There's a lot of debate about doing for work 'free'. Many people are on the 'know your worth train'. While others subscribe to the 'being on the grind no matter what' philosophy.
I have always been a fan of earning it. Putting in the time and energy to make changes in your life. The same can be said for growing a business. If you want more clients in a specific industry but you have no work to show for it, what should you do? Sit back with your worth in your pocket and wait to be discovered? Or go make it happen?
There's another layer to it, though. Head down, forward movement can be good. But it can also be waste of time. There has to be intention. You have to be working towards something specific. Gaining a new client. Developing a new skill. Testing a shot you saw in an ad and wanted to replicate. As long as you are learning and growing in this "free" time then it is incredibly worthwhile.
One thing we've been doing more this year is spec shoots. We aim to do one every month. And the goal is always slightly different. At the end of last year, we were working hard to close a client that was a little hesitant. I had a hunch they just needed to see their product in our work. We scheduled a 6 hour window and shot a tabletop video sequence. I sent the edit to the client. We closed the contract a week later. It was a $50,000 project.
Other times, we just want to have fun. Like our tabletop video shoot we did for Nomad Donuts.
We wanted to test our masking skills in post production and had the thought of floating some donuts on screen and dousing them with ingredients. We thought Nomad would be a perfect partner because I've known their founder for years through an organization called Business For Good. I reached out and a few weeks later we were picking up a case of donuts and bagels from their shop in North Park.
Turns out, this type of shoot is incredibly involved! Which was a good thing for us to learn on a spec shoot instead of in front of a high paying client. The masking took nearly 40 hours (most of our edits take 15-20). Because we had the practice, we'll be even more prepared next time around.
Most recently, we all met and talked about doing a beverage spec shoot. This came from one of our creative whiteboard meetings where we shared and talked about a particular shot that looked incredibly interesting and challenging. Again, it required a lot of masking ;) We looked for a brand that had a really nice aesthetic while also having opportunity for an upgrade in their quality of content. We landed on Sanzo.
It might seem counterproductive to spend time working while not getting paid directly from a client but I really believe that working on your craft always pays dividends.