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julie cortes

Starting, Marketing & Growing a Freelance or Solopreneur Business

Julie Cortes has worked in the advertising and marketing industry for over 20 years now, starting on the agency side, moving to corporate, back to agency, and then finding her passion in freelancing.

She’s worked with with hundreds of clients and accounts along the way in a variety of industries. This includes most of the local ad agencies and design shops, as well as some of the larger corporations and small businesses you might be familiar with.

Julie loves being an active member of the professional community, having spent most of her career volunteering, serving on boards, attending professional functions, speaking publicly, and getting interviewed by the media.And while she’s won more than her fair share of awards (over 50), she’s probably best known for starting The Freelance Exchange of KC — a professional trade organization of ‘solopreneurs’ in the advertising and marketing industry.Now Julie is taking her love of the the Freelance Life to the classroom to teach other young artists the tools they need to survive on their own. Julie has created her own course, Freelancing 101, and started teaching as an Adjunct Professor at the renowned Kansas City Art Institute.

Learn More About Julie Cortes

The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City

JulieCortes.com

Kansas City Art Institute

Julie Cortes on LinkedIn

Julie Cortes on Twitter

 

Phil Singleton: This is a great pleasure, we’re going to have a lot of fun today. So, tell us, this is one of the questions I kind of always ask out of the gate and that is what were kind of your first steps into the business world? What did you do after college or however you got into it, what were the first steps on your way to the path that you’ve taken today?

Julie Cortés: I’m not at all where I thought I would be if you would ask me when I was in school 20-some-odd years ago where I’d be, but I absolutely love it. And there’s been a lot of twists and turns along the way starting out with a couple of internships on the design shop and agency side while I was in college, then I got out and as I strived to find an agency job, I ended up at an in-house corporate marketing department. Wasn’t happy there and so kept looking for that agency gig and finally found one as a writer and producer at a really, really small shop. And like most people or many people in advertising, if an agency loses an account that you work on, there’s a good chance that you’re going to lose your job and that’s what happened to me. And I was booted pretty quickly, I wasn’t there very long at all. So I was back on the scene looking for a job and I kept looking and kept looking and I just wasn’t finding the right fit and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to try this freelance thing,” because I was going it anyway, but, “I’m going to try it as a career as opposed to an in-between job kind of deal.” And that was 20 years ago and I haven’t looked back.

Phil Singleton: Interesting. And when I think when I got out of school, we didn’t have the gig economy like we have right now, so it was kind of hard to either find lower cost direct ways to people to kind of do things, really cut out the middle man, and you could actually pay somebody decently at a good price to start stuff and on the other side there wasn’t a place to find a bunch of buying customers this way. So, in the earlier days, how did you struggle to get the first clients without having this great network of ways to reach potential customers, when you first kind of started?

One of the best pieces of advice I got in college was from my Elements of Advertising professor and he very much insisted that we get involved..

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: One of the best pieces of advice I got in college was from my Elements of Advertising professor and he very much insisted that we get involved. And I took his advice to heart, both in college and then when I got out of school, immediately I jumped on the board for the American Advertising Federation, their young professionals group called Ad2. And I jumped on the board and I worked on their board for three years working my way up, eventually becoming president, volunteer of the year, etc. And I was probably the best thing I could’ve done because here I was surrounded by movers and shakers and I was continually growing my Rolodex and my contacts and so when I was out on my own, initially it was pretty scary and there weren’t a lot of freelancers out there at the time, or this gig economy as you were talking, and so it was just a matter of going to all of these networking events and handing out my card and being as humble and gracious as they come. “Hey, please, give me some work, give me a chance,” kind of thing. And gradually, it just grew and grew and to this day I still get referrals thanks to the volunteer work that I do. So, like I said, one of the best pieces of advice that I have received and probably could give in return.

Phil Singleton: Wow, there’s a couple things I want to touch on, that’s an amazing story and how you got there, and I really kind of feel all sorts of things as you’re talking about it because I’ve kind of been in this industry, too, and I actually came, I’m kind of a reformed finance insurance sector, actually, and didn’t get involved in the digital till like in my 30s type of a thing. But a couple things that really are interesting to me is one, some people will do this on the agency side, I love to talk shop a little bit, and one of the things you had kind of mentioned I think that we still see to this day to some extent is you got this boom bust cycle, I think, that a lot of agencies get and you’ve probably seen this over the years here, especially in Kansas City.

