Yes, our CEO decided to give away his best-selling book for free. Crazy, right? We’ll release a new chapter each week here on the Ad Zombies blog. You can also listen in to the audiobook by subscribing to the Three Yellow Chairs podcast!
We hope you enjoy Chapter 1 of Jab Till It Hurts: How Following Gary Vaynerchuk's Advice Helped Me Build A 7-Figure Brand.
I don’t think there’s a right time or a wrong time to start a new business. There’s just the time. Right now. Today. The opportunity to do something that you’ve always dreamed about doing is here. Often, people are afraid to step out and do what’s in their heart, to do the thing they’re passionate about, to pursue their hobby as a business, because they are either afraid of failure or, as in my case, they have a family to support.
Sure, stepping out on your own is scary. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
There’s this false sense of security that a job is stable, that your salary, your payroll, is stable. Yet jobs can go away at any moment. We saw it happen when the economy contracted in 2008; it happens cyclically. Jobs are not secure. The only thing that’s secure is you. You have the ability to control and maintain your own personal security and income.
I spent the better part of twenty-something years working as a corporate creative director. I worked for a big company, had a great job, great salary, great benefits. Nevertheless, I realized there had to be something more, I wanted something more. I felt like I needed to do me. I had achieved all of the milestones I could in my company. The only thing left for me was to ascend into my boss’s role, and that was a role I had zero interest in. So, I took a leap of faith, and in December of 2010, I made the decision that it was time for me to go, it was time for me to pursue something else. I stepped out in my mid-40s to start Wedgie Media.
The thing that’s scary for most people in their 40s and 50s is you have an established life at this point. You have a lifestyle, children to support, a dog, extended family obligations, a roof over your head. In my case, I have a wife and five children who require me to bring home a certain level of income to support our family.
It can be paralyzing to even think about taking that leap, but when you consider how much time you spend in your job, working, doing something for someone else, you quickly realize that you don’t want to spend the next twenty, thirty years being miserable. That’s what happened to me. I recognized that while I wasn’t 100% miserable, I felt stuck. I was really good at what I did and no one ever saw me achieving anything outside that role.
They could never envision me leaving, let alone moving into a different position.
Feeling Resentment in Corporate America? You’re Not Alone
I started to feel resentment. One of the big issues for me as creative director was the fact that I was helping our sales team close big, big, high-dollar, multi-year deals, and I never saw any return from that. The only thing I got was a good pat on the back, and an Atta Boy! while they were winning the sales contests and going on luxury cruises and going out with the clients. They were rewarded, yet I was the one doing the work, and it started to piss me off. Listen, you don’t want to be in a position where you resent your job, your boss, the situation, whatever it is, because at that point, you’re useless.
I remember being called into one of the sales meetings for an annual client, a large eye center. It was a renewal meeting. They were looking for some new creative, so the account manager said, “We need your creative on this, we need you to sell your vision.” They needed me to do my song and dance. When I’m in a room with a client, I’m very much like Don Draper. I’m very matter of fact, and I paint with super broad brushstrokes so the vision is extremely clear and undeniably compelling.
I went into the sales meeting that day. The team from our company was there, and the team from their company was there. I looked at them and said, “This year, we are changing everything about the way you talk to potential candidates for eye surgery, because everything about what you do revolves around lifestyle. Clear vision, perfect vision leads to a lifestyle that people want.”
I went on to unfold my campaign idea and how the year would work. I could see the room being sucked into the vision. I knew within five minutes that the deal was done. I had them. At the end of my presentation, the room went silent for about five seconds, and then erupted into applause. That was it. At that point, we moved to lunch and they had signed this client for a new annual deal. The money isn’t important; the important thing is the deal was done and it was signed.
I felt great about the whole thing until about a month later, when an email came out to congratulate the top salespeople in the company. It mentioned some of the clients they had signed for renewals. The purpose of the message was to give the sales team great kudos and announce that these reps were going on this big luxury cruise to somewhere exotic and beautiful as a reward for their hard work. Their hard work?
