- Name: Johnny Eaker
- Creative: Commercial Filmmaker
- Location: Missouri, USA
Johnny Eaker has been in video production for many years and was competing for a very large project. When he didn’t get it, the fear and uncertainty of where the next job was going to come from set in. Johnny realized that he needed a new way to run his video production business that was more consistent financially, or else he was going to need to find a new job. That’s when he came across the Next Level Creators program. Johnny talks about how he is now earning $10,000 per month in recurring revenue, working with just two video retainer clients. The best part, he has plenty of room to grow and he can confidently see what his future has in store.
Hey everyone, it's Paul Xavier here, and today I have Johnny Eaker on, from Cosmic Sauce, his production company, and he has an awesome story to share with us. He went from running a traditional video production company, and it had no recurring revenue, he wasn't certain what to do next. He had been competing for a really big job, and unfortunately they didn't get it, at the beginning of this year. Then he was searching, what is he gonna do for his business? How is he gonna take it to that next level? Is he even gonna survive the next year? And he joined The Next Level Creators Program, within a few months he landed a six figure a year client. Now he's making over $10,000 a month in consistent, recurring revenue, and he attributes that success to learning where to focus in his production company. So Johnny, welcome, I'm excited to chat today, and why don't you start out by telling us what was a day in the life of your video production company like before you joined the program? What was it normally like for you, a month, a day, what were you doing? Well first of all, thanks, thanks for [inaudible 00:01:20], and yeah, I mean incredibly inconsistent. And were very much reliant on referrals, and not knowing ... I mean, our cash every month, I mean we would have geez, I can remember, February I think we had a $4,000 month, like that's bad. That's you know ... So from there, it just, that roller coaster of cash flow, of not knowing what was gonna happen. And in general, the single, you know, we typically close single video project in the 10 to 15 thousand dollar range. And even then, you know, you try to get half upfront, and then you're not paid the rest until it's done, and some of these have really long tails. You know, two to three months before a project gets done, and so we went into 2018 really hoping that we would have a very large contract, and it just didn't happen. You know, a very large single video job, and it just didn't happen. And so from that, I came on, I found Creative operating system, and you, at the early part of the year, I think right at January, so it was just the perfect time, really I didn't know what we were gonna do, because I figure ... we had about three, six months maybe, as far as ... we needed to make a major change in what we were doing, or ... I have a business partner, so we're supporting two professional salaries in this business, and we just ... I was literally looking for a job. So I had this, "I'm gonna try to go find video business, but I'm also searching career builder for a job," and that's again, when it comes to focus, that's not exactly where you want to be, so I really wasn't sure what I was gonna do, and even as I started to go through the program, and then, for me, probably the live event was the bigger shift. So- Being just, go ahead. Yeah, I'm curious here, 'cause for you, you were at this point where you had to make a decision, right? You didn't know, you only had a couple months left worth of cash, but how long was your business at that point, where you were just doing these 10, 15 thousand dollar production jobs? And how long have you run this production company? Yeah, we have, I mean I've been around production for 15 years, and working in an in house agency for a large company, and so ... and then I started this video marketing agency, this is our third year. So for two full years, it'd been more of the same, but I had had a full time income, so I was trying to transition myself into that business. Then, in the late part of '17, I lost that job. The in house, cushy job, that I had had forever, I lost it, and so the blessing was that we had this thing in motion, we had a client, we had some people that were coming back to us on a consistent basis, but the business wasn't at a point to really where it could support two professional salaries, and it needed to. And so there was this crisis, and it was like, "Oh, well great, here comes this big client, this will come around and save it," and it didn't happen. And so that's when it was like okay ... so to answer your question, this single project model is really all I'd ever known, you know. That I'd always been running a freelance business outside of my full time creative job. And this is, hey, we go make an extra $5,000 a month. Then, the last two years, it's okay, we were proud of ourselves that we could graduate from oh, a $5,000 job to oh, we closed an $18,000 video