Today is part 2 of my interview with architect and modern day renaissance man, Evan Troxel.
Go here to watch the first half of our interview on Behind the Scenes of the Archispeak Podcast
Resources for today’s show:
Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:
Enoch Sears: I think there's so much potential out there to share with the world, which is our target market, right? Everybody out there. We want to do more work. We want to work for them. I think there's huge opportunity in that. It's fairly untapped.
Voiceover: Business of Architecture, Episode 178.
Enoch Sears: Hello, I'm Enoch Sears and this is the podcast for architects where you'll discover tips, strategies, and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice. I'd like to invite you to discover how to double your architecture firm income and create your dream practice of freedom and impact by downloading my free, four-part architecture firm profit map. As a podcast listener, you can get instant access by going to freearchitectgift.com.
Today is the second half of my interview with architect and modern Renaissance man, Evan Troxel. Evan is one of the hosts of the popular Archispeak podcast. He works for each HMC Architects, based out of Southern California. Also, which you heard about in the last episode, he's just released a book titled ARE Hacks where he shares valuable information on how you can structure your life to get the most important things done.
In today's conversation, you'll learn tips and strategies on everything from publishing your own book, to finding passion and satisfaction, and getting your message out to the world. With that, here's today's show. Hey, Evan Troxel, welcome back to Business of Architecture.
Evan Troxel: Thanks for having me, I appreciate being here.
Enoch Sears: You bet. Now today I wanted to talk about the entrepreneurship and architecture. You mentioned in our last episode, you have what I would call a couple of different side hustles going on. You have your main gig, which is keeping you busy. It seems like you have this drive that you're like a maker, or a producer. You're always out there doing stuff like that. What personally drives you? I'm just curious, you got a podcast, you came out with the book, you're an architect for goodness sakes, you're a father, family man.
Evan Troxel: I guess that's one of the reasons I wrote the book too was to give people insight into how to create space in their life to do all this other stuff. I think it's important. I consider myself a Renaissance man. I cannot focus on one thing and so this kind of actually suits me. I mean that is maybe a difference between me and some people, is I like to have my eggs in lots of baskets. I'm more interested in having a wide breadth of knowledge than a specific breadth of knowledge. I'm a generalist not an expert in any one thing, and that's important to me. I mean there's so much cool stuff out there and I want a piece of all of it.
I want to know everything that I can possibly know. I definitely have that lifelong learner bug that that people talk about. That definitely describes me and so when I wrote the book, I wrote about how to create the space in your life to pass the ARE's but through that process I learned how to create the space in my life to do everything that I want to do.
That is the exact same strategy of how I wrote that book. I got up at 5 AM to study for my exams. Once I passed my exams, I just continued to get up at 5 AM and work on my passion, my projects that I love to do. I created that strategy that has translated well into entrepreneurship.
Enoch Sears: So getting up early, what other tips do you recommend for being able to do something more strategic like this?
Evan Troxel: Do you ever feel like life is short and you don't have a lot of time to do everything that you want to do. That describes me exactly. My drive is like I want to make stuff. I want to make real, physical things and I want to make digital things. We all sit behind a computer a lot, I mean we're doing it right now. We're making something. There was something that was even more interesting than that to me, which is making physical products.
For the last two years I've been designing a new camping trailer from the ground up that I'm in a fabricate with my family so that we can get out into nature and not sit behind computers anymore. To me it's just as important to make real stuff as it is to make digital stuff. Writing the book, I wanted to make a physical printed copy. Originally I was just going to do an e-book. I can spend a little bit more time and do a whole layout; I know how to do book layout too. I do layouts all the time when I'm at work for site plans, and floor plans, and drawings set, and all that stuff. A book isn't that much different.
