Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Chris Hau, a Filmmaker, Photographer, and Creative Director from Toronto, Canada. Chris has a YouTube channel where he talks about photography and videography.
His production company has been producing commercials for brands like Mercedes-Benz, Adobe, Grey Goose, and Google.
To give his story a twist, before getting fully into the video and the photo space, Chris was a musician.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
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Chris Hau runs a content creation agency working for brands like Corona, Mercedes, tourism boards… to create video ads and campaigns. Chris also has over 700,000+ people following his creative work online on his YouTube channel and Instagram. Dive into his story, his failures, and how he found his own voice.
🔥 Chris on Instagram: https://instagram.com/thechrishau
🔥 Chris on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRte954rw0oeMWFroy_ClAw
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This interview was transcribed by Descript.com.
Pierre Lambert: Good morning podcast and welcome to The Pierre T. Lambert show. I hope you're having an amazing day and that you're ready because today I've got a new special guest, and I think you're going to love this episode. My guest today is Chris Hau. Chris is a Canadian entrepreneur in the creative space. He has a YouTube channel where he talks about photography and videography. He also has a production company, shooting commercials for brands like Mercedes, Corona. And the unique thing about Chris is that before getting fully into the video and the photo space, he was a musician trying to get into the music industry.
This conversation is awesome for several reasons. First of all, it is because we're digging into the creative process of how he frees up time and space to get creative. How does he get out of the easy hustle and bustle that kills his creativity? Meaning, we get into doing what we're trying to seek numbers or reach business goals and at one point we lose our creativity. How can we get back to it? What step has he taken to get there? Also, how did it get started? What was the biggest failure in his life that defined who he is right now and how he is creating and living his life? So, without further ado, let's welcome Chris to the podcast, and guys, I want to send out all my love to you.
If you're listening right now, it means the world to me. If you can share it, if you like it, share it twice. And if you love it, share it with everyone around you. All right. Let's get started. Let's welcome Chris to the podcast.
Welcome to the podcast, Chris.
Chris Hau: Hey man. Thanks for having me.
Pierre Lambert: Thank you for taking the time. I know it's a little bit early for everyone.
Chris Hau: I've been trying to wake up early and if I have a reason to get up early and a reason to come and hang out and chat with a friend about creative stuff, then it's even better.
Pierre Lambert: Waking up early is like those sunrise shoots we want to do, but every morning in bed, we're thinking maybe later, it might begin, if I wake up an hour later, nope.
Chris Hau: Do you know the creative Matt Como at all?
Pierre Lambert: Yes.
Chris Hau: So, Matt posted an Instagram story yesterday of him. I think he gets up at sunrise a lot and goes for a workout, but he has nine alarms or something like that set. I'm that type of person too, where I have to have multiple alarms set to be able to get out of bed because it's very easy for me to want to stay, especially Lizzie will be saying, “just like two more minutes”.
Pierre Lambert: I feel like it's harder when the two people are in the bed than when you're alone.
Chris Hau: Yes, you want to get out of bed quietly and not wake up the other person. But also, our cat has been waking us up at five in the morning right now. So, I don't know. I feel that I'm used to getting up early because she's always jumping into the bed and sniffing my face and I'll get up.
Pierre Lambert: That's good. That's a good question. We're chatting with a friend the other day, and apparently there are two types of people, the ones that work better at night and the ones that are better in the morning. What are you? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Chris Hau: Oh, you know what? I definitely am an ebb and flow type of person when it comes to that kind of thing. I would say more often, I'm a morning person, but there are times at night, especially when Lizzie's going out with her girl friends or friends or whatever it is. And I can just be in the zone, no distractions, nothing else. Then I could just work all night, but I would say I tend to work better in the morning because I prefer the energy of waking up, getting a coffee. It's still silent but there's a light in the sky. So, I would say I'm both, but more often morning.
Pierre Lambert: I see. We can shift through the night, make it work, but you always have to check the work you did at night in the morning.
Chris Hau: I think having a break is such a good thing for both your eyes and your ears because by then you'll come back and you'll say, “Why did I put so much contrast on this image?”
Pierre Lambert: That's true. “Oh, flux was on. That's why”.
Chris Hau: “It’s so blue”.
Pierre Lambert: That's so funny. I'm curious, Chris. For anyone not knowing your journey and your path in life. I'm curious if there was a moment, a specific moment when you, a creative person, discovered that it was possible to become a professional video and photographer? Was there a specific moment where you realized, “Oh, I guess it can happen?”
Chris Hau: There is one moment that stands out for me. In pursuing a career as a creative, just in general, there are two or three that stand out. The first one was when I was in grade 12. At that time, my ambition was to be a musician. I was a bass player. I was a guitar player, a songwriter. I wanted to be the Jack Johnson of Canada.
What was happening was I was pursuing a career, or I was preparing myself to be an engineer for a university because I had the grades to get in. I got accepted to go in when I was in my Grade 12 Drama class. I remember it seems so classic. I remember telling my teacher, “Oh yeah, I'd love to be a musician in the future”, but I'm going to pursue a career as an engineer instead.
And she asked, “Why?” And I said, “Because that's what you're supposed to do. That's what everybody wants and that's a good career”. She responded, “Yes. But I know lots of people who have been successful in the arts, why are you telling yourself that?” And I think she was the first person that at least confronted me about it and allowed me to think that maybe it is possible.
Maybe, it's not for the lucky few. Maybe it is for the people who are hardworking and meet the right opportunities. So that was stage one. I think I can pursue a creative life and it is not scary, whether that's professional in some capacity or a side hustle. So that's stage one, stage two is I met the rapper Macklemore.
Pierre Lambert: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Chris Hau: Right before he blew up and became famous. I got to see him touring the first EP that he made, the first six songs. EP has got the verses. He came to Toronto. He's sold out this small club of I think a hundred people, 150 people. And I got to meet him and his band after the show because I was such a diehard fan. I was singing one of his songs in front of the venue.
