Friday, June 26, 2009

Costing Entry Level Video Business

There is no single appropriate selection of tools of the trade to enable the enterprising video services provider to start a business. Tools run the range from free to cheap, simple to complex and affordability standards for one individual will be too high or too low for another.

Also, the perceived look of a professionally equipped independent video services provider is a subjective one. Tastes too vary for each individual wanting to start a video production business. Some will "settle" setting aside pride for practicality while others will go into hock for the latest and greatest, even purchasing equipment that may never be used on a single, solitary gig. Still, there's no single right or wrong way to enter the business of independent video production.

What I am about to propose is an equipment list and costs that, IMHO, includes the basic tools a serious independent professional video services provider will need to do a better than adequate job out the door. This list is by no means definitive - there are always incidentals, gadgets and tools that will come to mind over time, adding to the arsenal of an experienced professional.

And last, the following list could be considered, perhaps, the TOP of the low end. It is certainly not the cheapest, nor necessarily the best tool set for the money, but by and large I believe overall it is the easiest route to acquiring, editing and producing quality video product for the client.

While my approach is Apple/Mac based, there are alternate, more affordable but not necessarily more simple solutions in the PC environment, and software to boot. I remain convinced, however, that the iMac with OSX and its included DVD and video editing software is the easiest and quickest out of the box approach to editing video.

That being said...

iMac starts at $1,199 video editing and dvd creation software included in iLife

SD camcorder Canon GL2, $2,000 new; $1,500 used
HDV camcorder Canon HV30/HV40, $689 to $850 if you shop around

LitePanels Micro Light, $350, or less (or more, if you really want more light)

Rhode VideoMic shotgun, $150, or less, if you shop around

Zoom H2 digital audio recorder, $179, or less, if you shop around

Manfrotto (formerly Bogen) tripod, $105 to $500, or more, but you don't really need more. There's always Sachtler, starting at $1,400 and worth the price but way more than you need to spend for camcorder support.

Headphones - Sony MDR 7502, $50; Sony MDR 7509HD, $200; Sony MDR 7505, $85; or Audio Technica ATH-M30, $70, ATH-M50, $139.

Batteries, 3-hour bricks run $80 and up, depending on your camera. Belt batteries are OK, I've used them extensively, but they are heavy and no longer the must have option long-record-time needs.

Also, assorted miscellaneous cables for connections to/from your various digitizing, audio recording and editing components, say $150.

The above list will get you started.

You will also want a web presence of some kind. Service can run you south of $30 a month, and there many free/cheap options for developing a web site, blog or other means for advertising and marketing your video company. For a cost, you might consider utilizing iLife's iWeb software and an annual MobileMe account, $99.

Optionals include:
A brace/bracket system for the HV30/40, around $150 or so, and enabling you to attach your wireless mic, LitePanels, or other, on-camera light, and other accessories, as well as perhaps a...

Beachtek audio adapter, DXA-2s, about $180; DXA-6A, about $280

A USB mic for narrative recording in the studio, $50 and up.

An audio mixer...
Behringer, $109 and up
Mackie, $249 and up
Alesis, $299 and up
Tascam, $299 and up

Many will say a wireless mic system is NOT an option, and I do not disagree, but I included it under optional because there are elements of independent video production where you can possibly get by with the camcorder mic, or the Rhode mic mentioned above.

Wireless mic systems from Azden, Audio Technica, Shure and Sennheiser start around $250 and can go well over a thousand dollars. Many systems in the $300-$500 range are very serviceable. Do some research into frequencies as some mics on the market will soon be obsolete due to changes in frequency availability. You'll want to move above the 700+ range for sure.


Do not overlook the montage/video projection arena in providing video services. When I originally entered this market my total investment came to more than $5,000. And I still paid the investment off in less than six months after focusing on video projection services as part of my business operations.

Today, you can come well under $5K, perhaps half or less.
Projector: Epson EX50, $650

Player: WalMart cheapie, $35, or less

Powered speaker system: Samson, Fender, Bose, $700 and up; less if you purchase one of the many offerings in portable PA systems, just know that your audio quality will not be as good, nor your audio capacity/range as broad.

Da-Light projection stand, $250, or less; again you can "get by" with even a cheap wooden tv table, but I strongly suggest something sturdier and more stable - accidents happen and I swear people go blind as they come near projection equipment on stands.

