Chris Do is the founder of The Futur and CEO and Chief Strategist of Blind, a Brand Strategy Design Consultancy.
Chris is a legend in the creative world. He is an Emmy award-winning designer, director, CEO and Chief Strategist of Blind, a Brand Strategy Design Consultancy. Blind has worked with some incredible clients including MLB, Wells Fargo, Honda, Intel, Microsoft, NFL, Nike, Showtime, EA, Google, Audi, Sony, XBOX, Snapchat, and Riot Games.
Chris is also the founder of The Futur—an online education platform with the mission of teaching 1 billion people how to make a living doing what they love.
In this episode, we talk about Chris’s path from design school to content creation, the bold moves he took to transition from agency life to creator life, how you can make that same transition, and why today he’s all in on Content as a way to impact a billion people.
Since you're listening to Creative Elements, we'd like to suggest you also try other Podglomerate shows surrounding entrepreneurship, business, and careers like Rocketship.fm and Freelance to Founder.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Chris Do 00:00
I'd get in the plane and we book a car service for multiple days. And we would hit agency agency in New York. For multiple days. It's exhausting for an introvert. And it felt like I was proselytizing myself. And it felt really awkward and disingenuous.
Jay Clouse 00:15
Hello, my friend. Welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. We have a big, big episode for you this week. Today I'm speaking with one of the most requested guests ever on the show, the one and only Chris Do. Chris is a legend in the creative world. He is an Emmy Award winning designer, Director, CEO and chief strategist of blind, a brand strategy design consultancy, blind has worked with some incredible clients. Let me just give you a short list of these clients MLB Wells Fargo, Honda, Intel, Microsoft, NFL, Nike Showtime, EA, Google Audi, Sony X Box, Snapchat and Riot Games just to name a few. And not only has Chris built an incredible agency, but he's also founded the future that's future without an E, which is an educational platform with the mission of teaching 1 billion people how to make a living online doing things that they love. Anyone doing client services knows that moving from client services all the way to content creation is a huge feat. There are all kinds of obstacles along that path. But Chris had no problem taking on those obstacles.
Chris Do 01:27
I've come to the realization that thing that's allowed me to reinvent myself and to potentially revolutionize the education industry, is because I've always looked at obstacles as a gift. Obstacles are a gift to change, it's a call to action, it's an opportunity to transform yourself and to become more than what you thought you were capable of. So I went from being a graphic designer to motion graphic designer to starting my own company from going from doing motion design to doing brand strategy, and then ultimately content creation making videos on YouTube. The key thing, the theme that brings it all together is each one of them had his inflection point was I going to stay down the true path or was I going to try something different. And for me, Fortune favors the bold, go down a different path, it's an opportunity for you to grow.
Jay Clouse 02:14
Chris actually started his agency blind, right after he graduated from Art Center College of Design in 1995. Meanwhile, most of his classmates were taking more of a traditional design path. So I asked Chris, why he didn't take more of a traditional design path.
Chris Do 02:31
Mostly Jades because I'm impatient and ambitious, and kind of a little bit naive in terms of like, what I think I can do. I think it's one of those things when you're when you're still so new to the industry that you think anything's possible that if you have enough belief in yourself and your skill set, that whatever path you want to forge, it's available to you. And I also remember, from whatever I was, like configured out that money is the way you get the things that you want in life. I've started different businesses before, designers, the first business that I started that actually had any skill at. So since I was little I sold candy and sold popsicles. Unfortunately, I also sold ninja stars at school, which apparently you can't sell weapons at school. And so I find out the hard way that that's a no, no.
Jay Clouse 03:18
And then ask Chris, where his interest in entrepreneurship came from, as a kid from an immigrant family. Where do you even become aware that entrepreneurship is an option for you?
Chris Do 03:28
So here's the funny thing. I have an older brother, he's four years older than me. And he gives me this book. It's called the adventures of the great brain. It's written by Tom Fitzgerald. I think that Tom Fitzgerald, John Fitzgerald, and it's it's tells a story of these young kids growing up in Utah in rural parts, it turned a century. So this is like when a penny could buy you a lot, you know, five cents, you can buy a harmonica or something. And he told the story from the point of view of John about his brother, the great brain. And he always figured out a way to, to hustle to cheat the system to build businesses and, and kind of take advantage according to John, advantage of the neighborhood kids and he always admired him, but also looked upon him. Like he's taking shortcuts and amount of disdain. But within that word, the ideas of how you can create a business and how you can make money. And so I think my older brother gave me this book, just for me to have fun reading it, but also to plant the seeds of entrepreneurship. And once it enters your brain, I don't think you can get rid of it.
Jay Clouse 04:25
So in this episode, we talked about Chris's path from design school to content creation, the bold moves he had to make along that path to go from agency owner to full time creator, how you can make that same transition if that's something you aspire to, and why he's all in on content as a way to impact more than a billion people. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram at Jay Clouse, or if you're here on YouTube, just leave a comment down below. That's enough of me though. Let's talk with Chris.
Chris Do 05:09
There were a number of classmates who were able to procure freelance opportunities before I had any. And I kept thinking at some point, why are you going to school, if you're going to do freelance work, you're paying school a lot of money to make a little bit of money. And it didn't seem like the right exchange. So I resisted any, you know, just pursuing the opportunities. But as I felt enough confidence in my own skills towards the upper terms, when I was a junior, and senior classmates would ask, Oh, hey, I'm a photographer. Can you help me out with my business system? Can you help me out with titles for my video? And at that point, I was thinking, Okay, I think now it's time for me to start to apply the skills that I learned into the real world. And so like many people, the first clients you have are friends and classmates or family, and you you practice it. But I would say that, generally speaking, professors weren't focused on teaching you the business component. They were trying to help you with the craft. And I think it was a really good thing, but also not such a great thing. Because it created an idea in my mind that all I had to do to be successful, was to focus on my craft, which is what I did. But then, you know, it's one of those things where subjective expectation meets cold, hard reality. And when you exit, and you go into the world, nobody knows who you are. Nobody cares what you what you do, or they don't care about you at all. And so that bubble bursts real fast.
