Podcast: Tim DP Thompson Enterprise Inc

Tim DP Thompson Enterprises Inc
Photo by Tim Thompson


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Hello and welcome to Evil Ink’s podcast. I’m your hostess Amber Dalcourt, a design consultant for small businesses who want to increase their professional credibility through branding and digital media.

We’re happy introduce Tim Thomspon of Tim DP Thompson Enterprise Inc, a creative freelancer in graphics and animation. Today’s discussion will about self-promotion through LinkedIn, and the advantages of incorporating your freelance business.

Hello Tim and welcome.

1. We’re going to start with you telling my listeners what your company does and what it’s about. Let’s start with a base line.

My name is Tim Thompson and I am an animator, illustrator, and designer, primarily for television, movies, and new media properties.

2. How long have you been working for yourself?

I’ve almost always had a studio job but I’ve been freelancing since 2002.

3. You’ve incorporated your business within the past year. Is that right?

Correct.

4. Have you noticed any significant changes to your business practices since you’ve incorporated?

I keep a lot more paperwork now. It’s a lot more work than I anticipated. It’s not something that I set out to do; there was a bit of a miscommunication with me and my current employer.

Ultimately I was made two offers in the miscommunication. I was offered one really good rate if I were incorporated and one pseudo-okay rate if I wasn’t incorporated. So I went ahead and incorporated my company and that’s where I’m at now.

5. What was the benefit to your employer to have you incorporate?

The benefits for my employer in having me incorporate my company are: they don’t have to be accountable for me in a tax situation. They don’t issue me a T4. They don’t issue me a paystub. It’s nothing like that.

I was hired through a recruiting agency and they pay the recruiting agency a lump sum and I invoice the recruiting agency, and they pay me, and then I have to breakdown all of the digits like CPP, EI, HST, corporate income tax, personal income tax. I basically have to do my own banking. The company takes no responsibility for that. I think that’s where the savings are.

(Wouldn’t you have to do that even if you were, like me, I’m not incorporated. I charge my clients X number of dollars, and they pay me that money, and now it’s up to me to manage my taxes. I don’t see where the real difference is. Eventually when I make a certain amount of money I have to pay into EI, HST and so on. Regardless of whom my client is.)

I completely agree. This is something that I was doing as a sole proprietorship business before October, when I incorporated my company, and really nothing has changed except now I’m paid a lot more. I’m not sure exactly why because I just started doing this, and I haven’t been through a tax year yet. I don’t employ incorporated people so I can’t say for sure what the benefit is for employers employing me as an incorporation.

The benefits for me personally are great! The tax rate that I have to pay is far less than what I’m accustomed to and I get a better tax rebate on just about everything that I can write-off.

6. Are you still working a full time job?

Yes! Absolutely. I’m probably putting in 70 hours a week these days. I’ve got four contracts on the go, my biggest being my full time job; that’s an 8 hour day 40 hours a week type situation, and I just squeeze everything that I can in on the weekends and evenings as best I can.

(Do you actually have to go and work in the studio?)

Yep. I’m allowed to work from home and they have network access and blah, blah, blah, but they like me sitting there.

7. How long have you worked in animation?

Since 2001.

8. What made you want to start your own business?

The opportunity presented itself. It’s sort of a long history of me, but I’ll try and abbreviate.

Back when I started my animation career, the first job that I had was in an interactive department at a production company. They were doing a lot of flash games, new media properties and such. In doing that I met a lot of coders and developers. The first job, I work there 5+ years. There’s a pretty high staff turn-over, and I met lots and lots of coders and developers.

They go on and the open up their own company and they come back to me saying “Hey I got this huge contract! I need to populate it with some design, or I need an animation for this, or whatever the case may be,” and I’d be like “Yeah, sure!”

At this point I hadn’t really established a business, I was just happy to have an opportunity to make a little bit more money. I’m championship friends with all of these guys now. It’s really great. I still do business with the same people that I’ve been doing business with for the last 10 years.

9. Has working in animation helped you to develop skills that you needed to run your business?

I’d say animation itself has really not helped me at all. I’ve been a very art focused person my entire life and running a business is very new and I’m very inexperienced at it. It’s pretty straight forward stuff; it’s just a lot of management that I’m not used to. I’m pretty comfortable with it now frankly, but it was overwhelming at the time.

10. Which productions do you feel has helped to develop the skills that you needed to run your successfully business?

I’d say the most beneficial thing that helps me run my business is just all the experience that I’ve had working with new media development. There’s more opportunity as a creative to really put a thumb print on whatever you’re working on. If you’re working on a tv show or movie, you got a whole team of animators and producers and directors; everyone’s got a specific focus.

With new media properties it’s a lot of the time a fly by the seat of your pants type situation where they’re just like: “yeah the client kind of wants this to go with whatever” and there’s no firm direction and they’re just excited to see whatever you come up with; that gives you a lot of creative freedom.

You have the general scope of a project and you’re like “yeah, no problem. I can do that.” Then you get going on it. You’re 90% done it’s like “Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if we added this feature?” and that would open up the door for these other features, and you present that to your client and they’re like: “Fantastic! Let’s do that!” and you’ve created yourself a lot more work.

It’s usually just as easy as that.

11. In terms of ‘business sense’ what did you have to learn?

Mostly Canada tax practice. As an incorporation, there’s a lot more to it than that; if I had a team of employees and a place of business... I’m a one man operation, so it’s pretty straight forward as long as I keep all of my receipts that’s pretty much the extent of what I have to do.

If I were to try and employ somebody, I’d get into a situation where I need to issue a T4 at the end of the year to this person and so on. I’m keeping it simple for now. When the opportunity presents itself, I’ll branch out and maybe create a team. 

