Former reporter leaves local news to share the stories you don’t see on TV

Credit: Beyond Words Productions

By Christina Lorey
November 7, 2023

I could tell Jamie Perez was special the moment she walked into the WISC’s newsroom. It wasn’t her size (less than 5 feet) or the way she dressed (cute, yet comfy.) It wasn’t her long list of solid story pitches, or her ability to shoot, write, edit, and report every story entirely on her own. It was her unshakable confidence.

Perez is the kind of person you want to be, but she’s more interested in learning about you. She listens. She asks questions. She cares. And she also isn’t afraid to leave a work environment that’s no longer working for her.

After nearly a decade in local news, Perez left to start her own videography business, Beyond Words Productions. Her goal? Help nonprofits raise money, businesses increase their visibility, and organizations hire staff in a stubborn economy through heartfelt, emotional storytelling.

“If a picture says a thousand words, my videos will leave you ‘Beyond Words,’” Perez says.

And it’s working. In just two years, Perez has helped more than 100 businesses and nonprofits raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. We caught up with her to learn more about her business and her best advice for anyone considering a career change or self-employment.

UpNorthNews: How do you explain to people what you do?

Jamie Perez: I’m a videographer and the owner of Beyond Words Productions. While a lot of videographers focus on creating videos sharing products, services, or standard information, I focus on sharing the “why” in every story. Tugging at the heartstrings and making people care.

Do you remember the moment you decided to start your own company?
It was October 2021. I was without a job and didn’t like the idea of working for someone else anymore. My partner told me I didn’t need to find a job that I loved, but that I could create exactly what I wanted to do and work for myself. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I started my own LLC, thinking it could just be good part-time work until I found something full-time and stable. Little did I know the full-time work ended up being that business!

From idea to establishment—how long did it take to get Beyond Words up and running?
It only took about a week from the time the idea came into my head to actually establishing the LLC with the state. It took about eight months of networking my butt off to really get the business going and start seeing a profit. It took a couple of months for me to gather all the equipment and gear I needed to do basic, standard videos for people. But now that I’m two years in, I’ve collected quite the repertoire of equipment, so my production standards are of higher quality, I have backups in case technology fails on me, and things to make my job easier as a single-person operation.

What’s been the best part?
First, working for myself. I love being my own boss. I feel so time-rich and free. I still have more work to do to get where I really want to be, but now that I’m on my own, I think I’d have a difficult time working for someone else ever again. Second, getting to share heartfelt stories that make people feel something. I love seeing my clients’ faces when they get a video they didn’t know could bring out so much emotion in their business.

What’s been the hardest part?
There are several parts I find particularly difficult. Running a business by yourself can get very lonely. I work from home, don’t have any co-workers, and many people in the networking scene are older than me and come from very different backgrounds.

Another thing I’ve found difficult is not knowing when my next paycheck is coming. Since I don’t have an annual guaranteed salary, I get paid when my clients and I wrap up a project, not bi-weekly like most people.

Finally, it’s a challenge convincing businesses that storytelling is the new way to market yourself. I tend to attract a lot of nonprofits because the core of what they’re doing is heartfelt, impactful, and emotional. And I love the stories we do together. But I’m trying to lead more workshops for businesses to show them that EVERYONE has a story to tell, and it’s when you’re able to connect with people’s emotions that you can really improve sales.

What would you say to people who are thinking about working for themselves but don’t know where to start?
I never planned on this being my life. I never anticipated starting my own business. But now that I’m here, I don’t know if I can ever go back. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of failure, a lot of rejection, and a lot of long days and long periods of loneliness. But once you’ve climbed that mountain, it makes it all worth it.

What’s your best advice for where and how to begin?
Start with networking. That is seriously so important. It’s everything. Count on yourself and believe in your goals. You have to find ways to encourage yourself when no one is around.

You can start a business doing ANYTHING. You don’t have to have a ton of money, you don’t have to have all the equipment, space, etc. Just start with a determined mindset, network every day, and be set on the fact that you are going to make this happen, no matter what.

Learn more about Jamie, her business, and her video services at beyondwordsproductions.com.

Author

  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.

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