Indie Founder: My Interview
If you haven’t read the “About me” page yet (I forgive you) I’m Miguel and I’m a multimedia freelancer. I’ve started Indie Digital Brands with the purpose of sharing the untold stories of other entrepreneurs and I’ve successfully interviewed some amazing people so far that really inspire me and make me want to do more. There’s a long road ahead of me and there’s a lot of people I’m reaching out to, which will allow me to share even more impressive and inspiring stories right along with some of their struggles and battles to get to where they are today. Now, let’s get to it…
So why freelancing (you might be wondering)? Freelancing has allowed me to build this website and live a lifestyle that’s very different from the 9-5 world that most people have. What I mean by that is that I don’t have a schedule, I don’t have a boss and yet I work more than 8 hours per day for sure and judging by the people I have to answer to when something goes wrong, I probably have like 5 to 10 bosses at any giving time (depending on the amount of work I have), because I choose to. With that being said, one thing is for sure: I love it, and this is really what I like to do, and want to continue doing for as long as I can.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture and how did it come to life?
The decision to work as a freelancer and really set up shop happened quite naturally. I started to get involved with concepts like digital nomadism pretty early on in my life and my entrepreneurial mindset has kind of always been there. I’m always searching, researching, looking around trying to learn different things with the mindset of “how could I make this or that better?”, “is there a better way to do this?” So basically in a way I just always wanted to build cool things and work for myself for as long as I can remember.
The freedom and the ability to do it and to make it happen was the hardest part of it, and sometimes it still is. There have been months of struggle, there have been months of doubt and along the way you learn to surround yourself whit the right attitude and for me, fortunately, the right people as well. In a way I guess I can say I’ve been providing services for almost 5 years now but I’ve been experimenting and doing things on the side (even when I was in the corporate world) for at least 8 years now.
Is this your first venture? If not, How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
As a full-on Multimedia Freelancer, which means I’m working with small businesses developing their online presence (either by creating websites, managing their social media accounts, creating content for them, editing images & video) YES, this is my first venture. Yet, I’ve started working online in a side-business doing translations first just by pitching the service in an online job posting websites (like upwork / freelancer) which then evolved and is now set up in a popular “gig” website called Fiverr. I guess to put it simply freelancing is the second venture yet I still have the first one and I’ll continue to have it for a while since nowadays is also a very cool source of income.
As for giving up on an idea: I don’t really think if you have an idea that you ever really give up on it. I mean, obviously there’s a point that you know something is not working and it’s not worth to pursue it anymore but when the idea is really mine I find myself going back to it sometimes even years later to try to understand if I still want to give it another go or if that it was really something not worth it.
Now, there’s a difference I’d like to point out that an idea isn’t really anything until you put it into action until you try it. And trying thing for me is an entirely different process. I’ve tried a lot of things and sometimes I stick with it for a really long time (the side-business on Fiverr is a good example) and others I feel like I’m not really in sync with it and I can stop it immediately. I don’t need to look at stats to understand if it’s working or not if it’s unpleasant for me from day one. I like to keep it practical and accept that I’m good at doing some things and even if I don’t really enjoy them I can do it because they pays the bills but I can also evaluate that making me miserable by doing something that I won’t put the real effort into it I won’t get any results, so why do it at all right?
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
I’ve recently read somewhere in one of those inspirational quotes post that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it, and I instantly related with that. Professionally I’ve hit a few walls from time to time. I stopped studying really early and left the safety of my parent’s home (entirely by choice) as soon as I turned 18 because I thought they shouldn’t be the ones that needed to support me financially so I decided to go out and create my own path.
Even when it got harder (which it did) there’s always a lesson that I took from it and tried to move on. The recession hit Portugal very hard and I lost my job when the economy was in one of its lowest points, not great I know but that’s what allowed me to take a step back and start to create what I wanted for myself and redefining my life in general. I’ve luckily found the woman of my dreams a few months later after I left my parents’ house and we’ve been together for almost 7 years now. She’s amazing and has taken great care of me through the years, motivating me and helping me with everything I decided to do. We are able to support each other and really “be there” for one another which is unbelievable. If you’ve ever found love, you’ll know what I mean.
Getting back to the topic of lessons learned here are a few: If you want to build a good rapport you’ll have to eat a lot of frogs and deal with situations that even if you know you’re absolutely right you still have to let your client get away with it. Not to say that everyone will try something that’s bad for you or your business but there are times when it’s unnecessarily complicated to settle on things that are very simple. I’ve learned that I rather lose a couple of dollars and still make my client happy than ruin a business relationship for the quick buck. It’s not worth it people.
