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Videography as a business or Career...

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raidernealVideography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 18, 2007 at 5:36:31 am


I am fairly new to the field of Videography. I have a degree in Mass Communications with course work in video production and about three years of hands-on experience shooting mainly live-events. I have spent the last few years working in sales but am now considering pursuing a career in videography because I enjoy it. However, I have the following concerns:

Is working in video a good career choice? Or, is this field like the other creative "Artsy" careers (music, writing, acting, etc.) in that there are a lot of "starving artists" out there? It seems like there are hundreds of video production companies and I wonder how many of them are really doing this as a full-time endeavor. I also wonder if all the new and relatively inexpensive technology (3 chip cameras, desk top NLE's) is going to keep bringing even more people into a market that is already saturated.

I guess my goal is to earn a good middle-class income ($50k-$60k) and I'm wondering if video is a good vehicle to take me to this goal. Perhaps there are jobs with news stations or corporate A/V gigs that would pay in this income range? I get the feeling that most of the one-man or husband and wife outfits are not earning this type of money here in my home area.

Sorry for the overly negative feel to this post. I'm just a bit frustrated right now in trying to figure out what to do with my life. Also the following article was the catalyst for my concerns:

Thanks in advance for any opinions/ideas that you are willing to share regarding these issues.

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The Matt HallRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 18, 2007 at 3:15:04 pm

One thing I have found out is that there is all sorts of video work out there, and most of it is stuff you would never think. For example, I've done a lot of promotional work for pharamceutical companies. Not TV spots, but internal training, sales materials, tradeshow exhibits. I never knew this stuff existed until I got into it.

I think there are "hundreds of video companies out there" because there'a a lot of work out there. Any with the transformation of the internet/merging with the tv/etc, it's only going to grow.

You prospects for a career depend on your market of course. Maybe a good thing for you to do is look around your area (if you plan on staying there) and seeing if there is anybody doing what you'd like to do. If there is, go talk to them. Go through the yellow pages and call each company and ask for an informational interview. Ask them how they got there, how they got started, what they think of the business. Try and find a model to base your plans on. Who knows, maybe you could even land a job that way.

But ultimately, don't let that depressing article bum you out. If you've got a passion for the work and are willing to work hard and be practical, you'll get what you want.

Matt Hall
Hallway Media, LLC

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Mark SuszkoRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 18, 2007 at 5:45:53 pm

I think Marty in that referenced piece is talking out of his, um, hat on a lot of that article, sounds as naieve as some of the people he's complaining about.

I do think this is a bad time in general to get into the video business, especially on the low, entry-level end. The drop in prices for the new editing systems and cameras makes it reminiscent of the desktop publishing boom, where a lot of relatively untrained people got into the graphics business because of lowered barriers to entry, and made a lot of cheap, bad product, (I got eighty fonts in this thing, let's see if I can use 'em ALL!!!) as well as depressing pay scales and profits across the board. But you can find examples of that in almost any industry, historically speaking. In the case of DTP, the market corrected itself and most of the bad ones went out of business. The guys and gals who were true craftspeople with excellent skills just picked up and learned the new tools and continued to do well, maybe doing it a little less expensively by going digital. Some of the money saved went into profit, some went into surviving on a smaller margin.

In video I think it's the same these days; everybody and their cousin is an events/wedding/school play documenter, or that other inaccurate name I can't stand, an "Indie film maker", i.e. an effete, self-deluded shmuck with a camera, a dream, an attitude and not much else. (Not that they ALL are that way, mind you, but a lot of people that are clueless are buying $1k-$3K camcorders and expecting that alone will give them fame and fortune).

The low end of the business is beyond saturated: schools keep pumping out graduates from com arts programs promising them dynamic, fulfilling and profitable work as deejays and news anchors, except their curricula are often based on outdated models of the industry, which is so very heavily oriented into automation now, that there just are not as many flesh and bone people jobs out there, either in front of or behind the cameras. Due to consolidation and degregulation (thanks for nothing, Mike Powell) a mega-corp like Clear Channel chains 100 stations all listening to one deejay pretending yo be from (click) (YOURtown). TV networks are folding all the master control ops for several stations into one fully automated main base, so one master control operator actually runs the output of five or more stations for everything including the local news in each station's market. All to reduce H.R. costs. It's insane. People wanting to break into local area production have to join or compete with the local cable company that gives away production free when you buy the air time. Even if the resulting spots are awful, businesses take that deal every time. Meanwhile, the internet has democratized production and again lowered the bar so anyone can make their own video. YouTube shows you the occasional flashes of brilliance, but you have to wade thru a LOT of really, really BAD stuff to find the gems.

