One of the best benefits that the one-person or small production team offers a business is the flexibility and and lightweight production process. As a single-person or small team, you can easily accommodate production changes and requests, return media assets on a quick time-frame and bring your full creative skills to the project.
Your clients love your input, your care during the process and the quality videos you produce for them.
You, on the other hand, love your clients and the creative flexibility. But you can’t keep up with all the requested changes. The promised deadlines keep you up late, scratching your head trying to figure out a technique. And there’s another problem, while you’re busy working with this client you hear of another company that wants your services, but you’re too busy to even schedule a sit-down meeting with them.
And heaven forbid if you take serious time off. Your client may have a last-minute project and when you’re not there to do the work, they pivot to another waiting producer. Now you have to make up for the lost client in addition to finding more.
Sometimes it’s the very things that make us strong that become our worst weaknesses. In the case of a single-person producer or small production team, the nimble accommodation of project changes keeps the production dragging out, you need time learning skills to keep up your level of quality, and somehow you still need to keep a pipeline of clients coming to your production team.
Protecting your creative energy, your valuable post-production time, and your ability to maintain current client relationships and build new ones are the critical challenges you need to solve so you can build a successful and stable production business.
But is this possible? Yes. The key tools are good boundaries and valuing your time as a producer.
Creative energy is a curious thing. We expend it to produce work, and yet it is the creative outlets outside of paid work that keep us filled to continue making work. This practice of creativity, the fun play outside of work, is a challenge for all of us. Who has time for that in the middle of the constant hustle to get work in the first place?
Good boundaries are the start of this. Knowing when to quit and take care of yourself. Do you hustle hard? Absolutely! But hustling yourself straight into burnout, exhaustion and the hospital is the fastest way to sink a business. Boundaries of when to stop working, when to sleep, when to spend time with your family, and when to play creatively are set entirely by you.
This is something I do here at Renegade Digital Post. Unless there are truly extenuating circumstances–for example, the recipient is on their deathbed and this video is the thankful expression of their impact on the community–I am not going to work all night to get your project done faster. Period. I know what I can tolerate and an all-nighter is not sustainable for me (and for the record, I did work all night for a client in exactly that situation).
Keeping good boundaries prevents your clients from taking advantage of you and your creative gifts. It seems many producers are creating work for companies, corporations and nonprofits because they love the joy of storytelling and helping others communicate their legacy. But over-giving leaves nothing to sustain you. And if you don’t put a value on sustaining yourself, you won’t make it for the long-haul of building a business.
This value of time is expressed in the rates and proposals you give to your clients. Only you can set your value. Nobody will give it to you. Call it human nature. People just don’t respect people who don’t respect themselves. When you charge a low rate, your clients do not value your time because you do not value your time.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that if you charge a lower rate you’ll stay in business. Big box stores that employ this strategy do make money, but employees along the supply chain take the hit. In a single-person or small production team, the person that will take the hit is you.
In addition, a low rate demands you to work more hours to make a living. When you value your time high enough that you don’t have to work 80 hours a week, you start enjoying your creative work instead of resenting it. This gives you the space to keep those boundaries you need for sustainability in the first place.