It's been a while since I last posted and it's because I've just been so focused on trying to grow my video production agency. Looking back I can't believe it's been three years since I posted this blog post about moving out of being a beginner. I don't feel like a beginner anymore these days but I also don't feel full confidence that I have what it takes to succeed as a entrepreneur.
It is quite a journey looking back at when we first started doing small business videos, we we're paid just a couple hundred bucks; now moving up the value chain, we've closed projects in the five figure range, which is exciting because it allows us more resources to put into the craft and creativity of the video. For example, one of our most recent projects involved renting out a large cross-fit gym and then setting up a 15 ft dolly track, and a fog machine. That was super fun and I really got to experiment with carrying out my directorial vision. One of the most exciting opportunities last year was the chance to pitch to Sandisk. We had always dreamt of having enterprise clients so we we're really eager for the opportunity. The pitch went really well and was accepted, but we found out that many enterprise clients don't pay deposits; Since we're too small of a company we had to turn that project down. It was sad mainly because these past two years I've been so gung-ho on my dream: Making videos for fortune 500 companies -- for Nike, Apple, and shooting television / Super Bowl commercials; and its sad because we had been so focused on growth in the form of high-value clients (which is riskier) rather than growth in client base and while that trajectory looked promising it is abruptly halted by this ceiling.
All of this sounds like I'm getting a ton of traction -- and I think I am, but from a financial standpoint it sucks. Sure, I've cut my expenses down and can survive but I'm not making much money at all. All of our profits go back into the business, and we have super low margins because we use so much budget to make the video look good. The project budget gets spent on equipment, crew, actors, and set dressing, so at the end, there's barely any profit left for the three of us. I wouldn't mind it so much if I felt I had a good grasp of marketing, but I can't seem to find consistency. Certain things have worked. I'm running Google Adwords, and that's been a good source of leads for us for far, but it's not consistent enough and the cost per click is insane.
The hardest part of marketing is knowing that the biz dev responsibility lies on my shoulders. I didn't mind it at all when I first graduated out of college, but now that it's been a few years, I can't help but question myself: Am I just playing around? Am I in the wrong market? Maybe I should do something else
With each passing year the pressure grows. The pressure of making this a sustainable source of income. Like I mentioned before, I personally don't mind a low income because I believe in the Early Retirement Extreme philosophy, but It's hard not to be envious of your friends working at tech companies making such-and-such. And it's not just my employed friends either, I have entrepreneurial friends who are also young and in their mid twenties with growing businesses, and while I'm super happy for their success I can't help but question the lack of my own. I look at my progress from when I was 23 to 24, from 24 to 25, and 25 to 26 and I wonder if this is sustainable going into my late twenties and thirties.
The worst part -- well it used to feel like the worst part but I don't necessarily feel that bad about it anymore -- is giving up my dream of being a digital nomad. I remember reading Tynan's blog in college and knowing that I'll follow the same path. I planned my mid twenties to be traveling across Southeast Asia working from my laptop with all my gear in one backpack. When I first moved back to San Francisco I still had that dream. I'll just build the business and systemize it so I can work on it while traveling, I thought, It will probably just take six months. Six months turned to three years and I'm still nowhere near that goal. I feel kinda sad about this, but I know it's the right thing to do. Adventure would be nice, I see all my friend's travel pictures on instagram, but now is the time to work. Now is the time to put my head down and do something. So long as I'm working, I'm not thinking about how my twenties should be. But If I take my head up for a second to see where I'm at, the anxiety of expectation sets in.
Expectation has a pretty big impact on your self-esteem. On an episode of Gary Vee this girl Taylor called in. She's 22 was telling Gary how she was going to be a millionaire by 25 even though she hadn't done anything. It's laughable, and obviously, Gary rebuked her... yet I relate. For some reason I had always had an expectation of myself to accomplish something of significance, in my current case: building a successful video agency, and I had always reasoned it as, oh of course I'll be able to accomplish that in the future, I have plenty of time, if I just believe in myself enough, future me will take care of it, something will happen. But when you have that expectation, and the inputs aren't aligning with the outputs, it leads to anxiety. It's odd to feel anxiety. I've never really had emotional health problems before. I hear about people having panic attacks, depression, or trouble sleeping, and because of my lack of experience, I wasn't able to really be empathetic. This past winter I had anxiety to the point where there was pressure building on my chest. It sucks. It sucks because I've always had a care-free, worry-free personality. I didn't stress even during final exams in college nor did I stress when I volunteered at a summer camp and had to work 11 hour shifts in the kitchen with the pressure to feed 500 people. But now I'm filled with this sinking looming feeling: the feeling that I only have a few years left of my twenties.
