Ep #91 | Take A Big Leap



Julie Marateck is a brand storyteller. Whether through copy, social campaigns or TV commercials, she believes that impacting an audience goes beyond just hashtags and headlines; it's about sharing the heartbeat behind a brand. Julie has worked at some top tier agencies (Razorfish, Swarm, 352) and created work for award-winning brands, including; Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, Glock, Inc., The Weather Channel, Chevrolet, Walmart, Kia Motors, and Gillette.

An Atlanta native, she also has an incurable case of wanderlust and a healthy addiction to cats, coffee and fun kicks. When Julie’s not watching Netflix or playing with her nephews, you can find her pursuing her passion for photography, performing stand-up comedy, and traveling the world.



Shantel: Hey Julie, welcome to the podcast.

Julie: Hey, I'm so happy to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Shantel: Of course. Thanks so much for carving out the time. I'm certainly excited to share and learn from you and I know our listeners are excited to learn more about your story and how you got started on your projects and everything you're doing. And I would love to kick things off with sharing with everyone a little bit more about what's been keeping you busy.

Julie: Absolutely. I've been a little bit all over the place recently, trying to do a lot of different things that I have passions for. So lately I've been freelancing, doing marketing and brand messaging, also been writing some publications recently and doing some articles. I have one article that I wrote for CNN, another article that I wrote for Inner Atlanta, so I'm working on a few more of those. And then in my free time at night I do stand-up comedy. So kind of trying to find different ways to basically in short be a storyteller.

Shantel: Nice. Lift it back up a little bit. So let's talk about history. Were you in an agency setting before?

Julie: Yes. So I basically, I got my start in Atlanta working at the High Museum of Art, so I worked there in the marketing team for about four years. And then I was the social media director at Atlantic Station. So I worked in house for several years and then I wanted to go to agency side. So I worked in advertising for about another five or six years working for different ad agencies in Atlanta. Worked for Razorfish where I got to work on some really cool clients such as Delta. And then I worked for a couple of smaller boutique advertising agencies in town, had some pretty cool high profile clients. They're Chevrolet, Glock, Chick-fil-A. So kind of got my hands dirty both in house and agency side. And then about a year and a half ago, I basically decided to take the plunge and start my own thing and go freelance. So basically since then I've been a one woman shop, helping brands and companies really with everything from copywriting to website content strategy to brand messaging and identity.

Shantel: Wow. So what made you decide to take that plunge? We'll have to think about where you're at in that time of your life.

Julie: I think that at the time I loved working in advertising, but I really wanted to open the doors for myself to do a lot of other things as well, such as writing and comedy. I also love traveling. So I felt it was just the right time in my life to kind of try be my own boss, so to speak. And I love the autonomy of it and kind of allow myself the freedom to do a bunch of different things. So that was what was really the impetus for me going off on my own to do my own thing was I wanted a little bit more freedom to open up my world a little bit and not just be focusing solely in advertising because as we know that lifestyle can be challenging sometimes for work life balance. And I was seeking more of a work life balance.


Shantel: Okay. Well how did you prep for that? So is it just one day you hit a breaking point and said I quit and started getting clients in your own? Or how did you prep to make that change?

Julie: Yeah, no, I just pretty much decided. I loved the company I was working at, I loved my boss, I loved my coworkers and I just basically had a talk with my boss at the time that I had a friendship with as well. And just sort of talk to him a lot about how I was feeling and what I was looking at doing and it was sort of just a mutual decision of like if you want to go off and do your own thing and then we support you. So I pretty much put in my notice and finished out my rest of my time at the agency and basically just it was a really scary, vulnerable time. I didn't really know what was going to happen and if this was the right decision or not, but ultimately I wanted to listen to my gut and take a big leap. And luckily they're all really supportive and they're all still supportive which is great.

Shantel: Sounds like a great team and leader. So when you said goodbye did you already have clients lined up? How did you go about finding freelance opportunities?