It seems like once a year I see one agency that I knew of knew of that was maybe [inaudible 00:05:22] a little bit harder that ends up closing shop or changing their name or having some kind of struggle, because you see a lot of these guys start up, get good clients, but it’s a boom bust type thing, right? Because they’re working on projects and like you said, clients leave and it leaves a big hole, especially when you get a big one and you have to hire a bunch of people and then you lose it and all of a sudden you still have the same people and they don’t have the same work coming through. So, that’s an interesting thing I think we see a lot here in Kansas City.

But even on the freelancer side, it can kind of be the same way, so one of the things I’m wondering is a lot of folks, I think, today that have, maybe they get their first job at a school, it’s not the career that they love so they got an opportunity now to maybe gig on the side and keep gigging until they find something they’re passionate about, we didn’t really have that, so I’m wondering when you went through your initial stages as an early freelancer kind of getting out to this kind of career, was there a scary part of that? Did you feel like … I think sometimes, even when I was getting my first clients going, you don’t have tons of them at once, you get one or two, so losing one is a big deal. So it’s still a little bit boom busty, I think, in the beginning when you’re a freelancer and can you explain, maybe, did you experience that, one, then two, how far along was it until you kind of felt like, “Okay, this is a steady thing that I can put all my energy in and effort into”?

I always tell others never put all your eggs in one basket and I see some freelancers making that mistake.

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: Well, I always tell others never put all your eggs in one basket and I see some freelancers making that mistake. Maybe they’ll take an onsite gig with a large corporation and they think that they’re swimming in this money, which is great, but eventually they’re going to lose that and then they have no other clients to rely on. So you constantly have to be feeding your income string and even if you’re busy right now, you’ve got to look six weeks, six months from now, are you going to be busy then? Because it is kind of a feast or famine cycle and you have to plan for those famine times. I think everybody goes through that a little bit, for me, honestly, the big switch came from when I first started out, it was a mindset thing, it was an attitude thing, because at the time I was like, “Okay, am I going to be freelancing part-time and looking for a full-time job part-time or am I going to be looking for a full-time job full-time or freelancing full-time?” And I was like, “You know what? I’m tired of the split efforts and the split focus, I just need to make a decision and do one thing or another.”

And so I was like, “You know what? Screw it, I’m going to try the freelance thing and see if I can make it work.” And I sat down and I wrote a business plan and I wrote a marketing plan, set some goals for myself, and boom I was off and running. And quite honestly, that was my launchpad, if you will, my big springboard into my career because at that point, I knew what I needed to do to pay the bills. And money is a huge motivating factor and you set some goals for yourself, financial especially, print those suckers out and put them in front of you so you see them on your bulletin board, or what-have-you, look at them every single day and reassess maybe two weeks into the month going, “Oh, shoot, I need to earn x amount of dollars by the end of the month just to survive, let alone if I want anything extra for entertainment or what-have-you. What do I need to do to make that happen?” And it’s a huge motivating factor. And you get out there and you do more self promotion, you do more networking, you make those cold calls, you just do it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, it’s hustle, right? To me it’s like nothing’s going to fall into your lap and if it does, it’s like you said, it’s probably going to dry up at some point and if you’re not hustling and making sure that you’re keeping your funnel full with your networking and reaching out, then it’s going to probably be pretty tough because no client lasts forever, really. Even if you do have a relationship for a long time, it’s not like they’re ordering from you the same amount all the time, it comes in ebbs and flows a little bit, too. What would you tell somebody like right now, a young person getting out of school, do you think it’s good advice to be like, “Hey, you may have to go get a lower paying or some kind of job to pay the bills for a little bit while you build your freelance career on the side,” or do you tell them, “Hey, go for it, if you hustle enough, you’ll be able to get your clients”? I’m kind of curious on what your take on that would be.

…work where you’re going to be interacting with your community, with your target audience, and people who could potentially get you work or get you a job. And build that, build up your savings, and then continue to build your freelance business on the side.