Jay Clouse 06:34
Yeah, tell me about that. Because I know it's hard to go back maybe 26 years thinking about this, because you look at the website. Now you've worked with Major League Baseball, Intel, Microsoft, Nike, Showtime, these huge, huge names, what was the progression? Like? What was it like out of school, and when did you start to feel some some positive momentum?
Chris Do 06:53
I'm very fortunate, Jay, because my path is unlike most people's paths, because I focused on school, I excelled and found that doing design work came to me easier than for some of my classmates. So when I got into school, it seemed like magical things were happening for me. And I'll talk about that little bit later. Because I read Daniel Priestley's book key person of influence. And I'll tie it back together a little bit later. So I don't I don't know these terms back then. But what happened was, when you excel at your craft, and you show up consistently, well, you get rewarded for it in my, in my own experience, because my classmates who graduated before me, would recommend me for jobs. And that's how I got my first job in advertising. And then that job led to a full time offer. And ultimately, when I didn't take that the people I worked with at the agencies sent me commercial work. And so I think it's one of these things and a lesson that that a lot of people can probably take note of which is, in every human to human interaction that you have, it's an opportunity for you to build or destroy a relationship. How you make people feel, what kind of impression you leave with them, really is important because you can open more doors, or you can close a whole bunch of them. And so the one advertising student who was in my class, I think, a fifth term, which is by halfway through my schooling, she just remembered that I was this hard working guy who did good work. And so when she needed a partner, she recommended me. And then that led to the job. And then the job led to freelance opportunity. So I got to work on commercials when I didn't have a commercial real, and that the same students that I helped out in school, one of them one up being a very successful director and an advertising like an executive executive creative director. So they met a lot of people and everywhere they went, when the word design was was brought up, they would just recommend me. And then that's how I got a lot of leads. So I don't know anything about sales. I don't know anything about marketing, or pricing or closing. But the work came because because of those seeds that I planted.
Jay Clouse 08:58
Man, what a, what a gift. I talked to people all the time, who are, you know, trying to get their foothold and trying to get consistent work coming in. And it really seems like the type of clients that you get, be getting more clients like that. And so if you reverse engineer it, it's kind of like how quickly can I get that first client who really represents the type of client that I want, and start to make that a great experience for them one, and then parlay that into future clients like that. Have you had a similar experience? Or would you have any nuance to throw on that?
Chris Do 09:30
Yeah, I think there's a there's a concept I want to share with your audience, which is the concept of trading up. And I don't mean to say like, I'm dissatisfied with this project, or this client that I'm working on, but every everything that you do and everything you make is an opportunity to represent the best of you. And then you can then take that and and parlay that into a bigger opportunity. So it's just like the food chain. The small fish get eaten by the medium sized fish and then they get eaten by the bigger fish and then eventually you wind up at the top of the food chain. And so the progression can be okay, I'm working on really kind of regional TV spots that on brand that no one cares about. But I'm gaining experience and then the next commercial gig that comes up, that's a national spot that still no no one cares about, in Egypt keep trading ups from from, from regional to national, to from national to international, or brands that you really want to work with. And I see that happening. And so I think where people kind of get stuck is they say I make ads for shoes, for boring shoe brands. And they never try to leverage that body of work, to take that initiative to try to say like, Well, who else might need this? Well, their competitors might need this, or people in the supply chain might need it. So they're the people who supply the shoe manufacturer with the components that they need, like the soul, for example, there's a company called Vibram. And virome is the soul that's used in many hiking boots and shoes, it's a certain kind of technology, or you, you might want to use some kind of waterproofing material for your shoe. So whoever, whoever manufactures that you can reach out to them. So you can start to branch out, I think it just takes a little bit of imagination, a lot of initiative to start to do knock on doors and see who else might need your services.
Jay Clouse 11:17
Some of these brands that you've worked with these massive organizations with 10s of 1000s of employees, it feels inaccessible to figure out how do I even get my foot in the door to work with Google or Audi or Sony? You know, when when somebody is starting as a designer or someone just generally in client services? What do they need to understand about getting to a point where they can work with brands like this, how do you actually cross that chasm?
Chris Do 11:42
There's a couple of different ways you can do it based on my experience, if you do something that's really noteworthy, that that is remarkable worth remarking about. Eventually, it will feed into the creative culture, and then people will seek you out. Now, that was ideal way to do this. But it's not always possible for you to do and because clients have limitations as to what they'll buy, you have to adhere to brand guidelines, and you have to honor and service the business needs of your clients. And so it's not always for you to express your full creativity. And we should not resent clients for that, we should thank them for the opportunity to put food on the table to pay rent and save a little bit for rainy day. So you have a couple options there. One option is to take on a client that pays you very little with the caveat that you get to do whatever you want, you have carte blanche, as they say. And if you can find that kind of client, wonderful. So you can say I've done this for a real client. And this is the full expression of my creativity. And I would express that, clearly even to write it up in a document so that later on, not only are you not getting paid, but then you don't get what you want out of it. But if you can't get that kind of opportunity, the second best version of that is to go ahead and create a spec project, a project that's for no one, but yourself. And you can design the brief. And so what you need to do is you need to demonstrate the skill and the look that you want to be hired for, you have to take that first hit yourself. Because it's kind of unrealistic to expect someone to pay you to learn on the job. It really is, especially if you're taking a big leap. So take for example, let's say you do incredible motion design work, but you're gonna maybe we can do something else. And you want to build super dynamic animated websites. And so you wait around for someone to hire, you do that. And they're saying, you represent a lot of risk to us. Because you have zero examples of this, you have no proof that you can do this, except for you move type in a linear sequential way. But I don't want that I want an interactive website. So you can ask people to take that risk with you. Or you can just go ahead and say, Alright, I'm going to use some kind of authoring tool, I'm going to apply it to my own site or a spec site. And I'm just going to build it to to my heart's content. And then you show that piece as a demonstration of your capabilities. And oftentimes, especially today, when you write about it, and you promote it, and you market that thing that you create, it will create enough buzz that opportunities will present themselves to you. And I think that's one way. I love that approach.