At that moment, it really hit me. I felt so used. I felt like, this is my work that landed you this annual freaking agreement and is making you a shit ton of money. And all I get is a lunch? You guys are going out partying with all the clients and collecting that enormous paycheck, and it’s my work that sealed the deal.
My friend and talk show host, Larry Gaydos, walked into my studio to congratulate me. He knew I was pissed and said “Spanky, screw them... you don’t need them. They can’t do this without you.”
It really fired me up. I was a company guy, I was willing to do what I had to do, and I was paid well for it. Yet despite the fact that I was paid well, I felt I deserved more because of the amount of effort, and creative, and ongoing execution of the campaigns delivering signed contracts year after year after year.
That bitterness really started to gnaw away at my soul. I started to feel more resentment every day I walked through the doors. Of course, that resentment had seasons. It lightened at times, it darkened at times. But one thing never changed—I was just the creative director, I was a cog in their machine. I didn’t enjoy being a cog. That really fueled me and drove me to make the leap from employee to employer—from working for The Man to being my own boss.
There are No Gatekeepers: The Internet is the Middleman
The Man is no longer in charge. Today, starting a business is easier than ever. There is no more middleman. The Man who used to control everything no longer exists. Today, the internet is the middleman and all you have to do is get on it, hang out your sign, and start your business.
Yes, it really is that easy. It’s simplicity at its best:
You decide you want to start a business.
You create a Facebook page for your business.
You create a website for your business, a one- page website if you need to, and your online business is now open.
All it takes are a couple of good first customer experiences and a few good customer reviews, and your business is on the map.
Your smartphone can put your business on the map tomorrow, so there’s no excuse not to begin. The tools are right in front of you.
If you look at the history of my company, Ad Zombies, that’s exactly how this unfolded. It started in a Facebook Group. I jabbed and helped someone write an ad. That led to people saying, “I wish I could write like that,” which led to me saying, “Happy to help you, DM me, email me,” which led to a flood of people asking for help, which started a business.
You can use Facebook groups to do business development on a daily basis. I still do. How do I do it? The key is this: I’m not going in there trying to sell them. I go in there as an expert, as an authority in the marketing field, which is what I am. I go into these Facebook marketing groups and I offer to help people fix their bad ads. I offer to help people write their copy and tweak things, because at the end of the day, the more value I bring, the more people talk about me, and the more they go, “Who is this guy?” and they start looking me up, and they discover that I own this business called Ad Zombies, which is a flat fee copywriting service. We write ads for hundreds and hundreds of agencies globally, we write ads for thousands of businesses around the world—small, medium, large, and Fortune 500. We write ads for some of the world’s largest companies, and some of the smallest.
That’s what I love about being alive right now. In a very short amount of time, using the tools on our smartphones, on our laptops, or on our tablets, a business can be born in a matter of minutes. You could have the idea this morning and have the business up and online before you go to bed.
That’s how real this is.
Starting in Prime Time
If you’re reading this book or listening to this book, and you’re in that 45-55-year-old sweet spot that I call Prime Time, there’s no better moment in your life to get started.
Let’s say you’re a nurse, and you’re just kind of done working in the hospital, tired of the long shifts. You’re over it, but you want to apply your knowledge, and use it for something of value. You could create the Nurse Hotline website to offer a Q&A for parents concerned about sick kids, or deliver valuable answers to questions people might have when they have this symptom or that symptom. Sure, there’s WebMD, but perhaps you provide the more personal version of that.
As people discover you, and as you provide value in this space, you could have a big pharmaceutical company pay attention and go, “Huh, look at this super valuable site,” and they offer you $60,000 a year to sponsor your website. Stuff like that happens.
Or, you could build your Matchbox car collection so big, so great, that Mattel—I think Mattel still owns Matchbox—comes to you and says, “We want to sponsor your Matchbox world tour. Here’s $100,000 to go on stage and speak about Matchbox collectibles.” That’s really possible. The internet is the middleman today, remember? There’s no more person in charge, no more gatekeeper.
It’s just you, your smartphone, your wisdom, and your passion, that’s it.
