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Contemplating Self Employment

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Chris Warren
Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 27, 2012 at 6:09:18 pm

Hello guys. For several years I have wanted to move into the self employment world and feel like I am very close to making the final jump(and quit my full time job) I have been reading a lot of threads on the forums here and thought I might throw this out to the community and see what advice, suggestions, or thoughts some of you experienced folks may have to offer.

Let me give you an idea of my situation: I am a full-time single dad, I work full time as a video editor, and I am constantly busy with freelance projects.
About 8 moths ago I left a job that I absolutely loved for a job with a bigger paycheck. I find this current job very mundane, unfulfilling, and somewhat soul crushing. The idea was that I could use the boost in income in order to beef up my video equipment, and after about a year or so, quit and go Freelance full-time.

Here are some of the factors
-I am tired of working 60+ hours per week and want to work at home and spend more time with my daughter.
-I will kill myself(and probably others) if I have to go to a 9-5 and sit in an office
-I love the freelance work I do, especially getting out to do location stuff
-My daughter is 10, loves helping me out, and dreams of working with me when she gets older (she shoots and edits her own projects now)

Although I obviously want to be successful, financial gain is not the main goal - freedom is. I am simply looking to achieve a peaceful balance in my life by enjoying what I do, and spending time with my daughter. I don't need a large home or larger vehicle to be happy. Sure I fantasize about someday opening my own business/studio but not at the expense of my sanity.

Is freelance for me, or do I try to find a new job with steady pay that I can again fall in love with?

ChrisW
http://www.azprovideo.com


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Ned Miller
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 5:12:16 am

I visited your site. There is no way you can survive offering complete videos for $400. Forget about getting rich, your first goal is survival. You may be a great editor but if you don't have the business aspect down you can't be on your own, because basically freelancing is running your own business.

I have been freelancing for 30 years. Your expenses will be higher than you expect although you can write more off. So my advice is get that home page offer of $400 videos off your site and move up the local production food chain so you have a chance of making it. The one main benefit is that you can have a home office so you'll see your daughter more but...when you're not shooting and editing, as a freelancer you will be spending all your other waking hours looking for new clients, billing, repairs, trying to collect, etc. You will be happier on your own but only if you survive. It's a very Darwinian field and only the best freelancers make it over time. There are many people who don't have the stomach for the financial ups and downs. You must be a saver to make it, like a squirrel getting ready for the winter. It really helps to be part of a couple, especially if she has a steady job that provides you with health insurance coverage.

Also, don't make the leap until you've lined up clients you know you can count on, without poaching them from your present employer. Perhaps offer to work as a freelancer for your current boss until you can wean yourself away. And most importantly, don't do anything until you figure out what to do about health insurance. That's the most common topic among freelancers right after who is a slow payer!

The advice I give the folks on my crews just starting out is: Anyone who is some what technical and half way creative can produce a video, especially now with the ease of use and low cost of entry, but only a very small portion will survive by figuring out how to make it as a business, generating a sustainable living month in and month out. That's the hard part. I know because I've witnessed it for so long. Look for good, deep pocket clients who need video regularly. Add a ZERO to that figure on your website, don't bottom feed and you might make it.

Good luck!

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer
http://www.nedmiller.com


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Steve Modica
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 2:21:05 pm

Doing military work at Small Tree, we learned an awful lot about accounting. The government makes us use a model called "cost plus fixed fee". The way it works is like this:

You get a budget to do some work. You can submit an invoice against that budget each month.
On that invoice you will have:

Direct costs (labor, materials and things spent directly on the contract)
Fringe (a pro rated amount of your vacation, sick, healthcare etc based on the percentage of revenue derived from govt work multiplied by your labor hours)
Indirect/Independent R&D (a pro rated amount based on the "overhead" in your business not tied directly to the contract. You use a ratio of govt vs all business and multiply this percentage by all direct costs)
Fee (this is a pre-negotiated profit you get to add on)

I mention this because I think most independent contractors use a cost plus model. They figure it'll take them X hours to do the job and they want $Y per hour. Ultimately, they are saying it'll cost me X, so I'll charge them X+(what I think is fair).

There's a serious problem with this. If you only have one customer, it's unlikely the X hours will fill all your time and a large portion of your indirect (and fringe) costs will go unmet.

To do it right, you must calculate all those costs and get them built in so you're making enough money to survive and your customers are paying the true cost of the work. What's covering your rent, property taxes, phone bill, machine depreciation, software costs etc? What happens when your machine is obsolete and you need a new one? Have you built up capital to buy one?

