The more streams of video income you can develop now, the better off you’ll be later.
The more streams of video income you can develop now, the better off you’ll be later.

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.

The position at the bottom is the Production Assistant, which exists to see if you have what it takes to be in the business
The position at the bottom is the Production Assistant, which exists to see if you have what it takes to be in the business

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.

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.
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.

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.

Moving Forward

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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Good afternoon John,

    I read your post with interest, but didn’t find much info on what I am currently working on, so while @LAX Airport waiting for my flight to Cambodia, I thought I may shoot you a mai, with the hope you will be interested in shooting me back a few thoughts, and advices.

    To start, here is a brief background info about me:
    I am a 63 year old retired college prof. working with my wife for non-profit organizations around the world.
    She is a full time certified Salesforce consultant working from home, and I am the photographer/videographer for the organization we created called “Worldstouch”.
    Twice a year we both travel to visit clients for a few months each time (we do that on our own money, but once we arrive we only work for room, board and local transportation, so it is not strictly speaking pro-bono).
    As a photographer/videographer I have shot pictures and videos and done editing for many years, yet I do not considerer myself a pro. I have a good eye, can shot pictures and videos in challenging situations and I can edit what I collected in a basic fashion. Most of what I have done so far is to document my client’s operations, their employees, and their clients accomplishment for the purpose of publicizing the non-profit organization’s activities in local venues.

    My first question is about networking: As you say in your post working alone is fine but one is at risk to reinvent the wheel… so are you aware of other people/organizations in the US doing the same kind of work that would be profitable for me to get in touch with? If not, do you know of sites on the Net that you would recommend me to look for in order to find them?

    My second question is about further training for me: Most organizations I work with are third world operations that can’t afford top of the line photographic productions…Yet!, so what kind of training would you first suggest for me pursue? and what should I look into in order to encourage them to think bigger in the future?

    I am fully aware that these are kind of wide open questions, but your professional take on this will provide me with some valuable insights and help me to custom build my own answers.

    I thank your for your time, and wish you the best
    Jean-Francois Llorens

  2. Hi Mr. Lorenzo

    Thank you for the article.

    However, I would like some advice for people who are seeking to return to the video industry.

    I majored in Video Production in college and had a small production company for about seven years. I don’t have any recent work or equipment right now and currently dealing with financial situation which keep me from getting the necessary equipment. Yet I make a real effort to keep on top of the industry news. I have done the internship and free work during college and when i had my business.

    Do you have any other recommendations of how I could get back into the industry?

    • We CCNY Alumni and colleagues are interested in the video project you did on Open Admissions struggle at CCNY. Mr. DeLeon suggested we contact you. We have a historical commemoration on campus in the next few weeks. We would like to invite you. Looking forward to your response.

  3. Hello, I’m 37 and I work as a full-time videographer for a larger construction company. It’s a great job making training videos, fun videos for their All Hands meetings, PSAs, and documentaries. I’m paid a decent wage but I realize that I’m not ever going to make 100K/year even if I stay for another 10 years. I want to know what people do for the long haul and creating a comfortable retirement. What do the 60 year olds do when they spend their careers working as an in house videographer for a company? Do they just go freelance and pick up work where they can or do most people pivot into something like instructional designer or just leave this career path and become an electrician?

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