Growth Hacking Interview Series #98: Jan Koch
Jan Koch helps entrepreneurs set up systems grow their business online by leveraging today's technical capabilities, and free them from technical obstacles, so that they can focus on their main business.
How did you start out as a marketer?
Before I became self-employed, I was working as business consultant and studying for a masters degree in IT Security on the side of my job.
I had a 75-hour week and the pressure put in a very bad mental and physical condition. After I had a break-down, I quit the studies and decided to become self-employed.
My a friend and I started a company on the side and after roughly 7 months I quit my job in November 2013.
Looking back, what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
I still struggle with selling my services. I never learned how to properly sell, so asking for the money doesn’t feel natural to me, even my clients are happy with my services.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
My first client was a friend of mine who runs a mortician’s. A friend and I maintained his PCs and after a few weeks I built a WordPress site for him.
That was my first custom-coded WP site (it’s not live anymore, otherwise I’d link to it).
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
Being able to spend time with my girlfriend, family and friends when it’s necessary.
My girlfriend is working in shifts, so it’s great that I can adjust my working schedule to fit her working schedule.
I can’t imagine being out of home for 8-9 hours every day anymore.
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?
Don’t jump into unknown water with both feet. I started my business on the side and slept 4-5 hours every night for 4 months.
I worked in a job to have a stable income and at nights I grew my own business. And a second, yet as important, lesson I learned is to never get comfortable.
I constantly try new things, be it learning a new programming language, giving speeches, or co-hosting webinars.
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 trust my gut right from the beginning. I had many clients who haven’t been a good fit and caused lots of struggle.
And oddly enough, I’m currently exploring a business model that I turned off right when I became self-employed.
I was too scared to that time, just to find out 3 years later that I’m absolutely capable of doing what’s necessary.
How is your typical work day structured?
Every evening I plan 3-5 important tasks for the next day. I usually get at least 2 of them done before checking emails (I only check email twice daily and clear my inbox to zero every day).
Other than that, there’s no fixed schedule. My girlfriend and I have a dog, a horse and two rabbits – so we never get bored and things come up unexpectedly 😉
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?
In December 2014 I decided to run a virtual summit on WordPress.
I spent three months of recording interviews, building the website, running promotions, and managing the event itself.
Luckily my friend Navid helped me with it, but running this event took 4 months of work before I could reap the benefits.
You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.
Well, this maybe is too complex to go into the details in this context. The broad process is as follows:
1. Create a clear brand mission and vision of how the company wants to be perceived.
2. Create a customer avatar and get an idea of who the ideal audience is.
3. Create and implement a new branding strategy, including a website redesign from scratch and a new logo, new communication guidelines, and other small things.
4. Update all connected social media profiles and change logos on paperwork and other stuff.
I know that’s very broad, but it gives a good idea of how I’m handling this.
Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?
I’m in a situation like this currently. It’s rare that I’m working on only one project at time, as freelancers have to ensure cash flow.
By clearly communicating project updates and eventually upcoming issues with my clients, I’m able to keep everybody happy.
Having a clear schedule for myself is absolutely crucial – and being honest with myself when I’m not completing a task in time.
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
I’m currently diving into something almost completely unrelated to web development and WordPress, which is data analysis using the programming language R.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
I focus on what’s working for me and talk to entrepreneurial friends about what they’re doing in their marketing strategies.
I only switch strategies when I absolutely have to, being a coder I like to “never touch a running system”.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
This definitely is the WP Summit that I mentioned earlier.
I interviewed 28 world-leading experts, including Rand Fishkin from Moz, Oli Gardner from Unbounce, and Jason Cohen from WP Engine.
This epic event got almost 25,000 page views within 10 days and grew my email list by 600%.
But more importantly, the attendees absolutely loved the interviews and got a ton of knowledge out of them.
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?
There are too many good books to pick just one. If you absolutely force me to, I’d say “Launch” by Jeff Walker.
What advice would you share with other Marketer's who want to become more productive?
Plan your days ahead and implement a task management routine like Getting Things Done. GTD has made an incredible difference for me, as it helps me to focus on the task at hand.
Due to having several layers of review processes, I’m now sure that I don’t forget a single task anymore – and my apps (e.g. OmniFocus) remind me of what I have to do.
If there's one Marketing Guru you'd recommend who and why.
That would have to be Jamie Masters from Eventual Millionaire.
She’s super smart when it comes to building businesses and coaching others to become successful entrepreneurs. Love her interviews and her challenge “7 Days to 1k”.