The sun rises.
We wake, shower, dress. And then it's off to work. The daily commute. Traffic, or waiting for the train. We arrive at our office. We sit.
The day goes by. Meetings, calls, and deliverables. A break for lunch, then back we go. Eight hours pass and we pack our things and leave for home—maybe stop for happy hour on the way. We rest, we eat. The sun sets and we go to bed.
Tomorrow, it will rise again.
Days become weeks, then months, then years. And those years become careers. A life measured in promotions and projects, job titles, and three-year stints.
For most of us, this is the way things are. The only way we were ever told that they could be.
And so we wake up, day after day, week after week, and continue to walk the path that we're on.
But not all of us.
Some of us wake one morning with an itch. We step out of the current and ask ourselves: is this it? Will my life be measured in quarterly figures? Is the sum of my life's contribution going to be totaled in lines of code?
Or is there something more?
Three and a half years ago, Tim Chow asked himself that very question. It wasn't that he was unhappy, unfulfilled, or unrewarded—six years in, he had just received a lucrative offer to continue his sales career as part of his employer's acquisition by a larger company. The pay and benefits were good, and Tim enjoyed what he did.
But something was bothering him:
"It really scared me to think that I'd spent five, six, seven years in this world without much critical thought—without thinking about whether this was what I really wanted to do. I don't have that many five-year stints."
On today's episode, Tim describes how he worked through this period of doubt, emerging on the other side as a professional photographer and videographer.
From his humble beginnings as a wedding and family photographer, to his recent work as co-founder of Wilco Productions, Tim illustrates how success can sometimes be the thing that traps us, how entrepreneurs can combine what we know with what we love, and how the hardest part of anything is getting started.
We also cover
Welcome to Hundreds of Ways, the podcast that celebrates entrepreneurship and lifestyle independence. This week we're visited by Tim Chow, as he shares what gave him the motivation to leave his lucrative sales career and start a video and photography studio. So join us as we explore which of the hundreds of ways, belongs to Tim.Eliot Raymond :
Hey, James, Good evening.James Knight :
Good morning, Eliot. How are you?Eliot Raymond :
Doing really well can't complain. How about you?James Knight :
I'm doing great, because today we have another wonderful guest. In our last few episodes, our guests have talked a lot about travel. Whether that's Lauren and myself have expatriated kind of a long term travel, if you will, or Elliot and Justin for whom travel factors in on an almost daily basis with their lives. But entrepreneurship isn't just about how many flights you can log a year or how many miles you can travel from your home city. For a lot of us it's about making a career that is meaningful and that is personally fulfilling. And today's guest is someone that can talk to us. lot about that. He's also a long, long, longtime friend of mine, Tim Chow. Welcome to the podcast.Tim Chow :
Thanks for having me, guys.Eliot Raymond :
Yeah, we're really excited to have you on and hear kind of your unique perspective. We've talked a lot about video production content on this podcast. And I assume we'll continue to do so. But I think you'd bring a really fresh perspective in terms of the company that you run and the type of work that you do. So excited to dive into that. And I think we'll open with my least favorite question that we always start this podcast off with, but just tell them tell me what you do.Tim Chow :
Well, I try to rack as much airline miles as I can to travel to as many places... No, I am...James Knight :
Tim's starting a startup actually, that he wants to announce today.Eliot Raymond :
The points guy competitor.Tim Chow :
That's right. It's street cred in the entrepreneurship world. No, I I own and operate a commercial video and photography production company here in Tempe, Arizona. And we focus on b2b services. So anything production Related, whether it's photography for some kind of product content, or to showcase a new retail space, restaurants, photography and video, we produce it for businesses so that they have content to market their businesses or products. So b2b content, it's a broad category. Can you give us an example of a project you've worked on over the last couple of months, it really ranges. So b2b content. Essentially, what that means is, as a business, I'm providing a service to another business, versus let's say someone who wants to get coverage for their wedding or family photos, which is, of course, where I started, like many photographers or content creators, but the b2b service is kind of what I gravitated towards, because that was where real budgets existed. And the key for me was a recurring a recurring model of some sort, otherwise, I wouldn't have a very sustainable business. So in terms of projects that I would work on, we filmed everything from Like client testimonials for cosmetic surgeons to live events for charity organizations, public figures for their content marketing for, you know, elections, it really varies. And it all comes down to whether I might be getting ahead of myself here. But it comes down to whether the person or the brand is someone that we're excited to work with and whether they provide a service or product that we believe in.James Knight :
And for listeners that are just starting out their entrepreneurial journey, this this distinction that Tim makes this b2c versus b2b business to consumer versus business to business. If you're not familiar with these sorts of sales, it doesn't seem like that's a big distinction. But working with businesses versus consumers changes the size of the project. It changes the money that's involved. It changes the goals, but it also changes the sales cycle. So sometimes there's some additional challenges. So Tim, as you said, You started off kind of in more of that b2c area like like mini photopic ographers and videographers doing weddings and stuff. What were the big challenges in shifting and from that b2c to b2b mindset?Tim Chow :
That's a really good question. It wasn't a shift so much in terms of whether I was talking to consumers versus businesses, I think it was more of a shift in my own mindset. I think in the beginning, the mindset is I'm just a novice starting out on this journey to create my own business, I don't have a portfolio, I don't have a reputation. And so I'm just happy to be able to do what I love to do, which is photography and filmmaking. And it was more about just getting out there and building a network getting people to know me coming out of obscurity, which I think is very important for any business. But then for me, there was a there was a particular shift in my mindset where I realized like, this is not what I wanted to focus on, you know, taking family photos. That's not the career that I thought that would be built. thing. And any time that I'm spending doing that means I'm not working on the thing that I actually really want to work on. And so there was a decision that I needed to become the person who, who would do that I need to become the person who would be a commercial photographer and video maker. So once I had that kind of mind, shift, change, everything kind of sort of aligned and I started taking the right actions that move me towards that direction.James Knight :