Julie: I didn't already have clients lined up immediately. I kind of needed some time to decompress honestly because I just been going nonstop for so long working and being in advertising. So I gave myself permission to kind of take like two weeks to sort of just decompress and start thinking about like what I wanted that next step to be. Obviously I'd already been thinking about ahead of time, but then it was truly a reality that I was doing this. So I needed some time to kind of recenter and ask myself like, do I want to just focus solely on social or do I want to focus on writing or how do I want to present myself to clients? So I took some time just kind of chilled out, decompressed after going nonstop for years, working in advertising. And ultimately I started just kind of putting myself out there to different people. I went the normal Linkedin route, but a lot of it was just word of mouth. And then I started getting clients and that was sort of the end of that or at the beginning as it were.

Shantel: Awesome. I mean, I think that's such a testament to the work that you do and had done. If you could kind of just take that leap and people started to reach out and connect you with people that needed help. That's awesome.

Julie: Yeah. Thank you.

Shantel: What's been the most surprising in starting your own company?


Julie: Good question. Probably the most surprising thing has been how much of it is word of mouth. Obviously networking is so important and you're going to events and meeting people and getting your name and your face in front of folks. But I find that truly just having really good solid relationships with people has been my best win. Most of my work comes from word of mouth. Someone knows someone and they know someone, then I can become like a repeat client or they could become a repeat client for me. So I would say that networking is obviously very important, but I think how important just building relationships is and that so much of the work comes through word of mouth. And I've talked to other freelancers too who feel the same way that like a lot of their work just sort of organically comes to them. If you have a good reputation and if you have good relationships with people.

Shantel: Yeah, I completely agree. We just did this interesting exercise to map every client we've ever worked with and where they came from and how they heard about us. We've always been tracking the data on an excel sheet but not a visual representation of who connects us to this person, how do we meet that person and almost this flow chart of connections. It was so interesting to see there are definitely have super connectors and people that continue to be raving fans for us and make introductions and it was helpful then to how can we pour more into them and provide value to that person, making those connections because they have been such an integral part of our growth. But it was a really interesting exercise just to see okay, we worked in this coworking space and we met 10 clients from that. And of those 10 clients, I noticed 20 others. It was like it was a cool exercise for sure.

Julie: Yeah, absolutely. So interesting. Yeah, that's really cool to kind of like create a visual map of how you've met people and how you've made your clients, because that gives you a strong indicator of where that work comes from and like a lot of it's from sort of organic relationship building.

Shantel: And part of that relationship piece too is now we have this, we can say while we can take five steps backwards to see who that first person was, then maybe introduce us to the next five and really just be intentional about being a better human, a better person around them because anyone without getting in the weeds of that. I love the relationship piece of how you've formed your business.

Julie: Absolutely.

Shantel: So the comedy piece. So when did this start, have you always been interested in comedy?


Julie: Yeah, I've always been interested in comedy as long as I can remember I just always had such a big heart for comedy. As a little kid I used to watch obviously Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, SCTV which is out of Canada, which took a lot of people didn't watch. But like I totally watched it, I've always loved and admired comedians as long as I can remember. And as I grew up I always told myself like I really want to take a stand-up class. Like I never really thought, oh, I want to be a stand-up comedian. I was just sort of like, I would love to take a class and just see what that would be like. And so about a little over a year ago, I took a stand-up class with this great guy named Joel Byars and he teaches comedy in Atlanta and teachers a lot of classes as far as stand-up goes. Also has like a writing club to help comics write. He's just like a real great entrepreneurial on the space. He also has a podcast where he interviews comedians called Hot Breath. So just plugging him a little bit because he's been a great support for me. But I basically took his class and I just truly fell in love with it. I was like, oh my gosh this is so much fun and this is so much hard work. Like I'd never knew the amount of work that went into doing stand-up, but something about it's really spoke to me and as I kept doing it I just wanted to continue. And so now over a year later I've been just doing a lot of stand-up and it's just been giving me as Marie Kondo would say, it's been giving me sparking up a lot of joy for me.

