IFH 338: How to Pay Off Your Film School Student Debt FAST!

Share:

NEW 2021 PODCAST COVER 400x400

Top Apple Filmmaking Podcast

10+ Million Downloads

Right-click here to download the MP3

https://www.facebook.com/groups/distribber/Student debt is a serious problem in the world today. It has become the #1 form of debt in the world, surpassing credit cards. Film students have it pretty rough in general but when it comes to student debt it downright abusive. They come out of film school with $20K, $40K or even $100+K in student debt and unlike doctors they are entering an industry that doesn't pay large salaries right away. There is also no set path for them to get a high paying job.

Today's guest, filmmaker Hari Mitar Khalsa, figured out how to pay off $30,000 in student debt in 11 months working as a freelance videographer and editor. We go into a deep dive on his methods, habits and tips on how you can pay that student debt off fast. If you keep scrolling down you'll find a detailed article where Hari breaks everything he did down. It's a great companion piece to the podcast.

Enjoy my conversation with Hari Mitar Khalsa.

Alex Ferrari 1:58
Now guys, today on the show, we have a guest that has done something that many, many many, many filmmakers film students out there wish they could do pay off their student loans. Today's guest is Hari Mitar Khalsa now had he reached out to me and wanted me to publish an article that he had written about how he was able to pay off $30,000 in student loans in less than 11 months. And I told them, not only will I post the article, but you need to come on the show. And we need to talk about this because it is such a huge problem that isn't only a huge problem in the entire country in the entire world student debt is bigger than credit card debt at this point, but wanted to focus on filmmakers, because that's what we hear. We're in a filmmaking podcast. So I wanted to talk to you about how he did it, what steps he took to do it, how he did it so quickly. And the mindset and the habits and the techniques and skill sets that you need to do to not only pay off your student loans, but how you're able to build a business, how you're able to create revenue, fresh out of school, and how he was already starting to lay down the groundwork on how to be able to make money out of school. And by the way, he did not do this perfectly. He deferred his payments for over a year. And when he finally got had to like make payments, he sat down and did the math, and it was going to take them about 10 years to pay everything off. And he was gonna pay obscene amounts of interest. And it didn't make any sense to him. So he decided to take control of his future. And that's what this is. That's why this episode is so important. Every time you borrow money, you're basically robbing from your future self. That's what the whole industry is built on the banks and the credit cards and the loan the loan companies, they want you on the hook for as much as they can get you for and for and to keep you on that hook for as long as they can. Because every month that goes by, that you don't pay that student loan back. They're making dollars. And that's all they care about. They don't care about you. They don't care about your future, your family's future that if you ever pay it off, if it was up to them, you would be paying them a monthly, a monthly payment for the rest of your life. So it's your time right now as you're listening to this. It's time for you to take control of your financial future. And as soon as you take care of control of your financial future, you take control of your future. I know a lot of you out there have tried to produce or direct an independent film and try to sell finance it. But I hate to tell you that if you've got a 500 or $1,000 student loan payment, it's going to be real tough to save money to build out that micro budget, feature film that you've been dying to do, or even that short film, you've got to take control of your finances. And trust me, trust me, I'm a creative. I don't like dealing with numbers. I don't like dealing with accounting. But if you don't take control of this, it will eat you alive. Right? I'm telling you. So I really comes in and just drops nugget Golden Nugget after Golden Nugget after Golden Nugget on how he was able to do this in 11 months. Okay, and he's gonna teach you the entire blueprint on how he did it. So, without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Hari Mitar Khalsa. I like to welcome the show. Hari Mitar Khalsa. Man, thank you so much for coming on the show, brother.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 5:57
Thanks for having me, Alex, appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 5:59
Man. You are you you reached out to me about something that's so important. And something that nobody talks about ever. So you want to just you want me to publish an article that you wrote? And when I read the article, I was like, Well, no, no, no, no, you've you've got to come on the show, we need to have a conversation about this. And we're going to talk about the the just the dark secret that nobody wants to talk about in the film industry is film school student debt.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 6:30
Don't say don't say it, Alex

Alex Ferrari 6:32
Just is just horrendous. It is a it is a a rampid problem, not only in this business, but throughout, throughout the you know, higher education is ridiculous in the US and, and in these kids are coming out of college with basically mortgages, just full blown mortgages on top of their heads that they'll never pay off, they can never bankrupt them their way out of it, they can never get rid of it. It's basically an anchor around their neck for the rest of their lives. And in the film business. I would say that, if you have and I've spoken to these, these filmmakers who they like, Yeah, I got 120,000 in debt. And I'm like, dude, you're not gonna be able to make anything remotely close to being able to pay that off for probably about 15 years, you know, 10 to 15 years, because it's gonna take you about four or five years of hustling and grinding just to start trying to make a living, let alone paying $1,000 or $2,000 a month in student loans. So you, you have this amazing story, because you have paid off $30,000 in your film school loans within 11 months. I need to talk to you about this. So before we get into how you did it, your tips, your tricks, how all of this goes down. I have to ask you the most important question. Was film school worth it?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 8:01
Yeah, that's the question, huh? Yeah, that one a lot. Yeah. And for me, film school was worth it. And mainly, it was because of the experience on set with other students that I got, and the camaraderie and that working together on film sets. And those connections that I made with people like me, that was worth it. And also, I mean, it was the most fun I've ever had in my life, like four years of film school was just a blast. So in that way, it was worth it. But if I was paying off my student loans for 20 years, like asked me that 15 years into paying off my student loans, he like might be a different answer.

Alex Ferrari 8:47
Now, could you have gotten that experience without going to school? Could you have intern on those projects? Like if you would have just called up the directors of the students in the school and go, Hey, I want to work for free. Do you think they would have had a problem getting putting you on set?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 9:03
Now? Yeah, good point. Although, I think I think I might not have tried to do that, though. Being in the culture of film, school, if you're that type of personality that can take advantage of what it has to offer. Like you could do all those things, but like, would you and so being being like putting yourself into a program that has like expectations, and think probably might make it more likely, unless you're a very entrepreneurial minded type person, that's just gonna like, go for it and make their own opportunities like that to get on those student film sets, I think. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 9:45
No, yeah. Yeah, without question and also your student loan is on the lower side. I mean, 30 I mean, don't get me wrong. $30,000 a lot of money, but comparatively to 50,60,70,80

Hari Mitar Khalsa 9:57
I should be clear, like, it was more Money, but my parents took a chunk of it.

Alex Ferrari 10:02
Fair enough.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 10:03
So personally, I had 30 grand, and then my parents probably had an additional 30 grand.

Alex Ferrari 10:08
So it was okay, so I was gonna say, What school did you go to that only cost 30? Great, cuz my, when I graduated in the mid 90s, there was I think I walked out with like, 18 to 20,000 in debt for my whole for my whole degree. And at that price point, change, things have changed a bit since 95' 96', when I graduated or so. So what so your loan amount was 30,000? Right? That was your own personal loan that you had, that you were dealing with? How did you get started making money in the business? I mean, you're a fresh film school grad like, so what was the first process of just starting, like, I need to make some cash.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 10:45
So I started working in film school. I heard there is there's a nonprofit organization that is like a nonprofit media company, which is kind of unusual, but they Yeah, so they produce a lot of video content. And I got plugged in with them and started making videos for them. You know, just for like, minimum wage style. And, and so I did that. And then I just kept that client, after film school, and just kind of upped the amount of work that I was doing with them. So that's how I got started.

Alex Ferrari 11:22
And then see, because I did the same thing. I was hustling when I was in cutting film in college, and I was just like, Oh, yeah, I'm gonna work here. I'm gonna do that I'm working on set here. And I was paying, I would skip school, because I would have a gig. I'm assuming you might have done a couple of those yourself.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 11:38
Yeah, yeah. I think sometimes that would prioritize the cash for sure.

Alex Ferrari 11:43
I mean, any experience to like any kind of real world experience, it's nothing to laugh at. So then, when you get out of school, and you're sitting there with this mob, this mountain of $30,000 to have to pay back? What made you decide to tackle it with such vigor? Because, I mean, there's, I mean, how many film school grads are there every month coming out into the into the into the business, and most of them have 3050 $100,000. But they don't prioritize to get rid of that debt. They just like, oh, I'll just my favorite, I'll just pay the interest. I'll just pay the interest off for the next two, three years. So by the end of that, I mean, if you have a $30,000 loan, by the end of it, you're spending $60,000 if you're lucky. I mean, it's it's insane. So what made you different, what made you think differently about it?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 12:37
So I didn't at first, so like, I was not ashamed to admit it now. Like, I didn't know how much debt I was going into in film school. Like you graduate high school, when you're 18. Like, you're a baby, your brain isn't even developed at that point. You're just a baby. And it's, yeah, and, and then you're, you're expected to go to college, and you're just like, I'm gonna get into a good school. A lot of people best school I can get into and whatever it costs, it costs. Right? You're not thinking about the money at that point. So I dream, the dream.

Alex Ferrari 13:10
It's the sizzle, not the steak, baby.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 13:14
And, and so when I graduated, I was not thinking about my debt. I deferred my loans for a year. A lot of people do just defer it right. And it actually wasn't actually went into more debt. Right after I graduated college, I was like, Alright, I need to do more work. So I got to buy some equipment. So I got a $10,000 loan from a friend. And I nice friends, I was about I was about to say good friend, shout out to my friend. And yeah, he, he gave me that money. And it was like super low interest. And I bought a bunch of equipment. I bought like a $3,000 light kit, which I realize now I did not need that at all. That was a terrible purchase. And, and, and I did that. And then it was it wasn't until like three years later, that I realized that like, I did the math on how much interest I was going to have to pay on these student loans. And it was just, it was just absurd, how much more money I was gonna have to pay in interest. And at that same time, I got on to Dave Ramsey, this guy, he's a financial dude. And you started listening to Dave Ramsey podcast, and you started getting fired up and you start like learning a lot about why you should pay off your debt quickly, and how that's gonna like, make you be able to make much more money in the long term if you take care of those, that debt. And I just imagined, like, what freedom I would have if I didn't have high monthly bills to pay and how I might make different decisions. If I wasn't trying to make a high student loan payment,

Alex Ferrari 14:58
What was the student loan payment, just had curiosity.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 15:01
So I deferred up until then. And that was another thing, like I deferred up until I could. And then when I started realizing I was gonna have to start paying this thing. That's when I looked at I think it was like, it wasn't horrible, but it was like, somewhere between three and 500 a month.

Alex Ferrari 15:16
Alright, so let's say, three to 500 a month, how many years it would have taken you to pay it off.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 15:20
I think it was like over 10. Still, Jesus might actually, I feel like the math on that might be a little off, but it was too much.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
It was it was it was more than a few years. Let's just put it that way. Yeah, yeah. That's insane. So basically, it's like almost a 30 year mortgage. Almost something like that. So that's what made you get off the Get off your butt and say, You know what, I'm gonna, I'm gonna just I gotta, I gotta get rid of this. This is this is gonna kill me. And how old are you again? 26. So yeah, you're young dude. Man. So you shouldn't be walking around with $30,000 on your on your head, you know, for Yeah, for something that is, it's intangible. At this point. It's like education. Like, that's basically what you had. So hope

Hari Mitar Khalsa 16:07
It's education, but it's not like it's film education. So like, the dollar worth on a film degree is very low.

Alex Ferrari 16:16
Yeah, the ROI is, it's a bit rough. It's a bit rough on the ROI on the film. Because I mean, it look like I know a lot of people love film school. And I look I went to film school, I enjoyed my film school tremendously. I loved my friends, I love the cromar you know, going on sets and, and access, I got the gear and all that kind of stuff. But and I also got in at a very affordable rate. But if you would have told me that same education would have cost me 60 grand, it's just not good ROI. It's just doesn't make any sense. I would have rather taken a handful of workshops or educated myself online, with the basics and hustled everything else, you know, and learned it on the on the job. And that's kind of where before film school is, that's what was done. Like you just learned while you did it. So, but it the loan situation is it's insane, dude, it's insane. So first, how did you pay off your debt within a year? Man? What are your tips and tricks? What's the secret sauce, man?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 17:11
So I mean, it's, it's basic to understand, but difficult to implement. Right. And like Dave Ramsey talks about, he talks about financial habits are like 20% knowledge and 80% habit. It's like the habits that are the problem. And so you know, I mean, it's a basic equation is like, how much profit Can you make? How much money can you make? And how low can you get your expenses so that you can have the maximum amount of money per month to throw at your student loans. So that's what I started thinking about. And I set unrealistic goals for myself, that's like, an important thing for me is like, pick something you think you can achieve? And then like, pick something a step above that. And then also tell everyone that you know, you can't get away with not doing

Alex Ferrari 18:05
Social pressure. Oh, that's a good, that's a good motivator. Yeah. So what so what were some of the things you did? Like? What were those habits? What were those, like, specific habits that you did to kind of start breaking up because $30,000 is a lot of money to pay off within 11 months? So you must have done a few things like how was your overhead?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 18:25
Yeah, yeah. So I've always been like a pretty cheap liver, like I try to, like get, stay in a place where the rent is low, like comfortable enough. So you're not like living in squalor. Of course, like, no one should do that. But like, you know, not too high. And then, you know, cut your grocery budget, like try to try to like, spend as little as possible, while still getting the nutrition that you need, of course, on groceries, you know, limit how much you go out to movies, limit how much you spend on drinks, and entertainment, and just try to cut all of that down. And one of the most important things is just making a budget. So like, just make a budget about like, where you're going to put your money. So like this much money is going into rent, this much money is going into entertainment, and you have it in all those categories. And what I did at first is actually an envelope system. So you take out the money and cash at the beginning of month, and you separate that into envelopes categorized by your different expenses. And then you only spend cash on those things. So you don't have the debit card, as or the credit card as like a thing that you can then use to go over what you see you just limit yourself to the cash that's in that envelope.

Alex Ferrari 19:46
And so you kept you kept your so key. Step number one, keep the overhead as low as humanly possible. This is something I preach constantly, even when making a movie. You know, make a movie for 500,000 if you can make 100,000 Yeah, I mean Why would I do that to yourself? So you keep the overhead extremely low. What were your? So if you don't mind me asking what is what were your monthly expenses? And then how much was coming in versus how much you had to spend it? So it was give or take was like,

Hari Mitar Khalsa 20:19
yeah, it was probably, it was about two grand was my monthly expenses. Okay, that's good. That's Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 20:27
that's a studio apartment. And, and, you know, I'm assuming you have a car. I mean, not in LA like, No, no, no, no, no, no. Obviously not in LA. Yeah. 2000 movies barely enough for rent, I'm sure. You depends on what did you know, $2,000 is not gonna get you there. Well, that's the other. But that's the other thing too. Like, that's a very good point. If you live in a city like LA, or New York, or San Francisco, or one of these big cities, try to find a city outside the city that you can move to where all the expenses are dropped down, where if you have to commute to go in there, or just try to build something out even if it's for the short term, in that that city. So you can keep that overhead low, continue to make money. And because it's in, like you're so you have a $30,000 debt, you've got 20 $500, in rent alone, let alone food and all that other stuff. So your expenses will go off the roof. And that's a mistake a lot of filmmakers make right out of school. They're like, I gotta move to LA. I'm like, Dude, are you ready? Like it by the way, it took me. God took me like 20 years to move out to LA. Like I was forever to come out here because I was scared. But that's another question altogether. But I came out when I was ready, and it's very, very helpful. Alright, so yeah, so you're paying cash, which is because that's a tip that everyone listening should understand is, when you pay something cash, it hurts a lot more than it does when you just swipe that little card or you insert that little chip in my right.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 22:00
Yeah, yeah, it really does. I mean, it's like a real psychological thing that, like, you're actually giving something up, like you have money, and then it goes from your hand to their hand, and you've lost something. So there's like, but when you just swipe a card, you take that card, and you put it back in your wallet. So there isn't that psychological thing where you've actually spent that money and even worse is credit cards, right? Oh, debit card, it's coming from your bank, but if it's a credit card, then it's it's just fake money. You're playing with Monopoly money until you're not right. And And so yeah, so stop using the credit cards, like that's another thing I did that was like, biggest thing is just you got to stop accruing debt if you're gonna pay off debt.

Alex Ferrari 22:47
which is which is in a lot of people, you know, when they come out of school, they have no personal finance knowledge or education. So they and what's on on every college campus anywhere in the United States, that table where they're going to give you the free cooler, if you sign up for the credit card, or you get the free t shirt or the free something and they give in they give you it's 0% is miles bonus and you get zero it's zero financing Don't worry about it no interest for 12 months. And then after those 12 months, it turns into 24% it's just

Hari Mitar Khalsa 23:21
something like when I was in college I was like wait explain interest to me. I don't even know what the concept of interest you know, you don't know anything you know, baby,

Alex Ferrari 23:29
you know what sad man is that they teach all these things in school but they don't teach the things you really need to know. Like personal finance, like how to how to have relationships with people professional personal things like things that like real health, like you know, just basic health and eating concepts like you know what's what's a fat what's not if all these things they don't teach any of that, you know, that teach basket weaving? I don't know I don't I don't and let alone film school Jesus Christ. But so yeah, I'll tell you what I did when I was You're so far along farther along than I was when I was I was a mess at 2016 I had to almost go back I was I was about a year away from almost going bankrupt when I was 26. And I used to when I was 22. I got a credit card and I got like 10 $15,000 in credit live and I'm like I'm rolling. Does it just make it rain? It was like crazy. And I was living at home and oh it was it was just great. But by the time I got out of living at home, I had a crude like I can't even tell you I was probably when it when I was all set in Dallas probably over $100,000 in debt. easily with the credit cards and movie issues and paying for movies and paying for all this. I was easily 100,000 in debt. And what I used to do is I used to have and then I used to get more credit cards, I would just get credit card credit card credit card, I would have the credit cards pay each other. So I would take cash dances and pay the other credit card and I would just let them fight it up amongst themselves. It was horrible dude. And they send you those checks that you could just write down. Oh, for cash advances always. It's predatory man. It's honestly predatory. Would you agree?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 25:17
Yeah, I mean, the system is setting you up to fail. And I like, I don't blame anyone. I don't blame your 22 year old self for doing it. It's like, it's like anyone could fall into that. And everyone does fall into that and it's like no one's fault. It's the system is really just is predatory.

Alex Ferrari 25:35
Yeah, without question. It is built to make a slave of you. In what it's it's from student debt, it's for credit card debt, it's from card debt I'll ever any any kind of debt that is out there, it's there to build, they want you to be on the hook for as long as they can keep you on that hook. Making that money. That's why if you look at any city, most of the biggest buildings in the city, our backs, just, I mean, look at right now anyone listening to this, look around your town. And I promise you, nine out of 10 of the buildings that are in your town, the tallest ones are banks. There's a reason for that.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 26:19
Yeah. And they've gamified it with the credit score, right? They made it a game. It's like, How good are you at borrowing money from us? They give you a high score. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 26:30
yeah, high score for just more debt. It's like, Oh, dude, it's Don't even get me started. Alright, so alright, where do we leave off. So you keep your overheads really, really low. So you have around $2,000 worth of expenses every month, which is a fairly low expense rate. You know, considering and you live in you live in Arizona, right? Oh, no, no, I

Hari Mitar Khalsa 26:52
live in New Mexico now. But I actually lived in Boulder, Colorado at the time, which is not known for being super cheap. Yeah, but I like shared a room with my girlfriend, and we were also living with her sister. So hey, we got to do it. You gotta do what you got

Alex Ferrari 27:09
to do. And that's the thing, if you guys are going to anyone listening, if you're in debt, man, sometimes you're gonna have to do things you don't want to do. It's not about being comfortable. You were comfortable when you were spending the money, whether that be in film school, whether that be on credit cards, whatever it is, that's when you're comfortable. It's uncomfortable to pay things back.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 27:26
So you're gonna have to get a little bit of comfort. And it's not like if you do it fast. If you set like a goal, like two years, then at least you can tell yourself like it's not for long. It's just temporary.

Alex Ferrari 27:37
Exactly. And when you're young, you can eat ramen noodles every day. I can't Sure. I'm too old for that. Can't my body can't handle that stuff. But hopefully you wouldn't have to do that. I'm assuming. I'm assuming you were eating okay. And you know, you weren't starving?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 27:52
Oh, no. Yeah, I mean, I had like, Yeah, I would probably spend like $50 a week on groceries. But I'm also a vegetarian, so don't buy me. And that's actually can be cheaper, as long as you avoid Whole Foods. And you can actually, you can still like you can still buy organic. Yeah. And I'm not saying people should live unhealthy. I don't think that's good. So I like I'm a pretty healthy eater, and I ate pretty well on on $50 a week. I mean, that like, like lentils and making soups, making big pots. So just like make a giant pot of something. And then you just eat that throughout the week. And like, you know, and it's fine. It's like it's good gets boring for sure. But it's fine. Without without question. I

Alex Ferrari 28:43
mean, you're vegetarian, I'm a vegan. So I get you, you can eat really well, when you're vegetarian or vegan, because, you know, vegetables aren't as expensive as meats or other things like that. So I'm not saying that everybody needs to turn it to a vegetarian or vegan, but it does help. I'm just throwing it out there. Okay, so your overheads low. So that's step one. Step two, how are you generating income? And and what are some of the tips? Well, first of all, what did you do to generate income? Coming out of school? Yeah.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 29:14
Yeah. So I was working for that nonprofit, and just contract work. Like, you know, whatever. It was hourly rate, I probably was charging like 15 bucks an hour to start. And then Wow, that's rough. Yeah. Yeah. 15 bucks an hour. And I was probably working my part time. And, and then with them, I just created goodwill. I was like, I would really nurture them as a client and I would do more than I was asked and I would weigh in on a strategic level, like so I would. So they felt like I was actually interested in their success. And eventually I bumped my hourly rate from 15 220 and then I bumped it up from 20 to 25.

Alex Ferrari 30:05
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 30:16
And I would work with other clients as well during that time. And as my hourly rate went up with that one client, I would raise that hourly rate with all my clients. And the more I charged, not the less work I got, like it was it didn't really change how much work was coming in.

Alex Ferrari 30:36
And what were you doing? What were you doing exactly? Like? Were you a videographer editor?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 30:40
Yeah. So I would do it all. Yeah, I would, I would shoot the video. And then I would edit the video. And then I would publish the video. And I even started to learn some video marketing skills. So I could offer that to my clients, as well. So

Alex Ferrari 30:54
you were basically you were creating ads or commercials or just video content in

Hari Mitar Khalsa 30:58
general, primarily video content. So they were a nonprofit media company. So they would just create a ton of content that they that they publish online, for free. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 31:12
Okay. And then you were basically at once you're a one man band, so you had your own, you had your $3,000 lighting, get thank God, you had that. Solid investment solid. And then you had your career, your camera gear, your own editing system. And then you would just rent yourself out as a production company, basically. And you were also handling they're uploading to YouTube, Facebook, all these other places. But then you start adding more skills or more tools in that toolbox. Like, hey, maybe I should learn a little bit of this online marketing thing. Hey, maybe I should learn about Facebook ads? Hey, maybe I should learn about that. So tell us a little bit about more about that.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 31:50
Yeah, so I ended up deciding to take a six month online digital marketing course. And I invested 1000 bucks in that. And it's education's you can write that off your taxes, right? You're a freelancer? And yeah, so I did that course. And then I started offering, like marketing, kind of like not consulting, but just like to my existing clients, I would say, like, hey, look, now I do I know about this marketing side of things. Maybe I have a few ideas here. And that that was a big thing. It's like, the clients that you have, and you've nurtured those relationships with pitch them on stuff, I always would pitch my clients on video ideas. And I started to pitch them on marketing ideas of like, what type of stuff you can do. And I would always pitch video marketing, and it helps that it helps that video is like the way to market online, right. So that fit really well. And as I started to offer those things, it was like, it's not like I started to get paid a lot more for my marketing, consulting or whatever. I just started to get more video work from clients, because I knew that side of the business.

Alex Ferrari 33:12
And I gotta preach this constantly. As always keep adding those tools in the toolbox. And you'll always have to pivot and shift because the marketplace is always changing. So when I started, I started off as a an editor, then I turned into an editor, colorist, then from an editor, colorist to a VFX supervisor, then to a post supervisor. And then I handled the Oh, I could do TCP is now I can handle your deliverables for your films. I could also, you know, and I started packaging out larger, larger things. So because I was able to offer so many things at a one stop shop price. I would work all the time. So I'm assuming that's similar to what you were doing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's, that's excellent. So then all this money is coming in. So then basically any extra money that comes in, you're just putting it away. You just you're just paying that debt down.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 34:00
Yeah, I set a goal for myself of so to do it. And I actually set a goal for 10 months. So I failed. I did an 11. And a slacker. I said, I think it was a Yeah, so $3,000 a month would be $30,000 in 10 months. And so that's what I set the goal of, and I set that when that income was not a reality. Like that was not the reality. But like, it's amazing. When you set the goal, then like, you kind of attract that. I mean, it's energetic attraction, if you want to believe in that, but it's also just like, you're literally like, doing the work to reach that goal. So having a financial goal like that helped me to do more work to make more money.

Alex Ferrari 34:53
I think and that's something we could touch on really quickly is people when when you when you write down the goal Your subconscious starts to kick in. And it's like, oh, we're supposed to be making $5,000 a month. So we're gonna have to put X amount of more energy into this situation to be able to generate that goal. And it will reach the goal. If you would have set $10,000 a month, things will start happening to you. And as you start walking down that path, magically, I don't know how it happens. But magically, things just start to present themselves, opportunities start to present themselves that would have never presented themselves, if you would have said, I'm happy making two grand a month. Because if you basically you know, and if we want to get into the whole universe energetic thing, which I have no problem doing, because I completely, I've seen it, too. I'm too old. And I've seen too, I've seen too many things. So you put that energy out there. Things just start presenting themselves. And a perfect example of that is everything I do with indie film, hustle, I literally am like, I've built an entire company of multiple companies with a microphone, sitting in a spare room in my house, you know, that that's what is when you start putting things out there things do opportunities present themselves, clients show up, things like that happen. So it definitely seems like that happened to you. So everyone out there, write down the goal that you want, and see if you can get to it pretty quickly. How quickly did you get? Because I'm assuming you needed What $5,000? Give or take a month for you to be able to live? And that was the number. Yeah. So how quickly Did you get to that?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 36:29
I think the second month, I hit it. And I was really surprised that I did the second month. And it just like it was like it felt like luck. Like I think it probably was some luck. But I was I was just able to get another client that gave me a bunch of money to do had to do work. And

Alex Ferrari 36:52
yeah, so and then every month, it just gives you like, Oh, that was just that was just September, I'm not sure I'll be able to do that on October that October shows up like I did in October. And I did in November. And it just kind of kept growing and going.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 37:04
And like when I had this goal, I also like I realized the need for and I mean, I realized that earlier, but like consistent income is one of the hardest things for a freelancer is like how do you get consistent income,

Alex Ferrari 37:18
you know, to certain feast or famine situation? Because I've been a freelancer most of my life. So it's all like, I'm really fat. I'm skinny, I'm fat, I'm skinny. Yeah,