And this is a tripping point that comes up a lot with creative entrepreneurs, people who do writing film, video, that best sort of creative work, they get started maybe because they've always loved writing. They've always loved filming video, but then they find that the work they're doing is not the writing they want to be doing. If you love writing, and you end up being a copywriter for medical devices, I don't know something very rote. You might not like that as much. So it's fantastic to hear that you were able to recognize a videos, something I'm passionate about, but then be filming video is something I'm passionate about, but not so passionate about that I want to be doing family photos for the rest of my life.Tim Chow :
That's right. I mean, I think passion is very important because building a business and being an entrepreneur is not easy. I think it's probably one of the hardest things that someone can voluntarily do as a career. I think it's, it's, in some ways, it's much easier to just go find a job and have that kind of security perceivably you know, a paycheck that you can expect every so often and benefits and to start your own business means you're going to walk a very, very long path. That's, that's just very difficult. It's going to require a lot of sacrifice from you. And I know that people say if you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life. I don't think that that's particularly true because it's still work. I mean, Work is work right? And but if you will, passionate about it. There's meaning behind that work. And there's purpose behind that work. And that does get you excited together better than in the morning and face those challenges. In fact, you can't wait to to tackle some of those challenges, despite how difficult they might be. So passion does go a long way. And I think without it, it's very difficult to weather that storm or to weather that journey.Eliot Raymond :
So I want to dive into what you're doing right now. But first, rewind and talk a little bit more about how you got started. I think that's a key point that a lot of people starting out in entrepreneurship or freelancing run into is that you get known for a niche you may build up a roster of say wedding clients and then you start getting referrals or word of mouth referrals from other people saying, you know, Tim's the guy to go to for wedding videos. And all of a sudden you're running a business where you're doing 2030 wedding videos, and that's what you do. It can be really difficult to pivot. Can you talk a little bit about how you made that transition from being that independent Freelancer shooting family portraits, to doing what you do now.Tim Chow :
So let me let me back up a second and ask him, Do you want me to talk about my actual career trajectory, like how I found my way into being a content creator and commercial, you know, photographer and filmmaker versus the pivot that I made specifically in the content production trajectory from being a b2c to b2b.Eliot Raymond :
So let's rewind for a second and just chat about how you got started doing photography and film. You talked about passion and the importance of passion, but a lot of people don't know what they're passionate about. How did you find that? And then how did you get started? What is your journey look like?Tim Chow :
That's another really good question. I think for most people, you don't wake up in the morning and go, I know what I'm going to do in life. I know who I am. I know who I'm going to be and what my purpose is in life.Eliot Raymond :
I'm so envious of those people. Because I feel like there are a select few...Tim Chow :
I don't think they exist.Eliot Raymond :
No they're out there, I know they are.James Knight :
No they exist, they're just f*cking crazy.Tim Chow :
I remember being a senior In high school, and you were invited into the academic counselors to talk about what your plans were for the future, after you graduate high school, what colleges you were going to, and everyone seemed to have a plan at that time. Everyone's like, I'm going to this college. I'm going to be this I'm going to be a lawyer. I'm going to be a doctor. And it sounded fantastic. But then there I was feeling like I feel like I just need to come up with something that to sound good to my friends. Otherwise, I feel like I'm a degenerateEliot Raymond :
Marine biology. I'm doing it. From Arizona.Tim Chow :
Astronaut of some sort. No, I just didn't have I couldn't figure out what it was that I that was my true calling. And it did get to a point where it was starting to like concern me like up until high school. I was like, I don't have any I don't think I have clearly defined what my hobbies are yet. The things that really draw me to to building a career I don't think I was even very career minded in high school. So, a lot of what figuring out what you need to do for your career or who you are as a person, I think is doing all of the things that don't align with who you are figuring out who you are not. I think that's equally as important as doing the things that do reflect who you are. So doing the jobs and being, being the things that didn't really agree with me or didn't reflect who I was, was the start of how I how I figured out what I truly needed to do. And so my trajectory was out of college. You know, I spent some time waiting tables at a vegan restaurant serving 14 other vegan dishes. I've cleaned bathrooms, you know, on a night shift at officemax. And I've worked in sales and I found success through you know, each iteration of a new job and moving from company to company and eventually, I found my way to Being in sales for tech companies. So I worked at Yelp. That was kind of my first big boy job. It was like the start of a new chapter. It's like, okay, now I'm actually at a desk I have, I have something meaningful that I'm working on. And the money is, you know, this is real money being your first real job. So I stuck with that for a while, and I found success in it selling. And it was something that I really love to do. So I majored in psychology in college, and in particular, I focused on interpersonal relationships and group dynamics. And my idea was that this was going to these were life, kind of like life skills that would help me throughout my entire life, just understanding people and understanding how groups of people think. But I, you know, even in college, I really didn't know what I was going to do. I got to apply a lot of that psychology in sales, which I loved because I got to talk to people I got to be customer facing and that was very exciting.Eliot Raymond :
