Jill W. Fox, Fox Social Media
Jill W. Fox is the Founder of Fox Social Media. Jill initially learned social media to keep an eye on her then-teenagers. In 2010, Jill founded the company after working with her children’s sports teams to run their social media pages and falling in love with the process. Now, Jill runs a six-figure company planning and managing social media for her clients. Her advice? Make sure you love what you do.
Episode 4 – Jill W. Fox, Fox Social Media
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: Today's guest is Jill W. Fox, who is joining us from Nashville, Tennessee. She's the founder of Fox Social Media, which offers strategy, management, advertising, consulting, and training services for small businesses, as well as personal branding services for individuals. Jill's the host of the Simple Marketing Academy podcast. Jill, welcome to the show.
[00:01:18] Jill Fox: Thank you so much, Sanjay. I'm happy to be here.
[00:01:21] Sanjay Parekh: So, I'm excited to have you on because I'm a big fan of social media, but we'll talk about that in a couple of minutes. But first, before we get into that, give us a little bit about your background and what got you to where you are now.
[00:01:32] Jill Fox: Okay. I started Fox Social Media about 14 years ago in 2010. And my background, I have a business degree, but I was a stay-at-home mom for several years when my kids were growing up and I actually learned social media for two reasons. One, to keep up with my friends. We lived in California for 20 years. So, my friends are all on the East coast where I'm from and, it kind of was a great way to keep up with them. And number two, my kids were becoming teenagers at the time. So, it gave me the ability to follow them online. And my daughter, who's my oldest, would get grounded if she unfriended me on Facebook. Because I thought, "Okay, if you're hiding stuff from me, sorry, you're out of luck." So that's how I learned it. And then I basically am self-taught in that I took, you name the course, the training, the book, the source. And I learned everything I possibly could and still do that to this day.
When I first started Fox Social Media, I made exactly 0 dollars. And I worked for free for three months for my son's former hockey coach who owned a gym. And after that three months, he referred me to another gym owner who actually paid me and then I had a real business. I wasn't making much, but it actually was a business. And I've grown from there tremendously and mostly by referrals, which I love. That's the main way I've grown the business. So, I guess that's the basic story and I'll let you go from there.
[00:03:16] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. When you had that first client, was the thinking like, this is my first time doing it, that's why we're doing it for free. Or is it because that was your son's hockey team? That's why you were doing it for free.
[00:03:29] Jill Fox: That's a great question because I was doing a lot of social media for free for teams. My son's a big sports guy. He was an athlete all through school. And so, I was a team mom. You name it — I was the team mom or the manager, mostly for hockey teams. So, I did do it free, but I also got a part time job around that time and was doing social media for schools just very part time. So, I had the combination of those two things going on. When that contract ended, because it just was a two-year contract, I decided I'm doing this for myself. I'm not going to work for someone else.
So, when you start for yourself, you got to start from scratch, and you've got to be willing to do something for free. You've got to prove yourself. You've got to have somebody that can vouch for you and say, "Hey, yeah, this person does a good job,” and kind of hone your system as well.
[00:04:30] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. That's interesting. So, was this your first time doing an entrepreneurial venture or had you done things when you were younger, when you were a kid, maybe?
[00:04:43] Jill Fox: No, definitely not as a kid, other than being captain of the cheerleading squad in both high school and college and having to fundraise for ourselves. So maybe that was a little entrepreneurial. What I did do, which was sort of social media before the internet, was that when we lived in Pittsburgh, I created Fox Newsletter Services. So, I was creating and writing the text and generating the images, for small businesses. I was creating newsletters. I even connected with a local printer to have them print it. Although they would give me a lot of the text, or at least the information, and I would write the stories. They'd give me the images. I'd lay the whole thing out, design it. Once approved, I would actually go to the printer, have it printed for them and then drive it to their location, and they would mail it out from there. So that was fun. It was just a very small business. I probably made $4,000 a year. It was very part time, very small, but that was my first entrepreneurial venture.
[00:05:51] Sanjay Parekh: Oh, that's cool. That's cool. Were there any other entrepreneurs in the family, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, anybody like that?