job, or we closed the hospital for, we're gonna do three videos for $25,000, and we would get super excited about that. Yeah. That is something to be excited about, but here fast forward to where just believing in yourself, and having confidence that there's a lot more out there, and there are folks that really want to work with you, you just have to find them, instead of settling. I just feel like I was settling for what I could find, and just not seeing the possibility of again, you want your business to be a certain size, and you start to build that, if you just open the doors of possibility, outside of your small market area. We're in a college town, middle of Missouri, Midwest, and that's really an opportunity, I think, that if we're able to go out, 'cause we can be ... we got low overhead, we're pretty cost effective, that we can compete in some other areas that I don't ... we just weren't thinking that way. Yeah. And now it's, this is how we're gonna do business, because it just makes sense, you know? I think I see it, that mindset is so common, 'cause it happens to me all the time, I think it happens to everyone, is you get comfortable. And that's really what happened, right? You got comfortable when you were working your day job with these $5,000 projects. And you were like, "I can do this, this is," then you lose that job, and all the sudden, discomfort settles in. So what do you do? I have to go, I have to make more. So the $5,000 doesn't really work, and you start looking for these 10, 15,000, but you're uncomfortable when you're, "Are people gonna pay that? I don't know," then you start getting them, and that becomes comfortable. And it's getting you by, it's working, and then the next thing is what's after this? 'Cause this still isn't that great? And this still gives you those cycles of up down, up down, all the time, with the business. So, that's when you had to let go again, and it's interesting to hear, how every time you wanted to get to that next level, you had to go through that period of, "I need to get uncomfortable again, I need to get out of this mindset of this is what I'm worth, and start raising the bar there." Yeah. So, with that being said, what was the main ... what was the last ... how did you find Next Level Creators? How did you find us? And what was it about what we do that really attracted you? I found, Facebook, Facebook advertising, so from there, and it was just the message was very, very relevant, in that because I've known myself, like I said, we try to position ourselves as a video marketing agency. The reality is, until this year, we were just another production company. But the vision had always been, "Let's help people actually make sure content gets seen," like that was the gap, for me, is that we would do these beautiful things, and no one was seeing what we were doing, and some clients didn't care, some clients didn't know, and I was like, "Okay, if we could help with this." We really didn't know how. You know, like me or my business partner, like the ins and outs of what Facebook advertising could and should look like, and so basically you guys came along, and really packaged up, I was like, "Yes, this is what I've been wanting to do, and so this is the start to finish of how to get there," and so it was just this perfect alignment of vision, helping me get to, "Okay, let me at least become very proficient in helping people get where they want to go when it comes to promotion and distribution of content." And then the whole retained dollar model, I was like, monthly retained income, totally makes sense. You know, when you talk about just the way the production industry's shifting. And I think, as video creators, I think you're kind of kidding yourself if you keep hanging your hat on quality, because it's getting easier and easier to make high quality content. This is coming from somebody that's created high quality content for a long time, and I just ... and so it really resonated with me. I'm like, "Yeah, the clock's kind of ticking to be able to keep charging a premium, for just content. You've gotta be able to do more, and I felt like the program you guys put together helps us show our clients how to get where they want to go, 'cause that's ultimately what they want. They don't really care how beautiful this thing is, is it gonna make them money? Is it gonna do what they're trying to do? And that's the key right there, right? It's no longer do we charge a premium, based off of production, and the quality of the production, we charge based off the value, right? So, how did that change the way you were having conversations with these prospective clients? 