How I Make $120K/Year As A Travel Filmmaker And Photographer

Anthony
Founder, ANTHONYKDO INC
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ANTHONYKDO INC
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How I Make $120K/Year As A Travel Filmmaker And Photographer

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi! My name is Anthony Do, creator of ANTHONYKDO INC. I run my own business in the creative industry as a filmmaker, photographer, and creative director. I am a nomadic Canadian that was born in Edmonton, Alberta.

My story begins six years ago when I decided to leave the life I knew behind and fly to New Zealand on a whim. Having never traveled a day in my life, my scariest decision quickly became my best decision. Life has never slowed down again since that day.

Traveling to my first country rapidly transformed into traveling full-time, and somewhere there, I picked up a camera! I became obsessive about visual storytelling, and people and companies started to notice me right out of the gate. I landed my first paid client, which was Aston Martin, and that was only a few months into making videos.

Travel opportunities and business was flooding in so fast that I had no choice but to learn on the fly. I eventually had to incorporate myself and next thing you know, I am six years into this crazy ride.

Today, I have over two dozen loyal clients that are scattered across six different countries. That number continues to grow as I touch new places on the map. My monthly revenue fluctuates and is volatile, but I have been able to keep it somewhere between $7000-15000/month for a few years.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I grew up in a tiny little town called Camrose. I was living your typical small-town life until I was 24. I had tried college a couple of times. Once for software engineering and then again for Commerce. I dropped out of both, which is funny to think about now because those two programs involved clues that would be passion today.

Running my brand today, I spend a lot of my time editing on my laptop, and when I am not doing that, I am out in the world shooting films and traveling to meet new people. You can see how Software Engineering and Commerce were so close but so far from revealing my true passions.

Once I discovered that traveling was my passion, I went back to Canada to sell everything I owned and decided to just focus on the two things that brought me the most joy; moving and filming. I did it day and night, always in motion and always looking for a reason to turn on my camera. The creative process became this color journey where each film was better than the last.

I think people started to pick up on my burning love for the craft and would ask if I would make them something. Repeat this formula a few dozen times, and you got yourself a pretty good network.

The big epiphany was after I did my first film for Aston Martin. The experience was so affirming to my decision to be on this new and risky path. Once I had them under my belt, everyone seemed to be knocking on my door, and I said yes to all of them.

When you first start as a creative, you don’t think about the value of your work. But as you gain more opportunities, you begin to have more ways to figure out your value in the market. I quickly learned the real-life concept of supply and demand. The more I was sought out, I learned the more leverage I had, and the more I said no to jobs, the more people wanted to work with me. I was learning so much in such a short period of time.

Take us through the process of designing your services.

After my first four weeks of traveling in New Zealand, I booked this Airbnb in Auckland for two days. I wanted to get some solitude because for four weeks, I had done every adrenaline activity in the country and met dozens upon dozens of new friends. I needed to rest, but I also was so excited to put together my first video with all the footage I had from the adventures.

Life and business take after the ocean. There are seasons of low tide and high tide and your job is to realize where you are at the time and enjoy the present.

I opened my laptop and had two windows open. One was YouTube with tutorials playing, and the other with my editing software. I started with Adobe Premiere Pro, and I never left that software because it was easy to learn and the sky’s the limit as it is industry standard. I sat there for ten hours on the floor, and it was the fastest ten hours I had ever experienced in my life. For the first time in my life, I felt passion. Everything else in life after that moment was compared to the sensation of putting a film together.

Fast forward years from that moment, I was known as a travel filmmaker, and I was getting hired to work on some of the most adventurous and unique projects out there. As a result of doing video, I also learned to hone my photography skills and sell that as a service as well.

how-i-make-120k-year-as-a-travel-filmmaker-and-photographer

I took this photograph when I worked with Aston Martin five years ago. I was a new filmmaker, and they were my first paid client—a video shoot in New Zealand with supercars, helicopters, and snow drifting.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I remember the day I had to incorporate my business. I had a friend who was an entrepreneur himself and referred me to his accountant. So I hired the same guy, and he got my business incorporated as “ANTHONYKDO INC.”

At first, the business model was to travel as much as I could and make as many films as I could. As time went on, I had enough portfolios to put together a strong website. I taught myself how to put a website together along with every other facet of running a solo business.

It didn’t take me long to construct my webpage because I had wonderful friends who gave me priceless insights into the successes of their websites. I use WIX because the platform is simple, and I wanted my layout to be minimal.

As the projects got better and bigger, I upgraded my equipment slowly. I am a believer that buying new gear is not the solution. I first invested in editing tools and then educated myself on storytelling. I only upgraded my gear when it began to restrict my films of a certain quality.

