Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade.
His advice has been featured by Entrepreneur, Inc, Forbes, Adobe, and many more. Connect with Preston on Twitter.
How did you start out as a marketer?
I got my start as a marketer after graduating from college where I studied marketing and advertising.
It was at a small publishing company and I was hired to help in their music and film publishing division.
I got to work on some pretty cool projects with some pretty big local names in music and movies.
It was a lot of fun and I got to learn a lot of different skills in a variety of different marketing channels.
It really cemented my understanding and passion for marketing.
Looking back what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
For me, the hardest thing about marketing is always balancing branding and awareness versus ROI and tangible financial results.
Naturally, most business owners and bosses want tangible Roi.
But some of the biggest companies in the world have built their financial success on the back of incredible branding.
I feel that’s something that many small businesses take for granted and many new marketers don’t pay enough attention to.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
I think I got my first client back when I was in high school and it was for a logo design.
Of course, I didn’t charge nearly enough for that logo But it was a really fun experience to see that someone was willing to pay me for my creativity and talent.
After high school, I actually took a couple years off and lived in South America, and then I came home and went to college for 4 years.
It wasn’t until my last couple years of college that actually started freelancing to pay for the rest of my school.
By that time I was less of a designer and more of a marketer and web developer.
My first real client at that time found me through Twitter, I believe.
A channel which, unfortunately, doesn’t work too well for finding clients these days. Instead I recommend freelancers search job boards and tap into their personal network to find quality freelance jobs.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
I don’t do a ton of freelancing anymore, which sometimes makes me sad.
But I also get to spend my time now supporting other freelancers who are growing their business from scratch.
And that’s a lot of fun and very fulfilling.
For example, we publish content on the blog multiple times a week to help Freelancers know what steps they should take next in the freelance business.
And I partnered with a friend of mine to release a weekly podcast where we coach Freelancers through how to overcome hurdles to grow their business.
There’s absolutely nothing more rewarding than when someone comes back to me after reading something we’ve published or listening to a podcast episode and says, “you’ve completely changed how I approach business and it has made all the difference” or something like that.
I love seeing that our content is really helping freelancers succeed.
We have a lot of readers who are bent on becoming freelancers, aside from freelancing how else can someone earn online, and what is your advise?
I talk a ton about freelancing, and I’m a big fan of it.
In fact, I believe freelancing is one of the fastest ways you can build up side hustle revenue quickly and quit a job, get a different job, or just build some financial flexibility into your life.
That being said, of course there are lots of other ways to make money online.
It can be as simple as sleeping garage sale finds on eBay or as sophisticated as running your own e-commerce site.
I will caution against the idea of becoming an influencer, starting a blog, or growing an audience in another way.
While these can be potentially lucrative, they take forever to get up and running.
So if your goal is to make money, and make it fairly quickly, these tasks should be put on the back burner while you start a business that generates revenue from day one.
I always say: if you’re not making money, you don’t have a business; you have a hobby.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?
I would have quit my job sooner, hands down.
I’ve seen infinitely more growth and opportunities in the three years I’ve been working for myself full-time than I did in the seven years prior to that working for someone else.
How is your typical work day structured?
I like to have a flexible schedule, but for the most part I wake up and eat breakfast with my wife and kids.
They go to school, I go for a jog, and then I come home, eat a healthy breakfast and get started working.
Usually I’m (happy to be) interrupted multiple times throughout the day by my kids and I typically take a long lunch and end around dinner time to spend more time with my family.
My business exists to support my life, not the other way around. And I’ve engineered it that way on purpose.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
Sure. My business was a side-hustle for 8 years before I finally took it full-time.
That’s 8 years of working nights, on trains, or during my lunch break.
I sacrificed climbing the ladder at my day job to build my side-hustle.
But I never wanted to work for someone else the rest of my life.
When I was let go in 2017, my side hustle was the perfect safety net.
I took the business full-time and never looked back.
You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.
I’m not a brand strategist. So I would never be tasked with this. But if I was, my first step would be to hire a brand strategist. 🙂
Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?
[Sorry, nothing meaningful to add here]
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
I’m very intrigued by SparkLoop.io right now and interested to see if you can really grow a quality email list by leveraging referrals and competitions. Very smart stuff.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
I think staying up-to-date with trends can be a time-suck. I do a bit of it.
But I prefer to invest my time in reading books and focusing on timeless psychology of sales and marketing that will work no matter what the platform is.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
In 2017, my company launched a service called SolidGigs which started as an email-only insider job list and has since grown to become a web app + job board + training tool for freelancers.
It’s making a real difference for freelancers every month and that makes me excited to get up in the morning.
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?
How to Win Friends and Influence People. Timeless psychology which you can apply to any platform or situation.
What advice would you share with other Marketer’s who want to become more productive?
Take any video-playing apps off your phone. I’d say social media apps too, but many of us need them to do our jobs.
If there’s one Marketing Guru you’d recommend who and why.
Clay Mosley from Dripify. I like how he thinks (and talks) about marketing.