But quick What did you major in college?Tim Chow :
psychology? a BA in in psychology? Yeah.James Knight :
And how long were you in the sales jobs for?Tim Chow :
I think I was in sales for like, six, seven years.James Knight :
Yeah. So I mean, so you you were enjoying it and and killing it too. I mean you I remember back when I tried it for a long time and I remember you were at Yelp and you were killing it at Yelp. And then you moved to Zenefits next?Tim Chow :
there was another company that I moved to prior to that, but in terms of major steps, yeah. zenefits was the next big tech company that I worked for.James Knight :
And I remember you killing it there as well. You would you would talk about it on on Facebook and on your LinkedIn and you really seem to enjoy your time at Zenefits.Tim Chow :
It was really good people. I met really great people there. The technology was very exciting. The money was very exciting. You know, it's being a young 20 something year old in tech sales, making the kind of money that I was making. It was like money wasn't real. And that's, that's not necessarily a good thing for a young 20 year old who has no idea how to manage money. So it was a great distraction. And I think that's why I kind of stuck with it for so long because because of money, I mean, you get all the Masters, right? Exactly. You get accustomed to a certain lifestyle, you get accustomed to just having these things and having the kind of disposable income that you get in the tech world and in sales. So I moved to Chicago for another job and outside sales, which I also really loved. But when that company abruptly was acquired by another industry giant, I was offered a an opportunity to transition to the to the new company for a comparable position with comparable salary, and everything would have been cool, but something just jumped out at me and it actually really scared me to think that I spent 567 years in this world without much critical thought, without thinking about whether this was what I really wanted to do. And what really scared me was, I realized, I don't have that many, five years since, you know, in another five years, I would be in my mid 30s. In another five years, I would be in my 40s. How many of those Do I really have? Is this how I wanted to be spending my time? And when those answers were no, even though I didn't know what I was going to do, I knew for sure that despite the money, despite the income, I couldn't stay here any longer. So I had to, I had to make a shift and start to figure out what it was that I wanted to do.James Knight :
And that's a question you have to ask yourself. I've started asking myself it with potential clients is, how many more apps Am I going to build? If I keep doing this, where I'm trying to contribute myself? God, even if I do this for the rest of my life, I've got 30 maybe and that's again, if I do it till the day I die. Which I probably not going to so you start to have to think about these things, you know, do I want to build 30 more dating apps? Or do I want to try to find some clients and work on some projects that are that are more interesting that are more fulfilling,Tim Chow :
Right. So once I, once I realized that this wasn't the trajectory that I needed to do, I just spent some time I took some time off, I'd saved up some money. And I, I should say, I spent some time to get to know myself. It wasn't necessarily like, what do I want to do for a career? It was more so like, Who? Who am I if I'm not this salesperson in the tech industry? and answering that question led me to a path of self discovery that eventually led me hereEliot Raymond :
That jump from essentially your identity of who you are to doing something completely different. can be really challenging for a lot of people. And I know that because I've talked to over a dozen people in the last year who have said I'm in this job. I hate it. I have this semblance kind of idea of what I want to do. But I haven't flushed it out. And they haven't made that leap. What was the catalyst for you that made you take that time? stop and reflect for a little bit and go on that path of self discovery, as you called it, to make that transition? Well,Tim Chow :
I think having worked in the tech industry, you know, in sales for quite a long time, it was something that I was comfortable with. And I knew that that was a skill that I developed, which I would rely on for much of my life, if not for the rest of my career. But I always so I grew up with entrepreneur, parents, my parents moved me and my sister from Hong Kong, back in 1996, and since we've been here in the US, they have owned and operated their own business and put all their kids through college and it was all about, you know, the value of building something of your own and being in control of your own destiny, even if it's not lavish, even if it's not glamorous, was better than to leave your fate to leave your future up to somebody else who, more or less really wasn't that invested in, in your own future. So at the end of the day, it was something that, you know, at least that's what my parents kind of instilled in me in terms of value was was you need to figure out a way to own your own path. And so growing up I kind of always had this feeling that I was going to build something of my own. I didn't know what the business would be, but I knew that I wanted to own my own business and and run my own show. And even though that that was a huge part of who I was, obviously, I went on to work in the sales industry in the tech industry for a long time. It was really when I realized how old I was getting and how much time I spent in sales. Realizing that I hadn't been critical about what I was doing at all that that was probably the beginning of it. As far as finding my path to what I'm doing now, that took a lot of self discovery and just being quiet and being open to listening to myself. What I discovered was that I think the most important question that I had asked myself was okay, between all of the jobs that I've done all the companies that I worked with, were there any common threads that remained? Was there something that I was doing throughout all this time that was that maybe I wasn't paying attention to or listening to? And if so, what was that and then I realized that for almost 10 years, I was always involved in photography, it was always a side hustle. It was I was making money on the side from it shooting family portraits and weddings and stuff. I would make mock products shoots you know, by myself. At home, and I never thought of it. In fact, I never thought that I would be a photographer growing up. But when I found that, when I discovered that about myself, I was like, well, this is something that's apparently very important to me in my life that I, that I've stuck with for the better half of 10 years. So there might be something there and I really should, should look into it and explore that. Because when am I? Yeah, when no one else am I going to do that?James Knight :