And he saw that I was rapping all the lyrics. And he pulled me up on stage and we sang his closing song together, which was wild. So, we got the chance to chat afterward. Because we had that quick experience at the end, he told me that “you should read this book by Julia Cameron called ‘The Artist's Way.' “
That book more or less summarizes that the life of being an artist is a good life and an okay to pursue. And that was another staple. I don't have to follow conventions. I don't have to follow the way things are always done, and that seeing him and then him saying it and recommending this book was the perfect recipe for me to have the confidence.
Once again, I don't have to follow a traditional path. I can do my own thing. And then the third stage was that my family, everyone in my family, is more or less an entrepreneur. My grandparents ran multiple businesses. My dad is an entrepreneur. I think seeing how they could run their careers and have successful careers and provide for families and do amazing things.
My grandparents owned this German travel company where they brought German Canadians all around the world. My grandmother has been everywhere. I will joke and I will say Norway! And she will say, four times, and I will say, South Africa. She will say 26 times “Brazil!” “42 times.”
And she's more or less been to every country once minus a few of them. So, I think being able to chat with them. Having that background gave me the confidence to say that I can be an entrepreneur. I can pursue this creative life. I can build my businesses because I had the right pieces and the right random experiences in my life.
I think the moment you make your first dollar is proof that you can make more than just $1. After I get paid for videography, I think I can pursue this as a career and there are always scales for every career. Some people are engineers that don't get paid well and some engineers get paid well.
You can be successful in terms of your financial career. So the moment I knew that I had the right business background and I compared that with my creativity, I knew it was bound to happen, that I could make a full-time living doing this.
Pierre Lambert: That's amazing! How it came out in different stages. And until that moment, when you make your first dollar. Going back to the teacher, I'm super curious, was she an open-minded teacher, or did your initial thoughts about her until she talked to you were more like she's strict and very traditional?
Chris Hau: She was very motherly, and she would always approach people as she cared about her kids and I think she always wanted the best for them. And we got the chance to get to know each other because I was part of her team in grade 12 and Drama was a big part of my life, and the creative arts were a big part, or the music drama, creative writing, all that stuff. I was absolutely obsessed with it. It's funny because I went to an athletic school. There was a very small community of creatives in our school because the majority of the people were all athletic.
I think my teacher empathized with the few people that wanted to pursue a creative life. She was open-minded, motherly, caring with the perfect amount of crazy. And it's hard to pinpoint and tell what is crazy about somebody, but she just had this essence the better, this really fun personality.
I respected her so much so when she said it, that message came from the right person at the right time.
Pierre Lambert: Got it. That's awesome. And what were your parents' thoughts about it?
Chris Hau: My parents were awesome. You could quote them as being too supportive. They've always been there no matter what, they always want the best for you all the time. I'll never forget. There was this one moment, specifically with my dad, where my dad had told me after I did a tour of the school at the university that I went to that there's that big change where you were going from high school into university. You're deciding, making a big decision. You would say, what am I doing for the next four years? More or less of my life? What major am I interested in doing? It's a big decision because I had a lot of different options in front of me, engineering, architecture, professional basis, going to music school, radio, television, videography. I was interested in the video. We went to Ryerson, which is the school in Toronto that I studied at. There was a radio and television arts program there. It's a harder one to get into because it's the number one applied school and programming in Canada. But we did a tour of it. I remember my dad, we went through recording studios. We went through all this stuff and I remember my dad looking around saying, this is awesome. More or less told me that he had pursued a career because it was a good choice that would provide money for him. But after 25 years of working in it, he was speaking to candidates, I'm not as happy in it. This career provides a good financial part of my life, so I can do the things that I want to do. Like having a boat in the cottage and these are the things that I'm sacrificing. I'm sacrificing a bit of this joy to have family joy and provide this life. He was very candid with me about that. That he, more or less chased the money and it was not fully satisfying to him. So, he was saying, you should do what makes you happy. And even though at that time, my parents didn't know a lot about radio and television. They didn't know about that career and television was dying at that time. For me to want to go into television, that's a scary thing for my parents. So my parents were very supportive of it. Even though I knew in the back of their mind that they were worried. I always appreciate them so much for believing in me, no matter what. Speaking candidly, when I was younger, we had a lot of family members who passed away in a very short time. I lost seven family members in two or three years. I think when you go through something like that, you realize how precious life is and how short life is. My grandfather passed away at 64, and I lost a lot of people at a very young age. My uncles, both are already in their forties. And I think, who cares? Let's do what you want to do and do what makes you happy even if it's scary. Long story short, my parents were always supportive because there was a multitude of things. They wanted me to be happy. My dad had that background of pursuing money and then we lost a lot of family members. And again, it's a multitude of reasons that just ended up being, what do you want to do? We're here for you no matter what so my parents were awesome that way.
Pierre Lambert: That's awesome that they had the wisdom to put their fears behind and just be okay. Let's do what we think is best for you.
Chris Hau: Exactly, and it's hard because every parent wants the best for their child and they just want them to be okay. Finances play a big part in that. When you don't know that a career is going to be stable or you don't have the insights into a career. I think that's always so important. Anytime someone asks me, Chris, I want to pursue a life of a photographer or videographer, but my parents don't approve of this. I always think that it's important for them to source somebody in their field that has been successful in it. That parent can talk to somebody successful in that career so that they can build confidence. I think everything comes from a very surface-level understanding of a career. I don't know anything about a lawyer other than lawyers more or less make good money. So then everyone's okay, lawyers make good money. It should be financially less stressful for you to live your life. We have these very basic understandings of the law of career.
