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Download the Transcript here!Jenn T. Grace – Episode 94 – Building a Stronger Queer Community with the Debt Free Guys
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Jenn T Grace: You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 94.
Introduction: Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You’ll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You’ll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven’t yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn – with two N’s – T Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Hello and welcome to episode number 94 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and today I have an interview for you with the Debt Free Guys, David and John. We really kind of cover a whole gamut of topics starting with a little bit about their background, but then kind of diving into some really actual specific strategies around the best way to launch your personal brand, and really kind of leverage your personal brand. And then of course we talk about some deeper conversations around what’s next for the LGBTQ community specifically. So this has been a really good episode, I hope you enjoy it, and if you are looking for information for the episode itself, if you go to www.JennTGrace.com/94 for episode number 94, you will find all of the information that you need right there. As usual if you have any questions, comments, thoughts, feel free to reach out to them directly, reach out to me, however you want to do it. I am on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, you can also go to my website, I’m pretty much Jenn T Grace on every platform so feel free to reach out with any thoughts that you have, and enjoy the show.
Alright so I want to focus today just kind of talking about you and your stories. I think when we were talking I had said that a client of mine found something that you had written in relation to personal finance, and then I discovered you and I was like, ‘Oh look, how fun.’ And since you so clearly state that you’re husbands, and business partners, and the Debt Free Guys, and you just kind of put it all out there, I just want to start with your story and just kind of have you give a background for the listeners, and just kind of explaining how you got to where you are, and then from there we can kind of just organically continue on the conversation.
David Auten: Yeah so I’m David.
John Schneider: I’m John.
David Auten: And we are the Debt Free Guys. John and I are bloggers, authors, public speakers, we have a podcast called ‘Queer Money’ and our focus is helping our community, the queer community, live bigger and better lives by being money conscious. Our primary belief is that a strong queer community is a viable strong queer community when individually we are financially strong. It allows us to focus on helping not only the community, but doing work in service and finding ways that we can help change hearts and minds of individuals who may not feel that a queer life is the best life, or a life that adds value to the overall community. And that’s kind of our focus more recently, we’ve really started talking a lot about this. We believe that as a queer community it’s time for us to step up and help our larger community because they’ve done so much for us in helping us get the rights and privileges that we have today. And so we want to do that, but we also believe that we can’t be distracted financially whether it’s student loan debt, consumer debt, or just hating the job that we go to every day. So we want to help people, like I said, live bigger and better lives.
Jenn T Grace: So how long have you been doing what you do, and what was the original kind of spark that made you say that this- because if you think about starting a blog, it’s such a long road to really kind of get your audience built and all that kind of stuff. So what made you think like, ‘We have this message that we want to share. How are we going to go out and do this, and then how are we going to monetize what we’re doing?’
John Schneider: Sure. So David and I got together about thirteen years ago, and about a year and a half after we were together we realized that between the two of us we had a total of $51,000 worth of credit card debt, and the irony is that we were both in financial services. We were helping other people with their money, but we obviously weren’t helping ourselves. So we decided that we weren’t living the lives that we wanted to live, we had got wrapped up in the clubbing scene, the partying scene, and this wasn’t really the trajectory we wanted to go with our lives. So we decided that we need to pay off our debt, and we created a strategy to do so in three years, and ended up actually paying off our debt in two and a half years. And then shortly thereafter we moved from a basement apartment to buying a house in a high rise that overlooks the downtown Denver and the mountains. So our lives completely changed and so we felt both based on our professional experience and personal experience that we could maybe help others live better lives as well. So we wrote a book called ‘4: The Four Principles of Debt Free Life,’ and that kind of started our journey as the Debt Free Guys. We published that about two years ago, but about a year prior to that was when we started to dabble into the blogging space and our first account was on- was it on Blogger? And we had several iterations since then. So we’ve probably been the Debt Free Guys and been blogging for about three years, our book was published two years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that we went to FinCon ’15 which was in North Carolina. FinCon is a personal finance blogger conference that kind of merges bloggers, and media, and banks and brokerage firms together to all kind of give everybody an opportunity to talk and to network. And when we were there, there were probably about 800 people in all spaces, and we realized that you’ve got your mommy bloggers, and you’ve got your dads, and you’ve got all sorts of different niches that are trying to help their particular followers live better lives by spending wisely, saving wisely. But there was nobody that was reaching out specifically to the queer community. And so David and I thought, ‘Oh we’re queer. We know these people, we are these people, and nobody’s reaching out to us.’ And like David said, we do think that in order for us to be a strong queer community, one of the pillars of that strong queer community is that we are financially strong as individuals. And so we thought, ‘Wow, maybe we should start to nuance our message.’ When we wrote the book and we were blogging before, we didn’t hide that we were a gay couple, but we just weren’t as I guess out about it as kind of a by-product of our message. Well now since for about a year we’ve been really targeting the queer community. That’s how the Queer Money Podcast that we started in March came about, that was the impetus for that.
