A friend, follower and (so far) believer e-mailed me recently with a LOT of questions about the video business, how I can make money and stay in business charging the low fees I charge, and essentially wondering if he even should be pushing forward with video, or looking elsewhere to make a living.
His situation is not unique. There are many in the business questioning the sanity of staying with it or getting out, panicking over the current economic situation, or wondering where to focus to return to profitability. The business people asking this of themselves are not only those who just entered the business, or are a couple of years into it, there are a number of 20-year veterans taking a long, hard look at their video production business model as well.
I am afraid that the lengths at which I go to "cover it all" this may have to be a two- or three-part series, but we'll see. First, I will attempt to condense my friend's thoughts and respond to them, hopefully, with some degree of accuracy, honesty and confidence.
My friend wrote:
“As you may remember I was in a totally different line of work until I went to business school the start of 2009. They swayed me to rethink my path and long story short here I am with video. What do we know so far? First I need much help with organizing and setting up and running a business (why I went to business management school) but that is another story.”
“I officially started this career in June of 2009. Reflecting back I was not ready with business skills and I now know I did not have much setup correctly. Where am I right now, still trying to set things up. Your e-mail response made me take a hard look at where I am right now.”
My first response:
What I am hearing in this e-mail, backed by previous correspondence with you, is frustration with a capital “F”. Less than 12 months ago you started business school. You have “officially” been in the video business for six months. You are NOT making any real money yet and I suspect income is a major issue here. NOW!
You need money and nothing is coming together fast enough to counter the fiscal pressures with which you are dealing.
While it is important that you measure your progress, think out your mistakes and refocus on your goals along the way, less than 12 months out the gate is way soon to be expecting miracles of yourself, especially trying to juggle doing business, making money and learning a new trade.
Six months after hanging your shingle is way too soon to expect solid, continuous and renewable business. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly CAN be done, but you're probably too focused on setting up the perfect business to make that happen right this second.
Two things are, or should be, obvious to you at this time: You NEED to focus on a specific marketing approach with a specific (or diversified) product/service; and you NEED to be out yesterday, shooting something, billing for it, and making money, or at least generating cash flow.
The WAY to do this is to start now. Just do it, is a term I use often, and apply to my own marketing efforts, and strategy implementation as well. Sitting around, undecided, NOT focusing on a plan of approach, waiting until things become clearer, or you can focus better, or the climate changes, or whatever, isn't going to cut it. You HAVE to make decisions, decide on a direction and go for it - consistently, persistently and immediately.
This calls for doing something - taking action, not just sitting there worrying about it. If you are in a larger population area take your camera with you, drive around and check out the many (or few?) public parks, ball parks and other areas of youth sports activity. There's everything in every season, from baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer and swimming to events of celebration being held at the local park. It takes a certain amount of gumption and determination to cold call on these things, but there's money to be made by taking a guerilla-style approach to business and conducting “Walk-ON” marketing. This doesn’t work all the time, or every time, but persistence pays.
At the same time, in between your walk-on exercise and guerilla tactics for immediate business and cash flow, take the time to put together a one-page direct-mail letter, or half-page size post card. Do a look-up for whatever areas of interest you wish to pursue in event video production: again, youth sports, martial arts studios, private or school dance studios, area elementary, middle- or high-schools for plays, dance, sports, band, flag and other competitive or performance activities, funeral homes and/or mortuaries for funeral videotaping and montage production and/or projection services.
Work the guerilla approach and direct mail until you start receiving positive reactions and responses. These two areas, if you do them consistently, daily, will finally pay off dividends.
You could also put together something that reflects any type of production(s) you have already done, using snippets of your clips for samples, burn a demo DVD reel and start mailing that to every possible home/business address you can confirm - even if you have to address it to "occupant" or "business owner" at first. Eventually you will begin acquiring names and contacts and be able to develop a more personal approach to a specific person at many of these addresses.
If you are interested in pursuing wedding production, go visit a bridal gown shop, a tux rental place, a caterer, a location/venue, a bakery, perhaps a coordinator and offer to put together at no charge a 3-to-5-minute clips featuring their business, services and products or location. Combine this (especially if they are in a general service area) content with your own demo clip(s) and provide them free to the participations. They will distribute them from their counters, use them for web video and generally promote themselves while promoting you as well.
This could be done with other inter-related business and services as well. Perhaps a pet shop, pet supplies center, specialty shops or other small businesses with complimentary services or products.
But the only way to make this happen is to start now. Do something. Make an effort. It takes a major effort on your part to motivate yourself and push until you establish a strong self-starter mood. The incentive would be gaining business and establishing resources for immediate cash flow, even if it is a $125 down-and-dirty montage, or sales of several highlight videos from Saturday's youth soccer event. Cash flow is cash flow, and on a consistent level it can carry you from month-to-month until you've established broader, bigger and better business resources via your direct-mail marketing strategies.
To be continued...
Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher