Olivier had the opportunity to meet Ludovic recently, who has had an extraordinary career and leads a great lifestyle. Here is his interview, in podcast and written form.
Interview: Ludovic, 22 years old, self-taught, 4 months of work per year
Olivier: Hello and welcome, thank you for coming, are you well?
Ludovic: I’m fine, and you?
Olivier: Very well, thank you. Can you quickly introduce yourself to our listeners, tell us who you are, what you do, etc.
Ludovic: I’m Ludovic, I’m 22 years old. I work in film and the TV advertising industry, mainly in special effects. I supervise the special effects on the shoots. I’ve been involved in this since I was 18. I love my job, it’s my passion; I love girls and I like to travel.
Olivier: (laughs) So you say you started at 18, which means you left school early to start your career.
Ludovic: Quite honestly I didn’t really have an education. I just completed my school exams and that was it. I’m not someone who really likes to study, I prefer to learn on my own.
Olivier: Okay, can you explain your journey a little bit, because it strikes me that it has been quite an adventure. You’re 22, right?
Ludovic: That’s right.
Olivier: You’re a well-known figure in your profession, I believe.
Olivier: And if I understood correctly, when we met, you told me you are on holiday for 8 months of the year.
Ludovic: To clarify the term holiday, another way to put it is that I don’t work for about 8 months of the year. I work for about 4 months a year.
Olivier: So, when you say 4 months of the year, in other words, you don’t have to work 8 months of the year to survive. The four months you’ve worked are enough.
Olivier: And you have no degree apart from your baccalaureat.
Ludovic: And I don’t have a degree apart from the baccalaureat, which I only took to keep my family happy. I passed it for their sake.
Olivier: So it’s definitely been quite an adventurous journey. Can you explain to us how it all started, where this passion for graphic design and special effects came from and where you got this idea and urge to finish school and go off to start up your own business?
Ludovic: Actually, it was quite simple, I found a passion from an early age, I was thirteen years old. It was a passion for cinema and I got my first camera, that’s how it started. Initially I was fascinated by magic. For a while, it was just cinema and then just magic, I felt there was more to it, I wanted to put them both together. So that I could use them both for my future career, I decided to try special effects, which are like the cinema’s magic tricks.
I wasn’t from a financially well-off background so I got some part-time jobs when I was about 15 years old to pay for my first computer. Before that I didn’t have one. And it was definitely my first useful investment. Every night I learnt all about 3D, special effects, websites and things that I could teach myself. It meant that I went to bed at 4am and got up very early the next morning to do homework and then go to school. That’s kind of how it started. When I was 17, I created my first website, on which I was able to present my designs, etc…
Ludovic: Straight away people approached me to do some work but I had to turn it down because I was in the sixth form at the time, so I had to take my baccalaureat. As soon as I passed, I accepted job offers for work in the special effects field; and that’s how I became involved at the age of 18.
Olivier: That’s really interesting, when you were 15 you started the process, and thought, “Okay, that’s what I want to do. I don’t have a computer, so I will find a job so that I can buy one. Is that what happened?
Olivier: It’s impressive, for a 15 year old kid, there aren’t many people who take such a proactive approach and say to themselves, “this is my goal, these are the obstacles, these are the limitations, I have to take steps to overcome them.”
Ludovic: It’s determination. That’s what I often talk about, determination, passion. It’s really what drives all this. It’s something I think a lot of people lack. But, it is really what sets us in motion in our lives when we have goals, passions. When you have no goal, no objective, you can’t achieve anything. I really believe that. And because of this, I was able to move forward, as I discovered a passion at an early age and gave myself the best possible chance to make it work.
Olivier: Yes, and at the same time that you were at school to take your exams, you had to learn the other stuff on your own. This is a difficult job sector to get into. I think people have to complete 4 years of studies to do so, no?
