For the second of our Nusii Interviews I spoke with Marketing Director Jake Jorgovan. Jake is an extremely talented guy who over the years has worn many hats...Today he's an author, teacher, mentor, illustrator, designer and much more. So grab a coffee, sit back and listen to Jake's story.
Nathan: Possibly one of the best ways to describe today's guest is as a "creator". Jake is an author, a marketing director, illustrator, teacher, coach, podcaster, ex-digital nomad...and I'm sure I could keep going. He's just published his book, The Creative's Guide to Freelancing and he's kindly taken the time to talk to us today.
How you doing Jake?
Jake: I'm doing pretty good, thanks for having me on Nathan.
Nathan: You have to tell me, how do you say your surname?
Jake: Jake Jorgovan
Nathan: OK. So, tell us a little bit about yourself and give us the overview of what you do.
Jake: So my name's Jake Jorgovan and my overarching theme is that I help creatives realise their potential and grow their income. I do that through working with creative companies by acting as their marketing director. I hop in and take the role of a freelance marketing director. The role spawned from years of working in web design, years as a videographer, doing copywriting and so many skills that evolved into this marketing director role. In addition to my main consulting I also run a blog at jake-jorgovan.com and on that blog I publish weekly, put a newsletter out there and am also building up a handful of products that are being promoted through the blog.
I'm building up a lot of products and a consulting business as well.
Nathan: So this all came as a natural progression, all of these areas that you'd worked with over the years. Helping others to be more successful?
Jake: Ye, I came to the realisation that over the years everything I was doing fit into this role of coaching and writing and putting a message out there. Helping other people came from learning all these skills, and also coaching other people and helping them start their businesses. All of that together just kind of formed into this crazy business that I have going right now.
Nathan: A lot of times, when we look at those who are successful we see all these products focused around the person. We automatically presume that this is the way it was always meant to be for them. We think it was part of a bigger plan. Was this always the way you planned on going, were you building something around yourself or was it a natural progression? How did your products and services begin life?
Jake: I have been an entrepreneur since I was very young. I actually started my first legitimate business when I was 19. I had a business partner in that and we started up a video production agency. It was really successful and we grew to a team of about 8 people...
Nathan: By the age of 19?
Jake: Ye, we didn't grow to that size until I was about 21 or 22, but we built up the business while I was still in school. Basically I had this agency, with incredible clients and an incredible portfolio and then conflicts arose between business partners who wanted more geographical freedom. I had to leave the company, it sucked to start over. To build this whole and then exit it left me feeling, "What now?" At that point I started to realise that I never wanted to start from scratch again. I realised that the best way to do that was to start building a business around myself. Building a consulting practice, building products that you own. I Started to build a whole series of offerings, services and products that surrounded myself. But all this definitely didn't' start how it looks today. I sit here today in this marketing director role, but when I started I had no idea. I was learning skills and figuring out any way I could get people to pay me for those skills. I kept learning more and kept improving until I grew. I got better clients and changed what I offered and morphed over time. It was not a clean easy path to where I am today. But it's been a natural evolution I guess.
Nathan: That's what I wanted to hear. I don't know anybody who's been able to successfully plan that far ahead and bring all those things together into a beautiful, harmonious collection of skills.
Jake: It takes screwing up a lot of stuff...When I interviewed you on the podcast you mentioned you screwed up some of your first offerings as well...
Nathan: Oh ye!
Jake: You screw up some along the way and that makes you better when you figure out the ones down the line which do work.
Nathan: You've delved into so many areas, creating all these different products and services around yourself. Nusii recently published a post about whether freelancers should specialise and focus on one area or whether they should be more generalist in their approach. Looking at what you're doing and what you've done, do you consider yourself to be a generalist or a specialist in any one area? In fact, can all of the areas that you've worked in be pushed towards one direction and give you expertise in that new area? How do you look at yourself in that respect?
Jake: I look at niches as more of a process of elimination. I guess you could look at me and think in someways I'm some what of a generalist, that's why I've now stepped into this marketing director's role. I'm a copywriter, I've got video skills, web, marketing and all these different things...Marketing director is hence a generalist role but I guess I didn't start here. When I started my freelance career I was a web designer and I was just learning. I was pretty bad at the time. I was doing anything that anyone would pay me for. But eventually I was doing Squarespace and WordPress design and I realised, I hate WordPress, so I quit doing that...and I started working exclusively with Squarespace.
