Episode 6

What it Means to Be a Creator

by | Aug 12, 2020 | Podcast

How do you identify yourself? Are you an entrepreneur, business owner, creator, freelancer? Many of us all identify ourselves differently, but they all come back to the same common goal: providing high-quality content for your audience. Listen to this episode where I chat with Jay about his experiences as an entrepreneur and creator, and how you can become a better creator yourself.

Nick (00:00): What does it mean to be creative? The definition of creative is relating to, or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. I always thought being creative meant you were good at art. You can paint or draw or create something. But the reality is that all business owners are creators in some form or fashion. Jay Clouse is the guest we're talking to today. And in this episode, we dive into what it actually means to be a creator. Jay is a creator, freelancer, entrepreneur, and business owner, working to help other freelancers and creators build up their confidence and create profitable businesses. He's doing this through his own podcast, Creative Elements, as well as his own online courses and online community, Unreal Collective. In this episode, we also get into how you can get started with your own business ideas, the importance of leveraging other platforms, and we even discussed some of the common traits of the high performers Jay has interviewed on his podcast. Now, before we get into this episode, I just wanted to let you guys know that I have started a community for the Nine-Five Podcast over on Facebook. The group is called Nine-Five Nation, and I would love it if you guys went over to Facebook right now and joined the group. Now, to avoid getting bombarded with a ton of spam accounts and just people that would clutter up the group, I do have to manually approve you to gain access, but I have been pretty good at staying on top of that. So I should get you approved fairly quickly. I want the community to be a safe place for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to talk about their businesses, ask questions, and overall, just have a great time with likeminded individuals. So make sure you head over to the Facebook group and request to be a part of Nine-Five Nation. Alright, guys, let's get into this episode.

Nick (01:47): This is the Nine-Five Podcast and I'm your host, Nick Nalbach where we get into the minds of entrepreneurs and people just like you. So you can start, build and grow your own online business.

Nick (02:05): Welcome to the Nine-Five Podcast. I am sitting here with Jake Clouse. I'm really excited to bring Jay on here. Welcome to the show, Jay.

Jay (02:13): Let's have some fun. I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Nick (02:15): Yeah, no problem, man. I want to kind of give the listeners a little bit of an idea who you are. So why don't you talk a little bit about yourself, who you are and what it is you actually do?

Jay (02:23): So these days, everything that I do can be wrapped into the umbrella of helping creatives become more confident, profitable business owners. That looks like a different, a lot of different things under that umbrella. You have the weekly writing that I do through my blog at JayClouse.com, through my LinkedIn newsletter. It also looks like a 12 week accelerator program that I run through my business, Unreal Collective, and recently the, the two biggest aspects of that are freelancing school, which is a platform to help people build profitable freelance businesses and my new podcast that you were just alluding to Creative Elements. So a lot of things under that umbrella, but all of them, for the goal of helping creative people become confident, profitable business owners.

Nick (03:06): Very cool. Yeah. I actually, the last two weeks I've been kind of binge listening to Creative Elements and you have a lot of awesome guests on there.

Jay (03:15): Hey, that's awesome.

Nick (03:16): As soon as I saw like Seth Godin on that first episode, I was like, Oh my God, I have to listen to this

Jay (03:21): I just interviewed Pat yesterday. So that episode will come out in about a month.

Nick (03:23): Oh, really nice. That's awesome. That's exciting. I'm going to work. I'm going to try to eventually get Pat on here, but we gotta work to get there.

Jay (03:32): It's a lot, a lot of fun. I had been podcasting for two years before starting that show. So that gave me a lot of practice and a lot of thoughts around how to launch that show successfully. And that show has just been going gangbusters. Like it's, it's more successful than anything else I've ever made, which is really exciting. And also like frustrating sometimes. Cause it's like this, this is great. I love this thing. But like, man, this is so much more successful than other things that I've done. That it's almost sad.

Nick (04:02): That's awesome, man. So you were, you said you were doing other podcasts before this.

Jay (04:07): Yeah.

Nick (04:07): So, I guess what were they and how, how did those go?

Jay (04:10): We're still doing it. Um, it's called Upside and it's a podcast about startups and investing in communities that are not Silicon Valley. So we, we talk to founders and investors all over the country, just not in the Valley and we're, we're highlighting, uh, the opportunities that exist in those communities, how people are nurturing and fostering those communities. Yeah. It's just kind of like an underrepresented show and it has been going great. I mean, we've, we've done at least one episode per week for the two years that we've been doing it for a while. We're doing two episodes. Um, we've had 165 or so episodes talking to people, literally all across the country from Columbus, Ohio, where I live now to Bozeman Montana, or we just spoke to somebody in Phoenix. So that's a really fun show. It's a side project, it's a partnership with, uh, Eric Hornung, who is a good friend of mine from college. He lives in Cincinnati. He works in the world of finance and investing. And We started this two years ago, we both were interested in potentially creating a small venture capital fund and we didn't have money or the time to put towards like really raising a fund from LPs. And we didn't know what we were doing either. So we figured let's just start this whole thing by interviewing founders pre-series a founders as if we were angel investors and then do a little bit of a debrief on air talking about what we like about that investing opportunity. And we thought we'd use that as practice to hone the way we think about investments,

Nick (05:30): Right? Yeah. And you'd be, I guess, interviewing the people that are being successful. That's a good way to learn, learn directly from them. That's very cool. I'll have to check that one out. I haven't listened to that one yet.

