Latasha James is a freelancer turned creative agency owner. Here she describes her journey from being a blogger to going to film school to working in a corporate setting. The lessons learned along the way will inspire you to take the next step towards your dreams in a strategic way.
“Understand your client's objective, and if they don't know what they are, have a conversation about them.”
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Darold 0:00 Well, I am beyond excited to have Latasha James on the passion behind art show. Marketer, coach, course creator, and she has a podcast about freelance, and she's just been killing it Latasha, welcome.
Latasha 0:14 Thank you so much excited to be here.
Darold 0:16 Yes. So let's jump right into it. Did Latasha jump out of the womb wanting to be a marketer? Where did the journey start?
Latasha 0:25 Yeah, I mean, I guess how far do you want me to go? Alright, so I think entrepreneurship is always kind of been in my blood a bit. My grandparents owned a seed company, and that was just kind of their side hustles, so they, I didn't know, picked seeds and sold them to different organizations that don't really understand the seed business. But they did that as kind of a side hustle. And so that was some of my early memories going back up into the country, you know, to visit them and when we went up there, it was always expected that we work so like, and I think a lot of kids would probably hate that. But I loved it. I thought it was like such a cool thing that they ran this business from their kitchen table essentially. And so I've always really, really liked that kind of stuff. And then the actual digital marketing stuff really started with the era of the live journal, I don't know if you remember any of those things. I was probably like, I don't know. I think I was 13 when I got my first computer. One of my uncles, he actually passed away, and he lost all of his nieces and nephews like a very small amount of money. And so I remember my big decision with that money when we finally got access to it was, "was I going to buy a camera or a computer?" And so when I was 13, I bought my first computer and just really discovered the internet and started like, you know, my little blogs on live journal and things like that and just connecting with people online. So that's really where it started.
Darold 1:59 Sweet, sweet, sweet. So, where was the seed on the company?
Latasha 2:04 Yeah, so I'm originally from way up north in Michigan. It's a small town called Marquette, Michigan. So it's the little, you know, massive land above the mitten shape that nobody goes to and that nobody really lives in. That's where I'm originally from. And that's for my grandparents lived.
Darold 2:20 Oh, sweet. That is interesting. That sounds like a lot of attention to detail and a lot of patience. All right, so you've got the wind up the internet just like a lot of us have our own computer; this probably was around dial up time. That's when we all had patience waiting for everything to come on. Like, what took you down this rabbit hole of getting into digital marketing? Was this something you went to school for?
Darold 2:58 So like I said, I've always just really enjoyed the internet. I'm a super introvert. So I have always found my voice online. You know, I feel like sometimes people don't really slow down and listen in real life. And online, you know, if you read my blog, or you watch a video that I kind of have the floor if you will, and for some reason that, you know, the shyness that I had, I'm not really shy anymore, but I definitely was as a kid that just went away with the internet, so I always loved it. And I kept up with my blog, you know, all throughout high school, in college and things like that. And then, I actually took my first film class in high school. So like I said, I was debating between buying a computer and a camera. Those are things that I was always really interested in, and I finally got my opportunity to start learning how to shoot video in high school. And yeah, so it was this like special arts program that we had at my school we get to go off campus for half the day, and it was a really great program, and I fell in love with it. And that's what I ended up majoring in college as well. So I went to school for film and video.
Darold 4:03 Nice. So what was one of the first things that you learned in the video that kind of blew your mind like, whoa, this is crazy?
Latasha 4:13 Yeah, I mean, well, it was such a long time ago. It's crazy. I was thinking about it and like I've been editing video for over a decade, which is kind of a long time when you're as young as I am. Yeah, I mean, back when I started, we're still editing on DVDs like which is though. Do people really do that anymore? So, I mean, I just thought it was really cool how I was able to manipulate images. I mean, I know that's such a simple thing. But you can take the most basic boring piece of footage and add music to it. I've always been really passionate about music too and like turn it into something totally different, and you know, add some graphics to it and just really make it something really special. So yeah, I've always loved doing that.
Darold 4:56 It's funny you said that because like I went to a junior high school, they had an advanced video production type deal. So we did a lot of stuff green screen and all that. And one of the things that I think we so under appreciate is the addition to music too. It literally transforms the most meaningless things. Oh, that's crazy.