Jenn T Grace: So when you decided to create the Queer Money Podcast, what made you choose going with Queer Money versus some other word that you could use in place of the- or acronym that you could have used in place of queer?
John Schneider: So there were a couple reasons. One is I was starting to have trouble to say LGBTQA, and everything that we add to it. So it doesn’t fall off my lips easily and I don’t think the branding is really appealing. It looks inclusive but it kind of gets lost and muddled. Especially if you’re not in the queer community, you kind of don’t know what all those letters stand for. And the other thing is we have so many nuances of gender and sexual orientation that it started to feel- that we’re starting to bifurcate everyone, put everybody in different silos. And we thought we want to talk to the entire community, we want to talk to all the LGBTQ people. So we thought that queer just kind of was the most inclusive word that we could come up with. We know that a lot of people don’t like that word, but we think that we can change the definition of that.
Jenn T Grace: May as well, right?
David Auten: Right, and to be honest I like that word. I like the word queer. I know that for a lot of people in the past it has a connotation of being different, and being odd, or being less than. But I think that when we look at ourselves we are different, and it’s something that we’re proud of, and it’s something that we wanted to bring into our podcast was the differences. When we look at the financial differences of what it’s like for a gay couple who want to have children. What are the financial nuances around that? What are the financial nuances around a transgendered man or woman who’s going through transition? What are their financial decisions that they have to make? And then maybe you look at other parts of our community and the financial decisions that we have to make around marriage. And for individuals who live in the 28 states where it’s still legal for someone to fire you for being gay, there are financial decisions and choices that you have to make when it comes to wanting to get married. So we want to cover all of that in our podcast, and we are doing that, and we think that by identifying as queer it allows us all to be a part of this inclusive group where we’re talking together about what we need financially.
Jenn T Grace: So I think all of that makes such perfect sense. So did you think that when you started out with this that you would become I guess personal brands in your own way? Because you are branding yourselves so succinctly as the Debt Free Guys, and then having Queer Money, was that kind of an intentional thing that you set out to do, or did it kind of happen organically as you’ve just been doing this?
David Auten: It’s funny that you ask that question because I would love to say we’re smart, but no all of a sudden it wasn’t until a few months ago that we started to realize that Queer Money is becoming its own brand. We had worked for three years to make Debt Free Guys a brand, and then all of a sudden we’re like- and oddly enough Queer Money is becoming a brand much more quickly. And so it’s purely by accident but we’ll totally take advantage of that.
Jenn T Grace: May as well, right?
John Schneider: When we originally sat down and talked about becoming the Debt Free Guys, we did have a conversation that lasted for several hours around who did we want to be? And our story at the time was that we were a gay couple who got out of debt and we wanted to share that with other people, but we decided to leave gay out of the title, and I think because we were trying to appeal to a mass audience, but with Queer Money we know exactly who it is that we’re looking at and sharing conversations of success stories, and mistakes that we’ve made, and how as a community- like we’ve said before, can be financially strong.
David Auten: That said though, we do own the domain name Debt Free Gays.
Jenn T Grace: Nice.
David Auten: We might change that someday.
Jenn T Grace: That could be funny. Actually when I had skyped you as we were about to start I just typed in ‘Gys,’ I mean to say ‘Guys’ but I’m like, ‘Oh I actually could go for ‘Gays’ too.’ So it’s funny that that works out well.
John Schneider: You’re not the first person who has done that and said that to us.
Jenn T Grace: I feel like to a certain degree- so if you were the Debt Free Gays, right? So would there be some level of it sounding disparaging perhaps? Because if we think back to how queer, in so many ways you are part of that movement that’s reclaiming the word queer, so it is something that means something more positive than previous connotations to it. What about ‘the gays’? I feel like ‘the gays’ is something that you hear crazy right wing, completely opposed to anything LGBT related, say. But it would be interesting to see how Debt Free Gays would go. What do you think would happen?
David Auten: I think that that’s one of the things that’s part of our purpose, is that we want to change the conversation that even our gay community is having. One of the things that John and I have found is that especially gay men in our community, there is this strong sense of wanting to show everyone how fabulous our lives are. And unfortunately for a lot of people, a fabulous life does not also equal a debt free life. They hock themselves into financial ruin trying to live a fabulous life. But we want to share with people that gays can still have that fabulous life that is coming through the media. You know you see this on TV, every time you see a gay couple on TV they seem to be fabulous.
