Episode #15: Diving Deep into Graphic Design Freelance Growth Strategies with Jacob Cass

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That one year turned into three years of doing the digital nomad lifestyle. So that’s what inspired me to keep going. And once you have a taste of that freedom, you don’t want to go back working for the man.

So I have not gone back working for the man. I’ve continued staying on my own and growing my business in many different ways. Welcome to Earning by Design, a podcast dedicated to guiding graphic designers and creative freelancers towards building successful businesses from their passions.

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I’m your host, Lauren Gonzalez. With over 14 years in the design industry, including both in-house corporate and freelance design roles, I’m here to share insights and strategies to help you thrive in your design business. My journey was not without its challenges, including finding well-paying clients and struggling and managing an overwhelming workload for minimal return.

But through perseverance and strategic planning, I was able to transform those obstacles into a six-figure design business that allows me to work from home, set my own hours, and select projects that truly resonate with me. So whether you’re embarking on your design career or you’re already an experienced designer, Earning by Design is your companion to help you stay competitive in the fast-paced world of graphic design. Hello and welcome back to the Earning by Design podcast.

Today, I’m very excited to have someone back that I had on my YouTube channel a while ago, and he has a wealth of knowledge, so I’m really happy to have him back on the podcast. And this is Jacob Cass. He is a brand designer, strategist, educator, podcaster, business coach, community builder, flamingo enthusiast, and the founder of Just Creative, which is an award-winning branding and design consultancy that doubles as an industry-leading blog.

Jacob helps grow brands strategically and he’s worked for clients like Disney, Nintendo, and Jerry Seinfeld, but he’s focused on bringing this global brand experience to smaller businesses. So Jacob, thank you so much for being here. I am excited to get into this conversation and hear about your story.

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Me too. I have a lot to share. Thank you.

Thanks for bringing me back. It’s great to be back. Thank you.

Absolutely. Thank you. So I’m curious, how did you decide to go the freelance route as opposed to working in-house or in an agency when you were starting? Okay.

So just first off, I’ve done the whole gamut, right? I’ve worked in-house, I’ve done freelancing, I’ve run my own agency, and it wasn’t as smooth as just going straight to freelance. It was like a slow transition throughout my career. And it started as a hobby, just doing like crappy logos, let’s be real, and websites really early in my career, just moonlighting and dabbling.

I didn’t even know about graphic design as a career back then. So I’m talking like, when I was 14, 15 at that stage, and that kind of got me into this creative world. And through that, my careers advisor told me about graphic design as a career.

And that’s when I kind of went in that direction. And I started my business when I started university. And that’s when I started to freelance, if you will, and earn money from doing some really bad design work.

So that’s where I started. But throughout that process, I was learning a lot. And I studied for three years.

And then I got headhunted by an ad agency in New York City. And the reason why was because I was focused on interactive design and social media, which is really, it was just the beginning back then, you know, just when Twitter started pretty much. So I was an early adopter.

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And this agency in New York was going into that realm. And all the big agencies there were really far behind. So they were, you know, getting talent from around the, you know, around the place to join their agency.

So long story short, I was started as moonlighting for as a hobby. Then I went to freelancing through my own business. Then I got headhunted.

And I worked for an ad agency for about four years or four or five years in New York City. I worked in house. And I did a couple of freelance contract jobs in New York.

And then I stayed at one agency for four years. So that’s the short experience. And then after New York, after those five years in New York, I went out on my own.

And that’s where I’ve been since. So I’ve stayed solo, running my agency, just creative. Okay, great.

And so what made you decide to go on your own at that point? What was that journey like? Or why did you decide that as opposed to staying in house or in an agency? Yeah, well, to be honest, since the beginning, I have owned that business. I’ve been freelancing, I’ve been running a blog, I’ve been running a design agency since the beginning. So, but this has been varying degrees of how much I was working on it.

So it’s always been there. But when I was working a full time position, I was working less on my own brand, just creative. But that shifted when I left New York.

