Chase Jarvis - Creative Live
The tables have turned. I like it.
I like it too. I'm happy to be on the phone with you, my man. It's been a minute. You look good, you look healthy. You and Andrea taking good care of one another and the business I trust.
(laughs) I trust, you know, it's been a very... Initially it was like a lot of hustles. Like, what can I do now? You know?
And I was like, wait, wait, wait. I've prepared all my life for a moment like this, you know, where I don't have to do anything if I don't want to for the next month. So I can actually put quality thoughts into everything.
It's easier to say that, but when you're just sitting around, you still wanna do a lot of stuff and that's just your type of personality, you know, type A. I'm sure you relate to that. So doing things is never ending. So, people listening to this know you, so we don't have to get to the roots of everything, but you've built a career in photography and then decided to... kick-ass career, ...
I mean, would be an understatement. And then you decided to quit that sort of, and focus in the education world with CreativeLive. So, I mean, this is like a dream for me and for everybody listening, because you know both worlds, the teaching and the photography. So yeah, I got a few questions for you. Six, seven, should last 30, 40 minutes. Whenever you're ready. We can just dive in.
Great. I'm happy to be here, man. And thanks for having me in your program. And the only reason I know a few things is, 'cause I've got some scar tissue, been through a few of the things and that's, I think, you know, hopefully that's the silver lining if we can find it, is that you can conceptualize a lot of things. Most people I know didn't conceptualize a global pandemic as the thing that handed them the pass to go sit in the corner for a while. But you know, it's my hope and I think the hope of this workshop, I know what you're promising people that you can be more prepared, not just for next time, but there's no real sign right now when this is gonna end or what it's gonna look like on the other side of it. So now's a great time to be preparing and to be doing what you can to not just wait for a silver lining, but to create the silver lining in the best way that you can with what you have.
It's a worthwhile exercise.
It's gonna be a good one. So you were mentioning earlier that you've been working on some creative projects that are not work so construction. What are the ways you've been staying creative and inspired through this, you know, two months of sort of abnormal life?
Yeah. Well, I like to have an area of focus. You mentioned earlier sort of being driven and type A and caring a lot about what you do and, you know, that has two sides as there are two sides to every coin. The good part is that you're focused and you're ticking things off your to-do list. And, you know, there's plenty of, I think our culture, maybe even over indexes on the value of those things, when in reality, just a little bit a quiet actually can help you think a little bit more, give you a little bit of space. That's not to say that we don't always need to be goal oriented or that just sitting around... If you over index too far in either direction, you'd probably be in harm's way. But I think for a lot of us, me, I'm speaking of me in particular, this was an invitation, if you will, to think a little bit differently and to take a step back. And I think I talk pretty good game on the internet about keeping perspective, but I like harmony rather than balance. I don't experience this where everything is working at all times.
It's usually, you're like way off left and way off to the right. And as long as those things can move in harmony like waves in an ocean then it feels good. And so I'm trying to look at this is an invitation to think beyond just the things that I was doing, because a lot of my behavior has to change and I've done just that. I think about it and I wrote a book, it came out in the fall called "Creative Calling," where I talk a lot about creative cross training, and you have your area of discipline and your focus and the thing that you want, you wanna accomplish and be known for, and that you're celebrating, or maybe building a business around, or an advanced hobby. And that's great, you should spend most of your time there, 'cause there's nothing like mastery, and you know this, we've talked about it before in person, lots of times when you've mastered one thing, it allows you to master and, you know, expand your footprint and your ability to learn quickly into others. But it's hard to take the time to do that creative cross training because you take it away from the thing you're doing. And even though it all goes to a good place in the end, it's very stressful and hard when it's not like you're not gonna take a paying gig to go walk in the woods and think about your next big idea. So now this has been a time, an invitation from the universe for me to look at some other things. And I also, in addition to other things, I'm doing a lot of writing right now. I mentioned writing the book. While most people know me as a photographer and the founder of a couple different companies, one of which is CreativeLive, what you might not know about me is that I really enjoy writing. I love the book process. I got another one in the works.
Another book? Great.
Yeah. Yeah, I think I'll always be writing now. It's a great way to clarify thoughts and it's not my first mode of communication. It's not my preference.
I was gonna say--
It's slow and uncomfortable. And that's part of what I mean in this time. Like what are the things that you enjoy, but maybe you're not that great at? I think I'm a good writer, but I'm very, very slow. So part of my skills here are trying to write more regularly. I also like the integration of the physicality. That's one of the reasons I was an outdoor photographer and climbed mountains and repelled into ravines traveled 250,000 miles a year for 15 years all over the world.
Is I like the physicality. So I mentioned, you know, you built your home, the nook there. And my wife and I have... There's a place that's been in our family for a long time, a little beach house, a couple hours north of Seattle that we recently took over ownership from the other partners in our family. And this physical stuff in the evening, like, literally painting and tearing out 60 year old electrical work and just a bunch of physical things that are also inspiring. And they put me in a different head space. I've been trying to do that. And I've been trying to connect other people who might be struggling with people who I know have either been through that before, or might have some insight, you know, that's a resource that never goes away. It's also very creative. Who do I know that could help this other person in a way that maybe I'm not as useful? So I think if I was to put a bow on that answer, it's I'm doing more work in a myriad areas around my area of expertise, all of which I find--
Yeah, all of which I find wildly creative. I'm trying to create a lot of content for those folks that are in a position that a lot of people who are watching this might be, and that is, you know, through CreativeLive and we're doing a ton of free stuff. And so, yeah, I'm probably creating more in this time than I was in sort of a pre COVID world where we took a lot of that stuff for granted.
