At 23 years old, Charlie Hoehn has already managed to work with marketing God Seth Godin, Ramit Sethi of Iwillteachyoutoberich.com, Tim Ferriss of The Four Hour Workweek phenomenon and is currently on tour with movie director Tucker Max. Charlie has also published the brilliant free ebook, Recession Proof Graduate to wide spread notoriety. The message of the the book is pure genius in my mind because it is simple yet innovative. Charlie masterly blends creative thinking with hard work to get exceptional results.
On the same page as the ebook, Sethi and Ferriss talk about Charlie’s initiative and talent that created those opportunities. If that endorsement isn’t good enough, check out what Seth Godin had to say. Clearly Charlie Hoehn is destined for great things. I am absolutely thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview him here.
Please tell us about your Seth Godin virtual internship.
The first thing he told each of us to do was start up our own personal blog. I did NOT want to do that at all, which is still funny to me, because my blog has opened up more doors than I ever thought possible. I didn’t want to do it, because I thought blogs were for anti-social nerds and I felt like I didn’t have anything interesting to say. But it worked out really well once I got comfortable with writing online.
I remember Seth told us that we had to start and lead a tribe, and we could go in any direction we wanted to. So I partnered up with Aidan Nulman, a really smart and creative kid, and we decided that we were going to start up the first free online film school. Our goal was to have all the content generated by members. It didn’t work at all, we failed miserably. The thing I learned from that experience is that it’s really easy to get people to join something, but it’s almost impossible to get them to participate on a consistent basis. Conversion rates, as they’re called, are way lower than people assume. For instance, less than one percent of the people who visit my site leave a comment. An even lower percentage subscribe. That’s just how it is, but I didn’t know how hard it was to get people to commit to anything online until I did the internship.
I asked Seth for some final parting wisdom after we met for coffee in New York last year. He told me that the best thing I could do was to start something. Anything. Even if it was just an ebay store. He promised that doors would open eventually, as long as I started something. And he was right. The way you build momentum is to walk down a path, but most people stand still their whole lives or turn around when something gets too hard.
How did you get the attention of someone like Seth Godin?
I was actually rejected from the internship initially, but Seth decided to do a virtual internship with all the people who applied and didn’t get in. Initially, there were about 70 people who were onboard to do the virtual internship for the summer. I knew there was no possible way that all of them would stay on, and sure enough, about 80% of them stopped contributing after the first two weeks. There were about 10 of us who truly stuck it out and consistently participated during those four months, and I was one of them. It’s not easy to get on your computer and work a few hours every day with people you don’t know, on projects you’re unsure of, at an unpaid virtual internship that may not be going anywhere. It’s much easier to say screw it and hunt for local jobs. But the few of us who kept working hard got his attention pretty fast, and we were all rewarded at the end when he plugged us on his site. A bunch of the folks on my blogroll were kids I met through that virtual internship, and they’re all very sharp, creative, and talented people. It’s probably one of the best network building experiences I’ve ever had.
What did you do for Ramit Sethi of Iwillteachyoutoberich.com?
I’ve helped Ramit with a bunch of stuff. I did all the videos on his site, I helped him create the marketing plan for his book (and some other products he’ll be releasing), I executed the marketing plan to help him get to the New York Times best-seller list, etc. Now he and I are working on a few really cool, highly valuable products that he’ll be releasing over the course of the next year or so.
How did you land that opportunity?
I initially emailed Ramit to ask him how I could get in touch with Tim Ferriss, since I knew the two of them were friends. The thing that I should mention, though, is that I didn’t ask Ramit for a favor in that initial email. Instead, I talked about how I was a huge fan of iwillteachyoutoberich.com, and explained to him how his posts had actually made a huge impact on my financial life. Because I genuinely was a fan of his stuff, he was much more receptive to me. He asked me to shoot him my resume, and then asked if I’d like to work with him. I said absolutely, and wrote back with a list of three things that I thought would improve his site. One of my suggestions was that he should start doing videos, because his sarcasm can be kind of ambiguous in his posts, so you can’t really tell if he’s being funny or if he’s just a jerk. But if you see him talking in a video, you instantly understand his sense of humor. So he made his first video a few days after I made the suggestion, and it ended up getting like 10,000 views or something in just a few days. Now he does videos all the time.
What are you doing with Tim Ferriss and his new book?
I don’t think I can really go into detail about this just yet. It’ll be very cool, though.
Ferriss is famous for not checking his email, how did you connect with him?
I had both Ramit and my buddy Jeff Widman recommend me to Tim within a week, I think. It happened organically, though. I didn’t tell either of them to put in a good word for me or anything. They just did it on their own, which was great. There’s no better way to market yourself than to have someone else do it for you.
It’s pretty funny, because I basically shot myself in the foot right away with Tim. He gave me a little project to do the first time we talked on the phone, and his words kept cutting out so I didn’t really hear what he wanted me to do. Instead of just telling him I couldn’t hear him and to send me an email, I decided I’d heard enough of what he’d said and could fill in the gaps. When I sent him the completed assignment, he called me and said, “Umm yeah, I have no idea what the hell this is.” I’m an idiot sometimes.
