Focus on your business or yourself - which comes first? EP #150 - Den Lennie


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Today Den talks about the one thing that can have the biggest impact on your business in 2021 and beyond. 

 Here's a peek at what you'll hear:

  • A near-perfect number of clients to have if you're a video freelancer. (Having round about this number of clients will almost guarantee you'll always have work rolling in. - 2:25)


  • Den's frank and candid explanation on why he's doing more solo episodes now. - 3:25
  • The secret to having a solid, secure, and reliable business. - 7:00


  • The "brand-it-and-they-will-come" fallacy. (We've all heard the "build it and they will come" fallacy, well… the "brand-it-and-they-will-come” mindset is every bit as foolish. Hear this at 9:00)
  • A common “marketing strategy” filmmakers rely on that's akin to going to the casino and playing Blackjack when in need of money. - 10:10


  • The 4 critical elements a business must have to effectively scale. (Trying to scale a business without all four elements is like trying to pick up a turd by its clean end. In other words… it ain’t possible! - 11:00)
  • Focus on your business or yourself -  which comes first? (Hear Den's insightful thoughts on the matter at 12:10)


  • nerve-wracking “marketing strategy” that's almost guaranteed to give you ulcers. (Sadly, many filmmakers choose this marketing strategy even though it has them more anxious than a degenerate gambler who's gone all in. - 13:55)


  • How Den lost 1.2 kilos in 14 days even though he was eating sugary treats and drinking beer. - 15:00
  • A proven and battle-tested 2-step method for achieving almost any goal. - 16:25


  • A 2-second mindset "tweak" that can help you stick with any new habit you're trying to establish. - 17:05


  • How winning a big client can sometimes screw up your video production business.  - 19:00


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Episode Transcription

Den Lennie (1s):
Howdy, guys! Den Lennie here, host of the How to scale a Video business podcast with this episode, number 150. Actually quite hard to believe we got to a 150 Episodes, but that's part of why I want to talk to you about today is just getting started and anything you're looking to try to achieve is absolutely critical alongside each strategic plan. You know, if we don't have a plan for what you want to do, we talk about that last week in the Shorty then, you know, you don't know where you're going, but if you don't set a deadline and actually start, you'll never get there. And it's incredible how quickly things can start to escalate and so forth.

Den Lennie (45s):
Like we are at 150 Episodes And you know, it's, it's a lot of work. Don't get me wrong. And I mean, we pump it three episodes a week, but it's with just about broke. And I think just shy of 30,000 listens. In fact, we will, by the time this cause they will have a big city of 30,000 listens on this platform alone. We have been with Buzzsprout since about January of 2020, prior to that we were with Omni. And then prior to that, we were with sewing clothes. So we were probably heading up closer to 40,000 downloads. And the funny thing is when you start a project like this late, you just have no idea how it's going to go.

Den Lennie (1m 28s):
And, you know, I've, I've studied, you know YouTube creators in the likes and they will just say something that it takes three or four years before they start making any money from ad revenue. And we don't, we don't, you know, make any money from ad revenue or this, we use that as a, as a lead generator to build trust and And and help share knowledge to fit into our video business accelerator programs. So that's where we kind of take the commercial side of the Podcast, but, you know, we have 150 episodes and, you know, it's also a, it's a, it's a great platform because you know, the, the, the audience is growing and building an audience for anything is it takes time.

Den Lennie (2m 10s):
And in the same way that when you are starting out on a, a video business, you have a small number of clients. And as you grow and scale over a year's, you end up with the bigger group of clients and to reach a critical mass were once you said, I think once you get to sit up between 30 and 50 clients, and you're kind of always going to be busy, you'd always going to have worked because, you know, The, there will be a residual kind of people who will always need something. I would say the sweet spot is probably somewhere between 30 and 40 clients. And it can seem like very, very distant goal if you've only got three or four clients at the minute, but in actual fact, just getting another two or three clients might be enough to get you through the next month and then a month after that.

Den Lennie (2m 56s):
And then a month after that. And so, you know, always, if you, if you look at the bigger picture, if I start a podcast and when I want to get to 40,000 downloads and two years, I'd be like, Oh my God, I have no idea how to do that. But you just got to be one step in front of the other. And I think it's the same in anything in the business is, is to have a plan, how you have a focus and you have this podcast has evolved over the years. I'm been doing a lot more solo episodes recently, partly for the fact that, you know, I just, I could fill the podcast with guests, but I don't want to just get guests on for the sake of like, you know, talking shit, to be honest, that might be, can be quite Frank with you. I want this to be a valuable insight to running a video production business.

Den Lennie (3m 39s):
You know, if I had a number of people, contact me as this show gets more popular or you get more and more called people reaching out to you saying, Hey, I'd just be on your podcast and share topics on this side. And the next thing. And I'm kind of quite, I'm quite careful really, you know, I don't, I think there has to be a genuine connection to video production or something that really will benefit a video production business. And I would rather not just kind of fill the podcast with guests from all walks of life, for the sake of it. Cause like, I think that's a lot of those kinda shores around, I would draw on the show, just giving you what you need, which is insights that they had to build a video business. But I'd love to know your thoughts. I mean, would you like to see more guests on the show are the people that you would like to hear on the show?

Den Lennie (4m 23s):
So I'll let me know. I'd be more than happy to, to try and connect with them. And one of the benefits of having a show that it's now got an excess of 40,000 downloads combined, it's got a voice now it's got an audience and it makes it easier to reach out to people that you know, who would you like to hear on the shore kind of topics would you like to hear about it now in the last week we talked about that at the top 10 episodes of, of 2020, and its an interesting mix actually of, of topics you a ranging from Shooting the Shooting the, the, the S of an Ester is a gift stuff. Always gets a kind of a bit of a peak, but more than that, its just, you know, online branding, you know, the theory of constraints, avoiding the freelancer trap and quite quite a variety of, of marketing content there and, and, and sort of mental health and advertising.

Den Lennie (5m 13s):
So, you know, I, I've got some insights as to what Episodes are popular, but today I wanted to just, you know, reflect on the importance of playing to your strengths and you know, there are certain characteristics and character traits if you will, that you will have. And I've been much more conscious of this recently, you know, I'm, I'm someone who likes to camp with an idea to come up with a strategy and have a very high-level view or something and then give direction and things. What are my strengths? I mean, to be able to kinda, you know, get cloudy for someone, but I, but I'm not, I'm not an implemented in the sense that I'm not somebody who likes to go on a roll out through a team.

Den Lennie (5m 55s):
And I'm very much a, a, a creator in that regard. And I was happy. And my wife actually today with, with one of our marketing campaigns and we got it, the giant whiteboard and, and our hallways, it's got to be like two meters, a three, two or three meters wide by like a meat and a half tall. And I'm really good with like four colored pants, just mapping something out. But, but I don't want to do the bits and pieces that kind of join it altogether. And so we've been at sourcing some of our copy writing to a group called the copyrighting crew who had been in, we've been using for our site. And I saw, and my members had been using it and they have been getting a really great results. So it was like understanding to play to your strengths and don't try and do everything.

Den Lennie (6m 38s):
I think that's something that is a kind of a hangover from being a freelancer or a fiance. Are you starting a small video production business? But I think even a more established business is still fall into this trap of finding themselves, getting caught back-up on the tools and the trouble with that is that when you are doing work on the tools, you are stepping back from strategy and you're stepping back from monitoring your business. Do you know it it's, you got to be very careful if you win a big job, not to throw the baby out with the bath water and just go hell for leather on that one job, because you'll end up dropping the ball. You have to be very mindful of, of the strategy and the execution and that takes discipline.

Den Lennie (7m 19s):
And I think that's the thing that, that we as creative struggle the most with. And, and I've often make this as this reference point of view, as a creative, we, we want to be coming up with new ideas, you know, shiny ways of, of re reworking a concept or coming up with a new way to film some things. So it's very much in our DNA has Creators, but Business, doesn't like that Business lakes consistency. Business, Lake's the, the monotony of certainty. And so if you are someone who applies the same creative traits to business, your business will be a bit of a mess. And maybe this is something that resonates with you.

