FreelancerPro Interview: Never, Ever Get a “Real” Job
At just 26 years old, Scott Gerber is revolutionizing the way that people think about work. He is the founder and CEO of Gerber Enterprises, an entrepreneurial development and venture management company that has launched several successful businesses.
But his passion goes beyond business–he wants to help other young business people and thus founded the Young Entrepreneur Council, an advocacy group made up of many of the world’s top young entrepreneurs that works to help young people overcome the devastating effects of youth unemployment and underemployment by teaching them how to build businesses. Did I mention he wrote a book, too? There’s so much to tell–so I asked.
Tell us a little bit about what you do. What is your typical day like?
I am the Managing Partner and Founder of Sizzle It!, a sizzle reel production company that produces promotional videos for PR and marketing professionals, and the Founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, an advocacy group that helps young people overcome youth unemployment and underemployment by teaching them how to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs. I’m also a syndicated columnist for publications such as Entrepreneur and WSJ.
For Sizzle It!, I am always out meeting with new clients and selling them on our services. My other biggest task is overseeing our entire company’s strategic direction and growth. For the YEC, I’m out pounding the pavement every day–forming relationships with new media outlets, contacting new Council prospects and working with partners to bring the Council hyper-local and international–and generally telling “old people” why it’s best to get out of our way and let the YEC do their job for them.
You’re committed to developing entrepreneurial potential in younger professionals. How did you become interested in that?
Having been someone who had debt, felt unfulfilled with even the thought of a 9-to-5 and needed to move back in with their parents after college, I know what it’s like to be a Gen Yer in this new economy. I understand this generation because I am a member. I felt that my experience of building a business from the ground up without financing, support or resources could help and encourage others to do the same. This is why I have made it my mission to help young people learn how to create a job to keep.
Fantastic! And you have this new book out, Never Get a Real Job. Tell us about your book and what it brings to the table.
I wanted to create the resource that I wish I could have gotten my hands on when I first got started–a book that actually gave me REAL and PRACTICAL insights, tips, tricks and advice about how to start a business from the millennial perspective. Never Get a “Real” Job is a no-nonsense step-by-step guide that teaches young people how to build revenue generating businesses without money or resources (I’m not known as the Simon Cowell of young entrepreneurship for nothing). It’s written for Gen Yers by a Gen Yer. The last thing you’ll read about in this book is “how to write a business plan to get a bank loan.” I’ve also compiled a list of free (or cheap) services in the book that will help you get started yesterday.
What advice do you have for those that want to write their own books? How can they establish credibility?
Platform. Platform. Platform!!! Publishers won’t touch you unless you have your own tribe of followers eager to pick up your title. Fans won’t buy a self-published book in droves unless they know who you are, why they should be listening to you, and like what you have to say–which means you need to give them the opportunity to get to know you. Before Never Get a “Real” Job, I had already been writing several internationally syndicated columns for outlets such as Entrepreneur and WSJ about young entrepreneurship.
Sure, I might be the world’s most syndicated young entrepreneur columnist today, but when I had no name recognition what so ever three years ago, people were hardly knocking down my door to hear what I had to say. Getting those outlets to believe in me was no easy feat. I had to pitch–in some cases for years–for every opportunity. When I got started as a writer, I didn’t know a single editor, however, as my track record shows, anyone with a relevant point of view, a topic of interest, and a lot of passion and persistence, can go down the same road I did.
Today, it’s easier than ever to start your own platform. Find a niche, demonstrate your expertise by providing relevant content–video, podcasts or blogs–to your followers via various social platforms. Research relevant media outlets where your content might be a fit and slowly begin to pitch members of the press to syndicate your content. Locate editors on Twitter by searching MediaonTwitter.com or emailing them through their email addresses linked to their columns. Trust me, with mass layoffs in the media business due to the economy, editors are starving for relevant, quality (and cheap) content.
How can those that already freelance become more entrepreneurial? What would you say is the difference, if anything, between freelancers and entrepreneurs?
I think that anyone who is their own boss is an entrepreneur. However, I do believe that building a real business versus a one-man marching band is a better end game. Your goal should always be to find a way to work ON your business instead of IN your business, otherwise you’ll burn out and feel like a regular employee. As you grow your client base as a freelancer, use cash flow and revenues to slowly fund business growth. This is exactly the strategy I used to grow Sizzle It! I started my career as a freelance media producer and video editor and over the course of a few years, turned my efforts into a sustainable business with a team that helps to grow the business, operations and bottom line.
How can freelancers become more entrepreneurial? What are the advantages of gaining entrepreneurial business skills?
Hustler instincts, problem solving and perseverance are key traits. Most importantly, freelancers need to master the art of selling–or partner with a master of selling. Too often I watch freelancers get bogged down in doing their work rather than selling their work. This leads them to deal with an unsustainable cycle where work is either pouring in or prospects are as dry as the Sahara. Don’t get caught in awful sales cycles. Always be selling! Proper time management and creating online sales materials goes a long way.
I’m a big advocate that while anyone can start a business, they may not be cut out to be their own boss. What do you say to that? Is entrepreneurialism for everyone? How can you determine if you have the strengths to create a thriving business for the long-term?
In today’s new economy, whether you were “cut out” for entrepreneurship or not, I think it must be considered as a viable alternative to unemployment and underemployment. Entrepreneurship certainly isn’t easy, but I strongly believe it is something that anyone can take on so long as they maintain focus, keep grounded and are dedicated to the cause. Look at my background as an example: I have no entrepreneurs in my middle class family, never attended a business or mathematics class in college (I actually graduated from film school), and never started a single business with investment money. Yet, I have never had a “real” job or worked for someone else in my life–and I’m confident that I never will.
I am a big believer in partnerships and collaboration to fill in one’s weaknesses with others’ strengths. Technology and the acceptance of virtual businesses have made it more cost-effective than ever to start a business. Let’s also not forget that there are thousands of nuts and bolts, been-there-done-that, tried-and-true businesses out there that can be researched and studied on Google instantly. My point is, when you want something bad enough or your back is against the wall, you figure it out to swim, or face the prospect of drowning.
What advice do you have for recent graduates that cannot find jobs and are considering freelancing? How can they set up businesses–or should they?
It is always better to rely on multiple clients for income than a singular one. The best advice I can offer someone–without knowing their specific field–is to keep your service simple, uncomplicated and unoriginal. Use your branding and marketing to make your concept more unique, but don’t try to revolutionize the wheel or you’ll be doomed to be run over by it. Network with your network to seek out new prospects and referrals. And, most importantly, find a way to brand yourself as an expert with relevant supportive media and credentials. As I mentioned earlier, find ways to become a guest blogger on relevant industry and media websites. It truly is one of the most powerful ways to get your name out there.
There is no rush to setting up a corporation or LLC. You’ll simply need to speak to an accountant to determine the best way to collect fees in the interim.
What’s next for you as an advocate of solopreneurs?
This year my goal is to take the Young Entrepreneur Council hyper-local and international and grow its community ten-fold. I believe the insights and lessons this group can offer today’s young people is unparalleled. In addition, I am looking forward to launching the Gen Y Fund and offering a whole new set of financing options to my generation.