Smart, Not Hard
In my 20s I worked my brains out, which makes sense, we all need to work harder when we're young. But I want to talk about some of the things I did to work smarter, so I didn't have to work so hard earning a buck. In a word, streamline. Streamline, streamline, streamline. Now I know this is not possible with all things, but with a lot of things like corporate creative work it is the absolute secret to success.
Uber is a great example of brilliant streamlining. Instead of you placing a call to a cab company who unenthusiastically asks who and where you are, so they can relay that info to a cab driver, you just click 2 buttons on an app. This brilliant innovative thinking puts more money and into Ubers pocket, Uber driver pockets, and adds more savings into your pocket as a consumer. Less work, more money.
No one thinks, how can I earn less money and do more work. Maybe they do, but not me and neither should you, especially if you're an artist whose constantly trying to find more time to work on your personal passion projects and spend less time earning money to pay the rent.
So, I'll cut right to the chase and simply list out how I changed my working practices to adopt the principle of streamlining so I could make more money doing less work, which gives me more time to make personal art that makes no money. Here we go.
Step 1 - Imitate
I realised that I needed to change the way I work after completing a video for a client and feeling exhausted. I ended up working on a project for about 4 weeks, and earned $5K. Not too shabby, but 2 things are important here. 1) I billed my client $15K because there were hard costs involved and 2) by the time I was finished my mind and my body were both exhausted.
Later that week I was hanging with a friend who showed me his latest project. He billed $8K, all of which he kept as profit. Zero expenses. And, it only took him 2 weeks to complete the project. He also made the entire video from his bedroom. He was neither exhausted mentally nor physically, it cost the client less money, and he made more money than I had made.
The greatest difference between our projects was the medium. He created a motion graphics video and I shot a full blown video production. The greatest similarity between us as artists was that neither of us wanted to careers doing these 2 different types of videos. We both want to be full time filmmakers/music producers. Our end goal was the same, but our means to get to that goal was different.
I realised that I did not want more of the same work, I wanted more time without living the life of a "starving artist". If you want more time to perfect your craft and more money in your bank then pay attention to the workflow of others that are successful in similar professions. My friend didn't make the exact same video, but his profession was very similar to mine, in that I could see myself producing similar content
So, I immediately went home and started YouTubing. I researched tutorial videos on how to make motion graphics videos, primarily 2D and 3D motion graphics videos for corporate clients, because my clients were all corporate digital marketing clients. Very quickly I discovered which piece software to use, Adobe After Effects (only $30 a month by the way) and I had discovered an entire website with pre-made After Effects projects for corporate videos. This wonderful streamlined innovation is called VideoHive, which is but one of many sides to Envato, a brilliant tool for artists that is sure to set the standard for creative streamlining. These AE templates were cheap too! Anywhere between $10 - $50 seemed to be the average. Immediately I purchased 10 projects and started reverse engineering these things.
Now, as you know, practice makes perfect so I had to practice. I spend hours and hours, week in and week out learning After Effects with the help of VideoHive and YouTube, spending around $500 throughout the course of a year. Then Elements 3D hit the scene and things really started happening, but that's another blog post entirely. Point is, it took time for me to learn, but I knew that there was a greener pasture ahead, so I was committed to learning. So, this brings me to us to step 2.
Step 2 - Work it Out
If you want to make more money and do less work then you must first discover it and then practice it. You might find that it is not for you after a while, in which case you can cross it off the list and search for another way, but you will never find a better way until you put the idea into practice. Test it over and over again. Reverse engineer, scour the internet for answers, ask people questions and put what you learn into action by testing it. Okay, moving on.
Step 3 - Jump
Once you've learned enough to build confidence then jump into the deep end and start splashing around. I went to my client and said, let me create a full animated video for you, with flash and pizzazz! Instead of spending $15K like you did last year, you only need to spend $10K and you will have a fully animated video that shows off what you do as a company. They loved the idea and because I had history with them they trusted me to take the risk.
Now at this point I had learned a lot, but I was still in over my head, but that was okay. There comes a point were you need to allow pressure to be applied to your skills in order to take you to the next level. This is exactly what I did. I put myself out there and it was a complete success. It took me 3 weeks to make, all from the comfort of my own home, I earned $10K and the client was thrilled with the video. Immediately they commissioned an additional 3 videos. I had discovered my streamline. I innovated. It wasn't complicated, it wasn't hard, I'm not a genius, I simply committed to the idea of streamlining and put it into practice.
Step 4 - Improve
Once you discover your streamline, improve it. Build on top of a good foundation if you want to live a house that will stand the test of time. The second you become complacent you shoot yourself in the foot and if you don't work with gracious people you will find yourself replaced, no matter how innovative or streamlined you once were. Stay on top of your craft and your process by taking further initiative steps, without being asked to. Innovation + initiative. The more you can wow your client, giving them more than they asked for, the more valuable you will become to them and others. And the more valuable you become in the marketplace, the more you can charge.
Increase your rate when and only when you are faced with multiple projects and simply can't do all of them yourself. If this keeps happening, then start to innovate ways to templatize your own quality of work, which brings us to our final step.
Step 5 - Expand
This is when I started to create After Effects templates of my own. I hired my friends that had primitive to advanced experience in After Effects to work from projects that I had create so I could serve more clients without doing more work, all the while earning more money than before. Now I have almost 600 clients, each with an average of 4 videos. Additionally, my friends are now making more money and all of us are doing less work than before.
From the client to the artist, we all have more time to focus on the things that are important to us, we have the emotional and physical energy to concentrate on both, and we're all making more money as a result.
This works. I am only one person and hundreds of people have benefited both personally and financially from this one decision to streamline and commit. Imagine where I'll be 10 years from now if I keep this up.
This is not out of your reach for you. This is not too big for you, or too hard, this is how you can Uber home from a night out for $7, and buy a Big Mac meal for $5, and stream thousands of movies on Netflix for $9 a month. This is how you earn more, work less, and grow into something bigger than yourself.
Believe in yourself and don't delay. God bless!