Please tell us about the work you are doing with Tucker Max.
Right now, I’m on tour with Tucker going around the country and screening his movie on college campuses. My duties on the tour are to shoot and edit footage at every stop, and set up all the audio equipment before each show. Sounds easy enough, but all the video stuff is extremely time-consuming. The other video guy, Greg Kissner, and I don’t get much sleep.
Before the tour, I helped Tucker a little bit with the marketing plan for his movie. When I first read his whole plan, I was seriously impressed — it was airtight. Like I said, I only contributed a small amount. The guy clearly knew what he was doing, and he actually picked up where Seth Godin left off and taught me a few things about marketing online.
How did you get involved in that project?
A bunch of people bookmarked Seth’s post about the virtual internship on Delicious, and I noticed Tucker was one of them. I emailed him, saying I was one of the interns, and asked him about the possibility of working together. He emailed me a few days later, saying that it took him a couple minutes before he realized that I was the guy from Hoehn’s Musings and that he read my stuff. Now, at the time, I had like 12 readers subscribed to my blog. So right away, I’m thinking, “What a jerk, he’s messing with me already.” Turns out he actually was one of the few people who consistently read my site. Anyways, I did the same thing for him that I did with Ramit — wrote him back with a bunch of ideas on how I thought he could market the movie. Some of my ideas were good and some were awful, but I guess he liked where my head was at and he put me to work.
You wrote a fantastic ebook, Recession Proof Graduate, what is the message of that book?
I think the message of my e-book is that work should be something you truly care about. You have to find meaning in what you do, otherwise your spirit will crumble. I push free work so hard because it forces you to figure out how you would spend your time if you weren’t being paid. I just don’t understand it when people my age act like they’re excited about getting a sales position at Verizon or whatever. That’s just being excited over a consistent paycheck. Seriously, who cares? In less than a year, they’re going to want to kill themselves. I wanted RPGrad to remind graduates that their lives were in their control, and that they actually could go out and make things happen for themselves if they were willing to try something different. Like I said in the e-book, the recession is not the obstacle. The obstacle is all the antiquated tactics for finding work.
Why did you offer that ebook for free?
A few reasons. First, I wanted it to be read by as many people as possible. An e-book on Slideshare is great, because it’s so easy for it to spread. People just click a button and share it with all their Facebook friends or Twitter followers. If I had charged for it (and believe me, I thought about it), I could have made some money but it wouldn’t have taken off. Only a small percentage of people buy e-books, so charging would have been a bad long term decision. Instead, I offered it for free and look what happened — it was read by more than 30,000 people in just a few weeks.
The second reason I gave it away for free was because I needed to gauge whether the subject matter was in demand or not. I’d been planning on writing a real book for about a year, but I wanted to do a test run and see if it had any pull.
What opportunities have come about from Recession Proof Graduate?
A bunch of random stuff. I had one of the first 10 employees from Google offer me a job, and another person at Google Zurich tell me they’d sent the e-book to all their interns. A few companies have contacted me about helping them with their online marketing plans. I’ve had offers to translate the e-book into Russian and Slovak, which would be pretty cool if those people follow through with it. And I had one guy ask if he could use my e-book at all of the business seminars he runs in South Africa.
But none of that has been nearly as rewarding as all of the emails I’ve received from graduates who have had their sense of hope renewed. A bunch of people have thanked me for RPGrad at the various stops on this tour, as well. It’s very weird being recognized for an e-book, but it’s really cool to see these people face-to-face and hear their stories about how they’re doing free work, or how they’re chasing after work they actually care about now instead of looking for jobs on CareerBuilder.com.
You obviously are not having difficulty finding great work opportunities, what do you think all the unemployed people out there are doing wrong?
It’s the sense of entitlement that drives me nuts. We’re in a recession, and I still hear people my age saying they’re above certain jobs and that they deserve more money. I understand graduates wanting to be successful in the real world, but they haven’t earned that yet. Most grads typically have no skills and no experience. So why do they think they deserve what their parents have and worked their asses off for? Why would they even want the societal definition of success handed to them so easily? Isn’t success more rewarding when you actually have to work for it?
What graduates need to do is figure out what’s important to them personally. Once you figure out your priorities, you can focus solely on attaining what you want and ignore everything else. For me, I care less about money and more about remarkable experiences. So I try to find work that interests me, and gives me a sense of fulfillment.
What is the future of Charlie Hoehn?
I honestly don’t know. Right now, I’m a dog chasing cars. I’m basically just doing whatever interests me, and it’s worked out really well. I might just keep doing that and see where it takes me. Travel is a really high priority, and I definitely want to live in another country like Argentina or Denmark for a while. I have no plans to get married or have kids anytime soon, if that’s what you’re asking. I actually might write another e-book called, “Why you shouldn’t get married right out of college, you idiot.” The title needs some work, though.
Hoehn’s Musings Charlie’s Blog
How To Hack Someone’s Mind Charlie shares his secrets about how he connected with Ramit Sethi
Recession-Proof Graduate Charlie’s Free ebook on how to find great work opportunities and differentiate yourself.
@CharlieHoehn Follow Charlie on Twitter