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An Interview with Eric Holter,
Founder of Newfangled and Rewarding Toil

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to host a video interview with Eric Holter. Eric founded Newfangled in 1995, sold Newfangled to me over a five year term from 2009-2013, started Redeeming Grace church which he is the pastor of, and has just started Rewarding Toil, a new consultancy for designers and marketers.

Eric and I go waaaaay back, starting from when he quite graciously hired me as an intern of sorts in June of 2000. He created Newfangled in 1995 with Steve Brock, and I’m so glad he did 🙂

In this interview we talk a bit about those early Newfangled days, his vision for his new business, and how those two things intersect. Below this video is an abbreviated transcript if you’re looking for just the highlights.

What’s your motivation for creating Rewarding Toil?

Thanks for asking the motivation question first, because motivation is one of the unique areas of focus in my consulting–it’s one the “5 M’s” in my methodology. I wrote a blog post recently about why motivation matters for business owners and why I make motivation such an important element in business consulting. We often coast along in life busy with our daily activities and short term agendas, and never stop to ask the deeper “why” questions. If we do this long enough it can lead to significant personal crises–somewhat incorrectly labeled “midlife crises” (since they don’t have to come midlife). And we don’t tend to make very good decisions in those seasons–business or otherwise. I believe it’s much healthier to intentionally connect our normal daily activities (in life and in business) to their appropriate source of motivation. For me, that motivation is summed up in the first and second greatest commandments–to love God and to love my neighbor as myself. Part of loving my neighbor then, is trying to be a blessing to them in as many ways as I can. And one of those ways is to share my business experience to help them run effective, profitable, and (if they can get their motivation properly rooted) enjoyable businesses.

Who are the people you are most eager to help?

Since my background is in design and most of my business experience is in the advertising and design world, my consulting is most suitable to artists (illustrators, photographers), designers, advertising agencies, and web development firms. And I’m particularly eager to help them in the three transitional moments: deciding to strike out on your own, building from freelance to running a small business, to making your firm a more solidly profitable company and enjoyable place to work.

How might someone know that it might be time to look for this kind of help?

Unfortunately most companies wait until there is a crisis in their business to hire a consultant. And of course when that happens you should seek out experienced and knowledgeable help. I am aiming at bringing consulting in at important transitional moments, in order to set the course in the right direction before bad decisions put a company at risk. So I offer three main types of engagements structured around these transitional moments. Freelance Foundations is for the artist or designer who decides it’s time to strike out on their own. Freelancing is actually a very difficult business model to pull off, but setting the right principles in place from the beginning can help someone make a good start and develop a profitable and professional practice. Launching Right is an engagement intended to help get a design business (a freelancer hiring an employee, or designers forming a partnership) off the ground in the best way possible. There are many difficult transitions for a designer who starts down the road to running a design business. Setting expectations and business practices up properly from the beginning can save massive amounts of time, frustration, and money in the long run. And then there is the Full 5M Evaluation. This is for a more established firm that is struggling with profitability issues, management issues, or marketing problems. I assess the firm in five areas (Money, Measuring, Management, Marketing, and Motivation) addressing problems and providing solutions.

How long do these engagements last, and what sort of investment does this entail?

Freelance foundations is a half day input session setting the freelancer up with some key practices and principles to get them started in the right direction. Freelance Foundations costs $1,000–money that will be earned back over and over again from avoiding some of the common mistakes most freelancers make. If you’re a parent of a graduating design school student who is thinking about a freelance career–this would be the valuable graduation gift you could buy them. Launching Right costs $2,000 for a full day of consulting–establishing principles and best practices, clearing road blocks, and illuminating particular areas of challenge. I also run a DiSC profile on the owner(s) and help them to see which aspects of running a business will be easier for them, and which aspects may be harder so they can be deliberate in planning and most effective in performance. The 5M Evaluation is a $5,000 two day engagement, I evaluate the financials of the business, survey the employees, run DiSC profiles on the whole team, and meet with the company and the principals to review and assess the health of the firm. All three of these are limited engagements, half day, full day, or two days. However, I provide follow up consulting on an as needed basis through, a web-based, measured by the minute, conference call system.

What does the coaching format look like? Is it in person, over the phone, on video chat? Are there geographic limits to the scope of individual you can help?

For Freelance Foundations, since it is a half day, I will do in-person consulting if the freelancer is local to the Raleigh Durham area, or over video chat if they are outside my home base. I will travel within the US to perform Launching Right and 5M Evaluations, but I’m not available for international engagements at this point. The consulting format follows the structure of the 5M methodology in all three cases, but the content of advice gets adjusted for each since the issues and challenges are different.

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