It drives me to make real physical things that people can hold in their hands. I can hold it up and say, “I made this.” I think that there's value in that. I think that things that can be held in your hand can have incredible meaning. There's a reason why, as architects, people, our clients, love physical models. It's because they can hold them in their hand and then they get to pretend. It takes me out of my body. I can pretend to be a little tiny person walking through that space because I'm going to hold it up to my eyes and I'm going to look through there. It's an amazing thing that we get to do to connect with people. Going that route was very important for me. Creating the ability to do that is not easy. I gave up watching TV. I gave up going to the movies and because of that, my kids don't watch TV now either. They make stuff, they read books.
Enoch Sears: Those poor children, sad lives of desperation.
Evan Troxel: Yeah, how will they ever survive, right? What's funny Enoch, is I have friends who say that. How do you get your kids to go to bed at 8 o'clock at night. Well we work our butts off during the day, doing cool stuff and they're exhausted. They're doing physical activities. They're outside swimming in the pool.
We wanted to design our life, not allow it to just be handed to us. I mean when we sit in front of a TV and the magical light rays come and shut our brains down, that is lost time in the day to me. When we cut cable years ago and we got rid of all that stuff, we haven't looked back. It's enabled us to make stuff and put our art out in the world and let people in on it. I love to share; it's the tagline on my website, I share everything I know.
I have four different websites where I share what I know. It's just ingrained. It's in my DNA. It's how I'm wired. I want to do that more and more. There are people, I get it, who don't want to do that. I am definitely not advocating that everybody should be like me but it has opened up incredible opportunities to do all kinds of neat stuff. I can't complain about that.
I am very interested in designing my life, like I said. I'm doing this in little chunks at a time by getting up in the morning early, by tuning out that other stuff that's all distraction, so that I can make the space to do that.
Enoch Sears: Evan, what is your ideal life look like?
Evan Troxel: That's a good question. One of the things that I always come back to … it's funny, I just watched one of the, I look up film challenge entries for the AIA coming at the … I think they're going to be judging them at the Orlando show, but it was all about how these architecture students at the Illinois State University are making a difference at a camp. It's a med camp, so it's a camp for disabled kids so they get to go to summer camp experience what normal kids get to experience.
This camp was falling apart. It was literally on the verge of closing and this school came in, this architecture department, and they partnered with them to say, okay let's do design built studios and let's rebuild this camp one piece at a time. The video, it's 3 1/2 minutes long, and they told this amazing story of affecting the lives of not just the campers, the kids, but the staff. The staff had no idea architecture could transform their entity.
To me, that's what I want to do. My ideal life is creating architecture that means something. We just talked about this in our 99th episode that we recorded. It'll probably be out by the time this podcast is out. I watch a certain film, like The Little Prince. Have you seen The Little Prince on Netflix? It's a recent release; yeah you don't watch TV.
Enoch Sears: No, I have, I have. My kids, I caught glimpses of it. My kids watched it.
Evan Troxel: It's an amazing film. It affected me. When I see something like that, I want to create meaningful art that really affects people. It doesn't have to be for the rich and it doesn't have to be for the elite. Architecture can be for anybody. Every time I see that, it just pulls at me. My ideal life, as you know I'm I'm designing this trailer, I'm designing architecture on wheels because I wanted to be an enabler to get me out into nature.
I am happiest when I'm outdoors, connected with nature, away from the screens, hanging onto a cliff on a rock somewhere because I love going rock climbing. I'm gonna do that this weekend. I mean, I'm going to get away. I've done all this work to produce this book, I'm going to go get away and go to my happy place. I'm going to go to my church, which is outdoors. My ideal life is I want to help people do that. Whether that's through designing and building trailers, that are architectural, and amazing, and enablers, or whether that's through architecture that actually changes people's lives. That's my ideal happy place to be in architecture.
Enoch Sears: You referenced and talked a lot about the intrinsic and emotional side of producing and having these side hustles. What about the financial and economic side of doing this?