'Cause I remember, you joined the program back, end of January timeframe, you started ... you still had a bunch of jobs you were trying to get through, but you were so busy at the time, and then you came to our live event, and that's really where you sat down, three days, full focus, what is changed since then? What about your business model, your mindset, the things that you're doing? What are the major differences between you in January, before you joined, and you now? It's definitely focus and mindset. There's still things that ... really, the live event for me helped lay out ... and maybe it's just the way that I learn, in that I was just able to absorb a lot more there. I mean, we went through elements of the program that's available online, but being able to do it in person is very beneficial for me. Get instant feedback, and just clarity. I mean, I know, still focusing on a niche, that that's still ... I mean, the opportunity that's been put in front of us that we close, I think, is helping guide us towards, it makes sense. It's really helped us understand that. But clarity, and just focus and mindset. Those are the big things. There's still things that trying to get things organized when it comes to personal business, and health, but what I liked about the live event is it really helped me prioritize ... I know what I need to do, it's a matter of ... it comes back to time management, that's the area that I probably still need to do some self development, and just to create time for the things I know I need to do. But when it comes to the business, it's definitely, there's so much clarity there, that I know that, as I said before, we're just gonna say no to ... I mean, just the other day, nonprofit thing, $4,000 job, love the nonprofit's mission, but I'm like, "I'm sorry, we can't." Yeah. And just because the time that I would have put into that $4,000 job is much better spent doing research, prospecting, having sales calls, and closing the next six figure deal. Even if it takes me two months to even get to where I can have that six figure conversation, that is way better spent then saying yes to these other jobs, that just take me away from what I really should be focusing on. Where as early in the year, I'd have said yes to anything that came across my desk. Granted, I had to, but at the same time, it's this catch 22 of like, you can't get to the next level if you're always doing the same thing that you've been doing. You're on the hamster wheel, right? Really. So that was the big thing for me, man, was just let's, you know ... and then just going through and just understanding sales. I think so many of us, as creatives, I mean, this has been my biggest part, being self employed, truly, for a year, is just most of us don't ... we haven't been in sales positions. We don't really know how to sell. It's easy when you're selling creative, is "Do you like this? Yes or no?" And you like it, and then you're like, "Great, buy it," and it's however much. It's quality, you're paying for the quality, and that's how you sell. Whereas, it's just a total shift in ... you're helping us establish a sales process that just didn't exist, and so that's pretty exciting. And that right there, I think, that's one of the biggest areas where creative video production companies are indeed lacking, right? It's like you said, you know, they go out there, and it's tragic to see how many people put their value and base their value based off of the hours they're working, or the equipment they're using, the number of people that are showing up, or a lot of the people we speak with are saying that their biggest differentiator in business is their personality. It's how much their clients actually just like them. And, when I look at that, I'm like, "Well where's the additional value to your clients, though? What does the client get? Why should the client pay you a $10,000 premium over all these other video people?" If you're basing that premium off of your personality, that's not gonna last very long. No. Or if the marketing director changes, you're screwed. Yeah, you're gone. The value isn't there. For you, when you look at, 'cause we, our sales process and everything is called the Earn the Deal sales process, for anyone who's listening that doesn't know. What were your biggest takeaways learning that process, and implementing it? For me, it's just the repetition of ... that A, there is a process, you know, and in the past, again, it was just a matter of going out, and I guess more waiting for people to come to me, you know? That we just didn't have anything in place, as far as lead generation, or what that needed to look like on a daily, weekly basis, just to make sure we were having enough conversation, to even have the opportunity, you know? And so, then from there, once I am speaking with someone, I really feel like now I'm disqualifying them, you know? That I'm ... whereas, that's not a mindset that I had before. I was really trying to, doing whatever I can to get this job, whereas now it's like, "Is this really a good fit? Can I really help you?" And as we go through that process, and there have been a couple times where I, "I don't think this is gonna work," and you just politely move on. Yeah, so that is a big mindset shift, right? It takes a lot, and sometimes you mistake that. You're like, "I'm disqualifying you, but then wait a second, no, now I gotta convince you," and it's that convincing versus diagnosing, right? Those are the two differences I always share. You're either diagnosing whether you can actually help someone, and improve their life, through your videos and through your work. Or