Jay (05:41): We've got a lot of episodes. Um, It's fun. It's a lot of fun. Um, and it, it really taught me the ropes of podcasting. And um, we, you know, we just recorded a bunch of episodes last week. We have a bunch of episodes coming up this week. We'd like to record in batches and we're getting some really, really great guests these days spending a lot more time talking with investors and community builders and people doing different things around the realm of startup investing and a little bit less of the founders, um, because allows us to get into really new territory. Like we brought on a guy to talk about, uh, investing as a syndicate lead versus traditional venture capital. I don't know. It gets really nerdy, but it's fun.

Nick (06:17): Well, very cool. So the whole reason I wanted to bring you on, because I wanted to talk about kind of how your podcast talks about the creative side of running an online business, or just tapping into your creativity. So I kind of wanted to bring you on to talk about creativity. I think every online business owner or entrepreneur or artist, I mean, they all have their own way of doing things, but for me I'm not, I don't consider myself the artistic type or a very creative person. So listening to your podcast is actually really interesting because it kind of got me in the mindset like, okay, yeah, I guess I am kind of a, a creative in that aspect.

Jay (06:53): Been there. I've been exactly there. And was there up until basically January of 2017, have you ever read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron?

Nick (07:02): I have not.

Jay (07:03): That book is kind of the seminal textbook for a lot of people who want to start really leveraging their creativity. And what really stuck out to me about that book was she called out how we all really aspire to be creative as human beings. And as we get older, um, our career paths may take us away from that, but we still have that aspiration. And if we get too far removed, that aspiration gets kind of relegated to this role of being a shadow artist or having like a shadow artist career. And for me, that manifested in like, yeah, I was in product management and I was doing startups, but I was really paying close attention to comedians and how they were building their careers.

Jay (07:42): And then I started looking more at people who were doing video and podcasts and I was just like so enamored with these people and the things that they were making. And so I would the friend, these people, I was friends with a lot of musicians, uh, here in Columbus because being closed to the arts and creativity made me almost feel as if I was indulging that need myself. And finally, I just said, why am I holding onto this self limiting belief that I'm not creative? Like I'm just going to prove to myself that I am. And I started writing in January of 2017 with the goal of publishing one blog post every day for a year. And I did that. And then I read that back to weekly. And then I started adding on things on top of that, like Upside the podcast, like Creative Elements, this show like the new LinkedIn Learning newsletter.

Jay (08:26): I just continued to add on top of that because I started flexing that muscle and embracing that creativity like fundamentally is a much more flexible term than people give it credit for. And a lot of traditional artists will try to like hold onto that word as an identity, as something unique, but I think we need to liberate it a little bit more and recognize that so many of the things that people do day to day are creative acts like you're creating solutions based on constraints and limited information and coming up with new ways of doing things like so much of what we do day to day is a creative act. But we think of creativity as this thing that has to be a beautiful, tangible design-related, you know, like type discipline and it doesn't need to be.

Nick (09:09): Yeah, I can relate to what you're saying very specifically, because when I think of creativity, I think of when someone says, Oh, you're creative. I'm thinking of just the typical, I'm a painter or I'm a graphic designer. Um, I dunno, very artistic type. Not as, I don't know,

Jay (09:26): You're creating right now. You're literally hosting a podcast and we're, you're hobbling together, different software systems to get the solution that you want. Like you wanted to be able to have an audio show that you could also have a video component, but on YouTube and you found a solution to do that using different available tools. That's a creative act.

Nick (09:44): Right. And that's, I mean, that's just kind of finally like hitting me, I've finally started like giving into that as being creative. But yeah, like I said before, it was like, okay, I'm a painter. So I'm artistic creative. I didn't, it was hard to wrap my head around this being creative, but I think that's a really great point. You made something that I do with all of the guests that I bring on. I like to talk about their superpower and by superpower, I mean, there's one thing that you are just the bomb at. Like everyone either comes to you for that specific thing or maybe something you're just killing it on the business side of things. Like you're just locked into that one thing. So what would you, think your super power would be?

Jay (10:24): Well now you got me thinking about a couple of things because the superpower that comes to mind, most of what I believe about myself wouldn't necessarily believe, be the super power that people come to me for. I think a lot of people come to me for clarity of thinking and making decisions with, you know, a bunch of information. But for me, I think that my super power that I really leverage is probably communication. Uh, I actually was just about to say hitting deadlines, but I'm going to switch it out for saying communication. And that came from initially in college when I didn't know what I wanted to do. I joined the journalism program, which just taught me so much about how to write concisely. And when you know how to write and how to communicate on the page, it also has an impact on how you communicate verbally.