If you are not careful, you can get sucked into the endless trap of buying more and more equipment, and I am glad I had an awareness of this early on. My nomadic lifestyle is probably to be credited for this wisdom because I could only travel with so much weight on me.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

After my first two or three years, I found myself not needing to solicit for work. I would have opportunities pop up on the radar every week or month. I discovered early on that how you connect with a person, and your last impression can build you a network more precious than gold. I guess that means that my marketing was word of mouth.

I learned that if I could get the room or have a chance to open a conversation, I would be able to find opportunities and close the deal. Social media kept me relevant and connected to the world, but I would always prefer to hunt for my potential work in the real world.

I never used traditional and modern tools like SEO, but I did learn to leverage social media and became effective at reaching out to people and brands on Instagram to get their contact information. This would usually lead to opportunity. In the future, as I scale, I will use more online tools to grow, but I believe in the beginning, as a small company, you can grow quickly without defaulting to big marketing dollars.

Break your goals up into bite-sized tasks and figure out a sustainable way to measure your success. But before you do that, define what success means to you or that’s a mountain top you will never summit.

I remember I was based in Iceland in 2019 because I had used Instagram to message Hafthor Bjornson, who played The Mountain in Game of Thrones. The message was just a few words, but it bridged the opportunity to get me to the country and land him as a loyal client.

About a year before this, I had used Instagram to message a non-profit in French Polynesia, and they loved my work, so I flew out to the island of Moorea and made films in the most beautiful tropics you could ever imagine. It is safe to say, social media is a powerful tool if you know your intentions with it.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I am doing well today. I am very blessed to have a creative business with a heartbeat during a pandemic. It is reassuring to know that all the work I put into building strong relationships yielded fruit during such difficult times.

I would say my work is now split evenly between filmmaking and photography, but I am more recognized for my photo work because it has been published in many publications. I still perceive the world in a filmmaking manner so my heart will always belong to that craft.

The future is exciting. I find myself operating more like an agency these days. I have opportunities to come in and instead of saying no to the ones that don’t align, I find an artist is suitable for the project and I arrange everything to make it happen. I find this model more sustainable and it is also more rewarding to help out the community.

Delegating my time has allowed me to work on fewer projects but more meaningful ones. I believe this is the direction I want to be moving. I learned that saying yes to everything not only hurts your brand, it also causes burnout very quickly.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I have a plethora of life lessons that have been attained since setting out on this journey. Too many to share here but I will list a few of my favorites.

I learned that in business, there are more ways to value things than just with money. I believe I found my stride in the market because I didn’t measure everything in dollar signs. It started with passion and then everything else came as a result.

I found that specializing in one area of the market could be the best thing you do for your business. If you remain a generalist, then you will generate revenue like a generalist and will attract the problems of a generalist. Typically, if you are known to have a niche, fewer people will question your value and skillset.

Life and business take after the ocean. There are seasons of low tide and high tide and your job is to realize where you are at the time and enjoy the present. When work is slow, you daydream about all the work you want. When work is booming, you daydream about the rest you want. It is all about finding happiness in the different seasons.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I think my tools are pretty simple. I use email and messaging to communicate. I use social media to reach out and connect with people and brands. I have my website to showcase my portfolios and sell prints.

I find that keeping my processes simple allows me to be more productive in areas that matter most to me. For a while, I did try new and innovative technology to manage my time and work but simplifying made tasks much more enjoyable to tackle daily.

For all my creative exports, I use the Adobe suite. Photoshop is my specialization for photography and Premiere is my go-to for all filmmaking needs. After Effects is occasionally used when I need more advanced effects.

There is a wonderful platform called Pixieset that all photographers should use. It's a gallery platform where you upload your client work and it arranges it into a minimalistic webpage and the clients browse and purchase their selects from there. You can manage who enters and what emails register.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I never enjoyed reading until I wanted to elevate my mind, my art, and my business. Now I am obsessed with podcasts, audiobooks, and books. My reading list rotates between three genres; books about art, business, and biographies.

My favorite book on art is called, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It helped me get myself out of the biggest creative rut I ever had. My favorite business book is called, The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns. This book taught me how to sell my work without giving up my position or leverage. It is a must-read if you are selling your services in the creative industry. My favorite biography so far is Green Lights by Matthew McConaughey.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I believe all the good advice is already out there, you just have to take what works for you and apply it to your life. I am a firm believer that failure is the best teacher. Learn to change your mindset to think “Win or Learn”.

Break your goals up into bite-sized tasks and figure out a sustainable way to measure your success. But before you do that, define what success means to you or that’s a mountain top you will never summit.

Where can we go to learn more?

I am most active on Instagram. I choose to focus on just one social media platform because I don’t want to lose more time in a day to other addictive platforms. You can see where I am, and what I am working on and also connect with me there. I love meeting new people and hearing stories. I have also been on two or three podcasts and you could learn more about my story there. Those episodes can be found on my Instagram as well.

You can find my films, prints, and published photographs on my website.

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Anthony, Founder of ANTHONYKDO INC
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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