So you've been doing photography, personally and on the side for years, but what about videography? Is that something that you've also had a lifelong passion of? Or is that something you've developed more recently?Tim Chow :
That's a good question. So photography found me very innocently, I guess I should say because it will it wasn't something that I targeted right. It wasn't something that I that I sought out to develop in myself. It was just kind of a a hobby that I didn't know I had, a passion I didn't know I had.James Knight :
It's a gateway creative for a lot of people, right. I mean, a lot of people take pictures and if you have that, create sparked maybe you start taking better and better pictures. Right?Tim Chow :
Exactly. And that's kind of how video found me as well. Once I moved to being a professional photographer, professional being this was going to be how I made all of my income. Once I made that that jump video found me just the same way as photography did, which was I found myself exploring video learning about it. I spent hours and hours just studying it, camera movement, lighting, design, composition, you know, screenwriting, and then I realized, whoa, this is like, quickly becoming another part of me that first of all is very relevant to what I was already doing. But second, this really ignited something within me that made me very excited to wake up in the morning. I was borrowing money that I didn't have to buy equipment that I didn't need so that I could do this thing. And then I was okay, let's let's take it seriously. Otherwise, this is just a bad game to play.James Knight :
And how long ago was that a year that you started the video path?Tim Chow :
This was about three years ago.James Knight :
So I asked because anyone who's listening needs to go check out Tim's reel, both on Tim Chow studios.com. And now his current production company Wilco productions calm, because you have lots of different videos on there of all sorts of content. Like you said, you work with lots of different businesses. There's the dentist on there, there's a juice bar, but whatever the shot is, it's gorgeous. There's I think you have a shot of like an oral surgeon like drilling in someone's mouth. And it's been it's beautiful. It's like, like, like, the lighting is perfect. The just the framing is perfect. And so I asked, because if you look at your reel, this doesn't look like something that you just maybe got a whim to do three years ago, it looks like something you've been practicing for a long time.Tim Chow :
Well, I can't take full credit for the productions that we we do as a company, but to talk about what you're you're bringing up here as far as developing a new skill and making that productive. I think it goes back to Having a passion for it, which is it's not fun. It's not most people's idea of how you would spend your leisurely time researching very technical things about video production. I mean, video production is like, there's obviously the camera, the camera stuff, technical stuff, lighting. But then there's also the very, very technical side of it like frame rates that you have to pay attention to for different things that you're shooting, post production, what kind of software you're going to use to edit your videos. And then within post production and editing, there's a whole set of theories and things that you have to learn about it, too. So it was because I was so passionate about it, that I didn't find it a chore at all. I was just consuming this information. And I still do today non stop. And it's something that just, I think I'm more focused on being better all the time. And that's what kind of drives me and I think that's how, that's how I was able to turn it into a productive part of my business.Eliot Raymond :
I think a quick note there to hit on is I went to school to learn all of that you talk about all the technical aspects of running a film production company or even understanding the art of film. You didn't you studied psychology and then spent seven or so years in a sales career. So can you just chat briefly about like, what some of those not specific resources but ways that you taught yourself or did you reach out to people was it textbooks, videos, just a little bit about that?Tim Chow :
So I did take a photography course in college, and it was a film photography course. It was all manual. You know, I went out to craigslist to buy my first film camera in college. And that's kind of how I started honing my skills as a photographer, just understanding the fundamental basics to photography. So that really gave me a great foundation to build off of, as well. Far as everything else that I've learned photography and video, that was all self research, a lot of it on YouTube, which is a fantastic resource. Now I don't think this was, if I had tried to get started on this career path 10 years ago, I don't think it would have been as, as easy because the resources were just not as accessible. People weren't making this kind of educational content. So I definitely learned a lot of what I did through self research on YouTube and other websites and blogs from other photographers, studying other photographers and filmmakers work and kind of dissecting how they filmed something, how they lit a particular scene. How did they write that? That scene. And then of course, you have to go out there at the end of the day, you have to go out there and do it and fail a bunch of times and really embarrass yourself. And that was something that I did plenty of. And so with each mistake, I learned how not to do something which hopefully guide me in the path of how to how to do something.James Knight :
So, Tim, we've been talking a lot about the work product side of your business, the photography, videography, I want to go back a little bit and talk about the other side, the sales side, which is something that that you did before you were a freelancer. And specifically, I want to talk about you already mentioned that your first clients when you were working on photography, where were personal clients, where were people with weddings and other things? How did you approach sales when you first started approaching corporate clients? What did that shift look like when you started bringing on these these businesses?Tim Chow :
In terms of the sales process it? I guess I should say that it was more or less, always the same. I went through the kind of the same sales cycle with a b2c sales versus b2b. And I think that was important because you have to ask questions and be curious about your client no matter what the client is and what kind of project that they're up against. The shift from b2c to b2b was really Looking at your projects on a bigger scale, at least it was like, it was the case for me. In particular, I felt like with a b2c, the projects were always one off projects, how often are you signing clients that want recurring family photos? You know, I mean, they do kids kids grow up and you know, you want to capture it.James Knight :
And in the US now with the divorce rate, I mean, if you're on the first marriage, like you might be able to catch two or three down the road.Tim Chow :
