Time, Business & Handouts [Time, Part 1]

Roxanne & Shane, founders & owners of Bare Feet Studios & Beachwalks.tv have been consulting and in the internet industry a lot longer than I have and I was fortunate enough to receive some vital coaching from both of them concerning Time, specifically relating to being a freelancer.

Roxanne Darling & Bill Cammack – Beachwalk #258

I physically met Roxanne Darling two years ago in November 2006, but I knew her already from the Yahoo Videoblogging Group. We had some great and important conversations and I knew she had her finger on the pulse of what was going on in this new “New Media” world I was diving into from my Corporate and Broadcast video background.

Rox & Shane did their own show, Beachwalks.tv, but what I didn’t know at the time was that they were also very, very, VERY busy with their consulting business where they have 12 years of experience working in internet technology, streaming media, audio & video podcasting, new media creation and consulting, content management systems, event production, and public speaking.

Fast Forward to March 2007, and I accompanied Rox to NYC’s BlogHerBiz ’07 conference. We were filming or attending discussions all day, which probably amounted to 6 or 8 hours, tops, before we shut the productions down and got ready to socialize for the rest of the evening.

Lisa Stone & Marissa Mayer @ BlogHerBiz ’07

When Rox turned her computer on, she said something about having 80 emails since she had last checked this morning. I remember laughing at that, thinking “ha ha, you have all this spam/bacn to get rid of, hahaha” To my shock & horror, I found out she had 80 actual legitimate BUSINESS emails, with more coming in.

At the time, I was probably only getting 30 emails a day… like, meaning in a 24-hour period… and those were mostly garbage. There was something about Rox’s email situation that told me to pay attention, because I was looking at my future. We headed to the socializing events with both of us knowing that by the time she returned from having a good time (and, less importantly, business networking at the same time), even MORE email would be stacking up…

Vaporware & Future Money

I became bored of the Broadcast/Corporate video world and found out about putting video on the internet/iPod from my good friend & colleague, Athina Krikeli one day when she showed me a commercial she created, one day after a session of Emmy Award judging.

Athina Krikeli & Bill Cammack
Athina Krikeli & Bill Cammack

As soon as I watched Athina’s work and saw how clear it looked on this little box-thing, and how the stereo sound was perfect, my mind instantly expanded as I considered an entirely new form of self-expression.

It was suddenly clear to me that I didn’t have to put my work on television and watch it disappear. My news articles showing for an hour or two, then disappearing. My commercials playing until they rotated them out for the next big thing in the focus groups, never to be seen again. My segments disappearing forever once they cancelled Studio-Y or GameFace or changed the focus of a channel from Youth to Sports and then to Fashion. Suddenly, I had the opportunity to do good work, put it “on the air” and have it STAY THERE. Also, I was no longer restricted by local or even national broadcast limitations. People could watch my videos in France or Japan, anytime they wanted to and as many times as they wanted to! Amazing! πŸ˜€

This is how I became involved in the world of vaporware & future money.

In the real world (IRL, in real life) budget comes before production. If you don’t have any money… you don’t get anything done. Period. If you have a little bit of money, you can get your job done poorly and slowly by someone that doesn’t really know what they’re doing. In the internet world, people come up with ideas and then try to figure out how cheaply they can make that idea a reality. This is because (which I didn’t realize for a loooooong time) we’re living in a “startup culture”. Everybody’s always working. It’s never enough. You don’t get paid NOW, you get paid when your company gets funded and eventually gets bought. It’s all about the bottom line, because everyone’s scrambling for funds and then scrambling to prove that they deserve ANOTHER round of funding. Meanwhile, everybody knows this is all “future money” and could collapse at any time, so every dime needs to be accounted for in terms of ROI.

That’s all well and good, except a) like I’ve been saying for two years already (“Monetizing Digital Video” February, 2007), there’s no revenue stream for monetizing internet video because you can’t prove demographics, and b) video, as far as internet communications are concerned, is only ONE of SEVERAL formats in which you can get your point across. You can use SMS, email, RSS subscriptions, text blogging, audio recordings, static websites… If you want to put something on television, there’s only one way to do it. You HAVE TO make a video. On the net, the question is “Why should I spend the money to make a video when I could just type some words and get the same number of hits to show to my advertisers?”.

This is why professionals avoid web video. There’s normally no budget at all, and if there is, it’s whatever allowance was afforded that group by a sponsor or they’re hoping to make their money back via CPM (= impossible). Of course, there’s money in doing Corporate Video that just happens to be on the internet, or, at least, inTRAnet, but that’s the same-old same-old for me *yawn* and I wanted to pioneer something like JetSetShow or SomethingToBeDesired.

So basically, instead of having an actual REASON to do videos which would cause them to have an actual BUDGET to do videos, you have a lot of people and groups that know that internet video is hot and only getting more and more popular, and they want to be involved, but they really have ZERO idea of what they’re doing because it’s only another business concept to them. They’re not actual artists. They’re not actually media makers. They have no idea AT ALL about what it takes to bring a project from concept to completion. This would seem to be a good thing, but it isn’t hahaha.

  • It’s a good thing, because these people ALL need consulting in Social Media AND Video Production.
  • It’s a bad thing, because these are the same people with NO MONEY ALLOCATED towards creating videos and therefore CERTAINLY no money allocated towards BRAINSTORMING creating videos.
  • Handout-Based Environment

    This combination of lack of funding, lack of ROI on video projects and this “We’re all trying to make it with a startup” mentality has created this weird, handout-based environment. I was introduced to a woman at a party (so what’s new about THAT? πŸ˜‰ haha) and literally RIGHT AFTER she was told what I do, she goes “Oh… if you have some free time, blah blah my project!” I don’t remember her exact wording, because I go to networking events to hang out with my friends, not to field sporadic questions & comments about business in the middle of the night when I obviously have a drink in my hand and I’m tryin’na chat with the ladies.

    Chrissie, Leora, Flo & Bill
    Chrissie, Leora, Flo & Bill

    So anyway… I exchanged contact information with her… Meaning that I took her business card and told her to Google “Bill”… I sent her an email the next day, and her response had nothing about budgeting in it. ????

    That’s when I accessed my visual/audio memory to try to figure out EXACTLY what she had said to me. I believe she had said “If you have free time, maybe you can help me with my project!”. I’m assuming the operative word was “help”, which, to me, implies “I can’t do this, so I need someone to help me”, as in “My car isn’t running. I need someone to help me fix it”, which would be the MECHANIC, who is going to BILL YOU for the time he spent working on your car and the materials he utilized in the process. It was clear from her correspondence that she meant “do it for free”.

    I had another situation where I had just come from a REAL job out of town and I went to a party. At the time of my arrival, I had nothing planned for the entire rest of the week. A friend of mine asked me, in the course of conversation “What are you doing tomorrow?” to which I replied “nothing”, which meant to me “Nobody’s offered me my day rate to do anything tomorrow other than EXACTLY. WHAT. *I*. WANT. TO. DO, so I might do ANYTHING or NOTHING AT ALL tomorrow, and that’s the way I like it”. His response to finding out that I had nothing to do the next day was “Oh.. I’m doing blah blah event tomorrow. Could you come to the event and film it? πŸ™‚ ” After I finished sipping my brew, I said something to the effect of “Nah”. He looked incredibly perplexed by my answer… Almost as perplexed as this guy.

    I attempted to explain the situation to him by saying “I just worked three days in a row. I’m not doing [jack] tomorrow”. Of course, this only confused him EVEN MORE because of this startup mentality that we all have of “everybody’s always working” and “everybody’s always scraping to get out of the barrel” and “if you’re not working on something that makes you money, you may as well spend YOUR time on something that improves MY life”. I’m not saying that’s what HE was thinking. It’s pervasive. Every time I ask someone what’s new or how they’re doing, I get some kind of report about their business endeavors. Meanwhile, people are hiding “Significant Others” left and right and either don’t want to talk about them AT ALL or will bring them up while specifically avoiding saying even their FIRST names!…. “the person I’m seeing, blah blah blah”.

    It’s not just individuals either. Companies… Like actual well-known companies that have tens if not hundreds of employees that are all drawing salaries… want handouts. The reason they need guidance is that they JUST found out what I knew in 2006 and people like Jay Dedman & Kenyatta Cheese knew in 2004 if not earlier, that internet video is the wave of the future.

    Because nobody seemed to notice this while we’ve all been putting hundreds and hundreds of episodes on the net for years already and handing out entirely free information that entire time to the entire world in the Yahoo Videoblogging Group, NOW, companies are scrambling to try to get on the bandwagon and nobody that they’ve already hired knows what they’re doing AT. ALL.

    So it took me a LONG TIME to figure out what was really going on in the space, because I didn’t imagine it was going to take them this long to figure out how to monetize digital video to the degree that they could afford to pay professionals to handle the business. In the meantime, I watched my daily email count rise and rise towards Rox’s level and I stopped using my phone entirely. I literally did. not. have. the. time. to. waste. listening to the long-version of what people wanted from me. Put it in an email and I’ll get to it when & if I get to it.

    Time

    Rox & Bill
    Rox & Bill

    At some time during this period, I ended up speaking with Rox & Shane individually about TIME, because I knew that they had already been living the life I was now living for years. I needed AT LEAST a starting point or some kind of foundation that I could build my own concept of TIME on.