your just trying to convince them that you're the right person for the job. And the right thing to do is always diagnose. Always actually figure out if you can help. Because if you can't do that, you're not the right person for the job, and there's no reason to try to convince anyone of anything. Right. That makes total sense. So what else has happened for you? I mean, you landed a big deal, right? You've also got some other deals going on? Yeah, we just submitted ... and this is exciting, again, a proposal for another content ... actually this is half content, half management, for a large agricultural thing. We're here in the Midwest and we're like, "Let's take advantage of that, what's around us?" And that's a $60,000 opportunity. And again, numbers that I thought were just outside of what we could do, you know? We would be trying to gun for like, "How do we get the $50,000 marketing video?" As opposed to, this is a 12 month, for $3,000 a month, we're gonna do content, for $2,000 a month, we're gonna manage that content, plus the ad spend, so $5,000 a month, and that's, when you put that in front of people, it's digestible, you know? You know, that you're like, "Oh, in terms of ...," and what I've found really helpful is, when you're explaining this in terms of hiring staff, as long as you're talking to the right people, that's a very affordable thing, and it's actually more affordable. Break that down. Break that down, because a lot of people don't recognize this huge opportunity, right? They're like, "Who would ever pay $5,000 a month? Johnny, Paul, you guys are lunatics." Break it down. Yeah, and again, think of ... I mean, for those of you, if you are self employed, you know, however you pay yourself, and this I've learned, we were taxes and S corp, and so the business is paying taxes, and I get a regular paycheck, and so when I even look at that, and then the business itself has to pay portions of things, and so my point is, that all the businesses you're talking to, if they have some sort of a marketing team, the cost of actually hiring someone to come in and do what you do. Take the equipment cost. Even on the low side, $15,000, to actually gear up, and to do something that could be comparable to what you're doing when it comes to camera, lighting, all those things. Then you gotta hire somebody that actually knows what they're doing to create the content. That's, if you're lucky, 40 grand? For someone that would actually go in and work there full time. But they're probably, that's not top tier talent, by any means, at least from my chair. Then on top of that, the you need somebody on the marketing side that can actually do something with that content, that's a whole other salary. 40 grand. So now you're pushing a hundred grand, and we haven't even got started yet, so you really do offer a lot of value when you say, "Hey," even if they don't have much of a marketing team, I found that if you talk to the right people, you say, "Hey, you could hire a marketing person, you're gonna pay them 40, 50 grand, and they're gonna turn around, and they're gonna want to hire, they're gonna want to outsource all these things anyway, so what are you really paying for there, if you're just now getting into the marketing side of your business?" So it's a different approach for different kinds of businesses, but, I've found that's pretty effective when you start talking in terms of salary dollars, that hey, when we start talking about, this is really ... in relation to a full time equivalent, this is a pretty attractive opportunity, and you just get some head nods. Like, "Okay, yeah," you know. This does make sense. Because business owners understand hiring. If they've been in business for quite a while, they understand how expensive people are. So if they really do have this pain point of, "Hey, we're trying to get to where we want to go." Alright, they've probably had that conversation already. "Do we bring this in house? What do we do? What does that look like?" And so if you're putting something ... at least the most recent deal, 60 grand is not, it's reasonable to these folks that we're talking to. Because to them, they're like, "Well, we could hire someone, and it's easier to fire you guys if this doesn't work." I mean, he was very honest, he's like, "This actually is kinda great, you know," 'cause we give the option after three months, you're able to get out. And it's easy. And obviously, we're gonna make sure that doesn't happen, but it's a win win. They see it as "Great, alright, it's equivalent to salary dollars, I can get out, lot easier to get out of your contract then mess with firing somebody." Yeah, and have to deal with unemployment and all that good stuff. That's awesome. Yeah, that breakdown right there, I can see why it's working for you, when you're going after the right businesses with that mindset, and the right people, with that mindset. And it is few and far between, right? Most people who've ever been in business, they don't know that kind of thing. Know expensive it is to hire. So, learning that's really important, and learning those distinctions between hiring contractors, 