Ludovic: Yes, that’s right. Let’s just say that the fact I was self-taught happened for a few reasons. The traditional course normally takes 3-5 years to complete. The courses are expensive, around 7,000 euros a year. Back then, I didn’t have enough money and I didn’t want to start life with any debts. Also, I find schools are far too conceited in relation to the education they provide and how much they charge for it. So my success was really down to 3 things: determination, passion and expertise.
I have to point out that when you mentioned the fact that I went to high school and taught myself at night, you still have to have the strength to not be dragged down by what’s around you, in the negativity of apathetic people. That would have been easy to do. It made me really stubborn and caused me to be really determined. The passion was already there, I just had to focus on my field of expertise. So I concentrated on one area, special effects, but I won’t go into details because that is not the object of this interview.
I often work with graduates. I generally notice the same things whenever I meet people who have just left school or are trainees: they are people who look for help. In other words, as soon as they have a problem, they resort to methods taught to them by their teachers. The big difference with self-taught people is that they know how to solve it themselves.
If you teach yourself, the advantage is that you can learn at your own speed, you can eliminate the unnecessary bits that you usually learn in schools and just focus on the important aspects.
Olivier: And which are directly applicable.
Ludovic: Yes, that’s it. Focus on the essentials. Don’t totally immerse yourself in them but spend the majority of your time on them.
Olivier: So, you not only had this passion and determination, but also the required discipline. Where did it come from, you didn’t learn it from TV?
Ludovic: No chance, television wasn’t even a thought, let’s just say that the only time I watched a screen other than that of my computer was when I went to the cinema to watch the special effects and appreciate the work of the real experts who I wanted to work with in the future. Even though I buried my head in order to concentrate on what was important, I still kept a social life and saw my friends.
Olivier: I wanted to ask you about that.
Ludovic: Sure, it wasn’t as often as some others who met for drinks and cigarettes in the evenings, who weren’t too concerned for their future prospects. Unlike them, I had ideas for what I wanted to do, I gave up some of my social life to try to achieve this, which wasn’t all that easy, but in the end, it paid off. Now I can see what it has achieved, I’m happy about it.
Olivier: I would think so. Do you think that all self-taught people have this passion for something, this willingness to learn and this determination that you have?
Ludovic: I would say yes, most self-taught people do, because determination is needed if you say to yourself, I will teach myself, without the need of someone to tell you “it’s good, it’s not good, do it like this, do it like that”. When you are self-taught, there’s only one way to learn, which is from your mistakes. When you are able to admit your mistakes, put your ego aside and accept that you have made a mistake and learn from it, it’s a lot to demand of yourself. And I would say yes, many self-taught people have that mentality.
That’s why I think there are more self-taught people who succeed in a specialised field than those who come from an educational background.
Olivier: You already said that when you were 18 you had job offers via your website. Can you tell us a little bit more about what happened after that?
Ludovic: Let’s say that when I was 17 I received about ten job offers, which I turned down.
Olivier: About ten? So your site had lots of hits, it was a very successful site.
Ludovic: It was fairly well frequented because I created images that were pretty specialised at the time, which were in tune with the times. The images were manipulated with some of the most popular effects used in that time. I was trendy, I created work that suited the mood of the time and that was in demand. The great thing is that when I did my site, it didn’t mention my age. People had no idea if I was 13 or 35. So people only saw the work I did, and that was really beneficial because if I showed up with my young kid’s face to show my work, even if it was beautiful, people wouldn’t have paid much attention.
People would have thought, “Well, he’s 17 years old, he’s learning things by himself in his room, his work is very good, but he has no background and no experience”. Whereas there, it was just my work that could be seen, purely what I did and it caused a big stir at the time. Unfortunately my site is no longer online, because I didn’t want any more offers of work and wanted to make the most of my free time. But because the film industry is quite small, if you turn work down, it doesn’t make you very popular. Now, I really only work through word of mouth.
Olivier: Did you start as an employee? How did it go at the start?
