The Best Thing You Can Do When Starting Out: Work for Someone Else


Working With Others Three years ago I sent out over 50 emails in the span of two weeks trying to find opportunities for filmmaking. I got only a few replies, but that was all I needed. One month later I was on a flight across the country to film at a biking festival in Colorado. I only got paid for food and travel, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. For that week I got to shadow and work alongside a professional filmmaker. It was an awesome week because I learned so much.

Even though that was three years ago, I am once again choosing to work for someone else because I see it as the next best step forward. I have made this choice because for me I believe it’s the best one, even though it doesn’t have the best short term financial pay off. I am convinced this is going to be the wisest choice in the long run.

How Do I Make Better Videos Levi?

I get asked this question a lot. I often feel as though I don’t know all the answers, but one thing I know one thing for sure, working with other people helps you grow in immeasurable ways.

What are your goals? What stage of the game are you in? Are you struggling to find opportunities to get paid making what you love? How about trying to start your own production company? Are you having a hard time getting connected with others in the industry? You may have the skills to pull something off, yet you are struggling to have everything align to make it work. I am in some of these positions too, and that is why I am going to talk about five important reasons why working with others is a great idea.

What do you mean work for someone else?

What I mean is the large variety of ways you can find yourself working for, or with other people. This can be as an employee, as a friend, as an intern, or as a collaborator on a project.

My big push is that you need to find other people in your industry to learn from. You need to surround yourself with people that are better than you.

I am going to tell you why this should empower you to reach your goals and not make you feel insecure about your abilities.

Working with others is great because…

1. There Are Many Things the Internet Cannot Teach You

Yes, I am calling us out as the generation that has been taught by YouTube. I love learning from the internet, but there are many things the internet is missing. Hands on experience is a must for actually growing your skills. Working with others gives you an opportunity to learn directly from them and see first hand how they work. You have an opportunity to get real time feedback from those right around you. Having someone right there to meet you where you're at and guide your improvement is so crucial.

shooting with Transposition
That is myself on the left shooting with Josh Knepper from Transposition Films on the set of a music video for Trope

 You also get the amazing opportunity to learn how to use equipment you don't have yet. This is huge for someone starting out. It's not about going fan girl over the equipment of your dreams, it's about actually getting experience with the tools of professionals. You can often get distracted with all the things you want to buy and not spend enough time making stuff. Working with others helps you make more stuff.

Freelancing and starting your own business does not exist in a vacuum. You need to interact and work with real people if you are going to make films. You cannot just relate on the internet. Extravert or Introvert, if you want to make it in an industry, you better start working on your interactions with real life people.

2. Other Perspectives Have Immense Value

Even if you feel that you know quite a bit about your field, there is so much you can learn from another person's perspective and process. I love how each individual has there own way of seeing and going about things. The way you experience and think about life might sometimes seem like the only way, and the best way. Working around others helps to show you that the perspectives that others can add are really valuable. Sometimes you might observe things that you disagree with; this is okay and it will help shape the way you operate on your values.

3. You Don’t Have to Be a Leech

Learning from experts in your field is one of the best ways to grow quickly at what you do. Yet how many times do you think so and so expert in you area gets the question,

“Hey can we meet for coffee? I would love to learn from you.”

I admit, I have done this often as well. However I now know there is a way more effective way to do this. Seek an opportunity to work with or under them on a project. They are not just going to ask for your help because they think you are special. You need to seek it out, make your face known to them, give them a reason to remember you, and then fight for an opportunity to work with them on a project.

At this point, who cares how much you are making. It is about the learning opportunity. When you are working with them, it creates a far better space for asking them questions about how they do what they do. It creates more of a give and take. You don’t have to be a leech.

4. You Can Develop Real Connections, Not Just a Network Tool

So many people are just trying to use others as a pawn in their game of winning success. When you work for and with someone else, it gives you the time to actually build a real relationship with them. It doesn’t have to be about using others for your gain. It can then be about growing together and enjoying community, something far more fulfilling than monetary success.

Working with people in real life helps create connections and not just a network. The other people in your industry do not have to be seen as competition.

You don’t have to despise those who do the same things as you. Why not work together and help each other along so you can both succeed? Having others around that you can lend a hand to, and who are willing to lend a hand to you when times get tough, are crucial to staying afloat while building your own business.

5. Getting to the Finish Line on Your Own is No Fun

Reaching your life goals on your own is no fun. Putting in all of that hard work, all of those long nights and weeks, pushing through all those struggles while seeking a victory, only to get to the finish line by yourself. It is far better to have people to celebrate with when you achieve things in your life. You don’t have to be a Lone Ranger. I sometimes think we prioritize monetary gains far above relationships with people. I think when we do this we are missing the point. Life is better when it is lived alongside others.


So There are Five Reasons, But You Need a Plan

Okay, maybe I have been able to convince you that working with others is a great idea, but here is the catch–you need to be smart about it.

This isn’t about jumping at the first opportunity that opens up. You really want to look for a good fit, hopefully with a leader in your industry. You need to have a plan. Everyone is at a different stage of growth: some are just learning how to hit record, while others can pull off full productions no sweat.

Be intentional about who you work with. Find great people that are actually good at doing their craft. Find people whose values line up with yours who you can build strong relationships with.

Don’t just work for anyone.

If you are working with others for a day, or for a few months, you should have a plan. How long are you going to work with them? When are you going to re-evaluate? Making a plan helps you utilize your time well. Be open and honest about your intentions, rather than vague and elusive. Tell others that you are hoping to learn and get to know people.

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