So like I mentioned, I was there for five years. And then the plan was to go traveling for a year and do the digital nomad thing and run, run the business on the road. And that went really, really well.

Yeah, I started earning more money when I went traveling because I had more time to work on the business and I wasn’t working full time for someone else. I ended up getting fully booked out for that time I was working only four hours a day. And so I could travel as well.

And yeah, it’s the, I can’t even remember the question, the original question. I lost, I went on a tangent. What was the original question? Sorry.

That’s okay. I, well, the original one was how you decided to go freelance, but like what, what made you, what inspired you to do that as opposed to continuing the New York business? Ah, yes. Yeah.

Okay. What inspired me? Yes. Thanks.

Thanks for getting me back on track. What inspired me was that it went really well after the one year. So I left New York, went out on my own for a year and went really, really well while I was traveling.

So I had the systems in place. I had a website, I had leads coming in and I was pretty much booked out. I couldn’t really fit much more than four hours a day because I wanted to travel.

That one year turned into three years of doing the digital nomad lifestyle. So that’s what inspired me to keep going. And once you have a taste of that freedom, you don’t want to go back working for the man.

So I have not gone back working for the man. I’ve continued staying on my own and growing my business in many different ways. And as you heard at the start of this, I could do a lot of different things from brand design to podcasting to coaching and all of that.

So it’s a very diverse mix of things that I do is the blessing. Well, there’s pros and cons of that for sure. Uh, which we can may talk into later, but yeah, that’s really what inspired me.

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Great. Yeah. I, I, it’s very interesting cause you started your blog back when you were a teenager before you even went to the agency.

Is that how far back the Just Creative blog goes? Yeah, this was 2007. So that’s when I originally registered my business. I probably would have started the blog around that exact time.

Okay. And yeah, that’s how far back it goes. I think I’ve mentioned before in our last interview, which was years ago, but I, that you’re, I found your blog when I first went freelance and it was, it helped me with some points that I was running into.

I actually reached out to you then and you were very helpful. So you’ve had this very humble, helpful, uh, just personality since that point, even though at that point you would have been many years into your business. Yep.

So yes. Yep. So it’s really been the backbone of my business has been helping other entrepreneurs and designers and brand builders build their business.

So that’s, that’s what I do. Great. That’s my mission.

Great. Well, and, and what, so when you were, you said you were booked out when you were a nomad, digital nomad, which is every designer’s dream to be booked out and not, and to be able to work less and not have to worry about where the clients are coming from. So what would you attribute to, like, what was, what were the systems you had in place and to get that consistency of clients at, at that point to be able to have that as your full-time income? Yes.

So the strategy I was using back then was SEO. So search engine optimization. And I was pretty early into the game in the digital blogging sphere, if you will.

And there was much less competition than there is today. There was still a lot, but not as much. And it was easier quote unquote, to be found on Google.

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If you know, if you knew what you’re doing. So I had a lot of keywords set up around logo design. I had a lot of top of funnel content around like how much for a logo, logo design services, best logo designer, all these keywords I was going after.

And my site was pretty high up in those rankings. So that would lead to my website. I’d have a questionnaire on my site that fill out, I’d get the email.

Back in the day, I never even got on a phone call with them because I was traveling. Everything was done by email. That was very poor by, by me in hindsight, but it worked at the time.

And I didn’t, I didn’t know better, but these days I’m doing a lot more in-depth discovery calls and creating relationships with my clients and really partnering with them versus just being like a, you know, here’s a brief execute and then, you know, send it off kind of thing. But back then it worked really well. So SEO was my strategy and it has been for a long, you know, since I started until about a year or two ago when Google really, you know, rocked the boat and smaller publishers like myself are increasingly getting more difficult to be found.

So that SEO strategy is not as working as well as it was, which is challenging, but it just means you have to shift your focus elsewhere and try, don’t give up, but it’s yeah, it’s really, it’s really, really challenging to be honest. Well, I appreciate that honesty on it because it really puts things so that, you know, people don’t get hyped up to something that, you know, takes more work. And, and I’d be interested to know, like at the beginning stage, when you started the blog in 2007, how long did it take to really start being found and get that lead generation going? Yeah.

So the first maybe one or two years of running the blog, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t know what blogging was about or for, or how you could make money from it. It was really about sharing my process of learning at university.

So I was sharing, you know, my classes and my design work online. And through that, it got the attention of some other design bloggers. And then I, that kind of door opened and I saw there was this whole community of other, other designers online.

It was very small and close knit and, you know, people were commenting on the blogs and that’s how you interacted. Like you’d have these comment threads on blogs, like kind of like Reddit these days, where it’s like 300, 400 comments, Reddit’s like thousands now. But back in the day, you’d have maybe, you know, a few dozen if you’re a small blog and, you know, hundreds if you were a big blog and that’s how you interacted with people.

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So yeah, that’s really how I got the attention in the early days was just sharing my process. And even today I do that just in different ways. Great.

Okay. And, and so do, would you say that today, like the SEO strategies that are out there, do you think that it’s good to still harness those for designers or should they be focusing? Because you really built up your brand by creating content. That was really what drove it.

It’s not that you were doing a lot of direct outreach or something. So do you feel, how do you feel that would translate in, given what happened with Google recently, the changes, how do you feel that would translate to what designers should focus on now regarding SEO or content building? Yep. Okay.

There’s a lot to unpack there. Let’s take a step back, right? This is about strategy. I’m not saying that anyone, everyone should go after SEO or everyone should do content marketing.

These are just, you know, tactics on how you’re going to achieve your strategy. So that’s, I really want to be clear on that. Like this is not for everyone.

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You have to choose your, you know, your medium based on who your target is, what you’re selling and how you’re positioned. That’s really the crux of it here. I had an advantage in SEO because I knew it pretty well.

It’s pretty complex. A lot of designers and folk weren’t really that up to speed with it. These days it’s much easier.

The tools are available, but it is much harder to compete because there’s more competition. So it’s like it balances itself out. Content marketing is huge though.

I would not discount that at all. That is a requirement these days to show your value, to build trust and authority. You have to show that.

Basically your online presence is your digital business card. So you have to show that you’ve got the goods so other people can trust you. And yeah, that comes from content marketing and that’s pretty vague word.

So what does that mean? It’s like, what is content? It’s basically helping provide value for whoever it is that you’re going after. And value can come in many different ways, whether it be, you know, education or entertainment or edutainment. There’s a number of different ways and value is different for everyone.

So the better you know your customer, the better value you can provide because you know what they’re looking for. So at the crux of all of this is understanding your customer and solving their problems and their pain points through your content. And that’s really what I was doing back in the day, just in a different way.

So I still do that today through different mediums, whether it be social media, your newsletter, podcasting and so forth. Great. Okay.

And what do you feel is, what for you is working these days? Like what’s your favorite platform to use? Obviously it’s going to be different, like talking from the standpoint of somebody who’s building their business right now and you know, they’re looking for what’s the right platform. You already are coming from a standpoint of having, you know, over how many years is it? Three, about 17 years, right? In your business. So it’s a different, it’s coming from a different angle, but what content means are you finding or channels that are working best nowadays? So it changes and it’s always changing.

You know, one, the algorithms on different platforms change and what content, you know, resonates or ranks well is always changing. So for example, a few years ago on Instagram carousels were all the rage and you could rank really well with, or get your content seen very easily by creating some awesome carousels, you know, swipe through 10 slides, but then they’re kind of, Instagram pivoted to reels and video content. So that strategy is less effective.

So you really have to play to the platforms where they are, you know, and go after that, what is resonating. But there’s also this argument about, do you create for the algorithm or do you create for yourself? My answer is both, right? You can do some for you, some for the algorithm and yeah, diversify your strategy, I guess, and keep up with the trends on what, not the trends, I really don’t like that word, but keep up with the way each platform is, you know, getting their content or showing your content, I guess, is what I was looking for. So yeah, it changes.

LinkedIn, what I’m really loving right now, because it is, you get some more valuable content and conversations going on LinkedIn. I don’t, I don’t really see that on platforms like Instagram or TikTok. It’s very shallow, like emerges and there’s no conversations, but it really depends on what you’re looking for.

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Is it brand awareness? Are you selling big ticket items? Are you selling digital products? It really does depend on what your value is, what offers you have, who you’re targeting and so forth. But yeah, for me, email, podcasting, LinkedIn and Instagram, they’re some of the ones that I focus on. YouTube is also out there.

So I do have a very diverse mix and I believe the more places you are, the more places you can get seen, but at the same time, you also lose focus. You know, if you weren’t focused just on one platform, you could grow much faster. You can learn the ins and outs of it.

So yeah, there’s, you really have to decide. If you’re just beginning, I would choose one and maybe one secondary. That’s what I’d do if I was just starting out.

Great. And for the email, you mentioned email. Now, did you use email platform and email marketing for design clients, specifically? Did you ever do it that route or was it mainly when you were getting into mentoring and helping designers themselves or other designers in that way? So you’ve hit on a pain point of mine.

So I target two audiences, designers and creatives, and also business owners and entrepreneurs. And you can be both. So sometimes you have to create content for designers and sometimes more for business owners.

And sometimes, you know, one doesn’t resonate with the other. So if you have an email list that’s not segregated, you can lose subscribers because of that. You know, you’re targeting both.

And yeah, you can separate the lists. You know, you could, you know, create content for each one and separate the list by, you know, getting them to choose a selection. And you could send them on like a email sequence in one direction and then others on the other direction.

I haven’t done that. Instead, I’ve gone, I’ve created content that would resonate for both. So for example, my core service is branding, design, branding, design strategy.

So a lot of my email sequences around branding, you know, the basics of branding, branding 101, what makes a good logo design, you know, some case studies from my work, you know, what makes a good brand, what makes a complete brand. And that resonates for both designers and business owners. So that’s kind of the direction I’ve taken.

But yeah, like I mentioned, you could segregate your list out, but that requires a user to choose something which people don’t always do. Right. Yes, absolutely.

And what, have you found that newsletters work for getting design clients themselves? Like, is that something that you’ve found to be a good source of lead generation? Not the email itself, because people have to find your website originally. So if you think about the funnel, right, you have social media, social media will push them to your website, the website will push them to your email, and then the email sequence will push them into your world further. So there you can educate them on, you know, for example, branding, what is branding? What’s the benefits of branding? You know, how can we apply this to your business? What are the tools? That gets them further and further down the funnel, they’re getting educated, they’re getting value, and then they trust you, right? So they don’t, may not be ready to buy right then.

But you’ve created that value in their mind. And as long as they keep getting your emails, and you keep their top of mind, or your top of mind for them, eventually, when they do need your services, let’s say a year or two down the track, or maybe three, or maybe they refer someone to you, that’s how the system works, right? You have this flywheel created, you have social going to your website, to your email, to nurturing, and then when they’re ready to buy, they’ll buy. So that’s how the flow works.

And that’s the systems I was talking about earlier that I created. Great. Yeah, yes, email newsletters, I mean, they can’t be, they’re more personal.

Social media these days, you know, it’s not, I feel it’s getting less and less personal sometimes, and it can be, it’s not about that one message to one person, it’s whoever sees it, whoever gets it, whatever place it ends up going to, whereas an email… Yeah, and you don’t own it either. So your newsletter, you have more, you know, you own, you can get more power with it, right? And your content, you can send out whenever you like. It generally goes straight to the inbox, whereas social, your posts get lost after a day or two, maybe a week.

Right, which is another point of the power of the blogs that you have created, that those can live on over time. I don’t know exactly all about what happened with the Google algorithm, but I’m very familiar with YouTube and the YouTube content similar. It’s the keywords being found years later, which is beautiful.

And that’s why, like you were saying, having a podcast, having the blog, having a YouTube channel, those are evergreen content. So you’ve found, you’ve obviously harnessed that power very well. Yes.

Yeah. Yeah. Some of the most popular articles are from 2008.

So they’ve had a lot of legs. And that shows if you create evergreen content, it can really work for you over the long term and you don’t have to constantly promote it. That’s why SEO is so powerful.

It’s all organic. That’s if you can rank. Totally.

And so what, in terms of types of content for a designer looking to attract a client, what do you find to be the best way or type to communicate? Because there’s lots of different varieties. There’s could be education. There could be just behind the scenes or lots about their portfolio.

What do you found for yourself or others have been really successful? It’s not one type of content. It’s a mix of content. So if you think about this funnel again, think about the stage of the journey that each customer is on.

So they go through this phase where it’s like awareness. If they’re in their awareness phase, they may be doing some research. They’re like, OK, well, let’s say you work in logo design.

Maybe they’re doing some research around how much for logo design. That would be a great article to write about. Or how much for branding? How much for web design? Or if it’s a bit further down, maybe it’s a case study.

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Right. Here’s how we built a client’s website and we converted. Here’s how we redesigned a website and how we scaled their sales by 200 percent.

That’s a case study that shows how you put something into action. And then further down, some other content could be. I’m already pretty far down.

Case studies are pretty low down the funnel. So something in the middle would be more of an educational piece on, let’s say, the benefits of branding. So they’re aware of branding and they may need a logo, but you could educate them further.

Like, your brand is not a logo. This is what a brand is. This is actually what you need.

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OK, well, now they know what they need. OK, well, let’s see it in action. That’s when they’d go to the funnel.

Sorry, I kind of did things out of order there. But just to recap, it would be like, well, how much for logo design? Oh, benefits of logo design and branding. And then a case study just kind of in that funnel.

Great. And when you say in that order, you’re talking about that variety of like having different ones over the period of, let’s say, you’re doing content and you’re posting three times a week. Like that would be kind of one of each or one of each per.

Yeah, well, I was actually just thinking about blog posts in that in that sense or content posts. But yes, it could be applied to social content. And generally there’s a couple of ways to think about it.

And it’s like, well, here’s something that’s, you know, it helps you shine. It shows your expertise. Here’s something that sells.

Right. This is more of a salesy post. And I don’t like the word salesy, but it’s more of like, OK, here’s my product and here’s what it can do for you.

And the other stuff is educational entertainment. So those are the kind of buckets you can think about when creating content. You know, you know, I’m so good kind of posts or and you shouldn’t be doing too much just educational posts because then you’re not going to sell.

So you have to have a mix of three different types of content to actually make that system work and to make, you know, make it not so all of the same thing. Great. OK.

So now when you are coaching other designers or helping other ones, what do you find in just the past several years in working with them? What have you been found is one of the most successful ways to grow their business and getting more clients coming in? I know that’s a very big, top, big question, but just like that. Yes. And I know it’s a lot of pieces together that you’ve been going over, which are excellent to the different pieces in the funnel.

But have you seen actions that have been really beneficial or specific actions that you haven’t covered yet that really? Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Absolutely.

So this is a definitely one of the most common questions, like how do I get more clients? And often it comes down to knowing three things. And it’s knowing your company, it’s knowing your customer and it’s knowing the category. So this is called the three C’s.

It’s a very popular framework. Let’s start at the top. So your company, right? This is your value.

What value do you bring? What offers do you have? So what is your big mission? What’s your big purpose, your vision? What are your values and what are you offering? And that’s really important to understand. If you don’t know that, you don’t really, you don’t really stand a chance because you don’t have anything to sell. You don’t have any value to bring.

So you have to understand like, what are your offers? What do you, what do you do? What can you do for others? How can you be of service? So that’s your company. Then you have to go after a particular customer. And this is where people will get tripped up.

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They’re like, go after everyone. You have to understand exactly who you’re going after. How are you going to market your services or your value? So a good exercise to think about, like, if you’re going through an ad platform, you have to set all the variables, right? Like, I’m going to target this person, this age bracket, this amount of income.

This is where they live. This is their interest. This is their persona.