Ludovic: No, I was never an employee, I was a performance part-timer from the start. To be a performance part-timer in the entertainment world is a peculiar thing, as you need to work a specific amount of hours so that you can receive an allowance when you don’t work. Bear in mind, when you’re not at work or are on holiday, it’s good to get away from it all. When I work, I get paid, when I don’t work, I receive allowances and when I’m on holiday, I don’t earn a penny. It’s like entrepreneurship, in order to earn money I have to do something. It’s very precarious.
But it gives me a lot of freedom to do what I want, when I want. That’s how I view it: my time is my most precious resource. I never wanted to be a lackey for a rubbish boss in an office with 5 weeks of leave a year. I could never have dealt with that kind of situation.
Olivier: This is where it’s obvious that you are an entrepreneur as many entrepreneurs aren’t at all keen on the notion of a monthly salary in the role – which you described very well – of the office lackey. Well, it’s probably a bit of a caricature, but the idea is to create your own life, your own freedom through your work, with your talent. To get back to the subject of a part-time job in the entertainment world, I think that this could be of interest to our listeners, as from a legal stand-point it’s structured like a company? How does it actually work? What are the requirements to work as a performance part-timer in the entertainment business?
Ludovic: Firstly you have to work in the entertainment industry. It could be in the audiovisual field, or in the theatre, as an actor or special effects. It also encompasses musicians, singers and performers. All areas involved with entertainment, events, cinema, audiovisual, advertising but not to be mixed up with that of PR and marketing agencies, but understand that these don’t form part of performance part-timing in the entertainment world.
There are two types of categories, either freelance or part-time. Well, both are equal because if you’re a freelancer you get paid gross, you don’t get any benefits when you are unemployed. When you are part-time, you are paid net and you get some benefits when you are unemployed. This also means it is important to make plans for when on holiday as you don’t earn anything. So effectively you have to work hard so that you have enough in reserve for the months when you don’t earn anything at all, and that you can maintain your current lifestyle.
Olivier: So you say you don’t work for 8 months a year, but you still get paid for those 8 months?
Ludovic: Over those 8 months, I don’t get paid every month. That is to say, if officially I am on holiday, I earn nothing. If I look for work, if I am still in the industry network but not formally employed, I have a benefits system that is about half of what I have been able to earn whilst at work. But I can’t be more precise with figures as all projects are different. In our business we are paid a daily rate. However, the daily rate can vary. It can vary from a basic rate to double, even triple dependent on the project, the budget for the project or the duration of the project.
So, we can earn a variety of different wages, which can range from 2500 to 5000 euros. It also depends on what you do, if you’re an actor, you don’t get paid the same as if you work in special effects. And if you want to qualify for this status, you need to prove that you have worked 507 hours. At 8 hours a day, that equates to about three and a half months based on 20 workdays per month. If you can prove that you have completed 507 hours of work in the entertainment industry, you qualify for the benefits of a part-time worker within that field.
Olivier: With all the perks you’ve mentioned.
Ludovic: With all the perks… Not everyone makes a good living from the get go, so that’s an important point to mention. Not everyone is able to benefit from it as it’s not straightforward for all of the different sectors to be able to gain the benefits from 507 hours of work. It’s easy for everyone to achieve. For people who don’t specialise in the same area as I do… for example, for me, it’s not so hard to reach those numbers, it depends on the number of years you’ve been at work, budgets, lots of different things.
But people like that are definitely out there; you see the part-time workers from the industry in the street at a demonstration, trust me that if they are part of a demonstration it’s because they have reason to be. Which is down to the fact that they have real difficulty to achieve those required hours and be able to survive. So it’s not straightforward for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are part-time, if you don’t have the network or enough time to establish regular clients, who give you the work, sure, you can get the benefits, but after eight months are up, your benefits disappear and that’s it.