Shantel: How do you see that being something that you devote a lot more time into in the future?

Julie: I think just kind of going about it organically right now. I don't have any a lot of comics have a lot of goals, right? Like, I want to be on Jimmy Fallon. For me I'm sort of just doing it because I love it. I certainly have some shorts from goals, two of my goals for 2019 were to start my own show and to do more regional comedy. So like in South Carolina or Memphis or just some surrounding states and I've already accomplished both of those. So I was just sort of right off the bat just ready for it. I would love to devote more time to it. But at the same time I have a lot of other stuff going on, including my day job and the writing and also teaching at General Assembly. So I kind of have to find that balance which we all do with our passions.

Shantel: Well congratulations on already reaching the goals. That's awesome.

Julie: Thanks.

Shantel: Yeah. I kind of on the goal setting lens since you've reached them, did you sit down and reset new ones? How are you feeling that you've already accomplished kind of his big goals?

Julie: I feel good that I've already accomplished them. I haven't set any new super high goals. I would say that there's some comedy shows that I definitely want to be asked to beyond that are definitely goals of mine to be asked to be on certain shows, run by comedians that are really respected in the area. But I was kind of like okay, I hit these goals. But even though I started my own show, how can I continue making this show even better? More successful? Okay. I've done a couple of regional shows, but there's still some other cities that I haven't done, so I think there's still some goal setting even within the big goal, there still some smaller goals that I want to hit.

Shantel: That's fair. How are you managing, you said a day job and the freelance writing and comedy. What are some tools you use every day to optimize?


Julie: Just chilling and watching Netflix and just kind of, a lot of my tools obviously scheduling is really a big one for me and I don't know that I have any special tools for that other than just being really diligent about marking my time off in my calendar and also marking time off to do nothing I think is really important because right now it's funny like even though I'm not working for a company per se, I've also never been busier. Right. It's like, but it's different because now it's all on my own terms and I'm doing it all kind of coming from me rather than like working for a company and there's nothing wrong with that. And who knows, there may be a day where the time comes and I decide to work for a great company again. I think some of it is sometimes just where you are with your life. But for right now I think a lot of my tools involve a lot of time management and I think the most important thing for me is setting up time to like not do anything because especially because comedy happens in the evenings and then I'm busy during the day, then it's all of a sudden I'll look at my calendar and I'll be booked with something. Whether it's a show or teaching at General Assembly or a client meeting or work or writing an article, all of a sudden I'll be booked up literally for a month. So I have to really do a good job at setting up time to do nothing.

Shantel: Yeah. I actually just had to do something similar where I had to block off time in the calendar and it's almost more of a challenge to just hold yourself accountable to that time and not overbooking that time. Or at least for me it's like, well I could have a call with this person or I could hop into this meeting. It is hard to set those boundaries when you have your own business.

Julie: Absolutely. Yeah. Because then you feel like you're missing out on something, right. Like a little bit that FOMO. But at the end of the day you also have to trust your team or trust yourself that everything will get done and you don't have to be a part of every second of everything.

Shantel: Yeah, that's a great point. I was thinking of kind of recharging and specifically creatively, because I do hear this a lot from our creative team of like needing time to just think and dream and not be so executional. What do you personally do to recharge when you're feeling drained or not creatively inspired?

