Discover the impact of sharing your work publicly.
Our guest, Josh Passler, founder of FinArt, takes us on his unique journey from financial advising to establishing a creative stronghold in the industry. Learn how periods of boredom can become the catalyst for innovation and why sharing your work publicly can be a game-changer for attracting customers. Josh’s story is a testament to the magic that happens when you build in public, offering inspiration and actionable insights for financial advisors seeking to stand out and captivate their audience.
Jordan Haines: Welcome to Elementality everyone. My name is Jordan Haynes and I’m excited. You’re here.
If you’re active in the advisor community on LinkedIn and Twitter like me, you may have noticed the past few years, the emergence of a new account called thin art. I remember first seeing posts from this account around conferences and a few years ago. The post featured a lot of interesting portraits of speakers and attendees of the conference.
And because I followed a lot of the people tagged in these portraits, I got to see a lot of this cool work. I gave an art, a follow, and I’ve been intrigued with the business ever since the person behind fin art is Josh. Uh, former advisor in Noma ha Nebraska.
Josh Passler: I’m here in Omaha, Nebraska. Started in this industry back in 2014 as a. Just a guy that was taking calls at the call center and at TD Ameritrade.
And just started working my way up and I was an [00:01:00] advisor for about eight and a half years before I started FinArt.
Jordan Haines: Being unsatisfied with the opportunities to Excel in his career at his current firm. Josh launched Finner as a way to highlight his abilities. To be creative in hopes to get a new job at an independent firm. But he quickly found that there may be a greater opportunity with the art he was publishing.
Josh Passler: /
the whole reason behind FinArt was to and value to my name. So it wasn’t to create what it is now, but it was simply just to get into the independent field work under work under a financial planner but be able to like, showcase my work and say, Hey,
if you teach me how to, do proper planning without having to sell like an insurance policy, then I’ll be the creative director for us. And it just took off from there. I haven’t done, I haven’t done any sort of advising or planning since I started FinArt.
It’s been about 13 months now and it’s been a fun journey.
Jordan Haines: Josh his interest in art began long before he became a financial advisor, but he’s had to work hard to learn the tools that will help him share his [00:02:00] skills with the rest of the world.
Josh Passler: It’s just been a hobby of mine since I was little. I used to always sketch draw random stuff. Anything that caught my eye, I would just want to draw. I took art classes in high school, but they didn’t go anywhere.
I didn’t have really any Adobe Illustrator or, Photoshop, none of that, none of those skills until FinArt started. And then I realized how I can utilize those tools.
And so I spent, I don’t know how many hours just going through those tools. I even bought classes on them.
So I felt like, Hey, if I want to be taken seriously, if I want to make amazing graphics, visuals, illustrations, then I got to be good at those.
Jordan Haines: So I wanted to have Josh on the show today to talk about his journey, launching and scaling his business. Fin art. In this conversation, you’ll learn how Josh launched and built his business in public. How he leans into the strategy of sharing his work publicly. And what he’s learned along the way. If you want to see more of what Josh is working on.
Go find them on X, formerly known as Twitter or on LinkedIn by searching for the [00:03:00] thin artist. And finally, if you like the show, go ahead and follow us in your podcast app and share with a friend. Now let’s get onto our conversation with Josh.
Josh Passler: my very first like fin art illustration sketch was listening to Brock Buckles and Thomas Goldman talk and Brock, he I was, I remember.
I’ll always remember I was driving to Starbucks and I was listening to I’m pretty sure it was Thomas on Brock’s podcast, the the fee only fee or only the only fee only podcast. And he’s like, yeah, he’s like, if you have an advisor in the room, the advisor says like, Hey, this is like a Roth IRA on steroids.
Then you should probably leave that meeting. Right? I’ll leave the room. And I thought that was the funniest thing I heard. So when I got back, and this is when I was still an advisor and I was like yeah, this could be really funny. but I drew, it was literally like a little cartoon. Imagine like this bald, roided out guy, like just roided out, the veins were popping out, and he [00:04:00] says it’s like a Roth IRA, but on steroids.