So rather than being, Oh! I've heard that a lot of creatives and I've heard that a lot of photographers don't make money because the barrier is eventually low, anyone can be a photographer which means that when the barrier of entry is so low, it more or less means that there's going to be a higher rate of failure because it's so easy to get in.
Anyone can call themselves a photographer, rather than go to school to be a lawyer. You have to pass the bar, which means that there's a higher chance of success based statistically. I think it's important that if a kid or someone wants to be in this field, does their research and reaches out to someone who's been successful in their eyes in that field. They can also communicate that success to their parents or family members, or loved ones.
Pierre Lambert: That's so interesting. What you just mentioned, talking about that percentage and the barrier to entry, people would say, artists struggle or out of 400 artists, there is one that's going to make money.
But I never thought about it as there's no barrier to entry on that end. It's true. Doctors spent eight years. If you went through that, you will be rewarded in a way, by the jobs in society because not many people go through eight years of studies, but if you’re just picking up a camera, you can fail so easily.
Chris Hau: Yes. And the difference is, you don't have to write a task to be a photographer. “Being you” is now professional. I can just call myself a professional photographer and then people are saying, he's professional because he says his work more or less looks good.
Pierre Lambert: It's because of your camera, Chris.
Chris Hau: Yes, the button. It does all the work for me. I think because of that, it's very easy for someone to pursue that career. They would say, I'm a photographer then give up on it because they didn't get what they wanted out of it. And now all of a sudden, they're a failed photographer. They tell that story to a lot of people and then people have this impression that you can't make money at photography or you can't make money out of video because I've heard my friends, my friend's daughter's cousin, Karen failed at it so, you shouldn't do it. I don’t agree with that. And also, the marketplace is changing. Now more than ever, the media is so crucial. We consume so many different niches. The marketplace has changed from time to time. We probably have a surplus of certain professions, whereas we need people in the media because everybody needs marketing, everybody needs to tell a story so, if anything, 2020 and moving forward is a great time to be creative and know the technical skill set of being a photographer and videographer.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. That's such a good point. What you just said about my son's daughter, my friend's daughter, reminded me, it's going to a sport event with your kids, and instead of cheering them on, you’d say, “There's 120 kids competing here. There's no way you're going to be in the top three. Let's go home.”
Chris Hau: Yes. For sure. It makes sense because it's all rooted in fear. It's also rooted that there's no background in education. You have to know your child, you have to know yourself, “Am I someone who has it to make it in this field?” Because there you can be successful in anything, depending on your persistence and your passion for it.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. I find that to be a silver lining, meaning across different projects or anything that's entrepreneurial, if you applied the same hard work and methodology and strategy, whether it's photography, video, producing sounds or anything, a little bit of an entrepreneur, or starting a t-shirt company or whatever you want to, or podcast company, if you apply the same methodology, you will be able to get somewhere.
Chris Hau: Yes, I have friends that own clothing companies and clothing companies notoriously are unsuccessful more or less, but they've done very well because they're good at marketing. They make good quality clothes and they source the right things. They've put the right ingredients together to build something successful, right? That’s the thing. You can do it. You just need to know if you're the type of person that can put all the pieces together and be successful in that field. There are also different measures of success. We put so much pressure on finances. Are you financially successful? But for a lot of people, measure their success by different metrics. Is my work good enough? Do I live the life I really want? Do I get to travel? Do I get to do this? You put a value on so many different parts of your life.
I don't have to tell my parents all the time, which is something I used to do. Always. I used to try to validate like you guys were right and supporting me. I made this much this year and, they are like, yay. But I measure my success in so many different ways. So most of the time, not based on finances, like once you hit a certain amount of money, you're cool. I have money. I'll be okay. Now, what makes me happy? And then you have to search for that outside of it. Right?
Pierre Lambert: That's so true with the parents. I do remember that after a while, I was doing my thing, when they saw I would make zero, I made this and they say, Oh, cool. Well, let's make sure it happens next month too.
Chris Hau: Right! Just love me.
Pierre Lambert: I know, right? Let's talk about this. Well, speaking of those hustles, was there a particular failure throughout your journey that you feel really turned things around for you? Maybe it came out as something very positive.
Chris Hau: It's hard to define what the failures would be. There was an interesting time when I remember, okay, let's talk about the transition from like music into video. When I was pursuing a career outside of school when I finished university, I'm really going to give this music thing a shot. In Canada, there's a lot of funding and grant programs available for musicians to be able to get money, make a music video, record an album. And that's a great thing about Canada. They really support the arts, which I also think is a big reason why there are so many successful artists that come out of Canada because there's a funding structure. Someone like Drake and Justin Bieber before they became massive. There's a whole program in place to pitch. We're the Canadian government, they call off, so pitch us your music. If we like it, we'll give you 10 grand to make an album. You pitch it, you put together a business plan and then you get 10 grand. In a lot of other countries around the world, there are not really programs like that that exist.
I think that's always why Canada has cultivated so many great artists, is because we put money behind it with our taxes. So, I want to be a part of that. How do I do it? I want to figure out how to get these funding structures. I remember applying to this one program multiple times because I had recorded a song. I got this one song which I thought was amazing and then I recorded it with a really well-known producer who was a guitar player for Jason Mraz. I said these are all the right ingredients. I had just pitched them on this amazing viral idea.
They had this new funding structure where they were going to promote social ideas. And I was saying, okay, this is the one. I have everything right. Great song, great producers, great recommendations. And this was like my fifth time trying to apply. All right, these are all the right things to try to get.
I think it was 10 grand or five grand to make a music video. I pitched them, I thought everything was great. I said, all right, let's see what we get. And I got turned down and I think that was the turning point for me, where I was like music isn't working. I've put everything in.