Latasha 5:27 Yeah. It's such a big part of that experience. I agree.
Darold 5:30 True. True. True. So what was your fascination with music?
Latasha 5:36 Honestly, I'm going to give credit to my grandparents because they were musicians as well. Like they're just, I don't know, it's funny. I didn't really realize it when I was growing up, but I feel like I was very influenced by a lot of things about them. You know, they had this business that they ran and then they also played music like my grandpa, he played everything fiddle, guitar, flute literally. My grandma is a wonderful singer and played guitar. So yeah, it was just always a part of my life and just a part of our family
Darold 6:07 Sweet, so what part of it did you inherit?
Latasha 6:12 In terms of music? I mean, I love music. I did play drums when I was younger I played in jazz band, but drums are a little bit hard to keep up with you know I live in an apartment and I don't really play anymore, but I am trying to relearn keyboard. I bought a keyboard so I can practice with my headphones on, but I'm definitely not like a great musical talent. It's just something I really enjoy to appreciate and consume.
Darold 6:36 I thought you're about to tell me like you were an under cover or something. That is so interesting. So from going to school, when did this shift happen? To say okay, I want to do more than work for a digital company, because I'm guessing you didn't work for some digital companies, right?
Latasha 7:06 I started freelancing in college just as an extra little, you know, a little bit of money like every college student needs. I picked up some freelance blogging gigs. And it was also a good experience for me in my film and video degree, I would get, you know, one-off projects from authors and you know, just like little video projects here and there. And so I started to kind of dip my toe into the freelancing world in college, and I really loved it. I loved working for myself, even though I wasn't making a lot of money, but it was still I was like, okay, it is possible to make some money at least. So I graduated college, moved out to Detroit, and got a job at a Fortune 500 company in their marketing department. So really glad I got that experience and then went on to work at a different company as well. So I've worked at two Fortune 500. And that was, like night and day, compared to freelancing; it's such, you know, such a huge company and all these different departments involved. So that was a really, really cool experience. And I'm glad that I did that. But at the same time, I was always side hustling as well. I always had at least one or two clients on the side that I was just doing something a little bit more creative because I think in corporate America. At the same time, I love having that experience, there are so many additional layers to everything, and I wasn't always able to, you know, be as creative and have as big of an impact necessarily, as I was with working with a smaller client. So yeah, that's always something that I did on the side and eventually if, you know, several years in I decided to just take the leap and go full time, and there wasn't really like a huge moment where I was like, you know, I'm gonna go full time. It wasn't. I don't know, I just felt like it was time it got to a point where I wasn't making as much money as I wasn't made a job, but I definitely was making a living like I was making full time, income, I mean, a smaller full-time income, but I still realized it was possible. And I was talking to someone, and they're like, yeah, I mean, well think about how much more you can make with an additional 40 hours in your week, you know, and it just kind of put things into perspective for me. And I just felt like why not, you know and give it a shot. If it doesn't work out. I can always go back to corporate America or get a job at an agency,
Darold 9:28 It's funny, like when you start doing the math is like the first year in schooling, you're doing like part-time, freelancing. But if you didn't have schooling, you were doing it full time. You know what I mean? And now when you go to work, it's just like, if you didn't have a full-time job and you go full time freelancing, it's basically just doing the math of the amount of more hours and more time you could put into it. So that's pretty cool. So what was your freelance work, because I know you were doing video editing and stuff like that, but eventually went into like social media marketing. So when did that shift happen?
Latasha 10:08 Back in college, I mean, one of my first non-blogging or non-video clients was a startup. They're a tech startup, actually based in Paris. They found me on youtube randomly. And so, I started doing community management and social media marketing for them. It was something that I always, I mean, I guess my blogging gigs, I did do a little bit of social media too. Like they would often ask me to write the posts to go on with the blogs, and I would get, you know, a little bit of hands-on experience there. So I did have some experience with that. I ended up working with that startup for like three years as my side hustle. Like my main side hustle really, so that was a really good relationship. Yeah, mostly a lot of like tech companies, startups, apps, things like that. I just kind of started diving in with social with them.
