What It Takes to Launch a Successful Side Hustle With Tommy Griffith (S6E20)

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In a modern world where everyone is competing for attention online, it can be hard to launch a new business or side hustle and actually find clients.

Tommy GriffithTommy Griffith has been doing search engine optimization for more than 10 years, so he knows how to cut through the noise. He previously managed SEO at PayPal and Airbnb, and now runs ClickMinded, a new business training platform with courses for entrepreneurs.

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Just like you might be starting from scratch, Tommy did too—and had a little failure under his belt before he found success. He originally taught himself SEO in college, while trying to market an ebook he’d written. After graduation, he tried to start a business, but all he ended up with was debt.

But it was the skills he learned during this time that earned him his jobs in SEO, and later led him to found ClickMinded as a side project. He grew it until it started generating more revenue than his annual salary, then quit his full-time job to take his side hustle full-time.

Computer on desk

In the final episode of season 6, Tommy joins us to talk about launching ClickMinded as a side project, how he got his first customers, the sacrifices it takes to successfully get a new business up and running, and the value of doing some research and networking offline even if you’re launching a business online.

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:08
Hello, hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to the final episode in this season of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. And in this episode we're going to talk about SEO, digital marketing and launching a successful side gig alongside a full time job. That is all coming up in just a second.

Laurence Bradford 0:32
Wouldn't it be great if you could get paid to learn how to code? Even if you're a total beginner just starting out on your own learn to code journey? Well, I'm here to tell you that you can do this, my free eBook 28 Ways to Earn A Side Income While Learning How to Code walks you through 28 different side gigs you can do to turn your tech skills into dollars. Even if you're just starting out. You can download it for free over at learntocodewith.me/sidegig today. Again, the URL is learntocodewith.me/sidegig.

Laurence Bradford 1:12
In today's episode I talk with Tommy Griffith. Tommy is a self taught SEO expert and the founder of the comprehensive online digital marketing platform click minded. I love talking to Tommy because just like learn to code with me, Tommy's business started out as a side gig and it further developed into a full time career. He was working on click minded on the side for a really long time before he took the plunge into doing it full time. And that's exactly what we're going to be getting into today. We're going to talk about what it takes to launch a successful side business and how Tommy eventually quit his job as an SEO manager at Airbnb to work on his business full time. He also worked at PayPal before That so he has some really cool experience working at big tech companies. If you're interested in starting a side gig in tech, you definitely need to check out this episode. Enjoy.

Laurence Bradford 2:14
Hey, Tommy, thank you so much for coming on the show and talking with me today.

Tommy Griffith 2:18
Laurence, thanks so much for having me really appreciate it.

Laurence Bradford 2:20
So Tommy, can you tell us a bit about who you are, what you do and how you just like, that's where you are today?

Tommy Griffith 2:29
Yes, sure. So, um, I yes, my name is Tommy Griffith. I run a digital marketing training course called click minded. I'm an internet marketing guy. I've been doing mostly search engine optimization for the last 10 years. And I spent six years managing SEO at big companies. I managed search engine optimization at PayPal for two years and search engine optimization at Airbnb for four years. And while I was there, I was working on a side project called called Clickbank Which I just mentioned two years ago, I left Airbnb to go full time on it. And now that's that's, that's what I do. Full time. My story started with a lot of a lot of internet marketers by reading four hour workweek. Did you ever did you read? Have you ever read four hour workweek?

Laurence Bradford 3:16
Okay, it's actually shocking. I don't think I've ever read it cover to cover, but I've definitely read hearts. Yeah, and I've definitely listened to the podcast if it's, or just the Tim Ferriss podcast where? Tim Ferriss Yeah, yes. And I've listened to a lot of episodes, so I feel like I definitely know the gist of it.

Tommy Griffith 3:33
Yeah, you probably have the gist of it. But for the uninitiated, for our workweek, I think it was written in 2007 or 2008. And it's, it's a little outdated now, but it was it was kind of the book that was like the catalyst for a lot of people to run remote businesses, right. So having remotes that like remote teams, learning internet marketing, learning, learning, different kinds of coding, and kind of running, running internet. businesses, right. So a lot of people started their businesses that when I graduated in 2008, right when the banks were crashing with the degree in finance, I remember I went I applied to a bank in New York in the spring of 2008. And three days later, they went bankrupt. It's like 160 year old financial institution going bankrupt. I had no idea what I wanted to do read this book, ended up traveling and learning SEO.