Jay (11:07): But more than that in the journalism program, I had the opportunity at Ohio state, like a major D1 institution to cover their football team for the student paper. And I did that as a freshmen and then as a sophomore for a little bit, and to go from being in high school, watching the Buckeyes every weekend and these players and coaches being literal celebrities to me to now months later, Hey, kid, take your recorder and go ask them some questions are available. You gotta write a story about it. You can't be starstruck for too long, or you can't write this story. So like it broke me of being afraid to communicate with anybody. Cause I realize these are just other people and like, yeah, they're known for the skillset and they they're good enough at this, that they have a huge national spotlight on them, but they're just people.

Jay (11:50): I remember one of the guys that I was interviewing as a student was Andrew Sweat, who was like the lead linebacker for Ohio state for awhile. He wasn't their most talented linebacker of all time. But in the years that he was there, he was the best linebacker on the team. And you knew who Andrew Sweat was. He could have gone on the first round or first day of the draft in the NFL. And he was like, nah, I'm going to be a lawyer. I'm going to law school. And it's just like really underlined. Like these are just people, they have their own goals, they have their own aspirations. They can make their own plans. They're no different than you and I or any other law school student.

Nick (12:21): Yeah. We, we kind of, I guess put them on a pedestal as fans because I think we aspire to be them. And I don't know. Yeah. Sometimes you forget that they are just people and they're not, I don't know from another planet,

Jay (12:33): The older I get, the more ridiculous, it seems that we put so much weight and pressure and personal meaning and identity on the backs of like 20 year old kids running across some grass, you know, like it's crazy, it's bonkers. It's like, how can you possibly be so worked up about this thing that happened because in a split second, a 20 year old kid didn't do the right thing. Like, do you remember being 20? Can you imagine that situation is crazy? But yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, communication for me has been the key to just about every success that I've had in life and in business. Any conflict is like the result of poor or miscommunication. Most conflicts can be resolved with positive communication. If you wanna be able to connect with other people like good communication, it's the way to do that. Build relationships, good communication can help you do that. I think that's what served me the best in my career so far.

Nick (13:22): I think it is a, a skill that everybody should, I guess, we'll work on it. Something I know I need to be working more on, but it's something that I think everybody needs to continue to try to grow in. Communication has always, I guess the top of every total everybody's list. So, okay. I mentioned earlier that I was binge watching or binge listening to the Creative Elements, podcasts, and everybody listened here. If you enjoy podcasts and you enjoy good conversation with very talented creative people, I would definitely go check out Jay's podcast, Creative Elements. But I was listening to that Seth Goden episode that you had, and you asked him a question, the difference between an entrepreneur and a creator. And that was very interesting to me. So I'm curious what your thoughts are. Do you see a difference between a creator and an entrepreneur or are they the same to you?

Jay (14:10): Yeah. I think, there's, there's a real Venn diagram here and I would throw into that mix a freelancer also, which is kind of the line that Seth drew, he was like, well, freelancers get paid when they are putting time into the system. Like basically if you're not working, there's no way for you to make money. An entrepreneur is somebody that has built something that's bigger than themselves. So even if they're not working, it's still generating income. And creators kind of can fall on either side of that. Again, for me, I think it's important to liberate the term of creativity again, because so much of what we do is a creative act. By virtue of starting a business that is like one of the most creative acts that you can have, even if it's a business financial services or anything that it is. Creating something that didn't exist before a business is a creative act in what. What I've found over the last couple of years with freelancing school, this, this business that I'm really putting most of my time in right now, identity is so interesting for artists and creators because not a lot of people actually identify as a freelancer.

Jay (15:09): They identify as a graphic designer who is freelancing. They identify as a copywriter, but also almost none of them identify as an entrepreneur or sometimes even a business owner. And all those things are true. A lot of them will say, well, I'm self employed because you own your own freelancing business. But identity is really interesting because a lot of these things mean the same thing, but they have different societal connotations, which means that you want to gravitate towards one other than the other. But at the end of the day, you know, I think that even freelancers entrepreneurs, they're all self-employed. And I love that. Like I wish more people who had the desire to be self employed would go that route because as we're seeing today, job security is a myth. And the most secure job you could have is one that you created for yourself.

Nick (15:59): Yeah. I completely agree. That's basically the main reason I'm pushing into that direction. Like I want my own control totally right now working, I'm working a nine to five job right now, you in my own stuff on the side with Nine-Five To Freedom, this podcast, and I don't know, it's all leading to, I guess, gain back the control. So I'm, it's all relies on me. I don't have to rely on anybody else.

Jay (16:21): Totally.

Nick (16:22): So what would you classify yourself as would you say you are freelancer entrepreneur, creator, maybe you're a mix

Jay (16:28): Lately. I've been drawn to the term creator because yes, most of my income is derived from freelancing. And I would also say that I'm self employed. I am self-employed. I would also say that I'm an entrepreneur because some of the things that I build, like freelancing school make money when I don't have to think about it, but I identify most strongly with the fact that I spend the majority of my time making things. And that's what pays the bills for me, whether it's making it for myself or for my clients. And so I like the term creator,

Nick (16:55): Probably a term I'm going to be using a lot more now that I have, I guess, a better respect for the term and a better understanding of it. But I'm curious with your podcast, you've obviously interviewed a lot of very interesting people. Have you noticed a, I guess any similarities or major differences between, I guess I'm more focused on the similarities between all these that would kind of put them at that high performing level?