So you have to create that perfect persona who you’re going to target in the beginning. And eventually you’re going to scale, right? First you start, you target one individual dream customer. And then I asked, well, if there was 10, who would you go after? Is it the same person? What about a hundred? Is this when you start to diversify? What about a thousand customers? You know, are we going to, are we going to market in different places now? What about 10,000? And you get the point.

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So understanding your company and the value and the offers you have, understanding who you’re going to go after, your customer, in detail, not everyone, you have to choose one individual. And lastly, the category, right? How are you going to stand out? Why is someone going to choose you over someone else? And that is a very difficult question to answer. What makes you different? And how do you communicate that? That is the number one most challenging thing for brands and businesses to figure out.

How do you become the only choice? It’s a hard question. Yeah. So to solve that, you have to figure out those three things, your category, your customer, and your company.

And what I’m talking about here is how you’re positioning your brand. All right. Once you finish your positioning, now it is time to express that, right? So you have to understand, well, what is your core message? And that is, you know, related to your positioning.

What message are you trying to say? And I don’t just mean copy, right? It’s everything. What’s your brand’s identity? What are the logos, fonts, colors, our style? What’s the vibe of your brand? Those are really, really important. And that’s going to help establish a personality and voice for your brand.

And this is how you’re going to stand out in the marketplace. And it should be related back to your positioning. So there’s a lot of pieces that have to be put together here to make, to get clients.

And that’s why it’s such a tricky question to answer, because you have to have alignment between all of these things to actually first know what value you bring, know who your customer is and why you stand out, and then actually communicate all those things and connect with your customer and then get them to call, then have a sales conversation and then get them to sign a contract and get funds. Like it’s a big process. So it’s not a simple question to answer, but this is a very high level overview of how you can do that.

So follow those three C’s, express your brand and then go market, sell your offers. So that’s how you get clients in a very high level. Yeah, no, that’s beautifully put.

I think that it’s something that too many designers want to just jump to what is their logo? What is their identity? And they miss all those background points that make everything so much more impactful and make a difference, which you do. And I also work with clients all the time with the strategy and identity side of things and how they fit in is so key. So I really appreciate giving that point as how important it is.

Yeah, no worries. Yeah. Okay.

And so now I know that you have worked with huge companies like Disney and Nintendo and Jerry Seinfeld and such, and you have certain processes for your brand services. What are the key principles that you apply universally to this design strategy with the big companies and now to the small businesses? And maybe it’s the same thing you just communicated about the three C’s because obviously that’s a universal principle for any business, but I’d be curious to see how. Yeah, they are universal principles, but when working with clients, it’s always understanding where they are at and where they want to be and then we figure out the middle.

So often it’s understanding what the goals are, what’s the big vision here, and then figuring out how to achieve that. So yes, those same principles apply, but for established big brands, often they have these things established already and they have a good foothold. It’s really about either reinvigorating or refreshing or doing a marketing campaign, whatever it may be.

They’re generally more established. So that’s the difference. Working with smaller businesses, often there’s a lot more guiding, a lot more questions, and you just have to go a bit deeper and it takes a little longer because all of that hasn’t been established yet.

So that’s the difference between working for big companies and smaller companies. But yes, a lot of the same principles do apply when building brands. Okay, great.

Do you like to work more with the bigger companies or with the smaller ones? What do you find more fulfilling? Well, when you’re working with big companies, you’re generally working with a team because you need more assets and more resources to get things across the line. They’re bigger projects and there’s a lot of pieces moving. So for example, it could be a full brand refresh where you need everything from strategy to launch and there’s interactive, there’s advertising, there’s print, there’s art directors and credit directors and managers.

So there’s a lot of things going on. But the cool thing is that you get to work with these big brands and you have access to these really cool assets. So for example, Disney getting access to the database of these super high res 4K, 8K characters was pretty cool.

(32:08 – 33:09)
You zoom in and you can see these tiny little details and all these magic sparkles and everything. So that’s cool. But equally on the other side, working with small businesses and creating something from nothing and going from this idea that a client has to seeing them launch and get their own clients, that is bloody fulfilling and I love that.

