1 year as my own lady boss: CHECK!
Whew. Going full freelance with my video production has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my professional life. Leaving the comfort of my full time job AND relocating to a city I hardly knew turned my focus inward to my most vulnerable self. I've gotten to know my weaknesses and my doubts, but also my strengths and a level of boldness I didn't realize was there. I had to strike a balance between the launch of my new business and a devastating year in my personal life. Somehow, things have worked out. And I am so grateful.
One of the biggest things I've learned from a year of freelancing is that PEOPLE are the most important thing in your life. I am so incredibly grateful to the people in my life who lift me up, have encouraged me when things were tough, given me a chance to show my skills, laughed with me, mentored me, and told me to keep going. You all are amazing and inspiring to me. Endless gratitude and love to you all!
As I celebrate the completion of this first year, I thought I'd share what the journey has been like for me after deciding to quit my job in DC. There have been moments of victory and moments of despair. But as a great fish once said, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."
Do you dare to dream?
My job in DC was a great one. I had the privilege of working as a video editor with some talented guys at a small full-service video production company in the heart of Shaw, an eclectic up and coming neighborhood in DC. Our clients were primarily non-profits and environmental organizations working for a better world. We produced political spots and educational content to support the advocacy efforts of these groups. After a few years, I found myself increasingly taking on bigger roles, past my work as a video editor. These roles, including producer, script writer, and project manager, gave me valuable insights into the whole production process and what it means to operate a video production company. I realized that I liked the added responsibility.
At this point, I was also craving a new type of creativity, away from the political sphere, which dominated so much of our work. I wanted to explore more cinematic approaches to every day storytelling. I was also eager to dive deeper into After Effects and the world of motion graphics- a place where I felt my artistic youth stirring. I felt a strong calling to branch out on my own. I felt like I could do it. As with all major decisions in my life, when I decide I'm going to do something, I just do it. I make it happen. I wouldn't trade my 5 years at that company for anything. They shaped me into the capable creative professional that I am today AND it was definitely neat to work in our nation's capital - minus the traffic and expense, of course! But that was it! I had decided to take the leap.
Ok. So you want to be your own boss...
When you dream up big changes in your life, it is so easy to say, "Yeah! I'm totally going to do that!" The difficult part - the part that chokes everyone up - is actually committing to that action and doing it. Saying it - "I'm going full-freelance, baby!" - creates an ego swell and we can't wait to tell people our exciting new plans. However, the reality is, that it is one of the most daunting and vulnerable decisions you can make in your life, both professionally and personally. I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
Pump yourself up with learning!
I started learning like a fiend. Books, podcasts, articles, Youtube videos, tutorials. You name it. For 9 months, I fully engrossed myself in the world of small business management, marketing, value pricing, entrepreneurs, and freelancing. During my 2 hour commute every day, I especially loved listening to The School of Greatness and The Smarter Freelancing Podcast. Both were rich with information and general inspiration, and! they kept me from going apocalyptic in DC rush hour traffic. I also attended talks with my local production groups and invested in an Advanced After Effects class.
Do the math.
I am not a numbers person. Like so many other creatives I know, I HATE doing math. But! I knew that my move to freelancing would also involve relocating to a new city. I never envisioned myself staying in the DC area- I'd lived there my whole life! Pensacola, a beautiful beach city in the Gulf Coast, quickly became the focus of my planning. I crunched the numbers for cost of living and the equipment, gear, and furniture I'd need to invest in. I poured over information on how to place value on my work and how to cover my expenses. This is probably one of the most difficult, and arguably most important, tasks any entrepreneur must complete. It was a painful process, but it helped everything seem more tangible.
Build your client list - EARLY.
In the midst of my planning and working my full-time job, I began freelancing with two other video production companies: one specializing in cinematic wedding films, the other in Lynda.com tutorials. Though this increased my work days from 9 hours to 15, I found myself LOVING the creative shake-up outside the bubble of my day job. I'm a firm believer in showing rather than telling, so successfully working with these other teams built relationships that I still maintain today. I also remotely joined some of the local production groups in the Gulf Coast and began participating in online discussions. This was a great way to introduce myself to other passionate production people and to understand the types of projects that were coming through the local community.
Did I actively do it initially? No. Should I have? ABSOLUTELY! Marketing is one of those complicated and heavily involved things that all entrepreneurs and small businesses MUST do often and effectively. It requires commitment and a plan. It is so easy to be overwhelmed by the ways in which you can reach your ideal client (and who the heck is that?!). Create a plan. Develop and deepen your branding. If you don't know how to design a logo, hire someone to do it for you! Create a beautiful website and learn about SEO. Don't know how to do that? Hire someone! Create an Instagram account and discover hashtags that reach your audience. Network. Hang out where your clients hang out, both online and off. Practice writing and develop your voice. Start a blog. Collaborate with other creatives! There are so many ways that you can market, and if you're clever, you can take advantage of many free marketing channels.
I am still figuring all of this stuff out and promise to write a blog post (helloooo, marketing!) once I've gotten my own solid marketing plan in place. ;)
Find your people!
I cannot emphasize this enough! Find your people. Before my moving truck had even arrived with the bulk of my belongings, I had my computer set up and was actively researching leads. I had a great meeting with one of the local production people, who was generous in sharing his knowledge of the production community. Early the next month, I attended my first meeting of the Production Services Association of NW Florida, where I got to meet several people who were actively involved in productions. This led to working as a production assistant on a shoot for a local hospital. The crew was large and mostly local. I had instant connections with a number of them, whom I am so lucky to call my friends now. The bottom line is, you need a supportive community, one that is generous with knowledge and one in which you can invest (and that is willing to invest in you). In the scary world of freelancing, having good people who GET IT in you life to cheer you on (and occasionally commiserate with) makes all the difference.
Doing what you love.
I am endlessly grateful that I now get to do what what I love every single day. The projects that I have worked on so far in my freelance career have stimulated my creativity in new and exciting ways. The journey is undoubtably just beginning. I know there will be tough times, but also times of abundance. It's a ride that I've chosen for myself, and in that choosing, I am empowered, fulfilled, nimble, and definitely eager for the adventures that await me. Thank you for embarking on this journey with me.
Christine York, the lady-in-chief at Christine York Creative, is a freelance video editor and motion graphics artist based in Pensacola, FL. She specializes in vivid storytelling and boutique video production.