Tommy Griffith 4:26
In the in the actual book, one of the things Tim Ferriss recommends is creating an info product. And my first attempt, I wrote this very dorky ebook, and I tried getting it ranking number one in Google, ended up teaching myself SEO, a friend of mine, and I eventually then went to go start a business right out of university and it just failed miserably. I was one of these guys who I was very blessed. I went to university, and my parents have paid paid for everything. I graduated with no debt, and I ended up putting myself into debt. Debt after university trying trying to start this this business. It was it was horrible. We did everything wrong. And I came back kind of tail between my legs like very defeated, very beat up by the world and came home. But I had for a year and a half taught myself SEO and paid advertising Google AdWords. And it was just sort of right place right time and ended up moving out to San Francisco to work at PayPal, I ended up managing SEO for two years at PayPal and then four years at Airbnb. So just kind of this bizarre story where I sort of learned internet marketing and even though the first business failed, it sort of started but I guess the next phase of my career or whatever, you know?

Laurence Bradford 5:42
Yeah, and I'm sure you had lessons that you learned from that failed business attempt that helped you in the next phase, working at PayPal and just maybe landing the job there?

Tommy Griffith 5:53
Yeah, for sure. I mean, every single possible thing I could have done wrong. I did wrong. And so I yeah, there was so much there but uh, I think the big it was really interesting too because that was sort of the catalyst for for click minded I ended up having all this debt that I had created for myself and I wanted to, to, to get out of it right. So I started a number of different side projects kind of on the side while working at PayPal and click minded was probably like idea number 15. I mean, it was not this very intuitive thing. I was trying a lot of different things. It started as a physical in person, course. So I done a talk for my colleagues at PayPal on SEO that my boss had asked me to do. And I ended up turning that into a business idea. I would rent a co working space on Saturdays in San Francisco, and kind of book it book it for the whole day and it would be like nine to five all you can SEO.

Tommy Griffith 6:55
So just nerd out with people physically in person teaching Entrepreneurs marketers people to startups and just like geek out on their sites and try and figure out how to how to get them more traffic right I actually loved that that business but it was a terrible business it just it was it doesn't scale it's really hard to make it work teaching is incredibly exhausting even it was a lot of fun but it ended up just being the right place right time with this like online course kind of Renaissance that we're in right now. It's it's very easy to to make an online course now. You You worked at teachable a long time. Sure. I don't need to tell tell you this right.

Tommy Griffith 7:32
But like in 2012 it was not as straightforward right? I I tried every single WordPress Learning Management System plugin, right. I've hacked it together all myself. And every time a plugin would update, everything would break right. I was doing all the video and coding myself like there were so many problems. But but it was just starting to take off then and I started on Udemy. I took my offline course put it online. And then from there, it just grew and grew and grew and grew and within three years probably by the third year the business eclipsed my my salary at Airbnb and so was working on it for a while then and then just two years ago decided to go full time on it.

Laurence Bradford 8:10
So how long were you working on? Click minded or any other side project for that matter and working full time.

Tommy Griffith 8:18
So yeah, I mean of the I spent six years in Silicon Valley and other six five years I was working on the on the side project so almost the entire duration of my time there was was working on.

Laurence Bradford 8:31
Wow, that's really impressive because I feel like it can be really draining right to be working on these side businesses or the side ideas and having a full time job like what was your life looking like Then how did you fit it all in? How did you make time for these other things?

Tommy Griffith 8:49
You mean why are you asked me why I could never find a girlfriend? Are you my mom now what's going on here?

Laurence Bradford 8:57
So nice. But no, that's actually a really good answer, because I think I think, and I only worked full time and did my like side project for a bit over two years. But I feel like if there's one word I could use to sum it up, it was like sacrifice. Like you have to say no to so many fun.

Tommy Griffith 9:16
Man. I mean, I have so many strong opinions on this. Yeah. So a couple things. So the first is, yeah, the first is that click minded was this idea that I really enjoyed. I love search engine optimization. I'm a geek about and I love to teach. But I had a bunch of other ideas that I tried. And they like, I'll give you an example that, you know, I had this idea for an iPhone app development lead generation site, right. So like it was 2011. iOS development was really starting to take off Xcode was getting really big, every every company that didn't have their own iOS app, they wanted one. People were starting to learn it. And I ended up creating the site that was ranking for terms like iPhone app development costs, or like iPhone app development companies. And the idea was like, get the leads and sell them to iOS developers or iOS development agencies and companies and things like that. And it started to work, it started to generate traffic, I started to get all these leads, but I just hated it. Like I hated the business. I had no interest in it. It wasn't that interesting.