Jay (17:22): Yeah. And honestly, on my to do list has been finishing this article because I I'm fascinated with this question too, and I've definitely seen some themes and I wanted to pull together some of those themes into an article that has yet to be published. Um, two things that have really, really stood out to me actually, I'll give you three things. One being that almost as an aside, something that is so true that they feel like they don't even need to mention it, the core of their business when they're creating content, which is most of the people I talk to is based creating content for search. Like they know that when I make something it's because I know people are searching for it. And I feel confident that I can create something that shows up organically and people will find it organic. Like that is just the core of what so many these people are doing and whether it started that way or it quickly shifted that way.

Jay (18:05): That's been a huge driver of their success. Second would be, they've pretty much all focused in one medium and crushed one medium first and then build out around it. And you look at them now and it's like, they have all these channels, all these things going on. Yeah. But they really broke through in one way and then built upon it when they're able to afford it and kind of build a team around in third being. And this is the one that's the toughest for me to accept and deal with. Most of the people that I talked to all kind of came up around the same time. It was late 2000s. And it was when a lot of these platforms were just getting started and things were quiet and there was way less noise. And so as much as we break down the show, the way they fit, they did things.

Jay (18:46): I also really try to talk to them about, you're really familiar with the game here on YouTube or blogging newsletters or anything, whatever their, their medium of choices. When you got started, things were really different. How would you like play the game now, knowing what you know, because it's a lot more crowded. So that's the, that's the toughest commonality that I don't know how to really reconcile to myself because it points out one truth, which I think we, we kind of recognized this point. If you can join a platform that is growing rapidly early on and leverage their rapid growth for your growth, that's a great place to be. So you want to look out for stuff like TkTok. When TkTok was starting to start when people are getting on that early, that could have been good for them. You want to keep an eye out for that stuff.

Jay (19:27): But a lot of that stuff just comes and goes. So you're constantly kind of taking a risk on some of that. And people have gotten wise to that game too. They're like, okay, this is new. We wanna, we want to hop on that and take advantage of it. So a lot of the people on the show and a lot of people, the creators that we look up to, they've just been doing it for a long time. And they got started in a time when it was easier to get started at, I wouldn't say easier. It started actually more difficult technically to get started, but easier to stand out because there was fewer people in the competitive playing field. But yeah, for me, the, the real impact that I've seen to, how I operate my content business is I want to optimize more for search. And I want to really, really care about the quality of the stuff that I make because to stand out now, it's not enough to just keep showing up. You need to be really good so that people will keep rewarding you with they're very precious, very finite time and attention.

Nick (20:18): That kinda leads into a question that I had planned on asking you already. So I follow Gary Vaynerchuk quite a bit, and he is all about content, content, content, push it out, get it out there. So you're talking about making sure that you have the most high-quality stuff. If you're doing that, it makes it very difficult to consistently push out content over and over and over again. Do you think the quality in that aspect trumps the quantity? Like if I was getting into Instagram, trying to anyway. Very difficult for me, is it better to put out a post every single day or to put a post out once or twice a week? That is just very well done.

Jay (20:57): This is tough to answer because to me, it's, it's a little bit chicken and egg. Um, I don't know that it's possible to go out of the gate with super high-quality stuff. If you haven't already built the muscle and the ability to publish shitty stuff like you, you just can't make really good stuff without making a lot of really bad stuff also. And so you, you kind of, especially in the beginning when you're trying to find your voice and you're trying to find like your style, I think it's really important to create a lot and share a lot and figure out what's working, what you like. And then really double down on that and build upon it in a quality way. I beat myself up all the time, thinking about like the first year where I was writing every day and it's like, man, okay.

Jay (21:37): So that yielded almost 400 blog posts, none of which are generating any real organic traffic value. It's like, I just spent a year making 400 assets that are worthless, but I don't think I could be doing the things that I'm doing now without putting in those reps and getting that practice. So I think you have to publish pretty consistently in the beginning just to like build the, the ability and the muscle. But yes, I do think it's important than when people are paying attention and they're starting to reward you consistently with their content. They're saying you're, you're hitting home for me. Then I think it's important to really focus on serving them really well and continuing to make things better. And you know, back to the example of just giving other creators, probably do that in one medium first, before you try to do everything,

Nick (22:23): It is a very interesting point that you made because yeah, you do look at all of the creators that are crushing it and you see them literally everywhere. I mean, Gary Vaynerchuk, he's on everywhere. Pat Flynn, his motto "Be Everywhere." Like you can't go on any social media platform or really any platform without seeing him pop up somewhere. So that, I guess when you're starting out makes it very difficult because you see that and you're like, well, I got to do all these things.

Jay (22:49): Yeah. And you know, in my case, I'm really good at managing my time and my processes. So I'm, I'm kind of throttling myself back a lot of times also, cause it's like, okay, I know I can produce any type of content consistently, but it's just not possible to do it all super, super well. Like your time is a finite zero sum game. If you're putting any time in Instagram, that's taking some time away from the podcast. It is right. Is that compromise worth it? That's for you to decide, but it's an arguable truth that if you're putting time into three platforms, they're all taking away from each other to some degree, especially in the beginning when you're just one person.

Nick (23:26): No, I think that's an excellent point. So with that, how would someone who's trying to get started? They know they want to get into online business. They want to start taking that control back themselves. How do you even know where to start?

Jay (23:39): So over the last year or so I've gotten really into puzzles. Um, I wouldn't say really into like, I'm not obsessively into puzzles, but I've rediscovered an interest in puzzles.

Nick (23:49): You're talking like jigsaw puzzle, like the pieces.

Jay (23:52): Actual like thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. At the same time I realized that what drives me every day and what makes me so obsessed with running my business is I look at it like a puzzle too. Like I have a certain set of constraints. I know how much I need to earn to just exist. I know what I want my lifestyle to look like. I know what I think I'm going to be earning money. Doing all of these are little puzzle pieces that add up to the tapestry and the picture of what my future and the vision of my future looks like. And what's interesting about puzzles is last winter, I went and stayed at an Airbnb with my girlfriend, Mallory, and we were building a puzzle together. My go-to move is to take all of the border pieces and make the border first and then fill in inside of the border.

Jay (24:36): I like it, but I love to get the border first. Cause I know like if it has a flat side, I know it's the border. She groups things by colors. She says like, I know that these things go together. I'm going to start here and build out. And the thing about a puzzle is it doesn't really matter where you start, you're going to get to the same conclusion. So start whatever is the comfortable, most logical starting point to you. And that's going to lead you through the rest of the puzzle. If you know where you're aiming, as long as you get started, it'll start to become clear what to do next.

Nick (25:06): That's really interesting way to put it. I've never thought about it like that then. Okay. From there, a common debate when you are getting started, let's say you are starting where you're most comfortable probably with something that you enjoy or something that you're good at. There's a very big debate on, do you start a business on something you enjoy risking the potential to later despise that thing you enjoy, or you go with something that you have no knowledge of at all. And you just basically start from square one.

Jay (25:36): I hear that dichotomy sometimes too. And I don't know that I believe that that's really true. I mean, if you really want to get thoughtful about this, what I would look at is what is the real opportunity here? I like to look at things from what will my days look like. Because I don't know how long it will take me to solve this puzzle. I know kind of day to day what I'm focusing on, how I'm building, but I don't know how long it'll take for me to get to the point where I want to be. So I at least want to make sure that day to day, I mean, I'm enjoying what I'm doing. And so for that reason, I've always been an advocate for starting with something that you enjoy doing because starting a business is miserable a lot of the time. And so you might as well be miserable while doing something that you kind of enjoy in my experience, leveraging and doing things that you really love.

Jay (26:16): I love TV and movies. I love the story and the narrative and the production that goes into TV and movies. And as I've gotten more into podcasting and last summer, I helped produce a film actually, as I've done those projects, I've learned a lot about the decisions that you have to make when you're producing something. And that has given me a totally new appreciation for watching movies. Now, when I watch movies and TV, like it's not just a way to like zone out. I just enjoy it now on so many different levels because not only am I seeing the thing, but I'm almost seeing behind the fourth wall, how the scene was set up at the decisions the director made, how they chose when to cut this scene. I can't watch reality TV, especially without realizing like, Oh, they're showing this B roll right now because they cut the shit out of this audio and cut out a bunch of words.

Jay (27:06): And they might, the thing that we just heard, it was cut so much. That's probably not even actually what was said. And to me that's actually enjoyable. I like that. I like that. I have new levels of appreciating things because working on it every day has forced me to learn it in new ways. And since, you know, a lot of starting a business is so lonely and so hard as it is, I would, I can't imagine completely contriving something because I just think it's a good business opportunity. Like you're in it for 12 hours a day every day. I can't imagine doing something like this that I didn't fundamentally enjoy doing.

Nick (27:38): That's a fair answer. That's kind of where I'm at with it too. I don't totally think that if you do something that you enjoy, that you will, I guess eventually despite it,

Jay (27:46): I think there's something else going on. If that's true, I think that's like, it's not rewarding you and you blame it or you're not working hard enough at it or being smart enough about it. And you blame it. Like if you, if you enjoy the thing, it shouldn't stop you from enjoying it. I mean, I don't know. And maybe I'm naive. You hear sories about bands who have to tour this hit song. And they hate that song because they have to play it at every show. Everybody loves that song. What they've written six other records since that song. And they want people to like that stuff. So I imagine there's probably something to it, but I think it's even just hard to expect that you're going to find success with something that you don't love from the outset it bleeds through. Like we see it, we experience it. If you didn't have fun, if you didn't enjoy creating the thing, like we're not going to enjoy it that much either. I don't think

Nick (28:33): I kind of think it's the, the journey of creating it, that a lot of people end up falling in love with, like you talk about the musicians playing that song. That was their intent was to create a song. I'm assuming their intent would be to create a song that everyone just goes nuts for.

Jay (28:47): Totally.

Nick (28:48): And they're chasing that achievement. Now. They finally got that achievement and then they, I guess the monotony is maybe what kind of drives them nuts. That's why I think entrepreneurship is so interesting because everyone, I guess for me, it's almost to a fault where I'm trying to do new things and I stopped doing what I was supposed to be doing. But I think if you are able to manage your time well, and you're able to, I guess, perfect that one thing. I mean, you can keep building and growing and continuing that journey.

Nick (29:13): I guess you'd not come into a stand still at any point. As I mentioned earlier, I'm personally trying to build an Instagram following. I think, I don't know. It's just one of those platforms right now that are just insane, but I, myself am just struggling to get any kind of traction there. And I think that can be the same for a lot of people across many platforms. So I was kind of curious what your experience has been as far as growing an audience and kind of getting engagement on you're doing, whether that's like through Creative Elements or Freelancing School. Um, how does someone, I guess, build the buzz around their thing?

Jay (29:49): It's tough and I'm definitely not the authority on this. Um, I can't figure out Instagram. I don't know. I can tell you that the places I've had the most success across like the, the portfolio of stuff that I'm doing, as much as I care about that, the quality of my work, because you need to have remarkable work for people to share it to other people. And a lot of growth is driven from the sharing of person to person, but the bar for quality on something that is share worthy these days is so high. So high, so hard. Where I found most success is actually in leveraging other platforms and other people's audiences. When somebody else has a means of distribution that you can tap into, that is just so much better. Let me give you an example. I have courses on LinkedIn Learning for product management and freelancing and just the freelancing courses have been taken over 50,000 times.

Nick (30:41): Wow.

Jay (30:42): That's insane. That's not a reach that I can have. That's a reach because it's on LinkedIn's platform. My newsletter on LinkedIn, I pick up 400 to 500 new subscribers per week. And all I do is publish every that's insane. And that's because LinkedIn just has such a massive audience that at any given time, that newsletter is popping up for some number of them. And some of them are converting. I can't grow things as fast as LinkedIn can. And so it really benefits you to partner with other platforms that you can align with. That makes sense. I just did a webinar with HoneyBook, which is a software tool that a lot of freelancers use. They were sharing that webinar to their audience on email, LinkedIn, Twitter, everywhere, and that exposed their entire audience to me as a person, and some number of people follow me because of that, my most successful partnership webinar ever was with Creative Mornings.

Jay (31:32): They were doing these virtual field trips and I volunteered to lead a webinar on producing a podcast. And after the webinar, I said, if you want these slides go to this address and type in your email and like 150 people did that. Awesome. I couldn't just like turn on snap my fingers and say, here 150 people, please start following me today. Going into somebody else's realm of authority and platform for distribution can grow things so quickly because they've already done a lot of the legwork. And now they're holding you up to their audience saying, here's somebody that we trust. You trust us. We trust this person. That naturally gets passed on to those people. And they say, I guess I trust him too. That's just like so much better than, than trying to build it from the bottom. And I don't think it's mutually exclusive.

Jay (32:14): Like I think you pair that strategy with really just caring about creating one to one relationships with people time and time again, because that's the only thing that I've seen that works. Because when you create a really strong relationship with somebody, they stick around for a long time and they support all your stuff there. They're liking all your tweets. They're liking all your photos, they're sharing all your stuff because they feel a personal connection to you and that doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen accidentally. And usually it's because you have the time and to give them some sort of real quality time with you, even if that's as little as, you know, sending a voice message and saying, Hey, I was thinking about you. Here's what I've learned about this topic that we talked about last, you know, small things like that.

Nick (32:51): I think that's kind of, you touched on the one to one personal relationships. I think that aspect of it is what's made it very difficult for me to branch out to the platforms like Instagram, Facebook I struggle with, because I guess I have a hard time building that one to one relationship. Whereas on Twitter, I'm doing fairly decent on Twitter, not like thousands of followers by any means, but the relationships that I'm building on Twitter are genuine relationships. I would take the couple hundred followers that I have on Twitter versus 10,000. That don't care what I have to say, but it's, for me, it's a lot easier to build that relationship on Twitter versus Instagram.

Jay (33:27): I think that's where it's got to start for a lot of these things. Um, especially in a noisy time, like it's just not enough to show up and be the only person that does X, because it's just getting harder and harder to be the only person that does X, you have to really compete on what makes you unique. And that comes from your personality. And that only becomes clear when someone has enough exposure to you to know that that's you.

Nick (33:50): I don't know, social media is very difficult. I think to show someone your genuine self, but it's, it's the place to be.

Jay (33:57): Difficult, psychologically or difficult technically?

Nick (33:59): I kind of think difficult technically because everyone, I guess I shouldn't say everyone, but a lot of people, when they go on to social media, they put on this, I guess a persona of a person they're not sharing their genuine self. So they're trying to share what everyone wants to be, because I think that's, what's going to get them the likes. That's going to get the engagement where I don't know something like email marketing or having the one on one conversation or some kind of off social media interaction seems to be a little bit more genuine. People can actually get to understand who you are and not to see the flashy, Instagram photo you posted.

Jay (34:31): I mean, I would bucket that as psychologically. Like there's nothing stopping you from being less guarded. You know, I think the idea of authenticity is a lot more nuance than people make it out to be you're on this podcast right now to some degree I'm performing. Are we speaking the same? Because we have mics in front of us as we would, if we were sitting across the table, having a beer, probably not. I try to shorten that distance a lot when I, when I do things like this, but at the end of the day, part of this is performance and that's not an inauthentic performance. That's not a fake representation of who I am. It's more of a curated, more specific part of who I am, right? It's a, it's a skill that I have and a, a means of delivering the way I think about things.

Jay (35:16): You know, if we're hanging out at a bar, having a beer, I would believe the same things and express the same ideas. The way I deliver them might be different. And that's important because a lot of times the medium is the message. The way that you deliver a message is so important. Going back to communication. If you want a message to be heard a certain way, you need to understand the lens through which it's being heard. You to cater to that because what you say and what is heard can often be very, very different. And the more that you know about the situation and the context that you're in right now, you can control how, what you're saying is heard to be best received for the message you want to say

Nick (35:53): That that is something that I do struggle with trying to, I know the message that I want to get out there, and I know how I want it to be perceived, but I don't know how to deliver it in a way that makes it receive the way I want it delivered. Does that make sense?

Jay (36:07): And it depends on the audience, right? So I do think one of the best pieces of advice that I got from the team that was coaching me through making my course on LinkedIn was in my writing. It starts with scripts and we have an intro that we have like three learning points. And then we have an outro. And in the intro, they said, we want you to approach this and script it and say it as if it was somebody sitting across from a table across, from you at a table at a coffee shop, would you actually say this this way? And a lot of times in the beginning, it was like, no, I wouldn't say this this way. That's because I'm not being conversational. I'm not actually approaching this as if I would be teaching somebody close to me who I knew. And that changed the way that I write. I think the same is true. I I've really bought into lately. The idea of if you're trying to build an audience and you're trying to get people to resonate with what you're saying, you need to know who they are. And yes, everybody's unique. Everybody's different, but oftentimes there are some real commonalities in people's Psychology, especially that you can construct a figurative person or avatar for the core of who you're trying to speak to. And then I literally keep that person, his name is Matt to me, uh, in front of me when I'm speaking and writing and creating things. Like, I want to create this as if I am speaking directly to Matt. And that really guides the way that I deliver message.

Nick (37:20): That's really interesting. So you are full on visualizing this person that you are speaking to.

Jay (37:25): Yeah. And if I, if I forget that I'm doing that at some point, I'll reset and read over it and say, would I say this to Matt? And a lot of times the answer is like, no. And it's like, okay, well, how would I say this to Matt? And it always yields a better version of the writing. And I built that off of a real person named Matt, who I just realized, like, this guy is really buying into a lot of what I'm saying. It seems like it's landing with him. So what is true about this real mat that I can pull out and create into a fictional person that I'll also name Matt, so that I can like, imagine I'm speaking to this real person who I've actually spoken with now, because I wanted to learn more about him. It just makes it a lot more clear how to communicate.

Nick (38:03): That's a very cool way to think about it. I have to try to build up my persona and try doing that. Cause I, yeah, like I said, for me, it's very difficult to put myself in that mindset. I feel like it is for a lot of people. It's weird to think about talking to someone that you're not actually talking to.

Jay (38:17): Yeah. But when we're writing and we don't have a who this is for, we're like, we're writing it for the internet. We're like writing it for the audience. Then you start really getting into this weird overly fluffed language of how to express an idea that doesn't feel like it's actually conversational or communicating.

Nick (38:34): It loses its natural feel. It loses its human element. I guess, I guess to finish up a little bit here, what would be one last thing you would leave the listeners. A piece of advice, words of wisdom. Um, anybody who's I guess trying to get started as a creator, entrepreneur, freelancer.

Jay (38:52): I think the most important thing that I have to really harp on in and share with creators and freelancers, people who are aspiring to become self employed, you have to go into it, willing to learn, to be a business owner. If you aren't willing, if you're resistant to all things business, you think business is bad. You think selling is bad and you're unwilling to learn what it's like to run a business. You're not going to make it. You're just not. And so I'm not saying that to discourage people or make this not possible or inclusive. I'm saying that just to like shake you awake and say, you need to embrace learning how to run a business. It's very learnable. It's very doable. And it's the only thing that will allow you to actually make a go of this on your own from the beginning and avoid a lot of pain and financial hardship.

Jay (39:38): And it's simple stuff it's like learning, uh, some, some principles of personal finance and how to like budget for your business and how to manage your cashflow. Learning how to work through a client conversation from first conversation to identifying what the project might be to scoping the project, to proposing the project, to selling a project, getting payments, like all these things, you might be incredible at whatever the skill is that you have. If you actually want to make a living with that skill, you need to embrace all of the elements of running a business that come along with it. And that's really at the core of why I made freelancing school and what I teach in freelancing school, because I'm not here to pretend that I can make you a better copywriter or graphic designer or videographer. Like I think you're great at those skills and that's not what I want to teach you. I want to teach you how to run a business, confidently market yourself, and successfully sell projects.

