Friday, October 24, 2008

Great Ideas Only Work if You Do

I can post something every single day here that has the potential to make you money with your video equipment, bring you new business and clients and take you from aspiring beginner to money making business person. But, as the title says, you are going to have to put some forth some effort in order for any of my ideas, or yours, to work.

I don‘t want to sound like a preacher here, but so many times people tell me “it won’t fly” talking about one or another of my...
...“concepts” they call them. To be honest with you I’ve not yet written about anything I haven’t personally tried. And, the only reason any of my “concepts” do not pan out is that I quit working at it.

I admit that most of my suggestions for diversified video business are not new, or even unique. Most of them in one form or another have been tried with light to moderate success, occasionally to huge levels of success. Most of you at one time or another have thought of doing one or more of my suggestions, but never seem to quite get around to it.

Keep in mind, however, that if you are not excited about it, your potential clients will not be either. It takes effort to prime the pump of possibility, and you have to find ways to spread the word about your services that will be most effective for you. Waiting for the phone to ring, for someone to find you by chance, or show up at your door isn’t going to cut it.

Sure, you know this, but we all still fall into a non-aggressive rut occasionally and become lax in our attempts to stimulate business.

That being said, take video-to-DVD transfer services, for example. You can let people know you are willing to provide this service, tell your existing client base that you offer this service, advertise and promote the service in a big way. Essentially, this is grunt work, and though others have expounded on it as being “easy money” and a “monkey job” that anybody with a VHS-to-DVD standalone burner can accomplish, there is a bit more to the process.

There’s more you have to do if you even care to compete with all the drug store chains and WalMart types that provide similar services at cheap prices. First, get it out of your mind that you must compete with price. You cannot! The difference, and one for which many individuals are willing to pay, is personal service.

I tell my existing client base, and people who inquire after finding me on the web, or referrals from other satisfied customers, that the difference between what I do and what the local drug store chain does is that I “babysit” their tapes. If something goes wrong - tape jams, long lengths of no image or audio, broken tapes, short tape lengths, etc. - I am there to do something about it, not just let it continue recording (or not) junk footage.

Sure, I’m multitasking (to the extent that a male is capable) but I am in the same room, always alert to situations that can arise when transferring video to DVD. I am getting other work done, but I am giving their transfer projects my professional attention as well.

What I do not do, is take their prized videotapes, giving the illusion that I will personally be doing the work, then ship it off to Crater, Moon or some other facility where the process isn’t as I have described to them. You know, the one about personal service.

If my clients come up with a format I cannot handle, I do have resources for getting them done. I always explain that I have to outsource this format, but will do everything in my power to ensure the safe handling and return of their original materials. If you do enough stuff like this, and ship out enough product, sooner or later something will happen. Murphy’s Law is a guarantee, right up there with death and taxes. Just be prepared to be up front, and honest about the mishap. Commiserate with them, show empathy, and refund their money, as well as some portion of the insurance you placed on their (now lost, damaged or destroyed) materials.

Insurance will not replace those memories, but money and sympathy will go a long way toward softening the situation. Never, ever, send a client’s personal materials out without insuring it for all you can claim, and without first having your client’s signed written permission to do so on file. This is a highly recommended C.Y.A. measure.

If you are not yet frighted away from trying. Start by investing around $150 in a VHS-to-DVD transfer system. Most brand name consumer products perform nicely. Get an adapter for VHS-C tapes and you are in the VHS and compact VHS transfer business. Have an Hi8/Regular 8 deck or camera with A/V outputs, you are good to go on another format. MiniDV camera with outputs, or a playback deck? There you go.

There are other formats, and you either need to plan to establish resources for outsourcing this material, or avoid it, or refer it to a resource you trust. Film transfer? Even I tremble at the thought and will always outsource film transfers, or refer my clients directly. I have done some on a very small scale, but unless you are properly equipped and can capture a large enough volume of this business, it is not for the faint of heart.

Pricing is pretty straightforward. Yet, clients will still attempt to find ways to whittle down their costs. Don’t yield. If they use the local drug store argument, politely suggest that this might be their best route if they are on a limited budget, or don’t care about much more than getting their memories dubbed over for archival purposes.

I now charge $35 for each one-hour of video, or portion thereof. I will only place up to 2 hours of video on each DVD. And, I charge a $1 tape change fee for people who also want to squeeze as many tapes as they can (like the old 20 minute VHS-C format, for example). So, a DVD will cost them $70 for up to 2 hours of transferred video, and they will pay me an additional $1 each time I change to the next tape. This should give you a basis for establishing your own transfer service price list. You can also check out the competition on the Web via a Google search. Just remember to not fall into a price competition rut.

Make sure what you do is what you WANT to do, and make what you get for it worth your while.

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