Right, right, right. Yeah, I'll capture all of your weddings from here on out.James Knight :
Second time you get a discount?Tim Chow :
I don't think Yeah, well, maybe that's a that's a reputation perhaps that I shouldn't be chasing after. He's, he's a photographer that gives people a second chance.James Knight :
You could've named it Second Chances Studios.Tim Chow :
No, it was, I think, gosh, if I could just back out because there's a lot to dissect there because it was partially a business decision, right? Like a, like an income decision. It had to be scalable, and had to be sustainable. But also the types of projects were not that exciting to me. Sorry to all the parents who have gorgeous kids, I know your kids are really gorgeous, and they are really fun to shoot. But every family shoot is basically the same. Every wedding more or less is the same. And I didn't feel like that I was getting a chance to express my creativity on a platform that was diverse enough if I could say that. Not that I didn't like to, you know, the opportunity to shoot family portraits and personal projects. I felt like all of the other stuff in commercial work like product photography, architecture, and and Or photography, things like that were challenges that I had not had to face yet in a b2c environment for my work, that was one part of it.James Knight :
And if I can interrupt real quick just this is something I think that's that's also super crucial to remind people is that entrepreneurship itself is a career. And that just like you work in your your day job right now, it doesn't have to be forever. Making the shift from your day job to being a personal photographer might be the first step to then working on more interesting work. And so you don't have to look at that next step of your life as Oh my god, this is it. I'm going to, I'm going to leave my job and I'm going to be taking pictures of families for the rest of my life. It might just be that you do that for long enough that you can then move into something that maybe you're more deeply interested in.Tim Chow :
That's a really good point. I remember as a kid my mom used to tell me all the time. It's a little phrase or idiom in Chinese, a lot of Chinese history and culture. As passed down verbally, and so she would always tell me is probably gonna make no sense translated into English. But if you're looking for a horse, you know like to ride like a stallion. But you don't have one yet, sometimes you have to ride an ox before you can get to your horse. And so that was kind of, it's more eloquent than in Chinese that translated into English. But that was more or less the idea. Sometimes you have to find your stepping stone in order to get to the point where, where you want to be, and you can't be afraid of that. And that goes back to what I was talking about before, which is doing the things that you don't want to do and exploring who you are not is as important as finding out who you are. In fact, that's oftentimes how we do find out who we are, is by doing things that don't agree with us being in situations that we'd find, don't ignite our fire. So, basically, if I could sum up my professional career now I think that's kind of how How I how I got to where I am. It's doing a lot of things that weren't reflective of who I was. And even in photography, even starting my own business, I was getting closer to doing the things that I didn't want to do. But even within that, I realized that it wasn't exactly the path that I had intended. And that's okay. I think what's very important was that I was open to changing my my business model. And I was open to adapting to, you know, that kind of feedback from my career, and also taking action to make the pivot. That's obviously important. So that was kind of the switch for me.James Knight :
So when talking about the transition, you mentioned that your sales cycle is going to change a whole lot, but I'd be interested to hear how you approach the sales and how that changed. Was this still a process of referral? Was this more now outbound based Did you did you do more outreach where you were finding potential clients and reaching out to them. How did the mechanics of the sales process change when you switch from consumers to business?Tim Chow :
It was actually very exciting for me because I was able to lean on the skills that I had stacked through my career in sales. And really use it to my you know, use it productively in b2c. There isn't a lot of room for cold calling. It's very difficult to call up a family and go Can I take pictures of you and your kids? I know the guy I don't recommend doing it.James Knight :
I'm just picturing that call, it would be so awkward.Tim Chow :
I know you've never worked with me before. I found you in a phone book. I know you have kids because I found you on Facebook. I would like to take pictures of you.James Knight :
Can I take pictures of them?Tim Chow :
Yeah, you can join if you want to do it. There was no room for that. And I recognized that, you know, there was the it was going to be a very difficult sale. So I kind of was fortunate to be able to lean back On what I had come to know very well, in my previous life in sales, and moving, making that pivot to b2b allowed me to actually call businesses or walk into them swing doors, and discuss these, these issues with them that I know are on the top of their mind, based on a little bit of research, you should always do your research on your prospect before you before you try to engage them with a conversation. But, you know, you find out that they've been trying to make an effort towards one direction in their marketing or another. They're trying to create content, and you know, that it could be better and that you are the solution for it. It wasn't about selling them my services, in terms of, you know, moving to b2b. It wasn't about walking into a business and telling them hey, I can shoot really good photography or produce a really great commercial for you. It was about Look, I can see that you were trying to promote your business. I can see you putting out content. And I know that it could be better So let me ask you what the heck you're trying to do. What are you trying to promote what's important to your business asking, you know, discovery questions and then figuring out for myself whether this is, first of all, whether there was an opportunity for me to help them with better content. But second, it was also about whether this person or this company or this brand was somebody who I could support personally, or these people who I want to be friends with. And that's kind of how I've how I've conducted my business since since the beginning.James Knight :