And, the very next, like right next to him, is a cashier at Wendy’s. Saying, sir, this is a Wendy’s so I thought that was hilarious and. And whenever I would draw something, I would usually tag the people that influenced me. And that just started a cycle. People started retweeting this. People started liking it, commenting on it, sharing it.
And so, that’s what continued to entice me to keep building in public. Because I realized, this is going to help me get in front of people. So I’m just going to keep tagging people that I’m inspired by. And draw them.
Jordan Haines: I remember when you first launched and you were, like, posting, I think it was around a conference or something, and you were just posting things that you had found at the conference. Were that, was that, like, free service that you were doing as, like, a teaser for people to pay for you or something?
Josh Passler: My very first conference was XY live last year. And while I was there, I was talking to Scott Frank, who’s an advisor down in La Jolla. [00:05:00] And he’s like, Hey, you should actually sketch or draw the panels.
And I’m like, Oh, that’s a great idea. So I started doing that and it took off and it like it took off so well that. The very next week, I was talking to Dan Bolton that was, well, Nitrogen, formerly Rizkalyze. He’s like, hey, can you come to our conference and do it for us? And he’s like, I’ll fly you out and everything.
And so, it started like a whole trend of conferences saying like, Hey, we like this style. Can you do it for our conferences? And now it’s just, I guess like three weeks ago was a risk allies or I’m sorry, nitrogen’s fearless investing summit. And, it’s getting to the point now where conferences are asking me to join them, but to make a unique style of their portraits.
So it’s, obviously it’s just for that conference. It is very unique.
I was doing all these drawings and the portraits that I was making on Twitter and LinkedIn, that’s what really took off.
And it got to the point where I realized, hey, this is like a seasonal thing. [00:06:00] It’s not going to last me like the whole year. It’s going to be like a seasonal item. And this is only cool for social media. Like. I need to make, I need to create something that’s going to be like a deliverable for clients, something that that my clients, the advisor, the planner can take and utilize.
So, the funny part was, like I started making a lot of things. I started making like logos, I started making visual identities and I was just like playing around with so many different components of financial like, I was going to say financial design, but more of just like graphic design that I got to a point where I was like what is my marketable skill?
How can I take this marketable skill and turn it into a product and serve? These clients and I found myself like splintering like in so many different directions, right? And I’m this guy like it like created like a cluster in my head and i’m like man Like I don’t even know like which direction i’m gonna go.
I don’t know the appropriate direction and I have a pretty good friend named guy pen and he’s just [00:07:00] like, you know The universe will take you wherever it’s meant to take you and so and I believe in that and so It got to the point where I said, what will be good is to create illustrations of financial concepts and started.
So I started making that and this illustration started to take off and they started to become a more reoccurring requests from advisors and planners. And these illustrations, they have like a obviously they have like a traditional look that you may find in like a morning star literature or, they’re going to be like completely left of the field.
Cartoon illustrations that really stand out and I typically like to make the ones that really pop and stand out and make a big splash because that’s what’s going to make a big splash for the for the advisors. And I’ve been continuing making those and so those illustrations led to, so many different components of graphics, I should, I guess you can say like visuals for like, for social media, for them to post on social media, for them to create [00:08:00] client deliverables, to give to their clients, to creating like just marketing materials.
So it’s been a lot of fun, but it continues to evolve and more and more over time.
Jordan Haines: Yeah. We I’ve learned a lot about this term called product market fit. Have you heard of that before? Yes. Yeah. Which is, it’s pretty straightforward. Right. Finding someone that a market that’s actually willing to buy what you have to sell.
Right. Yes. And it sounds to me that like you have been trying to find your product market fit, your service market fit, right. With advisors. It started as portraits. You’ve gone to logo, visual identity, illustrations. And I know that it’s probably morphing over time.
Okay. I come to you today. Right? Like, let’s say that I’m just some advisor off of LinkedIn and I’ve been following you from afar, like I have been, and I come to you and I say, Hey, Josh, I’m interested in what you’re doing.