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: There’s no shame in having a part-time job, especially if you’re first starting out because that first year can be really, really rough. So, I tell people go get a job at a coffee shop or a bar or a restaurant or maybe even, because I work with a lot of young artists, go work at or one of the local art supply stores where you’re going to be interacting with your community, with your target audience, and people who could potentially get you work or get you a job. And build that, build up your savings, and then continue to build your freelance business on the side. And I think, again, as long as you’re focused and you know what you’re doing, maybe work as a barista in the morning but every single afternoon, during the week, is dedicated to your job. Well, I mean, your freelance business. Go. Focus on that. [inaudible 00:10:18] anything else. And I think you’ll find success and eventually you’ll be able to get rid of that part-time job.

Phil Singleton: I love it because I think at some point, yeah, you got to have something that’s coming in over time and that freelancing just has to take, to me, it just takes a little bit of time and effort and hustle to get it rolling to where you can kind of do it full-time versus not-

Julie Cortés: [inaudible 00:10:39]. Go ahead.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, I was just saying not having something to pay the bills, especially right away, that’s the one thing I was curious about, like you’ve mentioned that, too, like it sounds like there was a point and time where you’re just like, “I’m doing this, I’m building a plan, I’m committing to it, I’m going forward.” I know a lot of people that kind of having daytime jobs, are in cubicles or whatever, they’re gigging on the side, they got their foot in two boats and it never feels like this is the good time to leave when they’re probably … At some point it’s almost like you have to make the jump, it seems like all of us, everybody I talk to, including what you’re telling me, at one point you were just like committed to it and then just no turning back almost.

…freelancing or solo-preneurship is not for everybody. It does take a certain kind of attitude and motivation and drive and if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: Right. And you know what, I think everybody’s got that fear and you have to get over that fear. It’s a fear of failure and if you do fail, so what, at least you tried and you said that you’d tried. So, and I will say freelancing or solo-preneurship is not for everybody. It does take a certain kind of attitude and motivation and drive and if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. I see so many freelancers come and go, folks who lose their jobs whether it’s due to the economy or what-have-you and I find the ones who don’t do the things that they need to do are usually the first ones back, full-time, somewhere else. The people who don’t join the network and organizations or don’t promote themselves or don’t do the continuing education, those ones are the first ones back. And I just kind of sit there and shrug my shoulders because I’m here offering tips and tricks and the things to help them get by and you know what, if it’s not in them, it’s not in there. There’s nothing I can do about that.

Phil Singleton: It’s like you say, you can give them … At the end of the day, people have to have hustle and take action, it doesn’t matter how good the tips and advice and stuff is because it’s there. But if they don’t act on it, then they’re probably not going to reap the rewards of what can be a really great career for lots of folks.

Julie Cortés: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Well, let me ask you this, this is something that’s helped me when I first got my business off the ground, I don’t know if people still do this or it’s recommended and I think some people get that they don’t want to do it but it worked out really well for me, the very beginning I actually gave stuff away. Just to build up a little bit of a portfolio and to get a couple, a few like screaming clients where I was like, “I’m going to do this for you, I’m going to bust my butt. It’s worth this amount of money but I need you to be there as a referral. And I also need you to make sure that you’re screaming and putting this stuff up online and giving me nice reviews in different places.” Worked great for me. But I think a lot of people are like, “I’m not going to give anything … ” You know what I mean? [inaudible 00:13:06] …

And I don’t know what … You think that’s recommended or people … I don’t know, did I get lucky? What are your thoughts on doing that for folks? Time is money and you put a lot of stuff into and a lot of times, if you don’t charge for stuff, people don’t understand the value of it, so a lot of times giving stuff for free away all of a sudden loses its value because you’re just doing it for a favor type deal.

Julie Cortés: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Versus actually cash. So what are your thoughts on that?