Hari Mitar Khalsa 37:27
yeah. And I've been in that desperate point where you're like, you don't know, if you're gonna make that month's rent, like, Yeah, I was there a couple years ago. And that was like, super scary. And it made me Never, it made me not want to be there. Again, it's like such a terrible feeling when you're desperate like that. And so I never wanted to be there again. So I started to prioritize clients that would pay me consistently. So even if it was, even if it was like, not as much money as I would hope to make, if I knew that I could turn that to consistent income, I would definitely pursue that harder. And I started to ask my clients to pay me more consistently, and it went like this. So hourly rates are the hardest, in my opinion, because you're like, you're working, you're working a lot, and you're getting paid hourly. And then when you and then when you want to. And then when you want to go back to the client to sell something else. For some reason, it's harder when you're doing it hourly, for some reason, like they're less bought in your more disposable, it's easier to disconnect, I think, when you're doing that hourly rate. So then you move it to project base, where you're you, you can sell projects, and that's a little more consistent, like a project could span could span two months. And so at least you have two months income, and then from there, I would bring it to the monthly retainer. And that's what really like was the game changer for me was if you can convince your client to give you a monthly retainer, then suddenly, you have that consistent income. And you can start to scale that by bringing on other monthly retainers of other clients. And you start to you start to get the dream situation, which is you're not bound by your time. So I started making more money and working less hours.

Alex Ferrari 39:28
Right? So you're, you know, it's like the whole Rich Dad Poor Dad thing, where the four quadrants, like you become you're not reliant on dollars for hours, you know, and that's the dream. It's like, well, you're sleeping, you're making money. And that's, you know, what rich people do with investments in real estate and other things like that. But we're doing it on a different scale, and it in a different way. But man, that's that I wish I would have thought of that back. You know when I was your age. That's a really great way of doing it because if you could get four or five clients who pay you 1000 bucks a month retainer while your nut is covered, and then some after you've paid off you, so you're good. And then you could do other projects and you could just and then that that can grow and grow. And then eventually, you could turn a business into like, Oh, I got 20 or 30 of those people, clients doing that for me. And then now,

Hari Mitar Khalsa 40:19
right and that's an easier way to scale to like if you have that monthly retainer, and you're not bound to hourly, then you can start hiring other people to jump in. And I think, I think though, for people listening, it's probably the thing is, like, a lot of clients are going to be resistant to the monthly retainer, and I had that for years. But that's why I think it's really important to nurture specific clients. So build relationships with clients and invest in those good clients. And there's this book called the pumpkin plan. It's by Mike mccalla wits, and it's all about this strategy of taking a building your pumpkin so it's like taking all the water that you have and putting it into one pumpkin so that that pumpkin can grow as big as possible. And and that that was super helpful for me. And it also helps you to focus your resources. So like if you have a client that needs a lot of interview style video, then you can invest it in the equipment that will help you serve that client needs like a teleprompter like about a teleprompter to help with doing those type of scripted they would do like scripted but interview style talking to the camera things and so when you serve that one client better than they refer you to other people like them, and people like them are going to be people that pay consistently that are good to work with and that are your ideal client anyways,

Alex Ferrari 41:57
that's that's man you're dropping some major gold here, man. I mean, it's I mean I everything you're telling me I know because and I'm still fascinated by someone your age doing it. But I know a lot of people listening have this is like their minds are exploding right now as you're listening to this episode and

Hari Mitar Khalsa 42:18
like this is not me. This is like the pumpkin plan. That's that whole thing. So I really say yes, Mike mccalla Wits pumpkin plan is

Alex Ferrari 42:25
right. But you know it. Yeah. I mean, a lot of things I talk about, it's because I've read a book or I've have interviewed a guest or something like that, that knows. As long as the information gets out there. That's what really matters. Now you've been right how long you've been running your freelance business.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 42:37
So yeah, if we don't count, like in film school, I was doing it. It's been. I graduated when I was 22. So four years, four years.

Alex Ferrari 42:46
Now, what are some tips you have on running? But I mean, other than the ones you just gave us on running a good freelance business, you know, like, you know, accounting?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 42:56
Yeah, so Okay, quick, that was my, that's like, my I hate, like, of course, you're good at like, keep, like, you know, like, I didn't go to film school because I loved math, right? No one does. And I like can't deal with that. But I like forced myself to like, learn the basics. And like, you learn the hard lessons when you like, Come tax season, and you're like, Oh, can I curse? Oh, shit. Yeah, I heard someone curse on your podcast. And someone like, you know, and so you have the tax season comes around and you owe like four grand because tax is a really unfair to freelancers, but that's a different conversation. You and and you all like four grand, and then the next year, you're like, Okay, maybe I should save, save a percentage of my income for taxes, basic stuff like that. And at this point, I've just hired an accountant, because freelance accountants that you can find aren't that expensive. And if you can just kind of give them some of that stress, and you don't have to deal with it, and they can set you up properly. That's like, super, it's been super worth it for me.

Alex Ferrari 44:09
Yeah, without question. I think we're I mean, we're creatives. So accounting is generally not our forte. So if you can hire people that can help you with this. And it isn't an expensive thing. It's not that expensive at all. But if you can put that stress on them, let them do what they do. That's a good ROI, and an roty good return on time and return on investment to let someone else handle that where you could be focusing, if you spent five hours working on your taxes or an accounting. Would those five hours made more sense if you would have been working for those five hours or nurturing a new client or doing something like where's the ROI? Alrighty, does that make sense?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 44:48
Yeah, the hours for sure. And then also just like the amount of money you're gonna have to pay cuz you get screwed because you don't do anything right. Definitely worth this hundreds of dollars that you'll pay In a counter.

Alex Ferrari 45:01
Now, are there some other basic personal finance tips for filmmakers that you have?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 45:08
I think in terms of filmmaking, I think in film school, you learn to do everything. high budget, because you have a grip house, and you have like access to everything. And so you end up like filling up a truck with like, you know, 1000s of pounds of equipment to go shoot your short film, right. And so, when, when you leave film school, there's, and this is why I bought a $3,000 light kit, you think that you're going to need all that equipment to do projects, and the reality is, you can do so much with so much less. And that goes back to just reducing your overhead. And you can do so much by yourself. Like, you can do so much just you as a one man crew these days that you should you should do that whenever possible. That's without without question.

