The idea of running away from corporate responsibilities, daily routines and social expectations seems extremely glamorous but the truth is, it’s not for everyone. Many people want to run away from the corporate word, but don’t know what they are running towards. While the grass may look greener on the other side (or the water may look bluer on the Instagram), self-employment takes ten times the work and hustle of a 9-5 and can bring on a magnitude of pressure that many will not be able to withstand. – Christian LeBlanc
Face the Current: Yes we can escape “the 9-5” and live our life by design! How and why you did, is it for everyone, and why might you recommend the ‘escape?’
Christian LeBlanc: “Escaping the 9-5” is a term that has become hugely popularized by the Instagram and YouTube community. In fact, “Escaped the 9-5” has literally been the first line of my Instagram bio for close to two years now. The idea of running away from corporate responsibilities, daily routines and social expectations seems extremely glamorous but the truth is, it’s not for everyone. Many people want to run away from the corporate word, but don’t know what they are running towards. While the grass may look greener on the other side (or the water may look bluer on the Instagram), self-employment takes ten times the work and hustle of a 9-5 and can bring on a magnitude of pressure that many will not be able to withstand. The moment you decide to call the shots and make yourself the captain of your ship, you are now solely responsible the success and failures of your business.
Odds are good that when you begin your business, you will have to be the jack-of-all-trades from marketing your brand, to developing your own product. Unlike before, you don’t get off work at 5, because you never get off. You will begin to feel a constant pressure to be working around the clock, and if you don’t, it’s probably because you aren’t fit for this. The people who make this work are not lucky, and that’s what’s so amazing about it all. Anyone can do this, but not everyone is willing to.
For me, escaping the 9-5 meant quitting my job at one of the top accounting firms, prematurely cancelling my apartment lease in downtown Vancouver, selling the few possessions I had to my name, and buying a one way ticket to Thailand with just $3,500 to my name (after having purchased my flight to Bangkok). I had a found a passion for making videos with my GoPro and had amassed a small following of roughly 2,500 Subscribers and 10,000 followers and I was committed to finding a way to make this passion into my income. In the early stages, the name of the game was keeping costs low and to try and break even with my modest YouTube Adsense income of $200 USD/month. I began knocking on hostel doors, asking if they would host me in exchange for coverage in my vlog that day. Sometimes it worked, other times I had to knock on ten other doors until I got a yes. While I could write a small novel about the beginnings of my channel, this is one of the prime examples to show what you need to be willing to do to keep your fragile business afloat. You need to be willing to make sacrifices, but if you truly believe in your vision and are passionate about your project, these sacrifices don’t feel so tough.
Behind every success story, is someone who believed in their vision and didn’t give up when things got tough or when the world told them to stop. Anyone can quit their 9-5, but only those who chase their visions whole-heartedly will make it.
Now why should you be willing to sacrifice your comfortable salary and weekends going out for drinks with your friends? Well, if I have to explain this to you, you probably aren’t a fit for this. If you know deep down inside, you are capable of so much more than you will ever be able to achieve at your current position and it gnaws at you daily emotionally, mentally, and physically, then you probably don’t have to be told why making this sacrifice is worth every little bit of discomfort.
Three years ago I was waking up to an alarm to get ready for a job I hated and every day was a count down to the next. For the first time in my life, I was depressed. At 22 years old, the world was not telling me to run off and follow my passions. In fact, the world told me the opposite, but going against the grain was the best decision of my life. The moment I quit, my depression disappeared, my anxieties ceased and although I had no idea where the next paycheck was going to come from, or how I would monetize this dream, I felt at peace and that I was where I was meant to be.
Today, I have been blessed by the outpouring of support from the travel community or “teamgetlost” as we call ourselves. 1.5 million strong and growing rapidly, a camera and a dream have taken me a hell of a long way. The greatest rewards of escaping the 9-5 are that my passions have given me greater financial opportunities than I could have ever had at my previous job. It has enabled me to see the world at a young age while work my own hours from a laptop. I have been able to share some of the finest travel experiences with tens of millions of travelers from around the world and have the most rewarding interactions when I meet these people. And one of my favorite perks is definitely working calling my own shots.
Behind every success story, is someone who believed in their vision and didn’t give up when things got tough or when the world told them to stop. Anyone can quit their 9-5, but only those who chase their visions whole-heartedly will make it. If you know that is you, then you can and will make it.
In the travel niche, being a literal explorer is more valuable than ever before. Instead of booking a trip to post photos of your Acai bowl in Bali, why not study Kung Fu in the mountains of China. Instead of being a “cool dude” doing back flips, why not show the side that makes you, you.