12. What did you do to market your services?

Network. Clever networking. Again, I just happen to meet a lot of the right people at the right time and we grew to be great friends.

For instance, this past summer I lost my full time job and I didn’t have a full-time job for six months. I think put something like that up on Facebook, and the second I did that I had three e-mails come in that same day saying: “Oh I didn’t know you weren’t working. I got this project that I need you to do.”

It was pretty rewarding overall! I was like: “Awesome! Thanks for thinking of me!” It was like people were sort of pleased that I was available to help them out.

I’ve been very, very fortunate in the people that I’ve met and the company that I keep.

13. Through our Facebook correspondence you had mentioned that a lot of your business is generated through LinkedIn.  What have you done to promote your business through LinkedIn?

It’s pretty self explanatory. If anyone’s not ever been on LinkedIn, it’s as simple as going there and creating a profile. It’s like a Facebook for professionals. All I literally did was that I made sure that I put up a paragraph write-up of whatever job that I had at the time and I made sure to get at least one reference for each job that I’ve done that I’ve posted on LinkedIn.

When employers go to linkedIn to look for employees, it sort of works like a search engine. “Oh I need somebody to design a GUI interfaces!” They need help and they need it now, so they type in whatever they type in, and it’ll just scan all the pages and every page that has GUI in combination anywhere on them will come up.

I just try to find clever ways of re-wording the same thing; like: I’m an animator, I do motion graphics. Elaborate on the same terminology. It creates versatility just in wording in itself.

14. How does a business transaction happen through LinkedIn?

I imagine every situation is different. The experiences that I’ve had on there is literally been just as simple as an email: “are you available?”

“Yes, why? What are you interested in?”

And it just goes back and forth until we strike a deal.

15. When a client looks at your profile, do you have an idea what exactly they’re looking at when they’re reviewing your profile?

Depends on the client of course; everybody is looking for something different.  Again it just boils down to being versatile and correctly listing of the different skills that you have and thinking: “What are the synonyms for this? I’ve got to list those too.”

You don’t want to sound repetitive and you don’t want to bog everybody down with a bunch of language.  At the same time you need to be really clever in the way that you fill it out so that the search engine works properly and to your advantage. 

16. How would you advise someone with absolutely no work experience, just fresh out of college and decided that they’re going to start freelancing? What would you advice to them, in terms of web design or animation?

The best advice that I could give to anybody trying to start up their own business would be to make friends with programmers, coders, and developers, and anybody technical. Because the people who are going to focus on the back end technical aspect of the site, don’t generally have a flavour or a flare with art. They’re going to need your help.

That is literally how my success path has come to be and that’s the only one that I know. Make friends with coders and developers because they’re going to want art people to populate their products with.  

17. Something that I’ve been reading a lot about, I’ve joined in group myself but I haven’t really participated in forums through LinkedIn. Do you consider it a crucial thing to do in order to attract clients?

I would say yes because I’ve had so much success with it. I know people out there who have had equal success and don’t have a profile page at all. It has definitely worked to my advantage and I therefore promote the idea of everybody signing up. I think it’s a great tool; it offers a lot of opportunities, a lot of great forums. You can scan what other people are doing.

A lot of people go on LinkedIn and they post their latest greatest work and they’re looking for feedback from other professionals. It’s a really good place to just have conversations and see what people think of your work.

18. Where do you see your freelance business in the next few years?

As for predictions, I have none. I would like to see myself at a point where I can hire a team and take on large projects that aren’t so independent driven or more team driven. Again, it all boils down to what’s available for me to do and if I have the means to do it when that happens.

19. In retrospect, now that you have been doing the freelance thing for a while, is there anything that you would have done differently if you could?

Absolutely! I would have incorporated my company as soon as I got started in freelancing, that’s what I would have done differently. I would have saved thousands upon thousands of dollars in tax breaks.

As well as that, since I’ve incorporated my company, I put that information on LinkedIn. Since I’ve done that I’ve generated a lot more attention for myself from a lot bigger clients. I’ll leave the names out, but it’s generated a lot of buzz about me. I’m not quite sure how that works or why but it’s pretty appealing to people that I’m incorporated and it’s definitely generated a lot of attention toward hiring me.

I’m quite happy about it, and I would fully recommend anybody serious about freelancing to incorporate as well and be very public that you have.

(Thank you very much! That was all very good stuff.)

You’re very welcome.

Tim Thompson’s Endorsement:

I just want to give a shout out to my boys at ArtBox.ca

I’ve been working with them since 2001. If you need any need media properties, websites, mobile apps, they’re your guys. That’sArtBox.ca and I fully recommend them.

Added Info:

For those you who want to know more about corporate tax advantages, according to the Canada Revenue Agency’s website, the small business tax deduction is calculated at 16% for the first $200,000 of your business’ taxable income. That’s huge savings over the long term if your business qualifies.

The second tax advantage lies in income splitting by paying out dividends to shareholders. Shareholders don’t have to have an active role in the business in order to collect their share. Naturally, you want to own the majority of the shares in order to maintain control over your business.

For any information regarding corporate tax advantages please consult an accountant or visit www.cra-arc.gc.ca for Canadian tax information.

Tim also mentioned that he’s attracted bigger names and higher paying clients since he’s incorporated. Also according the CRA, this is in large part due to how corporations are perceived by the public. It’s a lot like the difference between running your business from home vs having a fully decked out office space. The services are the same; it’s just the aesthetics that are different.

The rational is that a corporation is more stable than their sole proprietor and partnership counter parts. While there are some companies who will only do business with corporations, it is likely due to liability issues.

That concludes today’s podcast. Thank you for joining us. Our next podcast is due to air, Friday, March 2nd, 2012. Please feel free to leave your comments or questions on Evil Ink’s official podcast page and either Tim or myself will get back you.

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