I work at a large company now and when having conversations with my friends they would often express surprise at my decision to do so. Up until now I’ve only done creative freelance work, or worked at small startups because I wanted to have creative input. I had an expectation that because I was doing client work or working directly with the owner of the company that my ideas would be heard, but I would say my experiences haven't met these expectations. This jadedness has lead me to fall into state I call mercenary mode: I’ve cut my feelings toward a project and approach my work with a cold distance, whatever my client or manager wanted me to do, I would just implement. And this was my reasoning for joining a big company, if my ideas weren’t going to be heard either way, I’d rather be at a place with more structure and downtime.
These days I contemplate going back to creative work. On one hand I feel most fulfilled doing creative work, on the other hand doing operations at a large company is very straightforward and stress-free, I would even say its enjoyable. When I do humor myself at the thought of doing creative work again I will inevitably feel cynicism thinking back to the many ideas I’ve brought up with excitement and sincerity only to have them be turned down.
I do, however, question the validity of my frustration. Are my feelings toward wanting to have my idea heard valid? In an interview with Rene Ritche, Apple Designer May-Li Khoe expressed astonishment at the fact that other designers are upset with having to do work that eventually gets thrown in the trash. She says that 99% of her work gets thrown in the trash and that's the normal.
And maybe this is what it takes? Maybe the right mindset is to be okay with knowing it takes having 99 ideas turned down, or having 99 prototypes trashed to have a chance at that 1 project completed the way I envisioned. Maybe this is the price paid to be a creative.
I've noticed that of the friends I have, the cool successful entrepreneurial types, when you tell them a lofty goal or aspiration they never respond with "you know how hard that is?" or "you really think you'll manage that?" their responses are more along the lines of "that's cool man, do it up", "let me know how I can help or who I can introduce you to", "that's ambitious, can't wait to hear your progress"
And when you tell them about a failure or a stupid decision, they usually empathize rather than tell you what you should've done:
"I can relate, made a similar mistake a few months back"
"awww man that sucks, better luck next time"
"that was horrible, you totally f'ed that up haha" (In a joking way rather than a I'm-trying-to-solve-your-problem way)
Strategy is the deployment of tactics operating under a principle...
I think the brilliance that comes from having a piece of information like this is in how formulaic it is. Because it’s formulaic, you can take the same variables and apply it to any other subject:
style is the deployment of elements and technique operating under a philosophy
expression is the deployment of communication operating under a set of values
Just taking a look at those two properties, style and expression, and you have a whole chunk of understanding for any type of art (painting, music, dance, fashion)
I think I’ve finally crossed the path out of complete beginner. I closed my first client two weeks ago, got paid for the first time last week, and I’m waiting for 3 potential clients to sign and pay the deposit. For a while I thought I’d be sending out cold emails forever. I also thought I’d be clueless when pitching to clients forever. Now, my hands still jitter when I walk into a meeting, but I enjoy pitching to clients face to face now. I can honestly say that the thought “Why do I have to meet them in person, can’t I just pitch to them through email?” has completely left my mind.
There’s a few things I’ve noticed from my progression that I’d like to highlight:
-I’ve found books like The Sales Bible, Selling to Vito, Spin Selling to be very boring. I learned the most about sales from Ramit Sethi’s creative live session. (Note: I would get Earn1k but I can’t afford it. Also, I don’t really like Ramit, or his blog. I find his style of writing arrogant and his free material gimmicky. But his creative live session really is what’s helped me the most).
-When starting out, it’s very tricky to balance doing work for cheap to get experience, and saying no to jobs that constrict you in pay and/or creativity.
-Mentors save you a lot of time, although, finding a good mentor is really hard. I was asking everyone for advice: my professors, my parent’s friends, friends, even strangers at networking events.
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.
Choosing tasks for the day is somewhat of an overwhelming process. With so many opportunities and so many things we can be doing, how do we make the most of our limited willpower? In this post I'm going to cover some familiar productivity concepts, introduce new concepts, and show you how I'm applying these concepts to make my workday easier.
The concepts: Popular concepts you've either heard to not heard of, but have already been written about:
1. Maker Schedule vs. Manager Schedule - http://paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html
2. Design vs. Marching - http://sebastianmarshall.com/staying-with-it-design-vs-marching-lead-vs-lag-process-vs-outcome-trend-upwards-vs-hohw
3. GTD vs. Deep work - http://calnewport.com/blog/2012/12/21/getting-unremarkable-things-done-the-problem-with-david-allens-universalism/
Two days ago I attended The Santa Barbara Business Expo, my first networking event. Almost all the business blogs and books I’ve read give importance to networking and nothing convinced me more than when I met with my friend Jackie, a real estate agent. I asked her how business was since she had only become a licensed for a few months earlier, and from what I know about real estate, it takes years to get clients. But she told me that she’s busy and business keeps coming. What? How? I asked her what she did for marketing, and how she sought clients.
“Well, it was really easy. I found some real estate agent networking events to go to, and this guy I met told me he was leaving for Shanghai and gave me all his clients”.
My eyes widened. Of course there was some luck to this, and I couldn’t help myself from being jealous. I had spent the past few months, thinking of a business identity and value proposition, targeting my niche, sending out cold emails, meeting with potential middlemen …and Jackie just goes to a networking event and gets handed business.
I've since paused my Adwords campaign because the CPC is too high (going to wait until I set aside time to optimize my quality score to turn it back on) but last year about a third of our closed projects came in from Google Adwords.
Here's a few pictures:
Principles by Ray Dalio is basically a collection of all the wisdom Ray Dalio has ingrained. Halfway finishing the book I thought This book is amazing, but it has too many good lessons. How am I going to remember to apply these lessons when the situation arises?
The typical route for developing your own principles is to make a mistake, feel the pain of that pitfall and think, how could I have avoided that error? At which point your brain replies, You developed a wrong opinion about this person. Didn’t Ray Dalio say something about opinions in his book? At which point you flip back to the page and read:
This is nice to keep in mind for the next time a similar problem occurs, but wouldn’t life be easier if you didn’t have to go about making mistakes and learning from them — if you could see the situation and apply the right protocol?
The problem isn’t that we don’t have foresight, the problem is that when we’re going through life events, we don’t have a mental clarity to consciously remember to apply the right protocol to the right situation. If we were robots we could. If we we’re robots we could just set an IFTTT trigger event (or a Zapier) that pops up in our mind and tells us what to do. Obviously we’re not robots, but I think there’s something that clues us in on how to move toward this, and that something is If / Then statements (Conditional Statements).
I like to think a lot, and as a result of thinking a lot I come up with a lot of theories and mental models. When I was younger I was one of those “Why don’t you believe me!?” types, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that I had been wrong so many times, that just because a theory I came up with made sense to me, it could very likely be false.
But if I immediately dump my theories, then I think I could be dumping a lot of value. Because all high level work — anything conceptual or longterm lives in the realm of theory.
So how does one make sure they're not stuck in theory, and that they're actually getting results that apply to the real world?
In my opinion, the easy answer, and the answer you hear most often is: "take action”. While this is accurate advice, I think it’s one of those simplistic pieces of advice that doesn’t really get you anywhere.
I want this post to be helpful to you, but in order to do that, I need to quickly explain what I think theory is.