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February 21, 2012 at 10:54 PM #43365
How cool would it be to turn things around in your video related business where you are so busy you develop a need to QUALIFY your clients before YOU accept THEM, rather than THEY accept YOU?
I have a friend in an entirely different line of work (contractor, home builder) who, even several years into this housing and ongoing economic slump has a waiting list of people who HAVE to have HIM for their project … be it a swimming pool installation, kitchen, bath or room addition/remodeling, new home, mountain or lakeside cabin, whatever.
He is NOT cheap, but he is fair based on current prices for materials and what have you. He is meticulous, methodical, has been accused of being a bit too slow in the finish, and so confident in his craft that HE qualifies his clients, not the other way around. If they want him, his expertise and master craftsmanship, at HIS prices, they simply must wait or … he doesn’t say this but essentially “there’s the door!” Nine out of ten won’t take the door, they’ll pay and they’ll wait.
I STILL am trying to work out how that works for him in a way I can apply it to MY trade. In analyzing the factors regarding MY business, pricing, philosophy and approach, I’ve come up with these points:
FAIR PRICING… I’m not the cheapest services provider in my market, nor am I the highest priced. I’ve learned how to minimize my efforts while STILL providing MORE than is expected or paid for (in most cases).
GOOD & FAST… My turnaround time is exemplary in an industry (at least with independent professional video services providers) that often sees delivery of product (especially weddings) MONTHS after the event. My average wedding production turnaround is less than six weeks, often four weeks. My average funeral production turnaround is less than three weeks. I deliver montage productions within 24 hours, not more than 48 hours, after receipt of all materials. Event productions are often delivered within two weeks, and this includes orders for as many as 50 to 150 DVDs.
HIGHLY EXPERIENCED… I have an established business record and production reputation backed by MANY samples of diverse video production work. I have unlimited references who will support my claim to be professional, honest, affordable and dependable. My references ALWAYS tell those inquiring that I ALWAYS do what I say I’ll do, and usually much, much more.
MANY of you in this business follow the same route, offer the same level of professional services and products and can make the same claims. Some of you may even be like my builder friend and have found your way into waiting lists, personal demand and client qualification process that he has. MANY, MANY MORE of us have not, including myself.
Those of you who have, and those of you who though you have not but believe you know why AND HOW you can or could, feel free to share your thoughts. How do we as professional independent video services providers get to the point where WE qualify our clients and gain a list of people willing to pay their deposits and WAIT, as opposed to continuing to have to barter, bargain, discount and allow any and all tire kickers to qualify (or not) us?
February 22, 2012 at 5:35 AM #181982
The quality of the work is what sells in my opinion, BUT in video production we have the big problem that everyone thinks they can produce a professional video with their happy cams and Movie Maker. People expect that we charge low for a difficult video production, such as weddings, because apparently they can do it too. I also believe that if we charge more for our services our potential clients could just ask the kid around the block to record their activity for them at a really low rate. I rarely do event productions, such as weddings, birthdays and so on because I cannot even mention over $800 because they see me with the WHAT!! face. The times I have done productions like this I get a decent amount of income from DVD sales. The problem with depending on this kind of production is that they take animmenseamount of time to make and in my case they hardly generate the necessary income for return of investment. Also we have to consider that the equipment we use is not by any means cheap. Is not the same recording with a $4000 camcorder than a $100. Is not the same recording audio with the built in mic than is with a shotgun or wireless lav. And above all is not the same editing with a consumer software than editing with a profesional software, or in most of our cases, a whole suite of programs.
IMHO no matter how fair our prices are, how fast our turnaround time is and how much experience we have, is (sadly) irrelevant when everyone, with no special training, can “produce” a video. So for most of us, being like your builder friend is kind of difficult. We are competing against a whole lot of consumer products which are “Plug, Play, your done” and “drag, drop, YouTube” (lame analogy jajaja).
February 22, 2012 at 10:47 AM #181983
I kind of stumbled into a different market and one I never expected to get into, music videos. Granted, I like heavy metal and my clientele are head bangers. Even though, I have yet to put a MTV video out, coming in March, I am up to 9 music videos this year so far. The funny thing is that I never intended to get into this line of production, mainly I do corporate gigs yet I keep getting music vids which is cool. I did slam one together as a friends birthday present that the video portion came out pretty cool but the audio sucks as this footage was to be used for later, staged production. My one qualifying thing is I have to like the music or it will not be the best production. My rates are in the middle for pricing but will go up in the future when I get more examples. I put the vid up to show an example.
February 22, 2012 at 11:47 AM #181984
I am in the early stages of doing a death metal music vid (my 32 year old son’s friends band). I put together a proof of concept (which sucks) but shows some basic stuff made from stock video & band photos (need to video a couple of performances and rehearsals). I have some ideas but it’s not my favorite genre and I am having a tough time with the growling (as in understanding it). I’ll post the vid when I get it done.
February 22, 2012 at 11:52 AM #181985
Luis – I hear you. I am bidding a job where the person recorded and posted an iPhone video (which was abysmal). I got a chance to bid the job because I took that awful stuff and made it watchable without much work (about two hours, half of which was audio cleanup). I’ll see if it goes anywhere but we all fight the Uncle George with a camera scenarios all the time – I actually put up an ad about how I fix those kind of videos…
February 22, 2012 at 2:08 PM #181986
Remember when the Nikon SLR 35mm still cameras invaded the US? Suddenly, anybody who could afford one was in the ” professional photography ” biz. Guys with REAL photography studios were suddenly plaguedby a swarm of flies! Is it any different today with modern digital camcorders?