Alex Ferrari 46:03
Now, do you also, I mean, this goes a little bit deeper into the personal finance, do you have investments? Do you do investments? Are you doing any sort of investments like stocks, bonds, you know, gold Boolean Bitcoin?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 46:19
gold bars under my bed now? I'm not doing any investing. I really like follow the Dave Ramsey plan. Okay. He says like, first of all, pay off all your debt, and then save up an emergency fund of three to six months worth of your personal expenses for your business expenses. And then you can start investing and doing stuff like that. So we're you're you're still in that second phase right now. Yeah, so I'm now I'm just like piling up money in the savings account to you know, if if income if like, client work goes down, then I'll have something to fall back

Alex Ferrari 46:58
on a war chest, a war chest, if you will, which is really good advice. build up that war chest, I usually I always tell people to do six to 12 months not even I'm like, I'm even more conservative. I get as much in there. You're hardcore man. Yeah, well, cuz you see, I've, I've got more shrapnel than you do, sir. I've got a lot more shrapnel than you do. So that's without question, man, you are an inspiration. And I hope a lot of people listening it spa are inspired to start paying off that debt because you can't be a creative, you can't be a filmmaker making their own projects. If you got up, you know, if you're spending $500 on a debt, or basically just interest on a debt, you're never going to be able to sell finance a project yourself. It's just too much stress. And that's when there's in the film industry is enough stress, would you agree, like just doing what we do is enough, stressful enough, let alone trying to also handle a mortgage payments on top of your head for something that you don't even own anymore? Something ethereal, like education. It's, it's, it's very, it's one of the reasons why I want to join the show, man, you're an inspiration for hopefully the younger generation. And also, man, I've met a lot of older dudes and just our complete messes. So hopefully, they get their act in shape. And you are you really are film intrapreneur man you are taking, you're building a business, you're creating revenue streams, I'm sure you have multiple plans and other things that you're going to be doing to create other revenue streams to really just sleep at night and just have the money roll in. Like they said, they do. That's That's the dream, and then to do your own projects and do things that you want to do. And I hope everyone listening really takes that to heart, man. So I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests and I'm going to it because I'm going to do a little combination of both film entrepreneur questions and indie film hustle questions. What advice would you give a film entrepreneur starting a project? On a financial standpoint, since Yeah,

Hari Mitar Khalsa 49:08
I would say figure out how you can save the most money while keeping quality and paying everyone involved. It's really important to pay everyone involved in my opinion, because it creates goodwill. And it's really important that you maintain high quality because that's we don't want to be the budget option filmmaker. Like you don't want to be the budget option filmmaker, you want to produce really good quality stuff. But you know, prioritize it and I think people in your audience probably hear this a lot that like what gets seen on screen and what doesn't.

Alex Ferrari 49:43
What's what's in that little rectangle? You know, what's that, put it all on the screen. You may you made a very good point there and something that also a lot of filmmakers fall into this this pit and I lived in this pit for a long time. Being the cheapest guy in town and the cheapest guy in town. works a lot, because I was like, I would underbid anybody for an edit job a color job back in the day I'm talking about 10 years ago, I would do anything. And that's probably one of the reasons why my IMDb is ridiculous. It has like 100 credits on it, because I did anything that walked in the door. And I would work with almost any budget. But by doing that, you kill yourself, you burn yourself out. And you're also working with clients that are probably not at the highest end, let's just put it roughly. So as a filmmaker, and as a production company or freelancer, you don't want to be the cheapest guy in the room. Because you know, and tell people why you shouldn't be the budget filmmaker.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 50:40
Well, you want to work with people that aren't looking to produce crap. Like you want to work with people that have the same idea of producing quality products or you know, content, as you do. And if you went to film school, or you're in this business, like, you're not, you're not just trying to make money, that's for sure.

Alex Ferrari 51:03
We're not here for the money, guys.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 51:05
Yeah, right. You want to make quality stuff. And by being cheap, you attract clients that don't value your work. And by being more expensive, you'll attract those better clients,

Alex Ferrari 51:18
for good or good. So I always like I always say you don't want to be the cheapest, but you also don't want to be the most expensive, you want to sit there right in the middle somewhere. And that's a nice, nice place to live. Now, what is the biggest lesson you've learned from building your company building your your freelance business?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 51:40
I think it's it's that you shouldn't you should think of your freelance business as a business. And I know that probably sounds pretty basic, but I think you got to look at it as a business and separate kind of your passion side of things, and still pursue your passion. But don't. Don't like not do client work that pays really well for a good client, just because you get bored, you get bored with the work. And you're like, Oh, that's not why I went to film school and to like, you know, edit this boring interview, right? I think but you can think of it as a business and you're really just trying to make yourself money so that you can have freedom to spend more time on creative stuff, then I think that's a that's a better way to look at it.

Alex Ferrari 52:32
Without without question, man, just me, I edited things I wish I'd had and, but you know, the dollars $1, you know, and if that's not what you want to do, then you got to figure out a way to get the clients and the projects that you want to do. But until then treat it like a business without question. Now, what is the biggest? What did you learn from your biggest business failure? Have you had any business failures?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 52:54
Oh, for sure. Yeah. Let's see. Oh, yeah. Well, I made the classic mistake of not backing up footage from a client. And it's really just like, asshole cat that I had just like, took a swipe at my hard drive, and broken it. And I hadn't backed it up. And I lost like a week worth of one of my good clients work.

