The Secret Ingredient to Your Overnight Success

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So, I’ve been working on a book idea of late and it’s going to be a lot of work. One of the things with writing a book is you have to get people to buy it.

But before you get people to  buy it, you need a book store and/or website to stock it. But before you get a bookstore to stock it, you need a publishing company to publish it. Oh, but before you get a publishing company to publish it, you need an agent to pitch it to the publishing company. And finally, before you get an agent to pitch it to publishing companies, you need to research and connect with an agent. But before you connect with an agent, you need to write a really good book proposal about your book idea.

All of this got me thinking about what it takes to launch a successful creative project, be it a kids TV show or a book, or any other creative project. We often see the product launch of someone who “just came on the scene” and we think, “Dang. How come I didn’t do that?” We all have these creative ideas. Why don’t we act on them? Here’s why. It’s hard work. That’s right. Your secret ingredient to overnight success looks a lot like blood, sweat, and tears. Work.

The word passion means suffering. What do you care so much about you’re willing to suffer to see it birthed? What creative idea has enough clarity and potential that it’s worth spending countless hours on?

Pixar’s overnight success was 20 years in the making. I think that’s the norm. A long journey with lots of perseverance and a lot of pain that leads to moments of breakthrough…that leads to more suffering…er…passion to keep on going. I’m not being negative, just honest. It will never be easy. We need to get out of cushy mode and do the hard thing. There’s a phrase the Navy Seals use that is relevant if we really want to do something that matters. “Yesterday was the last easy day.”

So, what’s the upside? The upside is you get to experience the journey and do something that matters. If you are a Christian, this is where you discover your calling and your various assignments. It’s where you work on things bigger than you for purposes bigger than worldly success. It’s where true satisfaction occurs in the midst of hard work.

I have a friend who’s been working on a screen play for a feature film for over a decade. God keeps taking him back to this one project. It’s not usual for him to stick with one creative idea for so long but He keeps going back. After over a decade, he’s finally seeing some traction and it’s happening one step at a time.

So, the next time you see someone successful and a little bit of envy starts to rise up, remind yourself that their overnight success only took twenty years to happen. Find your passion, suffer for it, enjoy the journey, and keep working hard.

10 Keys to Spirit-Led Leadership

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 10.32.17 AMLast month I led a leadership class for two weeks (of a six week class) and talked about 10 Keys to Spirit-Led Leadership. I hope to write a post on each key at some point, but in the mean time here’s a brief overview of the 10 keys.

Spirit-Led Leaders…

1. …Walk Closely With The Lord

John 15:5
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

Luke 6:47-49
47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

This passage is true for life and it’s true for leadership. Jesus tells us how to lead. He demonstrated how to lead when he washed the disciples feet. Servant leadership is not of this world.

2. …Discover Their God-Given Potential

Judges Chapter 6 (Read the whole chapter for context). Basically Gideon was hiding from the enemy just trying to survive and fly under the radar when God showed up and called him to his purpose as a leader. When Gideon was anything BUT a warrior, the Lord said to him “The Lord is with you mighty warrior.” (Vs. 12) God sees our potential, not our current state. He shows us HIS vision for our leadership, not how we view ourselves.

3. …Lead Those Closest to Them Best

Our leadership is only as good as our closest relationships and we’re only as deep as the last person we served. Our definition of success needs to be similar to leadership expert John Maxwell’s. “Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most.” If we’re building an empire but our family is a wreck we have failed. If we’re doing something “great for God” but our marriage fails we have not succeeded. If we’re pioneering new ventures but have to step on people to do it, we’re losing.

4. …Know Themselves

As leaders we need to cultivate self awareness especially in the areas of personality type, spiritual gifts, awareness of our blindspots, and an understanding of our unique experiences and weird combinations. For example, David was a warrior…and he played the harp. Weird combination but God used both in his life to position him.

5. …Grow

We need to grow in our knowledge of scripture (2 Timothy 2:15). We need to have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.

6. …Attack Fear

We shouldn’t just “deal with” fear, we should intentionally attack it. Read Mark Batterson’s “In a Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day”. Beneniah (one of Davids mighty warriors) didn’t just kill a lion that came at him. HE went after the Lion. The only antidote to fear is heading straight into the very thing we are afraid of. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s action taken in the face of fear.

