So I got paid to be on TV.
And I’m going to share what happened. Because on this blog we are exploring unusual things that may seem improbable at first.
This one involved me getting way outside my comfort zone. It took me a while to gather up the courage…first to do it and then to write about it.
But it was fun…and:
1) it illustrates some interesting lessons about negotiations.
2) I try to be as honest as possible.
3) The Escape Artist does not waste good comedy material
Negotiations are important in several areas of life related to financial independence. Things like getting a salary raise…or a discount on a holiday. Things like getting a significant other on board with your escape plan.
Negotiations involve dealing with those most demanding of creatures: other people. I’ve found that about 99% of people are good at heart. But you still need to be able to negotiate and to stand up for yourself.
For example, your employer will generally be looking for the best deal out of you possible. The most work for the least pay. That’s kinda how the system works.
And negotiations are important even in romantic relationships. Yes, even if you and your partner are a pair of snuggly love bunnies. If you don’t negotiate, you may end up as a doormat…as we saw with the sad case of Tim.
The first thing that you need to realise is that, under the right circumstances, EVERYTHING in life is negotiable. All those “unbreakable” rules, policies and procedures at your office, all social conventions, all prices, all relationships…EVERYTHING.
Most people have no idea that this is the case.
But you, as a smart reader of this blog already knew that. The Escape Artist previously explained, with only a touch of exaggeration, that:
There are no rules, there are only ethical guidelines.
So, here’s how to get paid to be on TV.
1) Put yourself out there
When blogging or pursuing financial independence (or anything really) starting does not guarantee you will succeed.
But not starting guarantees lack of success.
For me, the trick was to put useful stuff out there into the Big Wide World and see what happens. Or, in the words of Dizzee Rascal: put yer skillz on show. You can’t predict what will come from this. But often, when you do this, good things happen.
One of the things I often help coaching clients with is the idea that if you want to build an industry reputation or freelance career or side hustle, you need a shop window where people can see your work and find you. This could be as little as a LinkedIn profile or it could be your own website with your design portfolio showcased on it. Or it could be a full-on e-commerce website that captures sales and accepts payments.
Putting yourself out there means getting over what other people might think. On this, Tim Ferris has some excellent advice:
Be bold and don’t worry what other people will think. They don’t do it that often anyway…
My shop window opened in May 2014 when I published my first post. The world was not shaken by the publication of that article. Tumbleweed blew. My blog stats looked like a heart rate monitor left on in intensive care after the patient has died.
2) Keep showing up
A bit of patience is required. Here’s the secret: if you are working towards a bigger purpose and enjoy the process, then you don’t really mind how long it takes.
So I kept churning out the articles. Those early days were very productive: I often published 2 or 3 articles a week. The thoughts just kept tumbling out of my head and onto the screen. And some of the articles were even readable.
Don’t get me wrong…I love all my readers. And my strong preference is for the entire world to start reading my blog, pay attention and stop fucking things up. It’s just that, even if no one reads this, I’ll probably carry on letting The World know where its been going wrong.
Seth Godin says that his success can mostly be attributed to the fact that he kept churning out stuff or, as he puts it, “showing up”. Even through the dips.
There have been many times when my blog stats looked like they’d levelled off or gone backwards. Yet slowly the traffic has grown. Last month was my biggest month so far.
Remember: the first million is the hardest.
3) Be open to opportunities
When Hollywood calls, you have to answer the phone.
Last year, I got my first email from a TV production company (which I wrote about here) in New York looking to make a TV show. Which seemed strange given there’s a long list of great US blogs about financial independence.
But I agreed to jump on a Skype call. And, with all the subtlety of a napalm strike, The Escape Artist let slip that he might be prepared to fly to New York all expenses paid. The nice lady said she’d discuss it with her colleagues. She seemed keen and told me that there was no need for me to call them, they would call me.
I never did hear back. Perhaps they lost my phone number? And my email address. And my Skype address.
But it turns out that TV production companies are a bit like buses. You wait 45 years for one to show up…and then 3 come along at once.
I got another email a few weeks later from the assistant to a TV producer making programmes for BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is a place in America where unemployed people say they are making TV programmes. So initially I was a bit sceptical. But I knew that some TV shows do actually get made…so I did some research on this guy. And I’d actually heard of some of the shows that he’d made. I’d even watched a couple of episodes myself. So we fixed a time to speak.
I then got a call from a real Los Angeles TV producer. Honest to God. It turned out that he was a good bloke. Even better, he actually knew all about the world of financial independence, having been on one of the FI chataquas in Ecuador.
So far, so surreal. But then I got the third call, this time from a British TV production company funded by Channel 4 to make an experimental pilot show about how to retire by 40.
The trick when taking a call from a TV company is that you don’t immediately hang up on the basis that this is obviously your mates winding you up.
Nor do you fall to the floor screaming OMG! OMG! OMG! WAIT TILL I TELL MUM!!!!!
No, you take the call maintaining as much dignity as you can muster. Like this shit happens every day. No biggie.
4) Stay in your frame
In any negotiation you have to know when to compromise.
But you also have to know when to stay in your frame.
What do I mean by that? Well, my frame for the negotiation was that I didn’t want to be on commercial TV for the sake of being on TV. So if they wanted me, they’d have to pay me for my time.
Their frame was: you should be desperate to be on our show…because everyone else is prepared to dance like a puppet for the privilege of being on TV.
It’s easy to be pressured by other people to enter their world on their terms. But The Escape Artist has strong boundaries.
And yes, that is a euphemism for being bolshy when the situation demands.
5) Know your objectives
The beauty was that the TV company had come to me.
I knew they had money and a deadline.
They knew I wanted to get paid.
Having worked in the City, The Escape Artist is no stranger to prostituting himself. In my working career I was always prepared to do pretty much anything for money that was not illegal, immoral or harmful to kittens.
So I was prepared to do all sorts of unpleasant things at work. Things like sitting in a glass box under florescent lights, getting shouted at by clients and tying a piece of cloth tightly around my neck (a tie). But there’s no point prostituting yourself if you don’t get paid.
My objectives for this blog involve letting the world know where its been going wrong and perhaps even helping a few people along the way. Oh and saving the planet as well. It seemed plausible there’s a better chance of achieving these goals with a bit of mainstream media coverage.
But I still value my time and my goals do not include being the unpaid bitch of commercial TV.
6) There are no Rules
When I raised the subject of getting paid, they told me that was Impossible. Against The Rules. Unheard of.
TV companies understand supply and demand. They know the average punter would love to get on TV. And they know our weak spots.
Would it be politically incorrect to point out that female TV researchers are smart, persuasive and not unattractive? And that they are more than capable of playing the male ego like a salmon on a fishing line?
Yes, that would probably be politically incorrect. But it’s also true.
So I politely stuck to my guns re getting paid. And, as their deadline approached, as if by magic The Rules no longer applied.
So a TV crew turned up in my town one fine winter’s day in January and I spent a surreal day getting filmed. I had no idea how much time and effort it takes to shoot just a few minutes TV time.
The TV crew were all lovely people. I could see that they were doing jobs that they loved. This reminded me that if you can pull off the trick of finding a job that you love and pays you, then the whole financial independence thing becomes less of an emergency.
Apparently the programme will come out on Channel 4 sometime later this year with the title How to Retire at 40. And yes, I did tell them that I was a slow learner and it took me until 43.
So, it turns out its possible to get paid to be on telly. True, it’s not big money. But remember The Aggregation of Marginal Gains. Every little helps.
I don’t know whether the TV show will be any good. I haven’t seen the results and I don’t have any editorial control. Maybe during the editing process they’ll decide that The Escape Artist has the perfect face for radio and cut me out. Which would probably be a relief for all concerned.
To be honest, I’m not sure I dare watch it. There is a possibility that The Escape Artist comes out of this looking like a complete idiot. It was my first time on telly*…so cut me some slack here people. 🙂
July 2017 Update: How to Retire at 40 8.30pm on 10 July on Channel 4.
*Other than being a ball boy at Newcastle United vs Cambridge United which was televised in about 1982. Oh, for Americans, that’s soccer BTW.
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