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On building a $60k+/month online business with no money or experience

  • Joel Young

  • From Boulder, CO, USA
  • Founder and Creative Director at Jump Start Video LLC

  • Business Model: Agency
  • $60,000+monthly revenue
  • $50,000+monthly profit
  • All info self-reported by interviewee
  • Published January 24, 2020
  • Reviewed and edited by Rita Epps

Who are you and how do you make money online?

My name is Joel Young and I started a video marketing and content creating company called JumpStart Video.

We create animated explainer videos, motion graphics, training videos, and social media content for all sorts of businesses and organizations. In fact, we’ve completed more than 12,000 projects for clients in more than 100 countries around the world.

Here’s a video we did for a client that appeared on TV:

Our mission is to provide businesses of all sizes with the opportunity to obtain high-quality video marketing content that is affordable for almost anyone.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars and waiting months on a finished product, we take our clients from concept to completion in just a few weeks.

And our average project cost is somewhere between $500-$750. This enables us to serve businesses and organizations with modest marketing budgets.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Honestly, it looks however I want it to look!

That’s what I love about working with clients online.

I purposefully built my business so I could run it the same way no matter where I found myself.

My family and I enjoy traveling and are avid RVers. In fact, we sold our home and spent the better part of 2017 on the road exploring America (chronicled on our youtube channel).

We now have a home base again, but still travel for months at a time throughout the year.

So, sometimes I’m working at a coffee shop, sometimes I’m at my kitchen table, sometimes I’m sitting on a picnic table overlooking a lake or the mountains…

…and because all I need is an internet connection, I often like to change the scenery I work around.

When I’m at my home I typically start my day with a workout, then by walking my dog, and catching up with my wife and kids as they get their breakfast.

The truth is…

…very few days look alike!

I like to mix it up as much as I can, depending on what appointments I have scheduled for the day. Eventually, I’ll make my way to a quiet place and check in with my team and start my work for the day. 

I like to take time away from my desk during the afternoon and come back to work a little after my kids have gone to bed most days. It helps me to be extra prepared for the next day.

I have been working to get my hours down below 8 hours a day.

But during busy seasons I often work 10+ hours a day.

The biggest hindrance to lowering my work hours is that I am constantly looking for ways to expand my business and always have a passion project or new idea I’m fleshing out.  

Everything I do in my day-to-day work can be done remotely.

I never meet clients face-to-face, but often have phone consultations or video calls to catch up on important project details.

I communicate with my small team of US-creatives online or with phone calls, and we deliver all our projects via email to clients. 

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea for your business?

The idea for my business actually came from my wife, Jenna. It all started when I purchased a voiceover from a freelancer on a website called Fiverr.

It was for a project I was doing for my church – where I worked as a pastor at a time. When I received the voiceover back, I was so tickled that I could get something so custom and professional for $5 – I shared it with my wife.

Her response was simply, “You could do that.”

I had never thought about doing voiceover work before, but when she said that, I thought, “You’re right…I COULD do that!”

We had just started to get serious about paying down our debt and were looking for opportunities to earn extra money to help with that.

My day job just covered our regular bills and expenses.

So, within a few days, I had dusted off an old microphone that had been sitting in my closet for years – from my days as a garage rocker in high school – and figured out how to record decent audio through my Macbook.

I recorded a short video on my phone to advertise my service and posted it to the site.

That was it!

Even though I had never done anything like this before, I did have public speaking experience and the broader “gift for gab” – so I gave it a shot.

Within 24hrs I had my first order, then another, and another…and they just kept coming in over the first month.

When I looked up, I had earned over $400 in my first month on the platform – just by recording voiceovers for a few hours every night in my modest “studio”.

We were pleased with the results, and so I did some more research and started offering extras with my services like other sellers. Upgrades like adding music, syncing the voiceover to a video, or even doing character voices (which I love!).

All of my research also lead me to optimize my descriptions, tags, and keywords so that more people would find me in the search results.

The hard work paid off…and my income continued to steadily rise every month.