Steve

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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Mark Landman
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 1:46:48 pm

I've had people tell me "It must be nice to be self-employed. You can work whatever hours you want." My response is usually something along the lines of "Yeah. You can work whatever 80 hours a week you want."
Self-employment can be very rewarding - at least emotionally and intellectually if not always financially. It most definitely is not for the faint of heart.
Good luck.


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Chris Tompkins
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 2:15:12 pm

It's a huge leap of faith. It sounds like it might be a lifestyle that fits you. Like others have mentioned, DON'T offer to make videos for 400 bucks. Good lord a typical day of production for a 1 man crew with lighting and audio will cost on average $600-$1400 depending on market. That's just for a shoot day.

You can get low premium health insurance policy that are for catastrophic only and save on the monthly premiums but you need cash for the little things.


Can you live off the free-lance revenue you have now?
Do you have 6 months living expenses saved up to fall back on?

Chris Tompkins
Video Atlanta LLC


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Chris Warren
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 5:14:53 pm

Thanks for the advice Chris. I am trying to determine the correct point to actually make the switch. I think saving up 6 months worth of living expenses will be part of that. No, I wont be able to live off what I am making in Freelance right now(I am about a third of the way there). I guess the biggest holdup for me right now is time. I often don't have enough free time with my full time job to take on all the other projects I would like. Sometimes I feel like If I could get outta there, I would be able to focus on bringing in clients.

The types of clients I am trying to focus on are larger clients that have an ongoing need for regular work.

"You are the universe experiencing itself"
ChrisW
http://www.azprovideo.com


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Chris Tompkins
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 5:17:49 pm

Sounds like you should go for it!

Chris Tompkins
Video Atlanta LLC


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Ned Miller
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 5:52:07 pm

You don't need 6 months savings, that would take forever to accumulate, three months should do. Often when you're freelancing you need to dip into your savings, even when you're very busy, because some jobs go on for so long it takes awhile to get paid. Many companies can't give you upfront money, especially if you're a new vendor. Everyone has an excuse why your check is held up. Your line of credit may be your lowest rate credit card.

First, make two spread sheets, one personal the other business and figure out exactly, and realistically, what your nut will be. Avoid fixed expenses. I am constantly going over my two budgets. Don't be too optimistic, remember Hope is not a business strategy.

Secondly, you should NEVER TURN DOWN WORK, even if you're too busy to do it yourself. What I mean is find a friendly competitor, someone you can trust (which is difficult to find) and pass the work onto him or her for a percentage. Then when you do take the step you will have some clients who have been "taken care of" by your associate. This way you can be busy at your staff gig yet have a revenue stream, even if it's just 5-10%, and be collecting clients. I have done this both ways: sometimes I farm the work out, other times it is farmed out to me, including from allies with staff gigs. So never turn down work, just turn it over to someone competent you can trust.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer
http://www.nedmiller.com
www,bizvideo.com


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Chris Warren
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 28, 2012 at 7:27:28 pm

Thanks Ned this is some very good information for me. I am in the process of gathering as much information and forming a strong strategy right now, so all of this information is very helpful. Hoping to make the jump in the next 6 months.

I have read a lot of these "Anyone have advice for going into business?" threads on here and thought it would be a good idea to open up the question again with my situation.

"You are the universe experiencing itself"
ChrisW
http://www.azprovideo.com


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Bob Zelin
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 29, 2012 at 5:43:27 pm

this is my opinion. It's only my opinion. I apologize for offending you - I offend everyone. I am just expressing my opinion.

You should not go freelance with your attitude. Working 9-5 is killing you ! I wish I could work 9-5.
Let me give you a dose of reality, my friend. A couple of days ago, my mother in law (81 years old) fell ill and had to go to the hospital. But I have a big job to build 20 new FCP systems, all that will go on a network. I am writing this to you on a Saturday. I have been working non stop - and I will continue this all day today, and all day tomorrow - and keep going until it's done.

But what about my mother in law (and my wife's feelings) - I am going to take my wife to the hospital, and pop in to say hi to my mother in law for a few minutes. Then, I am going back home to continue this work. Yes, I am getting paid A LOT OF MONEY to do this - that is the motivation. But instead of having a nice free wonderful day outside, I am here, in front of (the other) Mac Pro, building new systems, cloning drives, and making them unique to each other. It's a time consuming process.