Jay Clouse 14:15
I think this is an approach that not enough people take the risk, the time risk to do i There's there was a blog posts from I think like six years ago, this woman who said, I want to challenge myself as a designer, so I redesigned all of Instagram. And I remember looking at this, and I was like, wow, this is incredible. This is so good. And every time I talk about his example now and I dig up that blog post, so much of what she designed is actually in the UI of Instagram now it's so awesome. Is there any risk or gotchas people should think about with doing speculative work for a brand that didn't hire them, but they just want to stretch them and use that that brand as a vessel for their creativity?
Chris Do 14:55
Yeah, I would say if possible, don't present your work and your point of view as As a troll, but as a superfan, and there's a big difference there, you if you say, oh, Instagram is the dumbest piece of software, I wish the idiots who were running this company would do something right for a change. And then you present your work as a solution like you're the Savior, Joan of Arc to all of design. First of all, that's going to leave a poor taste in people's mouths. But also, it's like you're super self important and who says that your idea is better? Versus if you if you approach it from the superfan. Like, I love this so much. And I thought it'd be neat to have this, this and that. And I this is my love letter to Instagram, it a whole, you know, same work, same initiative, hopefully the same outcome, but two totally different approaches that I think one is going to yield a lot more results than the other.
Jay Clouse 15:41
Yes, yes, I get those pitches as just a small time creator to have copywriters or developers who are like, hey, this part about your site is broken, like they really lean into the negative. And it's a really awkward foot to get off on with somebody who's ultimately trying to pitch working together to basically start the relationship by taking shots as opposed to saying, this is the opportunity for the brand. I love the brand. I love what you're doing. And I feel like you're leaving this opportunity kind of Unturned.
Jay Clouse 16:09
After a quick break, Chris and I talked about the transition from building an agency to becoming a full time content creator. And later we talk about how you can make that transition to if you want to. So stick around and we'll be right back.
Jay Clouse 16:22
Welcome back to my conversation with Chris Do. One of my favorite parts about Chris's story is that he was actually able to make the transition from successful agency owner to full time content creator. That's a transition that I know a lot of creative service providers want to make themselves. But it's really, really hard. So I asked Chris to talk about that transition and how it looked like for him moving from blind to the future.
Chris Do 16:44
I think about four or five years into my business, I was able to do about $4 million a year on the low end, and as almost $7 million on the high end. So we we would hover between four and $7 million as a service agency. And the thing is, the closer we got to four, the more we're going to be bleeding money. And the closer we got to seven and the more I was like, Hey, guys, look at all those piles of money. This is fucking wonderful. Here's your bonus, and I'll let me buy you plasma TV. And so we would kind of oscillate between those two points. And this is how we kind of persisted. So 5 million was the average, six would be great seven would be, you know, we're dancing. So in 2016, as we're transitioning away from doing client work, and it wasn't until 2018, that we actually stopped doing client work. So there's a period of time here, in this moment in time, I'm running two companies simultaneously. My main focus is on the future, which makes no money. I'm pretty much ignoring blind and saying executive producer, creative directors, you know what to do. You're qualified, you're trained, you're great. And let's just keep going. So what I did was, I would ask them to buy me as much time as possible to extend the runway, so that I can build this new ship. And I literally had this conversation with the entire staff. We had a big staff meeting, I call him in and said, Here's the thing. Some of you might be scared, because you're wondering to yourself, why is Chris focused on something else, and he doesn't seem to care about this anymore. And we're all in this old boat, that blind belt, which is awesome, super streamlined. We know how to get work, we had to close it when not to produce it. Not a lot of questions left for us to do except for the creative work. Wonderful. There's this other tiny little vessel called the future. And there's me and a volunteer or an intern or somebody. And that's it. And so like, Are you abandoning this? I said, No, here's how it goes, right? The big ship moves slowly, it turns very slowly. So we need to go on a little bit. So I'm gonna go into the fog, because I don't know what's ahead. And it could be rocks, it could be paradise, we don't know. But mind you, there's a little string that ties us tethers us together. So when I find the land of milk and honey, I'm coming back and I tell you how to get there. And we start to divert the resources from the main ship to the little ship. So that quelled a lot of fears. And then they have a roadmap and this was really instrumental in people understanding. So why did I have this conversation? One, my business coach taught me this many years ago, absent an explanation, people invent their own story. And generally speaking people dark imaginations. So like, Okay, this is it for us, we're getting sacked, and our careers are over. And Chris hates us. And no, that's not the case at all. But the other purpose of telling this story is to help people self select, who would like to be on the new boat, and who would want to go down with the old ship. And so a process began and it's a lot of like, bloodletting. Some people quit. I let go some people but it helped me solve this problem, because people are like, we don't understand content. We don't like what you're doing. We feel safe doing this. We'll just do it for ourselves or for someone else. And so my executive producer, my first executive producer, like his name is Tobin. He's like, Chris, I gotta look for other things. I'm cool. You do that? And then Scott's like Chris, you know, a couple years later. He's like, I have an opportunity to start my own business. I'm like, congratulations, God, we're super proud of you. And he's still doing that today. And so both of those guys are doing really well, both Tobin and Scott, but what I had to do was to let them know ahead of time, and not just pull it out and say, you guys, you have 30 days, goodbye. And that would be irresponsible of me as a business owner and as manager and as a leader.
