I have been a fan and customer of Justin (Jay) Dyke) for many years now. Justin owns and is the lead designer/trainer of the popular tutorial site, CartoonSmart.com. Justin offers fantastic and inexpensive training videos covering animation, game development, web design, Flash, PHP and a growing collection of other essential Internet topics. I first discovered his tutorials several years ago and I’ve always considered Cartoonsmart.com to be a great business model. Justin is a talented artist, great entrepreneur and he has also had the experience of relocating to the Virgin Islands. If that weren’t enough to be a JetSetCitizen, Justin also sponsors 24 impoverished children through a monthly stipend. Justin Dyke is an inspiring role model for all of us. He was kind enough to answer these questions:
Please tell us about your current life now. Where do you live? How do you earn an income? What do you like and don’t like about your life now?
I currently (and proudly) live in Athens, GA. Home of the Georgia Bulldogs, but if you don’t watch college football, you’ve probably never heard of Athens, GA. We are an hour east of Atlanta, and are by far the coolest small town in GA (take that Savannah) Athens has a nice running streak too of being in Forbes Magazine’s “Best of” for something or other. Its been the “Best Place to Retire”, and has a high ranking for the “Best Small Place for Business”. Anyway, where I live does not matter for business though. I run CartoonSmart.com , so as long as I have internet access, I can do what needs to be done.
And there’s nothing I don’t like about life right now. I like being a dad. That’s new.
What were you doing before you became a JetSetCitizen?
I was living in Long Island, doing freelance web design.
Why weren’t you happy in that profession? What was missing from your life?
Well I continued doing web design when I moved to the Virgin Islands, so it wasn’t the profession that spurred the move. My wife and I just saw an opportunity and took it. This was back in 2001, and even then I didn’t really need to be in any particular location for work. Believe it or not, St. John actually had mid-speed internet access back then. That was enough for me. And my wife was a teacher at the time and good fortune found her a job at the one private school on the island.
You left America and returned again, what influenced those decisions?
Big question. When we got there (Virgin Islands) all the ex-patriots told us it takes real commitment to stay, and we were like “whatever, this is paradise” . But they were right, its tough. We stayed an entire year, and met plenty of people in that time that had packed up their entire life in the states, and then were right back again in 2 months. And that’s not a cheap move. Any time you have to pay by the container to ship something is a lot.
Everyone down there is awesome. But you can really feel trapped on such a small island. St. John is only about 9 miles long, and five wide. And I know it seems like “well hey that’s plenty of beach though!”. But Monday-through-Friday you can’t be hanging at the beach. You have to work, you have to do normal routine things, and getting that stuff done on a tiny island is what wears you down. And of course there’s a lack of things you didn’t think you’d miss about the States, that you realize later when you think, “gee I really liked going to the movies” , or even buying toilet paper in bulk at Costco.
You have sponsored many disadvantaged children, can you please tell me about that?
Sure, CartoonSmart.com has 24 ongoing sponsorships through Children.org. You can see them here. They are mostly from Colombia and Zambia. Children.org is a great site, and its a lot of fun hearing from the kids.
What sacrifices and risks did you make in order to get to where you are today?
Before freelancing full-time, I quit a well-paid graphic/web design job. That was a tough decision, but made easier because our boss went absolutely nuts after 9-11. He thought America should have surrendered. For real. He was rich and totally paranoid. At first it was funny to hear about the $5000 bio-weapons armor-suit he was buying for himself, but after a while it got straight up crazy.
What advice would you offer others pursuing similar career objectives?
Start slow if you can. Try to get some clients while you still have a steady paycheck, and just consider yourself working two jobs. Day-shift, and night-shift for your freelance clients. Its easier than you’d think if you usually watch TV at night. Just glance up at it now and then. When you get to the point that you absolutely can’t juggle both careers, then you’re in a good place to decide whether freelancing can replace your day job. But again, go slow. Plan for a year or more. And work on a really awesome portfolio site for yourself NOW! Because once your freelance career really gets into full swing, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is working on your own site.
CartoonSmart – The best way to learn design, art and web development skills. (And I don’t make money to say that.)
Children International – Sponsor a child for only $22 per month. (That is probably only 1/3 of your TV bill.)
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