Olivier: It is a good situation provided that you have enough hours and, along with that, as in business, you have to have a specialty for which there is a demand, get the work, be forceful, gain a good reputation and establish a strong network.
Ludovic: That’s what makes it similar to the life of an entrepreneur in the sense that it’s not a lifelong position, you have to find the work to maintain that situation, keep your turnover, make sure the company survives, establish it in the market, find new customers. It works the same way. So we can’t expect to be in that situation and be complacent for 20 years, certainly not; it doesn’t work that way either.
Olivier: Did you choose your area of expertise because it was in demand in the industry or because that’s what you enjoyed the most?
Ludovic: What’s important for me is to do what I am passionate about. If you have a job that doesn’t excite you and you do it just because it’s well paid, or because it might sometimes give you an advantage, that doesn’t make sense to me. Above all, always focus on the thing that helps you develop and grow the most, find what really interests you. And, from there, work out how to grow your financial worth as you progress. So concentrate on what you like and the rest will generally follow if you learn how to put things into place.
Olivier: Excellent advice. You told us earlier that you decided to close your site because you had too many people who asked to work with you. Can you discuss your lifestyle, what you do with your free time?
Ludovic: So my lifestyle, to sum it up in two sentences, I came back from Lisbon four days ago, before that I was in Miami and Los Angeles. I’ve been to Prague, Rome, Vienna, the Bahamas, all in the last 8 months.
Olivier: You travel.
Ludovic: So my lifestyle is about travel, to make good use of my free time because if you just laze around and watch time go by you don’t benefit from it. Make smart use of your free time, read so you always learn things, which is a healthy approach. When you’re self-taught, I’m convinced it’s a lifelong thing. You don’t teach yourself to learn a skill and then when you know how to do it, you just quit. When you have set your mind to accomplish things and reach your objectives, you can’t just change that with a click of your fingers. You continue to do things that way. So I always use any spare time for my personal knowledge, in relation to the business, I learn more about it.
Olivier: You travel, you learn, you push yourself at all times. Your attitude is truly that of a self-taught entrepreneur, one that I completely share. And you achieved that pretty fast, to the point where you soon took down your site due to too much demand for your time?
Ludovic: I did that after a year and half. It came down to when, a year in, I entered a special effects contest, in which I did very well, as I came first. After that the situation became worse, if that’s the way to put it, it was great as everyone talked about me, so my name became known within my field. It was from that point on, that I decided to take my site down so I could slow things down and regain some control. It was a choice, I could have decided to go another route. I think that’s what 99% of people would have done, continued with the momentum in order to make themselves even more well-known.
To work with even bigger companies, to end up at the most successful American companies to produce the most beautiful special effects in the world. But it wasn’t what I wanted because, first and foremost, I’m an artist in my field and I didn’t want to end up just a small link in the chain of a huge American company, even it meant I would get to work on some of the industry’s most prestigious projects. It’s not what I wanted to do at all and I had no wish to be locked in a room to work, work with no clear purpose, because, for most people, work eventually becomes a convenient excuse to kill time, and I really didn’t want to find myself in such a clichéd situation.
Olivier: Was it a difficult decision for you when you decided to take down your site?
Ludovic: Not at all.
Olivier: Not at all? For you it was obvious, it really was the right thing for you.
Ludovic: Without a doubt. Recognition for my achievements wasn’t an issue, I got a lot of joy from it, for sure. At that point I decided, on a work basis, that it was enough, a decision that I have no regrets about. When I look at my life now, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Olivier: It’s really impressive that you were 19 and a half when you took down your site, is that correct?
Ludovic: Yeah, that’s right.
Olivier: At such a young age you had such a clear vision of what you wanted. You had no hesitation to go in that direction and take the necessary steps to do so, when 99%, as you mentioned, wouldn’t have. In fact, when I started my business, like most entrepreneurs, I threw myself into it, but it took me much longer than you to figure out that because I worked 10 hours a day, 75 hours a week, it wasn’t the best way to achieve a happy and balanced life. It was then that I read a book that opened my eyes, it was The 4 hour workweek. Have you read it?