Tommy Griffith 10:17
And what I found is, your own personal interest and motivation in the business is just so vital to that first goalpost, right, whatever your goal post is, like $1,000 $10,000 $100,000. If you don't have the motivation and the sacrifice to get up on that Saturday morning, it doesn't matter, right. And there's this like I've said this to to another friend as well. There's this trope in Silicon Valley around markets. I think Marc Andreessen, or someone like that said, I'd rather have a mediocre product and a mediocre team in a great market than a great product and a great team and a mediocre mark. And that's the kind of idea around like, you need to pick your market really well. But actually disagree with that when you're talking about side projects I don't like when you do this sort of like Excel sheet total addressable market sizing. Like, it doesn't matter when it comes to Saturday morning, if you are the owner, if you are the single biggest engine that's going to drive this thing to the first to the first goalpost, right because if you just focus on the markets, your inevitable your inevitable conclusion ends up being like, okay, I should get into like oil and space exploration and like, you know what I mean? Like, you just like if you take that to its natural conclusion, it just ends up becoming ridiculous.

Tommy Griffith 11:33
So yeah, that was my first first thing was like around personal motivation and the sacrifice stuff. These other ideas like even though they were good business ideas, when I when you're working for someone else, you have to love the side project. Otherwise, you're screwed, because it's just there's already so much working against you. Right? startups are hard. Most startups fail. Every business eventually dies. There's already so much going against you that like yeah, if you're not interested In it you're in big trouble and and it makes it when you're interested in it back to your to your point. It makes it easier to say no to those other things. And you're right. You do have to be relentless about a lot of that. You got to say no to a lot of brunches. You got to say no to a lot of picnics, right? You got to say no to a lot of happy hours and stuff like that. But that's how it ended up going with me.

Laurence Bradford 12:22
Yeah, yep. That everything you said is like, totally relate spot on. And yeah, what you said about the motivation to get up on a Saturday morning or the Sunday morning or to work really late. I mean, I'm sure you anyone who's in a situation with the side project and the full time job for a long period of time can relate but I remember like going to work and then like going to work after work. So I used to actually go to a we work because it would be too hard for me to sometimes like come home and do more work. So I would pay to a girl we work after a normal job to work more and I would kind of work like six to 10 or Like maybe was like seven or eight to 10 even just two hours as like if I get these two hours in a day or something, you know, every day it's like 10 hours a week.

Laurence Bradford 13:08
And then I could do more on the weekend and you know, Baba Baba, and it all adds up. And I get for me like the thing that it taught me the most I think was time management and just like I would block out like 15 minute increments of time like to eat to go to the gym to you know what, wow, to go to bed? Yeah, like my calendar was insane. It still is pretty insane. People who see it are like, Oh my god, like, because I'll like put in my call, like call my mom or something really small, small like that. But it's not. It's not the rigidness that it that it used to be. But I was like, I have to really own my time because it's just like, yes, so limited right now when I'm trying to do both these things for me. I couldn't. I mean, major hot tip for you. You said you were doing it for six or five years. You were doing both?

Tommy Griffith 13:55
Yeah, five years and click mine. I just had an eighth birthday. It's been eight years. Pretty, pretty nice.

Laurence Bradford 14:00
Wow. So okay, so then you left your full time jobs to do click minded, which is kind of like the side project that one out there the rest about two years ago. So that's really excited. I want to go back to like, the beginning. So you mentioned this iPhone app lead generation, but we're just curious. Were a few of the other things that you did that just like didn't work, whether you didn't like it or was just like, not a great idea.

Tommy Griffith 14:24
Oh, man, I mean, okay, so many. Okay, so I'm gonna run through a bunch of the very first idea was, I wrote an ebook on how to start a fraternity. It is exactly as obnoxious as it sounds. I've a friend of mine and I, we started a fraternity kind of as a joke in college. It ended up becoming an actual thing. And by the time I graduated, there was 100 guys in it. And so after I read four hour workweek, it said, Where do you have like a skill that other people that other people have? And I looked on the Google Keyword Planner 1500 people a month where Google How to start a fraternity. And so I wrote that eBook The next project was a medical tourism facilitation company that was my first business my my friend and I moved --

Laurence Bradford 15:13
Wait I'm sorry. I was gonna say this sounds almost like legally very gray because it for pause real quick so minute so I actually the reason why I know this is because I after college, I went to Thailand, I taught English I live there for nine months. And I remember Medical Tourism is huge there. So it's basically people going loose in Thailand, people going, what I think is plastic surgery, people going there just to get plastic surgery procedures because they're significantly less or sometimes braces or teeth work or something and I'm sure other kinds of things too, and they go just for that. So that feels like very risk. Sort of this is really facilitating like surgeries, or?