    People with staff jobs have it easy. πŸ™‚ You go to work when they tell you to. You come home when they tell you to. You go back to work when they tell you to. You get a check every other week.

    Freelancers in the real world have it easy. Here’s my rate. You can afford it or you can’t. You have my money or you don’t.

    Freelancers in an handout-based society have to work with the lowball budgets presented to them or pass on the project entirely (as not worth spending the time to even THINK about) while constantly fielding ?deflecting? ?deleting? all kinds of RFCs (hahaha I made a funny! hahaha Requests For Charity! hahaha) from acquaintances AND NON-ACQUAINTANCES!

    Just 11 days ago, on January 01, 2009, my ideas about TIME completely solidified for me, and that’s what this series of posts is going to be about. How do you efficiently organize your time so that you can do the REAL work, do what YOU want and/or need to do, accommodate lowballers and hand out charity all at the same time? πŸ˜€

    ~Bill Cammack, January 12, 2009

    Continued in “Time, Part 02”

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    16 thoughts on “Time, Business & Handouts [Time, Part 1]”

    1. I dont have time right now to absorb this but certain bits did register with me and some bits were a bit probably more centric to stateside. I need to revisit this and comment at some point.

    2. I only work for free on my own projects or very occasionally on something that I think would be a great portfolio piece which is for a worthy cause.

      I do give a cut rate deal to a nonprofit in NYC that does a lot to help kids. Working with them every now and then is my charitable giving for the year.

      1. Yeah, I’m going to get around to that. There are “independent rates” in real editing as well. You don’t get all the perks of properly-funded work, but you still get your project done right….. eventually. πŸ˜€

        Also, there’s a difference between groups that need work done and people trying to lowball you just so they can keep more money in their pocket. It’s not unethical, but when people find out you’re trying to maximize your profits off of their backs and their willing to work with you on a rate because y’all know each other, people become “meh” towards other people and the business relationship deteriorates if not evaporates entirely.

    3. Bill, do the handout people ever approach you with a barter proposition or do they just flat out expect uncompensated service?

      Although you did use the words, “Google Bill” and “Emmy Award” in this SM blog you failed to use, “MIT grad”. As a direct result I did not win “Bill Cammack Buzzword Bingo”. πŸ˜‰

    4. Since you asked…I completely separate in my mind the difference between charity and low-ballers. Charity is a 501c3. It is admittedly hard for me personally to charge what our experience is worth – however this is true for any new and emerging industry, People want to be on the wagon, but they have never seen a wagon like this before and they have no idea about the economics of it. And since it is a new year, I am releasing past resentments from the cheapos, have given up on my idea to build the site theydontpay.com for the deadbeats (every industry has them), and thanking our biggest PITA clients as they keep teaching me where I have leaks in my boat. That’s the stuff that can be sealed up in the contract.

      Of course, I would prefer to work with the ideal clients who want to share the wealth we create for them, but that is rare. Instead, it’s up to me to set the fee and let people walk. Or invite them over to blog.knowhowcafe.com where we want to build a business around sharing what we know. Clearly it is valuable. Clearly people want to know it. But they confuse the many free software applications with the actual human time and skill and creativity they want on their projects. Wishin’ us both luck in ’09 Bill!

      1. Yes. Absolutely. I do 501c3 work for Keep Rising To The Top (KR3TS) dance company, so I’m familiar with the difference between ‘assisting’ a group that’s helping the community and just plain deciding to do a job for someone that can’t or won’t pay for it.

        I think you have an excellent point. I changed the word to “charity” from “favor”, because I felt like favor was too ‘happy’ a word to be associated with ultra-lowballers who know damned well they shouldn’t be wasting your time, but they attempt it anyway. πŸ˜€

        I’m going to add a level then. I’ll make “Charity” actual charity and I’ll come up with another name for people that want something for nothing (or close to nothing)… SomethingForNothingers? πŸ˜€

        “Emerging Industry” is exactly the term I need to use here. I jumped from an ESTABLISHED industry to an EMERGING industry. It’s ‘funny’ that you mention “people have never seen a wagon like this before”, because while I’m brainstorming every day with my back-channel croanies, I’m always talking about how it’s tough for me to choose what to do because nobody’s ever done it before. I’ve followed your lead and Steve & Zadi and Jonny Goldstein for live stuff and Indy Mogul and STBD and Threadbanger and Chasing Windmills and Viviendo Con Fallas and absorbed elements from all of your shows and concepts, but none of youse do exactly what *I* do, so I always end up pioneering.

        One of the problems with an emerging industry is that there’s a lot of garbage that passes for “trial & error”, so there aren’t any quality standards for online video. As long as people can see what’s going on and hear something, that’s considered a video. IRL, that’s considered garbage and your production company’s name gets dragged through the dirt and nobody wants to work with you and receive a shoddy product and then your “business” goes down the tubes.