So what is the reward - I will take my wife out late this evening for a very nice expensive dinner, but I will continue with this tomorrow. Until I am done - on Sunday, and however long it takes.

I do not feel that becoming a successful freelancer lets you have a peaceful balanced life. You become consumed with this - getting new clients, keeping up with new technology, and of course, doing the work that your freelance clients are willing to pay you a lot of money to do. So you can send your daughter to dance class, ballet lessons, buy her a new car when she is old enough, send her off to an expensive college, maybe once in a while go on a wonderful expensive vacation with her - but overall, you are going to be working ALL THE TIME. And when you say "I made enough this month, I am going to blow off all the clients that are calling me, because I want to spend the next 2 weeks with my daughter" - your clients will find someone else, and won't call you again.

Being a successful freelancer is torture. The only reward is the money. You will have nice stuff, and you will be able to have nice things, and get nice things for your family. You will not have a "peaceful, pleasant" life.

Again - just my opinion.

Bob Zelin



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Mark Suszko
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 29, 2012 at 6:45:02 pm

Bob's advice here carries great wisdom.

Freelancing has many rewards, but they all come at a relative cost. If spending more quality time with the kids is the goal, Bob points out that freelancing, done RIGHT, actually consumes more of your attention than a more mundane job does.

Just as an alternative to ponder, consider variations on the 9-to-5 that include flextime or job-sharing. Both of these enable you to be more available to the kid during the weekdays, as well as having longer 3-day weekends, at a reduction in pay, but continuing the steady income and benefits you need for stability.
I feel a parent should concentrate more on stability, in terms of being there for the kid, than in a certain quantity of time or money available.

And "quality time" with your kid is a moving target: as they grow older, they naturally want to and need to become more independent of you, to grow into their own persons. Your job as a parent is to make yourself unnecessary as soon as practical, to launch them into the world, not to hold on so tight they never leave. My kids are approaching college age and they have jobs or school extracurriculars and friends/peers they spend a lot of time with now. This as Harry Chapin's song points out is the way of things.

In your head, you're always going to be there having dinners together, but the reality is that if they are thriving, you will see less and less of the kids and almost nothing of them once they get to college age. When they stabilize into a first career and then their own long term personal relationships, and they begin building families of their own, you get together again more often, as adults, on a more even level, with new insights to share. Don't concentrate so much on the quantity of time spent now, but on the QUALITY of those formative experiences. Work on events and outings and activities that build memories as well as form character. Those don't always need to be expensive endeavors, either, in terms of money or time.

Also, to get back to business for a minute...

.... there are actually clients that actually accept cost-plus today?!?!? That went away in the late eighties/early nineties, I thought. Certainly in advertising its no longer the rule, since clients finally figured out that cost-plus gives the contractor no incentive to hold down costs; rather, the more the costs go up, the more the contractor makes in his percentage off those costs. If you don't keep a lid on that, it spirals out of control. I'm shocked at the statement the government forces you to accept cost-plus, or maybe I'm interpreting "cost-plus" differently.


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Ned Miller
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 29, 2012 at 7:36:31 pm

Bob is correct except for one very important thing he has wrong:

Never buy your kid a new car. Goes to their head and makes their friends jealous.

Go with CarMax.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer
http://www.nedmiller.com
www,bizvideo.com


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John Davidson
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 29, 2012 at 7:56:20 pm

Better yet, a beat up tiny pickup truck is best. They'll never be asked to drive a group of friends anywhere and you'll always have somebody around to take out your 'too big for the can' trash!

John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 29, 2012 at 9:23:33 pm

Better yet, tell your kid to avoid buying a car as long as possible: for a young person, its an anchor, financially shackling them to stay home instead of moving out. All the money you make at a minimum wage job gets eaten up by car loans and maintenance. My fiancee' never owned a car, used taxis and the bus or rides in my car, and that saved enough money over time to finance our entire wedding and honeymoon.

Pickup trucks as date discouragers? You realize what else you can do in the bed of a pickup truck, right? A real date-discouragng car is a tiny econo-box with a large center console.


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John Davidson
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 29, 2012 at 9:32:21 pm

Not a date discourager - a group discourager (Ie, 6 kids piling in his/her car all talking and joking and distracting the driver).

The Davidson's don't hit puberty till college and my wife is a 5 ft tall Japanese woman. Any child of mine will likely have no problem avoiding the dating scene, especially if he or she is anything like Dad!

