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Old March 19th, 2010, 07:38 PM   #1
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I've done some good work -- now what?

I'm a top BIOS engineer at a very prosperous and respected company which means I have a lot of technical savy and am well paid for it. Business wise I'm a total idiot!!

The thing is I'm blessed with a top paying job but have made some really stupid financial decisions in the past and over the past four years have been hit financially in ways that caused my financial reserves to dwindle to practically nothing (not including equity in house, 401K and such). My expenses (no credit cards or car payments -- thank God) versus savings are such that I could survive for 6 months and not much more if I had no income at all.

Technically, I have an intuition that has earned me higher and higher paying jobs which to my surprise has put me in a position where I can't really get out without downsizing to the point of hurting. Please remember I'm not whining here and I know that some are saying to themselves they wish they were so lucky. I'm just looking for a solution to a problem which my personality for some reason can't solve. (OK, I'm scared too)

Since my early twenties (more than 30 years now) I've wanted to enter a creative field and software engineering has allowed me to apply my creative side to some challenging and pioneering problems. I've found that for the past 10 years or so this has not been satisfying. My real passion has been and remains to be visual with some musical mixed in. I'm a visual person and video/photography is where I gravitate. My career has been so demanding and high pressured that I've not had any real opportunity to develop my natural talent. Yet, for the past two years I've found myself sitting in my cube at work trying to figure out how to make video my full time pursuit (shhhhh!!! don't tell my employeer!!!).

I know I've got what it takes to produce good and interesting video. Proof of that is a Telly award in 2008, the first and only time I've entered anything like that. That said, I've got lots to learn which is part of the attraction. Video to me is like a whole new frontier into which I've only been able to take short trips. Sorry, I digress...

Part of the reason my savings haven't been replenished is I've been making a large investment in video production equipment ranging from cameras to DTRs to lights to tripods to wireless mics -- prosumer and pro grade stuff. This along with post equipment and software like Adobe Production Premium and Sony Vegas Pro. I'm running these on a very respectible workstation and am set up for hot swapping hard drives and the whole deal. I'm set for equipment!!

Ok, enough of the boring background stuff. Here's where I'm heading. I want to quit my job and enter the business of video production. I don't have the financial heft to sustain any significant length of time without a reasonable income. I'm willing to take a large cut in pay in order to pursue the video and I have no children at home. My wife is very supportive of this dream.

Two problems are preventing me from just jumping in.

One is being a software engineer my social skills aren't that great. I get along great but just don't have the appeal that brings a lot of attention and frankly my personality type is such that I really don't care if I don't get a lot of attention. In otherwords, as a salesman I suck.

The other problem is I'm afraid of failing financially. If it were just me I'd probably have a different attitude but I'm providing a comfortable and fairly secure life for my wife and myself. I'm afraid of risking that and possibly making life really difficult.

I see wedding videos as being a way to make a start.

To establish a bit of credibility beside the Telly I mentioned and to gain some experience, my wife and I did a series of three weddings at no charge. In the process we discovered we really enjoy that and it also brings us closer together.

I've also developed an effective run and gun style shooting races (believe me when I say for us weddings require a lot more running).

I've created the S-corp etc. so am ready there as well. I've also been looking into insurance for losses and liability.

The market here is relatively small with a population of approximately 400,000 in the county.

So, I'm asking for advice. Any suggestions are appreciated. How to break away from the cube world I'm in and enter the open world of video? What I think is missing and I have no talent for (besides the bookkeeping) is effectively attracting business -- enough to pay the bills and afford some growth. Where I want to end up is a small business with two or three crews shooting weddings and corporate stuff.

For those of you who made it through this lengthy post thank you very much. I appreciate you taking the time to do so. Since you did that much I'd value your opinion and suggestions.

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Old March 19th, 2010, 08:42 PM   #2
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A couple of questions for you;

Did you get your high paying engineering job without any experience or did you attend college and earn your current position because of lots of experience? If the answer is "yes" why do you think video is any different and requires any less dedication?

There are literally thousands of professional television folk out of work right now. People who went to college for and dedicated their careers to their craft. How will you stand out and compete against these seasoned pros who have gone freelance since they've lost their jobs?

FYI 85% of people who apply for Telly's get them. They impress people who don't know better.

If you are a lousy businessman why would you leave a steady, decent paying job for a low paying job in which you are self taught and may or may not have talent? Can you make a living shooting weddings? How many would you need to shoot to keep your house, car, etc?

Finally, this job is 90% about social skills. Video people are some of the greatest "people people" you will ever meet. Why? Because we have to be gregarious and find other people interesting and easy to talk to. It's our job.

Just some very real world things to think about.
"The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not." Neil deGrasse Tyson http://www.nautilusproductions.com
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Old March 19th, 2010, 09:28 PM   #3
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I didn't mean to step on toes.