I possibly couldn’t do it and it wasn't translating, but what was making me money and was also making me happy at that time was video. And I realized, I was shooting all these videos for my music. I was getting paid to do commercial and corporate jobs and that was a great moment and realizing, maybe I should pivot. Maybe I should, if I want to make money and have a career as a creative, it seems like the marketplace right now, very much values videographers, photographers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, rather than music. And even though I think music fundamentally is extremely powerful, you can speak to so many people, it's a universal language.
It just wasn’t feeling right. I was feeling so denied by what was happening in the space in Canada, that I was like, I didn't give up music, I just shifted my perspective on it. Music then became something I did for joy rather than for work. And then I pivoted into videography and photography.
That one failure really allowed me to streamline my life where I'm not doing video and music at the same time. I'm just going to go all-in on video. That was this weird moment where I didn't actively decide. I just stopped.I just stopped caring and all of a sudden, I let my excitement for this was going away like that.
I would say that the music industry killed me, this sounds sad, but it killed my joy for music, which then allowed me to go all-in on video and photo, which was actually my original passion for being creative. This is how it all started with being a photographer and videographer. Then, I got into music and then I would film media around music, but the whole time, video and photos always seemed a big theme throughout my life and it just allowed me to fully take away one and go all the way. All the way in on another.
Pierre Lambert: It's awesome to hear how you actually started with photo and video and through the music you were doing videos, which is something. I mean, I don't know many musicians, artists that want to do videos too, or photos.
Chris Hau: Yes, I was just such a persistent person that it's probably a good and bad thing that I have to do everything on my own. I was an only child growing up, so I didn't fully understand collaboration. I was always very much a solo sports person too. I love wakeboarding. I love skiing. I love these things where it's me, I'm the one in control. And what I realized later in my life is that in order to go far, in order to be successful, you have to collaborate. You have to have support. You need to do those things. And I think that was also a problem at that time because when I was a musician, I also needed to shoot my videos. I need to record my own songs. I need to do this all myself, all the marketing. I think it gets to you at some point. You can't wear all the hats you need to diversify. But the silver lining from that is that I really learned how to market myself and I also learned how to do video and I learned all the different roles of a business so that I can now communicate with the people that I bring on and know the nuances of each role.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. That's a big strength. Having those new answers. I'm curious because some things that seem very similar happened to me, in the sense where I started a project, which was a platform for booking photographers, and it was awesome, very excited about the idea of going into an entrepreneurial journey at that time it was a startup booming. I needed to find a co-founder, technical, because I don't know how to code. I'm an engineer, but industrial engineer and mechanical. I have no clue about coding and other entrepreneurs. Another entrepreneur friend is saying, don't code. Don't learn to code. Do not do that. Find someone else to collaborate with. And obviously, I couldn't find anyone. Maybe my idea wasn't appealing enough or there are multiple reasons and people are busy with their own projects. So, I couldn't find someone that wanted to join for free and work on that project that might or might not work, probably might not. I decided to take on everything and I learned, I became a professional photographer at the same time. So I train for that, myself. And then at the same time in the evening, I was learning to code to actually build a booking.com replica, but for photographers. And once I did that, I realized I needed to market it. And I still hadn't anyone at that point. Anyway, I completely understand what you went through and it's so many hats to wear. And even if you love that project so hard, you can do it for a few years. It just slips away, every single thing you have for it, and if it doesn't work, it's going to ship away your love very quickly.
Chris Hau: There's something I heard recently, I think it was like a Joe Rogan podcast, and I kind of mentioned this yesterday. Hopefully, I can articulate it properly but, you only have a certain amount of energy every day, right? Let's call it a hundred dollars worth of energy or a hundred points of energy. Say driving to work is five points and then talking to somebody is five points, answering emails is five points, doing marketing is 10 points. Now, trying to code is 20 points, and at some point, you'll just deflate yourself and burn out and you've never really given your main task and you only have a certain amount of energy that you can deflate every day before. You're just tired and you need to rest again. So I think it's important that you don't try to wear all the hats because it's going to take so much longer. It's going to kill all your energy and it's better if you can try to find the right people to collaborate with. There are two sides to that coin where one is, you'll learn and you'll learn a lot of stuff but you'll take a long time to get there. Or, you can just go on the thing that you're really good at and then work with a team to do something better. And what I've learned more in my life is that I think it's better from a team perspective. That's just where my head's at now.
Pierre Lambert: How do you articulate or how do you start the process of collaborating with others? If there's a project you want to work on and you need someone else, where would you go to, what do you do?
Chris Hau: One, I think depending on the type of person that you are, you need to develop letting go. You need to first be able to say, I can't micromanage this person. I can't tell them what to do. I have to trust them. So it becomes step one, a trusting thing. And then two, it becomes being able to be a bit of a manager and delegate tasks and for each person to trust that they're going to go and do those things. So, for me, I would say, when you're starting with anything, you have to begin to let go, because I am that type of person. I have to have my hand on everything. That photo. I don't know, it's two points over exposed. I think the green scale needed to be three points down. That person thinks it looks good. It probably looks good to a lot of other people. So, stop trying to micromanage, just let them do their thing. I brought on a full-time editor this year on the YouTube channel and he helps me. He's the master of everything. He's so good at a lot of stuff, but he's really good at editing. It's interesting because I used to try to watch him edit and say, what are you doing? And the moment I would just let him do his own thing, edits came back better and I would be surprised more often, added to come back, and I wouldn't even say you should do this, he would just do it. I say, oh, that's a really cool idea. That was really interesting that you put that there. “I actually really liked that. Do more of that.” And I think when you can just let people do their thing without them having the fear that you're going to judge it or you're going to attack it, that's true collaboration, when you can both trust that you're professionals in this space and come together for the benefit of the project.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. That's such great advice for anyone and t's the hardest to apply, especially if you're in front of the camera that's being edited.
Chris Hau: Yes. For sure. And then, that just becomes dealing with your ego, right? You just don't let the ego get in the way of making cool things.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. I'm just going to learn what he does and then I'll do it myself. Well, wait, I just hired an editor. Maybe that's not what I'm supposed to be doing.
