Photo credit: San Diego video producer Patty Mooney, Crystal Pyramid Productions

Once upon a time in a galaxy not that far away, before the internet, businesses would purchase space in these huge tomes known as the Yellow Pages.  At its peak, most big-city editions of the Yellow Pages were 3 inches thick. “Let your fingers do the walking” was the Yellow Pages’ mantra, with directories delivered annually to every doorstep in America.

In 1981, after college, my partner, DP Mark Schulze, leafed through each page of our local YP directory, in search of “what he wanted to be when he grew up.”  He shuffled from “Animal Shelters” through to “Coffee Shops, past “Real Estate Agents” finally landing on “Video Production Companies.”  At that time, there were few. 

That was his “Ah Ha!” moment. He closed the book with a thud.  And so he invested in himself in his idea. Mark jumped through all the necessary hoops to form a company.  He then began cold-calling potential clients to stir up business.

36 years later, video producers are in the same position except instead of walking, your fingers fly over your keyboard accessing more information in seconds than anyone could have imagined in the ‘80s.

But though finding companies to contact is easier, the low cost of video gear means that many wanna-be entrepreneurs have made video production a highly-competitive niche.

And why not?  Most people think Video Production is a glamorous business leading to fun gigs with celebrities every day.  They don’t consider the lifting, hauling, set-up and tear-down of equipment, the 10-hour days recording speakers who drone on, or the one-man-band gigs requiring you to play all the positions: Camera Operator, Grip, Gaffer and Sound Person.  It’s not easy but if the video production bug has bitten you, you’re in it to win it.

Most people think Video Production is a glamorous business leading to fun gigs with celebrities every day.

Today’s videographers need to think outside the box to bring in business.  The good news is you no longer need to educate potential clients on how video can help them.  They already know. Some companies have even set up their own video departments. Contact marketing directors of companies you hope to work with, and see if they need any help. Tap your friends and see if they have any leads. Many people just starting out in the biz offer their services as interns; that way they are first in line for any paid positions. Work on a robust reel of your finished work.

Weddings and special events are bread-and-butter gigs and you can acquire more of this sort of work via word-of-mouth and networking with special-events producers. However, working every weekend can get stale.

Non-profits always need video but have small budgets. If you like the cause, give them a deal then use the video as part of your reel to market your video services. 

Legacy videos are becoming popular. These are historical family videos that will be passed down to upcoming generations. Do some detective work to discover well-to-do families that may want a legacy video.  An ad in Craigslist or Facebook could pan out especially if you provide an attractive offer.

Many baby-boomers are now retiring from video production. Befriend one or two and see if they would be willing to start siphoning business your way.  Be prepared to offer a percentage of any income you earn from their referrals. And call, don’t text.

Learn what conventions are coming to your town and if any visiting companies will need video. You may need to become a member of your local convention and visitors bureau to access the list.

Video Production is one of the most creative careers out there.  Use your creative mind to conjure up some gigs for yourself that will lead to several decades of satisfaction and monetary rewards, not to mention contacts with whom you’ll want to stay in touch for future assignments. Note: the more roles you can play in the video production industry, the more potential for work you will have.

Patty Mooney is a Partner at San Diego’s longest-standing video production house, Crystal Pyramid Productions, where she wears many hats– Video Producer, Editor, Teleprompter Operator, Sound Technician, Boom Operator and Writer.

Patty Mooney
I have been involved in video production since 1982 and wear many hats: Producer, Editor, Teleprompter Operator, Sound Mixer, Boom Pole Operator, Voice Over and Camera Operator. And in my "spare time," I enjoy Mountain Biking, Hiking, World Travel, Beer and Wine Tasting, and Philanthropy.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I just read your article in my latest issue of Videomaker. I have to say, this is great for the wide-eyed newbie that thinks this is an easy field to get into. The truth is, now everyone with a phone or a decent store-bought camera thinks they can do this and now with the advent of social media, batting 20 somethings for gigs because they have more Instagram followers is an entire headache I never even planned on.

    Maybe it’s just where I live. As a Los Angeles resident, the competition is insane and if I am not careful I can find myself racing to the bottom and bidding on jobs cheaper than the next person just to land a gig.

    I easily have over 5K in equipment in my house. I work as a one-person operation. I have been a freelance videographer/filmmaker for about five years now. There are good months and there are certainly bad months. I have tried just about every avenue laid out in your article with mixed results.

    I am flexible with my pricing, but I am fair when it comes to quoting for my perceived time invested in projects. I have lost bids to family members that have agreed to shoot a wedding on a cell phone and I have had people not return calls or emails because they thought my quote was just too high. Not understanding that driving 25 miles away, plus setting up, recording, editing and eventually handing over a completed project takes more effort than they realize, and that even if they only need three hours of my time to record that I easily another 16-20 editing a finished product.

    I think the one thing that is very misrepresented here is this notion that doing a free gig puts you in line for jobs when a budget becomes available. I have never been offered a paying job after doing work for free. I have agreed, often times because I was a fan of the company, organization or cause. The work was praised, it was delivered within reason, I never received one call back.

    I have done weddings, Bar & Bat-mitzvahs, I routinely do school culmination ceremonies, I have produced content for myself on topics I found interesting, I even created and finished a full-length documentary that I have tried to shop around for no other reason than to get more work from it. So far nothing.

    I am at a strange place with this career, I am in dire need of someone to work social media for me, but I do not make enough to pay someone. I do not like working for free, so I do not feel right asking someone else the same. I have increased my Instagram profile extensively the last several months and even lent a hand to some popular youtube and Instagram personalities and have never received a request or even an inquiry to my work.

    A little dejected, a little distraught and a bit over the whole freelance thing I am now trying to parlay my skills into a full-time job working for a company and even that is being met with a lack of interest. I do sometimes think that a change of skills might be in order, because I am just not feeling the whole rewarding career with this particular skill-set at least not as a one-person operation in 2017.

  2. I am so glad I see your response to this article. I had life time dreams of becoming a Producer/Director but never took the dive.
    Oh yeh, I’ve gotten involved in public access and even hosting my own shows called”Metuchen On The Air”. But never made an income.
    Now that I see your response to this article I have decided not to take the dive.
    I’ll just continue to post on YouTube. If you type in the YouTube search the name Carl Sylvester you see my videos pop up. I somehow have a following of over 530 followers. How did I manage that? I don’t know.
    But I DO know that I’ll never start my own production company. You saved me a world of trouble.
    PS: I’m on Facebook as well listed as
    Carl K. Sylvester. I’m the guy in the red shirt posing with Mao in the background.