Darold 10:55 So what would you say was the hardest thing that you had to get over during this whole process from that girl at school to now you're doing this full-time freelance.
Latasha 11:08 Honestly, I think that I really had to lean into my strengths a little bit. Into my passions, I think so often I would try to do what I thought was the smart thing like even with social in some of my corporate jobs, I moved on to roles because they were promotions. There was more money, and there were bigger responsibilities that weren't really what I was best at necessarily, you know, they were very good, like analytical roles, and I am very analytical, but I'm also very creative. So staring at spreadsheets all day was not for me, it just wasn't for me, and you can't do your best work like I, you know, I was like, Okay, well, I want to do what's best for the company. I want to do best for my wallet in my career, obviously, but you're not doing your best work if it's something that you're absolute cannot stand. And so I really am happy with where I'm at now because I feel like I've been able to kind of tie those worlds together where I do so much creative stuff. I do a lot of video work for my clients still, but it is the social-first video. So it's, you know, videos that really live for social media. They're not these huge, highly produced commercial productions. They're quick social videos, and that's what I'm good at. And, you know, I get to kind of blend those worlds of being, the marketing side of things with the more creative side. So yeah, I think I really struggled. I had some imposter syndrome. I think with that, because even though I've been editing, like I said, for over a decade of my life, I have a degree in this stuff, but I still am always like, Well, I'm not a real videographer. You know, if you look at some of these super-talented people, and it's like, I'm my videos are not like that. And so I think I had some impostor syndrome to kind of get over
Darold 12:56 What's up with us creatives? It's like, every single one of us. I guess it's just been a part of being a creative.
Latasha 13:07 For sure. I think so to me, it's like a blessing and a curse. Because I think we always push ourselves to be better, right? You know, there's every project I've ever done, I still can look at it and find something that I could have done better, always, no matter what. So, it's a good thing that challenges you to keep improving. But I mean, at a certain point, you've got to be like, okay, it's good enough.
Darold 13:36 You're no longer blanket by a company or anything. You're saying, This is my thing. I think that imposter syndrome in a negative way kind of hits us. So you're doing this; you're building your brands, clients, and all that stuff. So what was the shift in wanting to help other people? You could have just been fine. Just doing your thing. Building your empire.
Latasha 14:11 I've always been pretty introverted. I've never had a ton of friends like in real life, and the internet was always like my social hour, you know, it was always my social group. And so I started this YouTube channel again, back in college, it was just something I did for fun. And I really started my YouTube channels like beauty and fashion. I did a lot of makeup reviews and things like that. And so that was just again, another creative outlet for me something I did for fun. But over the years, I was like, I'm not really super passionate about that. I just kind of chose that as the topic I don't know. So it was a very popular kind of niche on YouTube at the time and still is, so it's just something I chose, but I wasn't super passionate about it. And I also wasn't finding a lot of time while it was working a nine to five and building this business. You know, to like make original content all the time. So like, well, let me just start kind of documenting my life doing blogs, things like that. And as I sort of started to open up more about what I did in my daily life, I got a tonne of questions from people. Everybody wants to know, like, you know, how do you become a social media manager and, you know, just understanding my journey in that post-grad kind of period where I was figuring out my career essentially. And that's really how it started. I started asking questions or answering questions that people had and then over time. I've covered the basics and these 10, 15-minute videos, and now they're asking super-detailed questions about building a social media strategy. Setting up your business officially and just super detailed things that I felt really needed a little bit more of a deeper dive. So that's when I created the courses and did the podcast. I've completely revamped my channel, and that's pretty much all that I talked about now.
Darold 15:58 That's, that is so Interesting. So it's; basically, you're making videos of just document, and then went from that to react into what you were getting through your comments. To create the next journey. It sounds obvious. Okay, I'm getting questions. That means that's what I should do. But is it that obvious?