        Another ‘problem’ with this particular industry is that it’s based on pageviews and hits. However you can get the hits is what counts. Your video can be 12 seconds long and feature some fat chick falling off of a table, and you’ll get a million views when everyone links to it like email jokes back in the day. OR… Your video can be 3 minutes long, a masterpiece of content, music and editing and, comparatively, nobody will ever see it. There’s no Justice in this industry when it comes to quality or lack thereof.

        I let go of my 2008 issues as well. Good riddance! πŸ˜€ The interesting thing about that was that a lot of the responses I received on the back-channel were of similar stories… not to that *person*, but people who have had similar things happen to them. For instance, I didn’t even KNOW about “theydontpay.com” until you and I had a discussion about my issue.

        I understand why this is. In order to air your issues, you have to admit to the entire world what happened to you. People would rather not have their business in the streets, so instead they stay shut and then just feel worse about themselves when the same thing happens to someone they know in the future…

        Ultimately, where this series is concluding is that at some point, REAL work takes up the entire amount of time allocated in your schedule for work. Even though you’re freelance, you have enough clients paying your rate that you simply CAN’T DO IT for lowballers, handoutees, actual charities, family members or anyone else.

        Even if that doesn’t occur within the industry of “online video”, MSM and corporate interests are melding with the internet video world now. Companies want to broadcast their events live. Companies want to have their conference sessions encoded for the internet. REGULAR business is reaching “down” into our medium to attempt to leverage the communications systems we’ve been using for years already and are completely comfortable in.

        So, while one industry contracts, and fewer and fewer people are doing the shows they were doing one year ago and especially TWO years ago, a new industry is expanding and replacing the ‘old’ one, bringing actual business plans and funding with it. Things are going to be completely different by 2010. The plan for ’09 is to hone the skills, look out for relevant emerging technology and be in position when the wave breaks.

    5. You’ve clearly stated the problem that many have had online when people find out what we do. I find it’s best just to be clear that creating online video is your job. Poeple take me as seriously as I take myself.

    6. Aloha Bill, and congrats on your solidification of your concepts of “time” and what yours is worth to you, and your clients.

      I’m delighted that whatever advice I/we were able to impart has helped. Just as much as your Final Cut Pro tips help me every time I fire it up!

      It’s interesting that your posts come out at the beginning of 2009. It actually finds Rox and I questioning our own business direction and just what it is we want to be doing every day. Having a solid understanding of what is not only important to us, but also what it is that we want to be spending our time, energy, and resources on is a difficult question. One that I personally haven’t seen many people asking themselves. Most people I know tend to continue blindly trekking off to work each day, count the remaining hours on the clock, and “live for the weekend” when they can do whatever it is they REALLY want to be doing with their lives. I know exactly how this is. I’ve been living this way for several years now…

      Perhaps it’s the promise and energy of change that Obama brings to the country and world. Perhaps it’s the economic crisis that our country is facing. Whatever it is, we’ve recently taken a serious and difficult look at what it is that makes us happy and where our passion currently lies. And we found it’s not in continuing to run our company, and deal with clients, the way we have been for the past several years.

      So a change is a-coming! And it’s wonderful to see our friends experiencing similar situations.

      1. These posts have been “in the works” ever since I realized our conversations were pivotal for me. I really did feel REFRESHED at the tossing-out of 2008 and the renewal of January 01, 2009. I’m glad I started writing them when I did, because they’ve put me in the correct mindset to properly receive the message(s) from President Obama’s inauguration day.

        One of the things I got out of the day was the sense that he really intends to DO SOMETHING… so… While he’s DOING SOMETHING… What am *I* going to be doing that’s worthwhile in the meantime? I’m making plans right now to write a few books and move away from the 95% Social Medianess that my life’s been over the past couple of years.

        I’m glad that you and Rox have decided to reevaluate. Another thing that I “got” from knowing y’all is that you’re *ALWAYS* busy with work. That’s not *my* style at all. I tried it briefly, while I was still programming 9-5 and training people at the gym two evenings out of the week until 11pm. Lots of money, and LIFE SUCKED! πŸ˜€ The balance is spending some of your time GETTING money and some of your time ENJOYING the money you worked for.

        Today… post-inauguration… I have a new feeling about time, now that there’s a President who *MIGHT* do something positive. I haven’t felt that way in a long time… Like I would never have asked myself (or, actually NEVER DID ask myself) what great things I might accomplish during the Clinton or Bush administrations. At this point, I don’t want to look back four years from now and say I did a bunch of basically meaningless stuff while President Obama and his team were working to fix America’s current problems. Whether they succeed or not, they’re TRYING and they’re DOING. I appreciate that, and it’s added a prominent layer to my concept of time and how much of it I’m willing to give away or sell to other people.

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