Video has become one of the most – or perhaps the most – effective ways for small businesses to market themselves. According to Forbes, the average internet user now consumes 16 hours of video every week. And with video dominating social media and video production becoming more accessible, it’s no surprise that more businesses are using this medium to raise awareness about their offerings, build stronger customer relationships, and grow.
Meet John Wiley, founder of Wiley Visuals, a digital video production company based in the idyllic Northern Rivers of NSW, Australia. John creates quality content for businesses small and large and aims to be a one-stop shop for web, broadcast, and social media video production in Byron Bay, Lismore, and Ballina.
Over the last 10 years, John’s built up his experience filming TV programs, corporate videos, TV commercials, sports, and lifestyle content. His clients include the NSW Government, 4WD Touring Australia, I-Venture Club by Isuzu, Red Bull Media House, and many others. He assists clients through the entire production process, from the initial brainstorming to filming, editing, and final delivery.
These days John specializes in small-scale production solutions tailored to local businesses. He recently helped us film a video for Invoice2go subscriber Heidi Robertson, founder of Byron Bay Celebrant. We were blown away by the quality of the video and how he captured Heidi’s story, complete with stunning imagery of her officiating a beachfront wedding.
Shortly after the filming, we got the chance to chat with John about his videography business. He shared with us how he stands out in serving his community and deals with the challenges of raising a family while running his company. He also offered tips for up-and-coming videographers looking to quickly step up the quality of their work.
What inspired you to get into videography?
Surfing was the main thing. I grew up close to Byron Bay, and many of my friends surfed when we were growing up. Some got good and looked at turning pro as we got to our later teens. I wasn't on that level, so I thought a more productive way to spend my time was to film them.
I really enjoyed filming and went to university to study broadcast journalism and I thought I'd head down the route of working for a news network. However, after earning my degree, I realized it didn’t quite align with my passions. But while studying, I'd been filming a lot of surfing and a few other things on the side – like a music video here and there. I had enough of a portfolio to start applying for freelance videographer jobs. It all happened pretty organically.
Tell me about your company. What does the setup look like?
I often get help from my network of freelancers, but the company is really just myself. A couple of years ago, I lived up on the Gold Coast and had a larger team. I had a few employees and was doing large projects more frequently. Then I had kids and moved back down to where I grew up – so there was a downsizing process. Also, I knew coming back to Byron Bay, I didn’t want to be a faceless company, but a community member. That’s partly why I changed my business name to my name.
I strive to get to know the customer and their needs. Particularly in creative industries, it can be hard sometimes to move away from your artistic vision and understand the customer. Over the past few years, I've tried to take all my experience from larger jobs and apply them efficiently to smaller clients and productions.
I want to make video approachable and accessible – not something clients need to be scared of. For many small business owners, it might be their first time appearing on camera and I personally hate being on that side of the camera. So want to make sure the client is comfortable and the process isn’t overwhelming for them. That's really important in getting a good product.
Has having a family and moving back to Byron Bay impacted your choice to now focus on smaller, community projects?
Yes, moving back down to where I grew up with my family had a big impact. Many big jobs – like a reality TV show – can go on for three months with 10-hour days, six days a week. It’s not very compatible with raising a family.
It’s essential for me now to choose clients that fit my lifestyle. Because as much as you love doing creative work, you've got to make sure it fits. Otherwise, you might as well get a 9-to-5 job. If you're doing something because you love it, you want to make sure you're not falling into that trap of doing jobs because you feel you have to. Right now, I need to make sure I have a good work-life balance.
What challenges do you face in your work, and how do you deal with them?
Byron Bay is a very creative hub, and there are many businesses and startups here. However, it doesn't necessarily have a major city's industrial and logistical support base. So you can have issues getting supplies, talent, and other resources to create advertising material. That's been exacerbated over the past two years with border closures from COVID.
Community is a major way I deal with that challenge. I’m a little bit less competitive than some videographers. Some people, particularly in the realm of the arts, can feel the pressure to be the best, keep above the rest, and constantly be in that rat race. I really like connecting with other professionals creating video or looking to learn more about video for business.
You're only as good as the people around you. If you can't depend on others or have freelancers you can bring in to help, you won’t have a sustainable business. Some of the most rewarding moments are when you have those connections with other professionals and realize that you're all in it together – and you can create something really good if you rely on each other. I’d like to keep building a strong network in this region to lift everyone up.
Another challenge at the moment is the work-life balance, particularly with a growing family. At the start of 2021, my wife went back to work three days a week and it’s challenging to balance our schedules with a one-and-a-half-year-old and a six-year-old.
I do quite a few jobs that require me to be away from home for two weeks, maybe three weeks at a time. Just in the past 24 hours, we’ve been discussing whether that's sustainable and what work will look like moving forward. It doesn’t feel realistic to be away for that amount of time and have two kids, as well.
Of course, all of this is not to say that having a 9-to-5 job would make it easier. Every job has different needs and challenges in maintaining a work-life balance.
What’s a typical day like on a video shoot in Byron Bay?
A typical shoot day starts early – I can't impress the importance of that enough on clients. We're working with a pretty amazing environment in this area, and to make the most of that, you want to get the light right. Some of my favorite videos I've made are shots taken before the sun comes up. So the natural environment is one thing I really try to include in every shoot.
In terms of more practical stuff – a lot of people don't know that a commercial production shoot is 10 hours. Ten hours is enough to get you almost from sunrise through to sunset, which are the best times to film. A lot of the time that means you're working on a split day as well. So you'll have maybe four or five hours in the morning, go on a break for a few hours, and then come back to shoot in the afternoon.
What advice would you give an aspiring videographer? What do you wish you knew when you first started?
The biggest thing would be to get some lights. So many people jump in, look at what camera to buy, and learn how to use all the settings. What will separate your work from most people's more often than not is good lighting. So learn about how different lights work and what different light sources do to a scene. That’s the most important thing people starting in video production should look at – and unfortunately, it’s often overlooked.
Until a few years ago, lights weren’t very accessible. They were big, heavy, expensive – they got very hot and were hard to work with. But in the past five years, new technology with LED lights has made good lighting way more accessible. Now that should be one of the first things aspiring videographers should look at, purchase, and learn how to use properly.
The word “photography” means painting with light, and cinematography does the same thing with moving pictures. It's really important to respect that and know you can't make good images without good light.
What do you hope for the future of your business?
With state borders opening up here, I'm really looking forward to getting back to something a bit more normal. For example, when you have a booking, you can be confident it will go ahead and nothing will come up and force you to cancel.
Eventually, I'd like to make a feature documentary – that's one landmark thing that I would like to say I did. A lot of my biggest influences growing up were documentaries. They just spoke to me – maybe because I grew up filming alongside people on professional surfing journeys.
Something I like about the idea of working on a feature documentary is that I love a small crew environment. There are a lot of bigger productions where you can just feel like a cog in the wheel, whereas with documentaries, if you have a story to tell, you can do it yourself and make it really personal. That's why long-term, a feature-length documentary is something I'd like to throw my hat in the ring for.