Den Lennie (8m 2s):
Maybe you are someone who struggles with the consistency required in business. And, and that is one of the big selling points of, of what my members telling me inside the VBA is that they get consistency. 'cause they've got a framework to follow. So all they gotta do is follow this fall, the full, the number's, you know, followed the follow the steps about then from there, it's the consistency of showing up every week and getting clear on what you're going to do as well. Well, by having an annual plan that we check in on a once a month or once a quarter and, and actually, yeah, having someone to ask the questions to say, Hey, should I be doing this? I shouldn't be doing that. Because one of the things that certain about businesses, there's always a million things you could be doing, but how would you know it was the right thing to be doing?

Den Lennie (8m 49s):
You know, if you've got an option to look at your marketing, right? Oh, well, you know, I want to say, I want to just redo all my brand thing because typically what creatives do they kind of go I'll redo. My website are really, my branding are really my short term thinking that that's going to have the highest leverage and it rarely does. Now. That's not to say you shouldn't have consistency across our platforms. And we are in a minute going through a massive rebrand and are in the middle of building a brand new website. And so I'll be new, a new copy. It has been written and that we'll be coming on line probably sometime in February. And we're on the kind of last round of change. I think we're on version 10 of the design and that's just like tweaking little things and a little pages. But the, but that was when you're coming on online at is going to be about a five or six weeks build 'em.

Den Lennie (9m 34s):
But, you know, we built a substantial business without having a decent website, you know, and it's not, it's not, it's not the key driver to our success. The key driver to our success is actually really caring about our clients and helping them get results. And that is why we stayed for so long because you know, we don't tie anybody in, they stay in the VBA because they're getting results. If it's a simple, transactional relationship on that level, but there's also a lot of care inside the membership. And there's a lot of, a lot of community. And we have seen that quite quite a lot of people coming on board with us recently, which is a really exciting for us. We are seeing a lot of growth and a lot of, a lot of, a lot of filmmakers who were actually see realizing that it just can keep going on the way that they are because it's, it's like its not working.

Den Lennie (10m 19s):
You know, one of the most is not a strategy that you can rely on. You know, referral's is not a strategy you can rely on. Yes, it's nice to have. And its nice that when your business gets to a certain size, people will refer to you, but you, you absolutely cannot rely on referrals and one of my own to grow and scale your business because it's not predictable. And if you do think that's the case, then that's fine that there's nothing I can do to help because you don't think you got a problem. But if you want to scale a business and remove the feast and famine and actually have predictability, then you need systems. You need, you need systems, you need consistency, you need discipline and you need to be willing to, to commit, to building a new habits around, you know, new behaviors that will, will, will solve your business beyond what its doing at the minute, its going to involve your coming off.

Den Lennie (11m 14s):
The tools is going to mean not getting on all the shoots is going to mean sadly not touching an edit. And, and, and that's something that can take a while for people to wrap their head around. Cause they feel like if they are not involved in, in the edit than, you know, the client is going to know, Sadly not want to work with him any more, but actually the client's don't really care if the client doesn't know that you're not sitting on the edit I'm and if you've got everything systemized correctly, then you will find yourself with more time to spend with your family. More time to spend on creative projects, more time to spend maybe just on your health. Like I I've personally made a huge commitment. So if we were part of our planning process, we've got, we got a matrix that they had just introduced the last week actually to, to the members that we've been talking about it for a while.

Den Lennie (12m 1s):
But it's a, it's a series of spreadsheets, which we track everything to do with your business and yourself. Because if you're not finely tuned an optimized, then your business can be. So we work on you first and your business' second. And I was always using a form of this matrix last year. And you know, one of things we looked at is health, fitness diet, or you know, mental health or you know, meditation. And, and I start to, to basically, as I started too really get into yoga last year and I have been going three times a week, four about four months now.

