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How do you land your first 5 figure project?

Hello, friend, and welcome back to episode number 17 of my 31 day challenge, where I am answering your questions on how to create a career or a business that you love. In today's episode: quite a funny one! I found this one quite amusing, to think about how you land your first five figure job. So, we'll be diving into that! It's going to be fun. And if you've got a question, you can reach out to me. You can ask me a question on any of the social media platforms @alexmakesvr is my handle, I usually hang out on Instagram and Twitter mostly. You can send me a longer question at alexmakesvr@gmail.com.


Every single day that I do these, I am sending out a newsletter to let people know when they go live. The episodes are live with the sound of music! Okay, you didn't come here for a musical, but you're welcome. You can sign up for those newsletters at alexmakesvr.com. Like I said, I send those out daily and they give you a bit of a recap as well, about what are some of the things I talked about in the episode. So with that said, let's dive in.


How do you land your first five figure job?


This is a transcript of the podcast episode. Instead listen here:


It's interesting, because I don't do a lot of prep for these podcasts. You've probably noted that; the way I treat them is as if someone had asked me in conversation, or if I was speaking at an event and someone asked a question in the q&a section. I try and treat these podcasts as if it's the first thing that comes to mind. I'm not overthinking things. I'm not deep diving. Generally speaking, I'm reading the question and then going off the cuff and giving you my advice based on my real world experience. And it might not always be right, but it's just what I've known to be true, my initial gut feeling. So much of that is where the gold, the truth is, rather than overthinking it and making it so it's super concise, and it hits on all these different points. And you know, it's playing to the podcast algorithms to make you want to listen to the whole thing! No, I'd rather it be authentic, as if we are actually having a conversation, as if you've just asked me that question. And I'm just rabbiting on, which I do quite well, in case you haven't noticed! But with this question, it did give me pause: it made me think about the first time that I landed a five figure job. I remember it being a real milestone. I remember because I'd worked on productions that were, you know, seven figures plus- seven, eight figures- in my TV career, I knew the kind of stuff that went on to being involved on a production of that calibre, that kind of level. But it's very, very different to be the person that goes out and pitches the work and wins the contract at that level. Every milestone in business is exciting. If you're going from someone who’s never done any client work, never worked for yourself; landing a three figure, you know...landing that first 400 pound or 400 dollar job is exciting. And then you know the first time that someone pays you 2-3000 pounds to do something, you're like, ‘I cannot believe this, I've just made what would be most people's monthly salary in in a matter of days!’ How exciting. So absolutely, every step along that journey is so exciting. And it's totally different and the feeling that you get from landing a five or six figure contract when you've built up from charging a day rate or working in an industry where you're paid salary, it's super exciting! And it's absolutely a place for you to take stock and realise your progress and be proud of the skills and the business that you're building.

But having said that, there are a lot of strings that come attached. And every time you level up, there is more and more risk, pressure and responsibility to deliver. So that's a kind of caveat. I'm going to talk about how you can go about landing that first five figure job. But just know that sometimes actually charging the four figures and being able to have a weekend off, or charging your day rate which is most likely three figures and being able to have your evenings off, there is freedom in that. So I want you to take stock of that. And obviously, landing your first five figure job will differ drastically depending on what kind of business you have; what kind of service you provide; what kind of thing you're working on. But generally speaking, in order to land a five figure job, so 10,000 dollars or pounds plus, or whatever currency you're working in, you will need a significant amount of social proof that you can deliver a project of that calibre. Because all of a sudden that is a massive chunk of money that someone is dedicating and risking on you. If someone is paying you a minimum of £10,000 for a project, that means to their business, it's going to have to be worth at least double, if not five, ten times that. So if a business is willing to pay you 10,000 pounds or dollars for something in the realm of VR, 360, or augmented reality, whatever immersive kind of stuff that you're working on, it will have to be worth a lot more back to them, which means that the kind of client that will spend five figures with you must already be a pretty big company.


So I would say, that for a company that is willing to spend that amount of money, you're going to be looking at a company that is substantially bigger than a mom and pop shop. So you're going to be looking at -potentially- a Nationwide kind of business. So a name that is at least is National, if not International. They will most likely have at least a 10 million turnover plus; if you're doing a job that is worth 10,000, you're not their only supplier, and VR is a very, very, very, very, very tiny part of what else is going on in the business. So just imagine how much money they will need to be making as a company in order to invest 10,000 plus for your work. So that's the first thing. You need to go after a big client.