That’s really what I do enjoy. And it’s this cross section of brand, design, marketing and business that I really love and even psychology and bringing all that together to create a really effective and impactful brand. So yes, that’s pretty rewarding and fulfilling for myself.

And there’s less, how do I say, at the agency, there’s a lot of politics. I don’t enjoy the politics and I’m not a big office life person. I’m there with my earphones and I love doing my thing and working on my own.

So that’s just me though. Other people love office life. I’m with you on that.

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There’s a lot of bureaucracy to get through at the higher level when you’re working with stakeholders and all sorts of levels. So I understand completely. Yes.

And okay, so now this is kind of an encompassing question that has to do with just the future of brands and businesses and designers as well. But I know you work with a lot of different brands and from a standpoint as a designer, with AI and the whole competition just in general, I see that a lot with clients. I work in e-commerce.

Do you see the power of branding still being as effective with more and more competition and more startups coming and such? How do you perceive that nowadays also with people being able to create their own brands maybe with the use of AI? What do you see our role and the impact we can provide as brand designers? Well, I think the fact that there is going to be so much more competition and so much more mediocrity that it’s even more vital to have a strong and impactful brand. So you do have to pay attention to everything you’re putting out there and everything you’re not putting out there as well, because you’re forming that position and memory in people’s minds based on what you do and don’t do. So yes, you have to come in with a clear strategy.

You have to be able to connect with your audience emotionally. And you do that through having a strong brand built on strategy. So absolutely, the future brand and future of our industry is going to be tied to that.

So yes, absolutely, it’s vital moving forward, especially with AI and everything coming. Great. Okay, awesome.

And do you have any words of wisdom or advice for people to not feel scared or impacted by AI in this world of, I know there’s been a lot of conversations in any industry, but specifically in the design world, what do you see the future of it with AI? So I use AI every day. So chat GPT every day, I use AI tools, Adobe Firefly, even the AI tools within Photoshop and Illustrator, and a bunch of other different ones. In my opinion, you have to embrace AI, because if you don’t, actually, let me just go back on that.

You may have heard the phrase, AI won’t take your job, someone using AI will. So the fact is that you’re going to have to start using AI at some point to improve your productivity and to keep up. And that’s really how I see AI.

It’s a productivity tool. It’s not end result. How can you streamline your process? How can you, you know, improve your productivity by understanding what AI can and cannot do for you? And the only way you can do that is by experimenting.

Yes, there’s some ethic conversations going around with image generators and AI art generators, but that’s just one part of this AI puzzle. So AI has many other benefits, I guess, and it’s really about embracing that and trialing out new things. So don’t be scared, because, you know, it’s there for everyone.

It’s just a matter of how you use it that’s most important. Great. Okay, well, that’s well put.

I think ChatGPT is an incredible tool for market research, especially. It can really help to be able to summarize points and things. So great.

(36:50 – 37:59)
Well, yeah, everything, like everything from naming to brand strategy to customer personas, marketing, SEO, development, like it does everything. Image creation, it’s like it’s bonkers. You know, course outlines, it’s just it’s crazy how much it can do and how much it can, you know, speed up your workflow.

And it’s not just ChatGPT, it’s like how other companies are integrating AI into their business models. So, for example, back in the day, I used to create ad ads, like banner ads for a company, and it would take like a day or two to create like 20 different ad sizes, save them all out. And then like a change would come in, you’d have to edit 20 different ads.

Yesterday, I did 20 ads in less than 15 minutes using this AI tool. I’m like, that’s just crazy. Two days down to 15 minutes like that.

Yeah, if you didn’t know about this tool, and you just spent two days doing all that, like that’s on you. So embrace it, trial out new tools. And yeah, you’ll supercharge your productivity.

And hey, you could even charge those two days of work and get it done in 15 minutes. It’s not about the time that you put into projects, it’s about the value you bring. That is so important to remember.