Tommy Griffith 15:49
Are you telling me I was dumb as a 22 year old?

Laurence Bradford 15:54
No medical background? No, it sounds like you had a lot of No, but I'm just laughing Because it's like, but it's great because a lot of the confidence in that, but how did you end up on that though? Sorry? Like how a 22 year old like why medical --

Tommy Griffith 16:10
Yeah, in giant quotation. Yeah, I actually as well graduated University and taught English in Japan and a friend of mine and I were a friend of mine came to visit me and we went to go backpacking around Asia for two weeks, and we stopped in Taiwan, and saw we just heard about medical tourism as well, and started to do more research on it. We focused on a baby boomer Americans aged 45 to 65 that were looking for knee and hip replacement surgery. Taiwan, Taiwan, for whatever reason was, was very good at this particular procedure. And the whole idea was we just learned internet marketing. So we I had no idea what I was doing in terms of medical care, but was able to get a website ranking for knee replacement costs and knee replacement alternatives and All these things that I should not have been able to to do at the time, Google's actually ramped down ramped up a lot of their a lot of their authority on medical related advice, and at the time, and I'm really glad that they have because as an idiot, 22 year old that was able to like, control the search engine results for a while in 2009.

Tommy Griffith 17:18
It was not a good, good idea. Yeah, that was that idea. Tried to start a digital marketing agency three times. Try to have every single one failed. Tried, what else? What were some other ones, a bunch of different lead generation sites, AdSense sites, all kinds of different things. And in general, some of them were bad ideas, for sure. But the biggest factor in them dying and different projects dying was my lack of interest. Like, it was just, yeah, it was just something around coming to the realization that my own personal interest in thing was far greater than anything else up to that first, call it $100,000 or whatever was Just a significant mind shift for me. And then once I did that everything else flowed from there and it all kind of fell into place.

Laurence Bradford 18:06
Yeah, I mean, I'm still laughing at the Medical Tourism one that just cracks me up. It is. It's it's also a traffic of the words that how I counted, okay, switching maybe into SEO or just search rankings and all that. And I don't know if you know the answer. I mean, you're a third, you're like an SEO guru. So maybe you do, but how does Google filter for, like the 23 year old giving out medical advice who, you know, doesn't really know much about it. Like, how do they know the like the truth of these claims and like, what's legit and what's not and all that?

Tommy Griffith 18:42
Yes. So this is I mean, this is a huge topic, and don't get me wrong, but what we were doing, we were not giving any, any medical advice. We were working with hospitals, we were basically finding leads and kind of handing them off to hospitals, right. Like we weren't, we weren't saying we know this or we know that or anything like that. Right? But we were still, we still Shouldn't we still were not adequately prepared to be doing what we were doing. The way they're solving a lot of this now and they've actually focused on if you're going to get into the weeds on the SEO stuff they focus a lot on. It's called y m y l queries, your money or your life.

Tommy Griffith 19:17
And any basically, like financial advice and health advice, they're like, kind of, they're going through a lot of these results with a fine tooth comb sort of thing and authorship, and who the actual author is, is like, kind of heavier weighted nowadays the last couple years. And so you'll see pretty violent fluctuations in search results for financial and health related sites over the last two years because they're just putting a little bit more emphasis on it, which makes complete sense. It's, it's good of them to be doing that. It's It's annoying a lot of SEOs but there's there's been a little bit of a power law distribution in those results. Like there's just a smaller number of websites getting more of the clicks, because it's like harder to vet some of those some of those Some of the people but yeah 2008-2009 it was way more way more wild west than it is now.

Laurence Bradford 20:06
Sit tight podcast listeners, we're taking a quick break to hear a word from our sponsors.

Laurence Bradford 20:12
Technical side gigs have had a massive impact on my life. Shortly after I began learning to code back in 2013, I landed a gig as an assistant to a more experienced web developer. That gig was my first step towards working as a freelancer later on. even learn to code with me, which is now my full time job began as a side project. I am so obsessed with side gigs because they are the perfect way to build up your experience and confidence as you transition into tech. Even more, they enable you to try out different aspects of tech before committing to a new career path in any particular direction. I really recommend them because I love sidegigs so much, I put together a free ebook to help you start your technical side gig journey, so you can earn extra money every single month while advancing your skills. Inside this free guide, you'll learn which skills you need for these 28 different side gigs, how much money you can make from each plus tips on how to get started on whichever ideas speaking to you. You can get your copy completely free over at learntocodewith.me/sidegig. Again, the URL is learntocodewith.me/sidegig.

