3 Quick Tips Before You Start a Business

Jon Kuhn
5 min readSep 24, 2021


Tips from a full time freelancer about passion, purpose, and community building

Image provided by Story Blocks

I don’t want you to fuck up as much as I did. You are welcome.

Who is this article for? I can see it helping two kinds of people.

If you just quit your job and you are racking up credit card debt because you believe in whatever it is you are doing. I am not here to judge. I may have tried this approach before.

The second kind of person may be a tad bit more responsible than the previously mentioned, irrational, impulsive weirdo, (honestly I’d be friends with that person.) Either way none of these people have much time. So this is going to be short and to the point. You are welcome.

Don’t be selfish

Identify problems for people and then solve them. You have your own problems, it is not your clients responsibility to solve them for you. Like all of these rules I know they are true because I have approached situations before with the wrong mindset and paid the consequences for them.

I don’t want you to fuck up as much as I did. You are welcome.

I am a freelance film maker and part of what lands me clients aside from my boyish charm and good looks is my demo reel. My demo reel lives on my website. My website is super simple but if 20 people throw their names into a comment section on an “In Search Of Video Person” post, I put myself easily into the top 5–10% of applicants because I actually have a website.

How do you get a demo reel?

Well, you have to shoot films, take photos, get client work. A good way to do this is to do free work. Don’t do free work forever.

At the bottom of this article I have another tip on how to do free work.

Not a single client gives a fuck about your demo reel. Obviously clients make decisions based on your demo reel, but it isn’t their job to help you make one. They don’t want to sacrifice their vision or message so you can have some cool looking b roll for your demo reel.

Be patient, practice your craft, and the demo reel will build itself. You serve your clients, it is not the other way around.

Side note: once you start trying to identify the potential problems you are going to solve with video you’re going to be more valuable to potential brands and clients. You can not solve problems for people if you’re too busy focusing on solving your own.

Here is a quick anecdote from my work experience;

My entire approach to freelance video changed when I told a client no to make one video for them. The client owned an Italian restaurant. They made a post on Facebook. I threw my name in the comments and a few of my past clients did as well. At first I was stoked to get another client. I thought it would look cool on my demo reel. Before the meeting I looked at the restaurant’s website and Instagram. It was all bad. I knew then that one video would not solve the problems for my client.

I could have sold them on one video, but instead I told the owner that the problem they had would not be solved by one video. The video may get someone to click through to your website, but it’s a nightmare and all of the photos look like trash. I pitched the owner on a five figure deal. I said it would be three months of a total branding re-haul. My heart was racing and I felt like I was going to crap my pants when I told them the number. I didn’t break eye contact.

They didn’t say no.

“So you say it will take $10,000? Ok, that sounds good, let me talk to my partner about this.”

They said no two weeks later…

but I now had a new frame work in mind. Them not saying no clued me onto the possibility that someone else would say yes. My next client was in a similar situation and they were my first retainer client, (multiple projects on one contract).

Don’t be selfish.

Engage with people on purpose

Schedule time to engage in your local community. We are going to double down on rule one here, don’t be selfish. Don’t engage with people you don’t like or brands you don’t want to work with.

You’ll come across as disingenuous.

Even worse you may trick some of these people into liking you. Then you’ll magically have a bunch of shit clients doing work you hate. You’ll hate yourself and at this point you might as well have stayed working with that manager that you fucking hated.

To paraphrase the almighty Tim Ferris, “be aware of the prison you may accidentally be building yourself”.

I almost built myself a prison when I started doing work with cameras. I knew I hated real estate, but I thought it would be a quick and easy way to get started. Luckily I sucked at it and no one called me back. Otherwise I would be walking alone in a house right now taking under-priced photos. Then I would go home and be alone again to edit said photos.

Engage with who you want to work with and do it often and sincerely.

Don’t fake it until you make it

You have strengths and you have weaknesses. When you first start you’re not going to be as good as someone who has been in the game longer than you.

That is more than ok, there is a market for you.

This is where free work comes into play. I propose that you approach a business like this,

“Hey Suzie who makes delicious brownies, I’ve noticed your amazing brownies don’t have great pictures or videos for them, (or proper SEO, Graphics, Menu Copy, whatever your medium is insert it here), I am new to the industry but I would love to help you out.”

Do the work pro-bono and ask for credit for the work. In addition to the free work give the client an itemized bill. Show them how much it would have cost them and give them a 100% discount. That way if they refer you or come back to you they will know how much you charge.

Whatever you think your weakness is, that can actually be your leverage point. In the above situation the leverage was that you are novice. Suzie’s brownies probably couldn’t afford high quality marketing tools and you don’t have the experience yet to charge a premium. Win win.

For me, I work alone often. I don’t have a team of people to help me make high end commercials. Honestly I don’t know if I want that, but instead of acting like I’m a big shot Hollywood guy. I know that my perceived weakness can actually be leveraged to small to medium sized startups. These startups have a budget, but it’s not as lavish as an already established brand. However since I am working solo the smaller budget goes a long way.

The thing you can’t change about yourself is not a weakness, it is actually you’re greatest and most unique asset.

I hope this helps. Have a great day. Love yourself because you are awesome.



Jon Kuhn

After spending my 20's not trying I am spending my 30's trying.

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