7. …Encourage, Inspire, and Mentor

Encourage literally means to “add strength” or to “spur on to courage”. It’s not a Hallmark card, it’s a call to be strong, to keep going, to make a difference.

8. …Cast Vision Effectively

The prerequisite to casting vision is seeing the big picture. The prerequisite to seeing the big picture is spending time with the Lord.

9. …Are Essentialists

Leaders understand the power of  focus and clarity. We can go 50 directions an inch deep or one direction a mile deep. Know your core strengths, core values, marketable skills, and God-induced passions. Spend 80% of your time doing what only you can do. Delegate or cut the rest. Read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. See also, Good to Great, by Jim Collins.

10. …Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Leaders should set 3-5 goals (covering each leadership role or life area) each year that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to your calling/purpose), and Time-bound.

I hope you enjoy these leadership keys. Feel free to leave a comment or question below!

S.M.A.R.T. Creative Career Goals, Part 2

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This post is an excerpt from chapter 18 of my book Calling All Artists. November is the perfect time to start planning goals for the next year! In part 1, I shared what S.M.A.R.T. goals are and the benefit to using this method. Here in part 2 I want to show specific examples and an exercise for you to work through to develop your own S.M.A.R.T. goals for next year!

Here are examples of 3 of my goals for 2014. Two are professional goals and one is a personal goal. Notice the specificity of each and see if you can confirm that each of the 5 S.M.A.R.T. components are present.

1. Identify my thought-leadership niche and start a blog by January 31, 2014
(I launched my first post on January, 15th 2014 and the blog has already gone through two major alterations.)

2. Write and release a thought leadership e-book by September 30th, 2014.
(The book officially launched on July 28, 2014.)

3. Plan and go on an adventure that helps others and is physically demanding by July 31st, 2014.
(I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my oldest son in June, 2014.)

For the sake of transparency, I have also missed a goal. I had planned to write and illustrate a children’s book this year as well. The skill of goal setting is a process of learning how to make sure your goals are Realistic. That goal by it’s self is realistic, but I discovered that all four goals together in the same year (along with client work, being a soccer dad and running a company) were not. Realistic goal setting helps temper ambitions so that we don’t take on too much at once. This skill, like any other, is honed and refined as you use it.

What I have learned is that it is better to have one to three goals that you can complete with a level of excellence, than it is to have too many goals that risk being half-baked or completely unobtainable. I also learned the importance of prioritizing goals so that the goals with the most important impact, or that are most strategic, are completed first. Pushing less strategic goals off until next year is not the end of the world.

Goal Setting Exercise
1. Take some time to list five to seven goals (in all areas of your life, not just professional) that you would like to accomplish in the next year. Spend time rewriting them with more specificity until all five S.M.A.R.T. goal components are present.
2. Once you have a draft of your five to seven goals, share them with someone you trust and get some feedback.
3. Refine and finalize your goals.
4. Put them somewhere you will see them every day.
5. List the next single step toward each goal and put a due date next to it.
6. As you complete an action step, write the next single step along with a due date. Rinse and repeat.
Remember that the only way to move a mountain is one shovel full at a time, and the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Start digging and start chewing and before long you’ll see yourself moving closer and closer to your creative career goals.

Official Book Launch: Calling All Artists

forpostSee details and purchase options here.
(or go directly to Amazon)

Well it’s finally here. Six months in the making (although I could argue decades) with many late nights and early mornings, encouragement from my wife, kids, and great friends, I’m proud to announce the official release of my first book: Calling All Artists. (See printed manuscript from last week at left.)

After compiling and editing 210+ pages (39,790+ words), setting the master manuscript up with all of the correct styles needed for e-readers, uploading to Amazon it’s finally ready for purchase.

It’s available for Kindles (and Kindle app on iPhone/iPad and other devices) at Amazon.com.


ENDORSEMENTS

I was extremely humbled by these generous endorsements from some very kind industry veterans. Some also have some amazing interviews in the book along with several other TV, Feature Film, Broadway, Music, and Video Production veterans!


An immensely practical guide for the creative in all of us. Todd Hampson’s work has blessed me and thousands of others – his writing about the nuts and bolts of being a working creative will bless many more. Highly recommended!

Phil Vischer — Creator of VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?


When someone with Todd Hampson’s credentials and experience talks about creativity, I listen.  In fact, his new book, “Calling All Artists” was the kick in the pants I needed to move forward on my next project.  If you live a creative life (and all of us should), then I recommend the book.  You won’t regret it.