Curious thing about ” professionals “: they often have an inflated opinion of their own work and capabilities . . . which ultimately mustresult in an eventual balance being struck between their ability to promote their work and any subsequent demand for it. Consensus dictates the truth; ie, if one is being paid well for their efforts and they are still in demand, they must be doing something right.
In the modern digital world where WYSIWYG, where is the magic? After all, why would one want to plunk down $ 4K to pay some dude to shoot, edit, sweetenhis daughter’s wedding, when the precosious kid next door would do it for $ 100? Hell, proud father could even buy a $ 900 camcorder he gets to keep.
Somehow, the successful professional videographer will have found a balance between what he promises, what he can deliver ( without ultimately resulting in paying himself $ 2.50/hr ), and what the client expects ( for peanuts ). I avoid the issue by calling my Jones a ” hobby ” and shooting what interests me without any expectation of getting paid for it. It isn’t quite as expensive as collecting vintage Ferrari’s, but as long as I can conceal my purchases from the wife I still have a place to eat and sleep.
February 22, 2012 at 2:17 PM #181987
EarlC, What you propose takes years, and an understanding of human behavior. In this area when someone dies I am “THE GUY” to contact. Sad to say but I do dark good. Once I did have a waiting list of 3 memorial videos, and an impossible time line. I can’t explain how I became the memorial video guy, but it happened, in fact on my videos done shelf they take up most of the room. And it has now reached the point that the subject of the video will contact me and work with me to lay out THEIR production. I have several already started. One subject was in her dying bed, all her children but one were too busy to living their own lives, she wanted her deathbed in the video. Regardless of that request I will NEVER do it again. I wish I could go back 4-6 years to see how I became the memorial death video guy, but of course I can’t.
After reading your post I did give it some thought as to how I would tackle it. Befriend the person who is in charge without crossing the line, it may mean playing into their emotions a bit. I did door to door sales and phone sales for many years and there is an art to making people want to help you by buying from you or giving of themselves to you in some way. As with all video projects we discuss what will be done and we get their ideas. Sometimes the customers ideas are too way out to even include, but not including them will put them off, sometimes as the producer we DO know what will and will not work. But consider this, they hired a pro to get what can’t be done and to do what they want. So to get in demand sometimes means a bit of giving in the beginning. But not killing our work. So how? Say you have a client who wants something done in a wedding or advert that just can’t be done, or should not be done. Well DO IT. In some cases I have made a demo/trial run, without investing a great deal of time, to include their request. I keep it to that segment, then have them over to show them. I have sometimes gotten a few minutes into the demo and was requested to stop. They could see why something would not work. I do not know if videographers can get in demand due to the hip shooting cowboys. But without lowering the price; the way to get customers to choose you is to give them more than they expected. If Star Trek taught me anything make people believe you can walk on water. Remember Mr. Scott always told Kirk 4 hours to fix the warp drive and he had it done in 1 hour?
Example: Review what you offer, give the customer what you reviewed, but include some nice extra, just give it up, maybe something that did not require much work. Case in point, in a wedding when the couple did their return walk I did a dark frame mirror reflection frame that approached the camera as the couple did, it was not in the package, took only about an extra hour total time but the payoff was awesome, they loved that little extra. I believe it is not just in the quality, pricing, or work, but in how you make the person feel about their ideas, and self, and if you are wiling to give up something extra of yourself. Not enough to be consider a walk over, but enough to show that that customer was special, soon you may be in demand.
February 22, 2012 at 2:26 PM #181988
I wanted to share a segment of a wedding client I had that wanted the impossible for nothing, even backing out on his end.
In this wedding I knew the bride since childhood. I spoke with the bride and groom and we set up every aspect, and a payment schedule. So I went to work. He took her to Florida to Propose and had her brother shoot the proposal from a massive distance on a SD camera at full zoom and asked if I could fix it. I did what you see posted here.
In the end the groom turned out to be a total and complete “in control” guy, and when I had completed the first DVD he “sent” someone to pick it up. It ended then and there. He kept no agreements. The end of the first DVD says to be continued on the second, which is the reception and after wedding in the chamber room. There will of course never be a second DVD. He blew it. I still see them from time to time, but he wanted EVERYTHING his way and at his cost. I was powerless to do a single thing. So in short, no matter what you do, some people are beyond pleasing, and those few can destroy years of a good rep.
May 24, 2012 at 12:05 AM #181989
Earl, your assessment of the characteristics necessary for success as defined by your contractor friend are on target. The bell curve of business success is similar for all businesses, there is the top 10-20% and the bottom 10-20%. The remaining 60-80% are where the bulk of business fall. I propose that your contractor friend has some other characteristics that seperate him from the pack. Usually this involves working harder and smarter and relating to/dealing with clients better than the rest of the market. I suggest you do a documentary on your friend so you can trail him around and really see what makes him tick. Don’t forget to include interviews with employees, clients, suppliers and vendors. Once done, your video should provide viewers with an answer to what makes him so successful. That video will probably be a great interest to other contractors and a template for documenting other businesses. I’d like to see it as well.