As promised in the last installment of the Content Creation Series, I'm back to talk further with some of my fellow content creators, and share more of our experiences.
To refresh you, I'm speaking with:
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
LIZZIE: There’s been so many new challenges I’ve had to face in this career and no real clear standards on how to handle them. For instance, how much do I charge for my work? How do I write a contract? The pricing thing is definitely the hardest though. To this day I’m still unsure if I’m undercharging for my work or not. It’s really difficult to even put a price on your own work in the first place, and I think for whatever reason artists have a tendency to lowball themselves. It gets even harder when you find out there’s no industry standard for content creation yet. It’s so new and so secretive. I remember feeling so lost when I was asked to price my first project. I searched google for hours and came up with nothing, no articles or anything that even hinted at a typical rate. I think I ended up charging $50 for a photo. When you break that down considering a freelance graphic designer starting out usually charges $35 an hour, and I probably spent a good three hours between developing concept, setting up, shooting, editing, and not to mention cost of props and taxes taken out later, I definitely lost money. I think I’ve gotten better at it along the way and definitely learned some things, but it’s still such a hazy area.
I think it’s also hard not knowing what’s next. I usually work on a project-to-project basis, so some weeks are crazy busy, but as the week winds down it’s easy to panic and think “what if I have no clients next week?” There’s always that “what if” and it’s scary!
GIULIA: Sometimes I get work-induced stress or anxiety. Other times, creative exhaustion! I also hate having to say “No” for any reason, I always find that super challenging!
ALISHA: The hardest part is having to wear so many hats and being pulled in so many different directions. As an entreprenuer just starting out, it's hard to focus on shooting and creating amazing work when I also have an estimate due, invoices to create, and and inbox piling up, but I am so incredibly thankful for this life and these opportunities, and am working to create systems to alleviate some of this pressure!
NATASHA: I think the hardest part for me is that feeling of "making it up as I go"- which at times is awesome... I'm the boss! But it can also be challenging. How much more do I charge for this project that is a super tight turnaround and will take a full day to set up and shoot? What do I do when someone is unclear about their own brand vision but has a lot of opinions about what I come up with? How do I prioritize competing deadlines? So in some ways, I think none of these are revolutionary struggles (haha) but working for yourself can be a lonely path at times. The plus side of course, is that I CAN do a lot of trial and error. This didn't work out? Ok, dust myself off and try again. There's a lot of freedom in that.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
ALISHA: I love my clients, and I love that they appreciate the creative work that I do. I have complete creative ownership and leadership over this business, and after working at a few other agencies, that's definitely not something that I take for granted.
GIULIA: I can’t lie, gifting always makes me happy. :) But I also love making new connections, seeing work go live and happy clients!
LIZZIE: I feel so fortunate to work with so many clients who are willing to give me creative freedom with projects. It’s a really great feeling when someone trusts your eye and your work enough to let you run wild with concepts. I love brands who want to embrace the weird and quirky side of things because it makes work so FUN! Sometimes I take a step back and think about how my literal job is playing with ice cream and cake and glitter, and I absolutely love that. No day is ever boring and no two days are the ever same, there’s always something new and exciting. What other job is like that?? It’s incredible.
NATASHA: At the risk of sounding cheesy... I love what I do!! I love playing with props, styling shoots, coming up with creative ways to show something. I literally did this for free for a very long time, as my creative outlet, before anyone noticed or was willing to pay for it. The fact that I get paid to do something that lights my soul on fire, is just the icing on the cake.
HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR CLIENTS?
GIULIA: So far, I’ve been lucky, as I’m always being contacted. There have been occasions when I wanted to work with a specific brand and I’ve just reached out. As long as you know who you’re trying to contact, the power of simple hello always seems to do the trick!
ALISHA: I find clients through Instagram, Facebook groups, word of mouth, and networking. Social media has obviously been the greatest driver for me, but I've also captured a few clients through tapping into my past agency contacts and reaching out to new people via email.
LIZZIE: I’ve been really lucky in the fact that all of my clients so far have reached out to me to start a partnership. I say lucky because, especially when I first started out, I don’t think I’d have the courage to call up a big brand and say “Hey! You don’t know me but let’s work together” – way too terrifying! Haha. I think most, if not, all of the brand partnerships I’ve been a part of started with an email from someone who had seen my Instagram and thought it would be a good fit for their brand.
NATASHA: It's a mix- there are definitely some great clients who find me through Instagram, word-of-mouth, etc. It's one of the reasons I think it's so important to have a strong online presence, is that is exactly how people find you and gauge your credibility. But I also take time weekly to reach out to brands that I'd love to work with- and some of my very favorite projects have come about that way. It's important to me to feel excited about the work I'm doing so I challenge myself to reach out to brands that inspire me. And I've found that a lot of it is also how you reach out- rather than just saying "hey, I'd love to work with you...", I try to offer an example or two, of some ideas I have to work with them. Even if they don't love the ideas, I think it helps people take your approach more seriously.
WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE PERSON NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT CONTENT CREATION?