Yeah. You just traveled. 'Cause, yeah, you just--
That must have been difficult for you.
Yeah, all those things took up time and energy and head space. And again, I don't wanna put a pretty sheen on this 'cause I know it's incredibly hard for so many people, but one of these amazing things that as humans we can do is we can both hold grief and pain and hard stuff and find the silver lining. Like we have--
the capacity to do those things. And I think that is a really key to a resilient creator is you can acknowledge that right now is hard. And you can also like, what can you do with what you've got? And that is a question that is a recurring theme in my career, in the career of the most successful and fulfilled, not just successful, but successful and fulfilled creators that I know. Whether you're, again, building your photography portfolio, your design portfolio, whether you're building a business as an entrepreneur, like what can you do with what you have now? And that's a really, I think it's a key insight that I've learned from my successes and failures. And having had a lot of people on CreativeLive and my podcast and a lot of our mutual friends, like a lot of people have done a lot of stuff with not very much, and that's a really inspiring, and it's a helpful reminder, especially when times are hard.
I love it. So what you've been doing is pretty much expanding your area of doing.
And I think expanding my area of doing, but also giving myself the freedom to think. I was on a Zoom call with a dear friend of mine, Brandon Stanton, "Humans of New York." We were talking about how we were thinking about this time. And one of the things that I realized is that, you know, go back to the family beach house that was my great aunt's grandma paid 10 bucks for this thing. It's on the beach. It's incredible $10. We have the deed. It's amazing, but I can only have envisioned what I wanted to do with it by actually being in that space.
Yeah. Going up there.
Yeah, by going up there a lot more and by having a little bit of time. Normally I would've drawn up some plans and hired an architect and drawn up--
Yeah, good luck.
Yeah, exactly. And I'll be back, you know, when I get back from Malaysia, then, you know, I hope the next phase is kicked off.
To be able to have, and to try and find some joy in the slowness and be really thoughtful. I just made a video that I shared on my social, which was ultimately, it went something like this, wherever you are right now, that's where you're at. And let this time be a little bit of space for you to look inside and was the thing that I was doing before this, the thing that I really want to be doing? And if so, great, then what can I do with what I have? And if not, can I use this time to be really honest with myself, whether through journaling... I know I've been, you know, following you closely. You're talking about writing a lot more like through journaling or morning pages or some exercise where you can get in tune with your real, like not your parents, not your brothers and sisters, not what the internet thinks you should be, but what you really, really want more than anything in the world. So that takes space. And that is a space that is often filled and cluttered with all the things on our to-do list. And so, I'd say I'm doing different kinds of creative things on purpose to strengthen that creative muscle and I'm enjoying or trying to find the silver lining in that space that is no longer just jam packed with flights and travel.
I 100% agree about the writing. I mean, I've been thinking that it's at the root of everything, not to put it on a pedestal, but whether you're filmmaking or making photos or even designing, if you start with just writing what you're trying to do, like just defining it much better, then it becomes easier to give it meaning and a shape and make it understandable by people. That's something I've just learned. I've been journaling for not too much, about two years, but since the pandemic I've just been switched to a paper journal, as you were mentioning and just writing way more, almost like writing reports to myself, I think, you know, it's like, oh, what's that? And then you're amazed by the stream of consciousness that comes out there, especially because you have less people to discuss with in person, right?
Calls are nice, but you don't always call people to chat just randomly like you would chat around dinner or over some wine after.
So it's been like a way to palliate that need to just get ideas out and bounce it off people. One of my favorite things is bouncing ideas off of people. So at least writing it, I can bounce it off myself and it's been huge. I mean, that's one of the biggest things I've learned thanks to this pandemic (indistinct).
Yeah. It clarifies thinking. If you can put something that you're talking around or in your head, if you can put it in writing in one or two sentences that are like... It helps, often helps galvanize the idea. And I think a really key thing that you mentioned, which is often misunderstood is the idea of community. Whether that community is your work community, the people that you're working with, you know, at Stroworks or on your independent projects or whatever it is like there are other people involved, even if it's on the periphery. And there's a belief that every solo creator made it on their own, his or her or their own. That's not true. Everything takes a team. A quarter of my "Creative Calling" book is about building community. And in a weird, but very powerful way, what you mentioned about writing is so relevant because it's a great way, not just to communicate ideas and get people excited, because that is a part of your job as a creator. Again, if you're making these things that you're making in your parents' basement and you never share them, it's gonna be hard for you to get traction in the industry. So if you're practiced at sharing things, one of the first ways and the most clarifying ways that you can do that is in writing, whether you're teammates or your people who work with you or for you or your partners or your pitches. All that involves writing. And so it's a huge skill.
