This concern is much like the age-old expression that you cannot get a job without experience and you cannot get experience without a job. Frustrating, to say the least. Daunting at best. The key to success in developing and marketing a successful business as an Independent Professional Video Services Provider is to start. Today! Just do it! It is not impossible to start out from this point. But you do have to start. Decide you will do something now while you focus on developing your specific video production business interest via direct-mail marketing.
Here’s the usual situation. Probably. One of my readers recently wrote:
“Something I have been struggling with. I think you are right that marketing is key. Although I have been doing video for another company for years I have now started out on my own.
“The problem is that I have no footage of my own that I can use for demo DVDs, etc. So I now have to frantically start shooting footage that I can use, which does not help the short-term cash flow.
“I think this is a problem that many of your potential buyers of your (upcoming) book (‘Video Production, Marketing and Success!’) might face as well, and that you could perhaps suggest a solution for.”
These are my thoughts and suggestions:
I know YOU probably know “the obvious” but just in case you’ve overlooked, put off or was afraid it would be necessary - here are the principal elements I get from your comments:
* You've done work for another company for years, so you have experience (or not)
* You have little, if any, of your own footage to use for marketing/demo (also, or not)
* You want/need to acquire footage you can use to develop a demo reel
* You cannot (as easily) market, generate new business or make sales without examples
* You need cash flow NOW
The principal challenge here is that we HAVE to DO SOMETHING, DO it NOW, and make it happen ASAP. We SHOULD have started yesterday, last week, a year ago, a decade...
...but we didn't. And all along knowing we should have been doing what we could to accumulate footage, build a portfolio, demo reel, whatever.
What happens is that thought of putting forth the effort becomes daunting, especially when folks like you and me have various issues and challenges, but need to do something to survive anyway, no matter how much it hurts. Right? It is almost overwhelming. Right? Even though we beat ourselves over the head DAILY that we NEED to get moving, do something, get out there and mingle, market. We don't, and another day passes without hope. Dismal, I know, but I will bet that most of us (myself included - very MUCH included) don't always have the humph to rock and roll like we know we should.
This inertia can be overcome but like most difficult tasks, it takes hard work, focus and a solid effort.
That is when we have to, as my East Texas redneck brother-in-law always says: "Suck it up. Be a man!" Yeah, it's a "guy thing" but one could also say, "Suck it up and be a WOMAN!" We HAVE to "just do it!" Otherwise "it" will not get done. Sermonette over.
Here’s what I’d do, and/or have done!
1.) Get whatever permissions you can from that other company to use footage you've worked with or on for them for marketing purposes. Most will, especially if the working relationship has been cordial, built on trust and respect for each other. If this isn’t an option, read further.
2.) YES, seek out whatever events you want to market and approach them with “some free production” if they will sign a release granting you marketing use. This is GREAT for walking on the field for youth sports events, virtually ANYTHING you see occurring in progress. I’ve done this with soccer, baseball, football, tennis, bicycle groups, volleyball matches, equestrian events (horses :-), even parties being held in public parks. Some will not be cooperative, but on the whole you will get enthusiastic support. Only be sure to keep any promises you make, and get those releases in writing or recorded on video.
2b.) Do the same with Craig’s Lists or any other potential web or other available resource for finding out about events and accumulating footage.
Sermonette two! The whole secret to this working, coming together fast and helping your situation is to START TODAY! Do it now! Many of us, if we start over-thinking the situation, we talk ourselves out of doing it today and that’s one more day lost toward establishing a successful effort.
3.) You need cash flow yesterday, today at the latest! There are a host of potential clients “out there”. You HAVE to go to them, contact or call them, visit with them camera-in-hand, and be ready to roll. Martial arts and dance studios, pet shops, small businesses...
...all these and more are approachable, but it takes gumption to do so. You have to find that gumption. Great ideas won't work unless you do. Yes, I've said that before.
If you approach the same people for sales at low dollar values (for now) that you approach for acquiring sample footage; if you get out there and mingle, market, you will get paying gigs. People WILL ask, and hire - even if you NEVER show them one second of footage on a demo reel. You look and act professional, and your gear/rig says/looks “professional” so you will get business, sometimes immediately.
I pitched a car show one time, my first attempt, and got permission to do a quasi-documentary of the event. Sales were dismal and some politics got in the way of things, but I picked up several other jobs from participants. These guys often have money, are CEOs or other, of their own, or large companies, etc. I was hired by a box and packaging company manager; a small machine shop owner; and a dress boutique owner, all the same day.
4.) YOU NEED FOOTAGE! In my early days, and still whenever there’s something I do not specifically have a sample of, or have not yet personally done, I would borrow samples of what I KNEW I could do - most of this from people I’d met who were in the business and knew me, trusted me. What I would do was put together some samples from other producers and MAKE DARN SURE my potential clients KNEW and understood that it was “borrowed” material used only as samples for reference and NOT my own. I stress this footage is “representative” of what I can do, or had the experience and knowledge to do, and was exemplary of my approach and style.
I had, at one time, accumulated a demo reel of sample clips from ALL permission-granted resources and was able to tell potential customers they could contact these resources to verify the validity of my claim to either experience, association or whatever. I didn’t do this for long, but early into my career I did utilize these resources until I had finally accumulated sufficient demo materials of my own.
There are those who will say this is unethical, that it is misleading. Most who do this might make it so, but done properly, I disagree. Yes, it CAN be unethical, misleading. NO, it doesn’t HAVE to be if you are honest and up front about the source, your experience and claims, and do not claim to have done the specific reference work you are sharing.
Use your Google, or other, search skills to locate business addresses in your desired service area. Start your direct-mail campaign today. Develop a one-page letter, a half-page-sized postcard, and start developing a demo reel DVD. Get ’er done, as a comic once said.
What I'm sharing here NOW is part of the all-inclusive book: "Video Production, Marketing and Success!: The Definitive Resource Book for the Full & Part Time Independent Video Producer". Much of the book will feature SCADS of DVD samples, and editable CD pdf files that can be revised to fit special individual business needs.
Remember: "If you market, you will make it!" © Earl Chessher