Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jordan Mattie, Owner of Jordan Mattie Visuals, located in Saint John, NB, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I work as a freelance filmmaker and photographer in New Brunswick, Canada. I am essentially a one-man band which means that - on most shoots - I handle the shooting, lighting, audio, and post-production. Although, from time to time, I am hired to work on larger projects where the budget allows for a bigger crew. I love these opportunities because they allow me to partner with and learn from other creatives.
My clients include creative agencies, small businesses, artists, musicians, non-profits, large corporations, and other freelancers. Much of my work involves creating content for the web, such as promo videos, commercials, event videos, and music videos but sometimes extends to commercials for television.
Tell us about yourself
I have always been interested in creating images in various capacities. As a young boy, I loved to draw. Then, my drawings turned into flip-book animations. From there, I began experimenting with my dad's Canon AE-1 film camera and, later, my uncle's gargantuan old-school video camcorder. After reaching a creative peak with the movies I was able to make in my living room (which usually involved making my mother and sister disappear), I decided to marry my video skills to another of my favorite activities - skateboarding.
I figured out how to edit a movie using two VCRs (usually stacked on top of each other) and created multiple skateboard videos of my friends and me. Years later, after attending university for music, I joined a band and found myself doing most of the group's photography. My work slowly expanded to weddings and then to commercial work. Today, I am a full-time filmmaker and photographer who focuses primarily on commercial video work.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
This may come off as an underwhelming answer to some, but to me, my biggest accomplishment as a business owner is getting to the place where I can provide for my family by doing what I love to do. Growing up, I never thought making videos and taking pictures for a living was realistic - unless you wanted to be a starving artist. I thought these were fun hobbies that I would enjoy for as long as I could before giving in and getting a job that I hate going to every day. Thankfully, I have learned and developed my skills to the point where people are willing to pay me a good wage for doing what I enjoy.
This is still mind-blowing to me when I stop and think about it. Year after year, I am able to continue doing work that I love, all while having the freedom to determine my own schedule (mostly) and my workload. And best of all, I am able to work from home, which allows me the flexibility to spend plenty of time with my family on a day-to-day basis.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As I previously mentioned, one of my favorite things about my job is that I have the flexibility to work from home (most of the time), which allows me to spend time with my wife and children periodically throughout the day. While this is a great blessing, it can also become a challenge to find a work/life balance. In my experience, this is the hardest part of being a business owner.
The 8 or so hours each day that I would like to put into the business is often interrupted 8 or 9... or 15 times during the day. Our 3-year-old wants to come into my office and play, and our 1-year-old son needs someone to pick him up while mom is busy with another task. While these don't seem like huge problems, they can easily turn a half-day job into a full-day job. This is particularly challenging during times when my workload is larger than usual, so I am continually learning how to create healthier boundaries between work and family.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Put more importance on developing your craft than your "branding" (i.e., website, logo, social media, etc.). Simply put, if you are not good at what you do, you will not be able to hide it with a flashy brand. Always prioritize honing your skills above having a nice "storefront." It will pay off in the end.
- This probably applies more to people in the creative industry, but don't let your artistic ego get in the way of doing your job. Or, as some people say, be willing to "kill your darlings." I think most photographers/filmmakers start out with the idea that they are artists who have something wonderful to put out into the world... well, sure. This may be true when it comes to personal work (i.e., passion projects). But if you're trying to run a business and make a living, you need to be willing to go against your own creative impulses from time to time and just produce what the client is asking for.
But don't get me wrong - when I'm shooting a video, I always want to make sure I'm doing the best I can when it comes to the elements within my control. Striving for excellence should be a regular feature of any work we do. But I have also learned not to make it an issue when the client makes a creative decision that I'm not thrilled about. When this happens, I will kindly explain why I think there is a better way to do it, but if they still do not agree, I will just move forward with their request and do the best I can.
- Always prioritize client experiences/relationships over anything else (i.e., getting your own way, charging for every single billable hour). I have had shoots that could have become very negative experiences because the client didn't plan well, or the finished project took longer than expected. In these instances, I could have become angry or complained or demanded that I be paid for every last minute of my work. While there may be exceptions (like if the clients significantly change the scope of the work halfway through the project), in most cases, I have found that it is better to roll with the punches than demand my way.
This way, the client walks away with a positive experience and will likely turn into a repeat customer. And I walk away, having learned something valuable about what I should do the next time, such as how I could do a better job of prepping the client or how I should have estimated higher costs to account for unforeseen variables.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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