Yeah. What are you making? Yeah, I think... Yeah, I think it's been huge. So you mentioned the passions, how can people connect to their passions? How can people find the answers to who they are? 'Cause that's like, I think is one of the biggest questions of humanity is like finding, you know, what really matters to you. Have you developed any approaches to that?
Mm, yeah, I think a big whiff for most people is they try and intellectualize. That is, think of while they're sitting on the couch, what it would be like to do A, B or C. And we often tell ourselves, like, you know... I use video as an example or making films like, oh, are you in love with filmmaking or are you in love with the idea of filmmaking and wearing the beret and writing the script.
The beret. (laughs)
And having the, you know, all of those things or do you actually like making films? And the difference is in the doing and you can't actually experience it from not participating--
If you haven't done it.
In an activity. You have to do the verb to be the noun. The cool thing is that's not a very high bar because if I took out my phone and I started filming and editing a script and putting some stuff out, I'm a filmmaker.
You got a film.
Yeah. Again, do the verb to become the noun. But if I'm sitting on the couch and I'm just thinking about what it would be like, there's this gap between reality and what the experience or what you think it is and the reality that it actually is. So I like for understanding the passions, you have the things that you believe. Most of those things, again, this is a huge part of "Creative Calling" you've been talked out of because they were impractical or it was too hard or everybody else does that. Or how of course you wanna make your living with a camera but so do 10 billion other people.
Yeah. You can't listen to that.
Yeah, think about all those things that you were talked out of doing. Well now, if you have a little space and it's not even about resources, it's about resourcefulness, right? Those are different things like, if you're resourceful, how can you do something in that world with what you've got right now? I use the filmmaking example. People are making masterpieces on their phone and like, why not you? If not you, who? And if not now, for God's sakes, when are you gonna start making it, you know?
I was gonna say. Yeah, it's time to answer things because you're always like, I'll do this when I get some time.
This is now. If you don't do it now, just cross it off the list and move on, it's fine. I like it, so you're preaching more doing to connect with--
For sure. I'm preaching more doing, and I'm preaching, like being real honest with yourself. 'Cause a lot of people want to be a photographer or a filmmaker because the idea and you don't actually want to get up before it's light and go to bed long after it's dark. And you don't really wanna like, you know, stay overnight in a snow cave for three weeks to get the shot or you really don't wanna, you know? Like those are things that sound fun to us, but I think a lot of people may look at your lifestyle or what you post on the internet and think that they can do that just by dipping their toe in the water. And the reality is, you know this, and I know it, anyone who's ever created success or fulfilled in any area of their world, like it takes a ton of work. So figuring out what you really wanna do in part by starting to do it and not just think about it also in part by building community. Now it's a tough time to get together in person. I realize that, but that actually makes a little bit more room for digital connection and that's what we're advocating for on CreativeLive. This is part of what you're doing here is like, this is a form of building community and sharing information.
Yeah, it's a fantastic replacement. This is an example, an in real life working example of doing what you can with what you have. Normally we'd be together.
Yeah, nice cameras, lights.
Yeah, cameras everywhere and lights and action. And now you're just like, "Hey man, I'm putting this thing together. Are you interested?" And of course, that'd be great. And here we are, we're gonna carve out an hour of our time. And that's a great example. That's the meta example of what I think people should be doing. And one more point before we move on, which is this is great for this time, but it's also great for every time. Like the lessons, the reality that you're learning right now of do what you can with what you've got to be able to, rather than have this sort of timeout forced on us. How can you find a way to take that time for yourself through discipline? And how do you create the space in order to be the most creative and connected and valuable version of yourself? Like these are all great lessons that we're talking about around resiliency and the fact is that anyone who you care, you give two F's about what they think on resiliency, they've had to have been through some stuff, right? And so like, this is not the last time, maybe it's the last pandemic you're gonna live through in your lifetime, maybe not, but there's certainly gonna be a bunch of other stuff. And the hard stuff that we all learn from, that's the best, that's the best medicine. And to be able to be prepared when that stuff hits, that's what it means to be a pro that's what it means to be strong and I just will use the name of the course, Resilient, right?
Hundred percent, so you lived through a big recession when you were doing photography, that you're still in your career. I remember that pretty well. How can... and this is like the meat, right? This is what people need to hear. How can photographers bring solutions to clients right now? I'm just jumping right in because--
Great, no, no, this is a question--
This is what they need to hear.
For sure. Well, let's look to what I actually did. Let's go back to 2008 and to be... I'm just gonna call it what it is and I'll try and be factual. I'm certainly one of the top handful of commercial photographers in the world, if you measured it on earnings or clients or whatever. And when I had personally built up a very large staff. I was full time employing somewhere between 13 and 16 people and had a big photo studio. And you started doing the math on that. And you start to realize that that's like real overhead and no one, like not Annie Leibovitz, nobody had that many folks on staff and they were looking at me like I was crazy. And the reality was what I was aiming for prior to the recession was growth and community and connection and great ideas come from a lot of places. And the ideas that I want, they take humans because it's advanced productions and we're traveling all over the world. And normally that would immediately become a huge liability. Because you've got these bills to pay. And it's fair to say that the first thing I did when I realized that a lot of this client revenue is going away and it's gonna go away very quickly is okay, what are costs that are... that are things that I can part with and what are costs that I don't want to give up? And most people immediately go to people 'cause they're the most expensive thing. But to me that was a huge part of the engine of what it was that I wanted to build.
