You’ve boxed yourself in with only one income stream.
Tumbleweed learning is priceless. Do things people are confused by — because you’re learning from the process.
I’m broke as shit, but that doesn’t mean that will carry on down the road. As time has gone on I’ve developed invaluable skill sets through reading everything, trial, and error. Most people want to start something new ending their attempt in failure. Upon failing, they decide not to continue working out the kinks until the method becomes a proven success. The real success method is process of elimination failing.
Not to bring Gary Vaynerchuk into this, but he preaches (and is certainly not the first to know this) that perfecting is a waste of time because nothing is ever “perfected”. Every algorithm ever developed has had to be tweaked to move with the changes in time and trends. How many times has McDonalds revamped their website to stay true to current culture? Or restructured their menu to reflect the culinary themes of today? My whole life I’ve never feared launching a soft product in order to use it as a test for a future and bigger picture making subtle changes along the way.
I learned graphic design at 16 with my first computer. We didn’t really have porn on 56k speeds (fast internet didn’t always exist you 1995+ babies!)— so I was fortunate growing up to actually use my computer for productive purposes (kids today are fucked). Don’t think I came out the womb producing great graphics, they were shit; however, I was learning the ins and outs of the programs for when I decided to get smarter and learn more about design, colors, simplicity, and emulation of the masters.
College allowed me to work with the Greeks whom had money from structure fees to make their club flyers, logos, and pamphlets (always start business with those that can finance the invoice). Again. They weren’t great, but they fit the price tag and I could work on these items on my own time. Choosing where and when to designate your use of time is crucial. These graphic design elements were completed in off time when nothing else more important was going on… and I collected my cash on delivery.
Using my graphic abilities to brand myself in a sense helped land internships at Hot97 (NYC) and SiriusXM. These situations helped to catapult into a radio career (that was short lived) on Long Island, NY. Branding is important as an individual and for a business. The timing was wrong and my commute was hell — eventually I couldn’t afford to be at the station (an hour away through bridge and insane traffic) I was working at and they changed their format to the best of 70s, 80s, 90s, and today.
In everything progress — you must evolve and reinvent or become replaced. There was a moment in which learning how to create basic websites in HTML to make a blog in order to showcase work made sense. I wanted to be able to portray things digitally and am proud to say that I was certainly one of the first to create a complete digital portfolio. Jumping down a coding rabbit hole Google was my best friend. It wasn’t too sexy — but nothing was at that point and I was able to post the link at the end of my emails (groundbreaking, am I right?!). I’d go on to create and execute various other ideas and designs for both myself and for clients as time progressed.
Both of these invested learning experiences did two things: They taught me graphic design and helped me learn to do basic coding to put together websites and alter already coded sites. This became the catapult to confidently begin working a warehouse fulfillment job for a little known street wear company called Dirty Jax that eventually span into a pretty well known company by Victor Cruz called Young Whales.
I soaked in how clothing was printed. Focused on design elements for application on clothing. I learned how to send mass emails out, using coding and scripts to achieve our goals faster and more streamlined. We brought in over 300k in our first year as a brand with an extremely small two man* (and a few helpers!) team— thanks Victor and Nate. Victor later fell in love with Ronny Fieg and Kith which blinded him from a very real stream of income that could have potentially been worth millions on a future sale. This could have been done time and time over targeting brands to different demographics while maintaining a larger umbrella, i.e. look at Carl Banks with GIII, who runs a very successful apparel company after spending time in the NFL who was prepared for the future after being a professional athlete.
*Josh Kimerling and myself manned the backend work of developing and shipping. Victor and Nate were the faces. We had some gracious social help from Joe & Josh.
This absorption and learning about apparel led me to be able to land freelance jobs. I spent time working with Since 1982, iconic for some of their designs in streetwear focusing on hip-hop culture twists. They weren’t looking for anyone particularly until I reached out and invented my hiring. Turns out Ed Almonte was at an inflection point with the brand and could use an extra hand in productivity. I was able to design apparel, rebrand the website, create much other content needed for promotions and Instagram, and show that a streamlined approach can lead to more free time and freed up resources. Yes, I’m obsessed with automating tasks.
This lead to the creation of my Local Product, LLC — a business account that would allow me to work with my clients as a “real business”. I always wanted to have my own clothing in my closet so I printed a couple designs circling around the “keeping product local” idea, and as a result did more apparel work for clients because I had something of my own I could showcase.
Are you understanding the evolution of a tumbleweed? Nothing you do for free is pointless — it’s just a matter of time before there’s enough demand and your quality is good enough to charge for your work. Tumbleweed on!