Latasha 16:28 I think, obviously, you have to want to do it. Right. Yeah, lots of questions about random things that I have no interest in talking about too. So, or that are not able to be monetized either. And, I mean, there's a balance of that because YouTube and that side of my business is really something that I love to do. So I don't want it to come across like, you know, I'm only in it for the money but at the same time, you know, from having, like, how much time this stuff takes so you have to at least be breaking even, you know. And so I realized that I was I don't know, it's probably this is kind of like the era when GaryVee was really like kind of blowing up with his YouTube channel. So I kind of was consuming that stuff on the side too and understanding how to like create courses. How to monetize some of your work in that way. So I saw an avenue I saw, you know, an opportunity. Yeah, for it to actually be monetized too. So it made sense for me to at least tryout.
Darold 17:34 What are some of the ways that you generate revenue currently?
Latasha 17:40 I have my services. So social media marketing, video marketing, video editing, those are kind of the core things that we focus on in my business. And then I have my courses, so several different courses for freelancers and creatives and entrepreneurs. I do coaching so I do one on one coaching with primarily with entry-level freelance social media managers, I have a membership as well. So it's more of a group coaching type thing. I actually just started that earlier this year. So that's still kind of in like a testing phase, but it's going really well. It's really fun. My YouTube videos do make a little bit of ad revenue and nothing crazy, but that is a, you know, one revenue stream. I also do sponsorships occasionally on YouTube and on Instagram. I think those are, I think, oh, affiliate links every once in a while as well. So that is actually kind of a big revenue stream. It's something that I often forget about. But it's always there. So I'll link to like different equipment, or I'll have affiliate links for different tools and programs that I use. So those are the biggest ones. I think
Darold 18:54 That's always sweet. I'm not gonna lie, when out of nowhere, something dropped you just like, huh, wow, this still works.
Latasha 19:04 Yeah. And it's like something that you linked to a year ago. It's so great.
Darold 19:08 Yeah. That is so interesting. I, um, this will this is one of the things I always talk about my podcasts like multiple revenue streams. Yes, I'm so long we've been taught at least 90%. Most of us 100% of our revenue is in once. And the idea of losing that we all most people fall short, scrambling. So I mean, our power ticker.
Latasha 19:38 Yeah, no, I appreciate that. And I always teach the same thing. And especially in times like this, when we're potentially going to encounter a recession. A lot so many people are out of work, and I feel so much for those people. And of course, like everybody will probably be affected to some degree, but I have never felt at Secure actually being a freelancer, which a lot of people would think the opposite like, Oh my gosh, you must be panicking. And it's like, yeah, of course, I don't want to lose any clients or lose any of my revenue streams. But even if I do, at least I have these five or six other things to lean on and pull the lever on. So I totally agree with you.
Darold 20:18 It's a great feeling. I'm never gonna lie. I mean, I've talked to a few people. And it's sometimes my heart goes out to a lot of people that say no, and it just kind of reminds me how blessed we are for what we even do it can be done remotely. So you know, it's one of those times where you say, you know what, I'm pretty grateful for the type of work that I do. Yeah. So in that vein, like, how is the current climate like how is it where you are? Because of COVID-19?
Latasha 20:48 Yeah, well, I mean, locally, it's, it's Detroit is the third biggest kind of the epicenter of it all. So a lot going on in terms of my location right now. But luckily for me, nothing has really changed in terms of my business, I actually have pretty much always operated online, only, like 99% of my business is online. I mean, occasionally I'll go to a client site or something, but it's nothing that I can't do online. My clients are scattered all over to not just in the United States, but all over the globe. That is a blessing also, because even though like my local community is being hit really hard. If I were to have put all of my eggs in, like the restaurant industry or retail stores something in my local area that I could potentially, you know, be really struggling, but I have clients from all over, so yeah, nothing too crazy right now. I decided to go ahead to create a creative agency mainly because I realized I had plateaued and amount in terms of the amount of work that I was able to take on. And while I don't always work with a huge team for every project, I wanted the ability to if there was a bigger contract that came through to be able to pull other people in. To outsource some of that work entirely and kind of be hands-off with some of that work. So yeah, that's really the reason I wanted to and I also wanted my business to have the potential at least outlive me, honestly, you know, who knows if I want to, if I ever have kids, pass my business on to them or whatever the case then I just felt like having a more like neutral name, not just being so reliant on me would make that a little bit more possible.
