Ep. 23

Making 4x More with Marketing Strategist and Mentor with Latasha James

Throughout her career, Latasha James worked for many tech startups, nonprofit organizations, multiple Fortune 500 companies, you name it. But one day, this shy introvert decided to ditch the corporate grind.

It all started with a blog and a few freelance gigs, when she soon discovered her passion for helping others. Now, this introverted entrepreneur is a business owner doing meaningful work helping others pursue their dreams.

Latasha James’ Website: https://latashajames.com/

Josh: Hi everyone. This week, we are here with Latasha James. She is a marketing strategist and mentor, and currently making about four times her previous corporate salary, which is pretty amazing. First of all, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.

Latasha: Thanks so much for having me.

Josh: I think you hear that number is like four times what you made before, immediate questions come to mind. Just take us back where this all start, even if it’s before it actually started. What’s the whole story of this?

Latasha: Yeah, for sure. It definitely did start before it all started, if you will. I started my digital journey as a blogger, just for fun. Started out Xanga and LiveJournal days. I mean, this is like old school internet and just did it for fun. Just dabbled in blogging for fun and that’s where my love for social media and digital really started. I always had this blog. When I was in college, I ran across a freelancing gig on Upwork. It was Elance back then, but it’s called Upwork now. Ran across a blogging opportunity, super low paying, like $20 a blog post. My fun side thing, my blog that I had for years really helped get me that first gig. I did that side hustle, dabbled in Upwork throughout college.

Latasha: Once I graduated college, I was at this crossroads because I actually had went on to start doing social media freelancing and was actually making a decent amount for a college student at that time freelancing. I had to make the decision if I wanted to get a corporate job or if I wanted to go freelance, because I did start to see it as a real possibility, something that I could actually build and scale. I decided to get a job in corporate and moved out to Detroit. Got a job at a Fortune 500 company, worked in their marketing department for about a year and then went on to a different Fortune 500 for a couple of years in their social media department. All the while, I was side hustling though. I really loved doing that freelance writing, freelance social media.

Latasha: I would have anywhere from one client to three or four clients on the side when I was working those corporate jobs. It was always something that was on the back burner. That really helped me save a lot of money to be able to go full-time and have that emergency fund and just get a ton of experience that I wouldn’t have gotten even from working in my corporate job. Worked in corporate for few years and then went full-time and took the leap. There’s a lot of other kind of content things that I’ve done in between there. I started a YouTube channel, podcast, but we’ll probably talk more about strategy.

Josh: I’m curious, at the very beginning you mentioned the blog that you had had, what was that blog about and why did you start that?

Latasha: I mean, it’s so embarrassing now, but it was literally just like a lifestyle blog. I mean, I really love music and so I would do music reviews. I went to school for film, so I do film reviews and stuff like that. It was nothing business related. There was really no strategy behind it. It was just something that I was passionate about and a way for me to express myself, honestly.

Josh: That was my next question, something that’s been popping up recently is just like why people do things, especially with starting your own blog. Right? Because there’s all these fears and reasons not to do it. What would you say was your why of why you wanted to start that blog in the first place?

Latasha: Sometimes people are surprised to hear this because I have such like a public internet presence, if you will, but I’m actually really, really shy and always have been. I never found it very easy to make friends or to even communicate with people very well. Writing, that’s always been my easiest way to communicate and express myself. Like I said, it was really just something that helped me build community. I mean, I have friends from those early blogging days. It was really cool seeing those communities being built on those early social media platforms and on MySpace, of course. That’s what really made me fall in love with the internet and realize, as I grew up and started thinking more strategically and in a business sense, it made me realize how powerful building communities and telling these stories are for brands or for building your own business as well. I would say that was really my first why.

Josh: That’s very interesting and definitely surprising because in doing the pre-show research is like you would appear to be anything but that, right? You have a lot of stuff on YouTube and it’s like very publicly facing. I’m curious about that relationship with the quiet side of you, how has that benefited you? Has it changed at all since starting that first blog?