The Screen Works t-stand 6x8 foot model front projection screen weighs in at $800, or less. There are many other options but The Screen Works will always be my go to company for screens of any size, shape, description or price.

Projection services = $2,435!

Another future (or sooner) acquisition will be at least a 1x3 DVD/CD duplicator, $350 or less; CD/DVD capable printer for inserts and disc graphics, $200 or less; external hard drives for project storage, often under $100, depending on capacity, and the prices continue to go down, not up, for huge storage capacity HDs.

So, to round things up and off I will use the lesser of any above pricing for totals.

Acquisition: $1,673, or less if you shop around.

Editing: iMac, $1,200, cables, etc. $150

Total = $2,873 + $30 a month for web marketing = $3,050

Optionals: (that will soon become things you can't live without) = $739

Future Business Options: Projection services = $2,435; DVD duplication, printing, project storage = $650

Final note: If you wanted, and could come up with the resources, you could spend a total of $6,874, or less if you shop around, and start up a virtually full-service video production company.

Are there other costs? Of course: business cards and other support/marketing forms; tax, business licensing, DBA, legal costs, etc. These and other elements such as various insurance premiums, maintenance, repairs, emergency purchases and more can run your expenses of entering, doing and maintaining your video business another $1,000 and probably closer to $3K.

Even so, with some investment of time, researching of instructional resources, determination and growing experience, an initial investment of under $10,000 to start a business that can become profitable in less than a year makes independent video production one of the least risky business investments available.

Even at $10K, this is 1/10th of what you would have spent 20 years ago; 1/2 of your probable investment 12 years ago; and still a significant savings over what you would have spent for the same/similar tools less than 8 years ago. Many of the old timers in this industry continue to pay on their original investment, trying to sustain a business based on equipment that is now slow and sadly antiquated.

You can come in well under my figures, but again I have to say that the easiest way to invest today and start working (making money) tomorrow would include a serious portion of the equipment listed above.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Your Basic Marketing Strategy

If you commit to the following 10 basic marketing strategies your business will grow in size, income or branding. At least one area will experience positive improvement if not all three, based on your consistent application of and dedication to the following.

1.) Mail one demo with cover letter a week of some kind to a valid home address
2.) Mail one demo with cover letter a week related to a valid business address
3.) Mail 10 direct mail letters a month to dance, martial arts, high school or other
4.) Mail one postcard a day to any good potential business, family or group source
5.) Post one business related item a day on Twitter; get an account and use it
6.) Post one business related item a day on Facebook; get a facebook account and use it
7.) Respond to all phone or e-mail inquiries within 24 hours of their receipt
8.) Stop and visit one random potential resource a month in your service area
9.) Identify and send 10 e-mails a month to any desired potential client resource
10.) Spend one-half hour a week on Google, searching for and reading something about marketing

Successful marketing relies on consistency and being persistent. Once you get into the groove all the above should not require more than an average of 15 minutes a day - less than one 8-hour working day a month.
Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's it Cost to Produce Average Wedding?

What's an average wedding video production cost?

There are certainly other, different and alternate incidental and real costs, but I break down the average cost to produce an average wedding to this = $1,709.

And that is not figuring on two operators at the event for 8 hours, only 1; also only 30 total hours editing, not a possible 40 to 50 or more in some cases.

Person hours 8 x $50 per hour = $400
Road time hrs 2 x $25 per hour = $50
Gas/car exp = $16 avg
Food = $20 avg
tape stock = $18
Editing 20 to 40 hours @ $35 per hour = $1,050 for 30 hours
Insurances = $20 avg per event, based on a $1K annual premium?
Electricity = $5 (no logic applied, arbitrary number)
Equip depreciation/wear = $25 per gig avg
DVD, ink, paper, cases = $5 per unit
Postage = $10
Web costs = $20 per gig avg est cost
Advertising = $20 per gig avg est cost
Space, office, room use = $50 per event/gig est

At $1,709 a wedding video producer would have to make $50 per hour based on an estimated 38 hours per wedding/gig to break even.

Based on $75 per hour for 38 hours, the producer would be bringing in $2,850 - a potentially feasible/reasonable price point. And a fair price to offer the potential client.

I'm not averaging this on weddings. And, I strongly suspect that there are not too many others averaging $3,000 per wedding production either.