Julie Cortés: Well, and you don’t want to devalue the profession, either. There’s all sorts of these sites online whether it’s Sologig or Odesk or whatever and you’re sitting there competing against freelancers from overseas who are charging eight bucks and hour and there’s no way I can compete with that. And people are paying for value. When somebody’s first starting out, sure, you can do things in trade, you can do things for exposure, and, again, there’s no shame in that. I don’t personally recommend it. I did do some pro bono work but I did it for charities or I did it for a professional organization where I knew my name was going to be on it and it was going to be broadcast to my target audience of people who could potentially hire me and give me a freelance project. So, I think if you are going to do that, absolutely be very specific about the projects that you choose and make sure that you’re getting something of value in return, like you said, you said the referrals, etc, get something in return and not just be giving work away for free.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, because it’s like you said, as soon as you just give it away for free, all of a sudden then the mind clicks off and it’s not worth as much as what somebody would would’ve paid for it.

Julie Cortés: Right.

Phil Singleton: So, I understand why you wouldn’t recommend it. Now I want to dip into a little bit about your own business, the things that you work on, the services that you offer, we talked a little bit at the beginning about your bio and your background and we got some good advice and things like that, but tell us the things that you’re actually doing and how you work with clients and the types of value and services that you’re doing when you work with companies and agencies around Kansas City? And I guess probably the rest of the country.

Julie Cortés: Sure. So, my business actually turns 20 years old next month, I’m very excited.

Phil Singleton: Congrats.

Julie Cortés: People say, “You look like you’re 12.” Thank you, I’m not.

Phil Singleton: I was going to say, you said 20 years, I was like, “Really?” Wow, you wear it well.

Julie Cortés: Thank you. And I’ve worked with a variety of companies, a variety of industries, and, again, it’s ad agencies, large corporations, small business, non-profits, startups, what-have-you, and basically what I do as a freelance copywriter is I work in advertising and marketing on the creative side and I work in tandem with a graphic designer or art directors and we do any advertising or marketing promotional materials for the clients. Sometimes I work on my own, sometimes I work on a team or a virtual agency, it just kind of depends. Every situation is different. Sometimes ad agencies will call me, “Hey, we’re overwhelmed, we just need this one-off project, can you help us?” Or, “Hey, we’ve got a gal out on maternity leave, can you fill in while she’s gone?” Different scenarios.

But then I have other clients like corporate clients who they don’t have enough marketing work for them to sustain an in-house, full-time marketing department, so they’ll have me make a virtual agency and we meet with them once a week and we knock out whatever projects we need to do for them. So, it just totally varies, totally depends. I’ve worked with some companies you’ve heard of such as Sprint and Hallmark and H&R Block, Payless Shoe stores, some of the bigger ones in town, most of the ad agencies and design shops and a whole bunch of small businesses and startups that you haven’t heard of yet but hopefully will here soon in the near future.

Phil Singleton: Right. So can you break it down a little bit like in terms of, okay, copy or copy writing, is it like taglines or product descriptions, is it blog posts, technical articles, website copy, is it all of the above, is it certain things more than others?

Julie Cortés: That’s a great question. So, I dabble in a lot of things, again, mostly advertising and marketing copy. The stuff that I really like to do is the really conceptual stuff, the really creative stuff because I feel like consumers don’t want to be sold to, they don’t want your commercials, they don’t want your ads, but if they have to be inundated by these things, we might as well make them entertaining for them. So, I love a killer headline, I like really short copy, whether it’s a website or a brochure or a print ad, even a TV spot. I love really, really creative stuff. I also do a lot of proof reading, as well, not all copywriters are proof readers and not all proof readers are copywriters and fortunately I’ve got both sides working for me so I’m able to help out in that capacity, too.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And you’ve been doing it for a while now so obviously this is like there’s no doubt this is your passion and I’ve been following you for some time and you can see that everybody that follows you shares the same kind of opinion that you’re one of the best, if not the best, at what you do here in town here. And the passion comes through, we can all see it, so that’s really awesome.

Julie Cortés: Thank you.

Phil Singleton: I wanted to get into a couple things that also were one of the reasons I was really excited to have you on the show was you’re been doing for a while one of these things that’s become a little more trendy and hip in marketing, I think more recent in the last couple years, and that is trying to go out there and intentionally do things to build your own personal branding and your own like authority in your niche type of thing. So, you’ve naturally been doing this for some time, and you’ve been creating your own inbound networks, you created the Freelance Exchange, we’re going to talk here in a minute, Freelance exchange we’re going to talk in a minute, and those types of things where you’re getting out there and people know you as an expert in your field because you’ve gone out and joined and networked and hustled and kind of made your name for yourself.

And I think smart people have been doing this for a long time and now recently you got all these inbound marketers calling this, “It’s authority building, it’s personal branding,” and that kind of stuff. You’ve done a fantastic job on that, by the way, I think everybody in town here knows who you are, especially in the types of arenas that you claim. What have you done that you think that’s helped you get this kind of branding and authority here in town? Has it been the Freelance Exchange had a big part of it? Has it been joining networks, has it been volunteering, is it all of the above? Which ones do you think have helped more than others? Tell us how you’ve helped build your personal brand up.

Julie Cortés: That’s an excellent question. My first instinct is to say all of the above because, honestly, my own personal brand came about before I even started the Freelance Exchange, I’d been freelancing for five years before I started that. And I think one of the keys is authenticity, is I am who I am and my branding reflects that, it’s fun, it’s whimsical. Today it’s kind of shifting a little bit, it’s got a little bit more edge to it, which is kind of who I’ve become over the years, as well. But, that’s not the say the Freelance Exchange hasn’t helped me because that’s got to be the driving force and I put that on my LinkedIn profile, as well, that if there’s one thing I’m known for, sure, people know me as a copywriter, people know my logo, absolutely, but there’s tons of freelance copywriters out there, there’s tons of copywriters out there, the one thing that Julie Cortés is known for is starting the Freelance Exchange.

And the love of professional development came from, I have to give credit to what we used to call the Ad Club, it’s not AAF, the American Advertising Federation, and like I said, I jumped in right away, right out of school, and served on the board and I loved the community and I loved the network and the continuing education, etc. And I got to thinking, after a few years with them, and I still love them and I’m still a member, but I got to thinking, “Hey, why isn’t there anything specifically for freelancers? There’s plenty of us out there, there’s education, for sure, to be had. Why don’t we do something about this?” And so I opened up my Rolodex, this was January of 2013, opened up my Rolodex, I probably emailed about 50 people back then and I said, “Hey, we need a freelance group, why don’t we get together and figure this out?” I had 20 people show up that very first day and we talked and it just grew and grew and grew beyond my wildest dreams and the next thing you know, we’re getting incorporated. We’ve got a name and a logo and we’re charging membership and here we are, this brand new, not-for-profit, professional trade organization in town that is not competing against AAF or AIGA but working in tandem with them to offer education and networking and support and promotional opportunities specifically for those who are self-employed in advertising and marketing.

And it’s not just freelance writers, it’s also designers, photographers, illustrators, video people, and even folks who wouldn’t consider themselves necessarily creative, such as account reps or media buyers, PR pros, social media pros, web developers and programmers. We have them in our group, as well. And the biggest thing for me was most of us went to school to study our discipline, so I got a degree in journalism. I know how to write for advertising, I don’t know how to run a business, I didn’t take business classes because they weren’t required when I was in school, and that’s what was going through my head when I first got started, “How do I do this?” And plus, many creatives aren’t exactly built for the business side of things, either, we’re very much right brain thinkers and so how do we wrap our heads around this? And I was like, “Gosh, let’s get together and figure this out and let’s bring in the experts and we’ll bring in the attorneys and they can help us with our contracts. And we’ll bring in accountants and they can help us with our taxes.” And etc, etc.

And like I said, the concept just grew and grew and grew and we’ve become so much more than continuing education. It’s community, it’s a network of support, it’s referrals, it’s teaming up and creating virtual agencies. And then conversely, it’s also a resource for Kansas City area businesses and ad agencies, when they need talent, they can come to us and search for free on our website or they can come to our annual portfolio showcase and they can find the talent that they need. We offer that as a service to the community.

Phil Singleton: And right here in town, which I think is super important, I think attractive to a lot of people that you’re being able to deal with somebody local if you’re in Kansas City, right?

Julie Cortés: Right. As opposed to finding some random person online, there’s so much to be said for that face time and building relationships with your clients that sometimes can only be done in person.