At the end of the day I have to remind myself not to dwell. To stay objective and move forward, and be thankful of what I have. I remind myself that that I've learned a lot in my pursuits and delivered a lot of value to my clients. I value the skills I've built in sales, digital marketing, copywriting, and project management. Just keep moving forward, no point dwelling. I know that businesses takes a long time to grow and scale, that it's dependent on my ability to make decisions and execute, so I hold on to why I started this agency in the first place: It's place to put into practice the information I'm consuming about business and to really test my abilities to get results in the real world. So with that I put my head down and grind.
HI, just a quite thought, ask yourself why you're doing this. Do you believe you bring a purpose and value to your customers? Do you enjoy it? If you do, then the next step is find a solution to what you've id'd as your issue, building a client base. In your Sandisk example it seems like you lacked capital, so if those are the clients you want and there's a market for them, then you need to make building capital a goal. Also, as for marketing if you can't hire someone, take a few Open Ed courses on the subject, read a few Lean Product/Biz Development books. You may have already done these things, but just in case I thought I'd encourage you to not give up, unless you really believe this is not where you should be.
Very true words brother. You made my day better.
Thanks, one of my friends recently sent me this article and it has been super helpful to reframing: http:
A year and a half ago I was invited to sit at a workshop and be a guest expert at a conference. The event was Hardware Con, and because I had just been invited briefly before, and have never been a “guest expert”, I had no idea what to expect. So, because I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t think much of it until I got there. While sitting in the room 5 minutes before our workshop session started a small feeling of anxiety began to creep into me.
Thoughts popped up like: What kind of answers would I give that would even be helpful to these guys? Am I gonna tell them what camera to buy or what the difference between a grip and a gaffer? Would it benefit them for me to give feedback on the videos they’ve made?
Nothing out of the ordinary happened. They didn’t ask me questions that we’re related purely to the technical aspects of video production as I had initially worried about, but instead asked me to give feedback on some video ideas or to give feedback on their video strategy. This is all good and logical enough, but for some reason I felt like the advice I could in this domain wasn’t enough and wanted to give higher level advice, so I asked them about their overall marketing and what their funnel looked like. This was 2014, mind you, and internet marketing was still somewhat an obscure thing to learn, and because I was so interested in it at the time (still am) I felt like there was a lot I could give input on.
As so, when I transitioned the conversation to talking about internet marketing, things started to go south. People started getting uninterested and confused. One person even felt provoked by his skepticism and and asked, “Wait, what expert are you a field of again?"
Every Friday Leo asked us to blog about how we did with unprocrastination. I missed yesterday but it's one day late. I swear it's not because I procrastinated :p, just prefer to do it on saturday.
I didn't write down how I did but If i had to give it a number I think I had 80% success rate. The small habits I'm working on are my waking and pre-bed habits: 1) tidying up as I go; 2) stretches; 3) meditation/contemplation (mindfulness). I did tidy up all week as my room is organized, so is the kitchen, so is my desk and files. Some days it wasn't necessary to tidyup very long at all, so I'd do something extra, or just skip it. I have been stretching right after waking and before sleeping. I do a simple sun salutation and some cat cows and then some stretches on my back. I've did that this week at about 90%. For the 3rd, meditation/mindfulness, I've done that about 60%. I am working on being mindful of my emotions, so I've been using my feelings as a central point in my meditation. I forget to do it sometimes, or I start and get distracted.
2. What got in the way?
I think sometimes what got in the way was my craving to watch a show on my ipad instead before bed, or read. And then just kind of rush my rituals. in the morning, I also over slept and then didn't have time or just felt anxious so the whole point of stretching and mindfulness was focused around quelling my anxiety.