Nick (40:29): Great. I think that's a very good piece of advice. Okay. Now finally, where can people find you, maybe they want to get into your freelancing school or they want to listen to the podcast? What kind of links? Websites, social media.

Jay (40:43): Easiest would be JayClouse.com Or @JayClouse on Twitter or Instagram that will lead you to any other rabbit hole you want to go down.

Nick (40:54): Okay. And for everybody listening, I will have the show notes with all of the links that we talked about. Um, the book, The Artist's Way, all that will be in the show notes. So if you're looking to get any information that we discussed on it, make sure you go check those out. Well, Jay, I want to thank you for coming on the show.

Jay (41:13): Yeah, thanks for having me. It's been fun.

Nick (41:15): I learned a lot. I was really excited that you agreed to come on here and talk business with me.

Jay (41:20): For sure, man.

Nick (41:20): But alright, man. Well, thank you.

Jay (41:22): Yeah. Keep publishing.

Nick (41:24): Alright. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jay Clouse. Once again, you can find him over at JayClouse.com and there you'll be able to find all the links to his podcast, his Freelancing School and his community, the Unreal Collective. As always the transcript, notes, and all the links discussed in this episode can be found in the show notes over on my website.

Nick (41:43): And this episode with Jay can be found over at ninefivepodcast.com/episode6. And don't forget Nine Five is all spelled out. That's N I N E F I V E podcast.com and that's forward slash episode 6, like the number 6. You can also check the description of this episode on whatever platform you're listening to. And there should be a link to the show notes there as well. Now don't forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes or Spotify. So you don't miss any of the new episodes when they're released. And I would really appreciate it. If we could get some more ratings and reviews going for the show. So head over to iTunes right now and leave a rating review. And I would love you for it. Last but not least, as I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, don't forget to join Nine-Five Nation over on Facebook. Look forward to getting to know you better and chatting with you there over in the community. Well guys, that's it for me today. I hope you enjoy this episode and I will catch up with you guys next week.

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Show Notes

In this episode of the Nine-Five Podcast, I got the opportunity to chat with Jay Clouse. Jay’s mission is to help creators and freelancers become more confident and profitable business owners. He is doing that through several different outlets including his own blog, podcasts, and online courses.

If you want the links to everything Jay is working on, make sure you check out the “Links & Resources” section below. 

Jay talks about his experience running his first podcast, Upside, where Jay and his co-host interview founders and investors outside Silicon Valley. That experience helped shape the direction of his most recent podcast, Creative Elements.


Creative Elements


I had the opportunity to listen to several episodes of the Creative Elements podcast and it is definitely worth a listen. On the podcast, Jay interviews some very influential creators and recognizable names including Seth Godin, Val Geisler, and James Clear, among many others. This podcast gets deep into the mindsets of these brilliant and amazing people and really sheds a light on what it means to be a creator.


What Does it Mean to Be a Creator?


There are several terms that often get thrown around in the entrepreneur/business owner realm:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Freelancer
  • Creator
  • Designer

This list could continue going on down the line, but the one thing that remains the same is that we are all here to solve a problem. In this sense, Jay says we are all creators. A creative act is one in which you “create solutions based constraints.”

The example Jay gives; if you are creating a podcast, you need to put together the tools and skills necessary to bring the podcast to life. That, in itself, is a creative act.

Identifying myself as being creative or being a creator never really stuck with me until chatting with Jay and listening to his podcast.

We are all creators.


What Makes these People Successful?


When you look at the high-performing entrepreneurs and business owners, it can be tough to understand how they got to that level of success. You see them everywhere. Pick any platform and your idol, or the person you look up to is most likely going to be found there.

But as an aspiring entrepreneur or “beginner” in the space, it seems impossible to find time to be everywhere at once. Jay broke down the 3 things he sees are most common amongst these high-performers:

  1. Creating content for search
  2. They focused on 1 medium and built around that medium
  3. They started early

We get into all of this and much more on the episode, so make sure you listen to this episode with Jay!

Links & Resources

Note: Some of the links listed below may be affiliate links. This means I will receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you choose to purchase through them.

Thank You!

Thanks for listening to Episode 6 of the Nine-Five Podcast! 


If you enjoyed this episode or any of the other episodes, I would really appreciate it if you went over to iTunes and left a review. Your reviews are what help get this podcast in front of more people!


Before you go,

How do you identify yourself? Are you a creator or an entrepreneur? Or is it something else entirely?

Let me know in the comments below!

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"The value you provide to others directly correlates to your success. The more value you provide, the more successful you become. Focus on the value!"

- Nick Nalbach

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I am an entrepreneur and adventure enthusiast, looking to break free from the Nine-Five grind. I'll show you what has worked and is currently working for me, as well as what hasn't worked so well.

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