Jason Cotrebil is a professionally trained audio-engineer who has been working with people in the EA/Longtermism community for several years now. His clients include names such as Hear This Idea podcast, TYPE III AUDIO, and Joe Carlsmith to name a few.
In this interview, we talked about his involvement in the Effective Altruism movement, his professional skills and career and how he managed to combine the two and start a successful freelance business.
We hope you’ll enjoy this interview as much as we did, and feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comment section below!
Q: How would you explain what is EA in your own words to someone who has never heard about it before?
A lot of people want to do good. They want to dedicate their time to helping others or contributing to solving global pressing issues. And there are a lot of ways to do that, but we have to keep into account that we have limited resources, time and skills.
That’s why we need to identify what are the most promising ways to help others and improve the world. So by using critical thinking and evidence-based methodologies together with the impulse to be altruistic, you will get Effective Altruism.
Q: How did you enter the world of EA?
At first, I was mainly into veganism and advocating for animal rights. Then one day I just found a YouTube video that talks about Effective Altruism in general and I immediately thought, “That’s the stuff I want to do”.
Q: Can you share a bit about your freelance journey and what motivated you to align your freelance career with effective altruism?
At first, I wanted to get into the music industry as an audio engineer. I was also volunteering in many local projects related to veganism and animal rights and by the time I got my degree and my professional training in audio engineering, I was really into Effective Altruism (EA) and animal rights advocating. But at the time I thought there was probably no way I could combine my skills and effective altruism together.
Then one day, my girlfriend who is also into effective altruism, saw a post on a Facebook group where guys from the podcast Hear This Idea were looking for the audio engineer to produce their episodes. So I applied, they hired me and that’s how it all started.
Basically, I started my business just to work for them at first, but very quickly they started to recommend me to other people. So I got more and more clients and my business started to grow from there.
Q: How has your involvement in effective altruism influenced your decision-making process when selecting freelance projects and clients? Are there specific criteria or considerations you prioritise to ensure alignment with your values?
I don’t have any clients that are not related to the EA movement. Maybe one day that will change, but I’m not sure and I would need to think about it. Before I started freelancing, I had some very small music and video projects, but nothing too serious.
When I started my business, it was really aimed specifically at EA organisations and projects, and only people who are involved in the EA movement approached me for work. And I want it to stay like that for now and work only on EA-related projects.
Photo courtesy of Jason Cotrebil
Q: Can you share a specific project or collaboration that stands out to you as a highlight of your career as an EA-aligned freelancer?
I actually have two!
The first one is Hear This Idea podcast. They are my very first clients as they are amazing people. The hosts, Fin Moorhouse and Luca Righetti, are really cool guys, and they were very understanding of the fact that I was just beginning and didn’t know a lot about marketing, how to deal with clients, legal aspects and things like that. So they were very patient with me, and very helpful which was really great.
Later on, Finn, one of the hosts, introduced me to Peter Hartree, who is doing many things in the EA world. So I ended up working with Peter for six months in his company TYPE III AUDIO, where he was managing me. During that time, I learned a lot about things such as how to run a company, how to grow your business, how to deal with clients, and how to write content that is influential and impactful for people to read… All that has helped me a lot in running my business later on.
Q: What advice would you offer to freelancers who wish to leverage their freelance careers for a positive impact?
Companies that truly make a positive impact are rare because people with an entrepreneurial mindset, who are willing to take risks and have the grit to grow those kinds of companies, are rare. And EA needs more people like that.
So I’d say don’t hesitate and go for it. If you’re unsure, you can always start by trying it out for six months. If things don’t work out, that’s okay – mistakes are part of the learning process. Embrace the challenges and don’t fear failure.
Photo courtesy of Jason Cotrebil
Q: And finally, what would be your favourite book or podcast you recommend for learning about Effective Altruism?
Well, I think probably the best recommendations are on the Center For Effective Altruism website, so I would say go check that.
But to say my personal favourite, it’s definitely my client’s podcast Hear This Idea. I just love the guests they bring on and the variety of topics they address in episodes, like animal advocacy, AI risks… I really recommend giving it a listen.
To see more of Jason’s work and ways you can collaborate with him, be sure to check out his website.