The fastest path from zero to booming business and creative freedom in 5 phases

If I were starting over, I would prioritize impact

By Shea Lord |
October 8th, 2022

The fastest path from zero to booming business and creative freedom in 5 phases

If I were starting over, I would prioritize impact

By Shea Lord |
October 8th, 2022

Read time: 4 minutes

Okay, technically, the fastest path to a lucrative business is to buy or inherit an already functioning company or know someone that gives you the helm of an incredible opportunity.

  • But most of us will never be so lucky no matter how hard we work.
  • You can climb the job ladder at a studio if you think you’ve found a winning horse, but it’s still a gamble.

Fortunately, motion design and marketing provide fertile ground for growing our own lucrative businesses from just the seed of an idea. 

  • So I ran a little thought experiment: if I were starting over from scratch, knowing what I do now, how would I structure and grow my business?

Caveats: my personal/career goals are something like:

  1. Short term: make enough money to support myself while developing my creative muscle
  2. Long-term: Build a business that can support my personal artistic endeavors
  3. Long-long term: Create wealth for my family with total creative freedom

I’m currently somewhere between step 2 and 3, and it’s taken 6.5 years.

If I were starting over, I think I could be well into step three in less than 2 years.

Prioritize Impact

With studios, your value will always come down to technical skills and good relationships.

  • But when you have an insane value proposition, you can convert cold leads into paying clients. You only get that if you focus on impact— i.e. getting people across the gap.
  • You have to have control over this process to charge for it. That means campaigns.

Phase 1

Learn media buying:

Run your first campaign to gain experience:

  1. Create a business page
  2. Create your Ads Manager account on Meta/Facebook
  3. Create 5 posts for your page
  4. Run a $15 Page Likes campaign to a high-engagement population such as India
  5. Use the results as your first case study

AND/OR get on a marketing slack and find a freelance media buyer to team up with (I recommend this to start since there are so many idiosyncrasies with the Ads Manager and Meta’s rules):

There’s a good chance you can team up with someone who already has clients or prospects.

Phase 2

Pick 2-3 local or small businesses with a great product and give them this no-brainer offer:

  • I/we will build a campaign to advertise your product
  • You pay nothing to me/us upfront
  • Set an ads budget that they’re comfortable with (at least $3k/month to invest)
  • We earn a % of the NEW profit we bring to your business

How to find businesses:

  • Best option: do you personally know any business owners?
  • If not, think locally: try farmers markets, gyms, grand openings
  • Utilize linkedin, search for founders
  • Search for prospective clients using Meta Ads Library to identify gaps in their marketing

Approach in-person or by referral if possible. Unleash a charm offensive if you have to resort to cold emails. In all scenarios, lead with value.

Phase 3

Use your motion and design powers to build campaign creative and run it through Meta. 

  • Product/solution focus
  • Use motion to boost attention and engagement
  • Video if possible
  • CTA
  • Test different hooks, headlines, creative, audiences…

Slowly increase the budgets behind the best-performing ads. 

At this point you have real money coming in and you can see it hit your client’s account. Time to invoice.

Phase 4.

Turn results into case studies and social proof.

  • Build a portfolio that showcases how your creative powers generate business results
  • Collect testimonials and reviews from clients
  • Always present hard numbers as much as possible

This is the new value proposition: hard results. You can charge based on this now.

Phase 5. 

Scale the offer. 

  • Present the opportunity to more prequalified clients
  • Create retainers for campaign management
  • Create packages and productize the service

The beauty of building a business model like this is that the creative aspect is easy and high-impact. 

  • That means it’s more lucrative for you and your clients.
  • More money = more freedom to explore long-term goals on your own terms.

Reasons everyone isn’t doing this

  • Approaching businesses is scary
  • They don’t understand the power of paid advertising
  • They don’t realize that even simple creative can be highly effective
  • The pressure to deliver results is high
  • They want to let studios handle all the sales
  • They’re already fulfilled creating prescribed animations
  • Weekends and nights are enough for their personal projects
  • They’re already financially comfortable and don’t have urgency to grow

The world makes career progress look like a straight line with certain institutions as milestones along the way. 

  • You go to school, you get an internship, it turns into a job, maybe you jump around a few different companies, but you make your way down the line by playing a series of predefined roles which theoretically pay out more the longer you stick with them, earning your seat at the table where decisions are made.

And that works. Slowly, safely, and without much control.

No one tells you the other option: build your own table.