No, I didn't go to college to enter my software engineering career. I bought books from Goodwill, studied in the basement, raised the kids, did contract work to build a reputation and worked my way up.

I wasn't asking for discouragement. Those thoughts have already worked their way through my head. I was fishing for a tip or two.

So.... Disney, Fox News Channel, the Outdoor Channel etc. are diminished because they have a Telly or two and have wasted their time applying for and being awarded? I think you misunderstand the Telly. It's not to show who's top dog. The market does that. Instead, winning a Telly is really a recognition of having achieved a level of competance. A software engineering analogy is a Microsoft Networking certification. Thus, if 65% are awarded a Telly one year and 85% the next that's actually a measure of how well the submitters have improved as a whole.

I took a look at your web site. I see Nautilus Productions has been awarded a Telly too.

I'm sorry if the economy has been hard for you.

hhmmm... I guess the way to make it is to not be one of the thousands.
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Old March 19th, 2010, 10:01 PM   #4
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As I said in another thread, people become entrepenuers so they can work 80 hours a week for themselves instead of 40 hours a week for someone else.

Having said that, Steve, it doesn't matter what your background is what matters are 2 things. Your drive and desire to do something different from what you're doing and the ability to overcome the fear of failure. Everyone has it, (some don't admit it, some have it less than others but everyone has it).
I've been self employed for almost 38 years and her are some of the things I ask myself BEFORE I do something that requires either large cash outlay, has a HUGH risk of failure or could make me look really stupid.
OK here's what I ask myself. 1) what's the worst thing that could happen if I DO happen to fail 2) will anyone close to me get hurt or die if I fail?
If the answer to #1 is go bankrupt I don't pay attention. I almost did it twice over the years, but I'm a hard nosed, driven person who dosen't take crap from anyone and I WILL find a way out. I set no limits, no bounds. I'm all in or not at all. That's just the way I've lived my entire life and I'm gettin on toward...well lets just say I've been collecting my social security for a couple of years.
As for #2 as long as the answer is NO, then that's out of the equation so it's onward and upward for me.
Listen, you know the definition of insanity. It's doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It CAN NOT happen.
Can you do this, should you do this, what will happen if you fail at it...you can ask every question like this until you're too old to do it OR you can do it and if you have to pull the plug you do, but that's your choice to make.
Oh yeah I also keep in mind that when you think about things to long, the blood rushes to your head and you get cold feet.
Your choice but last thing. Don't defeat yourself before you get started.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 01:16 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Steve Isaacs View Post
I wasn't asking for discouragement. Those thoughts have already worked their way through my head. I was fishing for a tip or two.
I think you are being a bit defensive towards Rick's reply.

He did not discourage you, he gave you a dose of reality. Your topic is so broad that words of encouragement might be help to jump off of a cliff. To be fair, your post sounded like you had no experience with video production.

As with all creative fields, you have to take a chance and make something for yourself. That is it in a nutshell. If that is scary for you, then maybe you should do video part time until you can make a more informed decision.

You do not have to do it full time to do it well. But as you know, it is not easy, the work or finding the work.

Only you can make these decisions. Maybe more specific questions can give you more precise answers.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 08:46 AM   #6
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Hi Steve,

As I understand your situation, you will have two steep learning curves:

1) How to develop the skill to produce creative, beautiful videos of people getting married in a range of styles that are matched to each individual cusomer's desires, by understanding what the prospective customers (all will be at least a little different) will really love when you present the final package to them, and

2) How to run a small business with all the aspects of sales and marketing, financial management, accounting, invoicing and bill collecting, legal contracting, etc.

If you are too nervous to go for the whole bundle all at once, why not keep your day job until you build the confidence needed. Give yourself two years as a part-time wedding videographer to test the waters and learn like crazy.

Set the mission for your new company to match your goals. Perhaps something like: "Steve's company mission is to produce creative, beautiful videos of people getting married in a range of styles that are matched to each individual cusomer's desires." Set the vision to be something like: "Steve's company will make 50 wonderful wedding videos per year at a gross revenue of $XXX,XXX per year and a comfortable profit over expenses." Set the goals for the first two years to be: Year #1, Complete six excellent wedding videos and break even (make sure your time and expenditures are part of the equation). Year #2, Complete 5 wonderful and 10 excellent wedding videos and end up with a profit.

At the end of year two as a learner and experimenter, assess how well you have done and predict your future success based on what you have learned. Can you achieve the mission and vision of your company over the next five years if you go at it full time?

Many happy and creative small businesses are essentially very expensive hobbies managed so that you earn enough to be a happy creative person. Most new small businesses (about 85%) fail because they are run as hobbies focussing on the creative activities with too little attention to the business activities.

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Old March 20th, 2010, 10:11 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Steve Isaacs View Post

So, I'm asking for advice. Any suggestions are appreciated. How to break away from the cube world I'm in and enter the open world of video?
To be brutally honest with you, you're kindof caught in a catch-22 of sorts. You make decent money now (I assume), but to break out onto your own, would still need to make alot of money, to keep up with you relative standard of living, mortgage, retirement plans etc. Just an example, but someone making $100K/year with a $3000/month mortgage probably will have higher needs & expectations that someone making $35k/year who rents. Once you understand this, you'll realize it's a bit more challenging for you than others. (For the record, I'm just offering feedback, I'm not a fulltime video person. Like you, I work in a cube). There's a "Are you a fulltime or partime videographer" thread here, which offers insight, and many other similar threads on here to yours.

Having said all that, honestly my advice is to scrap the "Quit your day job" idea and keep plugging away at it on the side. I know it's not what you want to hear, but it's probably for the best. It was for me, and reluctantly I accepted my fate.It takes a long time to build up a good referral base in weddings, and marketing really only gets you so many leads. Especially since you might not have much of a demo reel. I'd advise you think about your niche, and what you want to become a specialist in? Weddings, Corporate, Television Commercials/Advertising. Pick one, and promote that, yet be willing to do the others as well. Also, get a killer website. I know a little about dreamweaver and built a fairly decent one all by myself. I can't tell you the increase in amount of inquiries I recv'd as opposed to just sending youtube or vimeo links.

Hope this helps. Good luck. And remember, alot of us are in the same boat as you, its' takes time to build up and alot of learning experiences along the way.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 11:00 AM   #8
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Steve -
You've gotten some good replies, and sounds like you've got a good "start", you've done some projects, so the tech side isn't a big worry if the clients you've dealt with already are happy.

There's lots of information available on running a business, and you need to put the skeleton/framework in place - someone has to cover accounting, legal, management, etc. May not be the "fun" stuff, but must be done.

People skills are another area you seem to be afraid of, how about joining the local Rotary club or similar organization? Get two birds for one entry fee - you get to learn to speak, and you probably will find clients for your services... some of the wedding guys are having success with Facebook, which is another "social networking" outlet <wink>.

No reason to bail your "day job", even if you hate it, figure out how to work those extra 40 hours Don mentioned "on the side", plan them out and make the most of every one of them, making sure that every effort is put into building your business. If it's going to go, you'll know fairly soon whether you really want to be an entrepreneur or not (some people are NOT suited for it), and if you can bring in enough income to support your lifestyle, at which point you can set out a plan for the 40 hours of free time you'll ahave if you quit the day job, and then jump with a little less fear.

Don speaks volumes on a practical level when he says there are risks to any situation (including many people who discover "secure" day jobs aren't), and that perseverance with a solid business plan and a "worst case scenario" that you already realize isn't THAT bad is good, sounds quite familiar to me <wink>. Excellent wise words, think on them for a bit!
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Old March 20th, 2010, 11:28 AM   #9
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I took the plunge August 1st after deciding 30 years in the clinical laboratory world was enough. I'd tried to do video in my spare time, but my schedule was too inflexible. It was either take the plunge or forget about the dream. Listen to the guys on this forum. They are a BIG help.

It's been tough getting the business off the ground, but jobs are trickling in. Have even had a repeat customer.

You will need to spend a lot of time and effort on learning to market your business. Customers only care so much about your equipment. If your work looks good, and you come across as friendly and trustworthy, you will start to get work.

Don't expect it to be easy. It is very hard starting a new business. But, just ask Don, the rewards are there. I for one look forward to work instead of dreading it. Building a business is an exciting challenge. Persistence is required. Lot's of persistence.

As you make mistakes, learn to correct them. Get a lawyer, an accountant, form relationships with other business people you already know and trust.

Good luck.

Oh yeah, know the difference between a visionary and a dreamer? One passionately and purposefully pursues his dream. Of course, don't take foolish risks. Learn all you can. Keep on trying.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 03:43 PM   #10
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Personally, I just think it comes down to what kind of person you are...

I've never been very good at working for other people. I was constantly a mediocre employee. I tried going to college, decided I didn't like it.... I then spent a year and a half in china working for the Venetian Macau... saved up some money and decided that I'd finally do what I was always talking about doing, but too scared to do.

I came back to the states, started my video business.... I talked to some people who gave some great advice, and within 3 months I was making more than I ever had before.... which wasn't a ton, but still... more than the average American was making at the time, and I was only 21.

I didn't work 80 hours a week... most of the time i didn't work 40 hours a week, and I still don't... I didn't get a big break, or get really lucky... I just enjoy what I do, and I found a few things that have worked really well.

So, I think it comes down to what you want and what kind of person you are. You sound like you have the mind of an entrepreneur to me... but I could be wrong.

Whether you believe you will do it or you believe you won't.... you're right.
To see more, check out my blog: http://www.startavideobusiness.com
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Old March 20th, 2010, 04:55 PM   #11
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Thanks for the comments. Rather than respond individually I thought I'd make a list. I know you all have communicated more than this short list but here's what I've gathered as I see it applies to me.

(unnamed): Once in a while you'll get rapped on the head for poking it up a bit. Ignore that and in spite of the approach there may be useful information.

Don: Don't worry about failure. Be prepared to get up, dust off and go again. Don, I think you embody the saying envision the best and prepare for the worst. btw: As far as hours go the way I see it is if one's work matches one's passion then the work doesn't seem like work and one does it anyway. That's what I want to achieve.

Alan: Do things to build confidence. Ease into it if necessary. Above all set reasonable goals and keep them in mind.

David: Either prepare to downsize or maintain video as a possible money option on the side. Also, find the niche to fit in. David, you get it. I'll checkout the thread you mentioned. Right now I'm going to remain at the end of the diving board a bit longer before deciding to either jump or back away. btw: Don't get me wrong about the cube thing. I have a great employeer, daily challenges and I work with some really great people some of whom have been my customers and are now some references. It's just I feel guilty some times being distracted from my work there.

Dave: Just admit it. The work of business has to be done so learn how -- and possibly get some help. Also, don't risk too much if it's not necessary. Get involved with something which will help develop the "people skills" and network at the same time (do I have too? don't answer). Good advice. btw: I've had a Facebook page going on a whole two weeks now. My current project is a fund raiser web video for a small charity that's building schools and providing university scholarships in Guatemala. That's getting me noticed from Portland, OR to Washington DC.

Roger: I'm doing it and so can you but it won't just happen. Thanks Roger it's good to see someone making it over the top of the fence.

TJ: No need to get rich just "enjoy what I do". Do what fits. Wise attitude and thanks for the reminder. Carl Jung wrote in so many words that when one is in an environment that doesn't match one's personality it can lead to insanity (sounds gloomy). I like to turn that around and say when one is in an environment that suites their nature cool things can happen.

I hope I didn't misinterpret too much or miss a key point. I appreciate all your responses having come from the perspective of having done it. That's helpful and encouraging. Still leaves me with a decision or two which is another reason the advice and tips are useful. I'd been worried if I'd been presented with a cook-book solution.

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Old March 21st, 2010, 08:09 AM   #12
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In a previous life I was a technical guy and made the switch to a creative field. Even if you have talent and good gear etc, managing the transition, unless you have boatloads of cash, is the challenging part.

I would just add, to hang onto your day job as long as you can while pushing your creative business forward. Talk with working pros near you, buy um a beer, pick their brain, get constructive feedback on your work, your biz plan, your marketing plan, etc. All good pros will be busy but most all will also remember how hugely helpful someone was to them and want to do the same for you - cultivate that for sure.

Lastly, in a bad economy even the best and brightest and most established will suffer. If you can work hard to get all your ducks in a row so that when good times return you are ready to dive in that will up your odds at getting going. As much as individual prep and talent matter, the phrase "a rising tide lifts all ships" is spot on in our case.

good luck :)
Greg Kiger St Louis Mo www.GreenBridgeFilms.com
Sony EX1 / Canon 5Dm2 / Cool Lights / DP1x / Marshall / Oktava / Sanken / Kessler
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Old March 24th, 2010, 08:40 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
As I said in another thread, people become entrepenuers so they can work 80 hours a week for themselves instead of 40 hours a week for someone else.
While this may be true for you Don it isn't true for everyone. There are weeks that I put in a lot of hours but for the most part I work less than 40 and have been doing so somewhat successfully for the past 2 years since I broke out on my own. Working less is part of my business plan.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 10:37 AM   #14
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No it's not true for everyone, it's just an old saying that's been around longer than I have. Being an entrpeneur and running a business of ones own is not for everyone. Some people make better employees than business owners and many business owners are not good employees. some biz owners set themselves up for failure while others do whatever is necessary to succeed and the best part is everyone is different and has a different way to do whatever it is that they are doing. Different business plans, different thought processes, different attitudes and I always say, you do what works for you.
I too have always hated the idea of working for others and knew way back when, that my ideas were "better" than theirs, well at least in my mind they were. lol! Some worked some didn't, oh well. I guess what I'm trying to say is as a business owner most people are will to work harder for themselves than for someone else.
I'm glad that your plan has been and is working for you, perhaps one day we'll meet up on the beach while relaxing in retirement.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old March 24th, 2010, 11:17 AM   #15
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You mean I get to retire??

Seriously, well said Don
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