John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.


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Doug Collins
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Oct 1, 2012 at 4:17:16 pm

Not sure that would discourage groups of kids either. Way back when while I was in the Marines, one day, at the end of the day, I was the only one with a vehicle (a small 4-cylender pick-up) to get from our duty site back to the barracks....ended up with nineteen Marines in that truck....five of us in the cab. Oh by the way it was a stick shift which made things very interesting! I think they were three deep in the back. Only did it once, won't ever do it again, hopefully the OP's kid is smarter than I was!

Doug


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Chris Warren
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 30, 2012 at 1:17:12 am

Fist off Bob, my prayers and best wishes to your mother-in-law.

Secondly, I appreciate your opinion. I have been poking around these forums for awhile and have read a lot of your posts. Truth be told I was secretly hoping for a response from you because of how much I value your business sense, knowledge and yes, your opinion. You're kind of a virtual guru of mine and I have learned quite a bit from you here.

However, Yours is not a life that I desire. Your life sounds like a death sentence to me. I hope I never became so consumed with my job and money that the rest of my life becomes a secondary thought.
I find that my personal values and goals in life differ greatly from almost anyone I have ever talked to in the business world, where financial success seems to be the point of life.

Again Bob, I respect your genius,experience and wisdom but seriously, "The only reward is the money"? I edit video because I love it. If I wasn't getting paid to edit video right now do you know what I would be doing? Editing video! The church I used to work for calls me to do projects for them occasionally and they have no idea how thrilled that makes me, not for the money but because I friggin love to animate elephants and goldfish and crap for pre-schoolers(my favorite part is doing the voices). Makes me feel like my life has value and worth. I realize it's not all editing all the time and that there is balance of sales/business/hard work that factors into the equation. But I promise you that the day I stop loving what I'm doing is the day I decide to stop doing it.

It's not the 9-5 hours that I hate, it is the mundane routine that comes with a 9-5 job. I don't know how to tie a neck tie and I hope I never learn.
I am willing to admit that I may be a fool that will get eatten up in the freelance world, and may struggle to pay for my kids collage, and maybe I should get out of freelance altogether and go back to painting houses. I also realize that I like to dream bigger than is likely possible, and there are probably a lot of folks that think, this guy has got a lot to learn about what its like out there, But honestly, what ever path I end up on will be the right one as long as I stay true to myself.

Please don't misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not under the impression that I can just work a few hours a week and skip through life with a smile and a flower. I work my ass off, but I make a personal choice to draw a line somewhere. If that means I drive a 09 Subaru instead of '12 Lexus then that is fine with me. I have no intention making up for my absence to my family by throwing money at them. I'd rather spend an afternoon with my daughter at the park or playing guitar than buying her some crap ass piece of expensive technology she doesn't need. Her car will be a Schwinn unless she has a job and earns it on her own.

I spent all last night finishing an animation project and all day with my daughter, and now I need to get back to this wedding video while my daughter is in the living room planning a sleepover with the neighbor kid(When she asks, I'll act like this is a big deal, but I already know I'm gonna say yes)

Anyways, I hope you don't hate me cause you're one of the guys I look up to on here!

"You are the universe experiencing itself"
ChrisW
http://www.azprovideo.com


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Bob Zelin
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 30, 2012 at 4:46:49 pm

a couple of more things from my "2 cents" opinions.

1) you have NO IDEA of how painful it will be paying for Medical Insurance for your family by yourself.
Medical insurance is obscene, and if you are covered by it for your family right now, you have no idea of what you are about to get yourself into. I assume that you don't want to base your family life by just showing up to the emergency room, and hoping that they will help you for free.

2) when you do work for clients, many clients will not pay you when you need the money. Most will not say "boy Chris, you did a great job, here is your check". Trying to get paid is part of the aggrivation of a freelancer (as well as constantly searching for new clients). Technically, this is called having a "cash flow" problem.

3) as for "the 9 to 5 grind" - it will always be a grind. But I look at what I do for a living, and it's a lot better than digging ditches, or working as a bank teller, or hotel employee. I always use the example - even if you are a rock star, and you are Madonna, or Lady Gaga, or The Eagles (or whoever you listen to) - you will go out and sing the SAME DAMN SONGS month after month, year after year, and get back on the tour bus, go to the next city, and play the same damn songs. And when the years pass, and you write new material - no one wants to hear your new material - they want to hear the same songs that they grew up with, and so, to get your paycheck, you play the SAME DAMN SONGS (and get back on the bus and go to the next city).