Jay Clouse 20:20
How big was the team at blind at that time, when you were making that strategic shift?
Chris Do 20:24
I think we're probably 15 or 16 people. And we would swell up with a ton of freelancers. So our core group was relatively small. And sometimes the Freelancers would outnumber the staff that we had. Now, keep in mind that blind as a studio had about 9000 square feet of studio space. So we can easily get 50 or 60 people inside of the building to do work, including three editing bass, etc. And so it was designed to expand and contract based on needs. And so we were fine with our core team. And we would just step up as needed.
Jay Clouse 20:59
Was that about the same size as when you're saying a few years, and you're doing? Average $5 million per year? And on the 4 million side? That was not good financially? I'm trying to understand. Yeah, so the expenses and how big a team is?
Jay Clouse 21:13
Yeah, so I've had to go through probably a series of, I think, four layoffs. I'm not, I don't like to count these things as Oh, it's a horrible feeling. But I think I've had to lay off four groups of people throughout the 20 plus year history of blind. And it is very painful. And sometimes I like people go because the company is shifting, and I can't see that these people are going to make it to the next shift. And the times, which has hurt so much, which is we don't have money, we're going to run out of money, I need to let go people who ultimately, I love but but I can't justify the expense of keeping them on. So there was a period in time when I had a visual effects supervisor, beautiful man just did incredible work. But it was just like one of the most expensive people on staff and I wasn't getting enough of the work to support that.
Jay Clouse 22:01
At this moment when you're making this shift, was it I have this vision where I think the future is headed, like the idea of the future, not the not the brand of the future and its content. So I'm moving in that direction, or was it? I've been doing client services for 25 years or so. I'm ready for my next challenge. What was driving the change for you?
Chris Do 22:23
Okay, I'm glad you asked this question. The first thing is, I've always wanted to try to work really hard, so I can make enough money, so I didn't have to work anymore. So that's the whole idea that your money makes money for you, right, and all the wealthy people, they no longer do what it is that made them the money in the first place, because they're shrewd with investing. And I had some imaginary amount I needed to make. I don't spend a lot of money, relatively speaking. And I had a meeting with my financial planner one day, and I was told by my wife, I need two more good years from you. Let's let's kind of put away two good years of revenue and profit. And you could do whatever you want in your life, and it'll make me feel good. Like, hey, great. I have no idea how much money we have. That's my wife's business, right? So I'm meeting with my financial planner. And I asked him this question. His name is John. I said, John, I just need to know when I can retire. He goes what? You know, this is a strange concept for him because you're in peak earning time right now. So he's like, Chris, what do the numbers you can retire yesterday? I'm like, what it was, yeah, you have enough assets, you don't spend any money, everything's fine. You don't need to work. And that creates some kind of existential crisis for me, because I always thought the marker was two years away. And then to find, oh, my gosh, it's right now, I can stop working right now. It made me really think and dig deep into my soul. What is it I want to do for the rest of my life? I definitely don't want to be an I'm using strong language here, a slave to a corporate master. And that's really what commercial advertising is. It's fun work. But it's still you're, you're like a high end slave. Because they tell you what, they want more of this, less of that. And they want you to submit for more ideas. You say? Yes, sir. And you just do it. And that's the name of the game, right? And few of us are in that position where we're so good that we get to dictate the terms, there are a couple like your name happens to be David Fincher, you kind of probably have your own way. Or maybe Ridley Scott, but the rest of us mere mortals, we got to do what the client wants. And it's kind of a tough position to be in. And so now that I'm free of this thing, and you know, what's the purpose question is beyond money, why do you exist? So if I take away the need to make money to provide for my friends and my family, then what else I'm going to do with my life? Well, I love teaching. I'd like to figure out a way where I can teach and not go into debt. That's the critical part. And so that clearly says this must be the new thing. And I'm just tired of doing client work.
Jay Clouse 24:54
Did you want to basically absorb blind as an in house production team for the future? Were you trying to inspire A team to say, Hey, if you want to self select into this, this is what we're going to do. We're still creating things. It's just going to be for us as opposed to for clients.
Chris Do 25:08
Yeah, I needed teachers, educators, I needed content. People, I need people to help me produce the content, edit, add, design and typography. And I needed people to learn marketing. And so it was a tough transition, I have to say, because people who are great creators, they need someone to work for, they need a task or the unit schedule, they need objectives and parameters, and to be self directed, it's beautiful, and simultaneously, a very scary thing for some people. And so it was a really hardship. The other hardship was, we've been working for 20 plus years, refining pixels, choosing the exact shade of yellow, you know, and that's how we're trained. And we get paid to pay attention to those details. But those same skill sets going into creating content for youtube are a overkill, unappreciated, and sometimes comes across as being overly produced and commercial, like in a bad way. Right. It's like we want true and authentic video. So rough, ugly video, with a good message is better than highly produced slick editing multi cameras. That's not really, you know, especially for our kind of content, educational content. That's not what people want.
Jay Clouse 26:20
Have those 16 or so folks that were at the agency when you made this switch? How many ish were able to make that transition or interested in making that transition? I think a little bit more than half? That seems like a great, that seems like a higher proportion. I wouldn't expect that actually.
Chris Do 26:35
Yeah because I'll tell you why. And there's a good reason why. So years before we we came up with the idea of the future and creating content, we went through a cultural redefinition. So we wanted to understand what our core values were, I tried to write my core values, and it's really difficult thing to do. So I just told them, I read this book called Delivering Happiness by Tony Shea. He's the late you know, he's past the founder of Zappos. And he went to Harvard. And so he wrote our core values for Zappos, I think these are pretty good core values. So we'll just steal them. And then we'll just adjust a couple of them cuz they don't make sense for us. But one of the core values is, or there's two, to not only to embrace, but to drive change. And the second core value is to create fun and a little weirdness. And so what happened during this cultural shift is, it started to self select other people as well. Because they said from this point forward, these are our core values, they represent what I think we're about, and I give you plenty of opportunity to get on board with this kind of stuff. And also, if this doesn't sound right for you, for you to leave. And that was a very painful two year process, because I knew there were people who are not going to fit, but it gave him every opportunity to to make that jump with us. Sadly, they didn't. And they either let them go, or they quit of their own accord. And so now we have this super fun group of people who are open to change and want to innovate and try different things. And so that made that transition to the future much, much easier.
Jay Clouse 27:59
How smooth was that transition? Did it go according to plan? You know, and I'm trying to also understand, had you begun testing the waters of content creation, before the future that brand existed, and started to build momentum before the big kind of unveil and pivoting to the team?
Chris Do 28:17
Absolutely. So I started actually making content in 2014, January of 2014, we dropped our first video, I did it with my former business partner, his name is Jose it was called the School, which is a brand that he created. And he had experience in creating digital products, creating content for youtube and doing digital marketing. So I followed his lead. And we did this and we didn't make a whole lot of money. I think the first year, I think we made $18,000. And oh, it's not super impressive numbers. And it grew, but it grew very slowly. And these are very small numbers. So we would joke that after three years of running the company, we don't even make enough money to pay the salary of one of us, either Jose or myself. And so we had different visions about how to grow and build an education company. And so that's when we parted ways. And that's when in 2016. We reform ourselves as the future. Guys, welcome our Center. My name is Christo, I graduated Art Center in graphic design in 1995. Welcome to our studio, we're here in Santa Monica at 1702 Olympic. And there are actually two companies. One is called blind. And that's our service company where we do brand strategy, motion, graphic design, creative stuff, stuff you learn in school, the other company is called the future. And that's more of our media entertainment education platform where we have channels on YouTube, podcasting, postings on Instagram SlideShare, everywhere else. So welcome to this space. I'm gonna give you a tour today and maybe feel some questions. And now I'm in control. I don't have to compromise. I can move as fast as I want. I make decisions really fast. And I expect my team to move as fast as the decisions are being made and it's tough for a lot of people. And so all of a sudden, with this Focus Energy, the same energy that I had to say Same kind of business acumen that used to run blind was now focused into the future. And so now we're running and all sudden, we started making real money. And some of the team members said, Chris, I'd love to help, like, fantastic. After you finish your work for blind client, work, come help me. And so they would help me. And then all of a sudden, things started to grow. And so the argument was, at what point do we stop doing what we're doing as our day job? And just focus on this? And how far can we take it? So in the early days, implementing very basic fundamental things from a, a content marketing company had huge results for us give you an example, Matthew, and Cena, who was a creative director with me for many, many years, he said, Hey, I realized we don't have cards that linked to any products. Should we do that? Yeah. And he said, let me take care of that. And so that's the brilliance of Matthew. So he goes in, he starts figuring out what the cards should say how to position them, and linking them to products. And we saw like a 20% increase in revenue from that singular act. One idea boosted our revenue by 20% if I remember correctly.
Jay Clouse 31:05
Your saying cards as in like end cards on a YouTube video or even in the video. When you started making money from the future of the brand, where was that coming from? Was it AdSense? Was it digital products? What was the model at that time?
Chris Do 31:16
Yeah, it's not from AdSense, because for the first couple of years, we didn't even turn on monetization, we could, but we didn't want to, because we wanted to grow the audience as fast as possible. We thought ads gotten away. I have different thoughts on that today. But it mostly came in sales of products. So we made products, courses, basically. And that was able to grow the company. The other thing that we sold was a membership group. So it's a one to many coaching community where I do a call every other week, it's called The Future pro group. And those two things, so that's a subscription, or you can buy singular products. And the combination of those two things started to make real money for us.
Jay Clouse 31:54
So at this time, when you're still, you know, in the transition, blind still is kind of feeding the future. You have your personal social media, you have the future, you have blind. Talk to me about your identity at that time, you know, how did you sort you know, when Chris is representing line versus when Chris is representing the future versus when Chris is representing Chris, did you struggle with that at all?
