Video Production Business Tips – Systematizing the Creative Process

I spent the better part of my weekend reading a book about starting your own business. Reading such books will help you see the light as it relates to building a more successful video production business. It certainly helped me better understand a lot of the emotions I cycle through on a regular basis due to the stress involved with running a company, managing production and actually being the one to shoot and edit a good percentage of the work that comes into my studio.

I’ve found that the largest time suck and profit leak in a video business is the creative process. We often spend way too much time trying, tweaking and hating our work (repeat) until the deadline arrives and we are forced to hurry up and make it suitable for delivery to our client. In our studio, this is often referred to as “polishing a turd!”

When this happens, we aren’t fulfilled as artists and our bank account isn’t filled up with the cash needed to support our families and to reinvest in our businesses.

In order to be both fulfilled and financially successful, we have to find ways to systematize our creative process so we can deliver quality products, faster and with higher profit margins.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. However, in any creative environment, I think we’d agree that another possible definition might be doing something different every time but expecting the same result.

In other words, we want the freedom to be as creative as possible in each project we work on and we also want to be paid for all the time spent making the client’s masterpiece. It simply doesn’t happen this way.

We don’t have the luxury of an open-ended meter where we can just work on a project as long as we want with the guarantee of getting paid for every single hour it takes to complete it to our satisfaction.

Instead, we either work too many hours that we don’t get paid for or we intentionally work fewer hours because we want to make sure we get paid for all our efforts.

Both options are bad for us, the video business owner. If we work too many hours that aren’t compensated, we can’t survive and thrive financially and if we work fewer hours than it takes to deliver an exceptional product for the client, we risk not getting hired again which also impacts our financial well-being.

It’s a lose/lose scenario.

In order to be successful in our industry, we MUST systematize as much of the creative process as possible. Here are some areas to consider.

1. Scriptwriting

How do you go about writing a script? Create a process for doing the research, developing the outline, submitting for client review/approval, etc. Another thing you can consider doing is to encourage the client to handle more of the scriptwriting responsibilities so you don’t get bogged down with that part of the process. This is what I try to do in most projects and it’s been much more profitable (and pleasurable) for me overall.

2. Lighting Interviews, B-ROLL, etc.

I know DPs who like to take a different approach to lighting on every single shoot. I’ve actually heard them say that they don’t want any two shoots to look the same as far as lighting is concerned. I think this is insane! In my opinion, you don’t want to change your style with every shoot. Instead, pick a style, master it and use it for a long time on many shoots until you feel like you need to upgrade it with either different equipment or more advanced techniques.

It used to take me an hour to properly light an interview. Now I can do it in 15 minutes or less because I do it the same time, every time.

3. Editing & Motion Graphics

This is the part of our creative process that really kills us. The artist in us wants to try something new but the business manager just wants to hurry up and finish it. Believe it or not, there are patterns that you develop over time in the editing and design process that you can replicate with minor tweaks. Doing it this way takes much less time to create but looks completely different in the eyes of your clients.

The same logo animation with different color schemes, shadows, fonts, etc. can be used in dozens of videos without anyone ever knowing. The same color correction style or vignette treatment can also be recycled in each project without any issues. There are tons of things you can do to keep your work fresh for each client but to greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.

I know I didn’t go into a ton of detail in this post on how to systematize every aspect of the creative process but I hope you are already getting ideas on how you can find ways to produce outstanding work in less time… resulting in higher profits for your video production business!

Video Production Business Tips – How Much Does It Cost to Run Your Video Business?

How Much Does It Cost to Run Your Video Production Business? Knowing the answer to this question is crucial to your success. It is almost impossible to know what strategy to pursue until you fully understand what it takes for you to break- even each and every day.

Here’s a basic formula.

1. List all fixed (including your salary) and variable expenses that you incur on average each month. Leave out what you pay freelancers or other project related costs such as voiceovers, music licenses, etc. What is that number? Let’s say that your cost per month is $5000.

2. Divide this number by the average number of workdays per month. Let’s assume you have 20 workdays that would cost you $250 per day to run your video business. This is your break- even point.

Knowing this information allows you to focus your efforts on a daily basis. What video production services can you offer that will help you meet or exceed the $250 per day cost? Can you think of something that would give you consistent work each week that will contribute heavily to covering your costs?

Here’s what I used to do back then to help guarantee that I would meet or beat my daily cost.

• Looked and secured freelance camera operator gigs with sports networks. I worked for several companies in this fashion but what ended up really helping was a contract to videotape approximately 90 sporting events for $350 per day. On average, I worked 3-4 days a week on this gig, which gave me 3 days to capitalize on other opportunities.

• I searched and found a weekly television show that needed an editor. The show was a local access show produced in Atlanta and I called a “help wanted” ad posted on an industry forum. This deal ended up bringing me between $500 to $800 each week.