Julie: Well I do love the outdoors and I live in midtown, so now that it's getting nicer out, a lot of times I recharge by just going to Piedmont Park and walking around the park and just sort of like, as you said, enjoying nothingness and just enjoying the moment and letting things come to me. I think also getting a change of scenery too. I think that as a freelancer you have that one coffee shop you work at or you work outside of your home. But it's like maybe today I'll go work at a different coffee shop and be around different energy and different people and different types of coffee drinks and even changing something up like that that's so simple I think can kind of give you a little bit of a boost of just not getting in your normal rut. And then also travel. I think traveling to me is probably outside of what we're talking about is one of my biggest passions. And I just took a trip to go visit a friend in the Caribbean to allow myself ... I'd kind of been going nonstop for a year just doing all this and I thought I need some time just to recharge. And so I booked this trip and I think traveling is a great way, even if it's not as something as grand is going to the Caribbean maybe it's going to Serenbe or Jekyll Island or somewhere local, Savannah, I think there's lots of ways you can recharge just by getting away.

Shantel: Yeah, I'm a big fan of that as well. Have you been able to unplug on those trips too?

Julie: I wouldn't say I totally unplug, but that's also a personal choice. I think some people get a lot of anxiety, like when they don't unplug and then others get anxiety when they do unplug. I think since I run my own business there's literally no one else that could like check my email for me or that I could direct my emails too. I do check email and I do just like all of us with our social media addiction I'll like do my little Instagram stories, but for the most part I do try to set a boundary of, I'm not going to actually do work on the trip. So I may still check email, communicate with clients and such. But I really do try to set a boundary of I'm going to be a way for these five days. And that's another great thing about freelancing is you can let your clients know way ahead of time. Look, I'm going to be out of pocket for these five days because it's all kind of on your terms and you can set that precedent which I do enjoy.

Shantel: Yeah. Are you a fan of out of office?

Julie: I don't really do it.

Shantel: That's fine. Yeah. It's interesting I've talked to a lot of different business owners and some people are like, "Oh, I never set it." I'm like, "Yeah, I definitely sent it." I'm a fan of setting it and it and not because I know like I still will check my emails, but if nothing else, it helps me feel like I've set an expectation that I may not get back to them right away. Just that peace of mind for me is helpful. Like they know and if I can get to it if I can. If I can't, at least I've already told them that I can't. I don't know if you've seen on my email in any correspondence of I got this from another actually podcast guests, Morgan, but it says something along the lines of I only check emails twice per day. Always we'll respond within 24 hours. But I prioritize human interactions. I'm just not on my email every second of every day. And sometimes that gets mixed emotions from people emailing me, but I think it's almost, again, just that in my piece of mind, I know I'm likely will check more than twice a day, but just trying to help set expectations that if I don't get something, it's not that I'm ignoring you. I just haven't had a chance to respond.

Julie: Yeah. How do you feel like people have responded to that type of away message if you will?

Shantel: Yeah, we've probably gotten three pretty grumpy messages from people about it out of the thousands of emails I've sent. So it's not something that I've considered deleting yet. The grumpy ones that have responded have something like that. It's like, well you prioritize human connections but it all feels cold because you're basically it feels to me like you're shutting down the communication or trying to streamline it. And when we got that feedback, it was coupled with, I had sent a Calendly link to try to find a time after we had gone back and forth maybe three emails about times that just wouldn't work. And so in my eyes that almost just more felt like everyone, I think deserves to be as efficient as possible and not waste that time going back and forth. So that was just my way to be like, hey, we haven't been able to sync up here is just a link to make it easier. And then they kind of got bumped, pissed about the signature. So I don't know, it's probably just a personal preference for people. And if they don't respond well to it, maybe they're a little bit too plugged in and it wouldn't be a good client fit or a good relationship with us anyway because we do try to create some sort of balance. Social media does not stop. So I don't know, what do you think about that?


Julie: I mean, it just goes back to the idea of like, you can't please everybody. Right. There's always going to be, just like with comedy, right? There's always gonna be someone in the audience that doesn't think you're funny. And does that make me stop comedy? No, you can't please everybody. And I think that like you said, sticking to what makes the most sense to you and your boundaries is really important. And I mean, I agree. If a few people had grumpy attitudes about it out of thousands and thousands of emails, then you sort of just have to ask yourself like, what made them have such a reaction to this? I used to do away messages when I worked for companies because obviously there was like a team of people that I worked with that really relied on me. And so it was important for me to communicate as much as possible but I was out of office and if you can't reach me email this person. But with my own job, it's just me. So I can kind of I feel like I'd be able to set the boundaries out of time about not working or being unplugged, but I'll check my email and stuff, but I will try to set that boundary of like, I'm not going to actually do any work. And I think so far it's worked out well, so I have no complaints.

Shantel: That's great. Is there anything that before you got started and went out on your own that someone would have mentioned to you, like a past mentor, a leader of yours, something that you've been really just surprised by?

Julie: Surprised by, I would say I think that this goes back to all the things I'm doing and I think we can use this in a lot of areas of our life. But I think a couple things, I think one kind of what we talked about with the away message is like the out of office is not being able to please everybody. I think that I didn't realize truly until I went off on my own and started doing comedy and just kinda started doing everything on my own. How hard it is and how difficult it is, but also how much people are there to help support you. I think a lot of times we're afraid to ask for help and ask for mentorship. And so I can't necessarily think of a specific thing that anybody has said per se, but I think just the idea that you're on your own but you're never really alone. And I think that just knowing that you do have a community of people that are there to support you and that you're there to support them. And I think that that's been helpful for me on this journey.

Shantel: I think that's a great example. I think being a leader and owning your own company can be something that's very lonely, but then just trying to find other people that can help or not in quotes, I get it. But you can talk to like when you have a crummy day or client says this that you weren't accustomed to before, who do you turn to. And I certainly agree with that sentiment. Well, just some fun question for you before we wrap up. Do you have any fun travels coming up or any shows that we can come to?


Julie: Sure. Yeah. Let's see. As far as travels go, most of my travels coming up are like I'm in a wedding or a friend's getting married or a bachelorette party, which is all going to be super fun. But I have a lot of that coming up this summer. As far as comedy shows go I started my own show called Cats and Laughs at the Java Cats Cafe in Grant park. So basically it's just like really cool spot where you can go and you can drink coffee and they have a separate cat room with a bunch of cats roaming around. And if you're not a cat fan you probably need to go find a dog. But if we are a cat fan, it's so cute and you can like go hang out with the cats. You can even adopt the cats. So I started my own show there. It's the last Thursday of every month. So this month it'll be April 25th and basically I get some of the best comics in Atlanta together and we put on like an hour and a half show in the Cat Cafe. This'll be our third month and the first two shows sold out. So pretty pumped about that and I'm really excited about it. And I like that it's kind of in a space that's a little bit different, right? Like you can find a comedy show anywhere in town. Like any brewery in town has a comedy show, restaurants, bars, and that's all cool. But I was like, what can I do that's like a little bit different and be a cat lover? I was like, oh man, what about like a cat coffee shop that will be super random and fun. So I met with them and they were all on board and so we started this show and yeah, it's going really well. But anyone can follow Cats and Laughs on Instagram and Facebook and see when the shows are. But that's the last Thursday of every month and it's a super fun show. You get comedy cats, coffee. So what could be better than that?

Shantel: Nice. We'll be sure to hyperlink in the show notes too. That's great. Well, how can people get in contact with you, learn more about your story and hopefully work together.

Julie: Sure. Well, social media is always a great way to get in touch with me. I use Instagram a lot. So my Instagram handle is my first and last name. So @JulieMarateck, same with Facebook. And then my email is julie@juliemarateck.com and also have a website, which is probably the best way to just sort of get ahold of me too. That's Marateckcreative.com so any of those ways are a good way to get hold of me and yeah, I would love to chat or get coffee or collaborate with anyone who listened to the podcast today and is interested in getting to know me more.

Shantel: Perfect. Well Julie, thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate it.

Julie: Of course. Thanks so much for having me. It was such a pleasure.