Den Lennie (12m 45s):
And it's been life changing apps that do a younger yoga three times a week or two mans classes, one mix class. And it's a phenomenal strength training and flexibility. And the ability to, like I said, they had me doing a headstand, but then 20 sessions, which blew my mind, but that's really working for me. And I'm on the bike two, three times a week and you know what I'm conscious of, of what I'm eating. So I'm, I'm making some very concerted effort, but it, but it's hard. It's like it takes discipline. You know, I'm actually using my fitness, but I want to drop 10 kilograms. So I, the only way I know what to do that is, is through data and that is tracking what I'm eating, tracking the effort and putting out an exercise and there has to be a deficit.

Den Lennie (13m 29s):
Otherwise they won't lose weight and its the same when your business and you know, if you are not using dashboards, if you are not using tracking in your business, if you're not tracking how many inquiries you getting a week, how many of those or turning into jobs, what your sales cycle looks like. And then there was a good chance that you are just sitting here listening to this going well, I'll hope the phone rings, you know, it should be okay. And I, and I know that because that's what I used to do. I mean, I'm not, I'm not here to judge you, you're listening to this and I'm seeing, that's not exactly what I used to do. It was like, Oh, I don't need to do marketing because it didn't really understand that I wanted to do that and I want to spend money on them. I just wanna make me make the job work. Or if I do the Shooting on the out of town and the color grading our walkway with X.

Den Lennie (14m 10s):
And I just thought that the child comes through, you know, that we, we live in a world of, I hope that job comes in and it got to a point where it was exhausting. It was exhausting being in that situation where you are always hoping that something that would come in and, and, and oftentimes it did, but the stress involved in being in that situation was not healthy. And you know, nowadays I can predict three months ahead what my revenue is going to be, you know, give or take 10%. They have that much visibility. I work probably four to six hours a day, four to five days a week. My goal, my ultimate goal is to work four hours a day or four days a week.

Den Lennie (14m 52s):
That was my as my ultimate goal. And we're working towards that. But yeah, you have to be very clear on what you want and then work out our strategic plan to execute on it. And then the next missing link is how do you track? How do you know you are on track? And I recognize that when I wasn't using my fitness pal and wasn't tracking all of the food that I was eating and tracking calories and it wasn't tracking the exercise, then I wasn't getting the results. I lost 1.2 kilos in the last fortnight by just going down to 2000 calories a day. And if I, if I exercise, I can eat more and RFI, if like yesterday, he went out for 'em for the afternoon.

Den Lennie (15m 36s):
So this place call it the night court. So we hung out in the headlight, you know, some of these food and a couple of beers and Sam and I shared a cronut, which is if you are not a CRO, not like gets, it was basically a croissant that is covered and sugar in deep fried, like a donut. It is it's insane and so great. But we shared what are the same sort of late by the time you got to kind of, you know, dinner time. And I was like, I have 200 calories left and I could easily have gone out just as a cheat day. But the thing is when you have cheat days, all you're doing is cheating yourself. So I just had some broths, some, some bone broths, M and a way to miss out this morning. And it was like, you know, it was done in a 1.2 kilos

2 (16m 10s):
From two weeks ago. And I was like, I was thrilled.

Den Lennie (16m 12s):
So, you know, I I'm sharing that vulnerability because, you know, we're all human, you know, we all struggle with, with aspects of, you know, discipline. I'm certainly not the sitting here in an ivory tower. You know, I can't see human just like anybody else with my, with my fireballs and my quibbles. And, but that, that when you track data and you are accountable, you get results. And that is probably the hardest thing to tackle as a creative, as accepting that you have to be disciplined and But, but when you, when you start any new project, it's hard, there's a lot of resistance, you know, you know, I think this is a good analogy around the space shuttle when it was running the, you know, it used 70% of its fuel and the first two minutes to get it from our earth and to orbits.

Den Lennie (17m 5s):
And then once the big Brocket boosters blew off that you use it on that 20% of it is fuel for her to get into high Arbit. And there was like 10% of the fuel left to manage the entire rest of the mission. And so, you know, if you've got to kind of remember that that change is always very, very hard at first and, you know, you got to overcome gravity, the, the, the pool of change, the resistance messy in the middle, you know, when the spatial, it was objecting, rocket boosters, all that kind of, there's a lot of, a lot of risk there, but then they get the space and it was beautiful. And as calm and light at the power of a hairdryer can move them through the entire mission.