Laurence Bradford 21:31
Yeah, I mean, I yeah, I can only imagine but it just how much things advance even in the last few years like with SEO and ranking that that was what over 10 years ago she doesn't Yeah, like 1011 years ago, how different it would have been then. But kind of going back to it to your journey and click minded and all that. So when you were like you talked about the start and how you were teaching in person workshops, you brought them online. Did you have this like bigger vision for what the company would look like a few years later? And actually real quick, Could you just tell people like how many courses you actually know you have a bunch of different product offerings now, and you do like a whole bunch of different things in the digital marketing space.

Tommy Griffith 22:17
Yeah, sure. So. So we started as an in person SEO training course, just me being a dork on Saturdays, and then move to an online SEO course. And I was using that product at Airbnb to train up my team. So any of the data scientists or designers or engineers that joined the SEO team joined the growth team, I would I would have them take the course right and so continue to improve on it from there. The basic idea when I left two years ago was basically the coding bootcamp for digital marketing. Right. So Hack Reactor, General Assembly assembly, kind of engineering boot camp, for for online marketing, and now We do a bunch of different courses SEO, paid ads, content marketing, email marketing, Google Analytics, social media, and sales funnels.

Tommy Griffith 23:08
And our model is we try and find world class people that do this every day. So the SEO, the social media courses taught by the former head of social media from Airbnb, the content marketing course is taught by the former content strategist from lift. And so a lot of people that are sort of doing this every day and that's, that's a, that's what we focus on. Now. We also do a bunch of like checklists and templates and cheat sheets, and we focus on the practitioner types of people that actually have to implement a lot of it. It's, it's not not as much for the high level executives or anything like that. It's people that have to actually do the work. That's sort of who we focus on.

Laurence Bradford 23:48
Gotcha. And you talked a bit about this, but I'd love to hear a little more. How did you get your customers or? Yeah, yeah, customers in the early days, so when you were first getting your courses online?

Tommy Griffith 24:01
Yeah, so, uh, so I have a lot of strong opinions on this one. But you know, the vast majority of our business comes from SEO, obviously now writing but in the early days, as a lot of people know, rankings can take time. And the the very first, if you thought the medical tourism stuff was funny, you're gonna laugh at me for this one. But so the very first version of the course was an offline course I physically teaching. And as I'm sort of waiting for rankings to go up my very first attempt to try and get customers, I went to a FedEx kinkos coffee shop, I printed out 3000 flyers, and I printed them out. And I had like my email and phone number at the bottom and I like snipped them at the bottom like those things. You see it like the laundromat, right? And I went out, I took a day off work. It was a cold December, I'll never forget this.

Tommy Griffith 24:55
And I went to every single lamppost in San Francisco, and I just did duct tape the flyers into every single lamppost on every block I could. And halfway through, I was like, I think this is the same way I tried to acquire customers when I was 11. And trying to mow lawns like this. And it did not work at all, I did not get a single customer from this. And so I was just sitting there, like, my friends are helping me snip these fires, and one of my buddies was just like, what are you doing? Like, what, what is this? Um, it did not work at all. And so the next actual tactic I did was meetup dot com. And this is, I think, the single most underrated user acquisition tactics when you have a brand new idea. Because meetup.com is, in my opinion, the cheapest, fastest way to bootstrap an email list. So when you go to meetup.com, it's still now I think it's $15 a month to run a meetup as a meetup organizer. It's extremely cheap and when you go To set up a meetup use, you give it a title and you select your categories and meetup will immediately email everyone in your area on that subject, right.

Tommy Griffith 26:09
So it's 2011 or too early 2012. And I started the San Francisco SEO meetup. Cost $15. Right. meetup immediately emails everyone in the area interested in digital marketing. And, and, yeah, all of a sudden, within three days, I had 100 and 150 people on an email list. I helped one happy hour right just picked a bar and a place didn't even pay anything just have come here at this time, right called the bar and said, like, Can you give us a discount? And then I think it helped one, maybe one more happy hour, and then it grew and grew and grew. And then I had my my first customer base, and I email them and said, Hey, I'm doing an in person SEO course. It's normally and this is actually key when you do a meetup, whenever you're doing a meetup. If you're going to do one for free, that's fine, but never say it's free. I put a $500 price tag on it. And then a gave free tickets to it. And the attendance rate because everyone on meetup are flakes. But if you give them a free ticket to a $500 event, they'll actually show up, right? So attendance rate is always like below 30% and meetups. But if you have a price on it, and you give it away for free, it's above 60%.