Yeah, the culture.
Yeah. And culture and all these things. And the reality was we also had a lot of perks. We fed everybody for all the meals. You came in, you had breakfast and lunch. And so we took all of the things that were frivolous out of the equation and all of a sudden, not only were we all more aware of the stakes, but we all got, just consciously 'cause some of the niceties that you had around you went away, but it also has a way of focusing your attention, which is a very powerful thing. There's nothing more powerful than your attention. It's like what you are doing. And so cutting all unnecessary expenses. And then you can say, you know, for me it was, well, what is working? And I had a hypothesis that it was the middle that was gonna get blown out. The folks that were just starting out and they were getting a hundred dollars for a gig, like that's not going away because people are happy to, you know, people are racing to find those, you have a camera and a finger, awesome. I wanna hire you because--
the need for photography didn't go to zero. But the willingness to pay was dramatically diminished. And at the other end, you know, companies like Apple and Microsoft.
Their needs aren't going away and they have infinite money. So the high end was gonna stay there. And it was everything in the middle that I was worried about. So I started preaching to the photography industry, anyone who could listen and say to think about these things and me being in the position that I was, I just everybody who was a hard to manage client or whose inventory or whose budgets and everything I knew were gonna go away. Or I surmised they were gonna away, I had a really quick conversation with them. Like, "Hey, what's your plan this year? How can I help?" I had a handful of ideas. Maybe we can collapse all the work. Instead of five projects over the course of the year, maybe we spend a quarter of the money and we do it all at one time. That saves logistics and getting people together. And so I basically knew all of the things that I knew about production and tried to leverage them into helping my clients solve problems. For some of them that created a job for me, a gig that came out of helping them solve a problem. And then I went to the folks that were the big dogs, the Apples and the Googles and the Nikes and said, "Hey, just so you know, we're all in. Like we're not going anywhere and I know a lot of the vendors will be." And if you are a proven resource, you know, when they only have one or two shoots a quarter or whatever, then they're gonna go to where they've been taken care of in the past. So in a sense, if you distill those actual things that I just shared with you into... So what's the tactic, the takeaway for someone who's listening? Is like, what are the things that you are differentiated for in the marketplace? For me, there's very few people who are doing photo shoots that a hundred people go to New Zealand for a month for six pictures. Like there's not too many of us in the world that were doing that. So I just hung my hat on that and said, I'm here and don't worry about it. And for a lot of other vendors were probably going away, but we're bulletproof and we will be forever. So let us know if we can help. For the people who were in the middle, I said, "Let me help. If I can solve some of your problems, here are some ideas." And for the folks that I knew couldn't make it, I immediately took the burden off of them and said, "Hey, I'm guessing you're not gonna be doing any shoots. Don't worry you do what you do. If you need some help or you need some recommendations, I'm here." So I tried to add value.
Just value, adding value.
The punchline is, yeah, the punchline is add value. And there's also, I think another, I think the unobvious thing there was... This is when I basically 10Xed my production for my community, helping people solve problems. And the learning part of it really came out of the 2008, '09 era. And I had had a full time video person since 2005. And you're a photographer going like, "Wait, why do you have a full-time video person?" Because they were making videos about me taking pictures. Here we are 15 years later and that makes sense.
You were planning your own YouTube.
Yeah, but it was crazy then. And so a lot of people would say, "Well, that's the first thing you'd cut." Like, no, no, no. To me, we 10Xed the amount of content that we're putting out in the world that is in part what laid the foundation for CreativeLive. It's what laid the foundation for my app of the year with the first photo app that allowed you to take a picture and add cool effects on social media called Best Camera. And so there was time and space to think about these things. We started really doubling down on building a community, such that when we emerged so many of our competitors or the other photographers in the world who wouldn't be able to weather the storm, we were putting out a lot of value. And that was, you know, go back to my opening salvo about the people being so key. Like we decided to cut all the other things, all the niceties and the free food and the first class plane tickets and everything, and double down on humans, like we're gonna be around, we're gonna make videos. We're gonna do live streaming things. We're gonna do all the stuff that builds community. And lo and behold, you know, we ended up really growing the business in that downturn economy based on those handful of simple moves. Now I don't want to sugar coat it 'cause I don't wanna pretend it wasn't hard, but those are the actual tactics and a little bit of the thinking around it. And if you're trying to apply this to like, "I don't have 15 people, Chase. It's just me and my wife," or me and a part-time assistant. Well, what are the takeaways? The takeaways are, how can you reduce non-core expenses? How can you double down on what you are the best in the world at and how do you proactively and positively communicate your value in the marketplace? How do you differentiate? And in a world where everyone said the sky is falling, if you can be genuinely and authentically be a bright spot, like I think that's valuable. And last thing is like, you need to be able to understand that people are grieving and that there's real pain in the world. And so you don't want to come off as an insensitive jerk. But again, go back to being human. We can hold that pain and the silver lining at the same time.