Latasha: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I talk about this often on my YouTube and podcasts and stuff, being an introverted entrepreneur I think we always talk about introversion as being this really negative thing. That was something that I really didn’t like about corporate actually is. I mean, I always felt like people were talking over me and I had a hard time being taken seriously if I wasn’t the loudest voice in the room. In entrepreneurship, I found it to actually be a huge strength because a whole big part of selling to people is about listening and understanding their problems and meeting them at their pain points and really trying to help them. Not to say the extroverts can’t do that, of course, but I think it’s something that’s just, it comes innately to introverts or people who are a little bit more quiet.

Latasha: I found that to be a huge, huge strength. I mean, I guess the YouTube channel, part of the reason that I started that was this as well. I was going to school for film and at the time I was doing a lot of newsroom stuff, so I was on camera a lot. I started the YouTube to get a little bit more comfortable on camera and just practice stuff I was learning in school too. I think that ties in as well. It’s funny because I actually think a lot of more introverted people or more quiet people tend to thrive actually on YouTube or a blog or something like that because we don’t feel like we have to compete for that speaking room in a boardroom and there’s a bunch of people all going at it, if you will. Whereas on YouTube, it’s just me. It’s just me and a camera. There’s no one else in the room when I’m talking and so I have the floor, if you will. I find it a little bit more of an easier platform for me to communicate on.

Josh: I think something that jumped out that you had mentioned there is like having to be the loudest one in the room. I’m curious also what those experience were like in the corporate world that made you, maybe was it part of why you wanted to go off and do your own thing?

Latasha: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, absolutely. I think there is two schools of freelancers. There’s the ones where like, oh my gosh, I hated corporate. I never want to go back, that was the worst experience ever. Then there’s people who were like, hey, it helped to make me who I am and I’m really grateful for those experiences. I think I’m definitely a little bit more of the latter. I mean, there were definitely things that I did not like about corporate. I didn’t like the fact that I felt like, like I said, I wasn’t really using my strengths in the best ways I don’t think. I think that there was a lot of missed opportunities in my roles because I was busy doing whatever the job description said and not really using my talents or skills.

Latasha: I think a lot of people experienced that. I think there were definitely some culture fit issues, if you will. Just not working in a very diverse environment, not feeling like that was very celebrated. That was hard. But I definitely feel like my business communication, one thing that I definitely think corporate America taught me is how to write a very short to the point email. It’s funny when I work with other freelancers and you can always tell the ones who have worked a day job and the ones who haven’t because the emails are a mile long. Clear communication is good. Being able to speak to SMIS and executives. I’m so comfortable speaking to anybody no matter what their job title is now, that doesn’t really scare me. Definitely lots that I’ve learned but also to the other point, I think there’s been a lot that I’ve learned that I don’t want and that I don’t want to in turn build my business to be.

Josh: Yeah, no. Now you have the freedom to make it what you want it to be.

Latasha: Totally, totally.

Josh: On that transitionary time when you’re in corporate and you’re doing freelancing on the side, and then eventually you made the switch, what happened there? How did that build?

Latasha: I mean, like I said, I’d always taken clients while I was in corporate. Pretty much from the very beginning, I had. It started to reach a point where everything was just happening. I mean, my YouTube channel was taking off somewhat. I had built my first course at that point. I mean, it wasn’t making me a lot of money by any means, but it was making a sustainable revenue stream and I was seeing it grow and that was interesting. My client work, I was just starting to get a lot of requests for. I was actually having to turn a lot of people away just because I just didn’t have the bandwidth. I was trying a bunch of different things. I was outsourcing some work and working with other freelancers to make room for those folks.

Latasha: It just reached a tipping point for me, I think, where I had to make a decision about what I wanted to do. I mean, I also was going through some personal things at the time too. That again, made me realize like a corporate job, there’s definitely some pros and cons to it. Just little things like having to take days off to go to the doctor or to take care of my mental health or things like that were just not really what I wanted out of life, and I saw the alternative that there could be with freelancing.

Josh: That was my next question. I was like, because we talked about what you wanted to move away from.

Latasha: Yup.

Josh: What did you want to move towards? Maybe now that you’ve had a chance to experience it for a while, what are the things that really light you up when it comes to, this is what I get to do?

Latasha: Absolutely. I mean, I think it’s the little things, right? We can talk about all of the big extravagant things that we get to do as freelancers, but I think it really does come down to the day-to-day, the little things. Being able to go to the doctor, go vote, go do the little errands and things that… I mean our whole day long excursions when you work at a day job. Being able to work with clients that I’m really passionate about and excited about. I think going back to just really being able to celebrate my strengths and use my strengths in the best ways to better my business as opposed to just doing busy work or checking off boxes. I really get to use my strengths in the best way.