Chris Hau: Exactly. Exactly.
Pierre Lambert: So, if you let go of editing, for example, where do you want to spend more time?
Chris Hau: Creativity, I think in storytelling. It's very easy to always crutch on, okay. I can edit photos, I can shoot stuff, but fundamentally. And what we've all and something that everyone always says, the Casey Neistat's, the Peter's the Jessie's, of whoever is in the world, it's a story. What is the story you're telling? How are you telling it? And now that I'm not always editing or that I'm not doing the elaborate part of the editing, it's allowed me to have more mental space to focus on better creative ideas, better stories, doing better and bigger projects. And that comes in many facets, whether it's technical or whether it just allows me to spend time learning rather than always producing. And because of that mental space to be more creative and to learn new things and it grows the company and it grows my outlet and my creativity. So, having more time just allows my brain to chill out a little bit more.
And I think, when you're in a more relaxed state, you can come up with better creative ideas and make better things, because you're not trying to do it all and just keep your head above water, you actually can breathe. Do you know what I mean?
Pierre Lambert: I totally see what you mean because it's something I just thought about the other day, a few weeks ago. I was doing all these projects. And I had the course and I was editing 50 videos and then another 50 videos. And then, I was shooting the 50 videos and we had the baby, it was intense, I would say. And my friends were getting bored in quarantine and I want to get bored right now.
But the whole point was when you're so a hundred percent into something and you're working on the business aspect, also you're working on activities that are not necessarily getting you anywhere creativity, for example, just editing or, or just doing long tasks, what I was thinking about is, when we start a journey as photographers, as artists in general, when we start, we put a huge emphasis on trying a lot of things. This idea, I never judged someone doing a lens bowl or whatever. I say that's cool. Let me try. And I feel that the more I progress and the more maybe I might see myself easily start to narrow down my view on what could work, what could be good, what could be nice? And I caught myself in it and I say, oh, watch out. You don't want to be that guy who says, “Oh no, this doesn't work” or whatever. How do I get back to being more? Just trying more things and just being more creative without the purpose of that's not going to be a good video.
Chris Hau: That's a really hard one. Balancing creativity and taking risks while also maintaining a public persona and YouTube channel that is funded and the value is when you work at YouTube, part of one of your pillars of where you make money is through sponsorship and sponsorship is directly tied to views and your creativity. So, when you want to always try to do it, you want to deliver on what I'm consistent with. I can more or less get the numbers so that means I can get paid this much money. It's tough when your value is directed on views. You have a fear of trying new things because if it fails, it may or may not get your finances moving forward. There is a lot of pressure on YouTube specifically to just constantly get similar numbers rather than experiment and try new creative ideas because you just never know what's going to happen and that's a weird place for you to reach, to be in. And it's hard to want to experiment and try new things, what's my voice, what's my creativity so you crutch on what you think will do well, and that's not the best place to be in all the time.
Pierre Lambert: Have you found something that helps you go through that, like kind of help ease things?
Chris Hau: I think a community like talking.Talking to people in your community. So, for us, we have a little group of people that we touch base with. I think rather than seeing someone else's video and thinking, I should do that because it did well. I think when you talk to friends, you're reminded of what you do well and what you're good at, and what your creative eye is. And rather than chasing views, you can chase your own voice. And the moment you can follow that and be reassured by your community, it can be more comforting.
Pierre Lambert: What you say is so interesting. Have you ever thought of letting go of your channel? Not completely, but the whole YouTube aspect, meaning you do your videos, but someone else handles publishing, someone else looks at your analytics and someone deals with brands if they need to or gives you a weekly report on the channel or a monthly report and you base your brand deals or whatever you want off of that. And it might be a little bit, people might be like, how do you engage with your community? Well, that can be another discussion, but have you ever thought of that?
Chris Hau: Yes. And we're doing it in a small way. So, we have an agent and they handle all our integrations and sponsorship and stuff like that. So, rather than me constantly staying on top and feeling so emotionally connected to everything, I can at least let them handle the negotiations and what happens. And then they just come back saying, they want this and for this much. And, I say, okay, yes, no, maybe. So, it fits into this content calendar.
And I mentioned earlier that my editor kind of wears a lot of different hats and what I'm trying to get him to be at is a stage where he can just upload. And all I have to worry about is the title, thumbnail and making the video and creatively making the video. And then, he can handle the annoying parts of publishing and keywording, not annoying, the more analytical and business side of it so that I'm not directly tied to it.
It's just hard when you're a small enterprise or a small corporation. Those still feel fundamental roles. Casey Neistat always said he couldn't detach himself from editing because he always felt that was a special touch. I think that comes even when you study the business side of things, you always feel that, well, I can, I'm the one that deeply understands this, rather than bringing on a professional, that can be “your analytics or desk, your audience really loves this. Why don't you consider trying doing this? And here's the weekly report, you made, you got 3000 subscribers this week. Good job. And X, Y, and Z.” And I think I'm open to it and we're doing it in a small way. Could I do it fully? Maybe most likely, but right now, we're not.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. I have a friend, he has a tutorial channel, a few million subscribers, and it's so interesting. He said a few years ago that he had to let go of the channel, the YouTube aspect of it. He said, first of all, we're running a real business behind. Like the platform is huge. They have thousands of tutorials and the content is amazing. But what he was saying is that he would like to spend a lot of time on Twitter back in the day, engaging in Twitter wars about Photoshop tools or debates and stuff. And also on YouTube, he would look at comments. What was that? I don't even know how I pronounce that. He would look at comments and every single comment that was positive was, “Yay! Dopamine.” And, then you see one negative and it's slipping away, even though you don't care, it still does a little something. And, he's like, then you would kind of obsess over analytics, but it didn't really matter for the business side as much.