Essentially, wedding video producers are all losing money on weddings that call for an investment of 40 plus hours and are bringing in less than $3K. Using the less is more principle it is possible to do WAY less and make something, if not actually MORE.

This makes wedding video production truly a labor of love, no pun intended. Clients often do not realize that they are getting a good value if they hire an independent professional video services provider with referrals and experience who has a $3,000 base fee for quality production work, based on the hours and REAL costs involved.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Outshining the Competition

There are six basic ways to set yourself apart from the competition. Five basic ways to establish yourself, your business and brand in a prominent position in your career as an independent professional video services provider.

1.) Price competition
2.) Price competition (not a typo, or a mistake - read on)
3.) Production value
4.) Branding
5.) Delivery
6.) Packaging and presentation

Additionally, there are four basic elements that effect a positive influence on your potential clients, referrals, past and renewable customers and the millions of eyeballs you strive to reach daily.

1.) Personality
2.) People
3.) Price
4.) Product

Additionally, there is one basic rule of thumb in successfully establishing your business, yourself and your brand.


While the captions may be similar, there's a vast difference between each. Each is also, however, directly related and intimately linked to the base concept of the other, and all are crucial to your overall success - in high times as well as periods of economic distress.


You have a unique style, a unique product, a unique personality, and a creative expression that is by and large recognizably different from, if not superior to, the works of your competition.

Therefore you charge more, expect more and receive more from your client base than the average and below independent professional video services provider. You can do this because you have taken the time to develop a unique style, a front-running, trend-setting approach that is original, unique, exceptional and readily identifiable.

Like testing dark colas - you are able to recognize the difference between Pepsi or Coke, and colas 1, 3, 5 or 7. It can be discerned. And you command a premium for your highly sought creations.

Price competition of the highest order.


You have a quality product with good-to-great audio, solid shooting, excellent coverage and professional standards that cannot be impeached. Your pricing is fair for what you deliver...
...the "meat and potatoes" if you will, of documentary style, un-embellished production work - stable, consistent color, discernible audio quality and solid coverage.

And, you are "affordable" - reasonably priced in a range that the average client can afford with a little budget bending. You do not give it away, but at the same time you are not placed in a category by the seeking public consumer that makes you a cheat.

While affordable you are not cheap by definition. You do, however, study your immediate competition and attempt to establish quality, services and pricing that under most circumstances will edge the competition out = set you and your business apart.


I only listed it twice, but there is a third and viable approach to competing by price. I know a person in the industry who refers to this category as "scum sucking bottom feeders" but that label is not necessarily accurate in the reality of things.

Some quite confidently have found an underserved market - the low/no budget client - and have honed their acquisitions and productions to a fine line, doing what is necessary and ONLY what is necessary to put out an acceptable product that is cheap, fast and good.

Along with any of the three pricing structures, early delivery will enhance the renewable business, encourage the referrals and enhance perceived value. The possible exception being, as many in the higher pricing bracket have noted, that people who pay more might actually expect, or be willing to wait longer for delivery. The concept being that of a good wine or cheese - it takes time to refine a high quality product.

In my personal opinion, many often use the above as an excuse for delaying work on a product that should and could have been finished much earlier; their way of denying a lackadaisical work ethic. True or no, the longer it takes to deliver any video product, the more opportunity for misunderstandings and hard feelings to get in the way of the results. This usually adds up to negative marketing value for you and your business.


Multiple cameras, multiple operators, multiple points-of-view (POVs), redundant audio backup and resources, consistent audio levels, color correction, white balancing, solid shooting techniques and great framing are all important ingredients of high production value.

A second tier to this is the creative content: unique angles, exceptionally intimate and poignant shots, high emotional quotient, special moves using any of a number of available camera stabilization systems at a broad range of prices and functionality.

A third tier is treatments, special effects, etc. and knowing when to use them, and when to let the visuals and audio stand on their own merits. This tier is most successful when used minimally and when the artist has practiced and studied the applications and learned how to use them to the best effect, or not.

Production value often is taken to mean an over-application of too many production elements that result in a work that is too far out there for all but the most open-minded client. Too many in our industry think with color, weird intros and exits, over-done blown-out shots, flares, and more the way early industry video producers used to fight camera shake - "strobe it!"

