In January 2011, Ashton Kutcher tweeted to his 6+ million Twitter followers that he loved one of my demo videos.
Within three hours of his tweet, over 30 thousand fans checked out my video.
After one year it is still one of my most watched and loved explanatory videos.
I had just started doing animation for a living and inadvertently Ashton had given me the biggest marketing push anyone starting a company could ask for, and for free!
I got even more lucky when a couple of months later, after meeting Ashton and Demi Moore in person, they commissioned me to do a demo video explaining their recently launched campaign against child sex slavery. What a thrill.
Since Ashton’s tweet, I’ve had many people asking me how I managed to get such a huge celebrity to look at my work.
Well, I can easily say it’s just luck, but the reality is that there is a lot more to it than that. Here are all the “secrets” that enabled me to get in front of one of the most popular Hollywood celebrities.
1. Find what you love to do
This is the hardest part and for many people it can take an entire lifetime to figure out. Many settle or quit before finding their passion. You will know what your passion is when working doesn’t feel like work anymore, when you do what you do because you love it and wouldn’t do anything else.
However, if you don’t know your passion, it can be quite discouraging. Find it by trying different things until something sticks. You can make a living doing pretty much anything. Once you’ve discovered that passion, take time at getting really good at it. Invest at least “10,000 hours” to become an expert in your craft. Hey, if it all turns out well, you too may get the attention of a Hollywood star.
2. Never Give up. Sometimes you need to welcome failure
- Regardless of what you choose to do, you will fail, many times. Learn from those failures and move on.
- Get used to failing and develop the discipline and persistence to never give up.
Just a few months ago, I had run out of savings after working for over 1.5 years developing a product that went nowhere. 1.5 years of no vacation, hundreds of 12 hour days sitting in front of a screen, dreaming of building a successful subscription-based project management service. I could have given up and gotten a 9-5 job; I did not. I went back to the drawing board to figure out what to do next. I tried animation and it turned out I was pretty good at it, not by chance. I had already spent many years animating industrial equipment before. That was boring so I took film making classes to learn how to write scripts. I mixed both and fun demo videos came out. People liked them.
- Have a long list of “Plan Bs” because many plans will fail. If animation would have failed, I would have tried something else.
- Create an Excel sheet that encompasses all your startup ideas. Keep editing and referring to it to make sure they make sense. Know that what doesn’t make sense today, may be a perfect fit tomorrow, so keep adding to it.
3. Create your own luck
- There is never a sure formula to get what you want, that would make things too easy and boring.
- What you can do is stack as many odds in your favour to ensure lady luck strikes at least once.
Here is what I do to maximize my chances to get what I want:
- Get in the mindset that every single decision you make counts, because it does.
- If you have two or more possible choices, select according to these two criteria: Interest and Leverage.
Interest: Only devote your energy to things that interest you. This is why finding your passion first is so important. You won’t be able to create your own luck if you don’t know where you need that luck.
Leverage: Given two options with equal interest, always choose to do the one that can yield more exposure, better reputation, or/and new connections.
Here is an actual example of how I used this decision making approach to maximize my “luck”: My first demo video ever was created for a startup called Summify. At that time, I was not even sure I could produce even a half decent demo video for a startup. The video turned out well, and everyone was happy. However, I was so burned out from my previous failure that I had to make sure that if I kept producing animations, it could turn into a business quickly.
My next animation could have been for any other random startup, but, even if they liked it, the road to profitability would have been too slow for me to afford at that time.
So I applied the interest/leverage approach to the max! I needed to find a startup I loved and I had to make sure that if they liked my video they would have enough leverage to jumpstart my animation career in a big way. I zeroed in on an up and coming startup called Hipmunk.com. I loved their service, their founders, and their story. Plus, they were well connected in Sillicon Valley because they were founded by the creators of Reddit.com.
My next step was to dedicate my time to produce the coolest animation I could with my modest animation skills, give it to them for free and pray they liked it. If they didn’t, I would have repeated the process at least five times before moving down my Excel sheet of ideas.
It worked in a big way. Himpmunk’s Alexis Ohanian loved it, promoted it on Hipmunk’s blog and emailed it to all of the YCombinator startups. Suddenly I had over 40 startups asking for demo videos. My company, Grumo Media, was officially born. But better yet, the one YC startup that I produced a video for, PadMapper, was the one that caught Ashton Kutcher’s eye. Business boomed!
So basically, or not so basically, you need to create something really really really great for Ashton Kutcher to tweet about you. Start there. Good luck.
About the Author
Miguel Hernandez is the Founder of Grumo Media where he helps promote brands through fun, concise, and effective explanatory videos. He has done videos for Hipmunk, inDinero, Ashton Kutcher, Microsoft, Walmart, and many other brands. Miguel also teaches animation here at Udemy where more than a thousand students have taken his course on how to create awesome demo videos. You can follow Miguel at @grumomedia.