And for himself as a creator, it was draining him creatively. It's shipping, it goes back to what you were saying with the amount of energy you have in a day. Some activities are going to be energy-draining, and some are going to be energy replenishing, I will say. And some can be draining negatively and some can be draining but have a positive impact. When you're in the shoot, you're being drained, but it's super positive because you're pumped. You love it. You're going to be tired after your day. But when you're doing taxes and straining and it's negative, you start something that makes you feel great. What he was saying is that he let go and someone else's handles. He hasn't looked at comments in months, years. He hasn't looked at analytics either. He doesn't even edit his video. He doesn't even look at the video that has been edited with him. He just goes there, shoots this thing. He does the best at what he's doing. Meaning, shooting, explaining things. And then he gives the content to his team and they edit it. And I asked, do you review? He's been doing that for four or five years. He probably knows how to do it better than I do. And he knows what looks better. I don't have to look at it because he can.
Chris Hau: It's really interesting. I listened to this. I'm a big fan of Logic. I love rap, by the way, which is a thing.
Pierre Lambert: Oh, Logic. I have one song that's 10 minutes long that I absolutely love.
Chris Hau: Yes. He's great. And he isn't on social media and that's amazing. And he was talking about it on the H3N podcast. And, there was an interesting thing that they brought up that, apparently when you read negative comments that we focus so much on this small minority, even though you post a video, it has 98% likes. And then there's 2% dislikes that you got, I always relate it back to a report card or like a test. If you got 98 on a test, you'd be stoked, but on YouTube, we look at the metrics differently. Why did two people not like this? There are just going to be people that don't like what you do and that’s just based on stats. So it's hard to rationalize it and connect with that. But, the other side of it is that when you read those comments, you get into this fight or flight mode where you think you're in danger and you think your brand's dying. It's the very primal thing that you are worried about. You feel you're being attacked. That's why we look at this loud minority because we're so worried at a primal level that something is dying or our business is going away, or I won't be able to provide for my family, or I won't be able to eat because this loud minority could convert all those other people, even though.
When you look at it from just a purely rational standpoint, a lot of those comments are not true, and that 2% doesn't even matter at all because you got 98. So why are we getting so caught up in all this stuff? And I think it's healthy to detach yourself from it if you can. So, most recently I made a video called deleting Instagram and I deleted it off my phone and how I'm operating moving forward right now is that I have more or fewer postings on my iPad.
And if I'm in a pinch, download the Instagram app on my phone, I'll post my photo, spend five minutes replying to comments and try to not read any negative ones or do my best, whatever. And then I'll delete the app because one, it's a massive distraction from actually creating. It's deflating my energy.
It goes back to that, everything else, in our time, which is the most valuable thing. And two, it's more or less not really feeding me the dopamine. And why you gotta ask yourself, well, why do I need to be validated? Why do I need lights? And why do I beat this? Why do I crave this?
We're human. We love that dopamine rush. We love being praised. But when you really look at it from a really high level, it's more or less that you're just trying to be liked. In my case, I always want to be liked by people. And then I gotta ask myself, why do I want to be liked by people? That's a whole thing in itself. That's been a big self-discovery thing for me over the last couple of years. So, to tie it all back to what you're saying, I think, it would be very healthy to detach yourself from the comments, to detach yourself from the analytics, and have someone else manage who is not so emotionally connected to so that you can just do what you want to do, which is being creative because there are two businesses, there's being an artist and there's being a business person and to be successful, the two needs, at least be financially successful. You need to work together on those fronts. But if you can be at a point where you don't, that you don't have to handle the business elements as much anymore and you can focus on just being a dope creator, then try your best to do that.
It's hard though. It's so hard. I don't eat, I'm saying it, I'm preaching it. Like you should do this, even though I'm not practicing it myself fully. I'm in the position of transitioning where I'm not trying to be on Twitter all the time. I'm not trying to use my phone all the time.
It's just hard when it's your job and your primal instincts say you should do this because it feels. And that's a hard place to be in.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. Or, you don't know what's next, or you're too lazy to go shoot, not lazy or you're making up excuses or procrastinating for your next shoot. And you're saying, I'm just going to go on Twitter quickly, and then an hour passed, and it's dinner time. Too bad.
Chris Hau: Yes. It's a lot of random downtimes, too. And, you can look at being, this is marketing. So, if I'm posting, I'm being visible. I'm being seen many brands around which means I could get an opportunity.
You never know where you get your next job from. We rationalize things on weird levels. Because maybe I'll go on Facebook and I'll get two jobs a year from being on Facebook. And then you'd say, I should always be on Facebook because I got two jobs from it. Why don't you just go and find jobs at other places that are not wasting your time rather than searching for a needle in a haystack?
Pierre Lambert: Still that part, you know Gary Vaynerchuk, right? So, he talks a lot about reading comments and knowing what his community is saying and all that, and that's where sometimes I balance in my mind. It's interesting to know where people's minds are, on what's being pushed out. And then the other side is, well, the reason things I do work is not because people validate what I do is because I had those ideas and I executed on them and I got the creative space to do them. And it's not that I get the ideas necessarily from this comment. So, I'm always wondering, what do you think about it?
Should we read comments because it's important to understand people's mindset, but being able to have such, I think he has a lot of distance between himself and whatever is being put out on. Is that the goal to have such a big distance between those who you can read with a third-party viewpoint or, should we not look at it for the sake of creativity?
Chris Hau: I'm in two different camps where one can be all right, well maybe I can learn something from my audience or I can learn something from a comment. But I also am a very big fan of Joe Rogan's podcast. And, he mentioned something on there where, we're human, our inner, we were designed to have conversations in small communities and groups. You don't like to have access, like in my case where a photo goes out to hundreds of thousands of people, and then 20,000 people might engage with it. It's not like that's never happened in the history of the last hundred years. And that's a weird place to be in. So, I don't like even on whatever scale it is, even if you're talking to a hundred people and you get a hundred likes on a photo or 50 likes, it's still, not how we've been as humans.
