I wish I’d known that….
This sentiment is familiar to just about everyone who has, at one point or another, tried something new. We always hope we know everything going in, but that rarely turns out to be the case.
Starting a business—the grandaddy of new things—is no exception, but the prospect of being underprepared doesn’t seem to have lessened our resolve! In 2015, 330 out of every 100,000 adults in the U.S. started a business in any given month—an upward trend since 2013. Clearly there’s something about busting out on our own that agrees with us.
Starting your own event video production company doesn’t have to be a journey filled with surprises. Plenty of people have done it before you, so why not use their “I wish I’d known” moments to your advantage? You won’t be able to avoid mistakes completely (where’s the fun in that, anyway?), but you can at least head into it with a little more confidence. Below are some of the best tips we’ve seen from people who’ve been there, done that.
Tips From The Pros On Starting An Event Video Production Company
Tips On Equipment
Consider renting equipment at the start.
Although renting equipment won’t make financial sense for long, it may be worth doing briefly in the very early stages of your business. You may want to test-run a variety of gear to see what you like the best and what performs well. It’s also a good way to handle equipment that you’ll only use occasionally (see the next tip). If you’ve already tried it out, you’ll know you’re making the right decision when it comes time to buy.
Don’t buy what you don’t need.
Investing in good quality gear is important, but so is buying the right gear in terms of what you actually need. Video equipment is expensive, and there’s always something else to buy—but avoid the temptation! Take stock of the gear you’ll actually need to create the kind of videos you intend to produce. For example, you don’t need complex lighting equipment if most of your shooting will be outdoors. Ask yourself: What are my video production needs? What can I afford to spend? Then go from there.
When you buy, invest in good quality gear.
If you’re going to make an investment anywhere, do it here. To ensure you’re buying the best quality gear, combine a healthy amount of independent research with a sprinkling of advice from a pro (or pros). Travis Johansen at Provid Films suggests contacting a company that is producing videos you admire and asking for some insight. Ideally, your contact should be from a different geographic area than you so they don’t feel threatened sharing information. He says it will save you “literally thousands of dollars,” because buying cheap equipment first and upgrading later will actually cost more. Enjoying and mastering the right gear from the start will pay off in the long run.
Consider buying equipment that supports live streaming.
These days, live streaming should be on every videographer’s radar due to its growing popularity. Even if you don’t do live streaming right out of the gate, make sure that the equipment you buy supports live streaming for eventual use down the road. For instance, every production company needs a video switcher, but some switchers natively support live streaming while others would require a separate encoding solution.. Give yourself options for future growth by buying high-quality equipment that does more.
Interested in adding live streaming to your company’s product offerings? Become a live streaming expert with this extensive checklist.
Tips On Marketing The Business
Spend time building a top-notch portfolio.
A beautiful portfolio is your best salesman, according to Maksym Podsolonko, founder of Magic Day Luxury Experiences. To build an expert portfolio, make sure you can deliver great footage before you start any marketing, then reach out to local event planners and offer to shoot a wedding or any other celebration for free, showing them your first videos as part of your pitch. At the same time, launch a website and start creating content to gain organic traffic from search engines. With three great videos in your portfolio, launch a Facebook campaign targeting newly engaged couples in your area. You can also offer a 10% referral fee to photographers, event planners, and venues in your target area.
Be smart about advertising.
Advertising can be an invaluable source of new clientele if you handle it right. Robert Barrows at R. M. Barrows Advertising & Public Relations suggests establishing an advertising budget and marketing goals that make sense for your company, and then discussing them with 3-5 ad agencies. Choose the one you think will do the best job for you, but don’t sign a long-term contract—make sure any agreement you sign can be canceled by either party with 30 days’ notice.
Competitive research is boring—but do it anyway.
In the ancient military treatise The Art of War, Chinese General Sun Zi (and Michael Corleone of the Godfather—whichever you prefer) advised to keep your enemies close. Substitute the word “competitors” for “enemies,” and you have one of the first rules of conducting business. Once you get past the tediousness of performing market research (it’s below zero on a scale of 1-10), there’s serious value in knowing more about your competitors. Johnathan Paul of 2920 Studios says that knowing his competition helped him define his own company’s strengths and weaknesses, which led to a stronger marketing strategy that clearly set his business apart. He also advises not to undercut the competition. It’s a strategy that never seems to pay off and may even backfire.
Market your niche.
It’s helpful when you’re just starting out to focus on one type of video business, and market yourself as such. Corporate videos, special interest videos, and consumer video services (like weddings and other similar events) are all possible paths; choose one that plays to your strengths (and your competitors’ weaknesses, if possible) and start there. You can always expand gradually as your business starts to take off. But starting small gives you a chance to fine-tune your brand and stand out in a particular area.
Tips On Running The Business
Always do your absolute best.
Regardless of your level of experience, Johansen advises to strive to be the best videographer you can be and consciously try to improve your work to match the quality level of other great video production companies in your area. Too often, videographers starting a new production company produce lesser quality work because they aren’t getting paid much, but that’s a mistake. Instead, always go the extra mile. You will be rewarded with referrals, repeat business, and great reviews that will bring in new clients who had no connection to your old work other than seeing it online.
Join local professional event organizations to make connections.
Industry relationships are vital to cultivating a successful business. Jeff Kear of Planning Pod says that meeting other local events professionals helped his event management software business get the traction it needed in its early days. Through organizations like Meeting Professionals International, International Live Events Association, Professional Convention Management Association, and National Association for Catering and Events, you can develop relationships with event planners, venues, caterers, and other local event professionals who can be valuable referral sources as well as resources for learning more about the industry. He also recommends contacting the local chapter president of each of the above associations and asking them how being a member can benefit your new production company.
Keep your overhead as light as possible.
Do you really need an office? Do you really need additional staff? While it might be nice to have these things, they will be a huge drain on your business at a time when you simply don’t have the resources to cover them. Determine what you actually need to get the job done—what’s the minimum you’ll need to survive? It’s entirely possible to run a successful business from your home, says NextShoot’s Dominic Sutherland.
Hone your business instincts.
Let’s face it, not everyone is naturally suited for running a business. A passion for video production isn’t enough to guarantee the success of a media production company; you also need to be smart about managing and completing tasks, understanding finances, and tracking down business opportunities. On top of that, there’s a good deal of stress involved. Long hours and financial insecurities top the list of small business owner stressors. Use this checklist to find out if you have what it takes to run a business and identify areas you may need to work on. Once you’ve started your company, keep the juices flowing in the right direction by hooking up with other small business owners. Join a local Chamber of Commerce chapter, or consider getting a business mentor through SCORE, a community of entrepreneurs who volunteer to help and advise other business owners.
Build a solid business model now.
It’s essential to define the ways in which your company will deliver products and services, and how you’ll generate revenue. Also, consider whether live streaming could become an additional revenue source for your business, and how it might work. Will you charge for your live stream content? If not, who will pay for it? Local sponsorships of tournaments or events give valuable coverage to small organizations and a boost to your production company at the same time.