Here’s a “big” question for you: How young is too young when it comes to entrepreneurship? I don’t know how about you, but to me, like many other things in life, age doesn’t really matter. Whether you’re 9 or 90, entrepreneurship can definitely be your passion, and it’s definitely the passion for our guest in this edition of exclusive Q&A, Ted Bettridge.
We discovered him as he hustled his way to appear on one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s #AskGaryVee episodes (it’s episode #222, by the way.) He asked a question about how to deal with clients who snubbed him because he’s just 13 years old. I love the question and answer, but would like to explore deeper about Ted’s teenpreneurial journey so far. So, I’d like to take this great opportunity to have a little Q&A with Ted.
Ivan Widjaya (Q): Hi Ted, please tell us a bit about you and what you do
Ted Bettridge (A): Hi, my name is Ted Bettridge, and I’m a 13 (14 in a week) designer, creator, and entrepreneur from Hertfordshire, UK. I help brand businesses whether it’s a logo for a freelance photographer or full branding for a new tech start-up. I’ve been designing for nearly four years and am still learning about people, business and design everyday.
Q: At your age, I was just fooling around with my friends, full-time. But you choose to do freelancing, instead. What’s the story behind your decision? What was your ‘tipping point’ that makes you say, “Okay, I’m going to do this as a business.”
A: My passion for design started in the Summer of 2013. Well, actually it had probably started long before that. I had always been interested in design and way things were presented. At a young age I would recreate my own versions of the TV shows I used to watch or create my own illustrations for the book I was reading.
In summer 2013, I was turning 11. And like most kids my age, I had big dreams of becoming a worldwide famous gaming YouTuber. How hard could it be? I was unique, I had my own name, my own intro, my own banner and profile picture I had created in Paint. What I didn’t realise, is that I had actually created my own brand. Soon I was spending more time updating my own “image” and brand online than I was actually uploading videos to my loving 32 subscribers.
Then one day, I got an email. As an 11-year-old, the only emails I would normally get was spam or messages from Grandma, so to see that someone out there in the real world had sent me an email I got pretty excited. It was only a couple of sentences; it was a fellow gamer, most likely my age and they asked if I was willing to design their own channel logo and branding. Of course, I said yes, not even dreaming about charging, so in half an hour I whipped up some pixelated, over coloured, stock-filled banner. And they loved it; I loved it. To this day I still have that very design and I go back and look at it often.
The business went from there. I set up a channel completely dedicated to designing for other people; the channel grew to about 100 subscribers. It was called RedSpider Designs, no story behind the name just two random words I had put together. I was living the dream! I thought I was some big shot designing for these “big” YouTubers with 300 subscribers. Then my Dad, being the business man he is, said I should start charging people for my designs.
By that time I was actually quite good, I had probably been designing for about eight months by then. Bearing in mind most of these “YouTubers” were kids my age or younger, and their investment in their business was most likely Lemonade Stand money. So I started charging a hefty price of £2 a design. For me, it was great, for the clients it was great. I was getting between 3-10 emails a day from potential clients and didn’t turn down a single one.
I even started advertising myself on eBay, and my Dad would be getting constant buzzing on his phone throughout the night. Surprisingly, eBay was probably where I gained most of my clients from since there was obviously a gap in the market for my services but I was unique since no one else was providing them on eBay. I This process continued for about six months, and I slowly increased the charge and made some good money out of it.
This little small business of mine was the spark that ignited what you see today. As my skills progressed, I expanded to a bigger audience. I spent time developing my skills in all different programs. It’s a hobby turned business.
I set up TedBettridge Design, my freelance business to this day. I gain clients from a wide range of platforms, whether it’s Instagram, Twitter or blogs like these. Also, for a designer of my age, crowdsourcing sites like 99Designs are great. I’m able to gain exposure from the website as well as being able to build a really strong portfolio.
Q: Time management is the key: How do you juggle between school and freelancing work?
A: It’s managed as you would most hobbies or activities. Instead of training an hour a day for a dance class or going to an after school science club for people of my age do I would use my time to my advantage. I’m fortunate enough not to struggle with schoolwork as much as some other people which lead to having more time to spend on the business.
The hardest restriction is probably my parents restricting my time as although I may be building my business empire, the time is spent in a room on my own with a laptop. I actually have a lot more spare time than you think it’s just how you use it effectively.
Q: How about your parents? What do they think about what you do?
A: Throughout the whole process, both my parents have been really encouraging but also able tell it how it is. I’m lucky enough to share lots of qualities that both my parents have. My mom has always been really creative and is great with people, as is my dad who is a businessman at heart, setting up his own business in a spare bedroom and managed to sell it 11 years later. They’ve taught me to be financially independent of a young age and be aware of myself.
Self-awareness is a really important part of being any person, let alone entrepreneur. Once you really know yourself, know your weaknesses and your strengths it makes life a lot easier, and that’s something I’m able to thank my parents for.
A great learning curve for me was when my dad gave my younger sister and I £10.00. He said we could use it however we want, but recommended we used it to invest in something we could resell to make a profit. So we took a trip to the Pound shop and strategically bought items that, after research, we knew we could resell for more. This was within the Loom Bands craze, and I spent half of my money on all the loom bands I could but and sold them on eBay for 5x what I bought them.
My £10 then expanded to £20, my £20 to £40 and so on. After I had started to make a bit more, I spent more on bigger items, and learnt that you win some, but you also loose some. I always kept half of what I had earnt and spent half.
It was a great project that I now realise had taught me a lot more than just penny spending.
Q: I’m sure as a teen you face challenges working with older clients. Can you share a bit about the challenges, and how do you respond to those?
A: For sure it’s a definite challenge. There have been times when I’ve blindly thrown myself into projects and been completely taken advantage of and providing the work to what became ghost clients.
I would always accept every project I could, and I still do. For me it’s not a problem, it means more experience and more exposure – two essential things in the world of design and business. But that has become a small minority for me to moan about, as most of my projects run swiftly within facing many challenges. Of course, I learn from the past and most of the challenges are due to my own inexperience or mistakes anyway.
I focus on my strengths, though. I’m aware of the fact that I’m good at what I do for not just my age but in the market itself. I use my age to my advantage by using it as a growth hack to tell my story.
All successful people have their story, and this is mine – I’m living it right now.
Q: What’s your plan for the future?
A: I’ve got a real passion for what I do, but when it comes down to it I’m a people person. In 5, 10, 15 years time I’ll want to be in a workplace interacting with people, bouncing off each other’s vibes, laughing together but taking the journey together.
The design is a great skill to have in whatever career you decide to take. But I love the climb, the entrepreneurship, the startup side of things. I’ve inherited that natural drive and hustle that my Dad has as well as the softer and self-aware side of my Mum.
So watch this space for Ted Bettridge :)
Q: For our teen readers, please share your advice on how to turn your passion into a real business
A: In our generation, we don’t realise how lucky we are that within a few mere taps of a finger we can have access to millions of valuable content. I would be able to think of a startup, put together a website, brand and promote it on social sites and start running it within a few mere hours for pocket money prices.
Use that to your advantage. Find what your good at and build on that very thing. Dedicate as much time with it as you want but just know that in the long term the more time you spend, the bigger the payout both mentally and physically.
Also, the younger you are, the better. Use that as a growth hack to tell your story. The younger you start, the more of an advantage you have on the competition. But stay humble, learn from your mistakes and be self-aware.
Learn about yourself and explore. Take every opportunity you have to work with others and collaborate to not only promote yourself but build essential skills in business. And as cringey, Granny advice as this is – just be you. It’s the thing that will get you the most respect.