The Rise of the Loud Introvert: A Conversation with Chris Do, Creator of TheFutur
What a time to be a designer. Whether you’re into product, interaction, motion, brand, or type design, the number of tools and opportunities available to us expands by the minute. The only certainty we have is change. Design’s impact is now widely recognized by organizations of all sizes, creating room for much-needed specialization. An environment like this calls for design educators: inspiring creative professionals with a deep desire to support others’ journeys. That’s where Chris Do and The Futur come in.
Today, we’re talking to Emmy award-winning designer, director, and CEO Chris Do. You might recognize him from TheFutur, a platform with 1.93 million YouTube subscribers and over 400,000 Instagram followers. Chris himself now reaches more than 800,000 creatives through his personal Instagram account, where he shares the kind of design business advice we don’t hear very often.
Join us to learn more about this supremely talented creator who decided to switch sides from client work to design education and hasn’t looked back since.
Chris Do, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a loud introvert on a mission to help a billion people make a living doing what they love. Recovering graphic designer, only child, father to two amazing boys, and husband.
What got you started on this mission? How did you get inspired?
I’ve always enjoyed teaching but the one part I didn’t love is it’s not scalable. Teaching is fairly limited in terms of access: it can be very expensive to get an art and design education. This is a challenge I’ve always wanted to figure out because I do love teaching so much.
In 2014, a college friend of mine, his name is Jose Caballer, said, “Let’s go make videos on YouTube.” I’m forty-two years old at this time, so it’s like, is this really what I want to be doing?
Isn’t YouTube full of really young people who have a lot of charisma? And who really wants to hear from a forty-two-year-old man?
But, you know, Jose was very insistent, so we wound up making videos and dropped our first one in January 2014. It was a rough start for me. Because I’m an introvert, I don’t really want to be on camera, and speaking to no one in the room is even worse than speaking to someone. Doing that you eventually get a little better, and the decision to go on YouTube changed the course of my life and my business.
It all grew into this education company fairly organically until it got to a point where I decided to no longer do client service work and focus 100% on creating educational content. So in December of 2018, my entire team moved from the service side over to the content team. and we haven’t done any new client work since then.
How do you think being an introvert helped you?
I love how you spun that question around. And I just want to say this: I have extrovert friends who also don’t want to be on camera, so now we’re hit with two punches there. It’s rough, right? It’s not a natural thing.
As introverts, we do have secret powers. I think we tend to be better observers of things. So we’ll pay special attention to colors, the way that you hold yourself, your body language, and your micro-expressions. I’ve had a lot of practice at not saying anything, but I always thought that was a weakness. But in fact, I am making space for other people to say things. And this is really one of my superpowers: to listen, process, and then reflect in really genuine ways.
Another power of an introvert, in my opinion, is there aren’t a lot of competing thoughts in my brain. So when you ask me a question while we’re dialoguing, I”m not sitting here thinking about what am I going to have for lunch, the meaning of life, and does life matter at all?
I can really focus on the person in front of me and be one hundred percent present. One of the biggest compliments I get for our podcast, which we do on a weekly basis is: you’re just such a really good interviewer.
Well, hello! I’ve had a gazillion years of practice not saying anything. So I can listen– my superpower.
For your career as a creator, did you always know that you wanted to have an affiliate source of income?
That’s a good question. I think when you’re making content, the first thing you’re thinking about is how to become a better communicator, am I still weird on camera, how’s my voice sounding?
You’re not really thinking about monetization and how you’re going to be able to do this long term. I think when you start doing this and gaining traction it’s the next obvious question. How do I start doing more of this, something that gives me so much joy, and less of the things that give me heartache and headache? (Client work, mostly.)
You have to find alternative ways to generate revenue. So I think doing affiliate marketing is the lowest-hanging fruit. You create content, set up an account, include links, and prompt people from time to time. If you want to support this channel, support me as a creator, and allow me to do more of this, it doesn’t cost you anything just use these links and let me make a small percentage when you buy products you love.
