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Ep.25: Freelancing Dad Success Story (with Cameron King)

Chad:
Welcome back to the show. Today, I get to speak with Cameron King. He's been freelancing for 15 years, so he's very experienced at what he does. He's a videographer, editor, motion graphic designer, and he has built up a lot of success for himself. He's been able to live the lifestyle that he wants by freelancing from home. He’s like me as a freelancing dad, his wife is a stay-at-home mom, and they homeschool their kids. I mean, it literally is a carbon copy of my life. So, I'm really excited for what he's going to share with you today on how to build up success over time in your freelance business, and how to navigate work-life balance when you are raising a family, what that looks like, and what some of the advantages are of being able to freelance when you're a parent. He's going to share some of the key lessons he's learned over the last several years as he has built up a freelancing career. And I'm really excited to welcome him on the show today. As you might notice, I'm going to look a little bit different from the interview because we had the interview at 4:00 AM this morning, and I recorded the introduction later in the day. Welcome to the show, Cameron.

 

Cameron:
Hey, thanks for having me!

 

Chad:
I'm excited to bring you on. You are a freelancer, and you've had a bit of success. You have some things to share with us, and I want to start with you telling us more about your story and how you got to where you are today. What are some key things that helped you to gain momentum in your freelancing career? And just tell us a little bit about what you do.

 

Cameron:
So, basically we can just start off from the beginning of my career which was pre graduation from college. I graduated in college in 2006, but actually started working in media probably around 2004, just doing weekend gigs at the local news station. I did that for a couple of years, graduated in 2006, worked in my hometown for a couple years, and then decided to move off to a bigger market because where I lived at the time and where I currently live now 15 years later, there wasn’t a market for media and the technology just wasn't there. You know what I mean? Like, you know, to have an editing station would cost you 10 grand+, you know?

So, after a couple of years working there, I decided to just kind of put my feelers out into bigger cities like Washington DC, and I started working there. I worked a couple of years internally at the FAA, doing stuff in airplanes for a couple years, and just traveling all around the United States shooting on old Canon mini DV tapes and all that jazz. I did that for a couple of years. And then I finally went freelance there after building up my name around the area, connecting with people. This is back when Facebook was still fairly new, but you really didn't make a lot of online connections like you do nowadays. Most of your interactions were in person, or at least most of your networking was. Most networking was done going to networking events, being part of the film clubs in town, and that sort of thing. After networking for a couple of years, I went freelance there for a couple years. Did that for a while. And that's when I actually started being like, “Oh, well, freelancing is a lot of fun. I get to bounce from client to client and I get to kind of be your own boss, so to speak.” but not necessarily. Obviously, I don't work for clients, you get to kind of just pick and choose your projects and as much as you want, But I was all about making money. I didn't really care about the projects too much at the time. I was young, no kids, all that jazz.

And then after a couple of years, I finally hooked up with a nice production company in DC where I was just heading up all the post-production. They were called Third Story Films and did a lot of brand work for things like Chrysler and Volkswagen. We worked for the USA Olympic committee and a bunch of other just big brand stuff back whenever branded films were new on the scene. We kinda were a part of that first wave of branded film, making and posting stuff on YouTube and social media and stuff like that. Using Canon five DS cameras. This was back in the late 2000s and early 2010s. From there, I worked there for about three or four years. Moved to Atlanta, worked at a huge church there as a director of film, working for a small team, and then worked there for about three years. Then part of my life story was that my father passed away back in 2017, and we reassessed some things and decided to move back closer to home.

So, now I'm back where I started in 2006, living out in Louisiana and just kinda doing the freelance remote thing. Now we've been fortunate enough and blessed enough over the years that technology has progressed and I've had enough clients and met enough people and friends along my 15+ year journey that I can now have this lifestyle that I have now. So I've been doing this stint of freelancing for about four years, since 2017. And it's been great. It's been awesome. I've been pretty steadily busy. I get to take time off, vacations, all that stuff. And I'm actually starting to look into moving more of a small studio model as I keep growing.

 

Chad:
That's great. So do you do videography and editing primarily?

 

Cameron:
I would say my primary moneymaker is editing and motion design. I occasionally do a little bit of local videography for a couple of clients here and there. But I wouldn't call myself a DP or a shooter editor. I would say to local clients, yes, I do market myself as a guy who can produce and edit the whole thing just because it's a small enough market. You can do that. But when I work with my clients, like in DC, or LA, or New York, it's primarily post-production.