A Quick Word about MLMs
A lot of people are tempted to get into MLMs when they’re feeling stuck or unhappy with their day jobs, but I’m not a fan. Multi-level marketing is such bullshit. Yes, there are consumer products that are great, but the MLM model is broken, it’s messed up, it’s wrong. You might look at it as the path to easy money, but what it is, in reality, is the path to easy money for the person at the top of the pyramid, not you. Stay the hell away from MLMs.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are two or three MLMs that are really great and have terrific products and a legitimate payout structure. However, you are still not the owner. This is why I don’t like them at all—you are not in control.
Do your own thing. Don’t do someone else’s version of that thing. You’ll find your happiness growing because the money is yours, you’re in control, and you don’t have to worry about mandatory product purchases, bugging the crap out of your friends and family to join your “organization,” or some “upline” impacting your bottom line.
Turn the Thing You Love into Your Hustle
As you’re thinking about stepping out of your comfort zone and heading into running your own business, really consider what fires you up. What passion do you have? Whether it’s working with model trains, or creating origami art, or flipping stuff on eBay, you can turn the thing you love into a business. But you have to have so much passion for what it is you do, it’s effortless. It’s like taking a breath. For me, writing ad copy is effortless— breathe in, breathe out, the ad is done. Where other people struggle with it, I don’t. That matters.
As you’re thinking about stepping out, do something that feeds your soul. Don’t do something for the money, because the money will come. It will come! You just have to do what you love first and build your business around that.
I’ve always been a hustler, and definitely not in a bad way. I’ve always had a side hustle, something else going in my life aside from my 9 to 5 as a creative director. I had a full production studio in my first house. Thanks to that, I had a full second job that was almost matching my salary. I launched a DJ business at one point; then, a high-end wedding photography business. I’ve always had, in my DNA, something driving me to do more, to achieve more. It’s never been a money thing, it’s always been a satisfaction thing. It was about feeding my soul. At the end of the day, I needed that to be happy because I wasn’t satisfied by my main job. My side hustle was what kept me alive during my corporate years so I could do my day job well.
As a kid, I always thought that I was going to be the number one radio disc jockey in America. I used to listen to the stations in New York City where I grew up, to some of the legends of broadcast radio, and emulate them. As a kid, I also found myself fascinated with commercials. Even though I would pretend to be a DJ and do time and weather checks, I found myself creating these commercials in my bedroom as well. When I was old enough and had the money to purchase some equipment, I basically created a broadcast studio in my bedroom.
While other kids were making mixtapes of their favorite songs, all of my mixtapes sucked because I would recreate commercials. I never dreamed that what I did as a kid would wind up being my lifelong career, and it’s funny how that played out. Even though I now run a global copywriting service that writes ads, I never, as a kid, thought that what I do today was even possible.
The question is: what did you love to do as a kid? Maybe it’s time to give that some thought.
Leverage Your Life Experience
50 is the new 25 because the reality is you’ve got another 40 or 50 years ahead of you. Our lifespans are getting longer. You’ve got 40 good years ahead of you, lots of time to do something—and if you’re running something that you love, you can earn money and work at it until the day you die and never be dissatisfied.
To me, stepping out at 50 is incredible. Why? You have a vast amount of life experience at this point— such knowledge of the system of how things work. You have years and years of information at your disposal to work to your advantage. You don’t have that when you first start out in your twenties; all you have is cocky arrogance. In your forties, you have a lot of information stored up there. A lot.
I think the other advantage of starting a business in mid-life is you know yourself really well. You know your weaknesses and your strengths. And if you don’t, you should surround yourself with people who can help guide you. I do. It’s the best thing about being the age I am. You have so much life experience and so much knowledge that you can use to your advantage. A twenty-year-old just can’t keep up.
The Accidental Birth of Ad Zombies
Off I went in 2011, newly freed from my corporate role, and started Wedgie Media, a full-service creative agency and production company. It started out as a passionate pursuit, but over time, it grew to feel much like my job did, and I started resenting my own business.