Evan Troxel: It's interesting because the little insights that popped out, like even in that that little med camp's video, it's worth watching. I mean if your viewers head over to the “I Look Up Film Challenge,” if you just Google that, it's entry number 335. It's called ARCH 335. One of the little snippets in there was when one of the camp counselors, one of the staff said, “I had no idea architecture could change lives.” When you hear that, that shows that architecture can connect to people and it shows that people will be willing to support architects who do that.
It does narrow down your field of who will buy what you have to sell but that's all you actually need. A small audience of people who believe what you believe. If it going to be through products, like this trailer, that I do or if it's gonna be through projects that are architectural, that are on foundations in the ground, I don't think that it's too hard to sell that to people because they want what it is giving them. These don't have to be cheap things. They have to be worth my time to do but there also worth a huge value to people.
If I can do anything to help get me there; through my podcast, through writing these books, to help get me to the point where I can basically create my platform, tell my story so that people who identify with me gravitate right to me. That's how I want to do it. I think that is how we connect with people is we have to put ourselves out there. Not just simply wait for them to come to us because they'll got to a drafting service because it's cheaper than coming to you. You have to put your ideas out there. You have to put your stuff where people can see it. You have to tell the stories and connect with them in meaningful ways and then they will come to that. You've got to put yourself out there first.
Enoch Sears: Okay, so we have a lot of side things going on, most people might say. We have Archispeak, we have Get Method, we have your photography that you do. Are those producing income for you? What's the financial impact of pursuing something like these things that we're talking about?
Evan Troxel: Yes, so I'm most interested in passive income projects because I do spend full-time working at a firm every day of the week. Not every day, five days a week. I am definitely interested in getting a return on my investment. My investment of time and creation is something that I want to explore more and more.
When I started Method, Method started in 2010, so six years ago and that was a website designed to teach people how to use 3-D design tools for designers for architecture. I just started that off because I wanted to learn how to do this stuff. As soon as I learned how to do it, I could make a video and post it and let other people learn how to do it so that they became more valuable because I am very interested in the long game, which does not have a direct financial return to me, which is making the profession better.
I think architecture as a profession needs and deserves that and there are so many architects out there who are only in it for themselves. I want to do what I can to help make people in the profession more valuable so that the profession lives on. I put free videos out all the time and that has winded down over the years because my interests have gone in other directions.
I still have products on that website that I sell. I took the time to create plug-ins for different 3-D software, for Maxwell Render. I also have some video tutorials for sale. People can buy those and so every once a while, I get a little notification on my phone that I had another sale. That's cool, right. I love that aspect of creating stuff online, which has an income attached to it for me. It just shows up when I'm sleeping.
Same thing with the book that I just made. I put in a lot of effort. I edited, and wrote, and reedited, and rewrote. I made it something that I can be proud of but now I'm hoping, and planning on the sales coming in. I wrote it for a very specific niche. It's not a general book for everybody and so I'm hoping, again, to connect to those people who need to be connected to there. That is definitely an income generator. It's only been available for a few days and it's already bringing in income for me.
As I get more and more used to this, I've racked up a list of experiences and skills that help me create the stuff. I mean how did I get into podcasting, I had a band and we sold records on iTunes. I knew how to edit audio and create that whole backend that is needed to create a podcast. We have sponsors on our podcasts now, so that generates income. It keeps the podcast going and more. It sends me to national conventions. It pays for all kinds of stuff like that.
Yeah, I'm definitely interested in creating passive income and while some of the things, like even on my Get Method website, I do trade dollars for hours. I do offer training, online training sessions over Skype, but I'm less interested in that as time goes on and more interested in the passive income. Creating courses, selling tutorials, selling books. Like the trailer that I'm designing, I want to create that and then I want to sell them. The projects seem to get bigger and bigger. It's definitely something I'm interested in because ultimately, I want to be able to create my own schedule and work when I want to work. To me that's the way to get there is to create the passive income.
Enoch Sears: How much money are making so far from the ARE Hacks book?
