Can you make money solely from VR?
Hello, friend, and welcome back to episode number 13 of my 31 Day Challenge, where every day I'm answering your questions about creating a career or a business that you love and in today's episode, we're going to go straight to the heart of the matter. The question is, can you make money solely from VR? So basically, can you make VR your whole career, your whole business?
This is a full transcription of the podcast episode. Instead, listen here:
So can you make all of your money solely from VR? The simple answer to this is, yes, absolutely. I am living proof of that there are several people that I know and companies that make 100% of their income from VR, and AI, apart from one legacy client, who is actually my first ever paying freelance client in 2012, apart from one client that I do a job for every two years, because she runs an event and apart from that one client 100% of my income has come from VR since 2017. So for two and a half years 2017/2018/2019 well…no, three and a half years ,god, I'm really bad at math, maybe you shouldn't be coming to me for business advice. So I've been making my money solely from VR since then. Yes, is the simple answer to this question, but the subtext of this question I'm sensing is, can you make your money solely from VR doing what you want to do? And I could be wrong, but that’s what most people are thinking. I received an email, probably day two of the podcast going live and it was someone reaching out with an artist. Well, I'm not sure whether they had an artistic background, or whether they just kind of always wanted to get get into the arts world, but specifically, they were asking about, you know, whether or not it was possible to get into 360? Specifically in the art sector, and whether or not that would be sustainable or not? And the answer to that is probably not No. I mean, yes, if your expenses are low enough, and you're not looking to make lots of money, and you are willing to kind of like hustle, and you're okay with rejection, because there will be a lot of it and you're okay with working with very small budgets and, you know, that's just the realities of working with that sector and I know, because I do work with artists, and I do work in that sector but I don't work in it 100% of the time, and that's because I know too many people that play into that starving artists narrative. I just don't think that there's a need for it, like, I don't think I mean, don't get me wrong, if you're the kind of person that's a die hard artist, and it's just like you were born to do your own thing and, you know, you just can't bear the idea of, you know, do it is selling your soul to the corporate machine and doing a 360 training programme for someone because, you know, “I've got to make my art man”. Well, firstly, I would say this podcast is probably not for you but also I think, well, there are ways for you to make money doing that, but solely from VR, probably not know. Whereas if you are the kind of person that wants to make your own projects, but ultimately coming back to episode one, you just want to work for yourself doing something that you quite enjoy and you know, you quite want to work in the VR industry because you believe in the technology, you believe where it's going, you’re excited by it, you’re excited about discovering new things., you’re excited by the challenges that come with the new technology, you’re excited by the fact that every single year you have to learn a goddamn new work because there's some new tech that comes out that breaks everything that you just spent a year like perfecting, and you have to go around all your clients telling them how to do it as well and just as you've got the rhythm down, and the pricing, right and everything…something comes in, it changes it, and it changes everything, you know? So I personally, I mean, don't get me wrong, I absolutely have a love hate relationship with immersive tech in general, just because of that, sometimes it's like a teenager where you love them so much but sometimes they just drive you mad and I know, because I have been that teenager that driven my parents mad. So yeah, I think you can make your money solely from VR but you will probably have to succumb to the fact that not 100% of your income is going to come from 100% of things that you want to do all the time.
When I first started in VR, I'm trying to think I think the majority of my income came from being an extra resource in someone else's production. So I would come in as maybe the 360 camera operator or come in as the, you know, doing the post production or I'd come in as a director, I mean, to be fair, I didn't do that many projects where I wasn't just the person that did everything. I did a lot of shoots, where I was kind of like the producer, director and kind of was a cog in someone else's machine, though, like, what I'm trying to say is, you know, when I first started, I was mainly brought in by creative agencies and other production companies that had one work, but didn't necessarily know how to deliver these kind of projects. So I would be kind of slotted in to an already established project, then I started to kind of take on projects where I was much more involved from the very beginning and I was working directly with clients. So rather than being the last, in the kind of giant, creative agency food chain, which is often the case, when you work that way, it's not necessarily a bad thing, you can actually do that but I started working directly with clients, which meant that I was way more involved with the project from the very beginning. I helped shape the vision of it and I would see it all the way through I would help negotiate the budgets or actually be the one negotiating the budgets, I would take control of the whole thing. So I think it really depends on how you like to work because you can make your money solely from VR in either way, being a freelancer or a contractor that goes and slots into someone else's projects, or being someone that reaches out and does your own, thing.
But if the question is, can you make money solely from VR doing exactly what you want all the time? Probably not, there's like a very small amount of people that can do that. And generally speaking, I would probably put money on the fact that they are all in the game industry. Like if you look at someone like Beats Sabre, and their game studio and I don't know much about them, so I could be wrong, but you know, they had Beat Sabre, they built that up and then they just recently sold to Facebook. So I mean, I don't know, because they might have been Angel funded and went the venture capital route. I don't know whether they were just doing client work on the side to kind of fund it or not, but they just don't really talk about that so I'm not sure no one really knows. The one thing I'm always super honest about is the fact that I use commercial work to fund the majority of my life so that I can do the original projects. We all want to be in a scenario where one day you get paid 100% of your income to do 100% of the things you want to do.
