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Studio Space Thoughts?

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Jeffrey F. KrepnerStudio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 14, 2006 at 4:56:42 pm

I'd like to hear how some other people have handled moving from home studio (pretty much just post-pro) to an actual building with some production and post-production space. I can't actually justify making the move financially, but I feel that at some point you just have to roll the dice. I'm tired of bringing potential clients to the "home studio" and truthfully, I work better away from the distractions of home. I realize that an actual sound stage is a hard thing to justify, but a place to throw a green-screen and lights would be enough for starters. I'd need an office or two to set up edit rooms, and an area for storage, plus a small shooting area.

Me: most of my income comes from doing IT work as a contractor for an established business. Up side - my hours are flexible. Neg Side - I'm starting to get stuck in a rut as this is a career I never thought I'd be doing for such a long time. So in a way, I'd be using my IT job to pay for (what I'm calling) studio space.

I've never been a fan of the "build it and they will come" school of thought, so I'm not expecting more business to generate itself just because my overhead increases. Logic tells me to get more space only as needed, but I feel to generate more business I'll need a better locale (I know it's really the work that counts and not the equipment or studio). I know a few people in my corner of the world that *I think* I could partner with if I had some space... but I guess that is another thread all together.

I know this is a super subjective, no one size fits all, question, but I'd be fascinated to hears a couple of stories about the start of your successful (or not so) business ventures outside of the home.

Thanks in advance...

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Rich RubaschRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 15, 2006 at 3:27:44 am

I'm about to make the move and hire someone, so things should be getting interesting right quick. But I've always wanted to do this so I have momentum at least in spirit!

I'll let you know...

Anyone else?

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media

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First Circle FilmsRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 15, 2006 at 4:28:46 pm

Same position here....12 years in home studio and *know* an outside facility would help me move in a new direction. Finding a "partner" or someone to share the space would be nice, but it has to be the right individual. I haven't had much luck in finding a "partner", but I have also wanted to make the move for a few years now.

I think you just have to take the plunge, or you may not ever get there. Anyone on the North Shore of Boston want to share some space!!

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Jeffrey F. KrepnerRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 15, 2006 at 6:57:00 pm

Does anyone own their own studio, as in, buying, not renting?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 15, 2006 at 7:51:33 pm

If you're not avery big operation, try looking into one of those "business incubators" run by the Small Business Assn. or similar deals. You share office space and clerical help with a number of other operations, and you get to use some small but more professional looking space for the mini-studio thing, plus you have a non-residential address for mail and to bring clients to.

If it were me, I'd look to share a common studio space with a couple of partners in a co-op situation. Ideally, the other partners would be strong in areas I'm weak, so if one of us gets a client, there's a chance to cross-market ourselves and all get a piece of the business. One guy shoots and posts, another does the music and sound sweetening, a third specializes in motion graphics, that sort of thing.

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First Circle FilmsRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 15, 2006 at 7:56:04 pm


I think that is great advice about creating a co-op, but my problem has been finding people. I know a limited number of contacts in the area, and sorting through them must be like interviewing someone for a position in your company.

Any ideas how to go about finding these individuals to share space with?

I think it is a great idea!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 15, 2006 at 9:16:31 pm

I suppose one could advertise in craigslist and other social networks. It would cenceptually be like trying to form a band. You meet and audition a bunch of guys, see who has what skills and how your personalities mesh, then take it from there.

I personally would only do a co-op setup with people I already know and get along with really well, and I would take a lot of time to set up the legal paperwork and accounting so there are no grey areas about the money and the responsibility.

Each facet of the boutique, cooperative, whatever you want to call it, needs to be able to stand alone for purposes of the business, what you are sharing is the space rental and some utilities, things like that. Maybe you hire a single shared reception person/office manager/scheduler. Your Marsha Wallace for your Bob Newhart building:-)

You don't want to get yourself into a situation where you suddenly get socked with legal reponsibilities or fiduciary obligations for a job one of the other members did individually and screwed up, especially if you really had nothing to do with the job. You need agreements in place to cover what is done when only one member gets an outside offer on a production; does he keep it all or must he kick in a taste to the combine, even though they didn't contribute to the particular job?. What will you do if one guy did a major share of a group job, put in three times the hours? How do you settle schedule conflicts? Do three of you have to vote to buy anything one person wants? All those issues need to be worked out in advance.

You also don't want to have to carry one or more deadbeat members for too long, so there should be pooled funds for certain functions and a financial firewall in your association or partnership to keep the other parts separate. You want your stuff protected in case the partnership dissolves, so you're not arguing over who owns a piece of gear owned before the group, and who owns what part of stuff bought by the collective. If you've ever been in a garage band that broke up, or a roommate or divorce situation, you might be able to imagine some rough scenarios along these lines.

Even with all those caveats, I still think a couple or three people with the right skill sets, some good marketing, and fiscal discipline could make such an operation a success. The upside is your capitalization could be lower if you pool resources, and there is the creative synergy you get if you can up-sell one guys client to the additional services provided by the other members. My guess is a client would prefer to get one itemized bill for all services performed, rather than three individual ones, so you'll need somebody to have some accounting skills.

