Television and film are notoriously hard industries to break into. Positions are limited, career paths aren’t clear cut, and competition is fierce. Some compare working in the entertainment industry to training as a professional athlete – you have to continuously stay on top of your game if you want to be competitive and get great opportunities.
Also, like all worthwhile opportunities, success requires commitment, perseverance, and focus. It means setting your ego aside and continually improving your skills, developing your network, and not being afraid to work from the bottom up.
At Invoice2go, a Bill.com company, it’s our mission to support go-getters in transforming their dreams into reality with tools that simplify working as a contractor, freelancer, or independent professional. The Freelance Forum community is also an excellent place to connect with other ambitious professionals and get tips to help you succeed.
Meet Kareem Brown, a long-time Invoice2go subscriber. He’s now an Associate Producer for STEVE on WATCH, starring famed TV personality Steve Harvey. He’s also recently worked on The Mix, a Millennial/Gen-Z Talk show produced by Tameka “Tiny” Harris for Fox Soul.
Getting his chance to break into the TV industry was no easy task. Read on to learn how Kareem’s dedication to his craft and refusal to give up finally allowed him to take his career to the next level.
From just paying the bills to living the dream
”I remember thinking I just can’t do this anymore. This is not what I came to LA for. I was starting to think it was time to pack up my things to go back to the East Coast or just to do something different.”
Originally from New Jersey, Kareem – now 32 – moved out to Los Angeles to finish up his studies in screenwriting at the New York Film Academy. However, after graduation he hit a major hurdle: it was nearly impossible to get even an entry-level job in TV. “I couldn’t even get anyone to budge,” Kareem emphasized.
However, Kareem didn’t despair. He kept hope alive for a television and film production career but took a practical job in the meantime to ensure his bills were paid. For over the next half-decade, he worked at Wells Fargo and a loan company while still trying to get a foot in the door in the world of TV.
After seven years in LA, however, Kareem’s patience and perseverance seemed like they were reaching their limit. He explained, ”I remember thinking I just can’t do this anymore. This is not what I came to LA for. I was starting to think it was time to pack up my things to go back to the East Coast or just to do something different.” While he had built up plenty of experience working for financial institutions, he felt his true passion was still at a distance.
Then, just as Kareem felt he was losing hope, he had a breakthrough. “I had a friend tell me about this ad for a production assistant job on the Steve Harvey Talk Show.” he started. “So, I was like, OK. I had to submit a one-minute video on why I wanted the job. About an hour after I submitted my application, I got an email asking if I wanted to come in for an interview. I didn’t believe it – my bags were basically packed.”
Kareem continued, “I came in and did the interview. I’m not even going to lie – I felt like I wasn’t going to get the job. Then, when I walked outside for the building at NBC Universal though, they called me and said they wanted to hire me. And that’s how I finally got my in.”
Using Invoice2go to look professional when working with big-name companies
”So that’s how I learned about Invoice2go. And it’s amazing. It’s a very easy process, and I love that it keeps track of when you’ve been paid and when you’re supposed to be paid. I love the email system.”
Getting a shot working on Steve Harvey allowed Kareem to move up the career ladder quickly. Not long after he got his job as a production assistant, he moved up to being the executive assistant to the showrunner – and then on to associate producer.
He cites that his network has played a big role in his success. “I’ve met a lot of people who really care and want to see me succeed, so they help me to get other jobs. I appreciate those.”
One of those jobs was with a production company that helped produce The Mix for Fox Soul – which is where Kareem discovered Invoice2go. He explained, “I never had to use an invoice method before and didn’t know what service to use. However, Fox Soul required us to submit them.”
He went on, “My boss – who’s also a good friend of mine – told me she uses Invoice2go and that it’s super easy to use. She was right. I didn’t think I would do it correctly, but I got everything right the first time. So that’s how I learned about Invoice2go. And it’s amazing. It’s a very easy process, and I love that it keeps track of when you’ve been paid and when you’re supposed to be paid. I love the email system.”
Overcoming self-doubt and pushing past the naysayers
”So there’s always self-doubt, but I’m thankful for the people around me – the friends and coworkers who push and remind me that I have support. Self-doubt isn’t going away, it’s just about learning how to deal with it better.”
Although Kareem has made serious progress over the past few years in his dream industry, he still encounters self-doubt. He confided, “There are a lot of days – and I won’t ever tell anyone this – but I’ll be wondering am I doing this right? Am I good enough? Are they telling me that they like it, but they really don’t?”
He continued, “It can be frustrating, but I just try to humble myself and stay balanced. I never want to get into a space where ego is coming too much into things. Still, sometimes you do need a little ego to remind yourself that you’re doing a good job.”
Kareem also noted challenges due to race, especially at the beginning of his career. He explained, “When I was first trying to get into the business, the ‘wokeness’ of the world wasn’t really a thing. I had people tell me that because of my race, I shouldn’t be in this industry. Also, because there aren’t a lot of Black people in this industry, people would be standoffish. They wouldn’t want to help others because they were concerned about the security of their own jobs.”
Still, Kareem didn’t let discrimination, his own doubts, or the voices of others hold him back. “This is the only thing I want to do. And I had to stay on the path to break into this business. If I didn’t have to pay bills, I would have never worked another job.”
He went on to explain that there’s been a cultural shift over the past few years as well and he feels a lot more support from his community. “Times is changing. Now I get and give support. The community has become much more supportive. It was especially hard in the beginning because I didn’t have that support.”
He concluded, “So there’s always self-doubt, but I’m thankful for the people around me – the friends and coworkers who push and remind me that I have support. Self-doubt isn’t going away. It’s just about learning how to deal with it better.”
Emphasizing the importance of self-belief and perseverance
“If you want it, believe in it. People would always tell me that if you don’t make it in LA in five years, it’s not going to happen. I just couldn’t accept that.”
When asked what advice he’d give to someone hoping to break into a new career, Kareem highlighted the importance of believing in one’s self. He shared, “If you want it, believe in it. People would always tell me that if you don’t make it in LA in five years, it’s not going to happen. I just couldn’t accept that.”
He went on, “After seven years, I didn’t know if it was going to happen for me in LA, but I still wasn’t going to give up. I just thought that maybe I needed to try in a different city. So, don’t give up and believe that it’s going to happen. It might not happen tomorrow or next week – which was so hard for me to accept – but it is going to happen because it’s what I want.”
“I mean, I want to be a millionaire,” he laughed. “And it’s going to take forever – but it’s going to happen.”
Setting his sights on bigger dreams for the future
“I grew up on The WB and CW shows. Those are the shows that made me want to write. That’s why I went to film school for screenwriting. I love these shows, but I want to do them for Black people. I’d love to do a Black version of The CW Network. That’s my dream now.”
While Kareem has established a comfortable place in his career, he’s not done yet. He now plans to transition to working on scripted TV. He told us, “Daytime talk has been a gateway that’s going to get me to the point where I want to be. Big picture – I’d love to start my own streaming company.”
“I grew up on The WB and CW shows,” he explained. “Those are the shows that made me want to write. That’s why I went to film school for screenwriting. I love these shows, but I want to do them for Black people. I’d love to do a Black version of The CW Network. That’s my dream now.”
It’s our mission at Invoice2go to support dreamers and doers like Kareem. We hope to support him for years to come with straightforward tools to help him look professional and easily manage any contracting work he does in the future.
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