Ludovic: Excellent book. I think it’s a book that really challenges all the misconceptions in the realms of productivity and consumption. I hold the same views as the author of the book. And I think your ability to discuss the book is better than mine, as we’ve both talked about it before. But it truly represents my mind-set from a business point of view.
Olivier: When did you read it?
Ludovic: Roughly a year ago, yeah, one year.
Olivier: When you read it, did it seem to be some kind of code book that you had already deciphered ?
Ludovic: When I read it, it struck me as something I would have written myself, it impressed me that this type of book was available, it was a style that I had never read before. This way to approach situations was applicable to the business environment. I didn’t possess as clear a vision as the author. Let’s just say, I have learnt a few things from it. For starters, he agreed with my thoughts on free time and productivity, and he was able to back it up. I totally recommend this book to people, especially those who are a little confused on a professional level, and on a personal level in relation to free time. I truly believe that for people who really want to change things, this book can help you do that.
Olivier: Yes, in today’s world, it’s a book that can change your life. I read it a year and a half ago, and most things that I do these days are based on the insights that I gained from it. I haven’t reviewed it on my blog yet, but I will do so, soon. Did you learn anything from it, given your lifestyle?
Ludovic: Absolutely, yes. What I got from it was that it confirmed my views about free time and efficiency. It works for me as a guide in that sense. Regards the section about commerce, when he refers to automated business, I agree with what he says there, but I don’t necessarily agree with the kind of business he proposes, which is called “dropshipping”. But, it’s each to their own.
There are different ways to become rich, to develop financially without the need to go down the route he suggests. Let’s say that his views on production, use of free time, understanding what we want from life, the need to lose these cravings for material possession, to achieve what we have in mind or would like to do instead of things we would like to possess, are all good points, in the sense that the American or European education systems, drive home this perception that we always need things, always need, need, need. But why the need, what’s the purpose? So it opens our eyes and in some ways it made me feel that I wasn’t alone. Now that I have read the book it has given me a sense that I understand life a little better these days.
Olivier: As a self-taught person, are books important to you, do you learn things from them?
Ludovic: They are extremely important. When I leant my trade, I learnt very little from books, for me it was more on the Internet. Thanks to self-help forums, there was a strong network of information which allowed me to learn most things. How I see it, is that from books we can learn huge amounts of information, and this can be used along with the Internet. It’s really with these two tools that you are able to teach yourself, which is what I still do with both personal development and business.
Olivier: You told me that you have started a Personal MBA.
Ludovic: That’s right.
Olivier: And you’ve read a lot of books from Personal MBA ?
Ludovic: Yes, I’ve already read a lot of books, I’m not sure exactly how many. I think the selection is very good unlike on some other sites, the majority I thought were pretty good, but there are always one or two that aren’t that useful. Maybe that’s because the information contained in them is already widely known. If that’s your area of expertise perhaps you won’t get much from them. However, 90% of the books have given me some sort of insight, even if it’s not always applicable, it’s another angle, a different way to approach business, which is what the Personal MBA books are about.
Basically, a great selection that I recommend to anyone who wishes to start their own business, get involved in the world of commerce, or even just for general knowledge. If you simply read one book from each category you can gain a good idea of what is offered in the curriculum. The Personal MBA meets my expectations of what schools should charge, on many levels.
Unlike incredibly expensive schools, which are impossible for most people to attend. Or even be able to attend to study for an MBA, though I may be wrong here, I think that if you’re 18 and just graduated from school, I don’t think you can get in, even if you can afford it. I think you need another few years to be accepted, so it may not be straightforward for everyone. Why not? It’s possible to get cheap access to this level of education, merely the cost of the books, which you can buy even cheaper if you get them second hand.
