Ty and I are big believers in the phrase “everyone starts somewhere.” Neither one of us set out to own our own business and we both never dreamed that one day filmmaking would be our life’s work. But in the age of entrepreneurship, we are grateful that our passion for serving and loving people, alongside our naturally given strengths, and creative craft can be used in this field!
When Ty first began the business as a college student, it was just a little side hustle that he started to save up for an engagement ring for me. But the more he continued to build it, and the more business he continued to book, the more he saw the potential in what it could be.
And when we got married, we equally saw the strengths we both brought to the table to run this business together and jumped head first into doing it as a team.
Did we know everything about running a successful business? No. Were we willing to learn, even at the expense of making mistakes? Yes.
I think the greatest sign of growth is being willing to admit that you don’t know everything but even more so, being willing to share your mistakes. So have we made mistakes? Yes. Have we made more than five mistakes? Definitely. But these five are ones that we think most everyone can relate to!
If you’ve ever started a “side hustle” you too might be able to relate. That side hustle feels “extra” and the additional income is a great cushion to supplement what you’re already making at what you would consider your full-time work. But when the transition comes to take the side hustle full-time, it can be hard to transition your mindset. What once was “extra” is now officially your only. It provides for your family and future family. The decisions you make now determine your income which ultimately impacts your livelihood. You are in charge and you have to make it happen. That’s a lot of responsibility! But when your view your business like a business and work out of that mindset, it pushes you from a “Plan B” mentality to a “Plan A” mentality. And this in and of itself can be empowering to push you beyond any obstacle or hindrance that comes your way. Running a business like a business takes an understanding of not just what you do but how you do it and why you do it.
Starting a business is expensive. If you’re offering a service you need training on how to hone your craft, or gear to perform the job, or licensing to actually make it happen. The expense of it all can add up quickly. Not to mention trying to maintain some sense of normalcy if you’re still working a full-time job.
We were big believers in the DIY method when we were working to get our business off the ground. Need a website? Sure, Ty can design it – he had a graphic design degree for pete’s sake. Need a contract? I’m sure we can find a template somewhere online, no problem. That’s gotta be legally correct, right? Bookkeeping? Sure, I’ll just stuff all of our receipts in this folder and deal with it every April.
Nothing leads to burnout quicker than trying to be a one-person show. Just because you own a business doesn’t mean you have to fill all the positions that it takes to keep it running. There are people out there in the world who specialize in things that you might not be particularly gifted in. Is it expensive to invest in them? Yes. But is it worth it in the long run? Yes. 100 times yes.
When we first started shooting video, we approached it very similarly to shooting photo, because that’s what we knew! So, we shot everything. Styled details? Got it. An epic ring shot? Got it. The bride and groom’s every move? YES! And then we’d take all those clips and turn it into something beautiful. But, we quickly learned that there had to be something bigger to make the story come to life. Marrying moving images with audio was a different beast to tackle than simply capturing still moments, editing them and delivering them. There had to be a something more – a story line perhaps. through the film. We simply just couldn’t piece together a bunch of clips, “retelling” each couple’s wedding day.
Shooting for the edit changed everything for us. It gave purpose to why we were shooting what we were shooting. And why we were choosing specific lenses to shoot specific scenarios throughout the day. When we realized that we had to place the viewer so that they felt like they were actually a part of the day, it made us more intentional with how we told each couple’s story through the film.
We went from shooting everything, to shooting intentional shots that brought the story of each of our couple’s wedding days to life.
Just starting out, this is really hard not to do. You want to be successful, you want to be doing something that matters, and you want people to notice that. So it’s easy to look towards the industry and emulate exactly what you’re seeing. But here is the problem – you are the only you. And trying to be like someone else or do exactly what someone else does will one day feel purposeless. You started this business for a very specific reason and I know it’s not because “filmmaker x” was doing it.
Yes, we are BIG believers in education and furthering your filmmaking craft by investing in things that sharpen your skills. However, not at the expense of lessening your own creativity to mimic something you’ve seen. Don’t get lost in the trendiness. Don’t just buy a piece a gear because so and so has it. Educate yourself, but don’t devalue your own grit. Pave your own path, do your own thing, and be proud of that!
Running a side hustle turned business shifts your mentality from making “extra” to having to make “everything.” Often times in the side hustle mindset you’re shooting any and everything to simply build a portfolio. But when you move to running your business full-time, every hour you commit to shoot has a dollar sign attached to it. You want to look busy because heck, you just quit your full-time job with benefits to make this thing happen. So you still agree to shoot everything no matter how much you’re getting paid. And of course you still need be building that portfolio, right?
We easily got trapped in this crazy cycle because starting out, we didn’t believe we were worth it. We didn’t believe our work had a certain dollar amount attached to it. If someone said, “hey, I can pay you $1000.” We believed that’s how much our work was worth.
What we weren’t taking into account was the $30,000 in gear that we were toting around, the hours and hours we had invested in building our craft through education, and the money we had spent towards legitimizing our business (business license, bookkeeper/accountant, lawyer to draft contracts, etc).
Realizing our true worth empowered us to look at our monthly expenses and formulate a budget around what was our true need, paired with our experience, and determine an honest assessment of what we should be charging. No more beating around the bush with discounts and uncertainty or “sure we can make that work”. Business is business and there’s always a cost in saying yes. You are worth getting paid for your work and you are worth what you say you’re worth. Not what someone else believes to be true.
Getting your business off the ground can feel a lot like throwing darts at a moving target and hoping that some of them stick. It can be daunting and overwhelming and a lot of fear of “I don’t know if I’m doing this right” wrapped up in that. The best thing I can offer you is this advice – seek out someone who is just a little bit ahead of you. Ask them if you can invest in a mentoring session with them and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can!! Learning from others mistakes can be empowering to your own success, but learning from their success can be life changing for your own as well.
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