 

Chad:
I started my freelance career doing videography just with a local client where I lived and did editing for them. And then I found a couple more clients doing videography and editing. And for a couple of years, that's primarily what I did. And I actually, even before that, I was doing random weddings and shooting those, dabbling with all sorts of different types of videography. I ended up realizing that I didn't really like the videography side as much. But that's what I studied in school. That was my background. I just didn't like having to constantly go places for shoots and things. Then I just stuck with editing for a while and then moved even from that and to doing marketing and still doing some editing with my agency and focusing more on marketing. But that was a big part of what I did for a lot of my freelance career. That’s something I wanted to ask you is, why do you freelance? Why did you take this route? What has driven you to pursue this type of career, even though it's got more unknowns and some people think that it's not stable enough and not secure enough. Why have you chosen this path?

 

Cameron:
That's a good question. I mean, I wouldn't say it's a tough question, but it's definitely a multi-faceted question. It felt good at the time. Like I mentioned, you know, my father passed away and we decided to just do something else. And from a practical standpoint, if we were to move closer to home, there just wasn't any work for me to look for full-time. And on top of that, I didn't really want to be anywhere full-time unless it was a really good fit. I'm not just going to force myself to work somewhere just because it is full-time or whatever. If I come to my hometown and there's a job for a media person, that's pretty much all it's going to be here where I'm at. All that would be here is a digital media specialist or something like that. Not something that's going to be something like a creative director or a director of film. Those roles don't exist, or they're very rare or already taken. You know what I mean? Especially as somebody who has been doing this for years and years, I'm not going to start off doing something that I was doing 10 or15 years ago. So, there was that aspect of career progression, the natural career progression, and we felt like we were in a pretty good spot to just take a leap of faith and trust that once I get the word out to all my former colleagues and clients that things will happen. And if not, worst case scenario, I can always get a part-time job on the weekends while I build up the rapport again with folks.

Also, we actually wanted to live out in the country. So, we live out in, I would say, it's middle of nowhere. We do have neighbors, but we have like five acre, lots, that sort of thing. And it’s a good solid 30 minutes away from town. We have chickens and a garden, that sort of thing. So it's afforded us a lifestyle of living out in a rural area. We’ve done the big city thing and DC, we loved it there. We still love going back and visiting, but we have three kids now.

It's multifaceted. And to be honest with you, after doing this for a couple of years, I've actually made more money freelancing than I did full time. So, the only thing about full-time was just that it felt secure. No full-time job is ever really secure. As we know, especially with COVID hitting and the nature of the world changing, people switch jobs all the time, roles get moved around, and it's just never a guarantee anyway. So, you know, why not be the leader of your own ship and steer it wherever you want to go with it.

 

Chad:
Yeah, that's something that I tell people a lot is there's this common misconception that freelancing is less secure. And from my own personal experience, I had a full-time job right out of college. I lost that job because the company I was working for had to downsize. They were a business that hit a rough patch and they had to let go of some people. I lost all of my income all at once. And I'm like, I don't want to be doing that again. I'd rather lose a client and only lose a portion of my income and be able to get that back and find a new client. I've known people who have lost jobs many times. And you look at that and realize, “Oh, that's really not more secure.” Diversifying your income over multiple clients seems to me like it's a lot more secure.

And even if it seems weird at first as you're trying to get enough clients to fill in the income that you want, it does provide more security. And I like how you brought up the aspect being able to be location independent where you can live in the type of place you want to live in, but still have a city job to give it a label where you don't have to work for a rural gas station, but you can still live in that kind of community. You can really live how you want to live. And like you said, you're earning more money than he did in an employee job. And I like how you also brought up being able to specialize in certain types of jobs that you almost can't find.

I had the same issue where I'm not really finding jobs being posted for a video marketer or a full-time video editor. With these companies, I realized they're only looking for services like these for only a few hours a week, and I'm not going to get a part-time job doing that at 20 hours a week or especially 40 hours a week.

There are some larger companies that are building a media team, and they have full-time employees, but you're still not getting paid as much as you could get paid as a freelancer. So, what are some tips that you have for how you got to that point where you are earning more than you would in a full-time job? What was that process like of getting enough momentum with clients to where you keep having income coming in more consistently?

 

Cameron:
One thing I always tell folks is to just stick with the long game, especially if you're starting out. I've been doing this for 15 years. I have 15 plus years of networking and becoming friends with people. Because when you're in the trenches with people working on projects, you bond, you become friends with them, or you become total enemies and you never wanna talk to them again. When you're doing creative work with people, there's this aspect of birthing something that you've created with someone, and there's a bond there. A lot of people wanted to get the band back together and make another one of those things, again, whatever that is. You create these ties with people, and eventually, something else comes on somebody's doorstep and you call these people back together to make something cool.

