I’ve shared with many how I started jSinger Marketing and have kept it rolling for almost 15 years. But I’ve never shared publicly on my blog or social media. Many reading this are my friends, clients and even family. So in today’s increasingly impersonal world, I thought I would share my personal business “origin” story.
Always “Doing More”
As long as I can remember, I liked working hard, turning work into a fun challenge, and wanting to solve problems. I was on a constant search to figure out a better, faster and more impactful way of doing things. I don’t have a personality where I “punch in and punch out” each day. I do leave work at the office, especially today, but I have always cared about quality work.
I also found myself finishing tasks quickly and having an interest to do more with my time. Back during college, I would take on freelance work. I was studying graphic design, and the internet was pretty new. I bought a book, “Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours” and taught myself how to create websites, as rudimentary as they were, for friends and small businesses.
I graduated from Judson University in 1998 and headed into the workforce. I worked in the Crystal Lake, Ill., area doing graphics, marketing, and even some writing. I filled my off-hours with freelance projects and heading up more fun activities such as playing on and managing softball teams and running a baseball fantasy league. I was always “doing more.”
Doing the Right Thing
In 2007, my wife and I had the first two of our four kids, and life started to get more stressful. I realized those extracurriculars, while fun, weren’t bringing in money to help my family. Meanwhile, I noticed some old college friends starting their own design and marketing agencies. A new industry trend was happening, too: “Lead Generation.” Instead of just creating a pretty logo or website, the business world was realizing you could bring sales leads from your website. Most prominent were paid ads and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – top Google rankings. This intrigued me and though there was an art to it, it was not rocket science. I learned the basics, and when I put it into practice, it worked. Most of my early clients were ranking near the top in Google, which led to thousands of dollars in sales.
I enjoyed this combination of art and analytics. I always share with people how my father is an accountant while my mother was more of an artist. I ended up with some talent from each – an even split of right- and left-brain skills that worked well for marketing. I also enjoyed working with clients, strategizing and learning about their businesses. So I wasn’t “selling” to earn business. I felt I was simply helping people I cared about.
Time To Quit the Day Job?
jSinger Marketing specialized in digital marketing, not just website builds. To maintain Google rankings and run successful ads, clients needed to continue marketing and advertising indefinitely. So the “recurring” business model was stable. I was building a side income in evenings and lunch breaks, while I still had a day job.
Before long, the client base grew, and I was earning more income from side work than the day job.
This was the moment of decision: Should I leave the day job?
It seems like a clear answer to me, because there was no ceiling in owning my own business. If I worked more hours, I would earn more. At my day job, I would get raises over the years, but nothing significant. If I worked harder, or ran a successful ad campaign, I didn’t personally benefit. I also piloted some SEO and Google Ad campaigns at my day job at what is now Northwestern Medicine. But that hit a ceiling as well. Most organizations hire agencies because they were more trusted than an internal person. So it felt nice to think with my own company I would be trusted and able to lead clients to success.
Still, making the leap to quit a day job was certainly scary. I talked to my parents, as my dad had worked for himself since the early 1980s. I also spoke to a trusted church friend/business owner who had gone through the same path. Both showed little fear. The numbers were clear, and I should make the move.
I’m also grateful that as conservative as I may be, I am a bit of a risk taker. I really wasn’t worried. When many people talk about starting their own business, they start from zero. I wouldn’t have had the courage to do that. But with about 10 clients already, there was more of a risk of being laid off than all 10 clients leaving at the same time.
So in April 2011, after giving two weeks notice, I left my day job to run jSinger Marketing full-time.
Staying Small and Focused
In my 12th year now full-time, I just have to thank God for providing for me, my wife, and four kids that now are growing up quickly. Though it’s never easy with an inconsistent income month-to-month, we’ve never missed a mortgage payment and never truly struggled.
Distractions are always present at home and at work. There’s always a next business book that you should read and emulate. The culture in America says to “scale” and grow and never stop. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying” they will say. There’s always a fear of a client leaving, creating a constant pressure to land new clients.
Just before COVID hit, back in 2018, a business coach/friend of mine blew me away with question: “Why do you need to grow?” He asked, “If clients are coming to you and sticking with you, why not be content with that? Trust God for your needs. Stop constantly seeking new clients and worrying about it.”
I took that to heart. I followed up on leads that came in, but over the past four years I have rarely reached out for new business. I have all but stopped networking. I focus on my own website, marketing, blog and email marketing.
I also scaled back the company from a high of eight part-time workers, to three at the lowest point.
I also scaled back some clients. I let a couple go that I could not support morally. This cost me significant income, but I haven’t regretted that decision.
While my wife will tell you that I “never stop,” I have many times left the office at 4 p.m. to catch my son‘s Little League game, or watch my girls run cross country. I rarely pick up the computer on the weekend except for a major deadline, website launch our website outage. It’s still hard to turn off the business mentally, but I’ve been better with that in recent years.
Thankful for Today and the Future
I’m so very thankful for my workmates, loyal clients, and all the people that want to work with a real person who cares about their success. I’ve never let my company get faceless and corporate, and I don’t plan to. I choose to offer strategic, personalized marketing for my clients, at the risk of them sometimes choosing easy, canned marketing “products” that larger companies offer.
I’m 46 this year, and although I haven’t bought my midlife crisis car yet, I definitely feel more sentimental. I see that life is indeed short and I want to make every day count.
Looking forward, I’ve never liked the thought of a five-year plan. I’ve never had one. I realize life can change on a dime, COVID can hit, health issues can hit, the economy could tank or boom.
So what is my plan? For life in general, I want to pour into others. Family, friends, and clients. I want to spend my time on the right things. I want to be a better person every day following the Truth of what I believe in the Bible.
As for jSinger Marketing, I want to continue working with people who care, who want relationships, success and trust. I want to help people with honest businesses and intentions. I look forward to it, and hope to be able to write a part two of this blog post in another 15 years!