Chris Do 32:16
Heavily, heavily, I struggled with that. I never knew how to write for blind, because a I wasn't on the front line, I didn't want to be on their front line, the more visible I made myself as blind, the more clients would request that I would work on projects, and then my creative directors would have nothing to do. And then I would pay people to do work that they're not doing, and then I would be shouldering the responsibility. So it was a very intentional thing at the very beginning not to call this dough and Associates, or Christian friends. And I made a point to always highlight the creative directors and to take a backseat, you'll notice something in most creative agencies, the owner's name, or the creative director, whoever is the Big Shot, they put their name on every single thing. And they're usually leading to PR. So when they're interviewing the creative team, it's almost always the owner, or the ECD, or whatever, and not so much the team. I was like, I don't want to do this. This is not about building and propping me up, I don't need nor want that kind of attention. And so whenever we ran articles and posts, oftentimes, my name was not even included in anything. Whether I had a role in it or not, it didn't matter to me, I wanted my people to have the praise and the recognition, it was good for them. And it was a good business model for us. So when it came to writing content for blind, how do I write this? Whose voice Do I adopt? Because surely, I don't speak for Greg, I don't speak for Matthew or any of the other creative directors. I just can't, and it wouldn't feel right. So the copy that we wrote, wound up being very watered down, corporate speak. I couldn't say anything, because I don't want to offend anyone. And I don't want to alienate clients. And so it's like, oh, here's a challenge that we overcame for this client and look at these amazing results, super boilerplate PR stuff. And it went out as such. And so very rarely would we work on a project where there was actually organic interest in the content itself, except for what we pumped out there. So when we started the school and then mutated into the future, it was the first time that I could just write in my own voice. Because you know what, there was no one else. There was one person who was a volunteer working for me for like pennies. You're not buying lunch. He's not gonna be his voice. He's learning from me. And so I would write and I would respond in the eye versus the wheat. And I got some blowback from that on Facebook. So people are like, Hey, Chris, shouldn't you be writing we isn't as a team and a company. Like we are not writing this. I am writing this. This is not our opinion. This is my opinion. And I said, I've tried the other way. I'm gonna try a different way. And I'm okay with that. So I will tell people and you know, maybe not in the nicest tone, if this doesn't work for you, for your friend, find some other place because I'm not going to change. And so I started to lean into my perspective, my personality. And to this day, I still write i. So anything that comes out with the word I in it is going to come from me, if you hear the Wii, it's going to come from the team.
Jay Clouse 35:21
I was gonna ask how that plays through today. So the team when they're creating on behalf of the future, what type of guidance do you give them? Are they trying to put on a Chris voice? Or are they putting on a future voice? Or are they being themselves as a team member? And they're kind of named?
Chris Do 35:37
That's a really good question. So we had this young woman who was a marketing major. She's originally from the UK, and she wanted to intern for us. And this is when I know nothing about social media at all. And she comes in, and she starts looking through the videos, and she starts writing as if I created it. And so she was able to grow the features Instagram account to like 2x. What I had, I was like, this is really strange. Wow, first of all, wonderful job, but, and she's so good at doing what she did, that when my wife was, was scrolling through Instagram, she's like, Oh, honey, you did a good job with those posts. I looked at it like, it sounds like me. But I did not write that check was a little did I say it's l l wrote these. As she goes, she's good. She fooled me. And I know you. And this sounds just like you. So l has this knack for going through our content, which there are hundreds of hours of content to scrape through. And she could pull out the nuggets that she thought would make sense to our audience in our community. And then she would try to adopt a design language and aesthetic, that was at least within the ballpark of what I would do. And so it was a big wake up call for me. And the challenge had been been thrown whether it was expressed to me or not, which was, how can l grow a different account? That's not me faster than me. Because people theoretically are tuning in for my thoughts. They're not necessarily else's thoughts. But she just figured out the marketing and concentration game much better than I did. And so it was a huge challenge for me, like, you know, what I need outgrow the features account. It's I got to do that. So to this day, when you see things that come out, we really try to write in a voice that sounds like humans talking to you. So they either adopt my personality, or Ben burns personality, or the right in that way. Now, here's the funny ironic thing. Stephanie Owens who writes for us, she's like, I send out these emails, she writes all army emails, or a lot of them. And people are like, Oh, I love the features, email. It sounds like Chris is talking to me. And she would smile at me. He's like, Huh. That's our little secret.
Jay Clouse 37:40
When we come back, Chris, and I dig into how you can make that same transition from client services into full time content creator, right after this. Hey, welcome back. Now that we've heard Chris's experience, going from full time client services to full time creator, I asked him how others can follow in that path and make the same transition.
Chris Do 38:01
It's a big transition, it's not for everybody. So I'm not here to tell you it's for everybody, I know you're going through this transition or have gone through it yourself. And where your passive income, your, your content creation money, is, is is rivaling your service money, right? So it's like we have to make these decisions. And I think it's important for for people to try things before they make a decision one way or the other. I would hate for someone who's like this next up and coming brilliant UX UI designer, just like not That's it. I'm all about content now. And also for people to shut it down to say, That's stupid. You know, you guys obviously don't know what you're doing. And that's why you're creating content. You're just nobody's never been here to do wells, right? So there's a combination somewhere, somewhere, somewhere out there for each person. Let's let's talk about this, though. It's impossible to hire somebody that you don't know. I mean, Logic dictates that right? Like, right, Jack can't hire you if I don't know that you exist. And so before we can develop any kind of client relationship, they need to know us, they need to kind of like what we do and at least be curious enough to reach out or, or to follow us somewhere. And so how do we do that? Well, it used to be very difficult to do this and very expensive. Now, I'm 50 years old. So when when we were marketing, there was no social media, we had to go on road trips, literally, I'd get in the plane, and we book a car service for multiple days. And we would hit agency agency in New York for multiple days. It's exhausting for an introvert. And it felt like I was proselytizing myself. And it felt really awkward and disingenuous, because I'm here to show you work that you're probably not interested in seeing. But because we're buying lunch, you're gonna show up and pretend like you're interested. And very little work actually came out of that. Because it's not really how agencies hire creatives. They don't hire you because you bought them lunch. They hire you because they flip through a magazine or saw something on TV or looked it up in one of these DVD compilation reels. They're like wow, This thing that you do, I want you to do it for us and our client. And so they imagine you working on their project. And that's the best way. So let's and you would also take out ads and directories, I don't know if you remember this alternative pick the black book law book, and there's a lot of different things. And they would drop these dictionary size tomes on your desk, full of beautifully printed work. Now, I remember because I took out ads in these books, I think it was like five or $6,000, to get a double page spread, like two pages, right? If you got near the front or the back even more money, and if you pick up archive magazine, you'll see it filled with that it's one of the few magazines as still really thick, because it's filled with ads, from photographers retouchers visual effects people, okay, now, well, cool, thank God, we don't live in that era anymore. Right? You can create a piece of content on any of the social platforms, whatever one that makes sense for you. And you can have this work done for you at scale for relatively little or no money. Wonderful. Who's out? Right? So here's the problem, we have this wonderful, mostly free platform. So we have to exchange our time for the money we would have spent see. So it's got to come from something. And so you can't simultaneously say, I'm going to do no PR, no marketing, I'm not going to do these really strange outreach, cold outreach. And I don't also want to spend time on the content. So basically, you're saying, I by virtue of your action, I don't really care if anybody knows that I exist. And if there's a magical way to generate work, please tell me about it. Because otherwise, I don't know that it exists, it requires work. So let's embrace this idea that to get known you have to do something that people want to talk about, to follow to see and to share. And that is called Content Marketing.