[00:06:01] Jill Fox: My dad who retired from IBM after 29 years as a computer programmer, he owned a motel in Vermont. Then, that did well, he sold that. He also owned a bookkeeping and payroll service. And the biggest entrepreneur in my family is actually my son, who's my youngest child, who was incredibly ultra-successful. He learned how to private label products and sell them on Amazon. And he was successful with that to the tune of a couple hundred thousand a year, but he was constantly asked how to do it. So he created both a YouTube channel which grew to 140,000 subscribers and then he created a course, which he ended up selling 10,000 copies or not copies — it’s a digital course teaching people how to do the same. And he was ultra-successful making way more than my husband and I combined ever have. So, he's my inspiration.
[00:07:07] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, that's awesome. That's awesome. Let's step back to when you were starting out. You talked about having a business degree and then being stay at home for a while. When you were starting out, was there anything that kind of made you nervous about taking this leap and starting this? It sounded as a side hustle at first.
[00:07:30] Jill Fox: It definitely was a side hustle at first and that was how it was intended for quite a while because I still had the kids, and I was still involved with the sports. My daughter acted, so I was constantly driving from Orange County to LA, three times a week for either auditions or parts she had or to hockey tournaments or something else.
So, it was completely intentional to be part time. All I really did back then was to post to social media. It blows my mind now to think how much my business has changed since then, by necessity. You try that now; you're not going to get too far. But yeah, that was my, that was intentional at first, to keep it just at that level. So, I never really tried to grow it. As far as being nervous about it, I guess you're always nervous that you're going to be able to get and keep clients, that was the main thing. I knew pretty well, everything I would take on is something I already knew how to do well because I never wanted my clients to be guinea pigs. I wasn't nervous about that at all, but yeah, I think it's the maintaining clients and that part of it and the financial part of it.
[00:08:48] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. By the way, for listeners that don't know the LA area, LA to Orange County is not a short drive. It is a bit of a hike, to get between those two places.
[00:09:00] Jill Fox: And to come back in the afternoon is two and a half, it's about two hours and 15 to two and a half hours. Yeah. Not a quick drive.
[00:09:08] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Traffic is a little bit nuts out there. Okay, so you started out, this was a side hustle. At what point did it make you realize, "Oh, this needs to be a full-time thing and I need to spend more time on this?" What was it that tipped you over to do that?
[00:09:28] Jill Fox: My daughter going to FIDM up in LA, which is the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Not only is the tuition high, we had to get an apartment for her up in LA. I'm like, "Ooh, I think I better work more." Furnish it, the whole ball of wax. I thought, I should really be working more at this point. So it was that and just the fact that my son was, I think a junior. Was he a junior? At that time where I pushed it forward, he was either a junior or senior in high school. He didn't, I didn't need to be there all the time, nor did he want me there all the time. So that, is one of the things I did.
And, I know this wasn't your question, but one tip I have for people and something I did really, right from the beginning, because you make mistakes and certainly I didn't do everything right. But one of the things I did really right was I penny pinched like crazy. I literally started this business for $7.99. I went on GoDaddy. I bought foxsocialmedia.net because foxsocialmedia.com wasn't available. I do have it now. And my dad actually hosted it for me. He's a computer guy. So that is the only thing I did. The next thing I bought was probably my insurance through Hiscox, who was one of the only companies that would insure me at the time because they were thinking outside of the box when no one else was.
What I was doing really wasn't that out of the ordinary, but to a basic, big name insurance company it was. So, they took me on right away and provided me with the general liability and the E&O insurance that I wanted to have. So, I started literally, and I did everything myself. Literally did everything myself, which took longer, but ended up being really great because I learned so many things. I can create a website now and I'm not bad at it either. Certainly couldn't do that when I started.
[00:11:29] Sanjay Parekh: It's amazing how in a span of 14 years you learn so much and change. And then, looking back, it sometimes feels embarrassing as though where you started and you just you shake your head and like, how did that all work? Is there anything like that, that you look back and you're like, "I can't believe that this worked, I did this and it somehow it worked."
[00:11:52] Jill Fox: I can't believe looking back now that all I did was post things on social media and people paid me. Like I didn't do anything else. There, there was no — it was, "Okay, I'm going to post for you." I had some good post ideas and that, but there was no other marketing strategy involved back then. And now nobody's going to hire you. You need to have the strategy, the tactics, and you also at this point need to use, you got to have a multifaceted approach. You can't just go, "I'm going to post on social media." Great. You're just going to get swallowed up in the mass of everything that's out there.
