Starting a Video Production Business

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You're ready to take that next step. You want to dive into video production full time by setting up your own business. I've been through that process and worked as a full time freelancer (is that an oxymoron?) for 10 years. If you are thinking of charting a similar course for yourself, here are a few things I learned along the way. Hopefully you will find them helpful.

  • Set up an LLC or an S-Corporation to protect your personal assets. Even if you don't have any employees, operating under an LLC or S-Corp limits your personal liability and offers some tax benefits. I would advise consulting with a CPA to find out which entity will work best for you.
  • Get a business license. Check with your city, county and state. See what type of business license you will need for each municipality. The fees are nominal and it will save you from potential problems down the road.
  • Separate your personal identity from that of your business. You are not your business and your business is not you. Create separate social media accounts, web pages, etc. Don't give out your cell phone number as your business number. Use Google Voice to create a unique office number that you can forward to your cell phone. Or utilize the services of a virtual assistant.
  • Work with an attorney to draft a contract for your clients. Absolutely everything between you an your clients should be in writing. In an earlier post, I went over what should be included in a video contract, but an attorney can guide you on best practices.
  • Create marketing materials asap. This includes having a logo, website, business cards, and social media accounts. Now, you don't have to invest a ton of money to get up and running. Here's what has worked for me:
    • Logo - Barter with a friend who is a graphic designer, or who has a background in graphic design. Or try using Fiverr where you can find freelancers to create a logo for you, for as little as $5.
    • Website - There are some great services available to help you create a professional website when you have limited experience, resources, and/or time. I've used Squarespace for this site since 2012. It's very affordable and very easy to use, even if you don't know how to code.
    • Business Cards - VistaPrint is a service I use regularly when I need to print business cards. Prices vary, depending on the style of your card and the paper stock you choose, but they can start as low as $8. They look great and are printed on thick, quality card stock.
  • Network. Let me be clear. Networking is not running around at a local chamber of commerce luncheon, passing out as many cards as you possibly can. Networking is about developing relationships. I was once at one of these events, talking with a small group of people, when a woman rushed up to us, thrust her business cards into our hands, and said, "Hi, I'm so-and-so. You need to do business with me." Then she ran off to the next group. 
  • Start building your email list. As you network and meet new people, ask if they would be willing to receive an occasional update from you. If they say "yes," add them to your list. Then, start to craft an e-newsletter that you send out on a regular basis (no more than twice a week). Make sure that the content of the newsletter is relevant to your recipients. Using e-newsletters is a great way to keep your name in front of potential clients. If you're looking for an easy and free way to get started with e-newsletters, try using TinyLetter. I use it for my weekly newsletter and I love the minimalist feel of it (By the way, do subscribe to my newsletter to receive great content on video production, filmmaking, and advertising). 
  • Be willing to trade your services. When you are trying to get your video business off the ground, there are two things you need: 1) clients and 2) a good demo reel. It's the old catch 22: you can't develop your demo reel without clients, and you can't get the clients without the demo reel. So, be willing to trade your services for something in return. This will help you build a reel, build a relationship, and cultivate good word of mouth advertising.
  • Rent, don't buy your own gear at first. I covered this topic in a previous post, but suffice it to say that there are real financial benefits to renting gear on a job-to-job basis when you are first starting out.
  • Use a time management app to keep detailed records of how you spend your day. The more data you collect about how much you spend doing certain tasks, the more efficient and productive you can be. This helps you learn how to budget jobs and how to know if all the time you invest in networking is actually paying off. Here's an app I use on a regular basis to track my time.

What other advice would you give to a young video entrepreneur? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.