The Top Five Video Moneymakers for Independents

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    • #43246

      OK everyone chime in here. What are, in your professional opinion based on actual experience, the top five moneymakers for independent video producers?

      Of those which, in your professional opinion based on actual experience, is the highest-paying based on actual dollars per hour earned; the lowest?


      What other independent video production options should a new video businessperson avoid when attempting to develop a profitable operation; what other options not mentioned might be viable considerations?


      My responses? The top five, not in order of importance or potential gross profits, would be weddings, personal events, youth sports, community events and small business web video production.

      Weddings bring in the least amount of dollars per hour invested from start to completion. Small business web video production has the potential for bringing in the most dollars per hour.

      Why? Because weddings require the highest investment of time and effort, not to mention initial investment, to produce a finished product, and the general demographics in this business arena are essentially the least likely people to perceive a high level of dollar value, generally speaking, of services rendered and products delivered.

      Small business web video production has the highest potential, and once a solid production/delivery system is established and in place, can be a quick production with high perceived value capable of being almost instantaneously delivered. The product can often experience a long shelf-life, but also be worked in such a way that content can be endlessly repurposed. When the system comes together and the product works for your clients, you’re looking at a high level of repeat business, strong potential for renewables and referrals with a natural tendency among such clients to expand their perceived web video needs.

      What should you avoid? Due to the tremendous amount of competition and existing valid and viable services offered via storefront, website and major chain, and at rock bottom pricing, I’d have to say it would be a difficult and expensive task to invest into the equipment needed and obtain the level of business required for R.O.I. in film, tape and general video conversion services.

      I think it would also be difficult for a startup independent video services provider to engage the corporate sector even if the capital investment required and associates/client resources were available in abundance. Again, this is something that, with rare exception, the established boutiques and large production houses have a firm grip on. There are exceptions and shear determination can make some of us the cheered underdog, but “exception” is the rare key word here.

      The why to the above is included.

      Other potentially viable startup, and even add-on video business, service and product might include development of a specialty concept. Remember the abundance of places, especially in tourist magnets, where kids of all ages could cavort in front of a background, mime to the cameras and walk out with a 60s or 70s style MTV production of their own?

      Some folks are still making this work, mostly hiring out as part of the events and activities offered at school graduation parties, private group celebrations, even at fairs and community events where there’s a large public turnout.

      Folks who focus on and invest in the equipment necessary to provide instant video to marching band, dance, cheerleader, flag drill team and other major competition events that have local, regional, state and national level contests can still carve a niche for themselves. There’s a formula that works, and the upfront investment can be huge, but the end results for a determined and savvy business operator can be rich.

      Other areas are those currently being under-served: funerals, memorials, custom animations featuring children’s heads, arms, legs in cartoon, 2D and 3D environments. Also, starting your own specialty HD/SD stock footage library, or focusing exclusively on acquiring such footage and getting yours placed with any or all of the larger stock footage houses in operation.

      There’s speciality and diversity in this business. Both work. What is required is tenacity, determination, applied effort, consistent production and a good head for business with a solid finger on the consumer pulse. Identifying and recognizing the next HOT video concept.

    • #181281

      “In your professional opinion based on actual experience, is the
      highest-paying based on actual dollars per hour earned; the lowest?”

      For me no doubt has been Corporate/Government video. Even at the average rate of $1k to $1500k per minute of video produced that’s pretty solid money. What really makes it worth the effort it takes to get corporate clients is they generally understand that they are paying for a pro service. On average long as you have everything in writing and follow through with solid product, corporate clients are usually the most profitable to deal with. Drawback of dealing with corporate and government clients is when new management comes in whether you’ve produced outstanding product or not for however long, they usually change you out so they can ‘put their personal stamp’ on things.

      Believe it or not weddings aren’t the least profitable per hour productions (the biggest pain in the rear hands down.) Actually, producing short independent films takes the nod on that one. Unless you’re producing shorts for a dedicated channel (tv or internet) with commercial sponsorship or straight buy out of content, you are guaranteed to lose money on your investment in short films. You would think that with everyone’s digital ADD so prominent these days, that short but engaging films would be quite profitable. Uh, uh! YouTube and the like killed the potential for profitability because now people are of a mind that short films should be free to watch.

    • #181282

      Great topic Earl.

      Having been bitten by the documentary bug and somehow got to thinking I’d make some money at it, I had to re-evaluate last fall and direct myself toward money making projects.

      The most $ I’ve made on single projects has been on Keepsake DVD projects. I’ve created a half dozen now and I’m finally figuring out what questions to ask and how to do stuff faster and present some value added options like director commentary etc.

      Second to that has been the 30 to 60 second promo or bio – which I have done a number of and which I am technically efficient at, but the only way I can make the process smoother is to become a better speech coach.

      Third. Commemorative DVD’s featuring birthdays (usually) or engagement
      (once). What I’ve enjoyed about this experience has been that the busy
      people are willing to pay someone so they don’t have to do it

      Fouth. I’ve only done two Conference speaker/PPT presentation combos that I quoted far too low on not realizing how long it would take to make it look like a sale-able product rather than a keepsake (the way I had approached them). There is some potential there.

      Fifth. Training & Orientation (the reason I went into video development). Tough sell, very little success.

    • #181283

      somehow I was expecting blackmail to make the list… lol!

      I’m doin ok with commercial web vids and video resume’s right now… weddings are down, and funerals are catching on.

    • #181284

      It does not really matter how much money you earn as longasyou are doing atype of videography that you enjoy doing.

      In terms of income earned per hour spent, I think making HowTo DVDs would top the list, assuming that youuse topics that are of interest to people.


    • #181285

      I’ve done funerals, but I find that up here in Canada, all the funeral homes are now owned by corporations who have their own inhouse services that each home has to use. Sort of like being a Mac’s Milk and having to buy your products thru their distribution. There are very few privately owned funeral homes.

      I’ve done some web virtual tours for venues showcasing their wedding set ups, their high end hotel rooms, restaurants and grounds. I’ve also done web footage for events such as band competitions that have online voting. In fact, I hosted one myself.

      I also did exercise videos.

    • #181286
      Grinner Hester

      I don’t care what videos I make. Politics, porn, religion… I bill by the hour. It aint always pretty. it doesn’t have to be. I’m just a video whore. If they have 150 an hour, I have time. Do weddings have that? No. Do churches. lool hell no, no pun intended. Do people actually wanting to move product? Endlessly.

    • #181287

      I did a 4 camers shoot (3 on tripods 1 on a steadicam)of a high school graduation. I convinced the school activity director toinclude aDVDof the graduation in the grad package ($19.95) ea.There was no charge to the school. all they did was collect the money for me. There were 860 grads. do the math. Even if you rent the equipment and pay your crew $100-$150 for the day (about 3.5 hrs) you still make out. The editing can be time consuming, but with practice, it can be a great money maker. I now do all 10 high schools graduations for this particular school district. I plan on hiring 3 or 4 more (4 man crews) to sell the concept to other school districts.

    • #181288


      Your assumptions are based purely on max sales. Yeah if you sell all 860 grads a copy you’ll pull down 17,157.00 gross. Odds are high you’ll be luck enough to sell 300 (and I’m being generous) which will get you $5685 gross. If you’re not a cheapskate and actually pay a crew of 4 $150 at 3.5 hours that’s $1050 you’ll need to pay up front. Not to mention, the gear to dupe & print your own DVD’s, consumables $1200, transportation costs and God forbid you actually send contract to have those DVD’s done by an outside service. At the minimum that’s going to be $1500 (not including tax) at the most discount of joints. All of which you will have to pay for up front and recoup upon estimated sales.

      It’s pretty risky, but cutting a school a deal like that is probably the only way you’ll get in there because schools traditionally are tight with the pursestrings when it comes to contracting for anything they don’t see as a ‘practical service’ like construction and so on.

    • #181289

      Composite1, I do this part time. I own all, I repeat, ALL my gear out right (approx. $35k). I build airplanes full timeand make a really good living doing that. The video production thing is a part time hobby/business. So grossing $5600+ every time I get my gear out is chump change for me. I also do steadicam work (actual rig is a VeriZoom Aviator MX) Paid cash for that as well.Any ways my point is I make some serious duckets doing this as a part time hobby/business. As far as sending out my work to dup or replication? not a chance. They all want proof of licence for all music played or performed in the video. So I do all my own dups. BTW your assumption is that I didn’t (over 980 grads at this particular school) sell to 860 gradsI did and will do it again in 2011 X 10 schools! I use local college students for editing and crew. They in turn get graded for the work they do for me. A win win for all involved

    • #181290


      Ease off the ‘throttle’ hoss. You left out all of that other pertinent info from your last post. So I had no idea of what ‘chump change’ was in your eyes. Based purely on your assumptions, my experience dealing with schools and the often ‘rosey’ expectations we often get in these forums, my estimates of your potential sales were solid. For those who don’t have the ‘safety net’ of ‘selling airplanes’ and are looking to your model as their primary source of income, putting out a responsible assumption of costs will help those interested in following your lead. That you were able to make 100% sales is great, but not the norm. To expect such a high volume of sales when there will be hundreds of still and video cameras at the event whereby most images and footage shot will end up on facebook or the ‘Tube for free is impractical. It is a feasible model but everyone who tries this model will not have your apparent good fortune nor will possess all of the resources you purport to have on hand. The more info they have about the potential ‘downsides’ the better choices they’ll be able to make.

    • #181291

      I’ve been producing school and community event, youth sports and other “work once, sell many” productions for more than 20 years. Average sales for me, if direct to parents is 60 percent of participation. When I work an arrangement with the organizing group and they pay to provide EACH participant with a video DVD, or purchase a guaranteed number of them and pay outright for the privilege of selling above costs to generate some funds, of course I sell 100 percent.

      The majority of folks in the business with whom I enjoy an ongoing exchange of ideas, concepts, business and success note that they also average well under 100 percent in sales unless the booking agency pays up front for the whole lot.

      It’s good to know that someone “out there” is doing so well in a “part time hobby/business” and I have to say I know of psychiatrists, dentists, animal doctors, lawyers and a surgeon or two who has moved from their supposedly lucrative professions into video production – it becoming a career-changing experience for many of them.

      Anything under $1 is “chump change” for me. If you want to rob me of more you’ll have to force it from my cold, dead fingers 😉

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