Olivier: If they have been translated into French, you can even borrow them from the library.
Ludovic: For the ones that have not been translated into French, if you have a friend or two on a similar course to you, there’s no reason not to buy different books and lend them to each other so you can share the costs between you.
Olivier: Yes, that’s a very good suggestion.
Ludovic: These days I am convinced that information and knowledge can be gained with no need to pay for it, as far as the Internet is concerned, and with minimal cost as far as books are concerned. What most books can offer, over and above the Internet, is the fact that they specialise on a certain aspect, or subject, and that if the book has been published, it’s because the writer is an authority on the subject and was acknowledged as such. This should ensure some valuable and relevant information. On the Internet, it’s easy to find copied information from other sites or blogs, which doesn’t mean the information won’t be useful though it may be a little less reliable, with less substance than the material in a book, where you can use the information you have read.
Olivier: Yes, I totally agree, for me books are the cheapest option available to us to gain access to the best minds that have ever lived. Do you currently have other pursuits, other projects apart from your job as a graphic designer in special effects?
Ludovic: Yes, in fact, I do. I also coach in seduction. I coach people how to become more attractive to women, to have more self-confidence. It’s very much about personal development. Mostly I coach men how to become more attractive to women through work on their charisma and leadership skills, which appeals to women. As I always say, in short, “to seduce the women of your dreams, first become the man of your dreams.” So that basically sums up my other profession, if you can call it a profession. Otherwise as far as current projects are concerned, which is laid out in “the 4-hour week”, it is the creation of an automated business that allows me to generate income when I am on holiday anywhere in the world.
Olivier: So you are able to do that as we speak?
Ludovic: For sure, when I say automated, the aim is to spend as little time as possible on it. So maximise your income but not sacrifice your life and you free time.
Olivier: Ok, can you possibly tell us who you work with as a seduction coach?
Ludovic: Yes, a company called lifestyle-conseil.com. I work with Alexandre, the company coaches people in attraction, makeover, charisma and leadership. We put together various events, one of which we did this summer and the year before, which was called “the villa”, for two weeks, we rented a villa and we gave seduction courses. So 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the clients lived with us, 6 clients a week. We gave workshops each day, to get the theory across and in the evening put it into practice with trips to try it with women and improve everyone’s social skills. That’s basically the company I work with now and hope to expand.
Olivier: Great, our readers can check out the site if they are interested lifestyle-conseil.com. And learn a bit more about it. I think we’ve heard some good advice, ideas and shared some knowledge. Finally, would you have any advice for those who would like to start up their own thing, perhaps freelance, part-time in the entertainment world or even start their own business. And more importantly, how to achieve a lifestyle like yours; i.e. one orientated around that lifestyle rather than work and material gains.
Ludovic: Well, in terms of advice, it would be short and simple. Earlier, I mentioned determination, I would say be determined and above all give it everything. Tell yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?” What could happen if you tried? Then ask yourself “what could happen if you didn’t try?” If you don’t try there may be more negatives than if you try and fail. If you don’t try, you will always remain where you are. And, if you try and fail, you will stay where you are but if you try and it works, you will progress.
So always try, give it everything and be determined. Realise that if you earn 10,000 euros a month but have no life to speak of, it is no better than if you earn 2,000 euros a month but are able to enjoy life and your free time. For me there’s no necessity or need for big boys’ toys, such as a big sports car, but rather in the development of my extra-curricular activities. This is the basic advice I would give to everyone.
Olivier: Well, that’s great advice with which I totally agree. We thank you for your time with us Ludovic.
Ludovic: Hey, it was my pleasure.
Olivier: Thank you and hope to see you soon for new adventures!
References that we discuss in the interview :
- Lifestyle Conseil, the company with whom Ludovic offers coaching to make yourself more attractive, be more charismatic and better leadership.
- The 4 hour workweek, the book by Timothy Ferris which I highly recommend.