Amazon, for example, doesn’t do a lot of advertising. They rely a lot on affiliate sales to promote products. This is a wonderful business model. I think they’re spending less time talking to people who are not interested and more time giving money to people who use the products and services in an organic way who can vouch for it.
Everybody wins: as a consumer, you buy stuff that you like, recommended by people that you care about, and the person recommending it gets to keep doing what they’re doing. It’s a nice way to keep that community going and I do like the concept very much.
Is that what currently keeps your community going or are there other revenue streams?
The way we make the majority of our money is through two revenue streams.
One is products. We author educational products and that’s the biggest driver of our revenue.
We also run a coaching community right now. It’s getting near 700 people who pay nearly $150 a month to be a part of and that keeps the lights on as it continues to grow and blossom.
Affiliate marketing makes up probably less than 10% of our revenue and it’s a nice thing to have. In the beginning, it might be the only thing you have, so it would be 100% of your revenue, right? I would encourage creators who want to do this long-term to have multiple streams. It’s like a lot of buckets collecting rain. All of it is building up to something much, much bigger.
How have you managed to build trust with your audience?
I want to put this idea out there that trust is hard to gain and extremely easy to lose. It only takes a few dumb things for you to do for you to erode years of building trust within a community.
People have funny reactions to the content that we create. Sometimes I say things that are kind of polarizing, that is triggering for people and they get really upset at me. And I sit there and think “is this a fan or is this someone who is dropping in?”
A fan looks at the body of your work, of your actions, your deeds, the things you say and do, and they’re going to then decide based on that. “Is this some weird interpretation, an anomaly, some bad judgment or is this his consistent behavior over time?”
What I usually ask from people is: if you know me, if you like me, before you judge me, look at that body of work and judge it in its totality. If you want to judge just one thing, then that’s your prerogative but I would consider you not a true fan and someone who is just dropping in. And I’m okay with that because I do that myself.
It’s hard to build trust so the way that you build it is you show up consistently and stay transparent. If you’re not having a good day, say “I’m not having a good day.” If you make a mistake, just own it and say “you know what? I f’d up on that. I realize that and I don’t wanna dig in there and let’s move on, if we can, as a community.”
I’ve been doing this for the last eight years, producing over 1,600 videos on YouTube, and I just show up and I make content. I think, over time, the net positive far outweighs the net negative. So we’ll probably have about 95% fans where 15-20% are hardcore fans and the last 5% are straight-up trolls. And I’ll tell you this, I actually love my trolls.
How do you deal with online hate?
Sometimes I’ll troll the trolls. What they don’t realize is they’re doing two things for me. On one hand, they’re increasing engagement because our fans will come and they’ll start to battle with them and the algorithm looks at engagement as “this must be positive.”
“I hate these videos, why do you keep making them?” Well, every time you say that you’re just going to see more of my videos. Thank you very much.
On the other hand, I also make content from negative comments. I take a net negative and turn it into a positive. Maybe somewhere buried in all that anger is a legitimate question I need to answer and I know someone really cares about that. So I’m going to put out another piece of content to directly address that and then I’m going to solve another problem.
What is the part of the body of work that you’re most proud of?
I went to a traditional design school, so I learned how to make stuff, form things in space, and understand the laws of contrast and repetition. I get that part.
But my greatest contribution to the creative community, I think, is teaching them the business skills that no one teaches you.
How to price projects, how to negotiate with clients, and how to overcome objections. Essentially, what I do is teach people how to make money, how to deal with difficult clients, and how to manage their creative teams.
I think where I get into a lot of trouble is when people are triggered by the things I say. In one of the videos that’s done really well I say, “here’s how to double your income: practice saying much higher prices.” And they’re like, “Oh, gee, thanks Einstein, that’s all it takes, huh?”
But what they don’t realize is this: they have been telling themselves or other people have been telling them “this is the market cap price, the maximum you can charge.”