So let me go back to when you were telling your clients we're here forever, where do you get that, you know, 'cause at the time it must have not been easy to think that or say that. Where do you get the strength for that? Where you'd be like, I'm so sure about this. I'm gonna tell all these guys like we're here forever.
Well, just quite frankly, I had built up reserves. Like I planned for rainy day. Again, I was investing. I had 15 people in a world where all that... I could have easily had eight people and put eight people's salaries worth of money into my pocket but the reality was is that I had everything I needed at the time and it was not crazy fancy. It wasn't super humble. It was somewhere in the middle. But I would rather like, yeah, again, to me the people part of it and to be able to put money away, that's the cool thing about doing the thing that you love. I've got so much joy and connection and community that I didn't have a lot of external needs. I kept my life simple. I kept my cost bases simple. I never got extended. And I frankly put a lot of money in the bank so that we could invest in things like video, video folks and cutting edge gear and trips to exotic locations. Because to me that was simultaneously a differentiator and a rainy day fund.
Did you have a formula?
I did not have a formula, but on the backside of that, my dear friend Remit helped me automate all my finances so that was... all automatically happening in the background. Again, it's like, I don't want to paint a picture of, yeah, it's easy to say after you've already made it, but I slept in my car and I snuck onto the world free skiing ski championships and dug a snow cave so I could just be on the course 'cause I didn't have a pass. Like, you know, so I don't wanna pretend. I don't want to be too rosy here and alienate this advice for anyone who's coming up. But I think embedded in there is modest living and being humble with the resources that you do have and not feeling like... Every single person always wants the top of the line camera. And I made great pictures with a piece of crap camera that was given to me by my grandfather after he died long before I could ever afford a camera. So I think making some of those decisions on how to invest the resources that you do have. I go back to the line I said earlier. It's not about resources.
It's more about resourcefulness and I had the... luck or foresight or combination of those things to be saving for a rainy day. And it's easy to get caught up in the market and the getting excited. But when everyone's cheering, that's a time I think to be especially thoughtful and humble. And when the going gets hard, I think that's what celebrates or what helps highlight people who are doing the thing that they... it doesn't matter how much they'd make. Assuming they could put food.
They would still do it.
Yeah, they would still do it if they were not paid a dollar. And the fact that I got paid very well for doing things I loved was, I always felt like, God, if they just knew that I would do this for $0. I would pay them to be doing this.
I've thought that multiple times.
Yeah. Go back to the top of the hour and it's like, this is a time for introspection. Are you really doing the thing that you were put on this planet to do? And if you can't unequivocally say yes, it's a good time to turn inside and say, "Hmm, what would that be?" And it can be just a different area of photography or if you're a designer watching this and you wanna become a photographer or photographer you wanna become a designer or like you with Stroworks having multiple income streams. Like what are some other things that you'd do if you could?
So going to the, reaching out to clients, 'cause you've mentioned it. What's the best way? You were mentioning not being loony and sort of being tone deaf to what's happening. What's the best way to reach out to clients mindfully right now as a photographer?
That's a good question and I think my...
You've been out of the photo game. (laughs)
Yeah, yeah, but like conceptually.
The principles are the same though.
For sure, and there's tens of millions people that use CreativeLive and so to be completely embedded in that world, but with a different viewpoint, I hope adds value rather than lessens the value and it's... to each his or her or their own. Like there's a way to do it in a way that resonates and feels authentic and grounded for you. You have a personality, you have a relationship with a lot of the clients that you've already had. And I think honesty is the best policy. And I think positivity, not like panacea, like Pollyanna bury your head in the sand stuff. But if you look at what I did in 2008, I basically grouped my clients into three buckets. People that I thought were still gonna be doing stuff, people that I was unsure of and people that I was pretty certain were not gonna be spending. And I found a way to approach those conversations in such a way that didn't actually put them on the spot. So I know you're not gonna be, or I'm sure... It was just like, "Hey, look, I don't know what your plans are." (indistinct) Yeah. If I'm you, I gotta be thinking it's gonna be hard road for the next blah, blah blah. And I just want you to know, fill in the blank. There's an acknowledgement of the real thing. And this is basically, this is sort of like a leadership principle, right? It's like trying to pretend something doesn't exist is the worst thing you can do. Hitting it head on, but with passion and awareness and like respect for the situation and you don't know where someone else might be coming from, they may have just lost their house or they might, you know... like there's all kinds of context that we're all missing. So to find a way to, I think, categorize your clients and have just a couple of approaches that work for you and your industry. And ultimately I was just... I was speaking factually, like I'm not going anywhere. We could make not a dollar and be around in five years, but if you are doing stuff, I'm here and I want you to know that. And that's one of the benefits of working with a longtime pro and having their longtime relationship that we have. And I'm sure there's a way that we can do what we did last year for a lot tighter budget.
It was basically grouping the clients and what value can I bring? 'Cause I know the Googles and the Nikes, it's exactly the opposite of what you think. They're not gonna go somewhere where they can save 50% and take a chance. They're gonna go to the place that's bulletproof. because they're only gonna do one shoot this quarter. And so, to me, it wasn't about price. I never led with price. It was always with the value. And then occasionally we would say, "Oh, sure. I'm sure we can--"
Efficiencies in there.
