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Finding Work

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by mrhogg, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    These are very good points, Gordon, thank you. I've considered going the agent route, but haven't had a whole lot of luck finding one.

    Self-promotion is definitely a thing I need to work on. Must be more aggressive with it.
  2. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    How did you get those first few jobs? How did you get insanely busy?

    Which program did you get funding from? It's something I've also been thinking of, but I've not yet started to look at the specifics.

    Incidentally, Andrew, you're going to be speaking at PodCamp NYC? Crazy that there will be two new media puppeteers (that I'm aware of) speaking at the thing.
  3. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    Yeah, I probably should've. But I hadn't defined the targets to that point, yet. :)

    (In my defense, the Colbert puppet, once I film the challenge video, will get me some attention, I think, so it won't be a waste of time.)
  4. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    Because I'm not entirely sedentary, as part of the puppet I just posted photos of yesterday, Git, I'm doing a promotional video thing for FITC, the design festival in Toronto next week. (fitc.ca) Git is your basic pretentious know-it-all designer, who will be interviewing a few of the speakers, and making an *** of himself.

    As part of my involvement with the festival, and partly in lieu of money, Hoggworks is a Bronze sponsor of the festival, and gets a full-page ad in the conference program. And the conference is frequented by a lot of ad people, so that might end up with some good leads for me, I think.

    I should probably get a few t-shirts made, or buttons or stickers, or something like that. Hmm.

    The ad I made for the festival is here:
  5. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I did most of the work with my ex-wife and the first job was a total fluke; we were out of work and saw an ad online for a company in South Africa that needed help with a black light show. I had spent about 4 years doing black light and she had 10 years experience as a builder so we got hired and ended up writing their show and designing and building all the puppets for it.

    This was about eight years ago and there were very few puppet builders on the internet and most that were online did Muppet style stuff and were somewhat limited. There was a lot less competition than there is now. You can see pictures of some of the puppets we built here.

    The other thing we had going for us was a low Canadian dollar. The exchange rate was around $1.40 Cdn = $1.00 US so if we worked for clients in the U.S. there was no way an American company or builder could compete against us price-wise. Of course that's no longer the case.

    The thing that I did really wrong from a business stand point though was take on way too much way too fast. If you grow too fast you get caught in what they call "the start-up squeeze"; the more business you get in, the more it costs to fulfill the business and if you're not properly capitalized if anything goes wrong you're going to run out of money and go broke, which is what happened to me.
    I enrolled in a self-employment training program for people under 30. The Canadian government runs a bunch of these through the ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. The specific program I was in is no longer funded unfortunately.
  6. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Active Member

    OH I think Colbert Puppet is brilliant! I think what you've been doing is right on track. Just keep up with your instincts.

    Buck--I think almost every big break is a total fluke.
  7. Butterscotch

    Butterscotch New Member

    My thoughts: When I was looking to hire puppeteers, I did a ton of research. I hired Ravagefrackle to build our puppets and he was fantastic. With every puppet he made, he sent me a video of the puppet performing a song that was characteristic to the puppet. I found that this really important for me as a potential employer in the decision-making process. Those videos really showcased his talent as a puppeteer and it was an easy decision after seeing them. So, I would recommend having a video collection of your work.
  8. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    I'm actually a web developer/programmer/designer by day, for the rent payments, so I'm well familiar with the structure at the ad agencies. :) I need the killer package to send them to immediately get their attention, though. That's the time-intensive and tricky part.

    Thanks for the link for the printers. I'm probably going to go with a small booklet that'll hold a DVD, so it'll be a nice handheld thing that won't require a person to be around an internet connection when they get it, and to be able to see it at high resolution without waiting for the download.

    Part of my problem with the identification is that if I say "I'm a Flash developer" to a lot of people, that greatly increases the chance I get work within a week or two. If I say "I'm a puppeteer," that's more interesting, and maybe gets me something down the road, but nothing now. And rent, sadly, is not a thing down the road. And if I say "I'm a Flash developer and a puppeteer," that gets confusing.
  9. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Active Member

    So when you send them the pacakge, are you going to put in there both that you're a puppeteer & Flash developer?

    I wonder if separating them would get you called sooner for the flash stuff. Puppetry, in my mind, overrides Flash as far as what's going to stand out about you.
  10. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    No, I just mean in response to one of the earlier comments about taking every opportunity to push yourself as a video puppeteer. There's crossover for me, as agency folks will have a potential desire for those services, so it makes sense to make a point of mentioning them, but the far safer bet is to say "I AM FLASH." I worry that if I hit it too hard with the puppet angle, I'll lose some of the Flash work, which is keeping the roof over my head at this point.

    This actually happened to me recently. Someone e-mailed me, saying that they know I'm not doing web stuff anymore, just puppets, but if I could pass a freelance opportunity on to someone still doing work, that would be great. In this instance I was able to get their attention, and am currently doing work for them, but who knows how many people are simply not contacting me because they don't currently have a need of puppets, and think I'm no longer in the market for web work.

    That is, I suspect, a rarer concern, and one made trickier by virtue of the fact that I'm freelancing. Might be easier if I had a full-time job, but in that case I'd have less time to try to build-up the puppet stuff. Also this is made trickier by the fact that I'm trying to transition in many ways within the same industry. If I were an accountant switching to puppets, that might be an easier thing. Who knows.
  11. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Active Member

    What if you were able to do your full-time job from home? Like, could you get something thats programming & do it remotely?