John Schneider: White upwardly mobile.
David Auten: Right, exactly. So we want to keep that idea that you can have a fabulous life, but you can also do this in a very money conscious way, a way that will allow you to live that fabulous life throughout your whole life.
John Schneider: Yeah I think it’s ironic because we have straight friends who call us ‘the gays,’ and it’s a term of endearment. But I do see media and certain demographics who refer to that disparagingly. What was weird too when we had the conversation about whether or not queer was a smart option to choose, I posted something linking to one of our Queer Money podcasts and I simply asked the question of, ‘Can saying I’m gay get you fired?’ I chose those words because I had 120 characters to use, and it was really interesting how quickly other people in the queer community came back and said, ‘Transgender people can get fired and lesbians can get fired, so why are you excluding everybody?’ I’m like, ‘I didn’t really mean to, I just only had 120 characters and I just went with that.’
David Auten: So I think the words take on the meaning that we allow them to have, and if somebody wants to refer to me as gay or part of the gays, I’m fine with that. It took a long time to get here, I’ll stay.
Jenn T Grace: So what is interesting as you’re talking, I think there’s so many- when you’re building a personal brand, you’re putting yourself out there in many ways, and I think that what you’re emphasizing is important for people who are listening who are part of the community, who are working on building a personal brand, that when you do decide to stick with one term versus another, that you are going to catch hell from some fraction of the LGBT community whether it’s intentional or not. And I remember when I started with my tagline of ‘I teach straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves,’ I got a world of shit for that because I was saying gay and I wasn’t saying LGBT, and I was saying, ‘Listen if my marketing- if my primary audience are straight people, they don’t know what LGBT stands for. It’s my job to help teach them what that means.’ And that’s exactly what you’re saying around the word queer which I think is super awesome. What you were just saying though, just I have a question here because I’m wondering if people bring this to you. I have been called out in rooms while I’m speaking or presenting on something when I’m talking about the disposable income of the LGBT community, or the buying power, or some flashy statistics of saying how great the LGBT community is from a consumer standpoint. But then there’s a lot of data and studies that show that there is equal if not more poverty among people who are LGBT, and of course there’s a lot of different variables on that. Do you find that people ever comment to you on that? Or are you addressing that issue kind of from a head on standpoint? Because it feels like you have the perfect platform to be helping people who may not be in the best socioeconomic status, get them there because this is what you do.
John Schneider: Right, we have seen statistics, I think the most recent one was 2015 that the queer community has about close to a trillion dollars in buying power, but that’s excluding taxes and saving for retirement. But what’s interesting is the cost to raise a child from the age of birth to eighteen (not including college) is about $245,000, and the queer community obviously doesn’t have as many children as the straight community does, but ironically we only tend to have about $6,000 more than our straight peers when it comes to saving for retirement or savings at all. So there’s definitely a disparity there and we’ve heard a statistic that we’re trying to verify, I’ve heard it several times just not found the source, that about 40% of the queer community is in the service industry, food service or bartending. And so that kind of puts us kind of behind the eight ball when it comes to planning, and being prepared for retirement and saving for other financial goals. So we are cognisant of that, nobody’s called us out on it or asked questions about it, but we are trying to address that.
David Auten: One of the other things that we have done a little bit of research on, and I think is indicative of to what has happened in our community, in the US so much of our personal net worth is tied up in the value of our homes whether you’re in the gay community or straight community. And if you look at a lot of the people who are queer, they moved into areas, into cities, and specifically into neighborhoods that oftentimes in sixties, seventies and eighties, these were neighborhoods where they were less desirable, and that has completely changed. Those communities, those neighborhoods now are in many cases, they are some of the most desirable. I think of places like Castro or Chelsea in New York, even here in Denver Capitol Hill. And so a lot of individuals, although they did not earn a lot of money, they bought well in the sixties, seventies and eighties with their homes, and that has translated into a lot more net worth. So outward appearances I think for a lot of individuals is that we have- we’re very well off because we are living in these communities, but I think that there’s also statistics out there that show that as specifically as gay men, one statistic showed that a gay man will spend about $54,000 more on education, time and energy to equal the same pay as his straight white male counterpart. There’s a lot of statistics out there that show that lesbian women and the family structures that they have, oftentimes they have more expenses but are earning less. There is this dichotomy in our community too I think that’s even stronger than it is in the straight world, where we have some very, very, very high earning gay individuals, and that kind of throws off the average. So I think the average gets pulled up by individuals who are very high earners, but as John said that there is a significant number of individuals who are working in the service community, and they may not have access to be able to earn as much, or have not taken the time and effort to earn more in their lives
Jenn T Grace: So I totally agree with everything that you’re saying. I was just at a conference and they were talking about LGBT business owners, and basically the revenue numbers of LGBT business owners. And depending on how you want to play the statistics, if you’re looking at the pie chart in one way you can say, ‘Okay it looks like 70% of them are earning less than $100,000.’ But then if you’re looking at a different way of framing that is, ‘Oh the average LGBT business owner is making $2 million because that 30% that’s over the $100,000 is so enormous that it completely overpowers more of kind of what the reality looks like. So when we’re talking about statistics and numbers, and you’re focusing on educating people, I’m focusing on educating people, and we’re to some degree focusing on educating the same people. Where are you finding the most people who are resonating with your message? Do you have statistics on that? Or not even like real data, but just kind of off the cuff. Is it more men like yourselves? Is it more women? Is it urban, suburban? Like is there any kind of breakdown and is there anything that you can attribute to why that fan base is following you?