Yeah, efficiencies is a great way of talking about it. And those are almost, I always frame those on the production side, not the creative side.
Yeah. Oh, that's very smart. You don't wanna devalue the creative.
Yeah. Yeah. And those are like, again, it doesn't matter if you're working with Fortune 100 brands or the store on the street, like everyone has problems. And ultimately what you wanna be is an aspirin, not a vitamin, you know? You wanna solve a problem for someone who's hurting. And that to me is a great way, that's a lens that you can bring to every conversation is like, you can ask them, but you should also walk in, like, I'm guessing that this is part of how they're hurting and if you have a solution for it, great. But don't also be a snake oil sales. (Alex laughs) You don't have a bullet for every problem and saying that you do just makes you come off as a rookie.
(laughs) Come off as a rookie, I like that.
Yeah, you know?
Cool. I mean, I think we've talked far and wide about clients. I'd like to just jump into revenue streams because I mean, a lot of the best photographers you see out there have several revenue streams. Whether it's prints or public speaking or making films. How are some of the ways people can start looking at creating their different revenue streams?
Yeah, first of all--
Everybody started making prints. Right? Like that was the first answer is like, I gotta print shop now.
Okay, so that's V1. How can we go a little deeper?
Yeah. First of all, if you don't have a business that has multiple revenue streams, you should. Now is a great like reconciliation of, "Oh, if I wasn't sure if this was a thing I needed to do," now you know, right?
Now's the time.
That'll be with you for the rest of your life, whether you like it or not. But you know, I think the best businesses, the most sound creators, they have that. And that's trying to do all of those things at the same time is very hard. Versus, you know, doing one, launching that, letting it be out there, maximizing it, winning with that, et cetera. And then another train leaves the station a little bit later. Because that allows a thoughtful or like the time to process and get things right and the detail, I think this is an Eames' quote, "The details aren't the details. The details are the thing."
And so, you know, getting those details right on a bunch of different lines of work all at the same time are hard. Now let's face it. If you're watching this right now, it's probably because you're in the shit and it's hard. And so launching 10 new businesses now, you know, it's not necessarily my recommendation, but also if you can make these things lightweight and go back to a principle we talked about earlier is actually doing something rather than just thinking about it. Because we have a tendency as, not just creators, but as humans to try and think our way out of it. We use this instead of the whole organism in order to try and solve problems. And that can sometimes get us in harm's way. So for me, and what my recommendation would be is like, what is a line of revenue that is near or adjacent to what you're already doing, that you can get off the ground with modest effort? Because the worst thing you could do is put six months of time into something right now only to have it, you know, tumbleweeds or crickets when you launch it. And you were banking all of your studio.
Get to (indistinct) quick.
Yeah, I'm an advocate of, you know, getting something into the market that you feel like you can stand behind or that represents you, or that's another offshoot of something that you're already doing. That's one of the reasons people naturally gravitate to prints, right, because it's like, "Hey, I've got the photographs. And now all I have to do is put a price tag on it and put a website up and I can be in business in 48 hours." I think that's one of the reasons we saw so many people do that early on is because it's pretty smart. You know, low overhead, low effort. Now the flip side of the same coin is like, yeah, but when everyone's doing something, do you wanna be the person who's doing that too? And that's where I think, you know, a little bit of a flex there is like, what can you do that no one else could do? Heading into 2008, I was working on live broadcasting and all sorts of crazy weird technology. And I had a blog that had a thousand posts and a million readers and so I--
You were already deep into it.
Yeah, but I was like, so that's part of why I doubled down on that because that's the thing that I had. It was adjacent, it was there. And I had the people and it was working 'cause it was growing and I couldn't necessarily like maybe it wasn't in itself producing tons of revenue, but I'll tell you on the backside of the 2008 crisis, I emerged with that making more on my endorsements and all that stuff made me more money than I was making as one of the top commercial photographers in the world.
You mean the YouTubing and the website?
Yeah it wasn't really, there wasn't a clean revenue stream for YouTube, but just my social presence and this sounds crazy, but photographers used to not be sponsored. It wasn't a thing, so I brought that to Nikon and said, "Hey look it, I can help you sell a million cameras and here's the way we can package this." But that didn't exist really, like there was plenty of stuff happening in the early social feeds in '05, '06, '07. But there wasn't really the galvanization of real dollars coming into it until after that. So it was during that time that I said, "Okay, what can I do?" I can put more blog posts out there, more videos, helping people understand and see things. And for me, you know, I didn't need it to turn a profit immediately. I was banking on the long game, but if you do need money in the short term, that's why people ran to prints. The point that I'm trying to make is like, what is a part of something you're already doing that's differentiated? Because if everybody's making prints and you just open up another print shop too.
Just adding to the noise.
Yeah, it's just noise. What's the signal to noise ratio there? And that's not to say that you shouldn't do prints because maybe your prints are better or you have your own angle, you know?
Yeah. There's different ways to do it.
For sure. But I like to look at things that I'm already doing that I've maybe under-invested in that could be another line of business and for a lot of people that's prints. Maybe it's teaching and learning because there are people at home right now who are investing in the learning process since there's not a lot of other things that they can do. You know, what are ancillary things like your investment in your own social feeds that might not have this immediate short-term payoff, but say you're to double your following or... hello.
