So, you got yourself a camera and you’re all set to go make your mark on the video industry. Not so fast! The video landscape is littered with folks who went out in the world and failed. That said, this doesn’t have to happen to you if you follow some easy steps that will develop you into a video professional that people want to hire. After all, being creative is great, but getting paid for it is even better. So let’s get started.
Work for Free
Pro Bono is work that one does for free. I can hear you already, “you said we’d get paid for this.” There will always be a huge amount of really talented and experienced people out there, so you have to earn your reputation. In other words, the video business is an apprenticeship type of business. Unless your family owns a TV station, you will definitely start at the bottom. The position at the bottom is the Production Assistant, which exists to see if you have what it takes to be in the business. We all started there, so do well and you will be rewarded. Do poorly, and you will be forgotten. It’s just that easy.
Oh and there’s a very good chance you’ll get paid in pizza. Pizza is the official food of video production, after all.
I’m going to work and get paid in pizza? Yes, but good things will come from this. Once you’ve worked for free and have done a good job, you can use some of the footage from these shoots for your reel. This is the singular most important thing you can get out of these jobs. Why? Because no one will hire you for money until they see your reel.
Getting a Job
Now that you’ve worked some free jobs or personal projects and have a 1-2 minute reel of your work, where do you go from here to get a paying gig? This is the time where you have to do some soul searching to decide what you want to be when you grow up. The decisions you make here will affect the rest of your career. The natural inertia of your first job will likely propel you into a certain career path. This means if you want to work in TV, you need a TV job. If you want corporate, you need a corporate job. Hollywood equals Hollywood. You get the picture.
If you’re young and just starting out, now may be the time to take a risk and see where it takes you.
If you’re young and just starting out, now may be the time to take a risk and see where it takes you. If you’re older and changing careers to video, you might be more risk-averse but there are still opportunities.
Starting your own Business
Video production is pretty specialized, and not everyone is a potential client. As a colleague once told me, video production is not an impulse buy. You’ll have to cultivate clients who may have no idea how video can help them. This is difficult because once you’ve convinced them to produce a video, it may be years before they do an update or another production. This is why a lot of new video folks go into the wedding video business first.
Guess what? When people get married, they want a video of the event. If you can break into this market and if you do a good job, you will likely have all the work you can handle. Why? Referrals. A happy bride can’t wait to refer their vendors — it’s truly amazing. Of course, most couples plan their weddings up to a year in advance, which means you’re not getting paid for a bit. Don’t quit your day job just yet. Once you get a backlog of weddings and some cash flow, this will allow you to go cultivate other types of clients.
Want to be the next YouTube star and make millions based on the hits to your videos? Well, it’s possible but don’t expect to make it big quickly. This is probably a career path best approached as a long haul, continuing opportunity. If you continue to produce and post videos on your YouTube channel, over time, they will get traction and could produce supplemental income for you.
The video business today is one that requires us to wear many hats in order to make a full-time living. Gone are the days where you would get hired and retire with the same company. The more streams of video income you can develop now, the better off you’ll be later. Eventually, one of these streams will likely turn into a full-time endeavor. But in the meantime, you can make a good living doing what you love. And in the end, there isn’t any price you can put on that.
John Cassinari is Executive Producer at Imagination Unlimited, a video production company headquartered in Orlando, Florida. He also taught advanced video post-production editing at the University of Central Florida.