Los Angeles is an amazing place to live, and I’ve loved my time here since the moment I drove down from San Francisco. I’ve previously written about whether or not you should move to Los Angeles. If you’ve decided to take the plunge, here is a list of things I’d recommend doing before coming on down. Some of these items are things I did try to do but could have done better. And a few of them, I hadn’t even thought of. Consider them an addendum to your current to do list.
And while I’m making the safe bet that you don’t own a million shares of Facebook stock and that your dad isn’t Jeffrey Katzenberg, the spirit of this list applies to whatever stage you’re at in your career assuming you want to work on bigger, more interesting and more challenging projects because ultimately it’s not about the level you’re on, it’s about the one you want to get to.
Hope it helps.
- Save money
It’s all relative, but LA is getting more and more popular and thus more and more expensive across the board. More savings equals more flexibility equals more opportunities.
- Make friends with people who also want to come here
This is in addition to the friends you already may have in LA. For example, if you’re in film school and have classmates who want to move here, get to know them and agree to be resources for one another. It’s a two-way street. You don’t have to be best friends, but it’s an investment in your network. And you’re only as strong as your network.
- Create a body of work and a track record of some kind
A resume is great and necessary, but have some stuff that the people you want to impress can see right away. Everyone is moved by good work, even more so if they can see it immediately rather than simply read about it. We all want everything now.
If you’re just getting started, your track record doesn’t have to be super fancy. Just make sure it’s clear, organized, professional and shows that you can take care of business.
- Know what you want to do next
Whether it’s a screenplay or a YouTube series or a VR game, knowing what you’re moving to LA to do will give you direction. It may sound simple, it may sound obvious, but we all know how distracted people can get. If you have interests in a lot of things, welcome to the club! So does everyone else here. However, your competitive advantage is that you know what you want to do most, can map out the steps to get there and execute those steps.
- Know what you’re willing to do next
It may take some time to get momentum going, so know what kind of work you’d want to do in the meantime to pay bills and meet more likeminded folks. Ideally it’s something related to your goal, but if you have another skill that makes crazy money and leaves you with enough free time to pursue your real objective, then that’s an excellent option too.
- Know how you’ll react to rejection and how you’ll adjust when things eventually don’t go your way
It will happen. And it will suck. What will you do about it? How will you forward beyond it? Everyone deals with rejection/failure/defeat differently. Figure out a mental model to get past it as fast as possible because getting mired in disappointment and self-doubt, while completely normal and understandable, will only slow you down. I’m not saying become habitually delusional, but do train yourself to deal with it healthily and move on. We all have wins, but we have quite a number of losses too. The better you can deal, the better it is not only for your career, but also for your soul and mental health.
Know who or at least what kind of folks you want to meet
When I moved here, I met a girl in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts who would say she’s not in graduate school to make friends. I was like, “damn, that is one mean girl.” But in reality she was way ahead of the game. She of course had a group of close friends, but she emphasizing she was in the MFA program to get things done, which makes sense considering the cost. I hear her attitude has paid off and she’s doing well in her career.
Return on investment (ROI) on meetings and events are critical. Know when things are worth the time and know when they’re really not. Sometimes when you’re really ambitious you think going to every mixer and every networking event will help you get closer to your goals. But the reality is some meetups are pointless, some happy hours are veiled attempts for guys to meet women, some networking events are trying to make a buck off of you. Learn what to avoid. Who you want to meet can change over time, but just remember time is your most valuable resource. It’s not cliché. It’s real. It’s your realest commodity until the day you die. Use it wisely.
(One caveat: sometimes going out to get lit has its own ROI.)
- Know the LA neighborhoods
It’s usually kind of a pain to find a place to live when you first get here, so knowing where to look will help. Trust me. It’s not simply about knowing the hip or cool neighborhoods. It’s also about knowing where the work is, how to get there and how long it will take. Los Angeles traffic is no joke, and it has gotten even worse. If you’re going to jump into a crowded pool cloudy with chlorine, it’s better if you’re wearing goggles. You’ll save yourself some time trying to decipher this beautiful but sprawling town.
This is all about building up your personal capital as much as possible. Though I look back fondly upon my more impulsive moves in life, if I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self these eight things and force him to prepare even more than I did. There are always unforeseen speedbumps, and if I’d known some of these then, I probably could have rolled right over them.
Your talent may be great, but setting up your competitive advantages and focusing are what will break through the noise.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten or given about moving to Los Angeles?