FtC: Yes we can do storytelling differently: How has social media and technology have opened up a whole new world of sharing our stories and creative expression to a global community?
Christian LeBlanc: The social media playing field is one that changes rapidly and it’s incredibly important to keep up. Vine went from thriving to dead in a matter of a year, Instagram went from being only photo based sharing to now being a YouTube/Snapchat hybrid, and Facebook went from being the place you share your photos to now being the place your aunt Debra occasionally sends you a request to join Farmville. Things change fast. By no means was I the first adopter of Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, but I have been on these platforms now for several years and it has been incredible to see the evolution. Right now, my favorite two mediums are YouTube and Instagram. YouTube has given me the ability to share long form content to tens of millions of people. This is the content that in my opinion, is the most meaningful. These videos can leave a lasting impression on someone through inspiration, entertainment and education. When someone clicks on a YouTube video, they are committing themselves to spend at-least a few minutes consuming that video and that is the massive advantage that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat do not have. YouTube viewers are highly engaged and this is the place where you can teach a new skill like how to edit a travel video or educate people on why they should not ride elephants. People are actually there to hear what you have to say and the connection you can build with this audience has potential to be greater than any other platform.
Instagram used to be a place for pretty photos and short captions. It was not an easy place to build a meaningful connection with your audience but today; Instagram Stories have changed that for the better. The same way YouTube allows people to connect with you, Instagram stories allow creators to share who they really are and this builds a much stronger connection than any photo can. Instagram has now become a place where you can educate, inspire and entertain through the power of video and that is why Instagram is my second favorite platform.
While both YouTube and Facebook provide video based content, there is one important distinction worth noting. Recently Instagram released IG TV, which seemed like a promising rival to YouTube when in reality, it was dead on arrival. Why is that? I didn’t have to look far into my IG TV analytics to figure it out. My average watch time on YouTube is around five and a half minutes. That means when a subscriber or a stranger falls on my video and clicks on it, on average, they will watch close to that average. On IG TV, my own Instagram followers were maybe watching five to ten percent of a fifteen-minute video (45 to 90 seconds!). That right there is the BIG difference. While they both allow us to share video, the Instagram community wants FAST entertainment. That is the reason they are still shockingly different from one another. What works on YouTube won’t necessarily work on Instagram and vice versa. It’s the reason big Instagrammers often fail to push over there audience to YouTube. It’s just a different style of content.
Whats the takeaway of this tangent? It’s that video is king. It is the best way to build loyalty and a community. But what works on one platform, won’t necessarily work on the other. I suggest finding out what kind of content you want to make, where that audience lives and picking one or two platforms to focus in on. It also never hurts to diversify beyond one platform because as you can see, there are a lot of Viners whose careers sank faster than the titanic.
FtC: Yes we can be explorers, even in this modern day where “everything has already been discovered.” Do you believe the definition of “explorer” has changed and do you consider yourself an ‘explorer?’
Christian LeBlanc: The thought that everything “has been discovered” or “it’s too late to get started” is often an excuse I hear people using when they are struggling to grow in their respective fields, especially in social media. The honest truth is, yes, it is harder to grow today because there is a higher saturation of content creators than ever before but it is never too late to succeed. We are all in some way or another competing for the time and attention of our audiences and it was much less competitive three years ago, but while this presents an additional challenge, it also rewards the explorers. Creativity, story telling and originality are always in high demand and anyone who can provide these things, can thrive on any given platform.
Because I make travel videos, it’s the niche I monitor the most closely. One of the common mistakes I see new Instagrammers and YouTubers making is they all travel to the same places and take the same photos. They edit the same way and they use the same unoriginal captions. Because their content is “cookie cutter” content, they are replaceable. If their Instagram account was removed from the face of the earth, there is a good chance most people would not even notice because they could find nearly the exact same content elsewhere. In the travel niche, being a literal explorer is more valuable than ever before. Instead of booking a trip to post photos of your Acai bowl in Bali, why not study Kung Fu in the mountains of China. Instead of being a “cool dude” doing backflips, why not show the side that makes you, you. Your flaws, your goofy side, or your well-spoken information rich nerdy side are all things that make you different from the next creator and make your channels irreplaceable. My YouTube channel focuses on Bali, which is a highly saturated market, but I make sure I give my content a unique twist. Recently I made a video showing people how they can travel this paradise with just $100. Instead of just showing off a villa and chasing a beautiful sunset, people received value and saw an untold story of Bali.
You don’t have to be the first person to unicycle through the Himalayas, but if you want to get ahead you have to be different. Find a way to break away from the crowd and tell your untold story.
Christian LeBlanc: youtube.com/lostleblanc
Where I call home: Bali, Indonesia