What can you do for me? Right? Like, I don’t really know what I want, but I like what you’re doing. And I feel like maybe there’s some alignment. How would you describe like the services that you offer today? If someone were to just come to you out
Josh Passler: of the blue,
So I started doing like a little [00:09:00] retainer model to where clients can have me three months at a time. And part of it, part of the. The conversation that we have is this strategy talk. So we have these strategy calls in place. So what I would tell people is like, Hey, even though I am a graphic designer, I want them to look at me more like a fractionalized creative director that helps them not only create the designs itself, but also have the conversation of strategy and we go from there.
And hopefully within those three months, we have so many discussions, so many calls, so many so many designs and. That they understand by the end of three months what do with those p pieces, how to repurpose them and to last ’em for a full year and the, and within like the past two months, that’s when I started doing that.
That has been like the biggest home run for me. Is because I’m having these conversations with firms that have like 10 plus people. And like the owner of the firms are like, Hey, all like this, all design decisions are like, [00:10:00] are up to me now, which is pretty cool. But having those conversations and speaking to them and speaking to not only the owner, but the advisors, the assistants, the secretary and strategizing around that to, understand their own, what I call it, like, it’s like a visual language.
And then be able to make pieces and so that their content has a flow because the subscription had a little flow, but they were really just one off Requests that I would just create, give it to them. They would post it and that was the end of that. Like nothing else was done. So, but yeah, so I guess I would say if you’re an advisor, you come to me and you’re like, Hey Josh, what do you do?
I’m like, well, I help, like I help firms by being like by being a fractionalized creative director, it’s the best way to put it.
Jordan Haines: I’ve worked for enough firms to know that sometimes and worked with enough advisors to know that sometimes advisors like to hold things close to the chest [00:11:00] and especially when it comes to like brand identity and stuff like that.
It seems to me sometimes that like you’re posting like the way that I would describe it as almost a stream of consciousness, which I love. Right. Like you’re posting and saying like, I built this thing cause I think it’s cool.
And I want to share this with everyone else. And it’s you’re doing it without permission. Have you gotten any pushback from people?
Josh Passler: That in essence? No. Actually, yeah, there has been one, actually, it was a company and I made an illustration for them. They had no idea I was making it and it was like midnight and I’m tired, but for some reason I got the urge to continue making some art.
So I make this illustration for them and I misspelled navigate and I just forgot the I, and I posted it the very next day. And their creative director messaged me and said like, love the art and everything, but hey, like you misspelled navigate and we don’t want people to think that like we hired you to create this.
Can you remove it? And I was just like, Oh, and I’m like, that makes complete sense. And so, that was the only time I ever got pushed back. And so I [00:12:00] just removed it. And the funny thing is like at nitrogen’s real investing summit, I spoke to two of like their top guys and I told them about it and I’m like, yeah, but the creative director was like super nice.
He was really awesome. I’m like, we got the. We even had a zoom call later.
And but yeah, that was like the only pushback But like when it comes to brand identity designs and creating illustrations, I do, I get a little bit of pushback, but it’s good to get a little bit of pushbacks there because when you’re creating something that can be like a, just like a thought in, in your client’s mind, and you’re trying to bring that to, bring, bring that alive, you’re trying to like create something from nothing it’s I always say to the client is like this blurry vision.
You have an idea of what you want me to create for you. It’s. You have like this thought, it’s very blurry, and the more we work on it, the more clear that it becomes. And so, there’s always gonna be, there’s always gonna be a little bit of pushback. Obviously, I call them revisions. Because I want it to be [00:13:00] perfect for them, but I try, I typically try to, like, like an advisor, I try to do so much discovery work through zoom calls and questionnaires that by the time I’m able to present a design to them it’s going to be like what they thought of, it’s going to be what, it’s going to be that blurry vision coming to life, yeah, that’s
Jordan Haines: really interesting. Well, that’s cool, man. So, so building in public seems to have been working really well for you. And man, I’ll just say like, it’s refreshing to have someone else, like someone that’s willing to do that. I think advisors are generally super wary of that. For obvious reasons, but I, I actually I’m actually, I want to get your take on this.
Sure. I’ve been in conversations with advisors who want to demonstrate their value when they’re prospecting or when they’re marketing or whatever it is, meaning that they want to show what it might look like to work with them. And it’s hard to show what financial planning is going to look like without showing what financial planning is going to look like, if right?