This is a very short period of time. It's a drop in the bucket compared to our evolution. And our evolution has always been six people, two people, three people, 10 people. That's whom we communicate with. So, to all of a sudden have a hundred thousand opinions or 5,000 opinions or, 10 or, 15 opinions more than we normally have.
It's sensory overload. And I think we don't process it that well as humans. So, it's an interesting time. It's something that they talked about in a podcast recently and I just thought it was really interesting.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. Gary is special in that way. That might be his personal strength, being able to completely detach and understand other people, but not everyone's able to do that. So, you should dive into your own strength. It's so cool. I kind of like that, that's a little bit, I hope that helps other people listening, but I think for anyone who's starting, I get these questions all the time or how do I get more followers on Instagram and again, or how do I get more likes, or why is no one engaging? And again, it goes to, why do you need people to engage? If you're trying to be an influencer, we're going to have a very different conversation versus I'm trying to be a professional photographer. And, that's something I keep reminding myself of. I mean, my Instagram account had no followers when I was a pro when I started and I got my first clients, etc., I had nothing. It was the beginning of Instagram. It didn't matter. I mean, nowadays it does matter, but you can still dominate with 2K or 1K on Instagram and, and being in your niche.
Chris Hau: 100%. It depends on who's watching and the right people that are watching. There's a really good analogy. So, I do some work with Mercedes-Benz and I work really closely with their PR team and it's interesting whom they select to bring out on certain campaigns. So, there'll be one person. And, that's the Toronto star, a traditional press. Trying to start here as the biggest magazine or newspaper here, one of the best, let's call it. They have a very big sports car article that they'd go through and maybe let's say it reaches 500,000 people or a hundred thousand people or whatever it is still like, they're like, okay, we're inviting the Toronto star out because they're going to talk to a very wide audience.
But then, they also brought up this one guy that had, I think it's a mailing list of a thousand people. I was asking, why him? Why a thousand, you guys? Because it's a thousand people that are all millionaires. So, those are a thousand people that are most likely going to buy a Mercedes or most likely.
So, his niche is so specific to like conversions and that audience that's interested in that. He gets, even though he only has a thousand followers and the Toronto star has maybe millions, he's also getting brought to the table because the way that people value his niche is different than how they value it.
Everyone likes big numbers but you have to remember who's in that pod. So, if you're a videographer, photographer, maybe you have a very specific niche. That's like I target wealthy, X, Y, and Z people, in this demographic. And I only have 500, but my conversion rates, 49% or something like that.
So, you have to understand your audience and understand your demographics and not be chasing numbers and on a philosophical side, you do have to answer that question for yourself, which no one really does, which is, why do I need this? Why do I need these people? Why do I need this money? Because we're always working. We always want validation and it usually just comes down to being like, I just want to be loved, which sounds like a very airy-fairy, but it more or less comes back to that. So, you have to try to answer that question, so that when you are creating, rather than being I'm creating to get lots of followers, maybe you should be creating for yourself and then you'll get followers that are interested in who you authentically are.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. That's the best advice that anyone can have. Can we jump to that photo shoot you did? And, with Mercedes on the ice strike, how fun was that?
Chris Hau: There's such a great partner. The relationship that I have with that company is so wonderful. Yes, financially, it's great. It helps on the bottom end but takes that all away. I love cars. They always want to do crazy cool things. I have this great relationship with everybody there where I text them, more or less, once or twice a week. If I need a car for a YouTube video. They would say, sure, let's do it, whatever you want. And this is such a perfect, win-win relationship where I can help them. They can help me. We do cool things together. They get cool things back. And that job specifically is always such a highlight of the year for me. And this year, they really went all out.
They did this crazy concert. They brought out these massive bands. I did an Instagram takeover for them. I got to make YouTube videos. I got to learn how to drive these cars on the ice sideways. I have relationships with their driving team now, for me, that is Pitneymy's favorite project to work on in terms of a very commercial client relationship because I have different ways, I value things. Obviously, there are ones where I love doing stuff to where it gives back to the community. We cleaned up the beaches. We do a lot of stuff with Corona on that kind of thing too. So, there are two sides where it's my adrenaline side, my exciting side, where I make cool stuff just gets stretched on every level with Mercedes-Benz. And then, I also crave to do things where we give back and we invite a bunch of people out and we donate blood and we save hundreds of people's lives. There are different facets of the projects I like to work on. But, if we're just going to go in on Mercedes for a second, that project is just like, it's the best. It's so fun.
Pierre Lambert: So, I felt that through. I remember seeing your video, seeing the photos and I felt it in your work, as like this guy was stoked for life, feel it, you can see it in the work. You're someone who had a lot of fun right there. Yeah.
Chris Hau: It was such a great time. And for me, it checkmarks all the boxes of what I really enjoy doing, which is telling cool stories, sharing knowledge, cars, cool stuff, weird locations, just live life. Those were the jobs that when I pursued this career, I would hope to work on one day and for it to become the life and be there. I always get very emotional when it's happening. I'll have a brief moment where I'm just looking around and being, this is, this is real. This is happening. And, I get emotional, dream-chasing, it's possible, these things that you've envisioned, it's not just a dream.
It's something that can actually happen. And I always take a moment to be so grateful and it took a lot to get here, but it's possible.
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. It's amazing. I felt that was so into racing with our mind and chasing whatever we're trying to. You have a dream of getting there, but your dream changes, and then it goes somewhere else or whatever. And then, personally, I am not good at celebrating my stones, but sometimes I have this weird feeling. Like you said, one moment. You’d say, I guess it's working.