I thought, “Wow, that’s strange. Why am I resenting my own business?” Well, it was pretty obvious I was doing all of these things around my creative passion, but because I was running the productions, I became my old self again. I was doing work for other people and I stopped enjoying it. The fun part is creating, coming up with the script, the story idea, mapping out the shots. Creating is the best part for me. Execution? I hate. It’s my downfall, it’s my Kryptonite.
Still, I had a full roster of clients and I was building this great business. I was proud of the talented teams of film people we had assembled, and of the travel and filming television pilots and work on client websites and the big, elaborate marketing campaigns we were creating. The revenue was great, the projects were phenomenal, but I was feeling like an employee at my old company. In the back of my mind, I knew this venture was not exactly what I wanted it to be—but it was good enough. And because it was mine, it wasn’t like I could walk away from it. My business was supporting my family.
Fast forward to March 6, 2017, when my newest business, Ad Zombies, took its first breath accidentally. As I said earlier, I was in a Facebook Group, Cat Howell’s Facebook Ad Hacks Group, and the interesting part of being in Facebook Groups is that, depending on the group, there are different people with diverse needs and issues in their lives.
I hang around in marketing, branding, advertising groups; that’s my jam. There was a guy in one of the groups I liked who was struggling with a Facebook ad. That Facebook ad was for a plastic surgeon, and it was for breast reconstruction, or augmentation. The ad he was using wasn’t converting well. He was getting clicks and eyeballs, but little to no conversion. I jumped in and offered my expertise as a creative. I said, “Here’s what’s wrong with the ad,” and I dissected it a little bit. I rewrote the ad in the comments section—that’s all I did to start this whole new business.
This one simple act led to about 15 people saying, “Wow, I wish I could write like that!” So, of course, I said, “Hey, if you ever need help, hit me up. Shoot me an email, DM or whatever, I’m happy to help!” That weekend, I was flooded with DMs and emails from all over the world, because these Facebook Groups are global. They are everywhere, and I suddenly had this mass of humanity asking for copywriting help.
I thought, “This is great, people need my help. How the hell am I going to do this? I can’t do this for free.”
The funny thing, of course, is that I would do it for free if I could support my family off of free. I had all of these people who needed help, and wanted to figure out a way to serve them. By the end of that weekend, I told everyone who needed help that it was doable to write ten ads per month for the first ten people who signed up for a low flat rate. Wouldn’t you know it, in about four hours every one of those 10 slots was gone!
At that moment, I knew I had something. I knew there was a business, an itch that needed to be scratched. I just didn’t know how to build it in a way that would be scalable.
The Inspiration for a Memorable Brand
A couple of days passed. My creative collaboration partner Sean, who is now Head Copywriter at Ad Zombies, started texting with me that Sunday night; I remember The Walking Dead was on. He and I were texting about what to call this venture, this little thing that we still didn’t even know what it was going to do, or what it was going to look like, or where it was going to go. But the company name evolved out of us watching The Walking Dead.
Originally, our slogan was Ad Zombies: Bringing Ads Back to Life. But it didn’t really tell people what we do, and you’d have to think and burn some calories trying to figure it out. We quickly evolved it to Ad Zombies: The World’s Best Flat Fee Ad Copywriting Service. The business was born.
Don’t Settle for Less than 100%
Now, why do I love this business as opposed to my other company? The answer is very simple. With Ad Zombies, I get to do 100% of what I love. Let me say that again. With Ad Zombies, I get to do what I love, all the time, every day. That is remarkably freeing, and when you figure out what that is for you, your business can grow—and grow very quickly.
Earlier I mentioned my Kryptonite, so I think it’s fair to also mention my superpower. My superpower is creative idea generation. I can go into a room of a hundred people, they can tell me about their business, and I can spit out branding, positioning, creative ideas within seconds. That’s my superpower. Ad Zombies allows me to tap into that superpower multiple times a day, on a daily basis. Again, it’s that passion.
When you have passion as the core driver of your business, it is unstoppable.
A Paycheck Isn’t Nearly as Good as A Payday
This book is written for you. Oh, I don’t know you, but I am you. I was the guy who was working at a really good job as a corporate creative director at a company that I loved. But I felt stuck, I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere. Many of you are in situations like that. Why are you sitting at work? Why do you do a job you hate? Why are you working for an asshole? These are things you may be saying to yourself on a daily basis, but you don’t articulate to others because you think, well I’m 45 or 50 or 51, or, oh, I’ve just got a few more years and then I’m out of this shit.
But the reality is, now is the best time to start a business around whatever it is that fires you up, whatever it is that you’re passionate about. If you’re not living, and you’re just earning a living, that’s misery. Right?
A paycheck isn’t nearly as good as a payday, and I mean a big payday—doing something you love that creates happiness and value for others. You can’t measure the monetary value of personal happiness. When you get to do what you want, and live and work and eat and breathe what you’re passionate about, you’ll work your ass off, but it won’t feel like you are. It’ll feel like waking up on the beach every single day.
The thing that drives me is my passion for what I do. I love being a storyteller. There are times when I have ideas that I just have to write down, because even if I don’t have the client that I can apply the creative to today, I will go out and seek the relationship so I can deploy that strategy tomorrow. Here’s an example: one time a few years ago I was on a production shoot in Idaho with one of my all- time favorite clients, world-renowned architect Mark Candelaria, when my First Assistant Director Phil Click fell ill on set. We were going to take him back to rest up, but he said he was a little hungry, so we stopped and had pizza in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. After we ate, I asked him how he was feeling and he perked up: “I feel better. I’m not shaky anymore.” I looked at him and said, “Clearly, you had pizza deficiency syndrome.” An ad concept was born. We sought out the pizza chain that then let us produce the Pizza Deficiency Syndrome ad campaign.
That’s living your passion. Creative—that’s what drives me, that’s my thing. Your thing might be knitting. It might be decorative collars for hairless cats. Or beef jerky, a theme you’ll see throughout this book. I like beef jerky, so it’ll come up a lot!
Passion. Drive. Tenacity. These are all things that will help you launch a successful business. The other thing you’ll need is patience and the ability to dream about what the future could be. Patience allows you to not be in a hurry. That doesn’t mean you get to delay or hold onto those dreams for the future, it just means you’ve got to be patient because when things start to click, you’ll be ready.
Dreaming big is important. I have a vision of where I want to be and what I want my business to look like—it looks like me running my company while I’m on the beach with my family. It looks like me traveling to Italy and having the lifestyle I want. To me, success is measured not by a dollar figure, but by my happy meter. Because when I’m happy, I’m successful. When I’m happy, business just runs itself and I don’t feel like I’m working. Hustle (“work”), play, and family time all blends together because I’m living what I’m passionate about, and you can too.
Fifteen years ago, you couldn’t even step up to the plate—you couldn’t even get an at bat in the business world without getting through gatekeepers. Today, the gatekeepers are dead. You don’t have to go through them. You can go around their lifeless bodies on the playing field. The internet has removed the middleman from getting in your way. Today, it’s really easy to create a Facebook page about whatever it is you’re passionate about, and connect with other people, and start building a brand.
That’s it. Starting a business is that simple.
Key Points from Chapter 1
Prime Time—midlife—is the perfect time to start a business because you truly know yourself and have more expertise to share than ever before.
Don’t settle for doing less than 100% of what you love, all the time.
Jobs are not secure; the only thing that’s secure is you. You have the ability to control and maintain your own personal financial security.
Figure out what you have so much passion for that working on it is effortless.
Remember, there is no gatekeeper or middleman stopping you from starting a business. With the internet, you can easily reach millions of customers directly.
Did You Get Value From This?
If it did and you feel compelled to buy a few copies of my book to give away as Christmas gifts to friends, I’m okay with that!
Get your copy of Jab Till It Hurts here or tap on the book cover.
Want the audio version of this? You can get that by subscribing to my podcast TYC.
ken ‘spanky’ moskowitz
founder | ceo | zombie ❤️ lover