At one point in my business life, I felt like a debtor on the lam, but not because of financial obligations. As a one-man band, I had 18 projects in the edit queue and was nearing a busy summer season. My delivery time was approaching the 12-month mark, and although I had guaranteed brides delivery by their first anniversary, they would “just be checkin’ in” at 6, 8, and 10 months.
Since one bride (who was still within the contracted date range) decided to “fire” me and take her raw footage, I now begin to feel fearful once my edits-in-progress cross the 8-month mark. If she was bold enough to express her dissatisfaction, how many more brides out there were thinking the same thing? Instead of looking forward to the phone ringing by those inquiring about my services, I dreaded every call, imagining it to be an unsatisfied client from a few months before now playing the role of debt collector, loan shark even!
This wake-up call, though, was a blessing in disguise. I looked at my business-self in the mirror, and I didn’t like what I was seeing. I was editing nonstop, and when I wasn’t editing, I was thinking about what needed to be edited. I had to pass up participating in so many of life’s opportunities—social, business, and personal. I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken a legitimate vacation or spent significant time outdoors.
Worst of all, I was watching my friendships ebb away.
Once I had this awakening, I realized that having an extended backlog is the equivalent of having unpaid debts. When I don’t do what I’ve agreed to do in the time I’ve agreed to do it, whether it’s repaying borrowed money or delivering a project, it sets off a cosmic imbalance. Relationships sour, feelings change, and mistrust sets in. The very clients that were excited to hire me in the outset become indifferent to me at best!
Editing, my first love, had become my first loathe, and I knew that left untreated, my backlog would have even more deleterious effects. I had heard horror stories about backlog not only ruining businesses but saddling those business owners with long-term debts, straining their relationships with spouses, and stressing out their bodies to points of serious physical and emotional ill health. Hardly the life we envisioned when we got into this business!
Many of you have been in these dark places before, and some of you might be there right now. But there is hope. You can get the backlog monkey off your back. For me, the process took about 2 years, and when my delivery time went from 12 months to 3 months, my referrals skyrocketed, and my average paycheck per event increased substantially.
I did not accomplish this, though, by working in the same manner and expecting different results. While I was able to tackle my backlog by developing particular habits and a consistent workflow, my motivation first came by conceptualizing what life would be like without backlog.
So let’s imagine together. If you could press a button and all of your past projects would be magically edited, how would you be spending your newfound freedom? With whom would you spend your time? What hobby would you rekindle? Where would you travel? In what ways would you sharpen your business? How would your life be different than it is now? Pull out a sheet of paper and write down the answers.
By answering these questions, chances are you are confronted with the very reasons you began your business in the first place: to allow yourself to have the freedom to do the other things you love while earning money doing something else you love.
In reclaiming my life from the backlog beast, I’ve been able to travel, to read and write recreationally, to serve others through filmmaking, and to reconnect with friends who had given me up for dead.
In my business, I have been able to become more publicly visible, build relationships with vendors, sharpen my sales and marketing skills, and develop and execute a vision for where I want my business to go.
Best of all, upon significantly reducing my delivery time, my couples refer me until they are blue in the face. When I catch a glimpse of them in the grocery store, instead of ducking behind the applecart, I approach them to get a guaranteed hug.
Friends, there’s no magic button to eliminate our backlog debts. However, in conceptualizing a vision for what life can be when you’re backlog-free, you’ve taken the first step. Now that you have the vision, over the next 11 issues of EventDV, I will be suggesting tips that you can employ to make your vision a reality.
I look forward to hearing how you are recapturing the joy that you had when you first began your business, and may the satisfying moments of your newly rediscovered life begin on your more and more frequent visits to the post office to deliver yet another completed project to a well-served and satisfied client!
Chris P. Jones (jones at masonjarfilms.com), an Austin, Texas-based EventDV 25 all-star, has been shooting weddings for nearly a decade and is co-founder of the wedding filmmaking educational gathering [IN]FOCUS.