Jay Clouse 41:53
Yeah. I was just listening to a conversation between Pete Holmes and Ben Stiller. And they were talking about the new Apple TV show severance, which just binged after listening to this interview, because it was so compelling. Ben Stiller said that he found the guy who did the opening sequence on severance just on Instagram. And it's a guy that I already followed. Because I remember, he did an animation. And then he got it featured in one of those kind of aggregate accounts that he was like, between mirrors. And that blew up his account. And I got him in front of Ben Stiller. And that got him severance, which is probably going to get him just any, any opportunity that he wants at this point. But it was probably a hustle for him to get between mirrors, or any of those accounts to feature him like there's still work that needs to be done between mirrors isn't just following every animator and every designer and picking things out. They don't know that they exist, either.
Chris Do 42:44
That's right. And today, I feel like and to tie it back together with one of the questions you asked earlier, which is, you're probably two or three people away from who you need to know, that's going to change your life. It's only two or three degrees of separation with apologies to Kevin Bacon, you know, it's only two or three. And so within your network, there's someone who knows someone who knows someone who can get things done. And I've experienced this many times over both as a service professional. And as a content creator. I remember when we hit a brick wall on this job for like a breakfast product. And we couldn't figure it out. We had teams of people working, we're burning so much money, and it could not solve the problem. And then I walked in because the team was like stressed out of the mind. Clients are losing faith in us. And I don't know what we're doing because we're just going to hemorrhage money here. I walked into the edit bay and asked this composite or that I trust. His name's Alan. I said, Alan, what we're trying to do is this. This does not seem that complicated. Do you know anybody? This person has to exist. He goes, I don't Chris. But I'll look into it for you. A day. An hour later, he calls him back sick. I got a guy for you. And he introduces me to him. And his name is riff dagger, super cool name. And Rick is a one man, Prodigy genius, procedural animator that just like you just can't believe. And he sends me his demo reel. You will you worked on that. The end of tomorrow. Oh my gosh, wood building blowing up and just things turning into Deus. And that's exactly what we need. And he says, Chris, here's the thing. I'll do a test for you for free. If you like it, let's work together if you don't, don't worry about it. And his tests had made more progress in one day than this entire group of people, two teams of people for two weeks in one day. And I'm imagining, wow, this isn't even his full time thing. So he shows it to me, I said this, this has a lot of promise. And so here's what has happened. This is the ugly side that people don't usually talk about. So I came back to my team and said, look at what this guy did and one day and we have eight people working here right now. And we're not any closer. I think you need to get rid of the team. And so, one after another they were called into an office. This isn't working guys. I'm sorry. We're like killing the booking. We're running up against a wall here. And this one guy, his name is riff, He charged me $1,500 a day, which is a lot of money. It's more than I've ever paid anybody per day ever. And then my producer comes back. And she's like, Chris, we don't do that. That's out of our parameters. And he said, You know what, let's look at the economics, you have those eight people, let's just say they're $500 a day. They're not they're more than that. That's $4,000 Compared to $1,500, it's not really the number of bodies we can throw at it. But the results that we want, pay demand, let's move forward. And in many ways, it wasn't a perfect solution. But RIF did save her. But he really did. So that's the story about, you know, your only two calls to people away from having an answer. But the second story is a content creators this on on on social media, I'm always thinking, I need to work with this company, I want them to sponsor us. And I don't know how to get in touch with anybody, you know, I'm not that resourceful. So all you have to do is go on the internet and type in a one on social platforms, hey, I'd love to get this person to help us. Does anybody know, and this has happened when when I needed to get in touch with g star, somebody who knew somebody would say g star and they tagged them, I got in touch with the marketing director. Like within 24 hours, I wanted to Google jam board. They I got one shipped to me within three weeks. And this is the wonderful thing. So I think there's some some phrase somewhere, I don't know. But you know, ask and you shall receive. It's kind of like that.
Jay Clouse 46:30
Yeah, man. That's the magic. And I experienced this just a little bit more all the time. As the audience grows, it's a little bit a little bit, those doors are a little bit easier to pry open. What would you say to folks who are earlier on in their journey? Who know that part of the magic is building relationships in the content realm and doing collaboration? What type of exercises or encouragement would you give them for building relationships in the earlier stages when they don't have a ton to offer yet?
