Make your time behind the camcorder more profitable.
Many of us got into producing video because we simply enjoyed capturing memorable moments of our family and friends. If you're reading this, most likely you've honed your shooting and editing skills to the point where you are now getting requests for doing other people's videos. Perhaps you've even purchased better equipment with the expectation of earning some extra cash. So here are five dos and don'ts to help you make what's already fun, profitable.
1. Develop a Plan
Okay, you've got enough good equipment, you have the support of friends and family and perhaps you're even considering going full-time. Do you really have everything you need to quit your day job? Do you have a business plan? Whether you're in video production to earn fun-money or a living, you owe it to yourself and your dependents to have a solid plan.
This is probably the most important step in earning profit from video production. A business plan prompts you to look at your strengths and weaknesses; do critical research on your competition; project income and expenses; determine if you have enough start-up capital; plan for marketing; and will provide you with an overall assessment of your chances of success. There are many resources online that promote software solutions as well as books on creating business plans. But don't overlook a valuable (and free) resource: SCORE. This non-profit organization, comprised largely of retired business professionals, has chapters in most areas of the country. A locator online is available at www.score.org.
2. Don't Advertise… and No One Will Notice
If you do good work, a certain amount of business will always come to you by the most cost effective advertising, word-of-mouth. If you want more work, find out where your potential clients are and be there. If you are doing weddings, get into the bridal fairs and special bridal newspaper supplements–and get to know other wedding pros like florists and caterers.
If you enjoy producing corporate training videos, you'll need to get in front of local business owners through the area Chamber of Commerce, trade publications or special events. Advertising and marketing may not be as fun as editing, but they are as critical to earning more money as bringing extra tape to a shoot.
3. Don't Give it Away!
Your time and skills are valuable. So are those of your fellow video hobbyists or professionals in your area. Sure, when you're starting out you may need to keep your prices low to get the job. But you will soon find that by keeping your rates lower than the area average, you will not only earn less than you could but you may earn the ire of your colleagues. Set your rates competitively, but charge what you're worth!
4. Don't Spend it all on Equipment
O.K., maybe this is obvious. But it's all too common. Do you consider your time behind the camcorder a passion, hobby, or business? Take a hard look. Is it primarily an outlet for your creative energies? Do you hope to feed your family on the income? Or, and be honest, do you just want it to pay for cool new toys? Without making this critical assessment, you'll likely wind up falling far short of your earning potential. Don't get us wrong, buying equipment can be half the fun! In fact, if there were a way to make money doing this, many of us would be rich. Instead, it can do the opposite, and quickly. Just remember profit is what's left after expenses.
5. Remember, it's a Business
Even if you do it part-time, it's easy to get caught up in developing your skills as a videographer and editor, leaving little time for record keeping, advertising and promotion, and even life with your family. It can be a hassle, but be sure to take all the legitimate tax deductions you can: equipment, repairs, mileage, phone, and investigate the recently relaxed home office deduction.
Above all, whether you remain part-time or go pro, remember what originally attracted you to producing your own videos and keep enjoying the process!
Brian Peterson is Videomaker's Editor in Chief.