Monday, February 09, 2009

Working "On Spec" Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

If you don't mind gambling, and still believe in the inherent goodness of humankind, working a production "on spec" is not necessarily a bad thing. In my early days of video production, and even today, I have used this approach to open doors to new business.

Not once in more than 15 years have I failed to get the return I expected, and often more than I anticipated, by offering a group, organization or school this approach to getting to know me and my production company, opening doors for lucrative emergency business and future repeat clients.

Just for your information, I often have run into photographers, some of them members of a huge operation/company, whose only approach to business is to cover events on spec. If you aren't familiar with the term - on spec generally means you are willing to shoot, edit and produce a video product with no promise or guarantee of sales, payment or income. You are "speculating" that enough people will see you in action, and want a copy of what you are producing, or will visit your website for a taste of a clip sample and then want what you are producing, that the effort to do this will pay off in some way.

I have an introductory special for paid minimum sales gigs where I offer to shoot up to a two-hour performance, edit and produce DVDs for a minimum of 20 units at $25. I rarely ever have to offer on spec productions anymore, but it is a way to open doors if the economy has slowed things down in your area. It is also a way to develop long-lasting new business relationships where second season and beyond clients return for a more lucrative agreement, or the minimums I mentioned above.

Only one client out of many, many clients past and present has steadfastly stuck with the minimum 20 at $25 offer. Mostly because this client only has an average of 18 dance students in her class, and mostly does the whole thing for a hobby. She has often paid for the additional two to meet my minimums. Since her productions are almost always barely one hour in length, I am content to maintain this arrangement with her, rather than lose her as a renewable income resource.

Also, I have obtained other business, referrals and even a wedding or three from her, her associates, class members or parents. The exposure has more than paid for sticking with a loyal client who returns year-after-year, and can be counted on for receipt of payment when I show up to shoot. It is an easy $500 gig.

As for the rest of my event clients, I have always averaged 50 units, or more, in sales. Some top the 100 mark, and I collect $25 for each and every sale. I will often comp a copy to the owner/director/organizer when sales top 40 or more. I provide advance sales order forms, or a copy they can duplicate and distribute.

Back to shooting on spec. Rarely will any martial arts group, youth sports group, school performance group, church activity, car show club, or any other event you can imagine pass up on the opportunity to receive "professional" quality production if it isn't going to cost the group a dime. Individual sales set at a price point with which you can live carries the weight of production costs, and will virtually always result in making $500 or more for a gig of two hours in length, or less.

Shooting on spec is a great way to fill empty production calendars, to expose you and your company to more people, develop branding and company awareness, and even drive clients to your website(s) if you post sample clips and provide ordering convenience from your website. I personally haven't established a clips and on-line sales element, but within the next few months I will be totally revamping all my business websites, and offering this avenue for people to order on line.

Give it some thought. Decide what you are willing to take a chance on, then go out there and find events that appeal to the gambler in you. It will almost always give much better odds than Vegas. Really.

No comments: