Scaling a Small Business with a Cloud-Native Workflow
Small business owners in the video industry know that their tech stack can play a key role in their efforts to scale—or even to survive. I learned that first hand as an entrepreneurial solo colorist and I’m excited that I can share my journey with you. Full disclosure: I now work at Frame.io, but that’s as a result of being a Frame.io user for years, and I never get tired of telling other people in the industry why I’m such a believer in our product.
In the beginning
When I started Good Grades, my tiny color and finishing house in 2018, I knew that I needed to be as lean as possible. I was based in Philadelphia, a secondary market, and had made peace with the fact that as a newcomer I would need to have low overhead in order to survive on the budgets of smaller clients. Initially, most of my startup costs went toward equipment upgrades, furniture, and the space I’d need to accommodate local clients who would come for in-person sessions.
While Philadelphia has a thriving advertising and filmmaking community, I soon began to set my sights on the kinds of clients you’d more typically find in the major markets like New York and Los Angeles. But in order to find them, I’d have to do some significant outreach. And, once I found them, I’d have to prove to them that I could be a viable alternative to some of the high-end talent in those cities, even if I wasn’t physically there.
Setting up for success
In my day-to-day work I spent a lot of time behind the panels. But beyond the process of actually grading, I realized there were a lot of other tasks I was performing that were vital to my business operations, requiring me to use a number of different cloud services. Roughly, they broke down to:
- Local uploading and downloading
- Digital asset management
- Review and approval
- Cloud file transfers
- Project delivery
- Sending portfolios for future work
I had to receive and upload new files from editors or clients and had to output graded files for colleagues and collaborators in other areas of post like VFX, sound, or online editorial. I needed to share drafts or work-in-progress with clients. I needed to deliver finals for delivery and backup projects in case I ever needed to return to them. And, of course, I needed to be able to make reels and share presentations with people who might become future clients. Like this one…
When I first launched my business, I was using a cocktail of consumer cloud platforms for different variations of these daily media movements. Then I signed up for Frame.io. I had used it as a freelancer over the years and I knew it would be a strong tool for review and approval, and at $25/month, it was a no brainer.
Not long after, I canceled every other cloud account.
Keep your clients close to the work
As I began to work with more clients from different cities, I realized how much I was leaning into Frame.io to help manage various aspects of my business.
For one thing, remote clients weren’t going to come sit in my suite, which meant that there was no lobby, no bank of calibrated reference monitors, and no fancy beverages to impress them. The only thing I had to show them was the work itself.
“In the remote-work paradigm, client-service extras are replaced by factors like accessibility and trust.”
Even before the pandemic I realized that in the remote-work paradigm, client-service extras are replaced by factors like accessibility and trust. It’s all about how close you can keep your clients to the work, the progress, the revisions, and the delivery.
So why would I send a Fortune 500 client’s marketing campaign, with dozens of deliverables, over the same cloud I use to store family photos or to write emails?
Frame.io wasn’t created as a consumer-grade cloud platform. It’s designed for content creators who are doing professional-grade video work. That’s why I decided that every project at my shop was going to enter and leave by that cloud platform.
I also realized that Frame.io could give me a competitive advantage in workflow and remote client services. While my in-person clients enjoyed the experience of hanging out in my comfortable grading suite, I found that every one of my remote clients loved the degree of access and connection they had to their projects and the speed of my workflow.
“Every one of my remote clients loved the degree of access and connection they had to their projects and the speed of my workflow.”
They were no longer waiting for something from me. Instead, they became my Team Members and Collaborators in Frame.io, which meant that even if we were 3,000 miles away from one another, we felt like we were together in the suite, sharing our thoughts and ideas in real time.
A strong backbone
My next discovery was that instead of using Frame.io on just a project-by-project basis, I could make it the backbone of my entire business.
I uploaded and downloaded everything over the Frame.io Transfer app, which is so fast that it’s almost unbelievable. I sent every Review link and every custom-branded Presentation link from Frame.io. And since the platform is trusted among so many media companies, I became indistinguishable from colorists in New York and LA.
The work was good, the price was fair, and at the end of the day, everyone ended up with the same Frame.io Presentation link they would have received from any of the big-name post houses. Who cared that I was in Philadelphia? As it turned out, no one!
One of my favorite use cases for Frame.io was when I was in between jobs. I started to keep a master catalog of finished projects in my account, so as I hunted for the next job, or approached bigger clients, I stopped sending out a standard reel and instead was able to send Frame.io Presentation links containing the best examples of the kind of work they wanted to see. It was the virtual equivalent of wearing a suit to meet with a new prospective client.
Frame.io had come to feel more like a business engine than a review and approval tool. It became the post office, the airport, the suite, the screening room, and the media library. Before long, feature-length documentary films, branded content, late-night TV segments, and ads for Fortune 500 companies started moving through my shop. Frame.io allowed me to both showcase my work and to demonstrate my work ethic through the quality, speed, and scale with which I could deliver.
While your work, your reputation, and your business ethics absolutely make or break your success, I know that Frame.io helped. A lot. I could not have run—and scaled—my business without it.
Now that I’m at Frame.io, I look back on those days with nostalgia. What I remember most was the feeling of joy and satisfaction I felt when I saw the looks on my clients’ faces (or the words in their feedback) after we got their projects over the finish line.
Now, when I talk to customers who share their success stories with me, I get that same feeling. And believe me, nothing can beat it.
If you’re interested in checking out Frame.io for yourself or your business, just click here for a free 14-day trial. Or if you’re using Adobe Creative Cloud, you’ll find it included in Premiere Pro and After Effects—just go to Window->Review with Frame.io.