If there are any web designers out they'll probably laugh at me about the fact that I made my living for about a full year from SquareSpace design. But I did and it became my niche. So for a period of time, Squarespace web design was my niche. But then I kind of got bored and started doing copywriting and marketing and started adding adding all these other services. I wasn't just a web designer, I was a full consultant that was writing the copy and literally doing everything on the site and that kind of branched out into marketing director, but now within that I'm starting to niche into the types of clients that I like. Like I said I work with creative companies, so generally people who are doing artistic things that are somewhat different or that are working among a creative community. That's kind of what my niche has become in terms of the marketing director. I've gone from niching the exact offering that I had to niching the audience that I'm serving, even though now I guess I'm even a more generalist in my offerings.
I think it's really about eliminating the stuff you don't like, to find your niche.
Nathan: When you were working as a Squarespace designer, and I guess you were promoting yourself as such, did you notice any difference in the number of leads that came through? I'm guessing that you were talking about your niche on your website in your copy? Did you market yourself as a Squarespace designer or a web designer? Did you notice any difference in the kind of people that were approaching you, and even the quantity of leads that were coming through?
Jake: Ye, the niching down to Squarespace helped a lot. When I was starting out and still doing work on Odesk, I actually became one of the top two search results for "Squarespace". So I was getting a barrage of leads and granted they weren't all high quality but I was getting some good leads and eventually I became a Squarespace specialist. Sites like Shopify and other platforms that promote certified specialists led to so many leads...I even did some guest blogging. I would basically go to WordPress sites and I would write posts about Squarespace vs. WordPress. I would help people to decide and make the right decision. I would post on these WordPress sites where people were going to learn about WordPress, but maybe wasn't the right choice for them. I got some clients that way too. Definitely getting focused on Squarespace led to a lot more growth, the growth trajectory was pretty substantial once I cut the WordPress stuff and started getting clearer on exactly what I offered and whom I offered it to.
Nathan: I know a lot of designers who are new to the game and are scared about cutting out the clients that they think they don't want. They think that if I say "I'm a Squarespace designer" as opposed to a web designer then surely I'm gonna land fewer clients. It's a scary thing to push the button and delete web designer from our copy and change it to whatever your speciality might be. In my own experience and that of other people I've found that the benefits have far outweighed any downside to niching down.
Jake: Ye, I think it's good, but I think some people try to force it. I think this happens among the less experienced freelancers. They'll try to force their niche and assume what the market wants, but I do think going general at first is beneficial. You have to figure out where people are going to want to hire.
Nathan: Coming forward a few years you've got your products, your books, video courses...Didn't you actually do some video training for Squarespace as well?
Jake: Ye, I've done some online books, some online courses and as an alternative revenue source Squarespace hired me to create a course for them to put out there as a free lead generation and training platform. That was an unsuspected side product that came from that whole relationship. But I've published my own book Which is the Creative's Guide to Freelancing, I have a course on Skillshare which is called Go+do: Start a creative project that matters, which is all about side projects and there's a free ebook on my site which is The Focused Creator. I have quite a few and more coming in the future.
Nathan: You now have an array of products and services, do you think it affects the way clients perceive you now as opposed to back in the earlier days when you were focusing on services?
Jake: Ye, the whole marketing director role that I'm in now is the complete result in me starting a blog and then starting to sell products through that blog. Whenever I go and talk to these clients I say "I do marketing" then they look at my website, they see I have a large online following, they see that I'm regularly putting out content and that I'm writing. Basically I'm using myself as a means to learn marketing, I'm able to practice on my own products, on my own site, on my own blog. It creates secondary revenue streams but it makes sense that I position myself as a marketing director because I'm showing that in action every day through my site.
Nathan: I remember when I first starting blogging I used to think that nobody would ever read what I was writing and that it wouldn't interest people. I think a lot of people who are starting in this world feel the same way. But it doesn't take long to build momentum, I remember people coming to me when I was still taking on projects saying, "I found you through this blog post and I liked what you had to say about this..." I can speak to the benefits of blogging, people will check it out. It can definitely generate work for you. A blog is a great way to show the way you work and the way your think. Don't you agree?
Jake: Ye, I use my blog as a way to teach what I learn. So whether it's learning from reading books, from video courses or from mentors or from just talking with other people. Whenever you learn something and then you teach it to someone else, it ingrains it deeper in your own habits and your own practice. Once you can put a blog post up saying "This is how you do this, or this is how I'm more productive", then you can't be a hypocrite. You think, "I've put up a blog post about this, so I have to live what I'm trying to teach". I think it does go a long way to improve your own abilities as well.
Nathan: I've actually got a couple of questions from some of the folks in The Nusii Room, this is Nusii's private customer community and Mojca Marš wanted to know, "How do you manage to juggle so many plates?" How do you manage your time when you have all these different projects on the go?
Jake: My first ebook "The focused Creator" is actually about my productivity system. I get very detailed and focused into quarterly goals. I try to only tackle one or two big jobs a quarter. I've got my client stuff, and then I have my book which was my big project this last quarter. My flow is the following, I wake up and I work on my own stuff for two hours, I work on writing, I work on new blog posts or editing part of my book or doing some action toward building my own personal brand. I basically always block out all my time in the morning. I don't take any client calls so I can really put my head down and focus on my own stuff. After those first two hours it becomes a hybrid mix of client work and my own stuff. That's kind of my general system, two hours every single morning adds up over time. It really does hit a point where if you do two hours every single morning, then within a few months you've got a book written or another month you've got a book edited. Tackling one project at a time, having that goal and that ship date that you aim toward. Making small, steady progress on it every day is what I've found gives me the ability to juggle so many different areas.
Nathan: Chipping away at that block, isn't it.
Jake: Ye, the client stuff demands that you have to continue to get paid but the harder part is to motivate yourself to keep going on your own projects that may or may not make money. Having that disciplined time every morning is what I've found keeps me focused and keeps me going towards building and shipping things.
Nathan: You're working more and more as a marketing director and you're working as a freelance marketing director, so I'm guessing that you're working with monthly retainers? My question is, and this came from Marcus in The Nusii Room; A lot of us struggle when we start freelancing to set up or negotiate any kind of retainer, which is obviously a fantastic way to guarantee recurring income. Are you working with retainers, do you have any experience with these?
Jake: Yes, everything I'm doing right now, and I have three clients, are all on marketing retainers. Those three clients are hitting my income goals. That was created out of the frustration of doing project based work for years. Even recently I hit a down month after years of doing this and doing a good job of marketing myself, but you still hit those famine months. It happened to me as I was moving back to the States, so I had all these moving expenses and I hardly had any time to do much. In the midst of this I had a "down" month. So I decided I wanted to change my model and basically focus on only offering retainers. So I started seeking out clients that had a lot of potential, that already had income. All the companies that I work with are small teams of two to five people, and basically the CEO is still doing all the marketing. Those were my ideal candidates because they're growing, they're doing well, they've got a service, they're making money, but they do all the marketing themselves. So having that target and hopping in...Normally retainers are hard, they're hard to offer to companies that are just getting started like startups that don't have that much money. However businesses that are rapidly growing are easier to offer a low retainer to get started. I offered a lower price point for that first month, but within that first month I dove in a did so much, I poured as much as I could into it and tried to provide a really good ROI. For example, with my first client I went in and sold a $1,500 month retainer which isn't very much, but within that first month I was able to generate $10,000 worth of revenue for them. When you can actually frame the value that you're creating in dollars, it makes retainers really easy and you can grow those retainers over time. I sold the retainers at a lower price point, but as soon as I started showing them new revenue as a result of my work, I started to raise them.
Nathan: How do you frame those retainers? Do you promise results, or are you promising hours per day sat behind a desk? How are you making the sale of the deliverables?
Jake: I'm still figuring that out. It's been a case by case thing. For the first client I technically sold them on content marketing and blog writing. That was my sale. But after that I hopped in and started doing everything. So I sold them on a specific number of blog posts that I would write and publish on their website. But that agreement is completely irrelevant now because we've realised that my time is not best spent just doing content marketing for them as they have other issues where I can provide more ROI. The second client I literally just approached them with "Hey, this is my retainer, I don't necessarily do clear deliverables but I'm gonna jump in and provide a lot of value. You can cancel at any point". So we did a two week billing, that way they didn't have to commit to too long. Originally I'd tried for monthly but they said it was a big commitment as they didn't know what they were going to get, so I did two week billings on a retainer. I told them to think of it as hiring an employee for the company to handle marketing, and that's what I'm gonna come in and do. I said, "The more I see of what you're doing the more I'll be able to see how to make you more money. If I don't, you can fire me at any point but I think you're going to be really happy." And that worked for them. That's how the first two client retainer sales have gone down.