Another lesson that I’ve learned (the hard way) is that if you don’t value what you do and you don’t really believe in it, how is it possible for another person to do it? Seems simple right? Well, sometimes is harder than it looks and here’s why: when you start building websites (as an example) people will come to you thinking you can “do it all”. And if you were like me when I started, you’ll not be afraid of the challenge. You might not know how to make a logo, edit a picture or even upload files to a server, but you’ll figure it out! With the right attitude you probably will, but if you don’t trust yourself at that point, how will you price all of that? Well, most likely you’ll leave money on the table and sometimes even do stuff for free because you don’t know how much they’re worth or you don’t believe you’ve done a good enough job (especially in the first couple of projects) that you deserve to be paid Top Dollar for it. But guess what? You can and will do better. It’ll take time but every time you’ll learn from the experience and adjust to the market. Sometimes pivoting your strategy or getting into a new type of industry.
In essence, the real message here is: what’s important is that you keep moving, keep trying and keep making mistakes. If you only know how to win you’ll probably won’t be able to enjoy it, and when a loss knocks at your door for the first time, invite it in, have a cup of coffee together and learn what you can do better next time. That’s the only way you’ll learn and be able to grow both professionally and in life.
How do you generate new ideas and what would you do if you had to pivot your entire project/idea/business?
I’m one of those types of people that have probably hundreds of ideas per day and my dirty little secret about it is that I don’t really have a strategy in place for why or how I have them. I actually just let it flow. From my own experience, the more you “try” the worst is going to go. I can’t just sit and tell myself: “now I’m going to have an Idea”, it just doesn’t work that way (for me).
I try to pay attention to things and most of the times something will pop-up in my brain telling me: “wow, this can make that happen” and I start to join the pieces of the puzzle together. Yet, Ideas are like I’ve mentioned before, just something that you think about until you put it into action and it’s all about the action here. Results will only happen if you put them into action!
For the pivoting part: As some of you may already know I’ve recently moved (relocated) from Portugal to Denmark and I couldn’t be any happier. This is a great place to live and I really love it here. Now, let’s also take into account that this is a very expensive place to live so there’s more financial risk here to have a quality lifestyle. Luckily I’m able to keep doing what I know how to do which is managing my side-business with the translations and keep on working in websites for clients and for myself (building a couple of niche websites as we speak).
Once again, to keep it practical here’s some of the things I’d do if I had to pivot entirely:
- For Indie Digital Brands – I’d redesign the website and focus on helping brands building their online presence. I’d revamp the website to focus on creating a service where people would be able to hire my services and start a blogging session here to share as much information as I could about digital brands (the indie part would be how I’d set up the added value and the differentiating factor for my brand/services).
- For my own freelancing projects – I’d probably try to learn a new skill within the industry. I’d start searching for someone I could outsource part of the things I’m not able to do and maybe focus on building strategically targeted websites for a niche that I know something about or that I could have access easily.
- For the translation side-business – I’d probably rebrand and start over from the bottom where I once was. The market for translations is luckily not very saturated in my niche and if you’re professional enough on what you do people start to recognise that. I’ve already established a couple of returning clients and businesses so I’d definitely reach out to them and pitch them on a different type of agreement and maybe even try to get them under a contract where I’d do a set amount of work for a set amount of monthly fee.
Can you share some of your ideals that you think have helped you to get to where you are?
Being very professional, polite and having a positive attitude are definitely some of the pillars I personally focus on. Making sure that people know they can trust me through my actions is what has set me up to be where I am today. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a long way ahead of me and there’s still a lot of room and potential to expand both personal projects as with clients in general. My freelancing career has taken his first few steps and I think one of my assets is that I know I still have time to build what I want to build and I don’t worry too much about the quick hustle. I’m in this business for the long-run. This business is more than just “business as usual” for me, instead, it’s my entire lifestyle. With that being said, I’m working towards improving the foundation of it, especially with the relocation now.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern/formula/requirement to becoming a successful entrepreneur from the experience you’ve gathered in your journey and are you a part of your own definition of success?
I do, and it’s a very simple one: “You have to want it!” – In all honesty, I think that the notion of what it is to be an entrepreneur nowadays has been somewhat manipulated by the mainstream media and that it’s pictured like something people are doing overnight. From my experience, I’ve built what I have today because I did what nobody else wanted to do to get here. I put in the work, I struggled yet I still kept going because I knew how important to me it was.
I remember when I started doing some of the first translations I was able to close. I was basically working to pay the PayPal fees I had and I was making a few cents on the dollar. And I remember there was one time where all my friends were going to the beach and enjoy the really hot sun and called me to see if I wanted to go. I said I didn’t but I was so embarrassed that I wasn’t going because I had taken that gig making so little money that I made up an excuse not to go. They were all working part-time and we were still very young, but I felt they wouldn’t understand so I kept it for myself, put my head down (in this case in from of the computer, and worked). I look back now and that was one of the deciding moments, I knew something changed within me. I was putting in the extra effort and that is something that I still carry on today.