(38:00 – 41:31)
I love that point. And I think that I just thought of a bunch of other pricing related questions. But I know we’re gonna wrap up right about now.

But I would love to hear any last most mindset points around embracing as a designer, embracing everybody’s own unique take on things and not being feeling this, this fear and just of the AI or competition or other, other designers that maybe you’re better. What what kind of mindset can you help or give for designers or that helped you grow your business when you were small and starting out? If you’re feeling imposter syndrome, you’re not growing. Simple as that.

You’re living in your comfort zone. You have to get out of your comfort zone to grow. It’s simple as that.

I was gonna leave it there. I don’t think there could be a better way of putting it. Perfect.

Thank you. Well, yeah, I completely agree. So and thank you very much, Jacob.

This has been very helpful conversation discussing all points and aspects of branding and growing a business. And I really appreciate your words of wisdom. So thanks for having me.

Thank you so much. Great, great questions. Can I just leave a closing thought for people? Please, I would love to hear also where they can find you.

I mean, obviously, I’ll link in the description. But please, what would be your advice? Yeah. Yep.

So just creative is my brand is my design agency and blog and everything. And on there is something called a branding briefcase, which is a ton of branding and design resources all for free. And you can jump on my newsletter by doing that.

So as soon as you enter your email, you get access to all of that. And, you know, you can also connect with me on my socials, which are found on my site, just creative. So yeah, my name is Jacob Cass, and just creative is my brand.

And I hope to see you there. Great. Okay, awesome.

Did you want to you said you wanted to add a closing thought? Yeah, I was gonna I was gonna share the branding briefcase, but just did it. Okay, good, good. Well, yes, absolutely.

And you, you do provide a lot of awesome resources in your newsletter. So I highly recommend everyone to check that out. He also has a podcast, and a blog, obviously, and many other great content.

I love what you put out on LinkedIn. So awesome. Well, thank you.

Yeah, absolutely. But thank you very much, Jacob. It’s I’ll see you later.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of earning by design. If you found value today, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback not only helps this podcast to grow, but it also helps to get in front of more designers who need help too.

So thank you sincerely for being here. And for more resources to help you succeed in the world of design, please visit for the creatives.com. That’s the number for the creatives.com. We offer a variety of courses, programs and free resources all tailored to enhance your design skills and your business knowledge. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram at for the creatives for more updates and tips.

And if you haven’t already joined my growing community of over 100,000 subscribers on the for the creatives YouTube channel that has more content all designed to fuel your creativity and your professional growth until next time, keep creating, keep exploring and continue to push the boundaries of your own creative journey. I’ll be here to guide and inspire you every step of the way.

Listen to this podcast episode on…

Learn about brand building, the strategic use of SEO, AI and mastering digital platforms for business growth.

In this episode we talked about the world of freelance design with Jacob Cass, the founder of Just Creative. Jacob, known for his profound impact on the graphic design community, shares his evolution from his first days as an amateur graphic designer to the founder of an award-winning branding and design studio. This episode is a treasure for freelancers to learn about the intricacies of brand building, the strategic use of SEO, AI and mastering digital platforms for business growth.

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Additional notes and links mentioned in this episode

More about Jacob Cass:

Jacob Cass is a brand designer, strategist, educator, business coach and the founder of JUST Creative, a branding & design consultancy that doubles as an industry-leading blog and community.

Key Accolades

  • Certified Brand Master
  • 7-Figure Business
  • Named “Top 100 Most Influential Designers” by DesignWeekly
  • Featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Wall Street Journal & Yahoo!
  • Client Experience: Nike, Disney, Seinfeld, Red Bull, Nintendo, San Francisco
  • Avid Traveler (88 countries)
  • 77 Million visits to JUST Creative Website
  • TEDx Speaker
  • Designed the logo for San Francisco
  • Designed the logo & branding for Jerry Seinfeld’s show Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee
  • Named “Best Branding Coach” by Yahoo! Finance
  • Co-host of the #1 Branding Podcast in 10 Countries

Connect with Jacob:

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