So that's the most surprising thing when I look back and probably how much I learned, Facebook, LinkedIn ads, which I can do really well. I'm very skilled at and I have some extremely high-profile individuals that I work with. I can't say their names, but very high profile. And what I do for them is revamp their LinkedIn, post, connect to the right people, all of that kind of stuff. And it's amazing how well that works when you take one of those individuals who in themselves, all I'm doing is showcasing everything they've done. They've done it all, but if you don't showcase it or properly share it, you just fade into the background, and no one knows. So that's one of the other skills, like I said, websites, podcasting, I have a YouTube channel. It's just amazing. And it's a lot more fun. It's a little more work, but it's a lot more fun too. Email marketing, the whole ball of wax now.
[00:13:37] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox, committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, business insurance experts.
[00:13:58] Sanjay Parekh: So, talking about a lot more work, how do you manage all of this stuff? The stress of owning a business and working full time and life and all of the other things that happen. How do you manage the stress and then, health and wellbeing as well on top of that?
[00:14:18] Jill Fox: I think the main thing for me is that I plan ahead. The one, and to this day, I don't have a lot of expenses because the more expenses I have, the more work I have to do. It's just a trade-off and like you and I talked about earlier, there is always that time for money tradeoff and sometimes it's worth it. I have a posting, scheduling, social media post scheduling platform that's worth its weight in gold. I'm not a graphic designer, so Canva is worth its weight in gold. So, I do pay for those programs and a few other things. But I think that the stress for me would be someone else controlling my schedule. I was at home, I worked for a Senator on Capitol Hill when we lived in Northern Virginia up until my daughter was born for a few years. And when she was born, I started staying at home, doing every volunteer thing you can think of. So, for me, the stress would be someone else controlling my schedule. I can't do that, can't handle that. That would stress me beyond belief. But the way my business is set up and the way I work, I'm not a morning person, but I can work till 11 at night and I'm good. It works for me. I also have grandbabies back in California that I travel from Nashville to Orange County every other month. And I can do that. I can work on the plane. I work at my daughter's house. That takes the majority of stress off me that I can do that. The other thing is just planning ahead and getting things done early, I think is the key.
I need a lot of sleep. So, if I'm tired and I'll tell my husband I need to reboot. So, there's days that in the afternoon I'll lay on the couch because I'll tell him I need to reboot. It's just, you're on overload and I do, and then I'll get up and I'll work, and that works. So, I think you have to know what your boundaries are, your limitations on what stresses you out. And I'm old enough to know all of that about myself now, so that works. The other thing is I still try to really manage my expenses. That's because you can see all that, you can have shiny object syndrome and want the newest of everything. And the, "Oh, that cool program that does this, that, and the other thing," but you have to, you have to balance it right and just have what you need.
[00:16:44] Sanjay Parekh: So, for you, and you've touched on this a couple of times on the expense side, like how do you think about that? Is there a "Hey, this is the max that I want to spend on a monthly basis?" So, I need to make sure that everything I'm spending is within this dollar amount? Or is it on an item-by-item basis of "Okay, this is going to accomplish this for me." So that's why it makes sense to add it into the expense line?
[00:17:10] Jill Fox: For me, it's item by item, like you just said, because what I have to look at is can this tool give me enough time that I could take another client. And do a good job for them. If this tool is $500 a year and I can take another client and my minimum is around a thousand generally a month, then, "Oh yeah, that's definitely going to pay for itself." That being said, then if I see a tool and it's not expensive, but how often am I really going to use that? I'm not going to, I'm not going to buy that. I probably still err on the side of not spending money when maybe I should. And I'm guilty of that in, I still edit my podcasts and my YouTube videos. That's a waste of time, the ones I make. Now my son works with me just part time now and he's an analytical wizard and he is really great at video. So he does quite a bit of the videos now for me, which saves me a tremendous amount of time. So, when he creates them, he also edits them. So yeah, so that helps.
[00:18:21] Sanjay Parekh: So let's flip that to the revenue side of it. As you were growing this over 14 years, at what point in time did you feel like, "Okay, I'm finally now making enough money that this thing makes sense?" Was there like a dollar amount or was it a feeling like, and if it was a dollar amount, what was the dollar amount?