If you are a top heart surgeon, no one will give you the opportunity to do plastic surgery, or skin grafts. You will do your specialty over and over and over. So, if you are a great graphics guy - people will hire you to do graphics, and if you are a great camera man, they won't say "Chris does everything" - they will hire you to do camera, and you will have to beg to do graphics.

And just to be more depressing (which I usually am) - while I fully understand that you want to savor every moment that you can with your loving daughter right now at this age - once she hits 15 or 16, she is probably not going to want to spend lots of time with you - and all of a sudden, her friends will become the most important thing to her - and not you (even though she will still love you) - and so, you will have all this time to do other stuff (like your career).

There is nothing wrong with painting houses. As there is nothing wrong with doing home repair, electrical work, plumbing, security systems, gardening, etc. These are all profitable careers to be proud of - but if you are doing it by yourself, you will find that it is a LOT OF WORK, and you may not have the free time that you think you will.

Again - just my stupid opinion.

Bob Zelin



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Chris Warren
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 30, 2012 at 5:32:04 pm

I wouldn't classify your opinion as stupid. I value the opinion of someone that has your experience, that is one reason I come here to the Cow, to grab info from those that have gone before me. As for myself, I certainly don't have anywhere near the years and experience that you and some of the other folks here do, but I am definitely not some young kid fresh outta school. I began working in audio production in 1996 and made the professional transition to video around 2001. I have been doing freelance work for about 10 years and have built up a small client base as well as a bit of my own experience.
To respond to your points:

1) I began covering my own insurance about 5 or 6 years ago
2) Couldn't agree more, I learned the hard way never to count on money that isn't in my hands.
3) I always thought that too about most "rock stars". However, there are artists such as The Grateful Dead or Phish that don't rely on setlists, and mundane formats, and love to get creative with their songs and incorporate spontaneity and improvisation. Same thing with jazz, Some of the most mind-blowing live music I have ever heard was completely improvised jazz.

I guess I am really more of an improvisational Freelance Jazz Editor
-I think I will print that on my business cards.

"You are the universe experiencing itself"
ChrisW
http://www.azprovideo.com


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walter biscardi
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 30, 2012 at 4:59:42 pm

[Chris Warren] "-I am tired of working 60+ hours per week and want to work at home and spend more time with my daughter. "

I started my own company back in 2001 after a three partnership with another guy on my first company. 60 hour work weeks are welcome respites from the usual never-ending workweek. When you work for yourself you MUST be available almost every waking moment via email / text / etc..... When they know you work at home, the clients expect you to work 24/7 since you don't have to go anywhere.

And you have to work VERY HARD to keep your clients, expand your client roster and just keep up the quality work your clients expect.


[Chris Warren] "-I will kill myself(and probably others) if I have to go to a 9-5 and sit in an office"

Well, you did say you left a good job for more money. In this industry, more money does not necessarily equal creative and job enjoyment. I know that firsthand which is why I got out of corporate work and started my own company.


[Chris Warren] "-I love the freelance work I do, especially getting out to do location stuff
-My daughter is 10, loves helping me out, and dreams of working with me when she gets older (she shoots and edits her own projects now)"


That's great that you love the work and certainly more fun getting your daughter involved. I'm amazed at the quality of the young kids today. I'm currently working with some high school kids on an animation project for an upcoming documentary.

I created a three part "Starting Your Own Business" series for the Creative Cow a few years ago and pretty much everything in there still applies. Except that I believe it's even harder to start your own business today and build a name because EVERYONE can be a video producer today. Tools are so cheap that it's harder to get a foothold and hold it. But pretty much all my thoughts are in the series, hope it's helpful.

http://blogs.creativecow.net/blog/273/your-own-business-part-1-are-you-read...

http://blogs.creativecow.net/blog/277/your-own-business-part-2-setting-up-s...

http://blogs.creativecow.net/blog/300/your-own-business-part-3-running-buil...