• Lastly, I was able to fill the rest of my open time by editing weddings for several videographers across the country. Needless to say, I worked my tail off to keep all of this going but I hardly ever had problems meeting or beating my costs. The key was in diversifying the types of projects and to hunt for something that would last longer than just one project.

I searched for and found residual project opportunities. I would now argue that I wasn’t paid nearly enough for any of the work I did back then but at least I had the volume of work needed to cover my expenses and to make a nice profit.

What does it cost you per day to run your video production business? Are you selling enough to cover this expense? Are you charging enough per hour? Do you need to look for residual opportunities that will bring in money on a regular basis?

Make a list of all the possible opportunities you’d like to pursue and go for it. If you aren’t charging enough, adjust your rates accordingly. If your rates are too high which are resulting in less bookings, consider lowering them so that you can sell more. If your projects are typically one offs, seek out jobs that you can contribute to for a long period of time, even if the per hour rate is a bit less than your normal projects.

Video Production Business Tips – Why Your Sales Projections Should Come From Reflections

In the long years of being in a video production business, I realized that everyone wants projections from you. The only problem is that you don’t have a crystal ball and it would be foolish to pretend that you know what’s going to happen in 3 months, a year and especially 3 years. After several years of failed attempts at predicting what future sales would be for our video production business, my wife and I decided to reflect on previous years instead.

My talent is making the money whereas her talent is keeping the money. We make a great team! As it turned out, all the interested parties I listed above were much happier with our projections once we started basing them on averages of previous year’s sales. How do we do this?

It’s really quite simple to use this method for projecting future sales if you have been in the video production business at least 2 years. Write down what you sold in each month of year one and in each month of year two. Then, average the numbers for each month.

The sales average for each month is your projected sales number for the upcoming year. For instance, if you did $10,000 in November of 2008 and $8,000 in November of 2009, the average of those two numbers is $9,000. This is what you should project for sales to be in November 2010. This is a very conservative projection and your bankers and investors will appreciate that. Plus, this gives you a realistic view of what your business should and most likely will do in sales each month in the coming year.

To get a picture of what your entire year will look like, repeat the exercise above for each month. Your total sales for the year should equal the average of the previous two year’s sales. In theory, all you’ll have to do to meet these numbers is keep doing what you’ve always done. You can follow the same level of product and customer service; make the same or similar volume of repeat orders and new orders, and the assumption that there won’t be any major changes in the economy.

The question now is, “Are you happy with those numbers?” If so, great! You can continue to do what you love best and feel good about what the next year will bring. If not, you’ll need to look at how and where you can improve your video production business to increase your revenues. In this case, I’d suggest smaller, incremental changes each year instead of a complete overhaul. Complete overhauls take a lot of your time and will cost quite a bit of money.

Talk to your mentors about these numbers. I’m assuming you have several mentors you consult with on a regular basis. Ask for their help in analyzing your numbers and for ideas on how to improve them.

Finally, remember that the only number more important than how much you sell is the number that reflects how much you keep. You need to be very aggressive is guarding your expenses because even if your video production business only experiences single digit percentage growth each year, you’ll continue to get wealthier and wealthier.

Video Production Business Tips – Migrating From Broadcast Employee to Full-Time Entrepreneur

Are you a full-time broadcast professional waiting for the perfect moment to strike out on your own?

If you’ve been in the broadcast industry for any length of time, you know a lot of people in and around the business. Plus, you’ve probably done freelance jobs for other businesses or have friends who have. If you are looking to strike out on your own, how can you leverage these contacts? How can you immediately turn these relationships into cash for your new video production business?

Here are some suggestions on what you can do before stepping out on your own:

1. Look into your employer’s freelance policy.

If they allow you to freelance, start making plans to look for extra video production work on the side. This will enable you to make extra money that can be invested in your video business or saved so you’ll have access to cash after you quit your full-time job.

Another benefit to working as a freelancer now is that you’ll make valuable contacts that will result in additional work down the road. The point here is to get as many freelance clients as possible on your list before quitting your full-time job. The more clients you have, the easier it will be to transition from your job to running your own video production business.

2. Assuming your employer allows freelancing, talk to as many people as possible about the video production services you provide on the side and ask them to send any video work they hear about your way.

I’m sure you’ve experienced on many occasions people asking if you can do a video project for them just because they know you work in the industry. When asked these questions, you probably either tell them that you can’t help them or you refer them to a friend or colleague that you know of who can help them.

Your goal is to make sure that every contact you have in the industry knows you provide these video production services on the side and that you’d appreciate their referrals. You can even offer commissions for paying work that they send to you.

3. Once you get a steady stream of freelance work and video projects that are referred to you from friends and colleagues, it will be time to see if there are any possibilities to contract with your current employer.

You must be ready to strike out on your own before having this conversation with your boss. In many cases, telling your employer what your plans are won’t result in any work for your new video production business.

However, I’ve known several people who have been able to secure lucrative short-term contracts with their previous employers because the employer still needed or wanted their services.

Remember these three steps to striking out on your own. They will definitely help you pursue your dream of making your own video production business.