A couple moved from LA to Mexico and started their own PR agency. Here’s how they tripled their monthly income in less than a year.
On April 1, 2020, Holly-Jade Landeros was working in public relations at a lifestyle agency in Los Angeles when she got the dreaded call from her boss. They were taking the morning to let go of the team one by one.
While she wasn’t surprised by the phone call, Landeros, who recently turned 30, said she was strangely excited about the news — she was in desperate need of a break.
“I wasn’t particularly enjoying my job, and starting my own business had always been a dream of mine,” she said.
Within 48 hours of becoming a free agent, Landeros had bagged three retained clients.
“This gave me a sign I was already on a better path,” she said.
One of these new clients, she said, could no longer afford big-agency prices because of COVID-19 and came to her based on the relationship she’d established as their previous account manager. The other two came through recommendations from a friend.
“Both brands were based out of New Zealand — where business has continued to thrive throughout COVID — that were looking to break into the USA,” she said. “With my newly opened schedule and appetite for new work, I took upon the challenge.”
As Landeros was being handed her walking papers, her then-boyfriend, Fernando, 34, (they got married in September 2020) was working for an influencer-marketing and creative agency in Hollywood. The two were working remotely in their studio apartment in West Hollywood with little downtime to enjoy where they lived, which had been the main reason they’d both decided to move to LA. Landeros called it an “intense” living and working arrangement.
In October, several months after having traded their 450-square-foot studio in LA for a two-bedroom apartment in Mexico, the two started HJ-PR, a PR, influencer-marketing, and social-media-management company specializing in cannabis, fashion, food and beverage, and wellness brands.
Before the move, Landeros said, their combined salaries came to about $7,000 a month. By March, they’d tripled their combined monthly income to $21,000 and established a global presence, with 14 retained clients in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
Landeros shared how they made it happen.
Making the move
Within a month of Landeros going freelance, the couple started to speculate that they could live somewhere more freely (and cheaply), while continuing what they were doing.
Originally from England, Landeros contemplated returning there and even booked a one-way ticket. Fernando, who’s originally from Mexico City, did the same for his hometown.
But when both of their flights were canceled because of COVID-19, it was back to the drawing board. The pair decided to explore the possibility of moving to Mexico.
“We’ve always wanted to live on the beach and work remotely, and this was our chance,” Landeros said.
After they researched the country and joined a number of expat groups on Facebook, including Expats in Mexico and Puerto Vallarta: Everything You Need Or Want To Know, they settled on Puerto Vallarta and rented an apartment in a gated community on a golf course, El Tigre Golf at Paradise Village, next to the beach, for which they’d signed a contract sight unseen.
Their first order of business as they settled in their new home was to ensure they had strong WiFi.
“In Mexico, this is actually quite hard to find,” Landeros said. It took a month to get, with three separate technician visits.
Landeros also didn’t speak a word of Spanish. Before they left LA, she downloaded Duolingo and spent an hour a day studying the language. Today, she takes regular Zoom Spanish classes.
“I would recommend anyone moving to a country with a different language to try and learn to speak even the basics,” she said. “You take being able to book a doctor’s appointment or ask for a gluten-free option at a restaurant for granted until you realize you don’t know how to say it.”
Establishing a company abroad
When they arrived in Mexico, Fernando was still working his 9-to-5 job, but from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
But as Landeros started to gather more clients, Fernando took a more active interest in his wife’s new venture.
“Much like most people during a global pandemic, working from home, doing the same thing day in and day out, he began to lose interest in his current job very quickly,” she said.
By September, she’d gained nine retained clients, three of which had come directly through Fernando’s network of contacts that he’d built up from doing event and sponsorship sales for almost a decade.
“I was at the point where I was ready to establish a company, and I wanted him to be a part of that,” Landeros said.
The pair also did outreach with a few case studies that Landeros had built, and within a week, they’d scheduled about 15 business calls.
In mid-April, the agency had a big win, securing a 10-month retainer for $40,000 from an international spirits brand, the second-largest vodka producer.
The cofounders now head up a four-person team, with Landeros as CEO overseeing PR clients, Fernando as chief operating officer managing day-to-day operations and influencer campaigns, an influencer director, and a PR account executive. They’re also in the process of hiring an account manager.
Landeros said the low cost of living in Mexico allowed them to offer competitive prices without sacrificing the quality of work they produce for clients.
As the agency started to grow, the couple invested heavily in software as a service, such as the influencer platform Tagger, which allows them to collaborate directly with clients on the same platform.
Landeros also cited Upwork as a huge new-business driver for her agency. She’d originally used the platform as a freelancer, but when the company added an “agency” version — which allows Landeros and team to get a lead’s initial interest and then continue to work with them on a retainer basis — it was a game changer. She said she generated 70% of new business through the platform in 2021.
“For brands, it’s a safe ‘in’ to PR,” Landeros said. “They aren’t stuck by signing an immediate retainer contract and gives us a chance to prove our worth.”
Landeros’ agency pays for a premium subscription, which allows it to have 150 “connects” a month.
“Connects are what you use to apply for proposals,” she said. “It also allows us to see competitors’ bids, which helps us to work out what is a reasonable offer.”
The platform takes a 20% cut from each fee the agency processes through the platform.
“It’s a great way to find new business and brands, but hence why we use it to build leads and work for one month via the platform, and then move away for the long term,” she said.
To lure in clients, her agency focuses on a niche that consists of their two specialties: public relations and influencer marketing.
“You’d be surprised how many people are actually looking for these two services nowadays, not just in the US but also worldwide,” she said. “We have been able to provide a first-class service on a global scale, without them having to break the bank.”