Den Lennie (17m 45s):
And that, that's not my analogy that Sam actually from Robin Sharma, who wrote an amazing book called the monkey, sold his Ferrari and many other ones, including the 5:00 AM club. And I've studied a bit of Robin Sharma's work. And I love a lot of his learnings, but like anything in life, you know, you, you draw inspiration from different people and, and different places. And I'd been reading some fascinating books over the Christmas break, which I'll share with you as we, as we go on through the Podcast, but you know, it making any new shift is always difficult. And at this time of year, it's a great opportunity when things are a bit quieter. And especially if you are in the UK, just, you know, I've got to say I'm really, really impressed with all my UK clients who, who are just really embracing the lockdown in saying, okay, this is an opportunity for us to kind of rework our planning, get our marketing in place, redo our website, got our offers running really well.

Den Lennie (18m 39s):
And, and they really are, you know, taking advantage of this, this, this downtime, because what we've seen with clients in Australia have been in lockdown. As soon as the end's, if they are set up correctly, they can take on a lot of work and make up the deficit and have a ridiculously busy months. But you've just gotta be careful because if you're a capacity isn't, if you are not geared up to be able to increase capacity and reduce capacity is required, you can be in quite a vulnerable position. You know, there's been plenty of times where people would want a big job and then it screwed the business cause they missed the cashflow up. So you've got to have a mechanism for accountability, a mechanism for checking in, and that's what we do inside the VBA.

Den Lennie (19m 23s):
We have an inside the mastermind, we have to have two programs that we've got the, the course only version of which has a Facebook group. And we have the mastermind, which has weekly group coaching. And that is 90 minutes, two times a week or on a, on a, on a video call and, you know, everyone just books and the calendar. And they're like, there are like regular clockwork every week because we cover so much. And, you know, oftentimes you'll pick up one tip that somebody in Birmingham, Alabama over in the States has like just share one tiny nugget of information and someone in and wants to share it in the UK. Cause, Oh my God, that's the amazing idea I want to take that. I use it. So on an Island was, I just took that exact same thing that, you know, this guy said last week and I implemented it straight away when they got this result.

Den Lennie (20m 8s):
And so I think we got clients all over the place, Miami in the Seattle, New York and Southern, you know, Texas Australia, Ireland, the UK. And it's a really amazing community who openly share, you know, what is working now and, and, and, and will kind of support and help each other through, through tough times and are there to celebrate the successes as well. So yeah, you know, it, it's, it's a fantastic as a group, but I mean, you hear me talk about it a lot and there's been a lot of people on the podcast for our members. And so you, you know, you can go back and listen, something you can listen to Caleb or to, or to, you know, to Staci.

Den Lennie (20m 51s):
In fact, he has not been on to show you how it must get Staci on the show, but Pat, you know these are all Episodes, which have, you know, obviously been, been with members, but, but the, the big thing is, is just like the discipline to maintain routine and rhythm in your business. That is going to be the thing that will have the biggest impact on you and, and you scaling in the future. So I was always, if you want some help with that, we have all these, you know, I'm always open having conversations. And actually what it's been really interesting is that our, our marketing system is really kind of working well and that we've got inquiries coming back every week. But when I say to, if people want to have conversations, you know, like we, we probably only, except less than half of the people that apply.

Den Lennie (21m 36s):
And because it is, it is above the right fit, or we do want businesses, you are ready to grow, who they are willing to do the work, you know, 'cause, it is, it is challenging. It is not easy, but there are awards of there for those who are willing to put in the world. And then you guys that's it for me. I will talk to you again next week. You've been listening to the how to scale a video business podcast with me, your host Den Lennie. If you are a video business owner, it's a hit a ceiling we've benefit from a mentorship support and coaching and check out how you can work with me over at Don't forget to subscribe and rate the show over on iTunes. And we'd really appreciate you taking a few minutes to leave review, and don't forget to share if you feel you've gotten value from this episode, when you think it will be useful for other film makers, you know, and please do me a massive favor and share it on social media and in groups that you might be an hour.

Den Lennie (22m 30s):
So thanks for listening. See you in the next episode.




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