One thing I want to relate to the Tim just touched on here is there isn't one kind of photography business, and there isn't one kind of video studio. Whatever path and entrepreneurship you're thinking of taking. There are ways to leverage your past experience in a way that that flavors, the business that you have, and might be able to help you lean on the experience. The unique experience that you've had today. So for Tim, who had this, seven years in sales, seven years and b2b sales where he, you know, was really learning in its tech sales too. So it's, it's, they're trying new things. It's it's kind of a avant garde of sales. Tim got to sharpen his teeth in a situation that then years later, he was able to make the decision of, Okay, I have these skills that I'm not currently leveraging in my business. Why not? Is there something I can do to bring those to bear? So whatever path you're taking, people get caught up in this idea of Oh, well, you know, I'm going to be a b2c photographer. And that throws away the seven years of experience Well, no, you can flavor that business a lot of different ways. And so that's something to keep in mind as you as you start off on this journey, look back and try to figure out how you can leverage your experience your skills, your passions, in a way that that might change the type of business that you're running.Tim Chow :
That's absolutely right. I think no matter what You're doing, you are picking up skills along the way, maybe skills that you don't even know about or that you're not paying attention to. But these are all things that make up who you are that give your work value. And so I would, I would recommend to anyone who's looking to start their business, or just even contemplating like, maybe there's something else out there for me, besides working this nine to five job, no matter what direction it is that you're trying to take in life or in your career. be really good at what you do always pick up new skills, never stop learning. And it will surprise you through the years, how much you've actually learned, and how good you can actually get if you just let yourself become that person.Eliot Raymond :
Yeah, so Yeah, a little bit of a lighter note. What's your favorite part about your job that you get to do on a day to day basis.Tim Chow :
There's a lot of it. I think I'm very tactile and I like working with my hands. And so working with all of this equipment and being really super hands on with my work, that's something that I really enjoy doing. Obviously, I, I have a creative side to me, which I'd like to express. And so my work allows me to explore that. But I think there's another part of it too, which drives me as a business owner, which is, I really look forward to teaching other people who want to be involved in this industry or do what I do. And I really like the idea that I am now in a position where I can create jobs for people who are in the same industry. It's not easy for a photographer or a filmmaker to start their own business and find opportunities for productive work. I'm fortunate because I had the opportunity to develop my sales skills, which is something that I think everyone should should develop. You're always selling something that at some point or another, whether it's yourself or selling your way into a job. It's a skill that you Every one should develop. So I was lucky that I could rely on that to, to build my own career. But other people might not have had the same, you know, opportunities or even have the same affinity for sales. But that doesn't mean that they can't be successful as a photographer or filmmaker or somebody in the creative field. So it's very exciting to me that not only am I able to do what I love to do, but that now I have the opportunity to actually create that for other people. And that's probably been the most fulfilling part of my work so far. So on that note, you have another thing that makes you unique amongst our guests so far, and that you have a business partner.James Knight :
But at your previous studio, Tim Chester, you did not Can you talk a little bit about why a partner this time, um, what that partnership brings to you. And then also a little bit about the challenges. I currently Yeah, my wife is my business partner now, which is a little different of a situation. But my previous agency, I had a very close partner that I worked with, and there were things that were fantastic about it, and there were challenges. Can you talk a little bit about that?Tim Chow :
Yeah, absolutely. Gosh, I would love to ask you about your partnership with your wife as a business. Very interesting.James Knight :
Yeah, I highly recommend marrying an accountant. It's, it's makes things just super easy on that front. SoTim Chow :
I'm gonna, I'm taking notes and I'm gonna remember that. Well, I think for most people starting out in the in the creative industry, I think a lot of people do start out as a freelancer individually, independently. And to a certain extent, from what I've seen, a lot of people want to keep it that way. I think a lot of creative see other creatives as competition. And they don't want to risk giving away their client to somebody else by referring them to or collaborating with another creative. And I think to a certain extent, that was the case for me in the very beginning. It's like, I have my set of skills that I've developed that I've worked very hard on. I have my own creative direction that I want to carry out. It was a little bit of like a control thing for me to work on these things myself. But you have only so much bandwidth. And you can only do so much by yourself. And what I realized was I was basically plateauing in terms of the scale of productions that I was able to run, and just how much progress I was making in building my business. Coincidentally, my friend Andrew, who's my business partner, we used to work together at Yelp. I was his account manager there, he was in sales. And he also we also ended up working together at zenefits by chance that do I think he's stalking me. We don't know yet. So tune in, in another couple episodes, and we'll tell you how. We ended up working together a bunch and we got to talking. And he's been very successful in his career too in sales, and he now runs a digital marketing agency. And I remember a couple years back, he approached me and he said, You know, I have an idea for I want to get involved in the creative space. He went to film school. So he was very interested in building something of his own that was going to be, you know, involved in filmmaking. And so we got to talking, and a couple years ago, we started working together, just to kind of work on bigger projects. And it was immediately apparent to me that the amount of additional bandwidth you gain by partnering with someone, the ideas that you can get by having conversations with people outside of of yourself, and just how much more you can do, how much further you can go was that was immediately apparent to me. So I had no, no problems putting aside my, my ego, and saying, you know, let's build something that's bigger than myself. And he, he was the same way. We both understood what kind of work was going to be involved in building the company. And we were very much aligned in our values, the way that we approach our clients, the way we approach our creative work. And so it was a good fit. And that's how we partner together. And it's been the most in terms of like building the company, that was definitely the most important decision, I would have been very difficult to build a company by yourself.James Knight :