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Chris Warren
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 30, 2012 at 6:09:40 pm

Thanks for the response Walter!
I bookmarked and read those articles a while back. Very helpful!
In fact the section where you talk about saying No to certain potential pain-in-the-ass clients led me to cut loose an ongoing cheapo client that was paying almost nothing for what was really just a headache. The funny part is, she just emailed the other day saying she has been struggling with finding someone else, and is willing to pay full price to do the work "right"

The reason I switched jobs was to build up enough cash to actually make the switch to freelance, what I realized in the process is how much I hate office jobs. I may struggle to find the time to take a weekend off to go away with the kid when I am self employed, but at least I don't have to fill out a "Time off request sheet"

I don't think I really expect to work less, Just be away less. I find that part of me loves the nights when my kid falls asleep on the floor of the home office while I edit way into the night and next morning drinking tea and eating chips. For some reason 80 hours at home just feels way better that 40 hours in an office to me.


"You are the universe experiencing itself"
ChrisW
http://www.azprovideo.com


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Tim Wilson
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 30, 2012 at 6:40:12 pm

[walter biscardi] "60 hour work weeks are welcome respites from the usual never-ending workweek."

It's funny that the phrase "60 hour weeks" keeps coming up, because my wife and I had a joke about that around the video production company we ran:

What do you call a 60-hour week? VACATION!!!

The lightning round:
  • Every client reduces the flexibility of your schedule by half
  • You have a potentially infinite number of bosses
  • ...and none of them is in a hurry to pay you, no matter what.


Bob's example of his mother-in-law's illness is a good one. "Making your own schedule" means that you get to choose WHICH half hour you get to visit her in the hospital...but that's it.

If you're lucky, you can push a deadline out a day, then cram two days work into one just to catch up. But you can't always change deadlines. Not only because of crazy clients who hate waiting. Maybe your clients are jolly and supportive -- but TV stations, ad contracts, events and trade shows where your video might run -- none of these will move a single second, for any reason. You HAVE to hit that deadline.

Look, I wholly relate to having soul-crushing jobs, and have left jobs because I felt myself slipping away. But if I'm being honest, I got into some of THOSE jobs because working alone was killing me. I had great clients, worked in exotic locations, had a great relationship with my wife -- yet because of all those long hours in the dark by myself for so many years, I thought I was going to die.

This isn't some "Are you man enough?" macho bs. This will AGE you. You will have LESS freedom, not more. Your mind will never stop humming, and the mental discipline to stay focused will take a physical toll on you. It's fine saying you're not working for the money -- but that changes when you don't HAVE money, and the only way to get any is to beg and lower your standards to compete with well-educated, highly skilled children who are doing this while they're living at home, and don't need the money to stay alive. You need the money to keep a BUNCH of people alive, and you will do what it takes, and it will take its toll on you.

Sticking with the "soul" language, there is a higher spiritual price to pay for this than is generally discussed, and we (especially as men hovering somewhere on either side of middle-aged) pay an even steeper price for not discussing it.


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Ned Miller
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Oct 1, 2012 at 12:42:36 am

Wow! What a great thread. There are few places on this interweb thingy that Al Gore invented where I can find people I relate to, who are in the same professional situation as I am, although the bulk of my revenue is as a DP. My wife says my most animated conversations are when I am among other freelance DPs and indie producers. But the posters replying to your inquiry, I can relate to all of them, they spoke the truth, some may give it more of a positive spin while others are Midwestern blunt, like myself, but thus far they all were spot on. A few things:

First, as someone who raised a daughter, enjoy the time NOW, because when she is about 14 there's a 75% chance that she won't want to talk and be with you all that much until after college, although I have seen some exceptions (the other 25%). If I recall that gives you 4 years. You get an inkling around 13 if she will be part of the 75 or 25 percentile, you can't tell at 10. Also, remove her photo from your post, too dangerous.

Now let me get to the meat of the matter. After re-reading all your posts I feel I have a good handle on you, not personally, but I've known quite a few dozen guys like yourself who were in, or trying to get into our biz. You summed it up responding to Bob with:

"I find that my personal values and goals in life differ greatly from almost anyone I have ever talked to in the business world, where financial success seems to be the point of life."

So my sage advice is: You need to, have to, have no other choice but to, work for a NON-PROFIT, preferably with a religious bent. I can tell you're a religious guy. It can be on staff or as your main freelance client, but guys like you need to have that "meaning" to make the grind and sacrifices worthwhile. Someone like me (and Bob) on the other hand, we're highly paid mercenaries. I look at my prime earning years (28-62?) as the time to gain financial security and I do meaningful videos as side projects. I always have some worthy charity I am doing something for yet am keen at making sure they don't take advantage or too much of my time. I am not a street whore, I am a gorgeous, highly paid escort...