We're back, we had a little bit of an internet kerfuffle.
Internet kerfuffle. Montana. You got a squirrel cranking that internet out there?
(laughs) It's a rabbit. I can see it from my window.
(laughs) Rabbit it on a wheel. I can't see your video, bud.
Not yet? Shit, it's on...
You know, it's--
I've got your--
Rabbit's gotta speed. It's a fast one though, but I think it's exhausted after all this day.
There it is.
Yeah? All right.
There you go. You're back.
We're back a hundred percent. Okay. So you were saying...
Yeah, I was saying, I'll just go back. Like, it's not about me prescribing do this. It's look this way and say, what are some things that are ancillary to the business that I'm already doing that I am differentiated? Where do I have interest? And where I feel like I can stand out in the marketplace. And for me, that was doubling down on building community in 2008 or '09. I didn't need dollars tomorrow. And I knew that it was a thing that a lot of people weren't gonna be able to invest in 'cause they didn't have a team of people, collaborating with them.
That's because you're naturally good at community. Right?
Should people follow their traits?
But it was actually, that's a learned skill. And I think that's, again, I've got a copy of the thing right here. Like this thing, to plug my book there. A quarter of that is about community. 'Cause I think it's the most misunderstood thing around creativity. A lot of people think that you and I do what we do--
In a silo.
We're solo warriors. Yeah and the reality, it isn't, and having a client, that's another word for community because they're people who are aware of what you do and are willing to hire you to do that thing. Like they're in your world. So I doubled down on building community such that when the recession in 2008 passed, I was well positioned. I don't know what the thing is for you who's watching this right now and I'm not trying to be prescriptive. I know, however, there are some things, whether it's prints or whatever that are ancillary or parallel to your business, teaching, helping others. How about getting a part-time job, helping somebody else who isn't in harm's way right now? Like that's actually okay too. Especially if it covers the mortgage or whatever your bills are. That's totally okay. And I don't want you to like to write that off. That's potentially a very valuable--
Very valuable thing to do. You might learn something from somebody else. So the point isn't about a prescriptive answer: Do this. Don't do that. But it's literally, what is the definition of you? What are some things that you can do and have a lens on that other people might not?
It's, again, battle (chuckles) tested, right?
Battle tested by Chase.
Yeah, I went through it in 2001 too after 9/11 and it was a (indistinct).
Oh, yeah, you had the internet bubbles. Wow, yeah.
Yeah and I think, you know, hopefully that is something, you know, it's a treat in my favorite quality in people and it's something that I aim for as well is grit. And I think that is underappreciated. It's hard to index for that, but that's sort of what I look for in coworkers and employees and in collaborators. And now's a really good time to get your grit on.
Are you a pretty optimistic guy generally?
Yes, I think mindset is one of the most underrated things, it's right up there with community. Because if you can't control what your noodle does, if you're driven by this thing, instead of you drive this thing, it's gonna be a tough road. And now is a great time to double down on self-care. One of those things being meditation, mindfulness. How do you control your thoughts? You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are, you know... you can either stand in the waterfall or you can step back and watch the waterfall, but you are not the waterfall. Right? You can either... Are you your thumb? No. Can you look at your thumb? Yeah. Like that's over there. Same thing with the waterfall and the same is true with your thoughts. And so if you can learn to listen to the ones that make sense and ignore the ones that don't and coach yourself how to get better at this through online classes or learning or a meditation or mindfulness practice. Some apps like Calm or Headspace that we got all kinds of free stuff at CreativeLive. There's all kinds of resources for you if... Mindset is, to me, it's like the foundation of everything. If you don't have a solid mindset, it's very, very hard to be successful. I find that people wanna work on that last 'cause it's the most murky sort of weird thing. And everybody wants a new camera instead. The reality is that that grit, that mindset to use your word is probably the most important thing that you can be doing right now, especially when it's tough.
I think yeah. Sort of approaching this a different way, interpreting what's happening a different way. I think it's huge and, I mean, that's another conversation, but learning how to fish, I think some people are born knowing how to fish and where to fish. I think I'd be pretty lucky to have been taught that by my father earlier in life, I would go with him on like commercial, you know, he was a salesman so I'd go with him as a kid. He had a motorcycle. So I'd always be in the back of the motorcycle going places or in the back of his... had this like Land Rover Discovery with a phone so I'd have to dial his calls for him. (imitates phone dialing) Here you go. So I could hear, you know? My childhood was hearing all that and at the time it was kind of boring, but just listening to the same patterns of how to fish, how to pick the client that's gonna convert for him and not, then move on the next one. Traveled all through Spain like that for years, was definitely formative. And I think that's something that even going higher up is like learning how to learn. I think it's a big one and I think in school, we're not really taught that, like how to learn. It's more like read this book. What do you think? Write you think there, but nobody... The people I meet that... I mean, we go through a lot of interns and very few have grasp back to how to learn thing, right? It's like, can you do this thing? And I like to keep it kinda high level. So see if they can figure it out that first test. And it's tough that we don't come out school with the right resources on that end like how to learn.
And that's a great thing to be practicing right now. That's why I'm an advocate of doing something rather than sitting on the couch thinking about it. Like, "I wonder what it would be like to learn how to play the guitar?" (Alex laughs) Yeah, if there's a guitar sitting in the corner, pick it up and try and teach yourself something today.
And I think that experience of being willing to throw yourself in and not know the outcome. It's okay that that's an imperfect imprecise not always gonna go well pursuit. But like so many things and like creativity by itself, it's a muscle and the more you use it, the more you get. That's what Maya Angelou said about creativity. It's an infinite resource. The more you use, the more you have. And so if you can think about that as just one basic tenet, if you had that mindset versus the sky is falling, how much better equipped you're gonna be.
To manage through a crisis and look it, it's okay if you have the mindset right now that the sky is falling and I'll let you know that your biology is being effective right now. Your biology was there to... We as humans are wired for negative bias. We literally are scanning the horizon looking for saber tooth tigers.
And it's very effective for surviving, but it's not effective for success. And certainly not effective for fulfillment, which are two really important things of the human condition, right. And if you can minimize suffering and maximizing joy, connection and fulfillment, why wouldn't you? Well, the first thing, if you go to any top performance coach or whatever they tell you is it's all about mindset. And the cool thing is there are resources right now where you can think about that. All you have to Google is like, growth mindset or meditation, mindfulness, like literally that is where you start. Like, I don't know what the first thing to do, like go to CreativeLive and type that in. Google it, mindset. To me, again, the book that I wrote this fall has a ton on mindset because I think it's the most powerful thing. And if you interview any top performer, you see it immediately, you feel it, you smell it. Even if they're like, it's not about being introverted or extroverted or pessimistic or optimistic. It's your ability to control your thoughts. And to say this one's serving me, I'm gonna do more of that. And this one's not serving me so--
I'm gonna make sure there's no saber tooth tigers coming. Chances are there aren't because we end up being scared of things. Most of them, which never happen. But to go back to your opening point on this topic is mindset is a huge piece of this. Everything doesn't have to be rosy. The goal is not to not see or feel these things right now, or feel the pain. No, the goal is to feel that and know what it feels like and be with that for a second and then get back to work on the noodle.
Beautiful. What's gonna be your biggest takeaway from all this... personally?
Oh man. I think there's always another gear. I think there's always another gear. There's always a stone unturned and you can look at that as, again, depending on your mindset as, "Oh my gosh, that means there's always another gear. That means there's always more to do," or that... if you've done the work, you can find yourself in a position of resourcefulness. Again, it's not resources. It's when you consistently put yourself in harm's way through pursuing the thing that you're supposed to be doing on this planet. It's not gonna be easy. It's not gonna be straightforward, but once you've struggled a little bit and survived, or God forbid struggled a little bit and then even thrived, you learn a tiny lesson. And that lesson of putting yourself in a position, struggling and finding out on the other side that it's gonna be okay, that is an amazing reminder of the power of the human spirit, the power of mindset. You know, again, I couch it a lot in the power of creativity because we're creating these things for ourselves. They're not happening to us. We are the arbiters of our own experience. So to me, it's that there's always another gear. There's always the ability to learn and to grow, like that's one of my core values is growth. And you see it, you see it in times like this. And I think if you're at home like asking yourself in the way Alex just asked me, like, what's a good takeaway from here? What would your theme of this time be? And it doesn't have to be like, oh, grow it or kill it or crush it. Avoid the cliches and like, no, what actually do you want to come out of this? And maybe it's a truth, a truthfulness with yourself about what you're supposed to be doing, because when shit gets hard and you're a photographer, do you just throw in the towel and run to something else? Or do you find a way to have some income on the side, do what you can with what you've got right now with photography business, employ some of these tactics that we're talking about here and some of the things that you learned throughout the rest of this course? And get stronger because of it and get wiser because of it and realize that in that uncomfortable place, you put yourself there, you endured, succeeded, maybe even thrived to get to the other side. Can you create that experience and learn to trust yourself that much more? The best stuff is in here, the intuition and all that stuff. And now, in fact, there's no better time and place. You can't cultivate that. It's very hard to cultivate that when everything is rosy. So that's my takeaway, but I'd encourage some folks at home who are listening to this right now to like, what is your takeaway? And be intentional about it. Don't just find yourself on the other side of this in 6, 9, 12 months, not having sort of some crisp thoughts about what you might take away. And it's not just like I checked all my to-do list off every day, that's not a thing.
You've heard it from Chase. Time to reflect. Yeah, well, another gold mine. Dude, thank you.
Amazing, I'm grateful. I wish I was in Montana sitting there on the deck at the nook, looking out those windows or sitting by that cozy fire that I see often blazing. I know it's still snowing out there. It was 80 something degrees in Seattle last night.
I heard that yesterday. Yeah. My buddy Morgan told me that it was 80. I was like, "Whoa." It was 60 yesterday and we were like dancing outside. (both laughing)
Yeah, it's been a good place to shelter in place. Like when people ask me how it is, it's not how you'd imagine. It's just like every day out here. Thanks, dude. (indistinct) Stay healthy. Stay strong.
Will do. Back at you, bud.