All too often, too many think they are fooling their clients and their contemporaries when they over-apply color, black-and-white, slow motion or other effects in an effort to cover up mistakes. They do this when back up footage, carefully acquired cutaways an B-roll footage, and solid editing capabilities would serve them better so far as creating a video representing high production value.

On the one hand the right production value will further set you apart from your competition while the wrong concept of what represents production value will also set you apart - but in a negative sense.


Set your values high. Generate visibility and linkage everywhere that identifies your product, your name, your chosen or elected image or logo. Use it in your packaging, on your stationery, your post cards and direct mail pieces, your web site.

Be consistent and persistent in presenting your brand. Continuity of use is important. This is why so many of your major brands are variations of their original visual elements - updated to keep with the the times, for sure, but retaining much of the identifiers that are so valuable to the brand now.

Rarely will a company that has maintained and sustained a long-term branding decide to can the image and start all over. The success level of this approach is low and rare. The shape of Coca-Cola's original bottle, the Pepsi symbol, AT&T's stylized globe, Nike's swish are only a few of the successful branding elements that are strongly defended by their trademark holders, and not subject to total change - the branding identity is simply too strong after so long.

So is yours, from your company name and visual identifiers, to the style and content and approach of your productions, to the packaging and labeling...
...all this identifies you, your business, your product and who you are. Think long and hard about how you want to do this and develop a linked and consistent look that covers everything you use to represent your business and product.

If you think and realize that you got is all wrong, change quick and change early, making a new marketing decision, look and name as well. I mean, there are times when you have to accept that you made a mistake, and can only hope that you haven't waited too many years and done too much work that change is going to do you more harm than good.

I wonder how soon Chevrolet made the decision to pull its Chevy Nova model from Portugal when it realized Nova in that country (pronounced no vah) means wont go?

Tie it all together, make it link visually, audibly and solidly in every facet of your business. Consistence and persistence in applying your brand will make a huge difference in setting you apart from the competition in the long haul.


It has been said that you cannot have all three - good, fast and cheap. Yes, you can. Yes, your clients can. And should. If not good, fast and cheap, at least good, fast and affordable. Or, how about GREAT, FAST and AFFORDABLE! What a concept.

Early and on-time delivery will go a long way in gaining customer endorsement, referral and renewable business. It only takes one or two times coming in past deadline to change an otherwise satisfied client into one bad-mouthing you and seeking another source for your services and product.

Even if you deliver a "great" video product, if it is six months later than promised, a year later than expected, and following upon the back of the countless excuses and broken promises along the way, you're history my friend.

Even if you have an unbeatable price, the lowest in the lower hemisphere, a give-away price, extraordinarily cheap price...
...oh, and a "great" product, late delivery and the lies that often accompany it will negate any good will or potential for client satisfaction.

Set yourself apart from many of your competitors by simply delivering as promised, or earlier than promised/expected, and doing more than was expected. Go the extra distance to establish yourself and your business and product as not only a great combination, but one that is reasonably priced AND always delivered early or on time.


These are components of branding and delivery, and also go hand-in-hand with pricing, perceived value and all the other things you do in an effort to set you, your business and products apart from the competition. Packaging and presentation, given a quality product delivered in a timely manner and provided for a fair and reasonable price, will further set you apart from the crowd.

Quality full-color, clean and creative, professional quality graphics on your inserts, DVD and CD surfaces, as well as the quality of the cases themselves, how you label and mail or hand-deliver - neat handwriting or clean and professional-looking mailing labels that carry forth your branding and company identifiers - all have to do with your image - what further sets you apart.

Don't give in to the thought among many in our industry that "less is more" when it comes to packaging and presentation. Too many are looking at ways to cut their costs and doing it "bassackward" by cheapening the looks of their final delivered product, or covering up with cheap materials.

Determine what it will cost you to deliver a professional quality package and product. If you have to job them out because you simply are not artistic or creative enough with print graphics, or do not own the equipment or possess the software knowledge to do it yourself - find out what it will cost you to outsource to a professional and factor that into your prices.

Do not cut corners with the presentation and quality of your final product if you want to successfully set yourself apart from much of the competition - people in the business who either do not know better, or couldn't care less, or are simply too lazy or cheap to make the effort.

By going this one step further in your overall business strategy and approach you will soon become recognized as a standout among your competition.

