique mindset to have both the creative as a priority and the practical, the, the business making sure, you know, cause nobody takes a website and like frames it and puts it above their fireplace.

You know, like that's not the real goal.

Gil: [00:44:44] I've heard people say this a lot. And I can't remember who said it, but like when, when the common person can't tell when, when they're looking at good design, but the common person can tell when they're looking at bad design. Um, so like good design often goes unnoticed.

You know, and it just kind of, it functions as it should and it, and it feels as it should. Um, and it's not distracting from the overall objective of what you're doing. Right. And the conversation really is the difference between art and design, right? Because the guy that doesn't want to sell. His piece or his painting, because someone asked him to change it.

That's art and there's a place for that in our lives. Uh, I, I, I admire that and there's ton of art that I'm like, don't change it. Screw you. You shouldn't change it if you don't want to. And because it's your art that that's who you are, right. Design is, is it, it serves a function. There there's a function for it.

There's a purpose, a different kind of purpose for it. Art is an expression. It's a, it's an inner expression and it's, it's subject to interpretation, right? Like something that's awesome to, you might not be awesome to me. Right. And something that's awesome to me, you might be like, wow, that's. Super ugly.

You know, like I would never buy that. I would never pay for that. Um, design is a little different in the, in the sense that design has a business objective. Um, it, it, there, there is a purpose and a function behind it. And when you're talking about the kind of design that we do, especially in web design and, and marketing and branding and all that stuff, there's a, there's a business objective nine out of 10 times, I find it very difficult.

To find an example where there wasn't an actual business objective to a design. No one in business just says, Hey, make me something pretty. Just because I want you to make something pretty. It's usually for a reason, right? It's usually like, make me something pretty because I want more eyeballs. On my business or on, on my product or on this campaign, make me something stand out because I will, I want X, Y, and Z.

There's always something, right. When art on the other hand is I'm making something, I'm making something beautiful. Well, because I want to make something beautiful because I want to express myself in this way. Um, I learned the difference between those two, the hard way.

Chris: [00:47:03] Well, one final question and just want to thank you for the conversation such good insight then, but, um, you know, and you've mentioned yeah.

Having worked with, and for some, yeah. Some really amazing clients in, so I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who are just wondering, how, how do you, how do you land the Disneys? How do you land the Ritz? Carltons how do you, how, how does that happen? Is it, do they just knock on your door one day or was there a.

The strategic process for getting there.

Gil: [00:47:32] Um, you know, I'd like to, the cool answer in my mind is like, dude, they, they found us because I'm super creative and they noticed my work somewhere, and it's all because of me. And I'm awesome. The honest answer is no. Um, it's, it's, it's planting seeds. Right. And I heard a, again, I heard someone else say that, um, TD Jakes said this, uh, you know, TD Jakes, we were listening to him.

So TD Jakes said this. He said, it's, it's asinine to think that you can plant a seed and watch it and expect immediate results. Right. You plant to seed and you water it and you wait and you water it and you wait and you water it and you wait. And eventually. You will get results from that seed, right?

It's the same way that you can't do you, you, you can't do six sit-ups 20 steps, a hundred setups, and then expect to have a six pack. Right. It's gradual growth. So I, so I see. And so I hear, cause I don't have one, but as far as I know, that's how you do it. You, you, um, it's gradual, it's continual, right. But you continue to plant those seeds.

Man. I'm getting clients like Lionsgate gate and Disney and, and you know, all these kinds of clients. It wasn't the way that I envisioned it in my mind. I originally thought I'm going to make something great and someone's going to notice it. And then they're just going to say, wow, I want to work with that guy.

And they're going to find me, and they're going to say Gil, we need you. We need you to save the day. You know, it wasn't like that. It was relationships. Um, it was the fact that we were really good to someone that was a low, low level employee at one business. And we, we, we, we planted that seed and we worked really hard for this guy and he got promoted and then he got a job somewhere else and landed somewhere else and then went somewhere else and finally landed at this amazing fortune 500 company and said, I know the guys, I know these guys and they're great.

And they do good work and they treat people well, you know? Um, so at the end of the day, As much as I'd like to say, it's my creativity. That's gotten us to where we are. It's not it's, it's the relationships that we've built. It's it's um, it's just the effort that you put into the human interactions and the little thing again, when you focus on, on where you're going, right.

Everything, everything matters. The way that you write emails, the way that you respond to emails, the way that the way that you do X, Y, and Z, and you're not going to succeed at all those things, but you have to try, you have to keep trying it getting better at everything that you do. So for us, it was for me in particular, it was about building those relationships.

Um, and that coupled with the fact that my strategy for sales has always been the same. Um, when I started as a designer, I went. I went and knocked on every business that I could on the door of every business that I could. Um, I got nosed nine out of 10 times. Right. And it was always, it was, you know, it, it, it was hurtful.

I mean, it wasn't fun. Right. Getting told to get out or like, no, I don't need this right now or, or no, you know, You're not good enough or whatever, it, it's not fun. Um, but yeah, I knew that eventually I'd get a yes, you know, and eventually someone would have to listen to me. Um, we didn't have those relationships growing up.

We, we, we were never in the circle. We were never, we never had a seat at the table, so we kind of had to do it ourselves. Um, and the way we did that was. By literally finding people, executives that work for these companies and trying to put ourselves in front of these people as much as we could and saying, you know, continuing, continually trying to bring value to them and say, listen, man, like we're here.

You know, um, you know, that work that they don't, that this big agency doesn't want to do, we'll do it and we will do it. Like so freaking good dude. Like you would be shocked at how amazing our mailers are going to be. You know, like they don't want to do mailers. We will do them dude and we will do them so well, you know, we're going to like, we're going to knock it out of the park for you.

These mailers are going to be the best that you've ever seen, et cetera, et cetera. And really just owning that and knocking on doors and waiting. You know, planting that seed and waiting and waiting. And I can tell you right now, um, you know, it took years for us to get. To get, uh, um, those kinds of clients.

And it's still, I mean, we're still, we're literally still waiting on, on some other clients. I've flown to New York on our own time, multiple times and being been stood up by, you know, Companies that will, I will not name right now, but you know, I've been stood up multiple times and literally in the lobby and this person is saying, Oh, he can't meet with you anymore.

Um, can we just schedule? And I'm like, sure, I just paid a thousand dollars for this flight or whatever. Cool. No worries. Um, and then having to do it again and again and again, um, And again, man, it's staying in there, you know, staying calm, you know, not letting your emotions get the better cause you can get pissed and you, you, you can, and you should, but you shouldn't let her get the best of you.

You gotta stay in there. Um, because if you, if you know where you're going and you know where you're headed, all of these things, the way just as just like horse edit, all of these things are things to
overcome. They're not things that you're supposed to succumb to their things overcome.

Chris: [00:53:27] Thank you so much for being on the podcast, man.

Gil: [00:53:30] Pleasure, man.

Chris: [00:53:31] If people are trying to find you, I know you've got multiple podcasts that you're part of, um, where would they go?

Gil: [00:53:37] Um, yeah, I do. I have too many, um, uh, you can just look me up on Instagram. I mainly only do Instagram. Um, I'm not a fan of Facebook. Um, so I mainly do an Instagram. You can look me up.

Uh, um, my handle is at the Gil Sandoval and yeah, you can go see Gil Check out my agency, uh, Sandoval Tom.

Thanks again for being on the show. Hope to have you on again in the future.

Yeah, my pleasure, man. Thank you for having me. Thank you.

Chris: [00:54:04] Man such awesome tips and insight from Mr. Gill Sandoval. I can honestly say that I have benefited from his advice for a long time, and I'm happy that he's been able to share some words of wisdom. With you. And if anything else, I just want to encourage you. Nobody starts out being super creative with their designs. Nobody starts out as a web designer doing amazing work.

I look back at the sites that I built six years ago. I cried a little bit. Okay. It's a great we're rolling process. So go easy on yourself. But at the same time, always challenge to take it up one notch on every project. If you do that, if you stay focused, if you stay consistent, you will one day get to the level of working for places like Disney and lion's gate and universal.

It just takes time and effort. Hey, we've got another great episode happening next. Week. It's going to be fun. It's going to be fantastic. Are you going to stay up with me to listen at 12:00 AM Wednesday night? I hope you are because that's what I'm doing. We're throwing a party. It's a episode launch party every week happening in here.
Okay. Have a good week. Don't forget if you don't quit, you win.

How to Be More Creative as a Web Designer || A man with paint on his hands to express creativity


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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