Tommy Griffith 27:21
So had a bunch of people come sort of iterated the product from there. And then when I finally put it online, I have this group of 150 people interested in, in SEO, and I said, Hey, hey, normally $100 here's free access to click mine, of course, in exchange, I would love an honest review when you're done. So it really cost me $15 and probably two happy hours and that was my first hundred 50 emails. Now the reason why no one does it because a lot of engineers and and internet marketers really hate leaving their basement. And so people don't want to get out into the real world right there. It'd be much happier scraping email addresses and sending out 10,000 emails than they would getting on the phone or getting in person with their their customers. Right so I had this weird situation where because I was willing to go out into the real world first and then teach the course offline first it ended up making all the internet stuff way easier going forward.

Laurence Bradford 28:17
Yeah, I was gonna say I don't know if I've ever heard a tip quite like that. Of course I've heard you know, talk to your customers or talk to people you know, use your interviews, get feedback on your business idea, but not the meetup kind of strategy that you get but that definitely makes a lot of sense to me. I feel like it could be applied in so many different areas like you did it for SEO but you could almost do it for anything whether it was like marketing or tech related or even like a hobby if you want to teach about I don't know woodworking or something it's like a woodworking meetup and then yeah, get get a customer base from there who are interested in learning woodworking so that's really awesome. I really like that.

Laurence Bradford 28:57
So you and I bet also when you were doing these things, In workshops, you got feedback, like right away, you're just tell like watching the people in the room what they thought about the material you're presenting. And that probably that helped you. I'm guessing turn that into an online course later?

Tommy Griffith 29:13
That's exactly right. Yeah. And I think and all the all the stuff I realized, like that I did well, I did not know I was doing it. Well, at the time. It's all in hindsight, right. But, uh, yeah, I think the other people that had SEO courses on Udemy, they all took the same strategy. Like, they open up their laptop, they're sitting in their basement, they're talking into their computer, they're talking over slides, and they're showing like the Excel sheets, but the and the only way you can get feedback on something like that is when you get the one star review back, right? Like it's way after the product is live. And so by starting offline, you're exactly right. What you just said, You see, when you say something and it doesn't land, you see it on people's face, right?

Tommy Griffith 29:52
Or when you say something that like, you know, you tell a joke and it's really awkward and stupid. You should take that out or like it lands really well and it's great. You leave that in Right. And so I had taught in person probably 15 classes in a row. Before I put it online. And without knowing it, I was I had accidentally I was way ahead of the game by the time my first version was up because I had so many natural improvements built into it. So that was the it was this weird natural mode around doing the work offline, because there's people that are good teachers offline, they're never creating online courses and people that are creating online courses, they're never teaching offline or hidden. So if you can jump the sort of jumped a barrier on those things. You end up getting a v one that's that's kind of punching above its weight and is a little bit better than it should be if you if you start offline. So it ended up working for me.

Laurence Bradford 30:44
Yeah, what you were just describing when you were talking, I was thinking of just like kind of random, but comedians, so like, you know, I live in New York and that's much anymore but I used to go to a live like comedy shows. And there are some comedy clubs where there's like, really Famous are pretty famous comedians that will pop up in there and you don't even know they're coming at night they just arrived. But to practice new material because they have a new Netflix special coming up, and they have to record it and maybe a few months and a try out jokes, so they'll try out. And this is like, remembers, you'll see some pretty famous people.

Laurence Bradford 31:17
And they're just like bombing all these jokes at the jokes are out there on their phone flipping through things, and you're kind of in the audience, like what but like, they're just trying to gauge your reaction, you know, and see, like, okay, cut that right. Let me try a few times. Nope, that delivery didn't work. Okay. And then they through all of these like, and they'll do a few shows in one night. And then they'll just like, refine it, refine it, and then they'll get that, you know, hour long Netflix special that everyone thinks is really funny, but it takes all of this work before even you know getting to that point.

Tommy Griffith 31:46
That's a great analogy. Yeah, that is exactly how it went. For me. It was I had a bunch of guinea pigs. They were offline. They helped to make the product way better. And then once I pushed it out, it ended up working.

