Making money with video production

As a hobby, video production gives us a way to express ourselves and find personal fulfillment. Whether we enjoy artfully documenting our family vacations or helping a friend bring a script to life on screen, the video production process is enjoyable in its own right. However, with the proper mindset, video production can also be quite profitable. The video industry offers a plethora of intersecting career pathways that we can mix and match according to our preferences. This means it’s easy to add variety to your work life. Let’s explore some of the ways that you can make money with video.

Making money as a freelance video producer

This is the most obvious and direct route to making money with video production. As a video freelancer, you’ll contract with businesses, individuals or fellow creative professionals to make video content according to their needs.

Many freelance videographers specialize in a specific type of video production. You might, for instance, focus on event video or commercial production. Wedding videography is another popular starting point for burgeoning video professionals. It’s an easy entry point since couples on a budget will look past your lack of experience if your services are priced accordingly. Once you build up a more impressive reel, you’ll be able to justify raising your rates.

As a freelancer in the video industry, you can contract to produce a video start-to-finish, from planning to post-production. However, you can also choose to focus on a particular phase or aspect of production as a specialist. For instance, you could be a freelance editor who only comes onto projects for post-production. You could even focus specifically on a niche like motion graphics or sound design. Many video producers don’t have time to learn these additional skillsets, so they subcontract those portions of the work out to others in the creative freelancer community.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when looking for your video production niche. There are endless unexpected ways to put your video production skills to use.

Starting a video production business

It’s helpful to think of yourself and your video work as a business from the beginning. The line between freelancer and business-owner is a bit fuzzy, but they both have the same goal: to be paid for providing a product or service. To get in the entrepreneur mindset, start by learning the basics of starting and running a successful videography business.

The business plan

As in any field, a successful video production business requires a solid business plan to get off the ground. This will help you determine what you need to get started and how your business will turn a profit. It’s crucial that you have a good understanding of how you want your video business to make money. For instance, you may need an initial investment of capital to buy cameras and other gear. Your business plan will layout where that money will come from and how it will be paid back.

The first step is to think about what type of video you want to make and how you can get paid to make it. Next, decide how your business will be structured. A sole proprietorship is relatively straightforward and requires minimal setup, but you may want to opt for the additional protection of an LLC depending on the level of risk you expect to take on.

What to charge for video work

Before you take on your first video project, you’ll need to figure out how much you are going to charge. You can charge by the hour or by the project. Just make sure your client understands your rates before you do the work. Pricing your work fairly can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. You don’t want to overcharge and lose potential clients, but you also can’t undervalue your own time and effort. Research your competitors to determine the going rates in your area. Of course, a certain amount of negotiation will come into play for each individual video project.

The less glamorous side of self-employment

Speaking of payment, it’s vital that you have a contract in place with your client that ensure you will be properly compensated for your work. While most people have good intentions, you will sometimes still need to advocate for yourself as a freelancer in order to be treated fairly. Lastly, if a client causes you too many problems, you don’t have to continue working with them.

Best practices dictate that you also hold production insurance, and as a self-employed person or business owner, you’ll also need to learn about accounting and tax requirements — or you could always hire a professional to handle that for you. Next, get to know the basics of copyright law, fair use and other legal issues related to video production.

Finally, keeping track of all your projects, clients and to-dos will require a system. It’s best to think about how you will keep everything organized from the very beginning to avoid unnecessary hassle later one. Read up on different project management solutions for video producers and develop a system that fits your work and management style.

Getting video production clients

The key to making money as a video production freelancer is finding and keeping clients. Ideally, clients will want to work with you on multiple projects. The next best clients are those who will recommend you to friends and colleagues. That’s why it’s important to build a good client relationship from the beginning.

Building your video network

To find clients initially, you’ll need to advertise. Start by letting friends and family know that your video production services are available for hire. There may be somebody already in your network who needs help making a video. From there, continue to build your network. An email newsletter can be a particularly powerful tool for keeping in touch with your network. Ask for referrals at the end of successful projects and connect with your clients on LinkedIn to make it easy to keep in touch.

Networking is a valuable skill in any creative field, and video production is no exception. Find opportunities to make connections both inside and outside of the video industry. A recommendation from a trusted source means more than a name on some banner ad. For in-depth networking advice for video producers, see Professional networking: How to make connections and grow your business.