So, play the long game, be nice to people. There’s a story I always tell about one of my bigger clients right now. When I worked at Third Story Films, this woman came in as an editor, like whenever I needed help. She was a freelancer. And if I had a lot of overflow work, we handed it off to her and you know, this was back in 2010 or so. When I went freelance again, seven years later, back in 2017, I put the word out on social media and she's like, “Cameron, you're freelancing now. That's great. I'm the creative director at this agency now, and we're looking for freelancers everywhere. So, you know, just by being nice to her back in 2010 and connecting with her seven years later, she's running an entire team of creatives, crushing it. She's doing awesome. And she's looking for freelancers. I'm like, great. Hit me up. Now at certain periods of the year she's one of my bigger clients. It pays to play the long game. Don’t burn any bridges. Just be nice to people in general. That's one of the bigger things. And just stay in contact with folks as well. Whether that's just always communicating with them on social media in some way. I mean, don't bug them every single day, but you know, like once a month if you see an interesting post, comment on it to stay in their ear a little bit. It’s just a constant game of just sort of saying top of mind. Always be interacting with people in some form or fashion, whether that's shooting off a monthly email to all your clients or potential clients like, “Hey, I have availability coming up in a couple of weeks. Just want to let you know.”

Don't harass people obviously, but just let people know that you're available. They’re not going to think about you unless you are at the top of their mind. If they're scrambling for an editor or a motion designer, they’re just going to be like, “Who do I pick?” But if they remember in their brain that they just got an email from Cameron last week, they’ll be like, “He's available, let's hit him up.”

Always be on top of their mind and play the long game. I would say that's probably the two bigger things you have to sort of stay focused on. Freelancing is not instant. It's not like as soon as you go freelance on Monday, you're going to be booked on Tuesday. That's not how it is. You're going to have to make the best use of your time and really get a plan and stick to it. And eventually you'll see some traction. We’ve obviously been doing this for a while, so we're a little bit more blessed and seasoned as far as knowing people. If you're fresh and you don't know anybody, say you just graduated college and the people you went to school with start doing their own projects, stick with a plan and get a social media plan, that sort of thing. So you can start getting in front of people.

 

Chad:
That's great advice. That seems to be the common lesson from a lot of freelancers that I've talked to who have become successful is understanding that long game. That’s what really messes us up. That’s what was messing me up at first is that I was very impatient with the process because I was coming from being used to just going and applying to a job, then to getting an interview, and getting hired. And now you have all the income, you need to cover your expenses, and now you got it all coming at once. Rather than just putting in a ton of work, I just got a client and it’s only covering a portion of what I need for income. Sticking to that long game throughout that process is hard. And it does get to that point where it starts to have that compound effect of what you shared about the subtle things that you can do to stay top of mind to people in your network, so that when the opportunity arises, they contact you. They call you and as you keep building that network. Eventually, that flow really comes in, but it's all these subtle things you're doing for a long time that starts to add up.

Thanks for sharing those tips with us. I want to shift a little bit and ask you, how do you balance family and freelancing? How do you figure out that dynamic? Are there any challenges associated with working from home, freelancing, and raising a family? Talk to us a little bit about that?

 

Cameron:
If you look at this in a way that there's the sort of the daily balance, then like the monthly, and a yearly balance, um, we'll just, we'll just kind start off with the daily balance of it. I have three small children, eight, five, and three months now. We juggle quite a bit and on the daily balance, but I would say I get started pretty early. It’s four o'clock now. I don't get started this early, but I do get started pretty close to this time anyway, just to kind of get my bearings, to get my head on straight. And then I usually hang out with the kids in the morning, once they wake up and then let mom wake up and all that stuff.

And then during the day I usually try to pack most of my work in during the morning because I'm usually no good in the afternoon. I'm not AS good. And my kids usually need more attention by then. They're doing their schoolwork and all that stuff in the morning. So I try to be more available to them in the afternoon, say like after two or three or whatever that is. And then in the afternoon I can just hang out with them a lot more freely. Obviously there's that dynamic. If I have something I have to really get done by today, then obviously I have to sort of shift priorities, but freelancing does give me that flexibility to be like, “You know what, it's two o'clock, I've done enough for today. Let me go and just hang out with the kids, give mom a break,” and do that sort of thing. If you work in a full-time gig, you only have two weeks of vacation, which is pretty standard. I'm thinking, two weeks of vacation, that's nothing, man! I like being able to be like, you know what? I have a free week next week, let's go on a little Airbnb vacation and just hang out and unplug for a little bit. And especially in this business where I could be super booked for like two straight months. I am burned out. I don't want to touch a computer. I need to take a week off. And this lifestyle gives me that flexibility.