Chris Hau: Yes. I realized something about my personality, as it's hard for me sometimes to appreciate where I am, go climb the top of the mountain and say, all right, what's the next mountain? And Lizzie will say, you're on the mountain. Just look around. It's great. It is great up here. Maybe I don't need to climb that next mountain.
Pierre Lambert: Six days climbing. And I'm going to be happy for five seconds at the top and say, okay, let's go down.
Chris Hau: Yes. It's just so funny how we are. Have you ever done the Enneagram test at all?
Pierre Lambert: What's that?
Chris Hau: It's a personality test. It's one of the more accurate ones from my experience. So, there are nine types of people. More or less are one type with a little bit of some other types, but I'm a type three. The achiever. So, I'm the person that needs to always be working and doing stuff all the time. That's how I identify with success. One of my traits is that when I've reached a certain point that I've always dreamed about, I won't even take a moment and be like, Hmmm, the flower smells nice up here. This is great. It's that next thing. It's quite a lot about myself in the last year, especially with quarantine and to just appreciate where you're at.
Pierre Lambert: Are you able to appreciate the journey also throughout?
Chris Hau: Yes. I try to be present as much as possible because living too far in the future or the past is a bad place to be in because you're either, it's so classic. You read these things online where it's in the future, you're anxious and in the past, you're depressed, but in the present, this moment right now. If we're very present, I'm sitting on a couch, drinking coffee, talking to a homie, this is a good moment. So, I shouldn't stress and it's nice.
I'm comfortable, air conditioning, it's fine. Everything goes. So, sometimes it's hard, but I always try to do a good exercise where if you focus on your breath, it's like meditation, too. But even at that moment you focus on your breath and it brings you into the “now” because our minds have a tendency, especially creative minds to be, but this and this and this, and put this myself, let's do this, right?
Pierre Lambert: Yeah. The breath thing is amazing. And, anyone who's going on a shoot who has stress, maybe it's their first shoot, or the client is a little bit stressed out, I highly recommend taking 10 seconds, five seconds to just breathe in and notice your breath. And then, it's just going to be, it's almost like, just get high, not high, but, you just chill. You just count everything. It's those moments in the movies, when it's the sound if it goes zzz, the time slows down and then it goes, okay, action!
Chris Hau: My goal is that through this practice, when Lizzie and I get married, I can be very present on the day of our wedding, because, everyone’s saying, it goes by in a flash. It goes by so quickly. I don't want to look back on it and be saying, it went by so quickly because I think, if I can be very present, will hopefully be memories that last longer.
Pierre Lambert: Yes. And you don't want to be in the moment thinking, oh, it goes back so quickly. I have to remember it.
Chris Hau: Yes.
Pierre Lambert: Let me remember it now. What?
Chris Hau: Yes.
Pierre Lambert: Weddings are fun. I mean, it's your day. A lot of people stress about a lot of things, but you prepare and then, whatever happens, happens. Just enjoy it.
Chris Hau: Looking forward to it more now than even when we got engaged, to be honest, Lizzie and I had a longer engagement, but through the engagement, I've fallen even more in love with her. And that's allowed me to get even more excited about calling her, my wife and having this life together. So yes, sometime next year, we're good.
Pierre Lambert: That sounds great. I remember asking my wife and then a week later, she asked, did you ever think about the part where we were supposed to get married when you proposed? I said, what do you mean? We have time, right? I mean, I proposed. Now, let's enjoy that before we look into the wedding stuff.
She said I don't think you thought that through. I say, of course, I did. What about next year? Right. So funny. So, just for the fun story, this is a baby room right there. So, I'm juggling my time in and out of the studio space between the naps. It's kind of funny.
Chris Hau: Yeah. Well, why don't we close it off? Because I should probably get going. I think my daughter's texting me asking what's happening. So, let me, let's end on one last question or however, you want to end it and we'll go from there..
Pierre Lambert: Yes. So, Chris, let's be mindful with our time because it's early, but we've got stuff to do. I kind of want to ask yourself if you have any tips for anyone right now. I know the coronavirus thing is still going on. It's still going to go on for quite a while. Do you have any creative outlet that you'd suggest people to experience or dip their toes into? If they've really been drained by what's been happening lately?
Chris Hau: We have a sign in our office that says, remember why you started because Lizzie and I always have trouble connecting with the reason why we're doing all of this a lot of the time. So, my message to everybody would be, if you're feeling stressed out, when you first picked up a camera or you first started doing anything creative, there was excitement around it. So, if you can tap back into that. Remember why you started the mentality. I think it will allow you to enjoy the process, enjoy everything rather than feeling so stressed out about, “I need to make this, I need to do this” If you can take all the stress and anxiety and everything else away and just find your happy place with your creative part, that is I started because I love taking photos of cars or I love taking photos of people. Then, why don't you find that core thing that you loved again, and really answer the question?
Why did I start in the first place? And if you can tap into that, I think you'll rediscover your passion for a lot of things in life.
Pierre Lambert: That's awesome. That's such great advice. It's something we lose strike of. So fast. All right, Chris, thank you so much. Where can people find you online? Is there a specific piece of content or place you want them to go?
Chris Hau: If you want to have a good time watching some fun videos, you can go over to YouTube. Check out Chris Howe, H A U, not H O W and, on Instagram, that's definitely a place I am very active on, especially when posting new photos. I usually spend10 to 15 minutes after every photo, replying to every comment and sending a video DM. So, if you want a hello, like a real hello, dedicated to you, you might get one. If you find me on Instagram. So, it's theChrisHau, H A U on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
Pierre Lambert: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Chris Hau: Thanks, Pierre.
The Pierre T. Lambert Podcast is where Pierre interviews the best creatives in the world to share their tips and stories. Enjoy & spread the word to your friends about this podcast! Pierre T. Lambert is a travel & adventure photographer & YouTuber followed by over 1,000,000 people. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.