John Schneider: So we’ve done some market research a couple different ways and we find that our primary audience is gay men between the ages of 35 and 55, and their two primary concerns are number one, paying off debt whether student loan or credit card. And number two is saving for retirement. Why that’s the case, I would think probably because we’re gay men between the ages of 35 and 55 and we paid off credit card debt. But I also think it’s about thirties and forties I think when people start to say, ‘Alright well I didn’t make as much as I thought I was going to make and I didn’t save as much for retirement as I had hoped to at this point, so now it’s time for me to get my act together. So I think that may be why that demographic is resonating with us. I also think while we’ve tried to reach out to the queer community, we haven’t yet resonated or caught the attention of the other demographics within the queer community; lesbians and transgender people. But like David said we’re definitely trying to do that. We think that people like you, and people like us, we have a platform and it’s important for us to make sure that we’re doing our best to try to lift all boats in the ocean, and not just focus on the white upwardly mobile gay people that we see on TV.
David Auten: Right. I think that one of the other things is that you look at some of the other demographics, and I’m going to specifically look at racial demographics- down racial lines. Individuals who are African American and Hispanic are oftentimes raised in households where money is very scarce, so they’re raised with that scarce mentality, and so talking about money is something so foreign to them that they may not be attracted to a message like ours. And so we’re trying to break that down. We’ve had several guests on our show who are African American, who are moving in that right direction, have businesses that are trying to work in their community as well as being in the queer community, to raise awareness around being financially fit.
Jenn T Grace: In terms of your- the structure of your podcast, have you proactively really sought out finding diverse people? Because I know for myself even getting people on my podcast, I try but yet a lot of times I still end up having lesbians on my podcast because that’s who is a huge part of my audience. So I know that you said that that’s kind of happening to you as well, just it’s people who are part of your own demographic. Of course we all kind of gravitate toward people that are like us, it’s just kind of human nature, so have you put together any type of strategy where you’re thinking, ‘Okay I’m really going to make a concerted effort to find more women, more people in the trans community, more people of color, or whatever it happens to be, or has it just been very kind of organic as you’ve gone through?
John Schneider: It’s been sort of both. We’ve had African American people and lesbians on our show, probably fewer lesbians than African Americans. We have reached out to several transgender people to have them come on our show. The way we typically get guests is either through networking on social media and actually real life which is kind of scary. But we hear people make comments or they say things in different meetings or events that we’re at, and we think, ‘Oh that could be interesting on our show.’ We’re not typically focused on their gender or their heritage, it’s more that they’ve got an interesting story to tell and for the most part that organic approach has worked out for us, but we have made some strategic effort. Because we do- there are some questions, and if David and I aren’t familiar with what it’s like to be transgender, and our concern is what is the cost of transitioning? And can we help people who are considering transitioning prepare financially so that they can do so and not impact their retirement or affect too egregiously other financial goals.
Jenn T Grace: Interesting.
David Auten: I think that we do like to look at a holistic view of our community. So we are actively looking for individuals in our community that fit these various niches within the group. Like John said, we have actively pursued going out and trying to find someone who is transgender. We have actively gone out and looked for individuals who can carry on a valuable conversation around what it’s like to be a queer youth who is homeless. So we are looking for that because we know that it isn’t just individuals who are listening to our show that identify with that, but it’s individuals who are listening to our show that want to hear, like John said those stories, and know what else is going on in our community. That makes us stronger when we realize our diversity, and we appreciate that diversity, and can support each other.
John Schneider: Yeah I think a good example was when we had a show about- ‘There Are Gays Richer than You’ is what the title of the show was, and we had a lesbian on the show, she’s a regular talk show host and a psychology professor, and she let us know- and this is our own fault for not being more aware, that 40% of homeless youth identify as queer. And we were like astounded by that so then that opened up another discussion. Like how can we identify these people and help them out with our platform? So that’s why we started to seek out people who are helping and people who are a part of that demographic.