You could get very very detailed in your partnership, or it could be a very casual free-form thing, where you come together to jam for one gig only, then separate until the team is needed again. The more clear, consistent, and comprehensive the rules are, the less chance there is of a problem situation occurring, and hard feelings all around.

My take is I would probably look to set the business up with a sunset period, and have the members renew the contract with each other along with the space rental yearly, with updates reflecting their experience. If it just doesn't take off, then less harm done. Meanwhile, you had a chance to cut costs and try to build something satifying on a personal as well as business level.

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Rich RubaschRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 16, 2006 at 2:44:15 am

I waited five years before the right guy came along. And I had to do a lot of coercing etc. He had a 9 yea gig at a comfy post facility...but he wanted more. I kept getting more and more work, and since my reputation is so good right now he heard only good things...besides we are a good fit.

So I pushed and he finally decided to make the plunge. We are sort of plunging together. Should be interesting, but since he is quite talented it will be worth the wait.

We'll see.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media

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Mark SuszkoRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 16, 2006 at 3:23:49 am

Enough of the Brokeback jokes already. ;-)

I'm kiding, but really, there's many similarities between a good marriage and a good business partnership. Also some bad ones.

I could tell you stories, but only under a psuedonym....

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Jeffrey F. KrepnerRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 16, 2006 at 4:02:42 pm

Mark, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed reply. I think the co-op is a great idea. I know a few people that I could work with, but there is a fine line between going in with someone too established (as in, you'd be working for him or butting heads over the way he wants it done) and working with someone that you have to drag along. I'd want paper good solid paperwork before hand, and I think I'd like to know I can make "ends meet" for a few months on my own since I've learned that you can't always count on other people -- even if their intentions are good.

Thanks a mill.


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Nick GriffinRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 16, 2006 at 10:09:54 pm

Granted this may not be for everyone, but here's an alternative thought to the "home office."

Several years ago when my wife and I were looking for a larger house we found one big enough to provide an entire wing as office/studio space. By combining what I had, in years past, spent on rent with what we would spend on a home we were able to get a much, much bigger, 115 year old house and fund minor renovation and updating.

So when clients come over, they're not stepping over the kids' toys to go into a converted spare bedroom. They're comng to a seperate business entrance then into a large, spacious group of offices with all the normal office bells and whistles. My office itself is the largest room, 20 x 20 with an 18 ft ceiling.

If I had it to do over... I'd go for an even bigger place. The photography studio is only 16 x 32 ft and while that seemed OK in the beginning it gets hairy when there's a large subject or more than one person. That's not too much of an issue as the bulk of what we do is out at client sites.

So the idea is to take what you would spend on office rent and combine that with what you'd spend on housing and this alternative approach can provide a home office you don't have to apologize for.

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Bob ColeRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 18, 2006 at 5:13:00 pm

I've gone the home office route. You can't beat the commute.

For a few years, I rented space in an old high school that was being turned into an arts center. You had to agree to do some teaching, etc. in exchange for low rent. It was a neat atmosphere, and I was able to collaborate on some film projects with artists "down the hall." But long hours in the editing room persuaded me to go back to the home studio.

Do you need the additional space? Will the benefits of a studio generate enough profit to offset the added cost of rent, utilities, insurance, commuting? If you took two years' rent money and applied it to your home office (or a better kit, etc.), could you make that space good enough to compete with the outside office?

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Jeffrey F. KrepnerRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 20, 2006 at 8:05:35 pm

Hi Bob - thanks for the thoughts. From a current financial calculation, no it wouldn't make me more money by setting up elsewhere. However, I have one client that keeps growing and growing and having some more room (an additional office to keep a 2nd/3rd fully equipped editing system working burning, rendering, encoding, etc) would really help me. It's hard to think about looking for new clients when you *feel* like you are working at capacity already.

I'm still kicking this idea around.

Thanks everyone.


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Mike_SRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 21, 2006 at 7:38:51 am

Expansion based on one client is really risky, and can make you vulnerable. Your negotiating position weakens, and if your client decides s/he's p[aying you too much, what's your negotiating leverage?

I'd thnk long and hard about taking on the extra overhead, unless you have a contracted workflow ahead.

Maybe it's time to think about hiring help (freelance, short term, contract, trainee?) with some of the more routine aspects of what you're doing, so you can put some more time into developing at least one other client?

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Jeffrey F. KrepnerRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Mar 21, 2006 at 11:00:58 pm

Thanks for the reminder Mike. It is risky having one client account for too much of your income. If nothing else it makes you feel stressed that this one big account could go away and you'd be down over 50% of your income. I'll keep that in mind as I consider some other options.


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Steve NicholsRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Apr 1, 2006 at 5:17:44 am

Monthly rental overhead competes with the funds available to improve the level of your video productions. As Roger Corman once said, "I put my budget in front of the camera...not into my offices.


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Chris AndersonRe: Studio Space Thoughts?
by on Apr 1, 2006 at 10:50:51 pm

I too am in this position and have decided to add an addition to my home. You can refinance your mortgage to pay for it and build equity into your home. Why spend the money on rent. Plus all the additional costs, phone, electric, cable, security etc. These are always more expensive when commercial. You can build what you want for a fractrion of the costs. Working at home maked the hours of this business more tolerable.

However, if you plan to have employees one day this can be a zoning issue.


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