My good friend, favorite buddy to argue with about general life ideas and principles, and mentor in so many senses, Joshua Kimerling, is excellent at what he does. He taught me my first monetary lesson by yelling at me for not requesting to be paid as a young buck in his warehouse while shipping out clothing for free after 4 months (I only requested to work for clothing on my interview — turns out landlords don’t accept streetwear). He coached me through answering all my ridiculous questions and helped me through design issues. He didn’t want to listen to me however while I was then experimenting with marketing and social media techniques, so in secret I started carrying out an experiment on my own: To spitefully prove that this boy without a social media MBA knew what he was talking about.
Using heavily researched trade secrets and automated techniques, in which I’m not willing to share, I was able to acquire @art4sale (No idea what’s there now or who owns that handle) from a nice young lady that was no longer using it and grow it to an Instagram account with 24k followers at its height in a three month time period. I saw a problem with artists and I was attempting to solve it. This birthed a classified system where artists could post their art and potentially sell their work. I received emails from artists gracious that the system worked, and upon reaching 8k followers I began to charge $1.30 to list to the page ($1.06ish after fees).
The only problem with this business endeavor was that posting was tedious and you were handcuffed to cropping, copy and pasting hashtags, and answering numerous emails. I wanted to hand this off to someone much younger and create a profit split 60/40 (Them/I), giving me continual income, and whomever would be helping, would have the keys to funds they didn’t have earlier with minimal labor. So what if I would only make $60 a month on a profit split— I wouldn’t have to lift a finger. This was a missed opportunity as I didn’t take the leg work to employ someone into this role to continue growing it.
During this time period I was learning to tend bar, backtracking for forward progress as I was successfully making more money serving tables all the while developing this knowledge outside the restaurant. As I was terminated from the bar that boasts beers and knowledge of beers for having a beer on my break at the place across the street networking (ironic as I was obviously doing RND), I looked for a real bar and not the commercial establishment that taught me efficiency of a corporate structure. Landing a position in a sportsbar in a busy college town with owners that understood the importance of having a flexible structure to pivot the business where need be — I was really able to bring these graphic design talents and marketing techniques front row to make a drastic impact. I noted the promotions list build up over the last few years and developed a way to import numbers to a spreadsheet that would charge .03 cents per text. We sent out thousands of automated mass texts which we monitored the traffic these implemented tactics developed. Summed up: we created more business.
Down the road these owners approached me again to offer a percentage split of another bar they purchased that wasn’t doing phenomenal at the time. Employing the best strategy I know for a long term change — I fixed the cracks. Similar to the way Rudy Giuliani fixed NYC by cleaning up all the problems and environment in the 90s to change the psychology of the people I applied that strategy to the bar. You can read about how we brought that bar’s cash sheets up 30% here.
Important lesson here: Everything tumbleweeds. Every learning experience in one area can be applied to another area — you just need to find the vehicle for application.
As owners everywhere were beginning to learn graphic design through great digital advancements of apps and technology — I knew I was semi-finished because any idiot with an app thinks they also now have design aesthetics down pat. My buddy Josh called me and let me know the apparel company he was working for was looking for shots of girls as they were paying a tremendous amount of money in royalties for stock images and knew my girlfriend was modeling. He also knew that he didn’t have to explain to me what kind of shots he was looking for. The best part is that this was a nice and easy paid gig for a few different photo themes so I signed up for PayPal credit, and bought a DSLR with no payments for a year. Yes, I paid the camera off instantly after we were paid.
After quickly learning the ins and outs of a camera, we competed a few different themes over a period of a few days and were able to collect a nice 2k paycheck pretty quickly. The best part is — I bought a camera capable of 1080p video recording knowing that this would be the next digital leap that not everyone is yet capable of. I was able to use this camera for my graphic design work. It came in handy when product shots were needed for clients. It really sealed the deal in being able to be multi-efficiently productive with clients.
Taking the camera on trips, beautiful video content that could be used as bait for any interested party looking to promote their event or establishment could view the montages as an example. Experimentation is how you learn. Experimentation is how you fail. Experimentation is how you adapt. I’ve now done much video for various clients and am able to combine my entire portfolio of Swiss Army knife capabilities into producing beautiful content helping those that need it.
I’m not special. I don’t have some golden touch. I just enjoy failing in the pursuit of winning while obsessing over great mechanics. You don’t have to succeed to be successful, you just have to learn what not to do for a second time the hard way.
There’s no magic formula to winning. We live in a beautiful digital age. I know nothing about the mechanics of a car but took it upon myself to watch a few YouTube clips on how to change an alternator. The gentleman at advanced auto parts was amazed, knowing my “condition”, at how fast I swapped the alternator and battery out. I let out a few man grunts along the way just to throw some testosterone in the air.
All jokes aside it’s important to know that learning doesn’t have to be rocket science. Start small doing something you’ve never done before. Leap to the next-linked talent that circles in the same world. Fail at it. Learn why you failed at it. Repeat differently. The more ways you learn techniques that solve real world problems the more likely you can turn that into an income producing venture.