After 3 years of building a business on the side in addition to my day job, I finally left my high-paying tech job to focus on building Omniscient Digital, a content marketing agency that helps grow B2B software companies, full-time.
It took me years to accept that I should start a marketing agency and 3.5 years to feel ready to leave the “safety” of working for a tech company with a predictable salary. I did marketing consulting for a while as a freelancer on the side while working my day jobs but fought the idea of building a marketing agency for years.
The reason is silly: It wasn’t sexy like a software startup.
A marketing agency didn’t involve raising huge amounts of money and building a software product that would be used by millions of people.
For years, I felt like if I were to build a business, it had to be a tech company. A marketing agency didn’t fit the narrative I had for what “someone like me – a tech guy with experience in growth and product management – was supposed to do.” The narrative I took in was that I’m supposed to start a tech company and raise millions of dollars.
So I didn’t do a marketing agency.
I kept working W2 jobs and doing consulting on the side waiting for that one big software idea to hit me.
That idea never really came.
Then I attended a conference with my friend Alex Birkett, who was also doing consulting on the side.
Peep Laja, the founder of CXL and Wynter, told us how much he was paying a marketing agency. We balked at how much they were charging him, but we also saw an opportunity.
We partnered up and we eventually brought on Allie Decker as our third founding partner.
So why did I finally decide to leave tech to build a marketing agency?
The agency business model generates cash flow.
Over the last three years of building Omniscient Digital, I’ve learned that cash flow is the name of the game in business.
Sure, an agency isn’t as scalable as software and is highly dependent on hiring people, but it’s easier to become profitable compared to a software company that requires a lot of upfront technical investment. It took almost no capital to get started and we were cash flow positive from the start. We’ve grown top-line revenue 3x each year for the last 3 years and have broken 7-figures in revenue run rate.
Cash flow keeps the business alive, and it creates opportunities for leverage because you can reinvest that cash flow into the business or invest in other cash-generating assets.
Content marketing isn’t going away.
As much as people like to say SEO is dead or content marketing is dead or TikTok is the future, content is here to stay. The type of content to create will evolve, but content marketing isn’t going anywhere. As long as humans are alive, we will continue to consume content. This is why companies like Netflix and Disney and HBO exist. Sure that’s entertainment but similarly, in business, people will always look for educational content and want to improve their skills and learn about software.
And companies that figure out how to turn page views into revenue and get an ongoing return from their content investment will get the most out of content marketing.
When done well, content can and will drive revenue. Therefore a content marketing agency can be set up to be recession-proof.
That’s why Omniscient Digital exists. While other agencies focus on deliverables as the result or vanity metrics like social views or pageviews, we focus on helping B2B software companies develop and execute on content programs that drive results as close to the bottom line as possible.
The best part is B2B software companies are usually really, and I mean really, bad at content marketing. That means there’s a ton of opportunity for our agency. B2B marketing doesn’t have to suck.
We get to work with smart people. I’m referring to both the Omniscient Digital team and our clients.
We get the inside scoop of how marketing leaders think about building their companies, what’s working and what’s not, how they work, and what they think about.
We get paid to learn and help them build their companies.
Working with clients keeps us on our toes.
It’s easy to get complacent when working in-house at a tech company. You have a predictable salary. You feel safe. Innovation dwindles. Regardless of how you perform at your job, hell, you could be mediocre at your job or not even be doing any real work, and you can still expect to get paid every 1st and 15th.
This compounds as companies get bigger and it’s easier for any individual employee to hide in the noise and get caught up in bureaucracy. For some employees, this gets frustrating and boring.
That isn’t to say that marketers who work in-house aren’t great at their jobs, but there’s naturally less incentive to innovate and perform.
As an agency, we’re always hunting and farming.
That means we have to keep doing sales and keep figuring out how to help our prospects and clients grow their companies. We have to keep demonstrating results, being great to work with, and being great partners with our clients.
We (the founders) are building something of our own, and the buck stops with us. We could take that pressure in one of two ways: (1) Buckle under it or (2) Be driven by it.
We, fortunately, chose the latter.
While it’s a lot of pressure, it’s enthralling and also means we have the decision-making power to make sure our team also benefits from the upside.
We get to build and nurture a team.
My favorite part of building a company is building an amazing team. We get to give our employees license and the means to build something bigger than themselves.
I truly believe that work is a wonderful medium for personal growth, and we can provide our team with the environment to grow personally and professionally.
Our goal is to develop superstars that can go on to get any job they want.
If we’re betting on lottery tickets, we’d rather bet on ourselves.
The dream of working at a tech startup that IPO’s is a lottery ticket. It’s not often framed that way, but we know most tech companies go to 0. Even if a company does IPO, the founders/executives/and early employees are the ones who benefit the most from it.
That doesn’t mean I don’t believe my previous employer will be a breakout success. (I’m a shareholder.)
I used this spreadsheet (you’ll see fake numbers) to run really rough calculations of how much I would make in an IPO in a high, medium, and low-value scenario versus how much I might make building a business that doubles in revenue each year and the outcomes are very similar.
The biggest difference is, with our own business, we have more control over the success of the business versus if we were to work in-house at a larger company.
When we think about the scenarios quantitatively, it makes more sense to focus on our own business.
When we think about the scenarios qualitatively, it makes even more sense. When you work at a startup that’s targeting aggressive growth, you’re likely in a high-stress environment where the founders and C-suite expect you to work long hours to help the business grow.
However, when you work on your own business, you can control your time and how hard you want to work. You can have a more flexible schedule than if you were expected to jump on meetings according to someone else’s calendar.
There’s also some solace in knowing that the harder you work, the more money will go into your pocket—not someone else’s.