Right now, though, like in the other episode when I was talking about how you make money just with your VR originals? The answer is quite difficult. So it's not impossible, but it again it comes down to what kind of life do you want and how much money do you need? Because chances are unless you're not young, free and single with you know, not very high standards in terms of like, you know, if you can live off a tiny amount of money every month to do what you love, then absolutely do it and when there’s a will, there's a way. If you're someone that's just interested in getting into 360, or VR, and you want to keep it as more of a passion project, you want to keep it as more of a, you know, slow and steady build, then maybe you should carry on doing maybe should have it as a side hustle, maybe you should kind of keep your current thing and whether that is freelance editing, or traditional filmmaking or, you know, if you're a programmer, whatever that is, I think you just have to make the decision about whether or not you do want to commit and go all in on VR. The the truth is, it's hard, it is hard, because you've got all these barriers that stand in the way before you can sell a VR service or product. And that's because people don't understand it, so I assume, if you’re listening to this, you're not necessarily looking for a full time job, but if you wanted, you could just outreach to every single VR studio or production company in in the place that you live. Obviously, there's not many of them, that versus a traditional production company, but you could just get a job, you know, you could just like go in house but I'm guessing the majority of you listening, don't want that, you want to probably work on your own stuff. And so I would say that, you should probably do the Google principle of like, 80/20 to begin with. So this is kind of still how I operate a little bit. I mean, I've shifted in the last kind of year but realistically, for the majority of my career in VR, so far, I kind of did the 80/20 thing, right….and for those of you who don't know what that is, it’s this: 80% of the time you're working on the stuff that is like the the bread and butter stuff, the stuff that you have to do, the practical stuff. So if you're a 360 creator, that could be 80% of the time, you are getting those 360 virtual tour clients, you're getting those 360 training projects in your outreaching, you're kind of doing 360, stock footage, whatever it is, that like paying the bills, and then 20% of the time you're maybe connecting with dancers or an art studio or you know, doing something that's a bit more in line with where you eventually want to go. That could be something that you do, and maybe you still make money that way, you can still make money through that avenue, but then it takes the pressure off of having to cover 100% of your revenue.
So those are just kind of like my thoughts but I mean, the answer is yes, but ultimately, as well, what it comes down to is, are you good at making money full stop? A lot of the information I'm giving in this podcast is super applicable to any single creative industry, you've probably already noticed that, you know, the things that I'm saying? Yes, obviously, I'm specialising them to VR and I'm being specific, because that is the industry that I work in and that's what I'm assuming you're interested in, if you found me but the principles of business and marketing and the principles of selling and the principles of communication and networking and all of the things that are important, they translate over to all different industries.
So the truth is that if you want to make money from anything, but specifically if you want to make money from VR, you just have to be good at making money for starter, you have to be good at outreach, you have to be good at knowing your business plan, your goals, your business goals, how much money do you need to make? How many clients do you need to reach out too? What kind of projects? What kind of sector? What kind of industry do you want to work in? And if you're going down the product route, it's the same thing!
So the other thing you have to think about is if you want to go more like down the product route, rather than services…well, then you're going to have to look at more of a Silicon Valley model of bootstrapping, and, you know, potentially looking into investment. Although, I mean I've been down that road and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you're really, really committed to it because it's a bit of a savage industry, to be honest but you know, there's resources. In England, we've got digital catapult who put on the Augmented Reality Augmented Accelerator. I was part of that in 2018 and it’s a fantastic accelerator programme and, you know, for those who don't know the story, I kind of went down the road of getting investment for an interactive 360 editing platform software that my brother and I had built and then realised, actually that is not the kind of business I want to build. I don't want to be committed to pay back, not even pay back, it’s a mess, because that's not how it works. But I didn't want to be committed to building a product because I am a bleeding heart creative and I love doing stuff like this. But anyway, so if that's something that you're interested, maybe look at accelerated programmes like that one, and maybe look at if you're kind of a freelancer or if you like the technical part of things, but you're not very good at the selling part, maybe look to team up with someone who is good at that part. Maybe look to partner with someone who's, you know, got a proven track record in marketing or sales, like so there's ways around it but the answer is, if you want to make money solely from VR, it's not necessarily going to be easy for now. I feel like in five years time, maybe VR and AR services will be as common as well, maybe not as common as traditional video but it will be way more common. Actually, I think Apple are rumoured too to release Apple glasses and if they do release these in the next couple of years, there will be a massive boom in people looking at the massive industry and wanting their services.
So the question is, are you going to be in a position to capitalise on that? Are you going to put in the work now, so that you can be one of those people that when someone Google’s - I need an AR developer that specialises in… you’re the name that comes up, that kind of thing.
So okay, those are my general thoughts. I'd be curious to hear if you've got any follow up to that and obviously, that was quite a big broad question.
If you've got questions around that, then then reach out. Let me know if you've got any other questions as well. Reach out to me @alexmakesvr on all of the socials or reach out on email, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to be reminded when these episodes go live, I put out a daily newsletter at www. alexmakesvr.com.
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