Now, the four "P's"

Personality, Price, Product and People (not in any particular order of importance) are, in my humble opinion, of absolute equal importance when it comes to having a positive influence on your potential or renewable client base.

Perhaps it actually IS impossible to win everybody's heart, or faith, or trust. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

In spite of the economy one of the three things I enjoy most on a personal level is dining out. And I have my favorites. And, among those favorites I often feel I also am a favorite of the host, owner or server(s) there. I can tell early on if the establishment's representatives are simply parroting their training by rote, or do not really "feel" the smile or warmth they try (poorly) to convey.

Likewise, I can tell if they are really sincere, truly trying, and are committed to establishing a positive relationship with me as the patron, and presenting the establishment with which they are associated in a positive manner.

Treat me good and I will leave a decent tip, smile at you when I enter and leave, tell others about my pleasant experience, or participate with affirmative remarks to web or phone "quality" surveys, and return. Do all this AND make me believe it is genuine and I will tip large, smile wide, return often and with my friends.

The same with your business. Be informative, patient, honest and sincere. Fake it (if you have to) until you get it right and can come across as Mr. or Miss Sincerity of the Year. It isn't THAT difficult folks. And openness, honesty and sincerity will go a long way to establishing the relationships with potential clients that convert them into return, referral and renewable clients - year after year.

Again, you cannot win them all. People are unique, different and often as perplexing as they can be. Go into any given business atmosphere knowing that your personality, as hard as you try and as sincere as you come across, simply will not always win them over. People react and respond to a million triggers and it only takes a second to pull the wrong one. So, get over it! And realize people are diverse and someone out there isn't going to like you for a bounty of ill-founded reasons.

Be honest about your pricing. And firm. Be firm. Sure, you can flex a bit, but knowing the value of your work, your experience and the professional quality of your talents, equipment and software, don't always drop to the lower denominator. Allow some degree of "dealing" if you are so inclined. While being compassionate and understanding about their economic woes, also define your limits early on so false expectations do not take root too soon.

Don't hem and haw around about what you will, might or will not do for a given price. Shoot straight and your successes in negotiation will rise to the top. Honesty is always the best policy. Do not make promises you cannot or do not intend to keep. Your clients will call you on it every time. Do not let them assume something. If you are aware that they may be misleading themselves, take the responsibility to steer them, and yourself, clear of that pitfall.

Show what you do. Share your product(s) and deliver what you show. Again, be honest about what they are seeing. Control the presentation, but also allow them to see enough of your honest work and creative talents that they can be comfortable and confident that you are the honest, easy-to-get-along-with, professional you represent yourself to be.

Clients get around. They see a lot of stuff, be it web clips, sample DVDs, interviews with independents or exposure to large studio environments. You might get by with the occasional misrepresentation of others' work as your own. It is wise, if you MUST show something you did not personally create or produce, that you are up front about this, noting to your potential clients that while you did not produce this element specifically, you are using it to represent that you CAN provide similar or exact work of the same creative caliber and unique quality.

You will eventually get caught out in this age of a shrinking global community and the World Wide Web.


Did I say "consistent marketing?" ALWAYS market yourself, your business and your services and products. Be relentless. Never stop talking about, showing or elaborating upon your concepts, availability, flexibility, creative drive, price, experience.

Use every possible available resource for getting the word out about what you do. Go for every eyeball you can get. Use the web, Twitter, Facebook and the host of other available social sites to full advantage. Inform, advise and advertise.

Market EVERY DAY! Don't kid yourself that calling a phone number and leaving a message, or hanging up after a busy signal is your effort for the day. KNOW that you must do something definitive, be active and engage potential clients in some manner on a daily basis or your market share will slant toward your competition.

Be consistent in your marketing efforts and you will receive consistent positive results. You will SEE the difference, and recognize it for what it is - successful marketing.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher

Friday, June 12, 2009

General Video Business Philosophy

The following was a recent forum discussion I posted that got a couple of interesting responses. I hope my response to one of the people, a video/film student, might stir up some thoughts, or some exchange of philosophy regarding our business.

This may be too open, personal or embarrassing to invite candid responses, but gotta ask it anyway. You who are in business as independent professional video service providers (some say "videographers") either full time, or putting in a LOT of hours part time, with the income thereof being important to your fiscal survival - are you making money, getting all the business you want or need, or making a profit?

Why? Do you think. Or, why not? Do you think.

How are you making money, getting business, making a profit?

What are you doing to change that if you are not?

Could be a lively, informative discussion. I know many of us tend to inflate things a bit, not wanting others to know how difficult our struggles are.

Me? I have feast AND famine, and not much rhyme or reason for when either hits. I market often, constantly, and vigorously via internet, direct mail, and occasional print advertising, as well as engage in guerrilla tactics. Each surge in my marketing efforts results in a surge in business. Each submersion into a state of non-marketing funk results in less business. On an annual basis, I am comfortable with my gross income levels, but I would rather be in the $100,000+ range than under it.
I have EVERY expectation of topping that marker this year, based on a variety of things I am pursuing, doing or that are in/on my 2009 marketing program planner/agenda.

What say you?

After the reply
from a forum participant, college student and video business upstart, I shared the following:

I suspect that the number of people who gravitate toward video production from non-related educational and previous work experience backgrounds might be equal to the number who elect to pursue the business formally via education, working at an apprentice level, essentially being hired on as a "go for" or gopher and "learning" the hard way with menial tasks, responsibilities and as slave labor. The industry's sad way of taking advantage of some pretty good resources - if only more of them would treat excited, adventurous and willing newcomers, or graduates with a LOT of respect and a little better pay scale. You want cheap labor, go to a third world country and dodge bullets :-)

You have set off on the right path, as (another responder) notes in her reply, by starting to market yourself, by realizing that marketing and advertising ARE full time endeavors that will ONLY pay off if you utilize all the possible resources at your disposal. My mantra has for a long time been, "If you market, you will make it!" © Earl Chessher You only have to read a bit of the articles (on this blog) to realize how seriously I take diversity, marketing, branding, marketing, advertising, get the picture.

Being a full time student, AND working at development of a business, maintaining a business plan and sustaining it, maintaining a marketing drive and sustaining it is certainly a full time + job. It is very similar, I suspect, to how those of us who came in through another entry, or even the back door - working a 40-hour or more per week primary job, while maintaining and sustaining a full-time-hours "part time" approach to establishing a successful video production business. The hardest thing for me to establish in my own mind is the term "successful."

I THINK I am successful, but I'm by no means where I want to be in terms of how MY mind views success. Like perfection, success (defined in a way MY mind can grasp it) seems more like a goal rather than a destination. I suppose my final degree of success will be judged upon me by family, friends, peers and competition sometimes mis-perceived as "the enemy." :-)

You are right about how easy it can become "...spending too much time making productions for a few people for free..." I used to think I was obligated, or felt obligated - that I "owed" people something, needed to "give back" to the community, etc. Hogwash! Yes, by all means do something altruistic, help humankind, give of yourself, but first and foremost do FOR yourself. Until you are in a position to help others (who REALLY need it) more, do what it takes to put you in a position to go that direction - think Bill Gates, whatever anybody wants to think of him, he's plowing money back into the world community with little or no hesitation. Also, however, think Donald Trump who made another saying popular besides "you're fired" when he noted that some business-focused action was "Nothing personal, just business."

I am only just grasping with some degree of consistency that I HAVE to depend on myself for the success of my business, for the continuance of my business, for paying my bills and fulfilling my obligations. I am only just grasping that I MUST be true to my needs, and my company's needs, first before even thinking about focusing on the needs of others - be it business, friends, even family. Yes, I continue to have problems balancing my emotions, feelings, business acumen, etc. and often make poor choices and decisions. But I am aware, and try to maintain a balance of some kind in the process of my daily endeavors.

Setting up your web site (I want to see it when you're up) and making yourself a legal business entity are important steps. Remember also that your web site will NEVER be finished - that goal vs destination thing again. You will forever be tweaking, maximizing, minimizing, mitigating, changing, improving, updating. Another burden to bear in the business of doing business. Your higher education will make some things clear, while muddying others. Only real life experience, going for it, jumping in (well, into say a cold lake as opposed to the mouth of a volcano - recognize the difference between being foolish and being brave) and taking a shot at it.

Had a friend who was already running a successful business. He'd paid his dues and learned the trade as an employee for a major area industrial/home pest control expert. He supported his employer and was loyal, and one day began making arrangements with his "boss/friend" to purchase some of the action. Over time the boss retired and David bought it all. He paid it off and brought in a half-million a year or more killing pests.

