Nicky returned to her old stomping ground at Waikato University last week as an 'alumni' to talk to some current communications students about the journey after University, into the 'real world'. It was a great time to reflect on the journey that we've embarked on in starting Play Creative 18 months ago, so we thought we'd summarise a few of our key learnings below, for anyone who might be toying with the idea of starting their own business.
Don't overcomplicate it.
It's quite easy to get caught up in thinking that starting a business is a big and daunting task that takes a special person, and a perfect situation to start a business. Whilst we understand that some businesses are much more tricky to start than others, don't get us wrong, we're also huge believers in keeping things simple and real. We avoid complicating things as much as we can, and just try and be really real in our business, putting one foot in front of the other. We started with graphic design work, moved to photography, and then progressed to full time videography - the goal was always to get into video, but we didn't have a massive plan or goal, we just started and took jobs that got us closer to where we wanted to be. We both 'donated' a bit of our savings to buy our first camera, and we just started doing projects. No fancy words like 'startup capital' were spoken when we started our business - don't get daunted by not having a plan, or all the knowledge or funds in the world, keep it real and use what you have to just start.
Do stuff for free, (or just cheap) to build a portfolio.
The only way you can get experience is from actually working with clients and creating videos (or whatever it is that you do/sell). The best way to do this is to start actually working with clients and creating video...simple! Find some cool friends who are doing cool stuff and need your help, and then help them. With a few projects and 'clients' under your belt you'll be much more confident in the service you're providing, how to go about each phase, you'll have some great content to show future clients, and you'll get some sweet shout outs on social media to start boosting your brand.
Our naivety was, and still is key.
We said yes to projects, then worked out what we'd got ourselves into, then put a plan in place to actually deliver - sounds romantic, it wasn't, but we learned a lot. We've been told recently that the video's we're producing are better quality than videos that teams of up to 10 people are working on together - maybe if we'd known this at the start, we'd have thought we'd need 10 people to complete those same projects, and may have turned them down because we thought we couldn't deliver. We've also taken on some seriously massive projects and committed to some deadlines that have seen us (well Dan...) pulling multiple all-nighters in a row to finish in time. The beauty of not really knowing what you're doing is that you just make stuff happen and take things one step at a time.
Pricing is always tricky - just start somewhere and go from there.
One of the main questions we get asked by people who want to start freelancing or working for themselves is "How much do I charge!?". Unfortunately there's no nice answer for this one, you really just have to start somewhere. If you're really just starting out, break the project down into how long it's going to take you, then work out an hourly rate, and build your price on that. Our motto in our first year of business was always, "Under price and over deliver", because we knew every project would teach us something, we were still building our portfolio and brand, and our main priority was not to make money while we were starting, it was to deliver our clients exceptional results.
Keep in playful (pun fully intended)
Starting a business is SO MUCH FUN! Yes there will be stressful times when you don't know exactly what to do, or you find yourself in a sticky situation, but these are totally outweighed by the insanely rewarding experiences. I've personally vowed never to lose sight of how lucky we are to be running our own business, and we quite regularly just take a half day to go adventuring to remind ourselves of the situation we've created for ourselves by starting our business. We've met so many of 'our' people in our clients, people who are also running their own businesses and are on the same wavelength, and we're constantly inspired by them! Have fun, don't take things too seriously, do great work, and be playful!