    Yeah, You almost need to bill them together just so people know you're doing both.
  12. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    I do that as a freelancer, and I actually had that setup for a while (until the job stopped being workable, for a variety of reasons). The problem with that, for me personally, is that I tend to have the laser-like focus, obsessively so, and if I am right beside the fun stuff, and it's quiet for a moment, I'll go do that, and coming back to the money stuff gets really difficult.
  13. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle New Member

    Freelancers often have multiple sources of income, whitch make it **** come tax time,

    but the reality is thier are only so many hours in a day, and to crank out high quality TV,Video ready puppets you need to devote a lot of time, and effort , a couple of hours at night isnt going to cut it, i spend any where from 8 to 9 hours a day on one particular puppet , you can not rush quality.
  14. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    It does seem like in business as soon as you say "puppets" either you loose people or they have no understanding of what you do. Just the other day my girlfriend - who's a puppeteer and teaches part-time - was telling me about how she gets annoyed when she mentions to people that she's a puppeteer and immediately gets invited to do kid's birthday parties.

    My theory is that people will gladly watch puppetry (even if they say they don't like it) if it's good, but there's something about the label "puppet" that turns people off. Maybe the trick is to do puppetry, but just call it something else to avoid preconceptions.
  15. Toasty

    Toasty New Member


    You might be able to work a catchy ad pitch on the promo piece you are developing. I'm thinking create a short film (ie: a 30 sec commercial) that sets a scenerio involving a "typical web client looking for work" and use your puppet actors to pitch the ideas like "So ya need flash programming, eh? We DO THAT!" "So ya need flash with puppets? We do THAT, too!" "So ya don't need any web stuff at all, but want to impress the heck outta your customers using puppets? (and c'mon, EVERYBODY loves puppets!) Well, you're in luck, Slappy! WE REALLY LOVE DOIN' THAT, TOO!"

    Check out Jim Henson's pitch film he created to sell the idea of Sesame Street to PBS back in the day (it's on Sesame Street Old School DVD set vol 1). It uses the same notion that I am referring to here: use your stuff (ie: skills, puppets, etc) to turn potential client onto your stuff, which, in turn, makes them want to use your stuff to improve and market their stuff.
  16. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    I've seen the Muppet show pitch video, which I liked.

    The demo reel/pitch video wouldn't be just a collection of video I've done, it would need to be a showing of the best of what I can do, which is better than when I did dotBoom. I'm thinking of having some character walking through "the studio" to find a specific production, and having the character walk through a variety of sets, each one stylistically different, detailing a different way we can do stuff. It would/will be crazy complicated to make, as I'm thinking of doing a fake single-take kind of thing, but if I pull it off, it would be amazing.

    At the end, there'd probably be some kind of reveal showing that the complicated filming was all done by just a couple people in a very small space.

    I'll probably avoid any overt "we can do that for you!" kind of stuff, if I'm appealing to jaded advertising folks. I might throw a bit in, if for no other reason than to show that I've got a range, of course.
  17. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    Andrew, what term other than puppets might you suggest? I agree that the first thought people have when you say puppets is that you're doing kid stuff, which can work to a person's advantage in the end product, as you're able to deftly subvert expectations, but getting to that point becomes trickier.

    If you were to call them something other than puppets, wouldn't you then have to spend time explaining that they're really puppets?
  18. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I don't know if there is another accurate term for puppets (animated sculpture?), but I am thinking more about positioning and how you present Hoggworks as a "brand".

    When I worked for a black light theatre company years ago they always referred to themselves as a theatre company rather than a puppet company because they had found people had a lot preconceived notions about what puppets were. All they do is puppetry, but they focused on the black light aspect of their work because it was unique and different. The Lion King was primarily a puppet show, but it was sold as a musical and an adaptation of something people were familiar with (the Disney movie).

    If someone says they are selling puppets they can only sell to people who need puppets and that's a limited and usually not-very-profitable market. A puppet has very limited value on it's own. On the other hand, if someone is selling a marketing service or a communications tool there is a much larger and better paying market for those kinds of services.

    So the question to ask I guess is what is it you are really selling? Puppets? Performing? Design? Production services? Or some combination? Who is your customer? What need are you fulfilling?

    One of the key tasks when writing a business plan is to come up with what's called a "unique value proposition". Starting a new business an entrepreneur has to figure out why someone should hire them...especially over and above more experienced companies with more credits and a longer track record.

    You've got such an interesting mix of skills - flash, puppetry, podcasting, etc. - there's tons of reasons why an advertising firm should hire you. I imagine the challenge you have is to identify what those reasons are, figure out what you're really selling (I think it's much more than puppets) and then identify specific problems that the ad industry has that you can help solve.
  19. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    That's a very good, very thoughtful reply, Andrew. Thanks.

    I get what you're saying about puppets, and I suppose it was unnecessary flippant of me to suggest that you were thinking solely of a new name, and not a new description for the puppet-related services you're providing.

    I think it's absolutely about more than puppets, in the same way that a contractor doesn't simply sell wood and nails; he sells a home. I'm trying to sell effective advertising, stories told using puppets, because puppets connect with people and their more youthful sides, engaging their sense of fun and whimsy. A person shuts off so much of their critical faculty when they see puppets -- because they think of puppets as inherently childish, they view them in that context, which allows whatever your message is to get in past their filters. This makes the presentation of the message so much more effective. I'm trying to sell a conversation with the viewer that can't be as effectively or efficiently done with anything other than puppets.
  20. mrhogg

    mrhogg New Member

    A formal business plan probably does make a lot of sense. I need to make one of those.

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