Like I, sometimes it helps if I work with dentists to show a dentist situation and how I would respond to it. And I think there’s a general concern out in the world of like, why would I do that? Because it’s sharing [00:14:00] someone’s personal information. And obviously there’s ways that we can mask personal information, but it’s nevertheless a story, right?
Like it’s a real person behind that, that I’m sharing that story from what’s your take on that, right? Like, do you feel like that’s like that? Is that okay? Is that something that you even have strong opinions about? I’m curious what your take is there.
Josh Passler: If you have a certain clientele, like, and you’re niching down, you honestly have to, they don’t care how you do it, they just want to know what you can do for them, right? So you gotta show them. What you can do for them without being, without making it too personal, without having a client’s name or like, with elements, you can use elements perfectly to show them like, Hey, this is your finance now, and this is, here’s your goals and like, and within the next year or two, and this is how to accomplish those.
And this is what we can and can’t do. Whether it’s video, whether it’s visuals, whether it’s just like an audio, podcast, just focus on your clientele. Learn what they want. [00:15:00] Learn what they need and when you learn that, tell them what you can do for them.
Don’t say anything else. Just tell them what you can do for them. And I think that’s like the hidden formula that not many people know. They try to always say like, we’re the Our our modern portfolio theory principles is like leading the way and into 2023, yada yada,
Jordan Haines: I like that. I think it’s a natural forcing or a filtering mechanism. Right. Like, look at your work right now. If I’m an advisor and I, I’ve been following you for six months or something and I see what you build and I’m like, yeah, like it doesn’t resonate with me.
It’s like, I don’t really want that. It’s like. Well, then I probably am not going to hire you anyways. And I probably wouldn’t love the work for you, but you’re naturally going to attract the people that are and do want and need your help. Right. I think that’s, I think that’s an underrated value of actually showing what people are doing and actually building in public.
Like you are
Josh Passler: fantastic. You’re right. And when it comes to like my website, like whenever I have a conversation with a, potential client, they always say like, Hey, we looked at your website, we looked at your art and like your colors, your boldness.[00:16:00] That’s, that’s what we want.
So even though, yes, like it’s, the name is fin art, it is a financial artist. I can make a lot of things for people in this industry. Right. But it’s not always going to be like, it’s not going to be a one size fit all. It’s going to cater towards the people that really like that boldness that likes to not Conform to like, this is you know, the industry’s norms, right?
It’s gonna be for Really when it comes down to age there’s There really isn’t an age that I have been focusing on, but it’s just the personality that I’ve been focusing on. So I know sometimes people like, like to focus on demographics, but really my clients all have the same personality and that’s that they want to stand out.
They like boldness. They want more creativity, more artistry in their work. And those have been like the best clients for me. The ones that want the traditional look are, well, they’ve never been a client of mine. Yeah.
Jordan Haines: [00:17:00] Yeah, that’s really interesting. So, you’ve done a lot to take action. You’re building out loud. You just are going for it, right? Like you, you think of something, you build it, which honestly is a rare trait. I think we, as a general industry, as advisors we tend to have paralysis by analysis, right?
We want to have it all thought through, right? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve had an advisor say, I want and they’re launching something new. I find that advisors want it all scaled, all automated, all everything before they do anything. Right. Right? So there’s this sense of like, I need to have it all, my crap together, it all figured out before I do anything about this.
And when I listen to you talk, there’s a whole lot of I don’t knows, right? Like, it’s I think this was the thing that, that worked and I received some smoke. So I did it and I learned along the way. Right. And like what you’re offering advisors now is different than what you were offering advisors two months ago.
And it will probably be different than what you’re offering three months from now. Right. And I think that’s really interesting. What would you say? So you’ve been doing this about 13 months or so. What would you say is like some of the more, more interesting things that you’ve learned that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise, unless you took action
Josh Passler: I [00:18:00] felt that when I’m making the brand design for people, but typically like if I get 80 percent of the way there and I’m 80 percent sure, then I know I’m like already in a good space and that I, that’s when I start to get like almost like a peer review from those close friends of mine that can tell me if they like it or not.
Jordan Haines: So the learning, one of the big learnings that you’re learning about yourself is that you’re more like a good enough type of person, right?
Like this is good enough. Now let me share it. Yeah. Right. Like, let’s democratize this a little bit more and get insights from people and learn from them, not just from myself. Is, am I understanding that right? Perfect. Yeah. And that’s really interesting. So what, how do you feel about like the last, Like, is that, is it difficult for me?
I’ll be honest. So I’ll share a little bit about me. I have struggled for a long time to put words to this, but like. I’m a starter and not a finisher, right? Like my wife is like she’s goes all the way she gets it done finishing touches or her thing me on the other hand Like you start you give me a project I’ll get 90 percent of the way there and then I will get [00:19:00] so burned out from it that I don’t want to do it anymore Like the finishing touches and seeing things through is really tough for me Launching on the other hand though, like creating things out of thin air right like being inventive I love that stuff.
So I’m curious, like, do you resonate with that? Or are you if you have the right thing, like seeing it all the way through, like a brand design seems to work, but react to that.
Josh Passler: Yeah. Yeah. I’m with you. I’m definitely a starter. Like I can like take off like a rocket and like the first, like.
The first half it just goes by even the first like two thirds just goes by so quickly and it’s like non stop, right? Yeah but it gets it does get to the point where you just become either burnout or Frustrated and you like hit like this brain fog this plateau and you’re not sure where what to do after it so I remember hearing this from a designer and I’ve It’s one of those things where you don’t realize it until someone says it, right?
But they’re like, the best way to get out of creative funk is by becoming bored. And when you become bored, the inspiration starts [00:20:00] flowing in and you have those aha moments and then you can get back to that work. And so I know that’s going to happen like almost on every brand design that I make. So when I hit like that plateau or that burnout stage, I typically go like, I’m out of like, I will tell my wife, I’m like, I’m out of like creative juice.
I have no more creative energy for the day. Like I’m done and I’ll just go like I’ll go to the gym where I’ll hop on PS5 or something like that. It’s just like clear my mind or read a book and like in the middle of whatever I’m doing, I’ll just go, Oh, like, I got it.
I got it. I got it. And I’ll just go back in. Yeah. There’s been so many times where I’m like, I’m sitting with her and I’m like, Oh, I’ve got to go. And then I just come upstairs to my office and I just start designing again. So. But yes there were times there’s a lot of there’s a lot of times where that happens for me
But. Now, I, whenever I get to that point now, I’ve learned to just, like, just take a break, become bored, just do [00:21:00] something else that’s not that. And the ideas will start flowing in and I’ll get inspired by like the smallest things. Like, like we were for like, for an example, I was building a brand and I just, I ran out of creative juice.
And later that night, my wife and I went to the Target and we were walking in Target and some of the aisles had like their phones, like their emergency phones. And it was just like the sign next to the phone pointing to the phone. And I saw that sign and I like stopped. And I just stared at it, took a photo of it and said, I don’t know what that was, but I’m going to come back to that.
Like, I’m going to pull that up when I’m like designing and see what that can do for me. And I think that was like one of the first times actually that happened to where I was like what just happened? What was this? And can I use that later on in my designs? And I did. So yeah, I guess just being aware, [00:22:00] it helps.
Jordan Haines: I think you’re a naturally curious person, it sounds like, right? Like you’re, I love this framing of like when you plateau or when you hit a wall, like get bored for a little bit. And it’s interesting cause that’s almost how I would describe it. Like. How many times I’ll be super into a project and then I’ll just get bored of it.
And then like that, like I’m not a, like a sketch person. Like I am not an artist at all, but I have a lot of right. Like I like writing a lot and I love doing like audio notes and I love writing my ideas and I have this notebook, right? And it’s not a notebook. It’s a, it’s in a Microsoft OneNote, which I don’t use all that much anymore.
And it’s like just a bunch of documents that are half done. And I think that’s really interesting. And I just get bored of them after a while. Like I’m like not as interested, move on to the next thing. But every once in a while, as long as it’s in the right place, and I’m thinking about it and I’m curious, I might come back to that.
And I think what you’re saying is just be bored, right? Like don’t step away from it completely, but be bored from it for a little bit. And then come back when like you start, like and have a degree of curiosity so that when you find something that [00:23:00] might feed into the genius there. Right. That’s when you can come back and really complete that.
Yeah. And finish it. UPS’s a really
Josh Passler: way. Put it, that’s a really good way of putting Wow.
Jordan Haines: That’s really cool. So, okay, if you’re open to it and you want to how, like, how do you know that your business is being successful right now? Like, what do you look to see if like, it’s a success and you’re
Josh Passler: doing all right? Ah, well, a couple of things.
The first thing that came to mind Was seeing how busy my calendar was, like in the list of my to do list, right? Like in, in the clients that I’m building for and what I have to like create that week it and it led to another thought was like, like, when I was an advisor, I used to have like those Sunday scaries a little bit, right?
Very little scary. But every Sunday now I, I always just think to myself like, man, like tomorrow, I know I’m going to get a request or I’m going to speak to someone and I get to create and it’s so awesome. Right. It’s just it’s an amazing feeling to be able to create for someone [00:24:00] and to be able to do that as a job.
Another way I can, evaluate my level of success is obviously just looking at like my revenue month of month after month. And it’s been tremendously like, jumping up since then. And I think you’re right. The product market fit it’s like. Narrowing that down and figuring that out has, tripled my income and now it’s getting to the point where I don’t have to make those jokes to my wife about, like, I think I’m gonna start Ubering to make sure I can, just, make enough income, but but no it’s, those two, it’s like just seeing like how much work I have to do and the funny thing is I don’t see any of it as work. I just, yeah, I’m like, I get to create this stuff. Like people are asking me to create stuff for them, which is huge, right? I love it. And then also like, if you’re looking at Stripe or looking at like the bank account and saying like, Oh yeah.
I get to pay myself this month or, Hey, this is how much I’ve generated this month.[00:25:00] Those are like the two biggest things.
What are you,
Jordan Haines: What are you most excited about right now? This could be like a project that you’re working on or like a strategic direction of your firm or, like what’s most what tends to fill your thoughts when you’re not thinking about
Josh Passler: people’s brands? I was going to say the thing that excites me the most right now is this the two visual identities, the two brains that I’m actually rebranding, I’m actually rebranding for them right now.
And we’re like, like half at the halfway mark for them. And it’s that’s been like a blast to make, but I think what I’m excited about the most and what really gets me really excited is the possibility of the future and hopefully like last week I got to hire a good friend of mine twice to help me.
Design and create, right? And that was an absolute pleasure and a blast to do. And I was like, I want to do more of that. And like, it felt so good to pay a friend [00:26:00] to, to create something with me and work on it. And like we were working on a presentation deck from about 5 PM to like almost two in the morning, my time.
And yeah, it was stressful. It wasn’t really a headache. It was just stressful because it was time consuming, but man, we had a blast making it. It was a lot of fun and I could only see, like, I could see how that team environment will just continue to form itself in almost like a, almost like a design agency, right.
And it’s probably gonna be a small team, but when you mesh well with someone and you can work with them but they also are not, you’re, yes man. They’re gonna be a good partner and they will, be up front and tell you like when you’re wrong. Or when you’re right. I think that’s what I’m, really looking forward to.
And I think that’s going to happen sometime in the future. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. But I do see this year is going to be a year of working closely with other partners on projects together. And I [00:27:00] think that’s going to be a blast. It’s
Jordan Haines: awesome. I love that. Well, man thanks for being willing to have this conversation with me.
I’m excited for everything that you’re doing and continuing to build in public I’ve been an observer of the financial advice industry for, I don’t know, probably eight years at this point. And I love looking at all the content people are creating. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen building in public quite to the extent that you are. So I’m excited about what things are going and it looks like you’re getting some good traction.
Tell people where they can find you and
Josh Passler: People can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Just look up the fin artist or fin art my website, the fin artist.
com. And that’s like the easiest way to find me.
Cool. Thank you. Thanks, man.
Jordan Haines: Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about elements and how you can demonstrate value quicker to prospects and clients go to get elements.com/demo to schedule some time to meet with a member of our team. Carry on.