Laurence Bradford 31:57
Yeah, so I would love to talk a bit About your transition from going full time. I'm sorry, from working full time at Airbnb, I guess was the last place you're working, and then transitioning to click minded full time. Like, how long were you preparing to that? Because that is such a common question people ask me and I know I was thinking that back when I was doing like side projects and working full time or doing other things, I'm like, okay, like, when do you know that you're ready to take the leap? And do the side thing full time?

Tommy Griffith 32:28
Yeah, so you're basically bringing up like three years of my tortured soul and life for ever? For a long time. I wrestled with this and I think a lot of people wrestled with it as well. So I was in a weird situation where I love my job. I a lot of people that and I you know, of course, some people love their jobs, but a lot of people that are working on side projects, they don't or they can tolerate their job, but they want to work themselves and you know, all this stuff. And I was in this weird situation where Where I had just started a business with a friend of mine that failed miserably. I put myself in a bunch of debt. The wounds were very fresh from that. And I was deeply cognizant of how bad it can go. Right. So I knew I knew how tough it could be. But on top of that, yeah, Airbnb was just to be frank and awesome spot to work. Like, I the first week I was there. It was just a dramatic, interesting, wild sort of time, like the first time I was there. The state of New York subpoenaed Airbnb for their data. And the last week I was there, I worked on a Superbowl ad and Beyonce was staying in one, right like, it was like this weird kind of time. None of my friends had heard of it. When I joined. Everyone had heard of it. When I left.

Tommy Griffith 33:40
The business doubled every year I was there. There was 100 something employees when I joined in 2000 something when I left right, so it's just like a crazy sort of time to be there. And I took too long to go I took two I could have left and work on my side project much earlier. But I just had stuff going on you I'd stuff at work I didn't feel fully accomplished at work at friends I still liked hanging around San Francisco dating someone right so it was just it wasn't really kind of ready but one thing I did when I I did a huge disservice to myself was I actually planned way too long for my departure so I was like really big into this idea of being like a digital nomad right like I wanted to go travel, work on my business and do a lot of stuff and I really drank the kool aid on this I mean I was looking at way too many Instagram feeds of like really attractive people on the beach in Bali drinking coconuts and like with their laptop and I bought all of it you know what I mean? I I like bought into the into the scam and, and I had this very brutal jumping off point where I left I went to go film the next version of of the courses, and I finally made it to Bali. When I first got there it was a disaster like I I wrote a blog post about this covering some of the stuff but I I got there I got robbed by the police on my first day there. I started throwing up from food poisoning, right?

Tommy Griffith 35:14
I all the footage I have filmed for the new version of the course, was nearly ruined. We rented this warehouse and it started raining really hard. All the audio was shot spent $15,000 like refilling all the courses and none of the audio is working. And so I'm sitting in Bali, I just been robbed by the police. I was throwing up from food poisoning. I had this external hard drive of $15,000 with footage and all the audio was completely garbage. It started raining. I'm not gonna forget this. It started raining. And I'm just looking at the sky. And I'm thinking about like, unlimited breakfast lunch and dinner Airbnb and like the Mac books and the beanbag chairs and all this kind of stuff and I'm just like, what am I doing? Like why? Why did I leave right and it just This very brute like, Where are the Instagram models? Right? I was promised. I was promised Lamborghinis and the Insta models right? Like, you know, what? Where are they? And so, I think the big mistake a lot of people make is if you set your ex back, there's this really amazing post on the Saturn, if you're familiar with Wait, but why it's by this guy named Tim urban. He's got this great site. He's got this post, it's it's a few years old, but it basically predicted this whole kind of culture we're in now where the more you use social media, the more unhappy you get.

Tommy Griffith 36:37
And it's all about this idea of expectations. And if you if you let the the outside world sort of set your expectations, it'll drive you crazy. It'll make you insane because you're even though my I turned all the stuff around my I ended up fixing everything it was I was being kind of a drama queen. It wasn't that big of a deal, but my expectations were so much Hi. And I was so I had set the bar for myself so high that no matter what I did next, like I was inevitably going to be disappointed, right. So, I think one thing to think about when when you make the jump, like a lot of people, they do the Excel sheet map, they say, Okay, what are my, what are my living expenses? What's my salary? Okay, the minute I get my side project to this, like Excel sheet formula I have, I'm gonna leave, right. But, um, I even though that's fine, you can do it that way. I think one thing to think about is you need to really, really, really hone down your expectations on how it's gonna go because that in this Tim urban posts, maybe you could link it up in the in the show notes or something, but it's, it's really helpful. He has x his equation is happiness is equal to reality minus expectations. All right. And so the basic idea is you can't really, if your expectations are crazy, you can almost never be happy. And so, so it ended up being a really sort of insightful sort of thing for me. And I did end up turning a lot of it around. But the first the first sort of phase of it, I'd set myself up just to be unhappy because I was expecting so much out of myself and when the slightest thing went wrong, it really rattled me. You know what I mean?