Darold 22:50 Makes sense. I mean, I was checking it out, and I was like, I really liked the select the feel like the simpleness of all of it. Pretty good. Let's jump into a little bit more fun questions, right? What's that thing that you can't live without that's not your phone?
Latasha 23:13 My camera, I would say. I use it for work. I use it for fun. I love looking back to memories. I love obviously creating stuff for my clients, so definitely my camera. For most of my YouTube videos, I use a Canon 80D. Not too heavy, but still good. And it can be done for everything. It's still kind of like a more entry-level DSLR, so it's easy to learn, but it is, you know, I use the T5i for years, which also is a great camera like if you're just starting out, you can do so much with a camera like that. It's more about what you do with the camera than the actual camera itself is my belief.
Darold 24:00 Well, you're a pro. So I'm taking your advice. Book recommendations?
Latasha 24:06 Yeah. book recommendations. So I recently read a book called The One Page Marketing Plan. Have you heard of it?
Darold 24:12 I've heard of it. I've read it.
Latasha 24:14 It's so good. I mean, it's such simple stuff. Really, when you read it, you're like, Oh, yeah, duh, like I know this, but it's just one of those things that it really makes so many light bulbs go off for you. So I highly recommend that one. And then I also always recommend Steal Like An Artist and show your work. I love those books. They're just like the quickest reads I always recommend those if you're going to be traveling like read it on the airplane. They're super simple, quick, and really fun, light-hearted reads, but super inspirational for any creative or entrepreneur.
Darold 24:49 And I can never catch up to my book list. It just keeps growing and growing and growing. I know it hasn't always been easy, and you shared some of the struggles but or some of the people that kind of held Latasha down the people that you draw support from because, you know, as someone especially working remotely, most of the times you're by yourself. So who's that person? Or who are those people?
Latasha 25:17 My partner Norris. He has been super supportive, and I think that's the whole thing is like being in a relationship or being married to a freelancer is like, you gotta have a certain level of understanding for what they do. Because some days I'm working I'm like, sorry, I'm just gonna work all weekend or, you know, I'm creating stuff. I'm like, Hey, you gotta be quiet, especially with this quarantine stuff. I'm like, okay, just have to be silent. I'm recording right now. So definitely appreciate how helpful he's been. I feel like Yeah, for sure. And then also just having friends. I have one of my best friends. His name is Ryan. He is also a freelancer. And we actually just started this, and then we're not allowed to any because of self-isolation, but we just started co-working together every week. So, yeah, we choose just a day every week to get together. And even if we're not doing anything crazy, we're just sitting in my office or at a coffee shop or whatever. It just really helps to have somebody to bounce quick ideas off of because those are the things that I do miss about working in an office is just popping over to someone's desk. Being like, hey, can you give me a quick opinion on these graphics or you know, whatever it is, so, definitely recommend finding that person, you know, somebody who can kind of just be a support system for you.
Darold 26:35 I totally echoed. You know, I would say that's what completely changed my creative career, is building friendships outside of not like a job or anything. It's building friendships in the industry. I literally Yeah, 2015 from then on, it's completely changed my career. So I definitely agree. Which one?
Latasha 27:01 Yeah. And I love connecting with people who aren't necessarily like they'll be in the industry but won't be doing exactly what I do either. I have friends who are designers and, you know, just different things, and it's so helpful to understand my business as a whole like to get a designer's opinion on something that I'm doing is really cool.
Darold 27:26 There's a question that popped in my head, any tips on managing or motivating a team?
Latasha 27:42 I think that helping people understand the full picture is really important. I am not a Hey, go do this meaningless task kind of person. Of course, some busywork will always need to get done, right? Even for like a virtual assistant that I hire or somebody who's literally just sending emails or doing filing work or something. I still try to give them background on the client that they're emailing or doing that paperwork for or give them an understanding of like, what the whole picture is, and what this means for the business. Because it's a development opportunity for them if I really like that person, I want them to grow with the company, and I want them to you know, maybe move on to a more hands-on role and it also just helps people understand like, why they're doing what a wider
Darold 28:34 I sometimes think as a whole, and very few companies do believe even like some of these big companies, I worked for some, these well known nationally known companies globally known. Just to put it bluntly, they suck at that.
