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.