Laurence Bradford 38:22
Awesome. So what is one time management or productivity tip or something that you found helpful when you are working full time and on click minded at the same time?

Tommy Griffith 38:35
Tabs? Never let yourself have more than five tabs open in Google Chrome.

Laurence Bradford 38:39
Tabs? Okay, I thought you say tabs. I was like the tabs okay. Never have more than five Okay, like that. What is one thing you wish you did differently or sooner and you're just like career as a whole.

Tommy Griffith 38:53
Ask for help from managers and ask for ask them to be critical. I didn't take criticism as well. Whenever was younger. And as I got older I asked for more of it and it was really helpful.

Laurence Bradford 39:04
Awesome. And last one, just any like parting piece of advice for someone who wants to do a side project and they're working full time at the same time.

Tommy Griffith 39:14
Focus on something that your own personal interest in it is this first second or third place thing if you're personally interested in it, you're much more likely to drag it across the finish line.

Laurence Bradford 39:27
Awesome. Thank you so much, Tommy. And where can people find you online?

Tommy Griffith 39:33
Yeah, we're at clickminded.com. On Twitter I'm @TommyGriffith. And we released these free eight bit digital marketing and SEO strategy guides. He's like retro strategy guides that look like Super Nintendo and Nintendo games. Those are free at clickminded.com.

Laurence Bradford 39:49
Awesome. Thank you so much again for talking with me and talking about your journey and side projects and all that was really fun.

Tommy Griffith 39:56
It was a lot of fun. Thanks so much for having me.

Laurence Bradford 40:02
I hope you've really enjoyed the conversation that I just had with Tommy. If you need to recap or you missed anything, head on over to the Learn to Code With Me website to find the show notes. If you just go to learntocodewith.me/podcast, you'll get on the page. And you can use the Search icon in the upper navigation to search for Tommy's name to find his precise episode. That's especially useful if you're listening to this in the future. And as I said in the beginning, this is the final episode of Season 6. It has been a great season. But to be totally honest, I'm really excited to have some time off from the podcast to focus on other things. I'm going to be publishing a mini episode soon that will talk more about the why for the break, and some other stuff that's going on. So stay tuned for that. I really appreciate everyone that listens to this show so much it blows me away. I never thought I would be done with a Season 6 when I first started it years ago. So this is really cool. If you want to stay in touch the best way to do that, well, there's two ways. One, if you prefer social media, is to follow me on Instagram, because that's where I'm the most active. I don't use other social media platforms as often anymore. My Instagram handle is @LaurenceBradford, and I spell my name, because it's kind of hard. It's L-A-U-R-E-N-C-E B-R-A-D-F-O-R-D. And alternatively, if you're not on Instagram, or if you want to just like more, learn to code, any specific updates you can get on our email list. The best way to do that is just to head over to the website, learntocodewith.me and there's a signup form right on the top. If you sign up for those 10 tips, you'll be added to our email list and you'll get other kinds of updates and notifications and things that we're doing. Wow, we're on a hiatus from the podcast. But as I said, minisode coming out soon. Keep an eye out for that. Cheers guys. Talk to you soon.

Key takeaways

  • If you want to make money on the side of a full-time job or other commitments, it’s a good idea to create some sort of product, like an ebook or an online course, so you can turn it into passive income by making recurring sales after the bulk of the work is done.
  • Teaching yourself things through your side projects is the best way to learn a new skill, like how Tommy learned SEO while trying to market his first ebook.
  • If you try different business ventures and nothing seems to work, it’s not a complete waste of time—think of the skills you learned during that process and focus on improving them. You might even be able to land a job because of it.
  • If you’re thinking about leaving your full-time job to work on your own business, don’t overthink it and wait too long. You’ll never feel completely ready, so you may just need to take the leap. However, prepare for success to take time and a lot of hard work.
  • Make sure your side hustle or business is something you’re personally interested in, and not just something that is in demand right now. If you have a genuine interest in what you’re learning or pursuing, you’re more likely to succeed.

Links and mentions from the episode:

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You might also like…

My free ebook 28 Ways to Earn a Side Income While Learning How to Code walks you through 28 different side gigs you can do to turn your tech skills into dollars—even if you’re just starting out. Download it for free at learntocodewith.me/sidegig.