Some of my friends today see me working on a cool project or doing a translation for a bigger company and they’re like: “wow man, you really got lucky in getting this one ham?”
Well, I’ve put in 5+ years of work (so far) to “get lucky” and I plan to continue going. But there’s a sadder side to it as well, those same friends are the ones that start complaining about not being able to do this or that, or buy this item or go on this vacation because they can’t afford it or they can’t save enough money from the current job they have.
My question to them is always the same: “Who do you think is going to make it happen for you?” – Obviously, I’m close to them when I tell them this, some people just don’t want to hear it. Some people think they’ll get lucky with anything by just existing, but let me tell you: that’s not how it happens.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
If by now you haven’t noticed let me be clear: I come from humble beginnings. I was raised in a loving and caring household that was considered middle-class workers but my family thought me how to appreciate things really early on.
The fact that I started to work on my summer vacations when school was closed and I were only 15 years old also thought me to value the effort put into the work you do. Something nowadays called “sweat equity”, most of you probably already heard that term. When you put in the extra work, when you go the extra mile, when you know you’re on the right track to “get it done” that’s the part I love about being an entrepreneur.
Not to glamorize it because I know I’m not a Sucess Story yet, but it’s also a goal of mine to be financially free and I know that I’ll try to make it happen to the best of my ability because I’m able to do things and to take the steps and put in the extra effort required for it and that probably others can’t, that’s the difference from someone who wants, and someone who is. I don’t do it for the title, I do it for the options it gives to my life.
As an entrepreneur you choose not to work 9 to 5 to work 5 to 23 (sometimes more), you choose not to have one boss to having 10 or 20 at a time telling you what they want/need. You choose not to have vacations because you’re indispensable for some of the things you’re working on. But that’s all part of the process. Basically, you’ve created the option to do this, and you know you also have the option to get back to the 9 to 5. To me, it’s worth every second of it.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage it?
My greatest fear is that one day I wake up and I’m out of ideas, out of energy and feeling like a zombie with no purpose, no goals, nothing to look for in life. Numbness, I guess is the word I’m looking for.
I manage it by making sure I document almost every single one of my ideas and goals so that one day I can look back if I’m in that state of mind and remind myself that I want more, that I’ve done a lot to get to where I am and that I still have a long way to go to grow both as a businessman / entrepreneur / freelancer / whatever you want to call it and also as a person. I’m a firm believer that your brain is a “machine” that keeps on working and working and that it’s your job to train it and to properly care for it so that’s why I take special attention to mine.
Someone (which I’m guessing must be really important and I’m forgetting who, see the irony in this?) once said: “your brain exists to have ideas, not to store them.” and I’ve never forgotten that quote because once you recognise that (if it resonates with you) you start to stop trying the whole memorising thing of tasks, to-do lists, chores and all of the storing you do in your brain. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has a brain that can be used for whatever purpose. My opinion is that: Your brain is one of your most brilliant assets, use it wisely.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration is my girlfriend, and yes I know it sounds cheesy but it’s the real truth!
She has been such a great spouse, companion, best friend, and sometimes therapist that I don’t even have the words to describe how much I look up to her. She was the one who always stood next to me, that took part of my losses and my wins that have taken this journey with me and always supported me no matter what. I learned to appreciate more of this life because of her and aspire to be a better person every day because of her.
Now please excuse me for a minute while I’m going to let her know how much I love her just one more time, be right back! 🙂
What book has inspired you the most? Or, What is your favourite book? Or, What books do you think anyone must read?
My reading habits weren’t the best, let me just clear that out of the way. I think the last book I remember to read as a kid was one of the first Harry Potter ones and I had to trick myself into reading the entire thing because I didn’t quite understand why the experience of reading was important. Nowadays I think that I probably just wanted to go out and play with my friends (who also didn’t read) which influenced me to stop caring about reading. Being nerdy has become sexy now that it’s 2016. If you tried to tell your friends you weren’t going out back when I was a little kid, you’d be teased for months. Back then it was already bad that I had to wear glasses, I didn’t want to make it worse!
Everything changed when I saw a documentary on TV about a real-estate investor that had written about his own story, struggle and success. That “guy” was Robert Kiyosaki and he was talking about a book Rich Dad Poor Dad. I literally searched all over the internet to find that book and in my country, there wasn’t even a translated version yet. – I eventually found it and was I got hooked, I read it like 3 times in a row to make sure I was taking it all in. Financial Freedom? Real Estate Investing? Cash-flow? What was all this?
