I am excited to share another interview from our new blog series, Boss Moments. I am especially excited about this interview as it is with one of my dear friends from college, Reese Hopper. From social media management, to facebook ads and consulting, Reese has his hands in all-things-marketing. He has been in freelance digital marketing for three years, and worked on massive projects with giants like American Express, MVMT, and the Chainsmokers. Reese has an incredible journey of success and provides great insight into how he has been able to get where he is today and work with such an impressive list of clients. Without further adieu, I introduce Reese!
B: What do you do for work and how long have you been running your own business?
R: I've been managing and producing content for @ThatOneBlondKid for two years now. I've been working in freelance digital marketing for three years, which has led me into social media management, website design, copywriting, facebook ads, and marketing consulting. A lot, I know, but I enjoy being a generalist because it allows me to be the go-to-guy for a few different clients, while picking up one-off freelance work on the side.
B: What is the most successful decision you have ever made?
R: To find one or two clients who treat me well, and then do anything for them. I try to stay vigilant on my freelance projects and not be too lenient with deliverables and revisions. But for my trophy clients I'll really do anything because I know it'll come back. For example, one time this led me to fly to Puerto Rico on two hours notice to retrieve a hard drive from a freelancer who had gone rogue. I showed up in Puerto Rico at 10pm, rented a car, retrieved the hard drive, drove 2.5 hours across the country in the middle of the night to catch the next flight out at 4am. I didn't see the sun in Puerto Rico. Another story for another day, though.
B: What has been the biggest hurdle(s) in running your business and how has it grown you and your business?
R: Setting up good systems for money. If business is a car, money is the gas, and for a while I was driving without a fuel gauge. I tend to be very emotional about money, and end up making risky decisions because of that. Once I created good systems for my money, I started to make a lot better decisions, because I knew where I stood with it all, and it became less emotional. This is not to say I have everything figured out, but getting an accounting software, setting aside money for 15% self-employment tax, and opening a separate bank account has made things way better for me overall.
B: What is the most pivotal or defining moment in your career?
R: When I first started freelancing I was managing social media accounts for artists and small businesses. I had some success doing this in college, so after I graduated I jumped straight into it and pitched everyone I knew. I landed a few low-paying clients, but soon realized it was a grind to keep them. It felt like the businesses that needed social media the most were the least willing to pay for it, but when I couldn’t deliver short-term results they let me go. After doing this for about a year, I came to the conclusion that running a freelance business wasn’t for me. So I started to apply to agencies. While I was applying for agencies my friend Jeremiah Davis (@ThatOneBlondKid) needed some management and reached out, so I jumped on board to help out where I could. Long story short, it’s been two years since jumping on with Jeremiah, and I’ve managed deals with giants like American Express, produced videos for The Chainsmokers, and now we’re working on a TV commercial for MVMT watches. The most pivotal moment came when I realized that it wasn’t freelancing I disliked, it was managing social media accounts. Once I realized I could switch up my roles and learn new skills, the whole world opened up. Now I feel like I can learn anything, and I’m excited to see where else this journey takes me.
B: What is the best advice you have received in regards to running your own business?
R: “Keep going, you’ll figure it out.” Right after college, when I was neck deep in social media, stress, and life decisions, I was talking to my Grandpa Ken at a family dinner on Christmas Eve. I was expressing how difficult it was to pitch around the holidays, because no one seemed to have any time to get back to me. Grandpa Ken owned and ran an appraisal company for decades, and recently sold the company to consult on a freelance basis. He’s the most level-headed, chill guy you’ll ever meet, and I remember him smiling while he listened to my freelance woes. “Keep going, you’ll figure it out” proved to be the best advice he could have given me, because if I hadn’t kept going I wouldn’t have figured out all the other things I could be good at.
B: What is some bad advice you have heard from others in and around your career?
R: The worst piece of advice I’ve heard is to just focus on one thing. I don’t think this is bad advice for everyone, but it’s bad advice for me. It’s important to be specific when marketing my business, but early on in building my business it was essential to learn how to do all sorts of things. The programs I use monthly (Mailchimp, Squarespace, Excel, Illustrator, ShipStation, Facebook Ads Manager, iMovie, to name a few) speak to the range I’ve had to cultivate to be the go-to guy for a few of my clients. Cultivating generalism has also helped me find what I really love doing, and it’s helped me connect the dots between the specifics to see the bigger picture.
B: What is something you have to constantly remind yourself?
R: I constantly have to remind myself that every road block I encounter usually has a simple solution, even if it feels overwhelming in the moment. For example, the first time I realized the amount of taxes self-employed people have to pay, it made me feel hopeless, like I could never get ahead. Then after thinking about it for a minute, the simple solution of setting aside a percentage of income emerged, and it calmed me down. All the big question marks of running your own gig can usually be answered with a plan and a dollar amount. Health Insurance, 401k, or rent can feel really daunting, but they can all be solved by just making more money or allocating it differently. I always need to remind myself to not let these things scare me just because other people are afraid of them.
B: What book would you gift someone to improve their business?
R: Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller has been the most influential book for me. It’s taught me how to communicate what I do in a way that’s appealing to my clients, instead of in a way that makes me sound cool. This book is most helpful for those who write copy or pitch projects, but I think it can be helpful for anyone who needs to influence others to make their goals happen, even team members.
B: In regards to growing your business, what is one habit you wish you would have developed?
R: I wish I had set aside more money early on to invest back into my business. Once I realized how helpful even small investments could be, instead of doing everything myself, I began to understand how people were able to carry on the path for so long. Whether its outsourcing tasks, taking courses, investing in software to make things easier, investing in your business is essential. This is harder for sole-proprietors to do, because the money doesn’t go into their personal accounts. But I have to say, the first time I spent money on a course for myself, it was really empowering, and it helped me defeat impostor syndrome, and I took myself more seriously. So seriously, invest money back into your business!
B: What podcast is a required listen for business owners?
R: Startup School by Seth Godin. This podcast is so good I won’t even try to sell you on it. Just go binge it this weekend and you’ll probably gain 16 months of “business brain” experience over the course of a few hours.
Thank you Reese for being willing to share your journey as a freelancer with us! If you have a story you would like to share, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or share it by tagging Dubsado on your socials with #BossMoments.