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Jack – The Escape Hatch Student Interview

Mashon: All right. So I’m here with Jack who was one of the earliest students to go through The Escape Hatch and just catching up with him a little bit today to see how his freelancing career is going. Jack, where are you these days?

Jack: So I am mostly based in LA, but I’m currently in San Diego. And then a month from now I’m heading out to Flagstaff Arizona for a month.

Mashon: Nice. Yeah, it’s cool to, even though the pandemic is going on right now, you have the freedom to get away to some spaces that are outdoorsy and not be stuck in your home office all the time. So let’s talk a little bit about your background. What did you do before you got into freelancing?

Jack: Yeah, so I am originally from San Diego, which is where my family is and I went to college for about a year and a half, and then it just wasn’t really for me. I dropped out and I wound up going to music school in LA and I did the music production DJ thing, did some random gigs on the side, I did a little bit of marketing stuff.

I worked for a company that did social media for a lot of the big EDM artists for a while. I was just like a lowly intern assistant person. So it wasn’t like a big deal. I also did kind of a smattering of random jobs as well as writing music for other people in DJing and stuff. And then I really caught the travel blog and got tired of driving Uber on the weekends and stuff to make money.

So I kind of started down the marketing rabbit hole, like, okay, I’m going to take an online course in marketing. And then, I wound up getting hired at a company, where one of the guys I worked with knew you because you’d worked there in years past. So he introduced me to your stuff.

Mashon: Yeah, that’s awesome. So like with making the jump from your last job, what drew you to freelancing? Why did you want to get into it?

Jack: Well, one, I wasn’t making very much money when I started out at that job. And, I didn’t want to play the corporate game of stick around and work for the next two years, and then maybe we’ll give you some more money, you know? And my coworker who knew you is an amazing freelancer and so I had him as an example and I already knew I wanted to travel so it was a natural progression.

Mashon: So you knew you pretty clearly that you wanted to be a freelancer, but what held you back from getting started?

Jack: Um, I think it was a couple of things. I think in terms of it was the fear and unknown around acquiring clients and then not only that but really keeping them and making them happy and having the knowledge to know how to do that. Right. And I think a big part of that, and this is like, what I think your course really helped with because you’ve worked in operations so you take an operation person’s approach.

Because you work with freelancers yourself, so you actually hire them all the time. So like, not only are you one yourself, but you’re like, ‘Yeah, I hate it when people do this or that,’ so you teach students not to do all that stuff. I mean, because of your course, I have every one of my clients all neatly set up with their own Google Drive folder, with things like their signed W9 in it. And I’m getting ready to send those out since it’s nearing tax time, come January and I’ll send them.

Mashon: Oh yeah. That’s cool. That actually goes into my next question. I was going to ask you about which parts of the course that you found the most useful and for you, it sounds like it was a lot of Module 5, which is actually how to manage once you’ve gotten the clients — things like that, setting up your financial spreadsheets and tracking and onboarding and separating things out for clients. So that you’re organized from the get-go because yeah, it’s very easy to just keep growing and you keep thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll organize later, organize later, organize later.’ And then you’re several years in your business and it’s just a mess — especially I think a lot of people deal with this come tax time and everything is just everywhere.

Jack: Yeah. So a lot of the value to me was everything from Module 5 in the beginning. And now I think now I’m starting to get at a point where I’m going to go back and get into the new client stuff more because I just was really good at getting word of mouth referrals.

So it’s like, I’m kind of starting to exhaust those original clients a bit. So now that I’m hitting that point where I have to move outside my network of people, how do I then move on to that next level? Right.

But for me, it was very much everything from like, okay, I got somebody on the hook, like what happens next? Right? Like that whole process, I still use your template contract. I still like, you know, I use Wave and I use Hello Sign. They all get an onboarding doc of expectations thanks to you. I’ve got my Calendly set up, And like, my client onboarding process is pretty much straight out of the course material in terms of how I do it.

So now it’s actually the time where I’m like, ‘Oh, I need to go back in and look at the client stuff and figure out, okay, now that I’m growing the business and I’m at a certain point where I’m at now, like how do I take it to the next level? How do I keep scaling and figure that out?’

Mashon: That’s very cool. And that brings up something … I tried to break the modules into almost like standalone pieces as well. You don’t need to go through all of them if a module is not for you, which it sounds like you skipped over the one on how to get clients and mostly went to the stuff that you needed because you already had clients.

And I will be trying to go back and add a lot more actually to the chapter, the module that you’re talking about because so many ideas just keep coming to me. So in the next six months, I’m going to be working on updating those as well, and adding in a ton of more tools that I’ve found that are really helpful and hopefully some more templates on how to, how to actually organize things for clients.

Mashon: And so since you’ve been freelancing, I’m curious, how has your, how has your client experience gone? Like, have you had mostly good clients? Have you had some really crappy clients?

I tried really hard in the course to have students structure things so that they’re getting those good clients and they’re so organized that their clients like working with them and they don’t have to run out and do a lot of acquisition. But how have your clients been?

Jack: They’ve mostly been positive and you know, between the course and then having had my job, it’s like, if anybody seemed like they’d be a nightmare, I just don’t work with them. Like, um, my first client was a little difficult in that he’s kinda like scattered and he likes to call me at like 9:00 PM on a Friday.

Mashon: Uh oh, looks like you need to go back to the setting expectations lesson haha!

Jack: Haha! It’s just a crazy restaurant or guy, but otherwise, like most of my clients have been amazing and he was just a one-time project guy. But for the rest of the clients it’s been really good so far. Everybody’s been super happy. I’m communicative, my retention is really good. I haven’t had any real nightmare clients or anything like that.

Mashon: Good! Let’s keep it that way. Yeah. And actually, I forgot about this, but let’s tell people what you do. Like what type of services are you doing?

Jack: Marketing consultant. My specialty is SEO, but also pretty much any kind of digital marketing from email to Google ads, to Facebook ads, pretty much anything in that space. Like some light web design stuff. I’m not really a coder, but you know, I can help facilitate that process.

One of my clients is actually my dogs’ breeder, uh, who needed a new website. Oh man, you should have seen her old website. It looked straight out of 1999, complete with a little Jesus quote at the bottom and everything. It was gloriously 90s!

But now we got her on a beautiful new Squarespace site and I’ve helped train her up on how to manage it herself. And I set it up so that it’d be pretty plug and play for her and did the whole keyword research and got her on Google My Business and all that stuff. But the bulk of what I do is both SEO consultation and then also the implementation of stuff all around the digital marketing space.

Mashon: Can you tell us whatever you’re comfortable with sharing around any financial milestones since you’ve started freelancing, whether it’s like landing a $5,000 client or landing your first $1000 or making$10 grand a month, whatever you want to share.

Jack: Yeah. So, when I started out, I was making $30K a year at my old job plus benefits. So I was living in Southern California, even living rent-free at my mom’s I was very broke. But just a few months after I decided to go freelance I got my first client at a $100 dollars an hour.

Mashon: Wow, that’s like …. I don’t know too many people who’ve done that! I didn’t even do that. Like straight out of the gate, a hundred bucks an hour. That is amazing!

Jack: Now I’m charging about $150 an hour. I gradually ratcheted up. I kind of want to raise it a bit more, but I’m pretty happy where I’m at. Honestly, I want to raise it to $200 an hour just cause I hate the -50 ending. ‘Cause, it’s not evenly divisible, you know, which is really annoying to do math stuff.

Mashon: So you started freelancing while you were still working, right? Which is a really good way to go for some people.

Jack: Yeah, so I was making like a couple grand a month on the side, usually, like with different clients. I had one main client bringing in $1000 and then $1500 and some other smattering of stuff. So I’d make, you know, $1500 to $3K on the side.

So I did get a raise at work and then in August, which was my one-year anniversary at that job, I signed a big new recurring client at $5K a month.

So that shot me up to like $13,000 that month between freelancing and my job. And that’s when I was like, ‘Hey, okay, this one client is the same as what I make at my day job. And I have to work a fraction of the time.’

So before leaving the compnay I was like, ‘Hey, you know I’d love to move up the ranks.’ And they were pretty much like, ‘You’ve gotta wax on wax off, put your time in.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m good. Bye!’

Mashon: So that’s really cool that you were able to start doing this on the side while working there. And that brings me to another thing I want to ask. A lot of people struggle with getting into freelancing because it can seem really unstable in terms of the income that’s coming in. When you’re used to getting a paycheck every two weeks, it’s just easy, right? To stay with a corporate job. So how have you felt since you started freelancing? Has there been that kind of rollercoaster of stress or have you just felt pretty good because you’ve got multiple sources of income?

Jack: Um, pretty good overall. There’s been just a little bit of like my big 5k client, we just re-negotiated. Like we just went through like, ‘Okay, how long are we going to go on at $5K/month?’

Because the end result for them is I want to train their team and may stay on in a consulting role.

But eventually, I’ve got to replace that with income from another client. But that chat went well and I’ve got at least another three to six months with pretty much where I’m at right now and time to plan to bring in a new client.

I’m still making generally like $7K a month. Also, I’m pretty flexible. Like if my income goes down then like, okay, I just go live somewhere cheaper for a little while. You know? Or like I’ll just really focus on client acquisition. For me, it’s been pretty stable.

But it’s like the nice thing about freelancing is — let’s compare it to like when I was driving Uber, right? Doing Uber would take me at least eight hours to make $150 bucks. If not longer, let’s say 8 to 12 hours, right?

Now, I can spend an entire day sitting in my house in my underwear to find one client for one hour of work and make the same amount of money. And so for me, it’s less about the amount of money it’s more about, okay, I can do this on my own terms, but I don’t have to sit behind a fricking car wheel driving around sweaty actors farting in my backseat. For me, it’s, that’s the win right there.

Mashon: So tell everyone a little bit about how you got into digital marketing and what kind of experience you had in that beforehand.

Jack: Yeah. So obviously I’d done a little bit of stuff for myself, in terms of my own artist projects and things like that. And then I’d done some intern and assistant work in the social media space and stuff. Then I did an online program called springboard and I’d taken some college communications classes, but I was by no means like an expert, you know, which is why I got hired as, uh, as a digital marketing assistant, you know, which is like the lowest of the lot.

And really it was meeting my coworker and he helped train me up and he’d be like, ‘Go read these things,’ and I’d go religiously read all of it.

And he was like, you should know about Mashon, go take her course. And I go and read all of that. You know? So it’s like, I applied myself and I was like, busting my ass for a very long time.

But it’s like, because of that, I still got going real quick, you know, and I became pretty expert level pretty fast, but I was by no means an expert starting out. I just, you know, found people better than me and listened to them and did the work, you know?

And like, that’s the biggest thing right there. It’s like, you can go to Google university and figure out whatever you want. But especially finding someone that has some idea of what you’re doing in your space is infinitely valuable.

Mashon: Let’s also touch on another thing that a lot of people have, which is just that aspect of sitting on the fence. They’re wanting to start freelancing. They think they might be ready. They’re just not sure. They’re maybe worried they don’t have any skills. So like what would you say to somebody right now who is interested in starting freelancing?

Jack: The real question they need to ask themselves is what game do they want to be playing? Right. Like in life, it’s all to some degree, more or less a game of like what kind of game do you want to be playing?

That is why I left my last job you know. It wasn’t a great paying job, but it wasn’t terribly difficult. And I was really good at it. And it was a pretty easy, cushy, comfy job, very secure in the middle of a pandemic. But for me, I didn’t want to play the corporate job. I didn’t want to play that game.

I wanted to go play the freelance entrepreneur game. Right? And it’s like, I think for people that are on the fence, it’s got to be like, ‘Okay, what is most important to you?’ If you want to have the two-car garage and like, you know, 2.5 kids, and like stability every single month and like never having to worry about client acquisition, then surely the employee route looks good. And if you want to play that corporate politics game and don’t mind having to brown nose, your boss and stuff like that. That’s fine.

But for anyone that’s like, I want to travel. I want to live and die by the sweat of my own work and effort and labor and bear the fruits of that toe, and someone that doesn’t want to have to deal with kissing someone’s butt just because they write their check every month. For me it was a resounding NO! I don’t want to play the corporate politics game. I don’t, I didn’t. And like, for me, that was the cue that like, okay, it’s time to get up and go.

And it’s like, if I can do it, most people probably can do it. You’ve just got to apply yourself. Right. So I would recommend people figure out what game they want to play and then play it. And if it’s like, if you’re worried about taking the risk and, and you’re not sure about it, then play a little bit of both. Like I did.

Mashon: Awesome! Well, thank you so much, Jack, for joining us and sharing a little bit about your experience! We’ll talk again soon!

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