Then I started to learn about different topics that I really wanted to know more about and found myself stumbling upon the 4 hour work week by Tim Ferris, which lead me to Rework from the founders of 37signals and I thought to myself: Well I’m reading now aren’t I?
Last year I challenged myself to read at least 1 book every 2 months, 6 books in a year to me was great because I didn’t felt the pressure to speed read anything and miss a concept or anything like that (when I say that I read, I’m all-in, book cover to book cover) and by October I had already read 8 books.
As for a book that I’d recommend: it’s one about psychology and behaviour. Essentially it explains the influence of our own mindset and how it has an impact on our decisions and ultimately on our lives. I recommend anyone to read it, it’s called Mindset – The new psychology of success by Dr Carol S. Dweck. An amazing adventure through our thought process and some of the corners of the human mind.
Nowadays I’m getting to the point where I’m more comfortable in tackling more in-depth subjects and I’ve started to read books that are somewhat out of my comfort zone but yet that I can feel like they have something to teach me. As soon as I’ve made that connection, and I hope anyone can achieve that too, reading became an incredible experience for my personal development and as soon as I pick another book I feel like I’ve grown another inch.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most (or look up to)?
Currently and just to name a few, I’m very interested in what Tesla is doing (I think Elon Musk is one of the greatest minds of our generation), Twitter (which I think is the coolest social media format and because of its cleverness) and to name probably one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs I’m going to have to say, Gary Vaynerchuk. I think he’s doing a great job spreading his message out and explaining some of the concepts of “keep trying till you make it happen” it’s very interesting to see how easy it is to relate to him in certain topics and at the same time how relentless some of the truth bombs he drops really pokes fun at some of the everyday life we take for granted.
On a more down to earth approach I do also want to point out a couple of guys I was lucky enough to Interview. Obviously, I’m a real fan of Niall and Pat because of their down to earth approach to life itself and their ability to try things and keep moving forward.
I’ve been following Niall’s journey for a while now and he’s just a very passionate guy about travelling, about his business and what he does in general. He has an impressive work ethic and pretty much motivates me to achieve more and get more done even in those days when I start to think I don’t feel like going the extra mile. Niall’s journey influenced me to become a better freelancer and to keep moving and trying new things.
Pat’s journey is also an inspiration that motivated me in two ways: first because if there was a picture in the dictionary to explain what a nomad is, I think it had Pat’s photo in it. We’re talking about a guy that dropped everything and hitchhiked is way around America, how cool is that? Talk about putting yourself out there right? Second because he did what I’m trying to do within the next 5 to 8 years. His business allowed him to move to Asia and explore the world on his own terms while working on the projects he enjoys the most. How amazing is that? Let’s not forget, you have to have the right attitude, mindset, perseverance to achieve that and I salute him for it and for inspiring me to one day be able to do that too.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time and how do you manage to balance that time?
Some of my hobbies are juggling, playing a few songs on my guitar and since I’ve moved to Denmark I’ve been more and more interested in riding my bike. I’ve been having a blast exploring the city and getting to know some of the local cultural scenes and attending some of the events here. Can’t wait for the Summer Solstice here…
Managing my time is something that I feel it’s always a work in progress. Since I’m currently just working for myself as a freelancer and managing this side-business and projects I find myself a bit all over the place sometimes, but I think that’s part of the journey.
My girlfriend is always here when I need an extra hand which has been working perfectly and I’ve recently started to take a look at the startup scene here reaching out to them to maybe get a few partnerships or maybe even being hired by one of them and be a part of their team, who knows? My journey is just starting and there are a few things I’ll probably be sharing here, later on, some news that’ll most likely change my everyday life. Hope you’re following along so I can tell you everything about it 🙂
What three pieces of advice would you give anyone who wants to become entrepreneurs?
Don’t do it because you just want the title. – Do it because you’re passionate about what you’re creating. Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t on anyone’s mind, today it’s just a title that’s thrown around easily because the media felt the need to label the people that don’t settle for a regular job and that aim for bigger things. If you’re one of those and you always feel you don’t fit into jobs, and school and all that, by all means start creating and outlining your own path.
Be prepared because this is a road that’s going to test you every day. – You’ll face several challenges, you’ll hit walls, you’ll feel down and 5 minutes later you’ve accomplished something extraordinary. Remember that the little changes are sometimes what causes the more impact.
Try to enjoy the journey as much as you can. – It’s your life, after all, no one else will be able to live it for you!
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
Oddly enough I am conducting the interview and being interviewed at the same time here, so this question was already made by me with the purpose of having an interesting question. Seems like I’m reliving the Inception Movie all over again here! Stop it… 😀