We had the good fortune of connecting with Timm Freeman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Timm, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
It wasn’t so much a process as being open to the universe and the signposts popping up all over the place. At the time I left the big corporate job (global visual merchandising for the biggest cosmetics company in the industry), I had (on paper) the biggest and best position of my career of 20+ years. But I was miserable—company “culture” was a myth and management was perfectly comfortable taking nights and weekends away from salaried employees.
I was done—but I was terrified. How could I walk away from the salary, the bonus, the healthcare, the retirement, the swag, the status, the security? After 6 weeks of 10- and 12-hour days, losing 25 lbs to stress, and missing out on family events, I finally summoned the courage and…quit. No parachute. Virtually no savings.
At the same time I was agonizing over whether to work myself to death or jump off a cliff, I’d been inspired by a friend who started their own agency while being the director of email marketing for one of the largest retailers in the world. He shared with me his journey and something clicked inside—why not take all my side-hustle clients (of which there were several) and shuffle them under the banner of a new agency? That’s what birthed THE FREEMAN AGENCY—sheer terror mixed with inspiration—and a team curated from my long career working with global brands and award winning designers, web developers, data strategists, and marketing pros.
If there was any true thought process involved, it was choosing whom to work with—if corporate culture had taught me anything, it’s that corporate culture is a myth drafted by copywriters to sound great when recruiters pitch prospective employees. It doesn’t exist—any company’s “culture” is a slurry of the personalities that have been put together under one banner.
I had several prerequisites for talent—skill obviously—but mostly personality. The one must-have for all THE FREEMAN AGENCY team members is they need to be the kind of people that we would want to hang out with in our free time—sweet, kind, talented, driven, loving, inspiring, funny, open, and inclusive people. If we spend so much time with our co-workers, why not have co-workers you want to be around? That’s the dominant thought process behind the structure of the agency, at least.
What should our readers know about your business?
At the tail-end of 2019 my side-hustle out paced my main hustle—but I was terrified to leave the security that my position with a global retail giant provided me. But alas, I was miserable and overworked. Thanks to a friend, another agency founder, I was inspired to bring all my side-hustle clients (one of which being a $2B real estate company) under the umbrella of THE FREEMAN AGENCY. I started with a design, web development, and brand strategy team curated from my career, based out of SoCal.
We launched January 2020, and things were going well those first few months—then Covid hit. Then the world was turned upside down—and we were all freaked out by what may, or may not, happen. Happily for us, Covid helped motivate all our clients who kept putting off website, SEO, and marketing improvements—because they were between the figurative rock and a hard place—they had to invest and we had the talent, skills and bandwidth to handle it. We started doing tons of SEO and other improvements to client platforms and the response was very good.
During that first year I added more team members with deep digital marketing skills: data analytics, SEO, paid ad and social media strategy—we rounded out our team and within a few months we evolved into the data-centric digital marketing agency we are today: using data analytics to inform all of our strategies, because the data—the numbers—don’t lie.
Now what started as mostly web development and graphic design has morphed into so much more—though we offer many services, the tip of our spear is for sure data analytics to inform marketing strategy. Based on those analytics, the road map for strategy is essentially drawn by the results of the analysis—the strategy is right there for all to see once we’ve pulled the data and run through our proprietary analytics software (other agencies need 3 or 4 third-party programs to come close to our haul).
That’s (one of many things) what sets us apart—some incredibly expensive proprietary software that provides deep-dive search and paid ad (PPC) data with robust analytics that formulate the key to our strategies. Boom!
Many of the lessons I’ve learned as a first-time founder and employer have come hard-won—some serious trip and fall on your face stuff—but that’s part of it, right? But from each lesson, each fall, I learned valuable lessons. But seriously, the biggest lesson I think I’ve learned (and it’s taken a while) is to get out of the way of my talented team—to step back and let them do what they do best—which I guess boils down simply to faith. Faith in my team. Faith in our product(s). Faith in our clients.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Being that we’re based out of Santa Monica, there’s quite a lot to do locally—of course there’s the beach, the Pier, outdoor activities, etc—but then there’s dining options galore—like for Italian fare with an exotic wine selection (for those who partake, I do not) Barrique Venice is a small place with a well-known chef cooking amazing and authentic Italian dishes. A great date-night spot for sure.
If I had a friend visiting I’d start with a bike ride down the beach path to breakfast in Venice, then head to the Rose Bowl Flea Market for some hipster bargains, then head to the Skirball Cultural Center for their summer concert series featuring acts from all around the world—for free! Then catch some local standup comedy at Westside Comedy Theater down on the Promenade in Santa Monica.
As for favorite spots in LA—hard to say—there’s so much going on it would be a full-time job to discover it all. That said, the new Academy Museum is amazing—they did a fantastic job and it’s a great experience.
Mostly, for me, the best thing is being out doors—biking, hiking, taking our dogs out to the trails—that’s where I get a dose of LA, my way.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
1) Jen Maxcy, Director of Public Programs, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles. EMAIL: email@example.com
Jen’s dedication to the mission of bringing people of all walks of life together is unmatched. Her love of people and instinct for producing programs that are open to all comers, inclusive, welcoming has brought visitors from all over the world. Her own personal story is powerful—she’s overcome some serious challenges and made it through.
2) Sajaad Shaw, Director of Marketing Campaigns & Automation at LL Flooring. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sajaad is who inspired me to launch THE FREEMAN AGENCY. He helped me by sharing his journey, and the practical elements of setting up shop. He selflessly helped me navigate several strategic partnerships without which I’d not have the team I do now. I thank Sajaad with every check I deposit into the agency account—I could not have launched my agency without him.