Even if I am booked during the weekend, I can always find a fellow freelancer to hand it off to or whatever. It definitely helps with that. And I love being able to just take off at lunch and go head over from my office to the kitchen and just hang out with my kids, talk to them, eat lunch with them, cook lunch, whatever, take a long lunch. That balance is really nice. And there are times where I think, “If I were to ever grow and expand and do more things as you were mentioning earlier, videography, or, shooting more, that means I gotta be away from the house, and I don't want to do that scene.” Unless there's something you want to do, obviously then go for it. But personally, at the age that my kids are right now, I want to spend as much time as possible with them, really being an influence in their life. I don't want to be someone that they think works all the time. So, that was important to us as well. And my wife's a stay at home mom, so I'm the sole provider. And so she gets to spend all the time with them as well. It really was important to us as the kids got older that we just freelance. It just made sense as far as a pace of life and stuff like that.

And the thing about freelancing is you can make it as busy as you want, or not as busy as you want. So let's say last year I made a pretty good amount of money, then I was able to work less the next year. Not really looking for a butt ton of work. You know, I haven't really been hustling as hard because I'm a little burned out. I have enough savings to try a few new things, experiment with a few new things and just to slow down a little bit.

 

Chad:
Definitely. I completely resonate with you on everything you just said. And that's a big reason why I love freelancing as well is because I am able to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family. And just those little moments throughout the day. I have a five-year-old and a one and a half year old, and all the moments I didn't miss because I was here because I was able to be a part of it. When my son decided to attempt walking for the first time, my wife was able to call me out and say, “Hey, come check this out, look what he's doing!” I've loved being able to be a part of that. And like you said, they're kids for such a short amount of time. I know that at some point in the future, I may be able to get busier. But for now, it's just like you, I choose to have the break on a little bit with how many hours I'm working and I only work Monday through Thursday, so I deliberately take three-day weekends. And just like you were talking about, I like having the four to six weeks of vacation throughout the year. Two is a very small amount. I think you realize that when you're raising a family. It’s like “Man, if I was working double the hours, I could be making, how much more money could I be making?” Then you realize, “Okay, if I'm making enough, I just enjoy being able to have more time with my family.” You realize what matters most, and it's easy to make that choice. As long as we're comfortable enough and I'm paying for the lifestyle that we want, time with them is more important than having so much more money than I need right now. So glad you brought that up.

Were there any challenges as you were building up your freelance business? When I lost my full-time employee job was right around when my first son was born. And that's when I attempted to start freelancing. I understand where you've probably experienced the same thing of being the only income provider and being a new dad. What was it like for you to figure out how to deal with the pressures of that, and being okay with that role?

 

Cameron:
The honest answer? There are times where obviously your fight or flight part of your brain kicks in. There's three weeks where nobody's knocking on your doors, nobody's giving you a call and you're like, oh no, we're all going to starve. And, you have to go scrape for mushrooms in the woods or whatever. But you have to remember that things usually work out for the best and stuff like that. So, it’s had its ups and downs. Mostly ups, though. Every time I get afraid, I usually get a call the next day. This was back in like 2017 when I started really doing this full-time again, I would have those fits, and over the years it's gotten much easier.

Now, if I don't have work for a month, I'm not worried about it. It's either planned out or we have enough in savings where it's like yeah I'm okay for the next three months if nothing happens, like if COVID 3.0 hits and for some reason nobody wants to make any sort of advertising or media for whatever reason, we'll be okay until the world picks back up, hopefully. You always have to remember that worst case scenario, I go and get a job that is not in this field for now, just so I can provide for the family. You just have to kind of do what you gotta do, but it's a daily reminder that everything's going to be okay. And you'll be fine. The fear is real. I'm not going to lie about it. I'm not going to sugar coat it at all. It happens to most of us, especially with those who are the sole provider. It's a real fear, but you just have to constantly remember and have some faith. Do what you do, what you can control, which is doing those little networking tips, being responsible with your money, and things like that. Just make sure that you're on top of your stuff.

 

Chad:
Thank you, Cameron, for sharing that with us and any other dads out there or parents who were providing for their family and freelancing. It has its challenges. And there are times when there’s a lot of pressure, but you'll get to that point where it becomes comfortable and more secure than any other type of job that you could have. And like you said, you get these influxes of income that allows you to put a lot in savings to cover when there are gaps. And so everything works out just fine.