Evan Troxel: It's been on sale for a few days and the Kindle version is 10 bucks. Obviously, I don't get all the money from all those things, so I think I made a couple hundred dollars so far in just a few days.
Enoch Sears: Hey thanks for being transparent about that, and answering that question. That's great. Because other people listening might want to go down this road, so if they have a message inside, and they want to do a book like this, obviously within your book they're going to get a lot of value because you do go over how to structure life in a way so that you can do something like this. Above and beyond that, what tips or strategies would you have for people to be able to do something similar with their message?
Evan Troxel: I think that there's a lot of power in the printed book form because everybody can blog. There's a really low barrier to entry there but it forces you to think bigger. It forces you to really define, how can I add value to somebody's life? If they're actually going to buy something, how can I make that worth it for them?
It's something I'd never done before, I'd never written a book. I'm a first-time author. I didn't expect this thing to go gangbusters. I'm doing what I can to market it, and I'm learning every day on what works, and what doesn't, or what I could do better. I love living in that experimental stage. I think that there's so many opportunities out there that go beyond the blog.
I think a blog is a great way to find your voice, and get started, and put stuff out there that doesn't have to be perfect. That is one of the best things about it is … I'm a perfectionist and on a blog I don't feel the desire or the need to be perfect because there's a lot of noise in the world. I want to add my viewpoint to it but it's not something anybody's paying for, so it doesn't have to be perfect and it allows me to be even more experimental.
When I did the book, it really focused me on who the audience was, and how I could give them the most value for that in order to exchange that for some money. That to me was very important. I mean that's what architects do. We always go out and we sell. We do way more than a drafting service. We do way more than a contractor is going to do in the thoughtfulness of the design. How can we add more value to this so that you choose us instead of them. That's something I think we all struggle with on some level and some of us are more successful than others but it's a it's a great lesson to learn through something that is not as serious of an investment as a piece of architecture.
It's a book. It's a great way for architects to learn how to do this, and how to sell products. How to sell things to people that are very comfortable buying things and less comfortable buying a process, like a design process. I think it helps me speak more people's language. It's been it's been really interesting lesson in that as an architect.
Enoch Sears: You said there's some things you're learning; you're learning here some things that you did well, some things that … I don't know exactly what you said, that you haven't done well, and things that you could do better with regard to marketing the book. Getting it out there. What are the done well, didn't do well, and learning, and getting better? What's working right now? Are you finding?
Evan Troxel: Since I just launched, I'm kind of going through that process. I launched a kind of marketing campaign as a giveaway for some copies of the book. What I learned just through this, I mean I was up until two in the morning last night putting that together, and I learned don't rush it. I put it out there and I kept thinking of other things to change, and modify, and make it better, or oh here's this whole thing I forgot. I mean, one of the things that I don't know what I don't know, like you mentioned earlier.
I've never written a book before. While people around me are excited about it, how do I get people actually buy that book? It forces me outside of my comfort zone to go ask for sales or to not give it away. It's one thing to give away a free e-book on a website, it's another thing entirely to sell a book on Amazon, or some other platform. It's forced me to think about things holistically. Where you can type up a blog post in the browser and hit publish, but with a book … I mean you should see my to-do list for this book. It's a mile-long of all the different things I had to do.
I had to create an Amazon page. I had to create a Kindle page. I had to create a CreateSpace page. I had to download these templates. The list goes on, and on, and on. Now I'm in like the marketing phase and I'm just getting started with that. I don't know what not to do yet. I'm kind of just trying everything. Probably my biggest reservation is going overboard and making people sick of hearing from me. I don't want to turn people off and unfollow me because I'm too noisy about my book.
Walking that tight rope of how much is too much. I don't want to go out with the giant megaphone and blast it somebody's ear, every single day. I want it to add value to people and I want it to spread organically. I want somebody else to do my marketing for me, that word-of-mouth is great, right? That's how architects make most of their living, I think, is through word-of-mouth. Same thing with products like this book.