LIZZIE: A lot of people just assume I have all this free time! I wouldn't call it free time, it's more like flexible time. I have deadlines, phone meetings, and tons of paperwork just like any other 9-to-5er, I just have more say in when it all gets done. Sure I can sleep in if I want or take a long lunch, but in the end that time has to be made up, usually in a midnight editing sesh or a working Sunday!
I think also a lot of people don’t understand that it is in fact, a ob. I’ve experienced more and more companies who reach out and expect free work in exchange for product. I think Sam Ushiro said it best when she said “I don’t pay my rent in socks!” So true! Sure it’s fun to work with different brands and try out new products (on some occasions I’ve said yes to these requests when they’re companies that I really love anyway) but at the end of the day if you want quality photos and marketing you can’t expect free work. You just can’t. These photos cost money, in props, time, and labor, and that’s something that has to be recognized in this industry.
ALISHA: I think the influencer campaign aspect (when brands have creators post the work to their own channels to reach a wider audience) is lost on a lot of people. It's crazy to people that one of my income streams is essentially being paid to post on Instagram, but I try to explain that the value is in the styling and photography, more than the post itself. There are even a lot of agencies that are at a loss for how influencer relations work. I've consulted for quite a few to help answer questions and to help them to create their own strategies.
GIULIA: My guess is that people don’t understand the need for it, like, when you’re a “non-brand”, you don’t really understand the importance of imagery and how it’s used for marketing.
NATASHA: Something I personally struggle with- how to clearly explain what I do to people who aren't involved in social media/blogging/online-anything... I think often they assume it's not a job, because it's not clear to them what it entails. And I think this is true for lots of jobs, but I think it's easy to see the "fun" part of the job- Work your own hours! Free stuff! Instagram is part of the job!- and harder to see the part that is the "job"- often working around the clock, tight deadlines, people that try to pay you in "stuff" instead of money. At the end of the day though, it's worthwhile because I do truly love what I do. And I've started trying to explain it to curious people like this- I'm a modern-day mini advertising company- I come up with ideas, style and shoot them, and then the brand uses it to help sell themselves.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE CONTENT CREATION INDUSTRY GOING IN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?
LIZZIE: I think it’s definitely growing quickly! Brands are realizing that they don’t have to go to big name agencies for awesome marketing and collaborations, which is amazing! More power to the independent peeps out there killin’ it! I think it will keep on expanding to different platforms; obviously content creation is big on Instagram
and Facebook now, but platforms like Snapchat, Pinterest, and really anything social have awesome potential for this, too. I also think we’ll see more content creators getting to contribute to actual product creation, like designlovefest for Cheeky and Rosie Clayton for Coffeemate (two awesome boss babes) and I think that’s a really exciting possibility!
ALISHA: Content creation isn't new, agencies have been providing this service to brands for decades - creating TV spots, print ads, radio spots,etc, but thanks to social media, the type of content has changed dramatically and so have the providers. Brands no longer have to hire a fancy advertising agency to come up with a six figure campaign, they can find freelancers and independent creators so easily through instagram and they can inform the masses with an influencer component. Sure, big brands are still opting for large agenices, but they're also choosing to utilize independent content creators when they need something quick, or if they want to really spread the word about something. It has also opened the door for startups and small brands who don't have a huge budget to spend on an agency. But in the next 5-10 years I think we'll see a shift to other channels beyond instagram, and I think independent creators will start to learn their worth more and begin to charge more for services.
GIULIA: I have no idea really! Maybe the same, maybe quite different. I guess that depends on a lot of things.
NATASHA: I think no doubt, it will grow! But I also think it will change in ways we can't predict. I mean, 5 years ago, IG didn't even exist in the way it does today! I think the need for creative content, delivered quickly, and for really fresh ideas, is just getting started.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS?
ALISHA: I would love to build out my team so that I can really focus on creative direction and I'm hoping to move into a studio space where I can I better serve my cleints.
LIZZIE: That’s a scary question! Haha, I hope to still be doing something I love in 5-10 years, I’ve only been doing content creation for less than a year so hopefully I can still enjoy it as much that far in the future! I love doing anything entrepreneurial really, though, maybe starting up a business or my own shop — something along the lines of what Jen Gotch did with ban.do is MAJOR goals!
GIULIA: In terms of work, the same area of things, just larger scale. Bigger collaborations, a scaled shopping platform and publication. In terms of life, traveling more of the world, living in Europe even! I’m not sure. Planning that far ahead makes me somewhat nervous but I’m on the alert for new opportunities every day so you never do know.
NATASHA: Bigger, more elaborate projects, a fun team of creative people, and an awesome space to create all of the magic. Just you wait! :)
Ahhh, I love these ladies and I LOVED chatting with them all about their work and insights on content creation. I think it's safe to say, we can expect to see some pretty epic things coming from all of them in the years to come.
I hope you loved reading this series! If you have other questions on content creation, or for anyone specifically, leave it in the comments or email me. I'd love to chat with you! :)