Jenn T Grace: That’s so awesome. So do you have any plans of not necessarily having a philanthropic arm to what you’re doing, but more of just kind of the giving side? I’m sure you’re already very much naturally doing that, but in terms of being able to take the education you’re providing people, that kind of added step further for the people that might not be able to afford working with you one-on-one, or whatever that might look like?
John Schneider: We have started doing that. We actually had an event in Philadelphia back in July, and the event was called Queer Money: Launching Your Success, and it was held at the William Way Foundation which is an organization that specifically caters to queer youth. And the desire of that event was to try to share with queer youth individuals in their community who have made a success of themselves; and success is all different kinds of definitions, it’s not just financial, it’s individuals who have built a life that they want. And so we want to continue with those events so that we can reach more queer youth and help them see that life does get better, and this is how it gets better. These are the people who have done it, and here are some examples, and you can use them as resources. So we have kind of a broad look at it right now with that. We aren’t doing any individual one-on-one yet.
Jenn T Grace: So what is your vision? Because I feel like what you’re up to is so amazing. Are you trying to move into a space where the two of you become bigger, more well-known public speakers, and really kind of having more of these events that you can be doing? I’m just curious because I feel like it truly sounds like the sky is the limit because you’re doing such good work.
David Auten: Thank you.
John Schneider: Thank you, appreciate that. Such a reputable source. So our main goal is to strengthen the queer community so that we can fight the fight for equality which is obviously not yet over, and so that we can then- like David said earlier, we can be more impactful or powerful contributors to the broader society. Strategically how we’re doing that, we’re not myopic in any particular way, but we’re focusing on obviously the Queer Money Podcast, we are writing as well, and then we are public speaking. Right now the podcast has most of our focus, but hopefully we can broaden that out a little bit more as the podcast becomes more self-sustaining.
David Auten: And when John mentioned that we are writing, it’s not just writing at our site www.DebtFreeGuys.com. We are partnering with a number of other publications; Business Insider which is not known as a queer resource, but we work with them so that we can provide them with queer content. We also work with Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, and a couple of other websites and publications that allow us to kind of reach a very broad audience. One of the other things that we are doing, and if anyone who is listening is a part of this community, we are right now working with local gay magazines and websites to provide them with syndicated content that will allow them to reach their local community, helping them build that strong financial foundation. So for example there’s a magazine in the Midwest where we have content in that magazine, and then on their website which will highlight not only our focus on providing the queer community with financial tools, but also providing our podcast so they can listen to it there. And really the desire is to build kind of a grassroots effort among queer communities that let’s focus on being financially strong, let’s focus on being a support for our community, and the larger community in general.
John Schneider: Yeah I think, as David’s speaking, we’re part of the queer community, but we’re also part of the finance community. We’ve been in personal finance for 31 years, we’ve worked for big brokerage houses, and one of the things that David and I have noticed is that since June, 2015 the finance community seems to think that because same sex marriage passed, that there are no other issues that the queer community needs to deal with financially. And obviously as you know, that’s not true. And so we’re trying to- the reason why we’re passionate about reaching out to those bigger- and working with those bigger publications is because we think that it’s important, especially on their platforms, to show that there are nuances that are unique to our community, and this is how you can address them.
Jenn T Grace: Okay so I have two completely different trains of thought happening right now, so I just wrote one down to come back to in a minute. But the first one is- so the people who are listening to our conversation right now are people who are trying to figure out how to go about starting a personal brand, or maybe adjusting the one they have, or just being more conscious about what they’re doing. So what I think you just mentioned is so incredibly important is about being in publications that are more mainstream publications, where the LGBT community is a sampling of the rest of the world, so we are from all diverse backgrounds, you name it. So you’re strategically working on being in those types of mainstream publications. So my question for you is around what was your- I don’t even want to say strategy because I’m sure there wasn’t actually a strategy at the time, but like what was that first article, or source, or magazine, or newspaper that you landed where you recognized like, ‘Okay this is so what I have to be doing, is focusing on getting more of this.’ And then what did it look like to actually try to get more of them? Because I know a lot of people who struggle with getting mainstream kind of publicity in a way, but you’re obviously coming from a place of giving value, which I think is easier to do it when you’re doing it from that direction. But what has that process looked like for you, and what might you share as a tip for someone listening to this who’s also trying to figure that out themselves right now?
David Auten: Sure so when we started Debt Free Guys and we started blogging we thought, ‘Well we got out of debt, we’ve got a story to tell, people should just want us to write for them,’ right? We thought Oprah was going to have us on her show. That’s not how it works. And luckily it didn’t work that way because our message has become much more clear, and our writing has gotten much more succinct and better. So I think in hindsight if we were to tell somebody the strategy to execute on, it would be to first start a blog. I have to tell you the first time we actually published something that actually had one of our names on it, wasn’t just generically Debt Free Guys, it was scary. I walked around for like an hour before I actually posted it, but I knew it was something we had to do because when you put yourself out there, then you put yourself out there for the good and the bad, and I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the bad. But so we wrote for about two years on our own blog, and then through the connections from blogging that we made on social media, we started to write for other blogs that may not be well-known to most people. But it helps get you out there and gets your comfortable with exposing yourself and your thoughts. And then the next catalyst to our success was we went to FinCon last year and we networked with a bunch of people. So whatever niche you’re in, I would highly suggest finding your people, finding conferences of people who do what you do, and people who would support what you do, and we networked with a group of people who offered to syndicate our content, which was awesome. And so they were the first ones to get us on Yahoo Finance, and the first time we were on Yahoo Finance it was really weird. Basically what we did was we told our story of how we became the Debt Free Guys, and who we are, and we were pretty out and open about being a gay couple, and we were on the home page of Yahoo Finance all morning.
John Schneider: We were doing cartwheels and we both had day jobs at the time so we had to be like focused on somebody else’s work while we were also consumed with our own. And it was at that point we thought, ‘Wow this is really something that we can do something with,’ and that’s when we started to research. We hadn’t really paid attention that much, but that’s when we started to research that since June 2015 nobody’s really been talking about LGBT money issues, and we can really help these publications reach a different audience, and also reach an audience that needs to hear the message.
David Auten: It was kind of funny that John talks about that first day we were on Yahoo Finance. I was sitting at my desk and around the cube comes- around the wall comes the guy who sat next to me and he says, “Hey come here.” And I got up and I walked over to his desk and he goes, “This is a picture of you on Yahoo Finance.” And I hadn’t really been that out with people and sort of what I was doing, so that was a very fun experience. One of the other things that John and I would absolutely recommend if you’re trying to grow your personal brand, and I think a lot of people kind of blow off Twitter, they think it’s not worth it. Twitter is an amazing tool that allows you to connect with individuals who you may not be able to find otherwise at publications, at companies, at organizations where they would be hidden by or barriered by a number of walls for you to be able to get to them. So if you want to write for a particular publication, go out and see who on Twitter is a part of that organization. If you want to do public speaking for a particular school, go out and find who are the leaders that work with that school that are on Twitter. Start engaging with them in conversation. Don’t ask right away, but just start engaging with them around what is it that they do, what is it that they want, what is valuable for them, and then you can introduce what you have that might be of value to them. One of the biggest pieces of advice that John and I ever got was don’t ask for a handout, ask for a hand up. And that’s very important. When you’re going to a company, an organization or a school, and you want to work with them, you can’t just say, “Hi I want-” and ask them. Just like with the sales process. We all want someone to kind of charm us, or we want someone to provide us with some sort of information that it gives them the invitation to sell to us. Well the same thing goes with our introductions to these organizations. We have something of value, you have something of value that they want. You truly believe this in your heart, that you have something of value that they want, you want to slowly introduce that to them, and Twitter is a great way to do that.
Jenn T Grace: I think that’s such valuable advice, and I’m sure you are both familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk and his whole- he’s an acquired taste for sure, however I enjoy his very aggressive and go-getting personality. But his book- and I actually handed it out to people that work for me. ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’ exactly exemplifies what you’re talking about where it’s really all about giving, and giving, and giving, and when the timing is right, asking for whatever it is that you need. But we all- and I think that at least the three of us talking right now are all coming from such a place of service where we’re genuinely trying to just help the LGBT community be stronger and better regardless of what shape that takes. But I think it’s so natural for us to be constantly giving, and then asking when appropriate. But I don’t necessarily know that everybody can kind of translate that mindset into kind of their day-to-day business where maybe they’re in a service-based business since you were talking about service-based before, it’s a lot harder to actually find I think that right balance.
David Auten: I think that it’s also kind of similar to when you want to go to your boss and ask for a raise. You can’t go to your boss and just say, “Hey I want a raise.” You’ve got to go with, “Well I did this, and I did this, and I did this, and I can do this for you, and I can do this for you. This is why I am worth X number of dollars or percent more.” We have to do the same thing with the other organizations that we want to work with. We want to show them, ‘This is what I’ve done for you, this is what I’ve done for you, this is why I’m valuable, why you should pay me to do something.’
