How do you make a living in New Media?

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How do you make a living in New Media? I received this great question a few weeks ago and wanted to answer it publicly in hopes that others may benefit.

Here is the question…

“Hi, Mr. Welch. I’m a mom. My son is going to college majoring in (guess what) new media. As a parent I’m wondering how my son is going to make a living in new media, and not feeling like I knew enough about it, I found your site. I watched your speech to the Independent Filmmakers, and I have a clearer understanding of what new media is and the best way to use it, so thanks for that. However my fundamental question remains: how does one make a living in this field? Please help. Thank you.”

..and here is my answer…

There are several ways of building a career based on New Media. Two typical career paths include:

  1. Taking the entertainment route and becoming a producer of your own New Media content, such as producing your own audio or video show
  2. Using your New Media skills to help others produce their content.

Entertainment Path

Here in Los Angeles, many people are taking the traditional entertainment industry approach and attempting to create their own New Media properties in hopes that they can gather an audience, support themselves and perhaps even rival the success of mainstream entertainment.I find this a harder road to follow, as there is a lot of competition, but there can be great rewards for those who hit upon the right property.

This approach to a New Media career tends to be the preferred method for those working, or hoping to work, in the entertainment industry, such as actors, comedians and musicians, as they already have a talent to showcase and New Media provides them an easy distribution method for their work. They can use New Media to show “what they do and how well they do it” to a large number of people and gather an audience around them. This can then lead to mainstream exposure or, in some cases, provide significant income to support themselves from their New Media shows, along with the income from ancillary products like live shows and merchandise.

It is important to remember that there are levels of success in the entertainment industry, despite its focus on the “star system.” While a New Media personality may not garner the money and attention of a Hollywood star, they may find that they can gather a dedicated audience who see them as a star in their own, smaller world, and also provide enough monetary support to provide them a life which many would see as successful. You shouldn’t get caught in the trap of thinking that you must become the next Madonna or Kevin Smith or Jon Stewart. There are many levels of success and New Media could make you very successful indeed.

Consulting Path

Another approach to a New Media career is to become an employee or consult with those people who want to establish their own New Media presence. Your skills at creating and managing New Media are in demand from a wide variety of companies and clients. This is the direction my own New Media career has taken. While I produce my own shows around my personal interests, my long experience in podcasting and New Media allows me to help others create their own New Media properties as well as speak and instruct on New Media topics.

The major benefit to this type of New Media career is that, much like computer consulting, you can work in a wide variety of companies and industries. You might work creating video promotions for a major retailer or develop in-house video materials for a local manufacturer. You could help a local chef build their profile through an Internet cooking show or teach a non-profit how to better communicate with their supporters. Since New Media crosses all boundaries you can look for ways to combine your New Media knowledge with other expertise you might have.

For example, if you are a paralegal or have other law-related experience, you bring more to the table than just your New Media skills. You are well positioned to work with a law firm or law-related public advocacy group as you have skills and expertise on both sides of the equation. Perhaps your are a musician. You bring specific knowledge to your consulting that other musicians can use. This combination of skills give you many more options when choosing between jobs and can open up significant opportunities.

Whether you choose the entertainment or New Media consulting path through your career, I think you are positioning yourself well for the future. Mainstream entertainment is fragmenting under its own weight and high production costs, so I see New Media as a rising market while mainstream production is a diminishing one. There are simply fewer and fewer opportunities in mainstream production with each passing year, so careers there become more and more difficult. New Media provides the ability to combine your New Media expertise with your other talents and create your own unique career based on your own wants, needs and desires. This flexibility is one of the best features of developing a career using your New Media skills.

So, get out there and start building your New Media career today! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the opportunities that are available to you.

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