[00:18:42] Jill Fox: Probably breaking 100K. Which, I know we were still in California. We've been to Texas too, between, between Nashville. So California, Texas, Nashville. So, it's been a while. So probably maybe four years, five years or so. But breaking 100K for the first time was when I felt like, "Okay, this is a legit business." To me that was my marker. And I know it's different for everyone because there are areas of the country where it's much less expensive to live. We were in Southern California when that happened. So that's a drop in the bucket there. Yeah, so that was where I think I felt like, okay. And then, honestly, to get past maybe 120K in revenue, I need more help than, my son's just doing that little bit because he is, he does other things as well. That's where, I've been terrible about stepping out and saying, okay, I need to hire or to do, to bring on someone so I can get to that next step. That's been my probably downfall.
[00:19:51] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So what is it that's holding you back from doing that? Is it that you're concerned about finding the right person? Is the expense of it? What is it that is keeping you from making that leap?
[00:20:05] Jill Fox: I would say the expense is always number one because quite frankly, the more money that I spend on my business, the more clients I have to take on. So, it creates more work for me. So, you really got to think twice about, okay, if I'm making a video, I should be making a video once a week and I'm not, I have to be more consistent. And same with the podcast. But, yeah, that's the main thing. The other thing is finding the right person and training the right person. Because, and this is every business owner's problem, I don't have the time to train somebody to save me time. It's a catch-22. And the other side of that is, I have some very, long term clients and I've never really lost somebody where they've said, "Oh, you don't do a good job." I've never had somebody leave or say that. I have had small businesses that run into financial difficulty and can't continue. One of the things that I do that my husband thinks I'm crazy is, I have contracts with everyone, but my contracts say, tell me today that you're going to end and today's your last day. And we'll prorate this month because I never want to put somebody in a bad position or, be forcing somebody to work with me if they're struggling or whatever else, whatever the issue is. I've been lucky not to ever have somebody say, "Oh, you don't do a good job."
I have found there's a group that's very difficult for me to help. And that is the tiny little individual business owner that doesn't have the time or the resources to work with me, to spend a little bit of time with me generating the plan, providing some photos and text for posting. They don't ever have the time to jump in and really do what's recommended and required to grow. And I found out I'm not really helping those people. And they really have trouble affording the done-for-you services. So, one of the things that I've done recently is create a product called Simple Marketing Support. So somebody can for a minuscule fraction of what I charged for done-for-you services, be essentially a member and on a monthly basis they can say, "Oh, not doing it next month." But they can come to where I've got videos that say, here's how you set up your LinkedIn, here's how you post, here's what you post, here's how you find the analytics and for all the social media platforms. Then, we also have a blueprint that kind of tells them how to, what steps to take because they want to know, "What do I do? What should I be on? What should my website say?" All those kinds of things. "How often should I post?" It walks them through those steps. It's kind of a checklist. Then we've also got monthly training videos and weekly phone calls where they jump on and ask anything they want. "I'm stuck, help me with this." It's on Zoom so we can share screen or whatever.
So that's a product I've got now because I found a huge need for it. I also found a huge need for me to go one-to-many to grow more. And I do want to help these people and I can't do it on the done-for-you services. It just, it's too expensive for them. It doesn't work.
[00:23:38] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. yeah. That's great. So, let's switch gears a little bit. So, reflecting back, over these last 14 years. Is there something, if you could go back in time, that you would do differently, knowing what you know now? And if so, what is it and why?
[00:24:01] Jill Fox: Heck yeah. Build an email list. I was terrible, terrible, terrible about this. From day one, have a lead magnet. That's something, really good that can help your ideal client and customer. Talk about it everywhere, put links to it everywhere. I was horrible about this. And I would be telling people, sometimes I'll say to people, "Do what I tell you to do, but don't do what I do because I come last."
My clients are first, hundred percent of the time, all the time. And so, if I'm burning out on a day, I'm like, I'm not posting for myself today. That's not good. That's not what I should be doing. So yes, that is one hundred percent what I should have done from day one, and I think you'll hear a lot of business owners say the same thing, is to generate that email list because no matter how fun and fancy and great social media is, and it definitely serves a purpose, we don't control the algorithm, we don't control the bot saying, "Oh, we're going to take your page down today." We don't control who sees what. So do you control them seeing your emails? To some degree, you may not control them all. But yeah, email marketing I think is what I should have done from the very beginning.
[00:25:20] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, that is a very good advice, I think, for everybody that might be listening to this. You've mentioned kind of technology and things like Canva that you use. Are there any systems that you've got in place that help you manage the business that you'd recommend? Like, how do you think about the business as a whole?