Phil Cooke — filmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do


Having been an adjunct professor in the cinema and media departments of two major universities, I know firsthand the positive impact this book will have on students.  Whether graduating from college or deciding what to do with your life, this book answers hard questions,  provides insightful information, and gives you life changing tips on how to make better choices and start a creative career in the 21st century.

Kathleen Cooke — kathleencooke.com, Co-Founder Cooke Pictures, cookepictures.com


Todd Hampson’s “Calling All Artists” e-book is a GREAT tool for anyone just getting into animation or even those that have been in it a while and want to reinvent themselves and/or reignite their passions.  As artists, we are not very good at looking internally or into the future, so planning our careers is a mysterious journey.  Todd really gets you to organize your thoughts and aline them with your talents!  That is THE path to success for any artist!  Additionally, his optimistic viewpoint toward the industry, and his excitement about it, is a breath of fresh air we all need to hear!

Tom Bancroft — former Disney Supervising Animator, Director, Studio Owner, Character Designer, Author


Todd Hampson listens and delivers! I have personally had the privilege of working with Todd and his company Timbuktoons developing an animated series for kids. He and his wonderful team were able to grant my every wish, and then some. The information he shares in this book will absolutely help artists on their creative journey.

Cassie Byram — actress, singer, song-writer, and Executive Creative Producer, Oodles World Inc.


Needless to say, I’m really excited about this book, most of all because I think it is going to help thousands of artists discover their creative calling and how to thrive in a creative career. I’m planning a few promotional events to help get the word out about the book but I couldn’t wait to share the news. Please tell your friends and share this link (http://ow.ly/zG06i) on social media to help get the word out!

 

 

Freelancers and Uncle Sam: How should I Plan and Pay Taxes On My Own?

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As I mentioned in a previous post, a freelancer is really a small company. As an independent contractor, you are responsible to estimate and pay your own taxes (usually 4 times per year unless you are just starting out). If you work for a company, they take taxes out for you, but as a freelancer you have to do this yourself. Don’t worry, this sounds scarier than it really is. One disclaimer here. I’m an artist and an entrepreneur, not a tax specialist or a CPA so please contact one before you implement any of this advice.

I highly recommend finding a good CPA (Certified Public Accountant) to help you with this. They can give you guidance on how to track your expenses, estimate quarterly taxes for federal and state payments, and help keep you on track with all things tax related. It’s really not that difficult, especially when you have a CPA.

If you are just starting out ask around to see what CPA’s your friends and family use. Or check your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to see what CPA’s are listed in your area. Meet with a recommended CPA (or 2 or 3) in person to ask questions and see if you feel like they are a good fit to help you.

You should expect to pay a few hundred dollars per year for CPA tax planning as a freelancer. It’s money well spent to keep you on track and to allow you to spend your time generating income.

There are 2 basic things you need to track as a freelancer: income, and expenses. We use Quickbooks for my company. It’s pretty easy to set up a company with it and begin tracking income and expenses. There are other software packages to use or you can even track income and expenses in a spreadsheet to give to your CPA. I prefer Quickbooks because you can send estimates and invoices to clients with it and you can generate several different types of reports to give to your CPA and for your own planning purposes.

The purpose is to track income and expenses so you can deduct expenses from the income to determine a final income amount you need to pay taxes on. For a freelancer, this is tied to your personal taxes so there are many factors which vary from person to person including tax bracket, marital status, dependents, wether or not you also have w-2’s from part time or full time employment, and geographical location.

As a general rule, when I’m budgeting projects I assume 25% will ultimately go to taxes. Ouch. Yes. That hurts. Embrace it. Again, your CPA will help you with quarterly tax planning (which means once every three months you pay a chunk of taxes to federal and state), but it’s good practice to set aside 25-30% of every payment you receive to have for taxes. The last thing you want to do is get to the end of the year and find out you owe more than you have set aside. Been there. Done that. Not fun.

Depending on your specific situation, your taxes may not be this much but it’s better to set more aside than you need to. As a freelancer or small business owner, cash flow is life and death for your endeavor. Plan ahead and plan for murphy’s law to kick in. Murphy always shows up at some point so be prepared. Having cash set aside for taxes and unplanned dips and emergencies is wise and will serve you well as a freelancer.

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