Once a customer came to me and asked if I would shoot a video for his asphalt company. At first, I told him no – I only did voiceovers, and I didn’t even have a camera.

But after giving it some thought, I quickly messaged him back and said, “Yes, I can make that happen!”

So I created a new gig page on Fiverr for spokesman videos. 

I did some more research, downloaded a teleprompter app for my phone…

…and shot my first video with my phone precariously propped up on a dresser 😁

As you can imagine, looking back, the resulting video seemed pretty amateur…

But the customer loved it!

And in the coming weeks, I had more customers lining up – to have me shoot videos on my phone promoting their businesses, products, and services.

From there, I decided to invest in a $20 mic to plug into my phone and found an old lamp I could place behind me to improve the lighting.

It was clear after just a few months that video was going to be a big part of my side hustle.

After my first year, I had earned $34,000 doing only voiceovers and videos in the corner of my bedroom.

No fancy equipment, no professional training. Just me and the tools I already had.

After that first year, I decided to buy a real camera – so I spent a few hundred bucks on a used DSLR camera and bought a cheap green screen backdrop cloth.

At this point, we moved our two young boys into a bedroom together so I could leave the corner of our master bedroom and have an entire room to myself to work. Something that I wouldn’t have to set up and tear down every day, and also so my wife could go to sleep at a decent hour.

I often stayed up until one or two in the morning working on projects.

I worked in that spare room for 6 more months until we finally had earned enough to pay off all our debt.

In just 18 months, we had paid off $50,000 in debt, and were finally free!

This caused us to ask the question…”What’s next?”

Not wanting to lose momentum, I kept working and we kept saving so we would have an emergency fund.

It wasn’t long before my monthly income from Fiverr was outperforming what I earned at my day job – which paid about $70,000 a year. 

When we realized that we now essentially had two full-time jobs and a decent amount of savings, we made the decision to take the opportunity to leave South Florida (where we lived) and move back to Ohio (where all our family was).

We had two young sons and being far from family weighed heavily on us at that time. So, I transitioned away from my old job and moved the family to Ohio while I continued to work on Fiverr.

This move led me to start thinking beyond the platform and start thinking of how I could grow this into a legitimate business.

I officially named the business JumpStart Video. We bought a house in Ohio, I built a studio in an old tobacco barn we had on the property and started to figure out how we could scale the operation.

This studio allowed me to take on bigger clients and more professional level work. We shot a lot of product videos because we now had the space to showcase things beautifully.

One of the products we ended up shooting a video for was an animation software.

I was intrigued by the idea and often had clients ask if we did animation videos. So, I asked for a copy of the software as a part of the deal. Though I didn’t know it at the time…

…this was a move that ended up having a huge effect on the future of our business. 

I started playing with the software and within a few weeks, I felt confident enough to offer whiteboard animation videos as a product to our existing customers.

Paired with my voiceover services, it was a great fit, and demand went through the roof.

For the next few months, our income doubled, and doubled, and doubled again!

We were seeing phenomenal growth…

…and it was hard to handle at times.

I was working long hours to meet the demand on my own. So I ended up hiring someone to help me with the administrative work.

It wasn’t long before I also hired a full-time animator to help with the creative load. Then, I brought my talented wife on board as a copywriter.

And without ever intending to build a real business – we had a small team of great people helping to create 80+ videos a month for clients all over the world.

It’s been a crazy and wonderful journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

How did you prepare to launch the business?

Honestly, I didn’t do much prep work to start my business. I simply started something small, and with lots of hard work and dedication, I watched it grow into something significant.

I used the skills and tools I already had at my disposal and maintained an attitude on constant improvement.

I never needed to borrow money because as the business grew, I was able to incrementally improve my gear, and tools, as my talent and client-base grew. 

The most important skill I learned to develop – was the ability to learn quickly, adapt, and pivot!

My business looks DRASTICALLY different today.

It is not at all what I started back in 2013.