Nathan: Do you think with the ever-growing movement of productized consulting that at some point you could say; This is what it's going to cost you a month and almost be able to spell out the deliverables? Do you think this could work for a marketing director?
Jake: For me I don't think productized consulting makes much sense. Right now I have these three clients and I'm not looking for any more, basically my only change right now is that I'm looking for more clients that are aligned with my personal brand...That would be the only case where I'd take on more clients, when they fit in with the writing, marketing, speaking and everything I already do. For me, productized consulting isn't really what I'm trying to do as I'm not trying to scale it, instead what I'm trying to do is come in there and do a custom deal, but then provide a lot of return on value and increase my retainer over time because I'm making them so much more money. It's not as much a productized thing as it is an intimate relationship. I'm becoming part of these companies' teams. Very high touch.
Nathan: A lot of people who are new to the game are keen to start moving into other areas, like a free app, ebook or a course of something similar. What advice would you give to someone who's looking to take those first steps?
Jake: The first step, before anyone starts trying to put out apps or products or anything like that is to build an audience. I think that's pretty key. I think when you try and launch an ebook or something without any kind of following, then I think that's a challenge. So if you're doing any sort of informational thing like writing, I think you need to build up a following first. Blogging is step one and then getting on a consistent blogging schedule is definitely the first phase of that. I just put up a post on How Design about side projects and it's kind of what I did this entire video course on. Starting a side project and finishing it is a huge accomplishment for anyone. Even if it's a free product, like a free ebook or something. Starting something and finishing it when you're not getting paid for it, is a serious test of discipline that I failed at a lot. Before I got my first ebook out there I actually failed at starting so many projects and never finishing them. I think this is a common thing among creative professionals. Start something, whether it's a blog or an app, or a product of some kind, set a timeline and finish it no matter what. Seth Godin talks about this all the time, You have to ship it. Start on it, figure out your idea, set a ship date whether that's three of four months down the line, I set the launch date for my book nine months in advance. Even up to the launch day I was still hustling to get stuff done. Having that launch day and thinking no matter what, I'm going to ship it on this day will help you to do this consistently. Over time your products will get better and better, you'll make more money. I'm not making millions from mine yet but they're starting to provide a pretty good second income.
Nathan: There's nothing quite like releasing your first product. It's a special moment.
Jake: I used to hear people say that when you wake up and you see an email saying, "Oh, someone paid me money last night while I was sleeping". When that happens it's pretty cool.
Nathan: What does the future hold for you Jake?
Jake: Currently I'm in a phase of I'm not making anything new and I'm just gonna promote for a while. So I'm doing a lot of promotion, a lot of guest posting and a lot more writing. My next product that I'm thinking of, although I just said I'm not making anything new...I'm thinking of doing "The art of selling creativity". I've spent a bunch of time researching into sales practices, creative practices and the world of fine art where creativity is sold for so much because of the perceived value. There's a lot or crossover between the art world and the creative professional world. I think my next book is going to try to pull lessons from those two worlds, for people who are wanting to learn how to sell their creative work better for a higher dollar value. Sales is a big struggle for a lot of people. Thats the future for me.
Nathan: Once you write that first book I think it must be hard not to write a second or third. You only have to see people who are doing well and they have one book after another.
Jake: Ye, it's addictive but also exhausting.
Jake: It's a pain staking process but it's enjoyable. When you do hear of people who read the book and their lives have been changed because of it, or people that read your blog and literally quit their jobs or start their new careers or something because of the stuff you're putting out. It's a cool thing and it's really rewarding to put that kind of content out.
Nathan: Where can folks head to find out more about you Jake?
Jake: They can head over to my website which is jake-jorgovan.com and right there you can pretty much see links to all my products and the books and courses. I have a blog where I put out a weekly newsletter. I have a podcast on there as well which you are a guest on.
Nathan: Thank you so much Jake. Have a great day!
Jake: Thanks Nathan!