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How to book your first $100,000 shoot

Photo by Adam Barker

Photo by Adam Barker

\r\n\r\nOver the last few years, I got pretty close a few times… but that barrier is a magical one… and as superficial as it sounds, it felt so good to finally do it.\r\n\r\nThat good feeling isn’t from the money. Its all from being validated that you are awesome in someone elses eyes. That your work, your talent, you… you… you… are epic and amazing. Well, that and knowing you can pay your employees and bills… that feels very good too.\r\n\r\nI’m going to start this story a while ago… 2009… when shooting on the Canon 5D mark II was just getting popular (don’t worry, it’s not that long of a story). Vu and I were shooting everything we could. We were shooting promotional videos for photographers, we were shooting a daily comedy show, we were shooting weddings, we would shoot anything. We drove to Los Angeles from Orange County once or twice a week just to meet up with other people making videos and posting them online. We had been doing this since 2005, before YouTube was a place we trusted to upload our videos.\r\n\r\nAll of this hustle and work and network building was confusing but so so fun. Meeting other like minded people and talking to them for hours and hours was one of the best feelings I ever had. But I never knew how it would actually benefit me. I just knew I liked it.\r\n\r\nWhat did I actually like? I liked shooting, I liked talking about shooting, I liked showing people some cool tricks I learned or some new way to encode videos that saved time or bandwidth, I liked meeting someone then shooting with them and making something awesome but then going and shooting something else with someone new right after!\r\n\r\nI was a slut.\r\n\r\nI would shoot anything, with anyone for anything. But aren’t we all told to find a core team and help each other succeed, share secrets and work together? Yes… but I think that worked before everyone had access to all the same tools, all the same knowledge, all the same product reviews and same gear. I still like to work with my core team, and I do work with them a lot. But something magical happens when you work with new people.\r\n\r\nAnd that brings me to the Brit I met in 2009. I’m not going to drop names in this blog post (if you dig hard enough you’ll find him), so to sum him up, my favorite thing he has said is “… onwards, and upwards …” while sitting on the edge of his bed in Tuscany preparing himself for the long days of shooting we had ahead of us. I heard this from down the hallway, it is something I still tease him about.\r\n\r\nSo, in 2009, we met at a conference. A few of us went for dinner and drink after and we talked about taking over the world and all that kind of stuff. Like working on projects together and shooting amazing and cool things. As you do when you are eating and drinking… but over the next few months it became a reality. We actually started shooting things.\r\n\r\nWe shot a few projects together and became friends and we both kept going, kept meeting new people, kept shooting, kept talking. Then, after a while of not working together, I got a call from a company he works with a lot. A big company. An international-everyone-knows-them why are they calling me… company (again, no name dropping but if you are motivated you can find out who).\r\n\r\nThen began the pitch… if you have never pitched a big project before (I’m totally willing to share my pitches if anyone is interested) it is scary. I thought about the days where I was starting out and couldn’t even bring myself to charge people. I wasn’t worth charging any money so I would shoot for free. Then I was worth $100 a day… then $500… then more and more… then I’m pitching for an international advertising campaign where I can’t see any line item less than a couple thousand dollars?!?!!??! CRAZY!!!\r\n\r\nIt is humbling to send off a $100,000 quote. The second that send button is pressed, you want to take it back. It’s not Mad Men, it’s not walking on fluffy clouds of awesome, it’s sweaty palms and wondering if you are actually right for the job… no matter how right you actually are or how competent you are… it is terror.\r\n\r\nAnd it would never have been possible without meeting that Brit, him telling that huge company about me and then them asking me to do work for them. This isn’t the only time that has happened… all of my big jobs came from me meeting new people, they don’t come from my core group. I might know what it is like to work with them and be comfortable, but comfort doesn’t make you grow by leaps and bounds.\r\n\r\nWell, this post was supposed to tell you how to book that first $100,000 job. I went around and around… but here it is as simply as I can put it:\r\n\r\nCollaborate with as many people as you can… this will make you better and more valuable. It will increase your chances of meeting those people you can make magic with. Then, before you know it, you are there.\r\n\r\nPS, I was serious about sharing my pitches and pricing and stuff like that if anyone is interested.

  • Marc McMullan (New Zealand)

    Awesome post guys as so helpful to hear about what others have done along the way and how they have approached it. It inspires me to keep going.\n\nThis stuff is gold, keep em coming!!!

    • Lan Bui

      Thank you Marc!!! I’m so glad to hear this.

  • Kevin Philbin

    Love to hear the pitches!

    • Lan Bui

      Great, stand by… I’ve received a ton of interest in this!!!

  • Erol Mustafov

    Great stuff! How can we read about your pitches and pricing?

    • Lan Bui

      I’m going to have to put something together… lots of people emailing me about it!

  • Chuck Green

    I too would like to hear about your pitches. In October I’m going to produce a 3 minute educational piece for a regional media producers’ group, about promoting oneself, and a lot will be covering what hold us back – mostly head trash! I’d like to exchange ideas with you before the script is finalized. Thanks.

    • Lan Bui

      ‘Head trash’ reminds me of Ze Frank’s ‘Brain Crack”!!! Stay tuned for some updates about it… I’m going to do something very soon.

  • Dave Harrison

    Not sure if that comment is being moderated or if it failed to post so… I’d love to hear about your pitches and pricing ;)

    • Lan Bui

      We shouldn’t have any problems with moderation! We actually have it turned off…\n\nI’m going to have something prepared very soon about the pitches.

      • Dave Harrison

        Hows it looking with info about your quote and pitch process?

      • Dave Harrison

        Any progress?

  • Lan Bui

    I’ve received a lot of emails and messages about how I quote and pitch and sell and make money!!! I love to share, so… let me know any questions you have… you can leave a comment here. Literally anything goes.

  • Conor Liam Bolton

    I definitely want to see them pitches!

  • Marc Albert

    Faaaab article. Inspiring !

  • Nate

    It’s really helpful to hear such an honest post about pitching your services. Sometimes people can be very quiet about that information. It’s reassuring to read about the same feelings of anxiety and guilt that I have always experienced too!

  • Corey Steib

    Hey Lan I like the post but you forget to point out that it depends on the client and what market you live in. People want more for less now a days and budgets are not what they use to be as I have been doing this for 10 years.

    • Lan Bui

      Hi Corey, I thought that was clear… haha! Mom and pop shops usually don’t have $100,000 so I don’t think anyone should expect to book that if thats who they are collaborating with.

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