Chris Do 46:57
Okay, I have a clue on how to do this, because I've seen it done wrong, so many different ways. Please do not reach out to people and said, I'd like to work with you. That's nebulous. I don't know you, I don't trust you. Why would I do this, and I don't have the time to look into this. Your whole point of working with someone, whether it's a more experienced artists or a person who's got a bigger following, or potentially a client, is you have to figure out how you can be of use to them. Don't ask them to figure that out. And this requires work, it means that you have to go through their feed, you have to like consume their content, and say, okay, like, for example, Jay, you produce a podcast, right? Perhaps I'm listening to it. I'm like, You know what, I think Jay needs some really cool hip music to underscore the story that he's telling. Let's just say, and I happen to be a composer. So rather than reach out to you, Yo, bro, I love your podcasts, let's do something and let's collab, you're probably sitting there, and, and then the worst thing you can do is say, hey, let's get on a call, let's get to a call, who's like, Let's have a meeting. I don't know about you. I'm really busy these days. And I'm not gonna take a meeting, because I've learned that many of these meetings are a complete waste of my time. They're just there to pitch and sell me something, and there's no relationship. So rather than do that, just say like, Hey, Jay, I listened to Episode 42. And there was something that was really touching. And I had an emotional connection to the story that was being told, and I wrote a piece of music, and I just happened to cut it back into it. This is just my gift for you to listen to. If you find this to be interesting of value, I'd love to talk to you about how I can help you with more music. This doesn't have to be an exchange of money. Are you open to the idea? Now I just made that up on the fly. But imagine that you got that message? Hey, would you be willing, at least to consider talking to this person?
Jay Clouse 48:47
For sure. And you just framed it in the way you're talking about earlier in this conversation, which wasn't like, Hey, Jay, your podcast is missing. Good music design or sound design. So here's what you should do. It was I listened to this episode, there was a touching moment. Imagine now that same moment, underscored by this, you went the positive opportunity route, which again, also is such a better foot to start on. So yeah, absolutely. When you when you make the fidelity, that much higher, where you lower the bar to me just saying yes to something, or no, as opposed to, you know, having to connect the dots and imagine what working with you could be like, of course, I'm going to consider that.
Chris Do 49:28
Yeah, so this general rule here, don't say it, show it. Show me the money. Show me the proof. Take out that and there's another expression which is close the imagination gap. So don't say imagine what it'd be like to work with an imagine all these things just prove it to me. And here's the here's the one of the clearest examples I can give. If you're an email marketing copywriter, many of your email marketing sucks when you're trying to sell to me, I'm deleting you right away. And so I find that the people write in ways I'm like, what All you got my intention? And then at the bottom is like, did it get you to read to the bottom? Chris? If I did, imagine now what I can do for you. They demonstrated they prove it. Right? Don't don't write in. I'm an amazing email marketing copywriter gets 80% conversions. I don't believe you. I'm deleting this. Because I'm not reading the next sentence. It's not compelling to me at all.
Jay Clouse 50:19
Absolutely. So today is sitting here, the future has almost 2 million subscribers on YouTube, you're getting closer and closer every day to your 1 billion person goal. What's still a struggle for you today? What's what's hard for you when it comes to content?
Chris Do 50:35
To answer that question, I have to ask you, how long is this podcast? Because we struggled with so many things, Jay, let's not kid ourselves, okay? At my root at my core, and tied to my purpose. And my mission is, I'm an educator, I want to teach as many people as possible to give them the tools and the resources. And when I say tools, I don't mean like Photoshop, I mean, the mental tools for them to realize and manifest whatever goal that they have in their mind, as long as they're willing to do the work. And I don't like marketing, I don't write like creating courses, and in funnels and lead magnets and email marketing sequences. Those are not things that I like. And these are things that I struggle with. Because if possible, I'd love for people, like a church, you know, come learn, if I change your life, there's a box in the back, leave whatever you want, and leave whatever you feel compelled to leave based on the impact that you think I made on your life today. I'd like to do that. But that's not that's not very scalable. This I can give me a much closer to my billion mission. But we have to figure out a way. So I'll be very honest about this. My team does a wonderful job. But we suck at marketing. Because there are people who sell one product that I think is mediocre, that will do about $3 million in sales a year or 2 million and I was thinking what people are paying for that. But maybe where I'm I'm kind of dissing them, maybe they have clarity of purpose and product and then make it super simple. So you see the content is tied to our product, and have a very streamlined system. And for them, they're doing really well. And like last year, we did four and a half million dollars. Not bad for a content company are we where where I think we should be? No, not even close. Because, say that we hit our 2 million subscribers. If each one of those million subscribers gave us $4 A year just four bucks, we will have $8 million in revenue so there is some kind of disconnect. Now people often comment on our YouTube channel that they're like I cannot believe this content is free. You've helped me to quadruple 10x My fees. I feel like I'm stealing watching this content for free. Like I have to shower afterwards. Well, some of y'all step up. Help us out a little, will you?
Jay Clouse 53:10
Hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed hosting it talking to Conor while editing this episode he called Chris a clip machine, meaning anything that you take out from Chris's story is worthy of being clipped, put on social media. That's really high praise and I agree with it. So if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the channel or leave a comment down below on YouTube. If you wanna learn more about Chris, you can find his website thefutur.com. That's future without an E or @theChrisDo on Twitter and Instagram. Links to all of that are in the show notes. Thanks to Chris for being on the show. Thank you to Conor Conaboy for editing this episode. Thank you to Nathan Todhunter for mixing the audio and Brian Skeel for creating our music. I appreciate all the feedback I get on Twitter and Instagram so if you enjoyed this episode, please tag me. Let me know. Otherwise, thanks for listening and I'll talk to you next.