Tsavo Neal, BA’15

Current Role: Freelance Digital Media Consultant

How do you make the best of all situations?

I frame every situation in a positive light. I get rejected every day.  People ignore my messages.  They skip over my website.  They don’t read my articles.  Some even opt out of my email newsletter. This is a good thing.  If you aren’t getting rejected, you aren’t trying.  You aren’t reaching far enough outside of your comfort zone if everything comes easily to you. The best lessons are the lessons you learn from rejections, failures, and hard times.  If you aren’t learning these powerful lessons, you’re stagnant. To me, being stagnant is the only poor situation.  It’s easy to avoid.  Make yourself uncomfortable by trying new things, reaching outside of your comfort zone, and getting rejected.

What was the lesson you learned the hard way?

The writing I learned how to do at UBC (as a History major) and the writing best suited for the business world are completely different.  Academic writing is a great skill, but trying to write a sales letter or web copy the same way you would write an academic paper is a recipe for disaster. I learned this the hard way when I found out that the most effective business writing is so simple that an 11 or 12-year-old can understand it. The good news is that after writing so many academic papers at UBC, transitioning to a simpler style of writing was easy. If you can write academic papers, you can write sales copy.  But you can’t write them in the same way.

What did you think you would be doing when you started university?

I had no idea. Many Arts majors default to law school, so I went with that.  It sounded safe, predictable, and normal, so that was my plan. As I progressed through my undergraduate degree, law school looked less and less like a viable option.  I became interested in entrepreneurship and started an affiliate marketing business my fourth year in school.

It was a catastrophic failure.  I knew nothing about design, marketing, or sales.

That said, I learned so much that it was an essential stepping stone to becoming a freelance web designer, and then to a digital media consultant. Those last years at UBC were critical for me to step outside my comfort zone and start a side project.

What is your dream job?

My dream job is the one I have now.  I’m a digital media consultant who helps businesses get more leads online.I apply my expertise to help people make a better living.  I get to choose who I work with, how I work, and when I work. It also forces me to continue to grow as a person.  I’m not allowed to have a comfort zone.  If I don’t continue to grow my skill set, my network, and my opportunities, I’ll fail.  That keeps me going every day.  It’s never boring. “What” I do is not as important as the “how”, and especially the “why”.  Ever since I knew it was a thing, I was always attracted to freelancing and consulting.  The freedom, flexibility, and competitiveness are incredibly alluring.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

I would have started a freelance business in my first year of university. Better late than never, but the earlier you start, the more you will learn.  Getting a taste of failure and rejection will let you know before you’re in the workforce whether entrepreneurship is for you or not. I think getting an education from more places than just the classroom is critical.  I thought UBC was just about the classes, but it offers so much more.  There are a wealth of opportunities for students outside of their study groups and midterms, and I would have taken advantage of them from day one.

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