Alex Ferrari 53:27
Oh, that's not a good conversation to have. That phone call must have sucked.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 53:34
Like there's hardly anything worse that is shitty.

Alex Ferrari 53:39
So back everything up is basically what you're saying. Got it back everything up. Now, can you tell me? What is the lesson that has taken you the longest to learn, whether in the film business or in life?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 53:55
Just back to accounting, like doing doing the numbers and like, making sure you save for taxes? Like taxes is just such a big deal. And it took me so long to like, figure that out.

Alex Ferrari 54:10
Yeah, right. Okay. And then what was the biggest fear you had to overcome? to just do this to like to be a filmmaker to be you know, to run a freelance business was that there had been something that you just had to overcome to do that, because there's a lot of people who talk about doing what you're doing. And I'm sure you even went to probably went to school with some of them who aren't doing it. So what did you have to overcome to get to this place?

Hari Mitar Khalsa 54:35
I think you got to believe that you are young, and you are working towards something. And if you're not doing that right now, it doesn't mean that you should just stop and do something else entirely. Keep doing the video work that pays well. And keep investing in that so that you can and know that you You're working towards something. Man,

Alex Ferrari 55:03
I was an editor for six, seven years before I started directing. And it was in directing was always the key. It was always the key, when in a time where it wasn't as easy to direct as it is now. Like, there was no technology to just kind of go out there do it cheap. So you got to look at the long game without question. And three of your favorite films of all time, sir.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 55:23
Oh, yeah. I was actually I like, I meant to think about this question before I came on, because I know you always ask and I was like, that is the toughest. Okay, my pretentious choice is a Amadeus love movie. I also love it inception. I like inception. And my third one is American Beauty. I was forced to watch that movie like six times in film school in a row, I teach you how to do that. And instead of hating it, I like really learn to love that movie.

Alex Ferrari 55:59
And you either have one or two choices and if you sit down to watch it six times. Excellent, man. Listen, man, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate you being so honest and forthcoming about your your journey to battle, the demon, the nether beast of film, school student debt, and I really hope you inspire some people out there. That is my hope for this episode that you inspire other people out there to, to get rid of that debt man so they can go on and live their life and follow that dream. So thank you again, brother, so much for being on the show.

Hari Mitar Khalsa 56:35
Thanks for having me, Alex, really appreciate it.

Alex Ferrari 56:38
I really hope that you take everything that Habib and I said in this episode to heart, I hope you're inspired now to take control of your finances to take control of that debt, that student debt or any credit card debt, whatever that debt is, and to start paying it off right now. And I know a lot of you out there saying Alex, I don't have a job, I can barely need to do what I'm doing right now. Listen, guys, I understand that. But you know, who doesn't care the banks life, they don't care I was there, I was literally three days away from signing bankruptcy paperwork until I got a call and got a job one freelance job. And that one freelance job left to another freelance job where I got another one, and another one until I was finally able to get out of it. If you really are trying to do it, the universe will help you figure out how to do it. But you've got to make the effort, drop your overhead, drop your monthly expenses move in with your parents, if you have to move in with a roommate or two or three roommates be uncomfortable, you're going to have to get uncomfortable. To get out of this. You were very, like I said earlier, you were very comfortable spending the money, whether that was on education, or that was on many other things that are credit cards that we weren't supposed to like I did when I was younger, but you have to get uncomfortable. And that place is where you need to be to be able to start paying this stuff off very, very quickly, and get it done as quickly as possible. And by the way, guys, it's not forever, it might be a year, maybe two years, you're not gonna have to live like this for the rest of your life. But you have to tighten that belt and get out of this debt. It is a it is an albatross around your neck, it is a chain with with just the weights around your neck. And it's not going to let you go anywhere, not only in this business, but in life, it's going to be really difficult for you to get out of this. So every effort, every piece of energy that you have in you should be focused on getting rid of this debt, your student loan debt. And if you got massive credit card bills, those two, this should be your focus. The longer you wait to get this under control, the bigger this dragon will become. Trust me I was in over like I said in the episode, over $100,000 in debt and almost went bankrupt. Because of my lack of knowledge in this space. It's not brain surgery. Like he says and Dave Ramsey says it's 20% education and 80% habits. So you've got to build out some new habits. And there's plenty of education out there. I'll put links to a few courses, a few books that I recommend that can help you on your journey. And you can go to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/338. And if you haven't already, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave a good review for the show. subscribe and leave a good review. It really helps us out a lot. It's not hard. Just go on your app on your smartphone on your iPhone and your Samsung whatever it is. Whatever app you're listening to indie film hustle on, please just subscribe there and leave a good review. It helps the show out a lot again really do hope you guys take this episode to heart. I wanted to get this out there as soon as possible. And if you want, go to the show notes where you will be able to read the entire article that he was able to write and breaks down everything he did to be able to pay off his $30,000 student loan in 11 months. So thanks again for listening guys. As always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and pay down your debt. Please. I'll talk to you soon.

LINKS

SPONSORS

  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
  3. Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)

Share:

FEATURED EPISODES

Where Hollywood Comes to Talk

Oliver Stone

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)

Edward Burns

Writer/Director/Actor
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)

Richard Linklater

Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - BILLY CRYSTAL

Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)

JOE CARNAHAN

Writer/Director
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - ALBERT HUGHES
Eric Roth

Writer/Director
(Menace II Society, Book of Eli)

Oscar® Winning Screenwriter/Producer
(Forrest Gump, Dune)

HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - EDWARD ZWICK
HIGHLIGHT GUESTS SML - DAVID CHASE

Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Last Samurai, Blood Diamond)

Emmy® Winning Writer and Showrunner
(The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark)