Student Success Story with Nate Nordstrom

By Brennan Dunn

This is an ongoing series where we share how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing. If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why.



Hi Nate! Tell us about yourself – Who are you and what do you for fun?

I’m 27 years old. I’m also a tireless thinker, learner, digital entrepreneur and founder of multiple growing ventures, including BrandHoot

Just as importantly, I’m a husband, father of three and follower of Christ. (So not actually tireless!)

I was born in Omaha, NE, but now call Rochester, MN home. I like outdoor adventures, building things and thinking about building things.

I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I only graduated because my parents said it was a good idea. Glad I did.

I thought about suicide as a teenager. Glad I didn’t. That story is for another day.

Now I’m busy trying to make every moment count. And being thankful for every sunrise.

What got you into freelancing? Was it what you expected?

Near the end of 2011 I was burned out on my current job. I was the first employee at a new daily deal startup (Groupon style) and learned a ton of valuable lessons about how to grow, how to launch in new cities, how to hire team members, run digital campaigns, etc.

The daily deal trend was on the decline from a business owner’s perspective — many weren’t happy with the way the deals turned out. Droves of deal hunters would come in for the bargain and never return. It also made the business owners feel like their brand value — their reputation — was being degraded.

I was one of the company’s main sales people and resigned because I no longer believed in the service we were offering. I don’t want to sell things that aren’t going to be great for our customers.

Freelancing for me started with a couple cold calls to two popular local restaurants. They ended up hiring me for full-service social media marketing.

We’ve matured a lot in the past four years and now provide web and mobile solutions to some of our region’s most impactful organizations, such as Mayo Clinic, Destination Medical Center and Powers Ventures. All of this started with a couple cold calls and a lot of hard work.

Most days, I love my job and can’t wait to get to the office. When I started though, I underestimated the really hard parts of being in business such as taxes, hiring, firing, writing proposals, etc.

Some of those days are hard and make me wonder what I’m doing — that maybe I’m crazy. Those thoughts don’t last long though. There is just so much to love about charting our own course and working with a team of incredible people.

Tell us about your hardest moment as an entrepreneur to date.

Starting the business was hard.

My wife was two weeks pregnant, but I quit my daily deal job anyway. We now had no insurance and no income. And because she was pregnant, we had a pre-existing condition and no one would agree to insure us.

It was a crazy time, but we knew it was the right time. I had nine months to get the business ramped up before the baby came.

But probably the hardest moment was about a year and a half ago, when we were one week away from payroll and didn’t have enough money in the bank. I have a note taped to my main workstation that says “/date/one week away from zero,” which reminds me to always stay humble and focused on ensuring our cash flow is as healthy as possible.

We didn’t have a line of credit at the time, and every personal penny had already been invested — I could not bear the idea of having to tell our employees I couldn’t pay them this week.
We ended up getting some sizeable checks just in time, so there were no salary delays. When employees and their families are depending on you, and it looks as if you might run dry, it can be a heavy emotional load.

On the flip side, what’s been your biggest success so far?

Being recognized locally and nationally for our success and community impact.

Because of these awards, there were some huge moments that I’ll never forget. One was walking on stage in front of over 700 area business leaders who were all standing, clapping and cheering as I accepted the award.

Another moment was going to Washington D.C. and meeting global business leaders, such as the founder of UGG boots, the kindest and most sincerely friendly billionaire I’ve ever met (not that I’ve met many).

(You can see our three primary awards on my LinkedIn profile, just scroll down just a little.)

What were you struggling the most with when you ran into Brennan’s course?

Cash flow timing and how to handle the “I have an idea” sort of client, which is my favorite kind of project actually.

Answer: Roadmapping.

What are some specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice that helped you grow?

  1. Billing up front in little blocks of weeks or months.
  2. Staying away from hourly based pricing as much as possible.
  3. Roadmapping.

All of these combined have had a big impact in helping solve our cash flow issues and helping us find and solve bigger, more complex (and fun) issues for our clients.

What are you most excited about for your business in the next year?

A few things actually!

  1. Doing much more with roadmapping sessions.
  2. Launching our first product called, FanCoach — a tool we invented to provide automated (highly scalable) Facebook marketing consulting for restaurants every week. There are three delighted beta customers using FanCoach currently. (This project was somewhat motivated by seeing how Brennan started small long ago and continues to just build one product block on top of another.)
  3. Our healthiest year yet financially and finally paying myself a consistent monthly salary (still low, but that’s okay I’m loving the work and things are headed in the right direction — my wife is happy because we can finally make a budget!)
  4. Moving into a sweet new office with a custom built rock-climbing wall and other creative touches.
  5. Finding and hiring another couple of smart (and nice!) people to join the fun.

img-nate-headshot@2xNate Nordstrom is a 27 year-old tireless thinker, learner, digital entrepreneur and founder of multiple growing ventures, including BrandHoot. He’s also a proud husband, father of three and follower of Christ. Nate was born in Omaha, NE but now calls Rochester, MN home. He likes outdoor adventures, building things and thinking about building things. Connect with Nate on LinkedIn or visit his personal website.