In May of this year, I left my latest full-time job to move from Northern California to Southern California with my wife to be closer to our families. Leaving the job was something that I was excited and nervous about. Ever since I graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2011, I’ve bounced back and forth between freelancer and full timer. When I worked full time, I got fed up with going to work every day. I hated commuting (when I couldn’t ride my bike). Dealing with long meetings and unending projects drained my creative soul. On the other hand, when I was freelancing full time, I stressed about making enough money to get by. I worried about every little expense from grocery store items to vacation planning. So I bounced back and forth.
At the end of 2012, I started teaching online courses on a site called Udemy.com. Little did I know how this would change my life. I started with a course about video editing, the thing I knew most about. I grew into teaching classes about design and photography. VideoSchoolOnline.com was born as a home for all of my courses, tutorials, and articles. To date, I have 43 courses on a handful of sites. My YouTube channel passed 7,500 subscribers this month. Over 2,500 people have subscribed to the VSO newsletter. And income from my online courses slowly surpassed my full time income at my job.
And it was a lot of work!
I share all of this information to inspire you, but also to give you a reality check about what building a business is like. For that first year of creating courses, I didn’t have internet at home. I left my 9-6 job and created courses for 5 hours. I spent weekends editing. I continued to do freelance work on the side. Even though I thought it was fun, I was easily putting 80 hours per week into ‘work.’
3 years later, it has paid off tremendously.
In the middle of 2014, I knew that at some point I would have to leave any full time job and dive back into freelancing full time. Thankfully from all the hard work that I’ve put up front, the income that I have from this business has allowed me to step away from a full time job, move to a new city, start a new life, and not worry about the next pay check. This experience has shown me that hard work will pay off. I’ve learned so much about building a business, creating a brand, marketing a product, dealing with customers, growing a following. Again, it took a lot of work. But it’s been worth it.
Over the past three months, I’ve been able to focus my full time attention on the things that matter most. I’m no longer trapped in a cubicle, planning the things I would do at night. I work harder than I have ever worked before. Every thing that I do matters. Every article I post… every video I edit… every course I create… they all mean something.
I spend 2/3 of my time working on VSO stuff (online courses, tutorials, books, articles). The other 1/3 of my time is spent doing freelance video work. I still shoot, edit, and do motion graphics work, which is important to keep up my skills and give me a break from online courses. What I love about working for myself is the efficiency. I don’t have to wait for a boss to review my work. I can juggle multiple projects at the same time while I wait for feedback. No time is wasted. That’s a lie. I do waste time – surfing the internet. But if time is wasted, it’s my fault.
Time is also flexible. I wake up early and try to start working by 7am. I take long lunches. I run errands during the day. I take days off to go to the beach. My wife and I just took a few days to go on vacation with my family. I couldn’t do that last year because of my full time job. If I skip a day of work, I make it up on Saturday. If I shoot a wedding on a Saturday (which has happened twice so far), I take off a Monday. I ask the boss, and he says okay… or he doesn’t. It’s up to me.
The extra time I’ve had to work on courses has doubled the output of courses over the past few months. I’ve shot two upcoming courses (DSLR Video Production & Fundraising for Video Projects), released a few new ones (Wedding Photography, Dive into After Effects: Animating with Keyframes, Dive into After Effects: Flat Animation Buildup), and have many courses in the preproduction phase (GoPro Video, Building an Email List, Video Editing with PowerDirector, Cinematography, and Writing for Video).
The most exciting thing is that Video School Online is becoming an official business. Up until now, I’ve been running everything as a sole proprietor. But after seeing an accountant, it is clear that tax savings alone makes incorporating into an S-Corp a no brainer.
As I talk about full time freelancing and incorporating, it makes me think about how what I’m doing is becoming more than freelancing. I’ve been business owner for a few years now. But now it is becoming official. At what point does having your own freelance business drop the freelance part of the title. Whenever it is – isn’t that the dream?! Sometimes I sit back in my home office, a poster from last summer’s trip to Switzerland behind my head, and think to myself ‘I am living the dream!’ I am doing exactly what I want to do, every day of my life.
Now it’s not for everyone. I realize that. Spending most weekdays in one location can get boring. I try to get out, go for walks, and cycle whenever possible. My sit/stand desk is crucial to not putting on extra pounds. And having self-discipline to wake up early and work 8 hours per day is very difficult. Luckily for me, I can do about 8 hours of work in 5-6 hours, which means I only work 25-30 hours per week. That sounds better than spending over 50% of my waking hours doing a job that makes someone else rich. At least not, every hour I work is investing in my own business’ growth.
What am I worried about? I worry about lots of things. I worry that the sites that provide a bulk of my income (Udemy, Skillshare, Skillfeed) will disappear. I worry that people will stop taking my classes. I worry that I’ll run out of things to teach.
But those worries keep me from living in the present. And the present tells me to keep doing what I’m doing – keep doing what is successful – keep doing what I enjoy – keep doing what makes money – keep doing the things I love.
I know this has been a rambling article with lots of thoughts. But I think it is a good one for me – therapeutic in a way to wrap my brain around how the past few months have been. I hope to post more articles about the inner-workings of Video School Online. A lot of people have expressed interest in the whole business-building topic. So hopefully you’ll see more of those articles soon.
Thanks for staying with me! Thank you for supporting me!