Enoch Sears: It's the best form of marketing, so I know it just came out recently. Right hot off the presses. What other things are you finding that are working, like what have you found to be effective compared with less effective in terms of marketing the book and getting the message out there?
Evan Troxel: Social media is huge. I could of just put it up on Amazon and left it there, right, and not done anything on social media. I could of just put it on my website, through one blog post. I think having established my channels already that are out there, the things that I do post on Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter. Covering those bases is huge. I put it out this morning and people are just tweeting it up. That's huge, right. If you don't have a platform already, if you've stayed away from that stuff, I would give the advice to just get started even though you don't have anything to push yet.
Part of it is adding value to others people's lives so that when you do publish this thing, they want it because they already love what you have to say. That's really hard when you haven't taken the time to establish that platform. It's not hard, it just takes dedication. Enoch, you know, you've been publishing Business of Architecture podcast for how long now, years right? So now when you speak, people listen because you've constantly showed up. That's what I've had to do for years, and years, and years with social media too.
I work with a lot of other architects, in the same office who have zero online presence. If they were to do the same thing that I did, write a book, I don't know how they would market it. I mean through self-publishing, it is all on me to do that. I can't rely a publisher to do that, but I have the means to do that because of my established roots out there in the social media world.
I like just talking with people and I push little things out. I talk about what music I listen to on the way to work with my kids and people like that. It just generates genuine connection in the world because I'm a real person. I'm not just a marketing machine all the time. When I do have to market something, that's working well. Without social media as a tool, I think that's can be the key to the success of a product like a book.
Enoch Sears: Fantastic. What is your favorite social media channel right now?
Evan Troxel: Instagram by far. I'm a visual person. It's my guilty pleasure, scrolling through Instagram and it's amazing to watch these platforms kind of morph through time and how they get used that the original developers never thought of. With like Twitter, the @reply was not invented by Twitter. It was invented by users who just started using the shortcut so that they could speak to specific people. Now with other social media platforms that have come into the world like Instagram, they built that in from the beginning.
What's interesting is if I see a picture that I like, I can just @enochsears in there and then all of a sudden it shows up in your inbox. Hey check out this picture Enoch. I think that kind of sharing and just that organic way that stories and images find their way to people is super interesting. Watching them morph into adding video and then watching them morph into how they do their advertising. It's great lessons in how to sell your work.
You can establish an amazing channel on Instagram to sell architecture because it's so visual. That's one thing I love about it. I love following architects on Instagram because it's all visual. It's all right there. I mean [Merica Maceil 00:26:41], she's a great social media person out there who's an architect who puts awesome stuff on Instagram. That's a perfect case study right there. That's by far my favorite right now.
Probably my second favorite is Facebook because of just the groups and the connections that I have on there. It's just everybody is on there. It's something that is second nature to almost everybody. So many people use it. It's easy to connect with people. You have a group on there, EntreArchitect has a group on there. There's so many ways to spread information that it's totally different than Instagram, right. Instagram is a lot more consuming but I think Facebook, you don't have to be just a consumer. It's pretty cool.
Enoch Sears: You can really interact a lot, so that's fantastic. How about Twitter because I know we all kind of got connected through Twitter but it seems like twitter-sphere's changed a little bit. What are your thoughts on that?
Evan Troxel: The thing I think that people have realized is that twitter is really about real-time information. The other social media platforms out there are not. That is really what sets Twitter apart. I use the heck out of Twitter, I mean it's thee place to find out what people are doing right then. I mean breaking news happens on Twitter. It actually happens on Twitter faster than the news anymore, right. It's still a very useful platform for getting your ideas out there and talking about what's going on. What are you seeing? What are you doing? Like I shared the other day … I mean, you know as well as anybody, these are all connected now right. If I post a post, I can have it automatically push to Twitter and Facebook.