Latasha 28:51 I've been there too. I feel like why am I doing this? Like, I have no idea what I'm even doing.
Darold 29:00 The idea of taking the whole team on the journey is just not a priority. Right. So what is the first hour of Latasha's day like?
Latasha 29:15 Mm-hmm. So I'm not perfect at this, I'm gonna be honest with you, but I try like nine times out of 10 to really take the first hour of my day for me. And so even if that means I'm waking up a little bit early before it really morning call. Just to have my coffee, to eat breakfast, and to sit and like read something or work on some kind of self-development. So I'm always enrolled in some kind. I'm a huge believer in learning, especially in you know, this world that's always changing. You have to stay up to date on what's going on. So listening to the podcast, taking courses, reading a book, I like to take that first hour to kind of do something like that before kind of giving my day away and, and hopping right into meetings or hopping right into work.
Darold 30:13 Sometimes you have that amazing routine and just some this life kind of turns it upside down.
Latasha 30:23 I'm a big calendar person too. That's another thing that I do, you know, early in the day as I go through my calendar and make sure that I'm blocking off time if I have more meetings on my calendar, I'm just gonna block the whole rest of my day so nobody else can add time to it. So really trying to make sure that I know what I'm doing and that you know, I'm reserving time for myself throughout the day too. Because being in back to back meetings is like my least favorite thing ever. I feel like it's all a blur, and I'm left with "now what am I supposed to do"? I'm or what am I supposed to have time to do this stuff? So yeah, big believer in using your calendar.
Darold 30:44 The idea of just kind of blocking out time just kind of putting it actually on the calendar.
Latasha 31:06 Oh, yeah, yes, I block out everything. Like every single personal development time, I'll block off time to read all of that stuff. I'm really focusing right now on building up that education side of my business, creating some additional courses. That's been something not just with this, you know, a current climate that's going on. But just even before all this, this kind of craziness happened a lot of people were asking for, I think people really love the ability to self educate and to kind of learn at their own pace. So yeah, I just launched a video content creation course. So I'm really excited about that. And just gonna kind of continue creating some more education stuff. Like I said, I launched my membership group too, which has been really fun doing some group training and like bringing in some guest experts and things like that to talk to the group. So it's been really, really good.
Darold 32:06 How many courses do you currently have?
Latasha 32:09 I have five total.
Darold 32:13 That's impressive. Impressive. Alright, so before I let you go, what advice would you have?
Latasha 32:36 Understand your client's objectives. And if they don't know what they are, have a conversation about them. Because I could tell you what I think your social media should look like or what you know, some random companies should look like, but you might have a completely different goal in mind. And if we're not lined on those things, we're going to be creating completely different content, and you know, you're going to be very confused about what I'm doing. So that's such a simple question, but it's something that people so often don't ask is What is your goal? Is your goal to just bring awareness to the brand? Is it to sell a certain product? Is it to sell more revenue in general? What is its customer service, there are so many different goals of social media. And I think for most companies, it's going to be a little bit of all of those things, right? But you have to figure out what the priority is and where you should really be focusing. So yeah, getting clear on goals is huge. And quantifying those goals too, because like selling more of a T-shirt, like how much more do you have a unit goal or a revenue goal that we want to be going after?
Darold 33:46 I think people take that idea for granted the idea of giving a specific number. And it's not trying to be like anything more than it just aligns everything the whole strategy aligns. The whole plan.
Latasha 34:03 So for sure, totally agree and then tracking to that. Like, again. Another thing that so many people don't do is just track your links. Please only add even if it's something simple like using Bitly. If it's more complex, like using Google Analytics, you can't measure what you don't know. And if you're not, tracking back, you're never going to know what the impact of social is really having.
Darold 34:25 Sweet. I love it. So, where can people go to find you learn more about you?
Latasha 34:30 Yeah, pretty much everything is on my website LatashaJames.com, you can find my courses, my podcast. There's the link to my YouTube channel there.
Darold 34:43 Latasha, this has been amazing. Thanks for coming on.
Latasha 34:49 Absolutely.