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How I’m Crushing It

Amy Schmittauer, Savvy Sexy Social

IG: @Schmittastic

Amy Schmittauer became an Internet sensation because she got picked last to be a bridesmaid. It was 2007, and though she was the last one chosen, she wanted to be the favorite, so she thought about what she could do to make the bride feel special and came up with the idea of making a video with one of the other bridesmaids. She had fun making it and was sure the bride would appreciate the gesture, but it wasn’t until she played it at the rehearsal dinner that she realized the power of the medium. The bride wasn’t the only one crying over the video; the whole room was moved to tears.

“I got hooked immediately. I loved the idea of telling a story and being able to have an emotional control over an audience. It engages all the senses at once.”

The video Amy had made for the wedding was burned onto a DVD. She was thrilled, however, to discover the existence of online platforms onto which she could upload videos and share them. She started filming pieces of her life, taught herself how to edit, and displayed the results on YouTube. The process became her creative outlet.

In the meantime, while majoring in political science at The Ohio State University, thinking she might want to go to law school, she managed to get a dream job at a law firm, where she eventually got involved in lobbying, fund-raising, and public policy. But she also became known as the person who knew how to edit videos and could help you figure out the privacy settings on your Facebook page, which would not have been remarkable in Silicon Valley but was unusual in Ohio at the time. It was friends living on the West Coast who informed her that social-media management was a real job. And she thought, I could get paid to do this?

That’s when the side hustle started. After getting home from her day job, sometimes as late as seven p.m., she’d buckle down to the freelance work. The first small businesses she approached were already overwhelmed by all the content they had to create for Facebook and Twitter, and now here’s this person telling them they had to make videos, too? They didn’t want to hear it. Amy realized that the only way she was going to get small companies to take her seriously was to show them why social mattered. She got her first client, a local sustainable food magazine, by sending an e-mail explaining that although she didn’t have any formal social-media experience, she was sure she could help them develop their brand. Oh, and she was willing to do it for free. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for them to take her on as their social-media manager.

She had been working the side job along with her full-time job at the law firm for three or four months when Lewis Howes, also from Ohio, who was by then making a name for himself with LinkedIn (see Chapter 2), suggested they meet. He didn’t find her through the work she was doing for the sustainable food magazine; he had noticed the photo and video blogging she was doing on YouTube and other social-media sites, and wanted to know more about what she was doing. They met over burgers in the spring of 2010, and he gave her two pieces of advice if she wanted to start getting paying clients: Go to Las Vegas and attend BlogWorld, the new-media conference where the leaders in blogging, podcasting, and video content creation gather to talk about their craft and businesses.

Not a problem. The magazine had already helped her purchase a badge.

Read Crush It!, by Gary Vaynerchuk.

That was easy, too. Amy went to the library and picked up a copy. She read it, and that’s when she knew she wasn’t going to become a lawyer after all.

I would have been happy to do this as a side job forever. I didn’t know that I could be powerful enough to make this happen. Crush It! made me able to envision what my future could look like. I’d been thinking that I first needed to become a prestigious company to get other businesses to hire me, and I didn’t give enough credit to the fact that I was already being watched, asked for advice, trusted, and considered a mini–thought leader because of the personal brand I’d developed through the videos about my life.

It made me realize how important personal branding is to growing a business, and I was already doing it without even knowing it. So maybe I was further ahead than I thought! Maybe I could turn this thing I was doing for fun into something else by simply leveraging what I knew really well—how to use video, how to talk to a camera like it’s a person—and then craft the messaging for a very specific type of person. It was the only fire I ever really needed to hit the ground running because I knew what to do at that point.

Now she knew that social-media management wasn’t going to be her sector of the online world. She was going to go after vlog and personal brand consulting. And she was going to ask for what she was worth.

Obviously, the definition of devaluing yourself is working for free, but I also think I would have stayed too low in my pricing because of how much it was devalued as an industry in the beginning. Crush It! allowed me to wrap my mind around the fact that my skill was a major, major asset, both in marketing and customer service for businesses. That’s what made me a lot more confident in my pricing and monetizing on my terms. And my confidence, believing that I’m worth more, has helped me get paid much more over my career. I just kept taking the chance, because I knew I was doing good work.

She started her vlog, Savvy Sexy Social, “to end the misery that small businesses were going through.” By the time she quit her job in the beginning of 2011, she had gotten some paying clients, but the switch from salaried employee to freelancer was still a huge risk. She moved in with her boyfriend, got rid of her car, and did everything she could to keep her overhead low. She was prepared for it to take months to bring in new clients, but all the work she’d done in the wings—getting people to know and trust her by talking about her work, attending BlogWorld, following up with her network, and being diligent with building relationships—paid off. She had paying clients within a few weeks. (To make sure she stood firm on her prices, for a while she created a separate virtual assistant e-mail and negotiated for herself under a different persona.) While continuing to teach on Savvy Sexy Social, which has over seventy-five thousand subscribers and has received over five million views, Amy has written a best-selling book, created a series of online courses on vlogging for business, and started a second successful video marketing business, and she still presents keynotes all over the world. She’s newly married (hello, Mrs. Landino!), she has a cute dog, and business is thriving. By any measure, she’s crushing it, yet she’s reluctant to congratulate herself.

I’ve had a hard time fully appreciating what I’ve accomplished at any point. I understand that I am in complete control, and that’s an overwhelming feeling because it means you could always be doing more, and it means you might not be doing enough. Amazing things happen, and then there’s a day when I wake up and it’s a bad day and it’s like, I’m failing. I never got close to quitting, but there were days when I was thinking, Are you really cut out for this? I was my own biggest challenge. I didn’t take the time to be grateful and give myself the respect that I had come so far. It sounds fluffy, but I had to start sitting down and reflecting on a weekly, daily, monthly basis on what I did well, and be happy with that, and remember it the next day, because it’s going to be hard every day. Waking up and knowing the challenges will come—and they do—I still wouldn’t change a thing. I know I chose my right path, and I love continuing to follow it no matter what.

Amy has a great story, right? I love how she scratched her own itch. I love how she successfully channeled all her energy into creating an incredible brand, and yet despite having accomplished so much, continues to navigate and doesn’t let up for one second. She is the embodiment of patience and tenacity, as are all the other people we interviewed for this book. I can’t wait for you to meet them.

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