Eliot and I are obviously also partners in this endeavor and hundreds of ways. And by far, to me, the thing that you mentioned that, you know, the bandwidth is great having two people that can both work on things, but the main thing with a collaborator, especially one that you click with, is the idea transfer. And the way that an idea that maybe if you're working by yourself, it starts off in this raw form. And when you work by yourself, you whittle it down a little bit but it's it's gonna be very similar in that final form to to how it started, but when you have a partner, all come Elliot with justice, absolutely bullshit harebrained idea, and after Elliot fixes it. It actually won't be that bad,Eliot Raymond :
Mind you, that's a two-way street. James fixes a lot of my hair-brained ideas as well.James Knight :
But there's that collaborative process. There's a reason why I've always I always like to talk about in music, if you look at a lot of like really successful bands. And then sometimes what happens with bands that get really successful is the lead singer goes, screw you guys, I'm the famous one, and they go off and they make a solo. And that solo album usually sucks. Because nobody wants to hear that guy. They want to hear that guy tempered by the other five people in the band that keep him on a leash. And it's the same thing in business where you can be brilliant and do business on your own and you might be successful. But having someone else that helps you kind of work through your ideas. It's super, super valuable. I couldn't agree more.Tim Chow :
That's absolutely right. I mean, you think that if you work by yourself, you have total control over what you want to do and the direction you want to go. But what do you know, it's like you don't know anything. I certainly don't owe anything without another person to keep your ideas in check. And to offer a different perspective, it's very easy to walk off, you know, in a very weird direction without actually knowing that you weren't doing something, you know, productive. So I think that that was very important to me. But I think it also introduces another aspect, which is, now you have another person with their own ideas and their own direction that you have to contend with. And that means it's not always going to be your way, things are going to be done a different way. Sometimes you might not even agree with it. And I think it comes down to values alignment, making sure that you and the other person, whoever you're going to partner with are, you know, at least you don't have to be exactly i but at least you're very closely aligned with your core values that are going to be important to you, whatever those values might be. It's different for everyone. And then I think the other part of it is, your partner needs to be someone who you can negotiate for Well with your partner has to be someone who you can contend with very well. Otherwise, you can't work these ideas out, and then you will find yourself at an impasse. And that's not very productive. So what's really helped me and Andrew out is, whatever ideas we have to bring to the table, we always communicate very openly. If we disagree on something, we focus on what it is that we're talking about, and we stay very solutions oriented. And we always work it out and we figure out what's best for the client, what's best for the project, what's best for the people we work with, and everything will figure itself out.Eliot Raymond :
I think a key point that you touched on there that I want to revisit briefly is that you really have to be aligned in what you're building. And that's one of the things that differentiates being a freelancer and building a business is that if you want to build one specific thing, you can do that as a freelancer because it's only you making calling shots. Whereas when you're partnered up with somebody, it's really important that from the outset You understand? I mean, it's almost like a marriage in a way. In your case, James, it actually isn't marriage, but you're having to agree to the fact that you may have this original vision, but along the way things are going to change and evolve. And you have to work together in order to find like that. Get to the, you know, next point where you're, where you're going. And having that dynamic ability and having that relationship with someone where you're both agreeing to be flexible and adaptable is, I think, one of the most important parts of finding business partner.James Knight :
Yeah, you're not always going to agree on how to get somewhere, but you better agree on at least the direction you're moving.Tim Chow :
Right? That's so important. Yeah. I mean, imagine like you say, it is like a marriage. And imagine your spouse not being in agreement with where you see your lives together five years down the road. That's a huge problem and imagine not being able to negotiate well with your spouse about that. That's not to say that it won't work out but it's just going to be very, very difficult. So at the very least, you should be in agreement on the direction where you want to go. And the things that you want to achieve together, obviously, your values, how you treat people, how you treat each other. If those things are aligned the How is less of an issue.Eliot Raymond :
So Tim, you touched on this earlier, briefly, but what resources would you recommend to somebody looking to do what you do, whether that's a course book, a TV show, whatever it might be?Tim Chow :
That's a really good question. I think, as far as technical resources specific for film production and photography, there's a ton of it out there. on YouTube, that's a great resource for people to go on. Because you can see this is a visual product, right? And so it's very important to be able to see what people are talking about. And there are so many great content producers on YouTube. That you can follow who you can follow who will show you Some very, very cool stuff, stuff that you probably wouldn't learn in school. I don't think that what I do requires a certificate or degree of some sort so much as it requires you to love the filmmaking process, which could be quite arduous at times. And also experience in doing it, you have to make those mistakes. But I think more than that, because because the material and content is so readily available out there on the technical side, I think it's also very important for people and this I think applies to any other industry. But it's very important for people to study other disciplines and take knowledge from other areas, other fields that are not really related to what you do. Some of the biggest discoveries or some of the most groundbreaking things that people have done was actually a result of someone looking over the fence at somebody else's work and they're going oh, I could actually that makes A lot of sense, I could actually see how this could apply to what I do. So learning about things that if you're building a filmmaking business, don't think exclusively as a photographer or a filmmaker, you have to think in terms of like a screenwriter, you have to think in terms of a business owner, a salesperson, look at every discipline that would make sense to you, even if the discipline isn't directly applicable at first, or it's not immediately obvious how it could be relevant. As long as you are staying curious about other people's competence. Learn from as many people as you possibly can and apply to your work and you'll have a much more well rounded business.Eliot Raymond :
Our listeners can't see us but you just touched on a subject that I talked about in my interview about staying curious and just consistently always pushing the boundaries, learning new things, learning from others peeking over the fence to see what other people are doing and seeing how you can do better improve on their own process. So greatness out there. What haven't we covered as we close that you'd like the listeners of the podcasts now? What haven't we touched on? or What else did you want to share today? If anything,Tim Chow :
I don't think we actually talked much about the step in entrepreneurialship that entrepreneurs now take for granted, which is that very first step of starting something on your own and working for yourself versus the security of working for somebody else. Most entrepreneurs have had to make that jump unless you you started with a silver spoon in your mouth. And it's not a very easy decision because you have to be practical. You have bills, you might have a family, people that you are responsible for things that you're responsible for dogs. It's not always easy to make that leap. And that's why it's very important to identify your why. Which is the reasons why you want to do what you do. There are options foreigners who want to start businesses because it makes money, which is a good thing. You know, it's it's nice to, to be in a career that is financially very secure. But if what you do is purely based on money, this is so like cliche and it's been talked about so many times, but if truly if what you do is just about making money, then you're not doing anything really valuable because there's no substance to you, you're just doing whatever is at the whim of that particular paycheck. I think what's super important is identifying your why. And that will get you through the toughest times when nothing's going right. And everything's kind of falling apart. You're messing up your work and you're you start to question your own aptitude and your own competence. You start to feel like you're imposter. If you have a strong enough why it doesn't matter that all those things are falling apart. Because you're that's just The process of getting to, to the end, that's just the that's how it goes, you know, for whatever it is that you want to do. So, as far as like things that I would tell our listeners, I don't know, I try to approach your questions from the perspective of an entrepreneur and what people might find valuable starting their own business versus another videographer who might be listening to this or filmmaker. SoJames Knight :
Yeah, I think we've gotten a lot of really good, especially that kind of I love the the process and the journey and the story and all that I think we covered all that really well.Tim Chow :
Yeah to get, getting started, like anything else. The hardest part is to get started. It doesn't matter if it's cleaning your room, you know, or building a business. Oftentimes, when you have lofty goals and bigger aspirations, it could be very daunting to to tackle. Sometimes you don't even know where to get started. But if you break it down, and out Ask yourself, what is one thing that I could do that I would do to move the needle forward, even if it's in some insignificant way, in some embarrassing way, as long as I do that, as you know, as little progress as I might be making, at least I've done that. And if you if you do that, enough times, you'll be surprised how far you've gotten just by taking those tiny steps. So one step at a time is how you get anywhere. Good or bad,Eliot Raymond :
Beautifully said.James Knight :
And on that note, in the next couple of weeks, we're going to be releasing some content that target specifically this idea of how can we start making these initial steps How can we find time and energy to to attack these things one step at a time, like Tim said, so I think that's a really fantastic place to to finish up. Tim, thank you so much for being here today.Eliot Raymond :
Really quick. last note here. What's your service area if people want to work with you? Are you global? Are you in Arizona?Tim Chow :
Yeah. I'm very fortunate in the type of business that I've created, which, which really has no borders or boundaries, and that was by by design, who was because I really wanted to work in a career or a job that allowed me the freedom to travel to places to anywhere that I wanted to travelEliot Raymond :
To become a frequent flyer... to rack up miles.Tim Chow :
Exactly. So we've come full circle, basically, I I'm in the President's club.James Knight :
It was all a ruse!Tim Chow :
No, it's a it was by design that I, I built a business which allows me to travel, you know, any basically anywhere that I want. And so what I do is if I want to go somewhere and travel somewhere, really, it just comes down to finding clients in that space in that area to subsidize that travel. Obviously, you have to work and you know, you have to be responsible. But as far as my service area, it's anywhere in the world. I've we've flown all over the US as a production company in February of next year. Here we are flying to Vietnam for a non commercial project, the documentary film that we're making, but it's really just it's very exciting to be able to just travel anywhere and still do what it is that that we do.Eliot Raymond :
So if somebody wanted to get in touch with you or commission your work, what's the best way to do that? through your website?Tim Chow :
That's right, "www dot"... who says "www dot" anymore? "wilcoproductions.com".Eliot Raymond :
Wilco Productions .comJames Knight :
And we'll link to that in the liner notes. So anybody who's interested in working with Tim or just seeing the reel, because it's a really fantastic reel, can go and contact him that way.Tim Chow :
I just want to say thank you so much, you guys for having me on the show. I could keep chatting with you guys for another, you know, four hours. And it's very nice to meet you, Elliot. That You're in Chicago right now?Eliot Raymond :
Yeah. Likewise, I could have stayed on for another hour or two. There's plenty that we didn't cover and glad we were able to get connected hopefully and cross paths at some point.Tim Chow :
Yeah, anytime if you guys ever want to chat about anything just hit me upJames Knight :
For sure, alright Tim. Next week we're joined by GQ insider Google Next Gen policy leader, branding consultant and all around cool dude CJ Johnson, as he shares how the changing media landscape has shaped his career as the "on-demand branding guru" of Silicon Beach. Until then, stay safe as you walk, whichever of the Hundreds of Ways belongs to you.