Tailor your approach to your work

Your approach to getting clients will depend on the kind of work you want to do. Don’t go after wedding videography gigs if you’re dream is to make commericals for national brands. If you want to make money from music videos, go to shows and make connections in the local music scene. If you want to produce corporate training videos, start reaching out to local businesses you think could benefit from your help.

You need a demo reel

As you build up your client base, your demo reel will be your greatest asset. This is where you get to show off your skills. When constructing your demo reel, sometimes known as a sizzle reel, be sure to choose past work that best reflects your abilities. Equally important, choose examples that fit in with the work you’re going after. If you want to attract small business clients, don’t include clips from that outrageous heavy metal music video. Likewise, if you want editing gigs, don’t fill your reel with cinematography clips.

Getting a job in video

Being self-employed can come with a lot of stress and uncertainty, and many simply prefer the routine of regular full-time employment. If freelancing isn’t your thing, another potential route to making money with video is to find work as an in-house video producer, either with an agency or within a business, school or house of worship.

Universities, for instance, will often employ a video production team to document school events and provide additional A/V support. Churches also have consistent video production work and will often keep a video producer on the payroll. With more events moving online, an in-house live streaming expert is more valuable than ever in nearly every sector.

Independent filmmaking

While many independent filmmakers also freelance or work regular jobs to pay the bills, indie filmmaking can itself be profitable.

Festivals and contests

Festivals often award monetary prizes to outstanding films, but be aware that these festivals also have entrance fees. Be strategic when choosing which festivals to enter so as to maximize the potential for a positive reception.

In addition to festivals, you might also consider participating in filmmaking contests, such a 24-hour film contest or one built around a particular theme.

Whether or not you actually make money through video contests or on the festival circuit, both provide excellent networking and exposure opportunities that could lead to additional funding or help on your next project.

Distribution deals

Another way to make money from an independent film is to license it in distribution deals. One way to land a distribution deal is to shop your film at a film market. You can also work with a distributor to pitch your film to platforms like Netflix and others around the world.

Film crew positions

But you don’t need to be a director to make money in the independent filmmaking scene. Every production has a whole team of skilled professionals behind it. Instead of spearheading your own productions, you can join a crew as a gaffer, cinematographer, script supervisor or any number of other key positions. This is where indie filmmaking overlaps with freelancing. You can be a freelance sound operator who specializes in independent narrative productions.

Making money on YouTube

YouTube continues to be a legitimate source of income for many video creators. There are several paths to making money on YouTube. The right strategy for you will depend on your content and your target audience. Some channels thrive on revenue from AdSense and affiliate links, while others rely almost entirely on brand sponsorships to earn income. Some creators even make the bulk of their income through viewer contributions. Dedicated fans are happy to donate, buy merch or support creators on Patreon if it means getting more of the content they truly enjoy.

Even if you’re not comfortable getting in front of the camera, you can still make money behind the scenes of YouTube as an editor. There are many creators you don’t enjoy editing or don’t have time to properly edit their videos, so they’ll hire you to do it instead. You can even make money as an animator or artist. Creators need eye-catching channel icons after all. These are all ways for creative people to make money within the YouTube ecosystem.

With so many ways to generate income online, the most successful online video creators usually take a multipronged approach. With numerous diverse income streams, creators can enjoy greater income stability and long-term success.

Making money on Twitch

Much like uploading videos on YouTube, streaming on Twitch allows you to make money through programmatic advertising and brand sponsorships as well as directly from fans through channel subscriptions, merch, Patreon and more. Though once dominated almost exclusively by gamers, Twitch is beginning to attract content creators in other categories as well.

Getting consistent viewers on Twitch takes dedication, but it is possible to get a monetary return on your streaming efforts.

Other ways to make money with online video

For a more direct way to make money from producing original content, consider placing your work behind a paywall. This ensures that you will be compensated according to how your content was consumed. This concept can take many forms: a course on Skillshare, exclusive content on Patreon or a customized pay-per-view player on your website.

Savvy video producers might also consider marketing themselves as viral video experts and offer services to companies looks to expand their presence on Facebook, Twitter or other social platforms. Social media video has its own visual language, and an understanding of that language is highly valuable to anyone looking to grow an audience.

Final advice

Video production can be a great source of income if you find the approach that works for you. Whether as a freelancer, an in-house producer, an indie filmmaker or an online creator, you can mix and match the video production work you take on to match your skillset and your professional goals.

Nicole LaJeunesse
Nicole LaJeunesse is a professional writer and a curious person who loves to unpack stories on anything from music, to movies, to gaming and beyond.