The last thing I wanted to ask you real quick is, what keeps you from going back to bed? The theme of the show has to do with not giving into the temptation to go back to bed, to stay in your comfort zone, to do what everyone else is doing. What keeps you continually getting out of your comfort zone so that you can grow in your business?

 

Cameron:
There’s this psychological term called exposure. And the more you do something, the easier it becomes. Like we mentioned with the fear thing earlier, we're a family of faith as well. After you take a couple of risks, it gets easier to keep taking risks. And it actually becomes normal. There are times where you're living a risky lifestyle and people look at you kind of strange, but you don't feel strange. You feel like, well, this is normal. Of course this is how we're going to live because this has been so great. You know, we don't even think twice about certain things right now. We homeschool our kids. There are other little things that we just do that most people wouldn't even think about doing because it feels too risky or not everybody else is doing it. But the path of least resistance is not always the best path, you know? I think I might have veered off on the question a little bit, but basically, I get up and do this every day and try new things every day because it works. You’re going to get it wrong sometimes, but whenever you do get it right, and it hits, it's an awesome feeling. And it usually pays off. High risk, high reward sort of thing.

 

Chad:
Definitely. As you start to take those little risks, it becomes easier and easier, and then it becomes a habit. Cameron, thank you so much for joining us today. I know that I will likely have you on the show again. I know that there's plenty for us to talk about. We have a lot in common. We homeschool our kids too. I freelance at home. It’s like the twin that lives on the other side of the country. And there's just a lot that we share in the way that we approach our career and family.

Is there somewhere that you want our viewers to go to learn more from you? How can they connect with you?

 

Cameron:
Social media is the best place. You can find me at “@camthemanking.” That's the handle. That's pretty much the handle everywhere, I believe, especially on Instagram and Tik Tok. I usually reply to DMS. I'm pretty active on those. Mostly. I should be a little bit more active at times, but, you know, balance, like we talked about earlier. It’s just not my jam to be on there all the time, but I try to stay involved as much as I can. I’m on LinkedIn as well. I'm starting to beef up my presence there as well. I also have a website called c”camthemanking.com” that I'm kind of constantly updating here and there. That’s where you can find me, @camthemanking.com. Feel free to DM me if you have any questions, all that jazz.

 

Chad:
Okay. Well, thanks so much camera for coming on the show. I hope you enjoyed that conversation this morning. Cameron really shared a lot of valuable insights on how to stick with something long enough to really see the results. That is one of the most important lessons you can learn as a freelancer, is how to be patient enough to do a lot of small things that maybe don't bring dramatic results right away, but eventually, the compound effect kicks in and it all adds up. Then, the end results start to pour in. And eventually, you make back the return for all the work, all the effort, and all the time you put in initially where you weren't making much money and you weren't getting the results you wanted. It just takes time to develop the skills, to build up the network necessary to have a continual flow of clients.

And so if there's one golden nugget from today, it is to stick with it, to have patients in the process of you developing as a freelancer building up your business and network so that you can have the success that you want. If you bail out, if you give up before you're getting those results, then that's the only way that you can possibly fail. But if you stick with it, you will find the success that you're looking for. And I really enjoy talking with him today as well about what it's like to freelance from home as a dad and the pressures that come from being the only income provider, along with the joys that come from being able to spend more time with your family with this type of career. Living in the way that me and my family do if I wasn't freelancing just wouldn't work. I can't be going and commuting to some job 40 hours a week and see my kids as much as I do. And that's one thing that I talk about a lot is just that if you're somebody who wants to put family first, if you're somebody who’s raising kids, you have a family, and you want to spend more time with them, you have to consider freelancing.

And that is the only way that I can begin to comprehend that it’s even possible. You can make enough money and only work 20 to 25 hours a week. And you're making plenty of money, like he said, to be able to take a lot of weeks off throughout the year for vacation and extra time with your family, where he's able to build up a bunch of income. As income pours in during certain months, he's able to put a lot of money away into savings. And then he's able to take some time off to pursue some other things and focus on other things. You have that flexibility when you are building a business from home as a freelancer.

So with that said, if you've liked this conversation today, be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, go to Apple Podcast and Stitcher. The podcast is all on there. If you want to just listen through audio instead, also go to ArrowLight.tv where you can get show notes and a transcript of this episode. And if you're a freelancing dad, be sure to go to freelancingdads.com where I have resources specifically for, of course, freelancing dads. I hope you have a good day, and I will talk to you in our next early morning conversation.

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