Josh: Then in terms of what’s on your mind now, what are you working towards? What are your goals?

Latasha: I’d been freelancing. That’s what I started. I went full-time, I wanted to take on social media clients, digital marketing clients. I did have my course as well and the YouTube. Those were my major revenue streams. After doing this for a few years, the demand for education, more courses, more one-on-one work, more group coaching work that has far outpaced anything else. I’ve realized that that is probably my biggest strength to be honest. At this point, the education side of the business is accounting for about 40% of my business revenue. The rest is client work, a little bit of YouTube revenue, some sponsorships, things like that. It’s about half and half between education and client work. I’m realizing that that’s definitely an area that I’d like to grow. I think in this era that we’re in right now as well, everybody is looking to educate themselves online and it’s just a really good opportunity to be in that space. That’s what I’m really focusing on this year.

Josh: I’m curious, to get your perspective, what do you think is the future of that world? What do you think it looks like 10 years from now if you’re still running this company as a brand? What do you think those educational offerings will be and how will they be consumed?

Latasha: I mean, honestly, I think that we’re already seeing people forego some of the more traditional educational paths to pursue things online. I’m glad that I went to college. I’m not ever going to say don’t go to college, just take a course instead. But I think it’s a great opportunity for people who may be college, a traditional education isn’t a good fit or don’t want to get thousands and thousands of dollars in debt. I definitely think that that’s just going to grow. I think that we’ll see a lot more with accreditation and certificates and things like that, so that they can actually have some additional credibility to them. Not that they don’t now, but it’s not the same as getting a degree, right.

Latasha: You can’t necessarily have that to an employer. I think that employers are going to need to react to that as well and start maybe tweaking the requirements that they do have for having a four year degree. Maybe it’s more of skills test or things like that, that actually get you in the door to some of these jobs.

Josh: On that, because you mentioned mental health, I’m curious what your perspective is because if you’re learning everything online, it’s very disconnected. You’re not interacting with people, you’re not connecting. What do you think that would look like?

Latasha: Well, that’s definitely a piece. If you are working for yourself or if you’re learning on your own, you have got to find a way to have a community still. Like I said, I mean, that’s why I pretty much joined the internet, if you will, it was a community. You definitely can have it. Now, of course, there’s still huge value to face-to-face and I’m really looking forward to being able to see my clients in their offices again someday, or even just the little things like going to a coffee shop. I mean, interacting with the barista, like it’s such a small moment of your day but it can honestly like make or break your day. Definitely, you got to have that when it’s safe to and all that. I mean, joining groups. I’m a part of a mastermind group.

Latasha: Then I do my own group environment too. That’s at least like two days out of the week that I’m virtually hanging out with people. I think that is really important, not just for the loneliness aspect or the mental health aspect, but also just for learning from other people and getting other people’s insight and perspectives and feedback on your work.

Josh: That makes a lot of sense. Were you a part of a mastermind or a group from the beginning or when did that come into the picture?

Latasha: I wasn’t. That’s something that I do wish, if I could do it all over again, I probably would have invested in something like that a little earlier just because it can really fast-track you. I made a lot of mistakes or a lot of, you know, I was just confused and lost about a lot of things that I could have easily just asked somebody for and I would have had that answer without going through all those mistakes. I actually didn’t join a mastermind until I was full-time in my business. I think a lot of it was because of what you just asked. I was like, okay, now I’m home 24/7 basically. Not really talking to anyone. I did really miss the aspect of having colleagues. That’s really why I joined.

Josh: Awesome. Well, we’re coming up on the end here. For anybody that’s curious of what everything looks like for you now, where can they check out your offerings?

Latasha: Yeah, absolutely. You can find me, latashajames.com is probably the best place to find everything. You can just search YouTube for Latasha James, if you want to check out my content.

Josh: Awesome. Thanks for coming on.

Latasha: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

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Josh Haynam

Josh Haynam is the co-founder of Interact, a place for creating beautiful and engaging quizzes that generate email leads. Outside of Interact Josh is an outdoor enthusiast, is very into health/fitness, and enjoys spending time with his community in San Francisco.