But he also enjoyed video. We both became interested early on in public access and joined the area program. David also started taking courses at area colleges. He kept taking courses, volunteering at the local public access station, taking courses - saying he wanted to learn all he could before "jumping into" video production as a final destination or side business. We did a LOT of video together in those early days, but David worried that he didn't "know enough."

I began marketing, developed a fairly basic web site, printed cards, advertised, talked incessantly about my "video business," did stuff for free and occasionally started getting paid. I did charity work, and got a few big breaks through the University of California system - did good stuff and they kept coming back. Things began to grow, then die, then grow, then die...they still do. Feast and famine, but you can mitigate that frustration by sustaining a marketing endeavor ALWAYS. NEVER stop marketing.

David finally gave in, or up, and occasionally does a bit of stuff at the public access station. He wants to retire but a few things took a wrong turn, now he's had to re-enter the pest control business after unsuccessfully retiring, and HAS to work at something he now really dislikes. He still talks about doing video, and told me just recently: "I guess I should have focused more on gaining experience and 'just doing it' like you told me, Earl." David admitted he was a "bit intimidated" by tackling another profession or business after all his work in another, and used "educating" himself as an excuse for not taking the leap forward.

Your statement is an accurate one: "Working as a professional requires a constant 24-hours-a-day commitment which is key to success; the marketing, production, hiring of crews, financing takes time." You can be fiercely independent, running the show and only doing what you yourself can do, charging more as you gain experience and qualifications, jobbing yourself out to others who recognize, want and need, and are willing and able to pay your worth to make their projects the best they can be. You can elect to seek growth and become a major company, a major employer and a successful mega-millions business enterprise. Either way you can achieve success. Actually, I don't know if either one is any easier than the other - depends on what you personally want to achieve.

I adhere to a "work once, sell many" approach where I produce performance events with the potential for sales of dozens to hundreds of copies, and prefer to keep the work load within my abilities to do alone, or with my partner and the occasional assistant, even occasionally jobbing something out and handling the business and receivables/payables myself. I do, and have, taken on larger productions, and have gained invaluable experience, resources, new and renewable business and headaches from them.

I preach diversity in production for the independent professional video services provider on this blog site, and most anywhere I participate - forums like this one, and videomaker, and video university, and wedvidpro, etc. I twitter and facebook information or links to information. I do what I can to encourage others in the business community, and also to eventually build up a relationship with enough followers that I can finally share a "monetized" version of my advice, articles, experience and ideas.

Video production IMHO is an awesome and wonderful business that provides maximum reward for maximum effort, but also requires very little beyond a devotion to doing it right, treating people right, and demanding that others treat YOU right. Honesty and fair play can take you far, but you also have to be willing to put on the gloves and duke it out. You'll know, if you have any drive and gumption at all, when fairness will work, and when the gloves HAVE to be applied. Trust your instincts.

You asked how I got started...

Briefly: I have been a writer and keeper of family history and stories all my life. I have spent the major portion of my professional life as a writer, publisher, journalist and photo-journalist and pretty much anything related to these areas. The transition to video, for me, was a natural one.

I wanted to establish myself as a fiction novelist, and published/paid writer of magazine articles. The road is slower, long and difficult and everybody, it seemed to me, also wanted to be a writer. In these subsequent years the printed form is taking a hit of sorts, so maybe I picked a better path - video.

Video quickly became a source of instant gratification - a short time between effort, and receiving money for it. It allowed me to be creative and also requires of me professional discipline and focus on making productions for others so I can occasionally, and perhaps one day ONLY, do productions I want to do. That day is still out there, somewhere, waiting for me.

In other words I had the personal interest, creative, physical and mental drive and ambition. Rather than re-educating myself (with the exception of a couple of editing courses, public access and some software lessons on Photoshop, etc. at area colleges) I opted to "jump in" and just do it! I have NEVER regretted the decision to quit my day job and pursue business as an independent professional video services provider.

While many in this industry frustrate me, there are many others whom I LOVE and with whom I enjoy a professional and personal association. Like ANY community/family there are good and bad people, good and bad experiences, but overall the professional video communities of which I have become a part are as close to family as I can get without visiting my brothers and sisters, and my dad in Texas :-)

If you read this far, I am impressed. If not, you failed to get to the part where I said I was impressed.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher