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Taking Care of Business
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Old September 29th, 2008, 02:47 AM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
Posts: 1,606
time management

A friend who runs his own media business has hit a bit of a wall - he's eager to build up the business and has taken on too much. Some of it no pay, some low pay and not enough right pay. He has a scheduling nightmare and is no doubt working 26 hours a day to cope.

He was going to DOP a short for me but we'll delay that - the trouble is, most of the projects can't be delayed once they're organised (I think there's an indy feature in there somewhere)

that got me thinking - a lot of you must have gone through this, chasing work to build a business/reputation and you must have done freebies & jobs at or below cost etc etc etc.

what have you learned about time management? about scheduling work? about assessing the viability of projects?

what pearls of wisdom can you lay before me - and others starting up the ladder?
Cheers - Paul M.
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Old September 29th, 2008, 06:04 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Posts: 1,538

Off the top of my head without any pre-thought, here are some ideas for you...

In the beginning - with little practical experience or demonstrable success - anyone's work is worth little. So that's all you can charge. Without experience and tools, you don't bring anything but energy and a desire to learn, and few people are willing to pay too much for that.

Once upon a time, having the tools was enough to get a toe in the door. No longer. Anyone can get the tools. So the ONLY thing left to separate players is experience - plus that difficult to quantify TALENT thing. Talent without experience goes off track too easily, so your friend is very right to scratch and claw to get that EXPERIENCE. Even if he or she lives off beans in the interim.

The rest of what you're talking about, time management, scheduling, and assessing project viability only become important if you can hang on through the startup process and start to build a real business.

Time management is forced on you - learn it or fail. Scheduling competence is also forced on you - learn it or fail. And there's no way to learn these things save by doing them over and over and over - figuring out your strengths and weaknesses and improving over time.

As to assessing project/client viability - that's actually pretty easy. Look at the people who want you to do work for them and judge what THEY have tangibly accomplished up to this point in their careers.

A client with nothing but a briefcase or a dream is always pretty suspect. One with a physical location with perhaps a couple of employees that's been around a year or two is still suspect, but less so. A client within a larger organization is safer yet. That business has proven to understand how to manage profit and loss and grow. When you get to work with this level of client - listen and LEARN!

I suppose this week you could make the argument that being the video vendor for Merrill Lynch might have LOOKED solid, but that went POOF and now the team at BofA gets all that work. But that's just business. Stuff changes. Always.

The underlying principal is still solid. Clients want video people with proven records of performance. Video people should look for clients with the same attributes if you want to grow your business.

Clients come and go. So does equipment. So do fads related to the aesthetic stuff. Only your personal talent and abilities remain always with you and hopefully grow over time. So concentrate on and invest in THEM.

Pretty much as simple as that.
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Old September 30th, 2008, 12:34 AM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Victoria, BC
Posts: 202
Bill, i've been doing it for a couple years part time so i'm not a green thumb anymore, regardless, I found your points to be wise and inspiring. Cheers!
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Old September 30th, 2008, 05:02 AM   #4
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Pembrokeshire, Wales
Posts: 734
Back to the time management question

The hardest thing is learning to say "no" when you really don't have time.

Learn to use a time management program, or a just a diary or spreadsheet. Write down what you need to do each day to complete a project. And as soon as you miss something (you forgot to include it, couldn't find time to do it, realised you need to do it again, etc), reschedule it as soon as possible.

By actually writing things down, you can see where the gaps are in your schedule, and will be better able to see if or when you can fit other things in.

Don't forget to schedule in some down time for yourself. It was quite a revelation when factory owners first allowed people to work six days a week instead of seven - productivity actually went up! It still applies. Burning yourself out mentally, physically and/or emotionally doesn't get you anywhere.

How do I know? Been there, done it, got the tee-shirt. Now have a spreadsheet with columns for the information etc that I need (not what some computer whizz-kid in some other universe thinks I need).

This week is supposed to be down time for me. My husband has other ideas, and it looks as hectic as the last six months. But at least I'm doing something different for a few days, and I get to spend some time with him. My father always said a change is as good as a rest.

Next week I get time to take the video camera out of its bag again!
Canon XH A1; Canon XF100; Nikon D800
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