Now, in order to go after a big client, you're gonna need social proof, you're gonna need to prove that you've worked with that calibre of client before. And don't get me wrong, you don't have to prove that you've worked on a project that's been worth $10,000 plus before. But you do have to have the proof that you've worked with a company of that size, or a project of that scale before. So I'm trying to cast my mind back to the first time that I landed a job for five figures, but I'm fairly certain it would have been...I probably should have thought a little bit more about what that job actually was. But it definitely wouldn't have been a shoot that I did myself. It would have been a project that would have had a few other pieces of the puzzle. It would have been a professional 360 video shoot, not photography, and it would have been part of a bigger training plan. In fact, coming to think of it, the job was the first kind of five figure thing- and I'm fairly certain that it was a training programme that was going to be rolled out nationally by a company- it was quite a hefty production. And this wasn't a $10,000 job. This was a bit more than that. But when I say it was five figures, it was five figures for everything, right? So the contract was worth five figures that included all of the time that I would go and meet with the client, and their offices were actually not where I live. So that money had to account for all the times that I was going back and forth to their offices, all the endless phone calls and meetings about what they wanted from this project, because again, that's not a cheap amount of money to just throw a project. That's a lot of money to any kind of company, no matter how big or small they are. I work with clients now that are literally multi billion dollar companies and they will be analysing what you're charging them, and they will want to make sure that they're getting the maximum amount of value. You'd think an organisation having a turnover of billions, you'd think that tens of thousands is nothing to them. But that's just not true, because every single team- well, often a company of that size won't actually be operating as one unit. It's like separate companies in different territories around the world. And then within those companies, you've got different teams which have their own allocated budgets. And within those budgets, they'll have allocated amounts that they're allowed to spend on certain things. And if they want to spend that kind of money, they will have to get it signed off on multiple levels. So that fee doesn't just include, you know, rocking up on set, filming a little 360, editing it for a few days, bing bang bosh, done. That amount of money is all of the time project managing, then pulling together a crew and making sure that the production itself is a really high quality, because if you're charging that much money, you best believe that they want to see the best quality.


Obviously you've not just got the post production, but you've got the amends that come with the post production, because now it's not just one person signing off, it's multiple people getting opinions on the post production. And then once they've had their opinions, and they've signed off and they're happy, then it has to go to the next department to get cleared. So often it takes much longer. So I would say since since I started working on bigger productions, I would say the average length of a 360 shoot for me went from a production, from start to finish, would start off in the space of maybe two weeks working on small projects, going from talking about the idea, getting it signed off, going and shooting it, editing it, stitching it, all of that jazz. Sending it back to client, client getting it signed off: maybe a two week window for those first ever kind of clients, those small one woman band type, going out doing it all myself. Two weeks.

As soon as you start to work on a five figure contract plus, when you get six figures, again, you start to stretch out that timeline. So all of a sudden, it might sound great landing a contract that's worth, you know, thirty, firty, fifty grand, but actually, you maybe could have done ten, five thousand dollar jobs, and had way more time to yourself, way more space in your brain, way more weekends off, way more time to kind of like kind of de-load and decompress in between jobs rather than be...I remember the last really major project that I did, which was a much bigger project. It wasn't too long, but it did go on for a good few months. But the stress related to that project because there were so many moving pieces...I mean, don't get me wrong, it was an absolutely brilliant experience working with one of my favourite clients to date. Really exciting project, really exciting crew, really exciting kind of content, really passionate about the script that I wrote for it and everything. Oh, brilliant stuff.

But the stress that comes with working on a production that big, when you're the captain of that ship -and I think we've talked about this before in a previous episode in this series- but the stress is sometimes not worth it. So if you do want to land a five figure job, my recommendation; build up your social proof that you have worked on jobs with those bigger clients. So get those portfolio pieces with recognisable brands, whether that be doing some stuff for free to add to your portfolio, or getting in with the creative agencies that work with those brands, and trying to get in as an extra resource or offering the VR component to a traditional shoot, that kind of thing. And start to work your way up in terms of the kind of companies you work for. If you've got a chain, I don't know, let's use the example of Hilton Hotels. If you've got a Hilton Hotel in your area, maybe start by offering something to them, and then maybe trying to say, you know, happy to do this for cheaper or for free, or with the idea that your marketing person talks to the director of marketing for the whole Hilton UK kind of chains, with the view to kind of get a meeting kind of thing. Using that as a stepping stone to get into all of the other chains, and then you're starting to work on a bigger level. There's more responsibility, there's more risk, there's more reward, basically. And, yeah, that's how I would. That's like the stepping stone to getting those jobs. But like I say, I mean, there are probably some fantastic 360 photographers, or one man band or one woman band videographers that are charging five figures, just purely for their services. But I think they're probably few and far between, and if they are doing those kinds of work, it's probably a much bigger and longer retainer kind of contract. So one of the best 360 photographers I know, he's absolutely incredible. I have no idea to what extent how much he charges for projects, but I know that because he shoots such incredible work like high quality DSLR, like beautiful, stunning- I think they’re called mega megapixel photos or something. So they're not just 360, you could literally zoom in, you know, 100 times, and the image would be crystal clear, like phenomenal. It bends my mind to try and think about the technicality of his talent. But someone like him, he might be able to go out and land like a contract for three events or something that pays five figures, or he might be able to leverage the fact that he can do that and sell a package of, let's say, I don't know, ten of those for five grand each. Again, that's how you can kind of start to charge five figures. So if you don't want to scale up and work on bigger productions with more people, bringing team on and having more stress working for much longer periods of times on one project, maybe it's about looking at what you do offer, and trying to package it up. So if you do virtual tours, and you charge a grand for one, one really decent one, then maybe once you've done one, try and sell a package of ten at some point.