Jenn T Grace: That’s exactly, exactly it. So you’ve obviously learned to build relationships with media, and publications, and really kind of take the long strategic road of connecting with people on Twitter. Have you found any value in any other social media platforms, or have any just kind of general tip that might be helpful for someone just starting out?
John Schneider: I think it’s important to find out where your audience is. Our audience, Debt Free Guys, Queer Money audience is on Facebook. But I know a lot of people in the finance community, especially the mommy bloggers, their community is on Pinterest. I know a lot of the media folks in our space, their biggest platform is LinkedIn. So I think you need to find out who it is you’re trying to serve, and then make sure you have a presence there. It’s not all about obviously just connecting and trying to grow your brand, but it’s also about trying to serve, like you said, and we want to find out where the people are that you want to serve, and I think that’s very important. It’s easy to get distracted living in such a ferret society right now because there’s so much social media, and somebody says, “Oh if you’re not on Instagram you’ve been missing out.” “If you’re not on Pinterest you’re missing out.” And there was a time there when David and I were trying to be on everything and I think Gary Vaynerchuk is very good at figuring out how to appropriately be on everything, but our belief is that our audience isn’t everywhere, and we can’t be everywhere. So we primarily focus on Twitter and Facebook, but somebody else’s audience and somebody else’s business partners might be on different platforms. So our advice would be to find out where your people are and then be there.
Jenn T Grace: And there is a known strategy which is Pat Flynn’s strategy of be everywhere, but I would caution against that especially just starting out to really don’t go half-assing every social media outlet. Focus on like two where your people actually are, and really kind of hit it out of the park there.
John Schneider: Exactly, and we’re actually going to see Pat next week.
David Auten: Yeah, and you bring up a very good point there of half-assing it. You only have so much amount of time, especially if you are starting out and this is your side hustle. Or you’re just starting out and you do have some financial backing but not a lot. You have a limited amount of time. So if you only are able to spend a limited amount of time, do it where you can hit a home run. And not everything you do is going to hit a home run, but do it where you can really, really be effective. So if you’re trying to hit seven different social media platforms, there’s no way you’re going to hit seven home runs in a row, it’s just impossible, it’s not going to happen. Not even Pat Flynn can do that, not even Gary Vaynerchuk can do that. Not everything that they do is wildly successful. So focus on building that audience in one or two places and then you’re going to be able to hit a home run there, and once you get consistently hitting home runs there, move on to somewhere else.
John Schneider: Yeah I think what you want to do is try- you want to get a following and if you can get your 1,000 raving fans, then you’re set for success, and it’s easier to get those 1,000 folks following you if you’re targeted, and it’s easier to do that when you’re on one or two platforms. Maybe when you get big enough and you have a social media staff and you want to be everywhere like Gary V, it’s a little bit easier. But when you’re just doing this in your kitchen it’s a little bit harder so stay laser focused.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely. Oh I love the paths that we’ve gone down, and I know that we’re getting close on time so this will be the last question that I ask you, and then you can shamelessly promote what you have going on. But this stemmed from something earlier that you were talking about, and the question is what do you see as the next kind of big fight or great fight for the LGBT community? We know that we have marriage equality, which yay to some degree, but at the same time we still don’t have equal protections in the workplace. So there’s a lot of kind of stuff that’s still going on. From your standpoint- so I guess maybe it’s a two part question. Like what do you think is the next fight that people are going to be going after? But secondly, what do you think your role in that is with the platform that you have?
David Auten: Sure. I think John and I have had a little bit of discussion around this, and one of the things that we are very cognisant of right now is the differences from state to state, and that’s one of the keys for us as individuals. I live in Colorado, you live in I think Connecticut?
Jenn T Grace: Yes.
David Auten: Is that right? Right, yeah and other people live in all these variety of other states. The laws that are affecting you as an individual, that will impact you the most are the ones that are at the state level. I think of individuals, and we’ve found this out recently, if you’re a gay man or woman you can adopt a child in Florida.
John Schneider: That law just changed, I was corrected. Until recently.
David Auten: Right, but when you got married you were not allowed to adopt. So it’s through our efforts as individuals going at the state level and saying, ‘How can we make our laws more inclusive of all our community?’ I think it’s four states have laws that protect transgendered individuals in the workplace, we already said that 28 states have laws that allows an individual to be fired because they’re gay. That’s a state level issue, and when we can equalize things at the state level, then we’re getting protections for everyone. And so that’s one of our facets that we’re fighting for now. We are going to be working at having individuals on the Queer Money Podcast that highlight those state level issues so that all of us can be aware of how different things are at the state level. It’s very easy for us to say, “Oh well yeah, you live in the United States, you should be out.” Well if you live in a small town in Arkansas and your life and your family is dependent upon the job that you have, and you don’t want to move to a big city, or you can’t afford to move to a big city, it may not be easy for you to be out. So we want to help try to change thinking at the state level right now.