Phil Singleton: I absolutely … The reason I love this so much is it’s just so brilliant and genius is that you said … I love when people set something up or go after or organize something or launch a new business, a new organization, and it ends up having a cascade of win wins like this because it’s like not only did it help you make a name for yourself, obviously some of your personal branding is attached to doing this, it enabled you to make a lot of connections. I’m sure by being a Freelance Exchange member yourself that it’s generated business for yourself. But you’ve also helped generate a lot of business for the members, as well, right? So, you did this one thing where you went out there and took an issue to do it to kind of help a community out and it’s really resulted in wins for lots of different people, including yourself.

And I love when things line up that way, when you can actually find a way to do something that either helps yourself or your client or whoever it is, but also helps a lot of other people that are involved in stuff. And I think it’s just … I love what you’re doing, I love the mission of it. I was a part of it myself, like we were talking in the green room before the show, it’s like we’ve gotten leads off of it, I was just telling you, again, earlier before we got on the call, on the recording, that we’ve gotten referrals from you and from the Freelance Exchange. So, really helpful and I just absolutely love what you’ve done and to have watch it just grow over … It basically sounds like it was a thought and then email and a meeting, and it’s kind of rolled into this whole thing that’s got its life of it sown, its own organization and non-profit business, so it’s just fantastic.

Julie Cortés: Thank you. We’re now getting national recognition, which is really fun, especially since we’re just one little group here in Kansas City and just this last year, in 2017, myself and the organization won some awards. One from the National Freelancers Conference, we got a community award that’s national, and then the Stevie Awards for women in business, recognized me for innovator of the year and the Freelance Exchange for organization of the year in the category of non-profit. And again, it’s just so humbling because I feel like we’re just here, like I said, in the middle of the Midwest and we’re getting this national attention and now I’m getting requests to take this concept to other cities. So if you know freelancers in other cities or if anybody’s listening, please, please by all means, let me know and I’d be happy to help you.

Phil Singleton: That is so cool. And then we’re going to get into something else now because when you set this thing up, obviously, you were already a freelancer, you contacted other people that were freelancers or established freelancers, probably, to some degree, but now, you’ve taken this experience, your 20 years of experience, your experience setting up a successful non-profit that generates leads and businesses and resources for freelancers and other small businesses and agencies, now you’ve taken it to the actual classroom where you’re taking some of this experience and kind of formalizing it into a course. Tell us a little bit what you’re doing at the Kansas City Art Institute and how that came about.

Julie Cortés: So, for the past few years I’ve been getting invited to come in and speak to the classrooms of different area colleges, whether it was the Art Institute or UMKC or [inaudible 00:27:01] or KU, and they’d have been come in and give a one hour speil about freelancing. Okay, that’s all fine and good, here’s the pros and cons, here’s what you need to know. And then I just started thinking, “Oh, my gosh, there’s so much you kids need to know. And I am just barely touching the surface of it.” And so I randomly mentioned to one of the professors who had me come in, I said, “Hey, if you know of anybody who would be willing to have this as a class, let me know. I’d love to teach.” And, actually, it wasn’t him and it wasn’t that school but it was a student in the class who said, “Hey, I’ve got a connection for you, let me hook you up.” And the next thing you know, I’m presenting this outline to the design chair of the Kansas City Art Institute and I said, “I have no teaching experience but I absolutely love what I do. I’ve got almost 20 years underneath my belt, I know what I’m doing. The students need this.” Especially there at the Art institute, there are no…

Phil Singleton: Big time, yeah.

Julie Cortés: Yeah. They’re not even offered even if you wanted them. So, I was like, “Please, please, let me come in and teach them the basics. What do you charge and how do you put together and estimate and an invoice and what’s a contract and business plans and marketing plans? What do you write off for taxes?” All these questions that-

Phil Singleton: Oh, big time, and just dealing with clients. How many people have gotten their butt kicked the first few gigs, right, because they didn’t have anybody with experience, kind oftell them what to expect?

…creatives typically aren’t business savvy or not good with numbers and I’m teaching them how to overcome those roadblocks and master their business so they can be successful.

Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: Right. So, they picked me up right away, I’m not on my second tour of teaching over there and even though my elective class is in the graphic design school, I actually have students from all majors. So, there’s design, there’s illustration, photography, film, but even like ceramics and painting and sculpture and fiber and real artsy-fartsy stuff that’s kind of over my head, but they can still get the nuts and bolts of how to run a creative business for the creative mind, mind you. Like I said before, creatives typically aren’t business savvy or not good with numbers and I’m teaching them how to overcome those roadblocks and master their business so they can be successful.

Phil Singleton: What’s the sentiment, do you feel, when you have these classes? Do people kind of light up and they think like, “I want to do this”? Or are some of them still thinking, “Well, I wanted to learn this so I can work for an agency or a company”?  You always wonder, like you’re in college, what you’re thinking, I guess from when I was in school was almost like go to college, get out a job, get a stable paycheck type of thing and is that still, you still find that today or do you talk about this freelancer career and people kind of light up or you feel … What’s the sentiment?

Julie Cortés: Well, the students taking my class, they absolutely light up. They’re very motivated and they want to succeed. I’ll be the first one to tell them that I do not recommend that they start freelancing right out of school. I think it’s a mistake, I think they need to get their feet wet, and if anything, hone their craft under the masters who have been there before them and get that experience and learn what it’s like to work in an ad agency or corporate side or wherever you may be. Get that experience and then when you’re ready or, again, you might not have a choice, you might lose your job like I did, but at least you’ll have that base to build off of. And they’re super excited and I think, like you said, with the gig economy being so hot right now and this entrepreneur mindset, folks are really excited to get out there and I think, or I know right now, freelancers make up a third of the national workforce here in the United States. And by the year 2020, it’s expected to jump to 50%.

right now, freelancers make up a third of the national workforce here in the United States. And by the year 2020, it’s expected to jump to 50%.

– Julie Cortés

Phil Singleton: Wow, I believe it.

Julie Cortés: 50% of the workforce is going to be freelancing or have a side gig of some sort.

Phil Singleton: That’s amazing. And that’s really awesome that you’ve taken it, I can tell just by the passion of this last segment here, that you’re really excited about this part of what you’re doing. Education the new generation of freelancers. So that’s really awesome. Let’s shift as we kind of wrap up the interview here, first let’s talk about a couple of your favorite things in Kansas City, I always like to ask people where they’re from, especially in Kansas City. I’m always learning about something new, new places I hadn’t heard of or haven’t gone yet, but anything. Tell us somebody comes into town, a friend, a long lost friend you haven’t seen for a long time, what you show them, where would you take them, or where do you like to go just like if you’ve been gone for a while and are jonesing for something uniquely Kansas City?

Julie Cortés: I really like, of course everybody’s going to say barbecue, I just like the food here and we have so many options. I live out in the suburbs, which is kind of rare for a creative type, so I love to get into the city and go explore downtown, Westport Plaza area. Some of my favorites, if you’re familiar with, I love live music, too, so if you’re familiar with the Green Lady Lounge down in the crossroads?

Phil Singleton: I’m not. Cool. Okay.

Julie Cortés: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Green Lady Lounge.

Julie Cortés: Yeah, it’s like this little divey jazz club and it’s got an upstairs and downstairs, pretty swanky, nice drinks, and good atmosphere. And, of course, Q39 is probably my favorite barbecue. And I think people here are just generally very friendly, the city’s easy to get around, there’s really nowhere you can’t get to within half an hour’s time and I think in that regard, we’re really spoiled, besides cost of living being awesome, I think we’re really spoiled. It’s almost like we’ve got-

Phil Singleton: Don’t tell anybody.

Julie Cortés: I know. We’ve got big city opportunities in our small, medium size-ish city, so…

Phil Singleton: Especially for people that are gigging, I think, if you’re a freelancer and looking for clients and you live in, say, San Francisco, you’re not going to be as competitive as somebody who maybe is in Kansas City and can do great work because I think we are as talented as anybody is anywhere else in the States or elsewhere. So, that can be an advantage, too. Let’s shift to the $10,000 question, you’re going to get $10,000 tomorrow, none of your assets or connections, you’re going to have all of your knowledge, all of your same bills, what would you start doing immediately to rebuild what you have today? You can’t go put it in Bitcoin, you can’t go do something else, you’re going to rebuild the type of business that you have today, how would you go out and start that hustle? Because now, you’ve got the benefit of hindsight being 20/20, you kind of know what works, where would you start going to apply your knowledge to start getting paid today?

Julie Cortés: Right. This actually happened to me, ironically, about 14, 15 years ago when I got married and my husband got transferred away. And I went with him for the first year, I moved up to Lincoln, Nebraska, of all places, and while I continued to work with my clients in Kansas City, I essentially was starting brand new in Lincoln. I knew nobody, had no connections, I didn’t necessarily have $10,000 in my pocket, but I had to get out there and hustle. And so not only did I join the local organizations and start networking with them but I picked up the phone and I started calling the local ad agencies and design shops, “Hey, do you have any freelance work for me?”

Phil Singleton: You hit the phones, right? Yeah, you rolled up your sleeves and started calling, I love it. That’s hustle.

Julie Cortés: I did.

Phil Singleton: And that worked? Eventually you found somebody that needed some help or had some overflow or some opportunity to take a chance on your type of deal and you got some clients, is that how it worked?

Julie Cortés: I did. In fact, one of my biggest clients came out of over an hour away in Omaha and it wasn’t even an ad agency, it was a corporation, but they ended up giving me plenty of work that I was fine. So, but finally I told my husband, I was like, “Listen, I love you, I love that you love your job, but I’m not a fan of Lincoln, Nebraska, can we go back to Kansas City?”

Phil Singleton: I love it. I love the story, I love this question because everybody that I talk to that’s got some level of success in what they’re doing, there’s always some element of having that hustle-ness in them, you know what I mean? Nobody’s ever like, “Well, I decided to be a freelancer and 10 awesome clients fell into my lap and I lived happily ever after,” type of a thing. It’s like, “No, man, I went out and I worked it. I networker. I worked. I hit the phones. I showed people what I could do and I stayed at it and I was disciplined, I didn’t give up,” type of thing.

Julie Cortés: Right.

Phil Singleton: I just … People I think that don’t have that, and that’s my own, you’ve seen more about that and you deal with the freelancers, but I think that’s part of the actual freelance spirit is getting out there and kind of doing your own thing and I think by nature, if you want to be a solo-preneur, or a freelancer, you’ve got a little bit of that hustle gene in you already, type of thing.

Julie Cortés: Right. You have to and like I said, some people are cut out for it, some aren’t, and even some of the members of the Freelance Exchange, it’s the same thing. You can join all you want and you’ll have a profile on our website, but if you don’t do anything with that, we can’t help you. If you don’t put up a bio or your portfolio samples or a link to your own website, that’s on you, that’s not on us, we’re not responsible for getting you work when you’re not doing your end of the bargain. Or, with our portfolio showcase, a, you’ve got to show, and b, you’ve got to show good work and interact with the clients and then you still have to followup. That’s not the Freelance Exchange responsibility, that’s on you. And if you have that hustle, you will succeed, or you can succeed. If you don’t, good luck.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. Well, let’s wrap this up with just telling us how people can reach you, where you’re most active like on social media, if somebody wants to follow or connect with you or hire you, tell us where we can … Tell us anything, also, that’s coming down the pike in terms of things you like to promote, books, courses, freebies, downloads, anything that you might have, fire away.

Julie Cortés: Sure. So, of course you can connect with me on all social media. You can find me generally under KCCopyDiva, that’s @KC, like Kansas City, CopyDiva and that’s on Twitter and on Instagram and my Facebook company page and then I think on LinkedIn, it’s just /CopyDiva. My own business website is Juliecortes.com, it is currently undergoing a transition to not only including my copywriting and proof reading services but also coming down the pike, very exciting, I’m also going to start offering coaching and mentorship opportunities as well as classes on how to freelance. So not on the student level but on the adult professional level, so stay tuned for more information there.

Phil Singleton: That is going to be awesome, I can’t imagine anybody else to learn the ropes and having you share your knowledge through a course so I hope everybody checks that out who’s interested in this kind of career, or even maybe boosting the one that they have.

Julie Cortés: Right.

Phil Singleton: So this has been an absolute pleasure, thank you so much for sharing this much time with us, Julie, and best of luck to you and your business and everything that you’ve got going on.

Julie Cortés: Thank you so much, appreciate you having me on.