And that's how you land your first five figures. But what this all comes down to, and it's similar to the kind of answer that I gave in the very first episode, which is work out what lifestyle you want, and what kind of job you want. And do you want the kind of job where you move from being the person who's making all the creative decisions to actually being more of a project manager who's just constantly being the one to liaise with the client? Do you want to turn into more of a manager in order to grow a business, knowing that on that five figures, your profit is not going to be five figures, your profit is probably going to be similar to the kind of profit that you would make being a one person band going out by yourself, doing a few jobs rather than, you know, just working on this one. But do you want that? Is that a challenge that you'd quite like to experience? And obviously there's nothing wrong with doing that and then realising like I have, ‘actually, you know what, that's not for me.’

Because as much as it was fun, and as much as it was absolutely a goal of mine; the first time I landed like a six figure contract, I bought my family a meal, and we celebrated and I was so excited because it was such a big landmark moment in my in my business. But actually, after doing it a few times, you get to the point where you're like, ‘actually, is it worth it?’ Because the amount of money that you end up making at the end of it, like the profit on it is the same as if you had done just a few jobs on a much smaller scale. And you'd made a bit more profit because you were doing more of the legwork, you were doing more of the creative the stuff that you love. So just things to keep in mind.


But to recap, if you do want to try and go after that five figure client, firstly, let's build up those those portfolio cases. Let's go after slightly bigger clients who have a national presence, and let's understand that you either need to start packaging so you're selling bigger packages of stuff; instead of just one virtual tour or one training video, you're selling a suite of them, or you have to sell a bigger production for a start, which means that you will most likely have to bring more people in. And just know that the expectation from your client, the difference in expectation from four figures to five figures is absolutely huge. The difference between someone spending a few grand on something and someone spending thirty grand on something, as you can imagine, is absolutely massive. If you think about it, think about what it would be like if someone came to you and said, ‘Can I have the equivalent of one, or one and a half months worth of your salary, please. And I, I will promise you that I will try my best to not only give you that money back, but also make you more money as a result.’ You'd be like, ‘Well, I mean, it's risky. But I believe in you, you've shown proof that you've done it. So okay, here's one and a half months of my salary. Please, please try your best to make something that's going to make me money back.’ Now imagine if someone came to you and said, ‘Can I have roughly your annual salary? So I want you to give me your annual salary. And, again, I'm going to try my best to make something that makes you that back and more. But I can't guarantee that.’ Imagine the risk.


Now, of course, it's slightly different on a personal basis versus a big corporation. But that is the level of risk that you're asking someone to take. So just be mindful of that and be empathetic. When you're negotiating contracts- yes, it's not that person's actual salary on the line, although they are deemed to have messed up and allocated budget that they shouldn't have to something that was a waste of time and a waste of money, that could very well be the end of their job- but just try and think about it in that sense, and realise just what you're asking that person to do. So it's very exciting. It's very rewarding, it's very exhilarating to land that first five figure job, because it's a massive step up from landing a four figure job. But just remember, like the other person on that side, what they might be thinking. And again, it comes back to putting yourself in their shoes, and that will guide you in terms of negotiating those kinds of contracts.


So I hope that helps. I'm excited to hear your thoughts on this. I think so many of us, who, especially, when you first get into business, you get so excited and the gold moves constantly, but just remember as well to take some time to celebrate those wins. I've had at least three or four people reach out this week to let me know that they've been listening to the podcast, and that they've won their first ever clients. And I'm so, so excited about that. That's huge. Take stock of that, you know, don't go rushing ahead and thinking okay, now I've won one client now how do I get to 10 clients? How do I get to obviously have those goals?


But just take a second to realise that that's a huge leap to go from never having done any client work, to landing your first client. Celebrate that, that's amazing. Go you. That's awesome. And if you are the person that's listening to all of these, and this is something you want to do, but you haven't jumped yet, just do it. I promise you, you will not regret it. It's the hardest thing to go from not working for yourself to then having a side hustle or a main business where you are working for yourself, but it will be so rewarding. And the truth is you just need to start. And then when you get a ball rolling, the momentum just goes and before you know it, you'll be saying, ‘Alex, I've done my first six figure job and I don't know you're talking about, I love it. And I'm going to be a millionaire by this time next year.’ And I’m going to be like, ‘fair play to you.’


If you've got a follow up or a question that you want to ask, you can send it to me on social media, @aexmakesVR on Instagram and Twitter. If you've got a longer question, you can send it to me, alexmakesvr@gmail.com and if you want to be reminded every single day when these podcasts go live, I send out a newsletter daily. You can sign up for alexmakesvr.com.


And with that said, I hope you're having a fabulous day wherever you are in the world. And I'll speak to you tomorrow!

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