That’s all due to the fact that I learned to listen to what my clients were asking for and figured out ways I could say, “YES!” and meet their ever-changing needs along the journey.

How much money did you have to spend to get started?

I spent ZERO dollars to get started!

That’s the absolute truth.

I know that because…

…I was so broke I didn’t have any money to spend.

I literally found a way to use what I already had to turn a profit.

It all started with offering my services as an amateur voice actor on gig platforms where clients were searching for voiceover talent.

Why? Because I had an old microphone sitting in my closet and a Macbook with the software I needed to record quality audio.

Then, after working at that for several months, when I expanded to offering promotional videos of myself – I didn’t even go out and buy a camera…I just used my iPhone and an old lamp from Ikea I had laying around!

Not long after that, I did spend about $20 on a small lapel mic that connected to my phone for better audio, but that’s it…

And by that time, the business had generated several thousand dollars – so the money was just taken from the profits. 

I worked for more than a year and made more than $34,000 before I made any significant investments in new gear or added any expenses. Even then, I made sure to keep the costs very low – only spending a few thousand dollars over the next few years. 

Talk us through your first few months (or first year) in business.

The first few months of my business journey were filled with a lot of excitement and hope.

I had low expectations but was seeing incredible results.

Unlike most businesses, since I started on a crowd-sourcing platform, I didn’t have to worry about marketing. In fact, it was 7 years before I spent a dime on marketing my business.

All I had to do was serve my clients well, put out quality work, and make sure my pages were optimized. 

The hardest part in the early days for me was definitely time management. 

I was working a full-time 9-to-5 job and then coming home and doing work on my own side hustle between 6pm and 2am.

I had young children and didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my family in those early days.

It was a sacrifice…

…but one my wife and I were passionate about so that we could get out of debt.

Because we started a business with that goal, and not the goal of growing a business, I think we had a different perspective than most. That is what kept us going on those difficult days.

We had a goal, and nothing was going to stop us from reaching it!

How did you make your first $100 online?

I made my first $100 online on Fiverr. There, I offered voiceover services, starting at only $5 and was able to make $100 in just a week or two.

It shocked me how quickly I was able to go from nothing to something.

I ended up making more than $400 in my first month of recording voiceovers…

…with no prior experience!

Editor’s note: you might also enjoy our interview with Victor Thomas, who built an online business with no experience, skills or money…and now brings home $20,000/month in profit.

I spent a lot of time in the early days creating funny and exciting “gig videos” to advertise my services, and optimizing my descriptions with the proper keywords.

Just like anything online, paying close attention to the details will help you attract more customers from day one.

Here’s a video I posted on my YouTube channel about ranking higher on Fiverr:

How does the business make money today?

Today, our business generates money by creating fun and engaging video content for people all over the world.

It’s mostly content that you would find on social media channels, YouTube, and online advertisements. We occasionally do work that ends up on television as a commercial.

We see a lot of our clients come back and order again and again because we try our best to serve the client and not just to create a piece of content. Once they put the content out there, they see how effective video can be online and always want to do more.

I think we have also done an excellent job to position ourselves in a place of value to the marketplace.

We’re no PIXAR, but we do create quality content at a price that most businesses and organizations can afford. We want what we do to be accessible.

Serving people is what matters most to us.

Getting down to the nuts and bolts, we do a lot of work on SEO.

We write multiple articles every week about our industry and post them to our website.

We regularly turn those articles into YouTube videos and post them on our channel.

Example:

Re-posting articles on Facebook and LinkedIn is a powerful way to make people aware of your business. Being active in commenting on and sharing other users’ content has helped us as well.

We also do some Google Adwords advertising, but not a lot.

Most of our clients find us organically, and through direct referrals from previous clients. That is truly the most powerful source of revenue for our business.

What are some of the challenges particular to this kind of online business?

The biggest challenge for me as my business grew was the finite resource of my time.

In the early days, I was the product. It was either my voice, my face, or my creativity…and there’s only so much of me to go around!