Meanwhile, some young person somewhere else in the world goes, “Chris, I used to charge $400 to do a website, and I just charged $10,000 and have you to thank for it.”
So that same piece of content is being transmitted, but it’s being received in different ways.
What do you think is that factor that sets you apart from other content creators personally?
What makes me, I think, unique in this space is my credibility and credentials. I directed and produced commercials and music videos for a living for twenty-plus years. My company has generated over $80 million dollars in revenue. I taught at a prestigious art and design school for fifteen years and I’m an award-winning designer and director. I’ve been published in most major magazines in the design industry. I bring all that experience directing and producing commercials into making content.
I want to add two other things. One: I am an introvert and I do believe that’s a superpower. And two: I am a first-generation immigrant so I bring the immigrant story that you can achieve anything in America. That energy, right?
I’m an entrepreneur who’s been trained and coached for over thirteen years. I do have some bona fides in business, design, and creativity, managing teams, dealing with difficult clients, and pitching and working at the highest levels.
We’ve worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and bands. And I bring that to the conversation.
It’s ironic to me that some people say, “Oh, he’s making content on YouTube because he can’t make a living elsewhere.” That’s definitely not why. I think it’s a self-defense mechanism. I don’t get too angry about it, I kind of smile and think “I think what you’re doing is projecting.”
Every time I read one of those comments, I ask myself what else could this mean? I think this person is hurting somehow and this isn’t helping them.
How would you describe your people, your audience?
First of all, my people are freakin’ amazing. They really are. They’re genuine, giving, supportive, and generous in all kinds of ways.
Let me share a story that I think will help you understand the depth to which people will go once they connect with you, your cause, and your mission.
There’s a gentleman. His name is Ricky and he does financial planning. What does that have to do with creativity? Not a lot.
He says, “Chris I have no use for most of your content, but I do get your vibe in trying to help and teach people that I just want to start to donate money to you and you can give out scholarships for people to take your courses or join your community. It’s not going to be a lot in the beginning, but I hope it’s going to grow to be a lot.”
Now: this guy is a financial planner, manager, and understands the power of money. It’s to transform lives, not to hoard more of it.
I’m just going to give you this amazing Zig Ziglar quote: “You can have everything you want in life if you help enough people get what they want.” That’s my business model.
How do you make time for yourself as a creative spending so much time on social channels?
I think it’s really important for us to manage our own energy and listen to our bodies and there are a couple of productivity hacks that I can recommend so that you can play this really long game.
Because I’m not here for the day, I’m not here for the week, I’m here forever. Until I can no longer do this, I’m going to keep doing this.
One thing you can do is limit the amount of task-switching that you do. I have days dedicated to certain things. Days for coaching, days for content creation, days for reading. I have a day just for writing and people who are in my company know this and know to protect that time.
This is really critical. If I eliminate the task switching, I can get a lot of stuff done. I try to eliminate all those little distractions: turn off the phone, put yourself in do not disturb mode, and avoid emails. Because what we’re doing is we’re breaking up thoughtful productive time into very small chunks and we can’t do meaningful, deep work if we keep breaking that up. Just block out the time and listen to your body.
Another thing I do is sometimes I’m working late at night and I’m feeling a little tired. I just stop working. I’m done. It’s time for me to shut down the computer. Whatever deadline is out there, it can wait. I know that it’s decreasing productivity, return on investment if you will, by me just standing there trying to squeeze something out when I know I’m tired. So I take naps all the time. Middle of the day, I’ll watch tv for two hours then come back when I feel like I’m ready to work.
That’s another beautiful thing about building a passive income business: there aren’t strict deadlines and you don’t have anyone you have to answer to.
If someone reads your story and wants to be a part of your community, where can they find you?
As a loud introvert, I try to make it very easy to find me. You can go on almost any social network and look up @thechrisdo. I’m on TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook.
You can also look up The Futur, spelled with no “e”. People ask where did the “e” go? We just dropped it, there’s no ego.
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