1099s, like ourselves, who are experts in what we do, then hiring a W-2 employee who has all these other benefits and extra work that goes along with it. And so that makes total sense. With this, I remember, one of the key things I remember talking to you about at the live event, was some personal life changes. And making some big decisions around those areas. I'm curious, have those stuck, and if you're willing to share, would you want to talk about any of those other big things we looked at and started to tweak as we were working together there? Yeah, I mean for me, it's ... we had a conversation just about drinking, you know? And that has definitely changed quite a bit. You know, in that definitely I've been more focused on just paying attention to what I'm doing, is probably the best way to put it. You know, that it's not something that I mean, to do maybe as often as I was doing. And so yeah, and then just looking at health in general. Really paying attention to that. You know, that's the part of regularly exercising and how much that's an important part of, as a business owner, you've got to start with yourself. Always. And I saw ... I forget where I saw it, but how your business is, it's a reflection of you, and so you kinda gotta start cleaning up shop. So start with you, and then it's funny how things start to work out from there. And when you get that clarity, right? 'Cause you walked away from the event, when we were there, you came in, I would say almost in a confused, and a little bit unfocused, so many things jumping around in your mind, on where you could go. And you walked away more focused, more clear, you had that clarity, you went, you executed. And I do, I personally, I'll always think this, but the more clarity you get in your personal life on who you are, what you want, what you want to do, the more clarity you're gonna find in your business as well. I'm just curious, is that what you think as well? Yeah. No, it's definitely, yeah, I mean 'cause I would say there's definitely, things are better in the personal life, than they were in the beginning of the year. And so that, I don't have to worry about some of the other things that ... a lot of the other stresses that were keeping me up, January, February, when you know, there was a lot of other things going on, personally, creating a lot of stress there, 'cause you're legit trying to figure out, "How am I gonna pay for anything?" You know, I have a wife and three kids, so that's just a lot, there's a lot to think about there. And so now when you get to a place where, okay, things are better, taking care of myself, those stresses are away, now we've got a foundation in the business of what we're trying to do, what we need to do, how we're just gonna go grow. It's pretty exciting. That's awesome. And so next, where do you see yourself in 12 months' time? Where's the business gonna be? I'm gonna be at 50k a month. There we go. I think that's, for me, I mean the whole ... it's to be a million dollar agency. To me, that's ... but do it the right way. Grow the right way. Being able to add key staff, and again, the last thing I want to do is add staff, and put myself in the position I was in January, February, where we need to have a certain number of clients to, where we feel like that's gonna be you know, but having someone on staff that can help with creating content, and eventually helping with distribution, promotion, things like that. Bringing an editor on full time would be a godsend for us. So, yeah man, that's where, I mean ... like I said, we're in that consistent, we're at 10k now, you know, with we still have some single projects out there, so we float around 20k a month, but 10 is consistent. And so I would love to be at 50k consistently. We're gonna get you there. I'm excited for it. Super excited. And so, Johnny, the last thing is there are other people here who might be watching this that are considering joining The Next Level Creators Program, they've been in situations like yours, maybe they're in a darker place, right? Maybe they're in tons of debt, right? Maybe there's a lot of bad things going on in their life, but what would you recommend to anyone who's considering Next Level Creators Program, what would you say to them? Do it. Do it. I mean, I know there's, you know, you may have some apprehensions about cost, but when you talk about the cost of the program, and then you're able to ... I mean, that's a well, it's a worthwhile investment. And so that was probably the only thing that hung me up in trying to make the decision early on, was, I was, "Man, this seems like a lot of money," and that's where I just wasn't really sure, and it is worth the investment, that the things that you will learn in just yourself, and finding clarity, you know, it just ... and then from there, how to build consistent, reliable income from your business. It's incredible. I greatly appreciate it. I appreciate it. I'm grateful to have you as a client, you're kicking ass right now. I'm really excited for where you're about to go, and I'm looking forward to helping you get there, so Johnny thank you so much. Yeah, thank you.