As demand went up, so did my prices, but at a certain point…

…I felt like I had reached the top of the market.

It’s been nearly two years since I have increased my rates. So, if I wanted to scale I had to figure out how to rebuild my business in a way that didn’t revolve around me and my personal work. 

That’s when I stopped doing on-screen work and started creating more animated video content where I didn’t always have to be the voiceover talent. By making some strategic changes, I was able to expand my business, while removing my face and voice from being the drivers of the business.

I’m still an active figure in a lot of the content we put out, and I still do a lot of day-to-day creative work, but…

…I know that as the business continues to grow that my role will constantly need to evolve. 

The difficulty with creative services is that, at some point, a freelancer has to make a decision about what they truly want.

You can either remain an independent creative and focus on your work – relying only on price increases to grow your income. Or you can begin to hire other creatives to expand your client base and scale your business.

If you were starting the same business today, from scratch, how would you do it?

Honestly, I would probably do it the exact same way. I would make sure the bar for success is low and there is no pressure to meet a certain level of success on a specific timeline.

I believe the biggest mistake most people make when trying to start a business is that they put too much pressure on the situation by borrowing money, taking on investors, or working with unrealistic timelines.

These things will only increase stress, anxiety, and fear for the business owner. Any new venture I explore, I start slow and try to get the boat as close to the dock as I can before I jump in. This reduces the odds of drowning.

What books, podcasts, courses or other resources would you recommend to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

If I’m alone, you’re sure to see me with my AirPods in my ears listening to something.

I love NPR’s podcast “How I Built This” and Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert”. They are both full of real-life stories and experience. I love hearing how people got where they are today.

It gives me a lot of motivation to keep going when things don’t turn out the way I think they should! 

I also listen to “The Dave Ramsey Show” podcast every day to help me stay on top of my personal finance game. I’ve seen more value in that than anything else as I have been blessed with more money to manage and invest.

The whole reason I started a business was to accelerate my family’s debt-free journey.

This podcast acts as my support group to keep me on track and on my toes. Couldn’t live without it! I also LOVE listening to audiobooks, and these days I consume 3-4 books a month.

Two books that I recently finished that have been reverberating in my head are Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Crushing It” and Simon Sinek’s “The Infinite Game”.

Though these two authors are very different, I was challenged by both of these books to change my way of thinking and the way I approach my business. I only read non-fiction…

…and I crave the educational side of each book.

If I don’t come away with something new in the first few chapters, I quit reading. Time is too valuable to read a book that doesn’t challenge your mind or philosophies.

I’ve never taken an online course and have almost no formal business training, but I feel like I have leveraged YouTube as my own personal university for the past decade.

Whenever I have a question or need to figure something out, I head straight to YouTube and find plenty of knowledge and help!

I tell my kids every day that there is nothing they can’t learn to do on their own if they’re motived.

The internet brings the world of information to our fingertips.

Search and learn something new every day…

Never forget that previous generations didn’t have this privilege.

📚 Editor’s note: see our ultimate list of the best books for online entrepreneurs.

What are your top 5 business tools?

There are lots of tools I love to use for productivity and organization. Here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

  • Wunderlist – a simple, but robust list-making tool that can be shared among my team for simple tasks. This was actually my main project management tool for the first 5 years of business.
  • Wrike – this is our main project management tool. It has a lot of great features and helps me communicate with my team within each individual project we have open. It’s really helped us to level up over the past year or two.
  • Dropbox – we store everything on Dropbox because it’s reliable, makes it easy to share files with clients, and even easier for them to leave us comments for collaboration. 
  • Calendly – I simply set the schedule I want to keep in Calendly and give the link to any client that wants to set up a time to talk. This way there’s no back and forth on scheduling dates and I only have appointments during the time blocks I want to make myself available.
  • Wisestamp – this may seem small to some people, but I use Wisestamp to create super-creative email signatures. I can change them with the season and it helps me to ensure that my emails stand out…and for a business in the creative space, I think it makes a huge difference!

Where can we go to learn more?

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