[00:25:48] Jill Fox: Interestingly, I am old enough that I still love my big, giant paper notepad that's sitting on my desk right here with all the sections. I have a section for each client. I still want to see it like that. I do have ClickUp, but I find myself heading back to the paper all the time. As far as managing them, I have a, when I take on a new client, one of the first things we do is, I look at their website and their social media and I'll make recommendations or optimize it by myself. With their permission, obviously, and their approval. So that's one of the first things we do before we ever do any marketing. We make sure their base is set because when we're spreading the word, we want them to look really good from the beginning. So, we'll do that.
So, then we will also create a strategy for them that will work for them. And we start slow sometimes and add on depending on the client and their comfort level. But I've got certain programs, I've got my schedule and my social media scheduling. I use Social Pilot. That is the most cost effective for someone like me. My business is small, but because I have a marketing agency and multiple clients on there, I would be paying an arm and a leg. I pay per year what I'd be paying per month on some of the big ones. Now, an individual who only is managing their own few social media accounts can get the other ones for free. But for me, that's the most cost effective.
Then, like I said, I use ClickUp. If you ask me what my favorite program in the entire planet is, it's Canva, hands down. I use that multiple times a day. I think I pay $9 a month, so that I have access to all the images — worth every penny. I just don't have that skill. But with Canva, I do a lot of that nicely for my clients. So that is the greatest thing in the world. As far as bookkeeping, I'm a dinosaur. I'm meticulous. I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all my monthly expenses. They're all categorized. They're all itemized. Then I hand them to my husband who does the taxes. Yeah, my business it's a pass through, it's an LLC, so it's pass through taxation. So, I'm not paying taxes as a business. So, it's a little different, but yeah, I'm a dinosaur with that. Don't ever give me anything that has to do with math or accounting or taxes. I will glaze over. You might as well speak to me in another language I don't understand. Not in my wheelhouse, nor do I ever want it to be.
[00:28:36] Sanjay Parekh: Okay. last question for you. What would you tell someone who's thinking of taking that leap and turning their side or starting a side hustle or turning their side hustle into a full-time business?
[00:28:50] Jill Fox: I think the most important things to do are one, every decision you make has to go with your values. I have my values, and I won't talk about what they are, but there are two businesses I won't take as clients because they go against my values. So, make sure it goes and lines up with your values. Make sure you love it. I actually love what I do. I, to this day, I think my job is fun. So, make sure you love what you do. And number three, make sure that, you may think this is ultra-cool, but make sure it's a real business. Nowadays you can make a real business out of so many things, but make sure there's actually a demand and a demand that people will pay you for. Not just say, "Oh, yeah, that sounds great” because you're going to hear that.
Nobody's going to, to your face, say "That's a terrible idea." There's a book by Pat Flynn called, Will It Fly? And if you don't know Pat Flynn and you want to start a business, you should know Pat Flynn. Smart Passive Income podcast. He was one of the first entrepreneurs I learned from, so get that book, read it. It walks you through the steps of, how do I know this is going to work or how do I know it's not. The other thing when you start a business, so one of the reasons I say don't spend a lot, it is going to change. You're going to pivot. So, you just bought this giant product for a thousand dollars over here only to find out after you pivot, you don't need it anymore. Do what you can yourself. You're going to learn your business like crazy that way. Spend as little as you can at first and really, really verify that your business is going to work. And it would take too long for me to explain how to do that. So, I'll just recommend that book, I guess.
[00:30:33] Sanjay Parekh: That's great. Jill, this has been fantastic. Where can our listeners find and connect with you online?
[00:30:40] Jill Fox: Best place to find me is on my website, which is foxsocialmedia.com. And the other product I talked about, Fox Simple Marketing Support is linked on there as well, as well as our done-for-you services. And basically, I'm Jill W. Fox on social media, pretty much. I'm not a big, I'm not a Twitter fan, but on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, all of those places. Jill W. Fox anywhere, it's probably going to be me.
[00:31:14] Sanjay Parekh: There you go. Thanks again for coming on the podcast today.
[00:31:18] Jill Fox: Thank you so much, Sanjay, for having me. This was really fun. And I hope that what I have to say does help other business owners because it is so worth it. Don't be afraid. Take the leap. It is definitely worth it. Just do it the right way.
[00:31:38] Sanjay Parekh: Thanks for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit Hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host, Sanjay Parekh. You can find out more about me at my website, sanjayparekh.com.
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