I took a screenshot or I took a photo of what was on my computer. I was working on a site plan, and the engagement on Twitter was way more than anywhere else because it was what I was doing right then. My Tweet was, “What are you working on right now? Here's my desktop and it's a site plan.” The retweets and the conversations that started because of that. That doesn't happen on other platforms. It'll happen over time because people check their Instagram and Facebook before they go to bed but on Twitter it's immediate. People want to see what you doing right then.
Enoch Sears: Fantastic. I've been playing around with the Facebook Live recently and I'm just really loving it actually.
Evan Troxel: I haven't done that yet.
Enoch Sears: You haven't done it yet? Well what I'm doing here, this is actually Facebook Live. Look, I just put this on.
Evan Troxel: Nice.
Enoch Sears: So this is behind the scenes of the Business of Architecture podcast, broadcasting live. I'm interviewing Evan Troxel, he's one of the hosts of the ArchiSpeak podcast, which is a fantastic podcast. If you haven't listened to it and you have any interest in design or just being entertained, check them out. Here's my screen, I'm just going to flip it around. There's Evan, I'm going to make it a little bigger here, let's see your Skype.
This episode will be coming out in a little while but I'm talking to Evan right now about his book he recently wrote. It's pretty cool. Evan's an architect based out of down in Los Angeles area. We're talking about his book, “ARE Hacks.” I just thought it'd be really meta of Evan to actually talk about social media, while we're actually doing social media.
Evan Troxel: I was thinking, yeah it's inception.
Enoch Sears: Yeah, yeah, totally, inception, right, right. All right, so I'm going to turn off, let's see, I don't think anyone right here is actually live because I'm just … Oh it says there's one person here. I'm going to finish this Facebook Live. Thanks for watching. Cut that off there. There we have it.
Evan Troxel: It's amazing, what we can do [crosstalk 00:30:14].
Enoch Sears: That's fun. Well, Evan thanks for being on the show today. It's been great having you on here. Is there anything that we haven't covered that you feel, inside of you that you want to get out to the other architects, just from your life experience that you think would help them that we haven't touched on?
Evan Troxel: Start, this is the thing that has been on my mind so much lately, is just start. It's not difficult. It doesn't have to be perfect. Get your stuff out there and just start doing it. I think that you'll be surprised that you'll find people who were looking for exactly the stories that you want to tell. I just encourage everybody, who is an entrepreneur, or an architect, or somebody who just wants to dabble and share, there is extreme value in that. Not enough people share. Not enough architects are sharing what they're up to.
We want small firm architects to show what it's like being a small firm architect. We want residential architects and commercial architects and people who design bowling alleys. It doesn't matter what it is. Share what you do, this is why people watch reality TV. They want to see somebody else's reality. I think that that is really cool to expose what it's like to be an architect. I encourage everybody to just start sharing and don't worry about how perfect or un-perfect it is. Just do it.
Enoch Sears: I agree 100%. That is how Business of Architecture started because I wanted to learn these things myself. Then once I started learning them, of course I wanted to share them with others. It's fantastic advice. Evan thanks for all you're doing and if you want to get Evan's book, go to arehacks.com. Right Evan?
Evan Troxel: That's right, that's it. Thanks Enoch, I appreciate it, I had a lot of fun.
Enoch Sears: Likewise, man. Thanks for being on the show. Bye-bye.
Evan Troxel: All right, see you.
Enoch Sears: And that is a wrap, thank you for listening today. If you're looking for more time, freedom, impact, and income as an architect, get instant access to my free, four-part architecture profit map by visiting freearchitectgift.com. The sponsor for today's show is ArchReach, the client relationship management tool built specifically for architects. If you want to systemize your marketing and business development, ArchReach will help you do it. Visit archreach.com to learn more. The views expressed on this show by my guests do not represent those of the host and I make no representation, promise, guarantee, pledge, warranty, contract, bond or commitment, except to help you conquer the world.