I am looking forward to my retirement years for using my super powers for the good, instead of creating TV entertainment and selling cheese, jetliners, machinery and various services like I do, whereas you want to do that in your prime years. Fortunately I am a production junkie so it really doesn't matter what I shoot or produce, I just like the "act" of production in all it's aspects and I have figured out a way to make a good living at it which is rare. You like making voices for your animated children's videos and that is great, but there's the old expression, "Ain't no money in it". As a dad and husband and someone who does not come from family money I have always felt it was my responsibility to come home with the bacon: for college costs, mortgage, vacations, health insurance, car payments, you name it. So suffering through inane subject matter, biting my tongue, putting up with crap, that's what you have to do if you're in the freelance/self employment pool, it's being The Dad, the guy who brings home the bacon, or what you seem to be deriseveley calling "financial success". In the freelance pool you really do swim with sharks and are prostituting yourself by offering your talents for money to whoever comes along.

Since you have clearly stated you can't do that I strongly suggest you ensconse yourself within a religious non-profit, or some worthy cause organization such as Lions, Rotary, etc. I know this with 100% certaintude because I do a LOT of fundraising docs for orgs like that and I see how they operate and the kind of production folks they have. Most don't have in-house production people, rather they have "communication" or "development" execs, the later being a fancy term for fund raising, and that's usually the department you produce the videos for. They are all driven with a higher mission and that seems to be the kind of person you are, so go after that. However, I have found the inside politics of non-profits worse than corporations, mainly because they tend to "committee" every production decision to death, especially in post, so if you go this route you need to deal with that plus you're still in a cubicle working long hours.

Lastly, speaking of hours, when you're working for yourself it's easier to put up with these long hours because you see a direct correlation between that and your reward (the "financial success" you eschew), whereas if you are on a flat salary it is just a grind. You said you can do it when you're daughter is there but often, and in the near future, she won't be there. I don't know how old you are but as one ages in this biz the excitement fades and the money does become the primary goal because it's not like we here are doing it for the fine arts, self expression aspect of video. We are in BIZNESS. This forum is named for that. Not only does it take a lot of money to maintain your family and secure it's future but you need to bring in the Benjamins to run your business. That's why in my previous post I said to make two spreadsheets, named Personal and Business.

So Chris, that's my tip. Do NOT go on your own, you're not the type that can make it because of your mindset, which is an admirable one but does not lend itself to freelance survival. You will miss recitals, Daddy/Daughter dances, soccer games, etc. while making deadlines, like the situation Bob is presently in which you find to be like a "death sentence". Look for a mega church or worthy (large) charity that has an AV department. Or perhaps go for a Masters Degree and teach at the college level.

All the best,

Ned

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer
http://www.nedmiller.com
www,bizvideo.com


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Chris Warren
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:13:16 am

Thanks Ned,
Spent 6 years working for a Mega Church. Best job ever. Guess I'll start calling around.

"You are the universe experiencing itself"
ChrisW
http://www.azprovideo.com


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Mark Landman
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:23:25 pm

Chris,

You might want to check your insurance situation very carefully before making the leap. I see you're picking up your own insurance, but will you be able to continue that same policy once you're self-employed? The laws are different from state to state. Here in Illinois I can't get on a group policy because I'm self-employed. Individual policies are obscenely expensive and 20%-30% ANNUAL rate increases are the norm. (and that's without filing any major claims-I'd hate to imagine what would happen if I had a major illness.) Medical insurance is far and way my largest monthly expense.
Good luck.


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Tom Sefton
Re: Contemplating Self Employment
on Oct 14, 2012 at 12:37:10 am

This is an awesome thread, filled with practical and grounded advice.

I don't really have much to add, other than to say, it's 130am on sunday and I am laid in bed checking a quote that has to go out on Monday am. Whilst reading the cow and checking the blackmagic forums to see if there is any news about when my damn camera is going to be built/tested/shipped/delivered. Being a freelancer is way harder than being the guy who turns up 9-5. But it's more rewarding, and if you have to ask the question to see if strangers on an Internet forum think its a good idea for you to take the plunge....well you can see where I'm going with that. Your daughter is the biggest thing in your life and that is wonderful-make your decision around maximising your opportunity to provide for her, not around when you could take time away, because every afternoon off in the week is a weekend you lose. I can already see how much it sucks when decisions about freelancing are affected by healthcare. God bless the NHS!


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