Jenn T Grace: I think that’s so important. So I was just at a conference and I was on a panel with a couple of people from large corporations and we were talking about supplier diversity, and being an LGBT-owned business and how by announcing that you’re an LGBT-owned business to a company that you want to do business with- so say you’re in Michigan and you want to do business with Kellogg’s, it’s all well and good that you have now outed yourself to this company, but what ramifications does that have if you’re in a remote town in Michigan where it’s not acceptable for you to actually be out. So you’re outing yourself for this business opportunity, but at the same time are you putting your personal safety potentially at risk. And there’s this very interesting balance of when it’s safe to be out and when it’s not safe to be out, and I think that for people maybe- I’m not entirely sure about the climate in Colorado but I know in Connecticut it’s far less of an issue here and it has been far less of an issue for a very long time. But I know that if you go to Tennessee for example, it’s a totally, totally other story. So it almost seems that having people in places like myself, or even possibly you, where we’re in better situations so we can advocate for different states to kind of get that same level of equality that obviously we’re all searching for.
John Schneider: Yeah Denver’s pretty inclusive, we can hold our hands pretty much anywhere. But that’s why I think it’s incumbent upon us to spread that message. We’re in the safe space, it’s our responsibility, those who have more need to do more, and so it’s incumbent upon us to use our platform and to use the safe space that we live in to make lives better for our brothers and sisters elsewhere.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah you’re public figures, you have no choice at this point.
David Auten: And I think that’s part of the reason why John and I make a concerted effort to reach out to some of those larger financial publications that are read by millions and millions of people across the country. We know that our article about being a gay couple and paying off our debt was read by individuals who live in small towns across America, and it’s going to be the individuals who are reading that that are gay, that are going to be let’s hope inspired by that to do the same, or to just feel comfortable about who they are. But it’s also the individuals who are not who see that and say, “Yahoo Finance cares about gay people. That’s interesting.” Or “Business Insider cares about gay people. That’s interesting.” Or I should say ‘queer.’ They care about queer individuals. It just changes that message or that conversation in their head, and our whole- John and I have talked about this for a long time. Winning hearts and minds of individuals who are enemies when it comes to our lifestyle is one of the benefits that we have of being public figures, and we want to do that.
Jenn T Grace: It’s a responsibility, yeah absolutely. I love it, we’re so on the same page on so many things, I love it. So for people who are listening and now they’re interested, they want to get out of debt or they just want to learn more about you, where are all the ways in which they can find you?
John Schneider: We are the Debt Free Guys, and so we’re at www.DebtFreeGuys.com, and on Facebook and Twitter you can find us at Debt Free Guys. We have our book, ‘4: The Four Principles of a Debt Free Life’ on www.Amazon.com and a couple other places, but I think Amazon is the easiest. And then like we suggested if it’s not already apparent, our main focus right now is the Queer Money Podcast, which is on iTunes and Stitcher and Sound Cloud. We also have some of our videos for the podcast on YouTube at Debt Free Guys. So that’s where our primary focus is right now, and we would love for anyone who listens to our podcast because of listening to your podcast to share with us any feedback; if they like anything, hate anything, if there’s anything they want us to talk about, or anyone they think we need to reach out to, we would love to have that feedback.
Jenn T Grace: Perfect, I like it. And for the listeners, your first and last names? I know you said your first names in the beginning but just for the sake of it.
John Schneider: I’m John Schneider.
David Auten: And I’ve David Auten.
Jenn T Grace: Perfect. Beautiful! Well thank you so much for coming on the show, this will be out shortly, and of course all the stuff that we talked about, I’ll make sure that I have links all in the show notes for the audience to just find this much easier. But thank you, this has been great, I really appreciate it.
John Schneider: Absolutely and thank you for the opportunity. When you have links and whatnot, let us know and we’ll absolutely flood our social media with it as well.
Jenn T Grace: Beautiful, you bet. It should be out on- my plan is going to be the 29th, so September 29th.
John Schneider: Okay so I’ll put you on our event calendar on our website. And then a long time ago we had talked about having you on our podcast, so I’ll send you some information, see if we can schedule that.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah that would be awesome. Yeah, I would love to help in any way I can. It would be perfect.
John Schneider: Great, awesome.
Jenn T Grace: Well have a great rest of your day, I really appreciate it.
John Schneider: Thanks you too, bye bye.
Jenn T Grace: Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. If there are any links from today’s show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.