So, that's the bad news.

On the upside, there are niches where you can still make a comfortable living in some form of video work. The high end of the business is doing great in terms of the need for hyper-skilled artisans to do compositing, animation, etc. for commercials as well as productions and fast net connections mean the work can be done almost anywhere, from Washington to Woomera. Corporate work has changed from an in-house model to an all-outsourced basis, bringing in freelancers and teams to work on specific projects and then disappear until the next call, but there is still plenty of corporate work going on. You just can't expect a lot of it to be a cushy in-house fully-vested-with-benefits job anymore; you're more likely to live like a gypsy freelancer, maybe with a small collection of regular clients, but still on an outsourced basis. And always driven by price competition.

Other niches that people can still make a good living in might include forensic work for lawyers, or specialty work that leverages one of your other interests like underwater photography, aerials, nature photography, architectural, scientific and technical/industrial imaging, medical programming, both for docs and consumers. Any area where you must be a camera operator "plus" something else to do the job right.

There's always work for writers and producers, but this is exceptionally competitive work, and hard to break into without inside contacts or a track record.

While I won't call them "indie", private documentarians can find some lucrative niche markets in coming years. One thing more net bandwidth brings us is the ability to aggregate financially meaningful-sized communities of very specific fans of "something". At the point where all those people connect and mingle, you have an opportunity to create a niche product they'll buy. Videos on how to tune your ricer, how to care for your spaniel-doodle, whatever.

I'm of a conflicted mind when it comes to the subject of high-def being good or bad for work. The main thing hi-def does at this point in our history is, it creates a financial and perceptual borderline between percieved "high-end" and "low-end" product. Everybody with big bucks to spend seems to insist on hi-def for everything, regardless of the practical considerations. The price of the HD cameras and more especially, the decks, means it's a new financial barrier to keep out the "rif-raff" bottom-feeders and charge clients a premium for "quality", but for how long that holds is anybody's guess. Broadcast is supposed to go all-digital in two years, but digital does not necessarily mean hi-def. In any case you will see lots of standard-def stuff simply upconverted at the transmitter for some time after the transition from analog.

Numerous folks touted digital broadcast as creating vast new markets for content. That model remains to be proven, IMO, beyond some super-exotic limited-penetration nature documentary type stuff. You can take a lovely HD channel's bandwith and carve it up into maybe six SD sub-channels, creating six times as much room to sell advertising on and to feed with new material. My guess is most stations will like that idea. But that also represents an increase in infrastructure and programming costs that's the antithesis of what the stations and network chains seek right now. As I mentioned earlier, they want to do ever more with less. So I don't feel digital, of itself, is necessarily a "gravy train' for anybody.

I think certain things done in HD will be very profitable, but not for all that many folks.

That leaves the web to break into. Well, where's the revenue model, apart from the porn industry? YouTube is popular NOW because it's free: as soon as they start asking you for even token micro-payments to view something, millions will dump it, never to return. They'll go to pirated torrent copies instead.

So, I guess I really don't know where everything is headed, if I did, I'd be writing this from a private beach in the Dutch Antilles. The likeliest overall trends I see are further depression of the prices we can charge, a glut of competitors, a diffuse, hard to define market, sprinkled with niche opportunities for the hyper-specialized.

Sorry for the essay-length response, but it's a big question posed by the original poster. If anyone has an answer, tell me: I'd like to know as well!;-)

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tomRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 19, 2007 at 1:07:44 pm

Just to add my input (from an older guy) first don't throw your dirty water out before you

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grinnerRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 20, 2007 at 10:08:59 pm

of course there are alot of startving artists out there. People don't get into this business for the money.
It's a passion. It has to be to be good enough to get paid to do it. Without the passion, it aint gonna work. If you have this passion, nothing will stop you from doing it as a living. If you don't there are far easier ways to make money not having fun.

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Nick GriffinRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:13:25 pm


Yes. It goes both ways. There are brilliant individuals who inhabit the top one percent of their profession and then there are those of us in the bottom 99. (Grinner, you're in the top 1%, right?)

While we can all aspire to the top, there's nothing wrong with having a firm grasp on what your skills and talents actually are and concentrating on how to maximize them. Life isn

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The Matt HallRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 2:17:38 pm

Nick- wish I could read that piece right now! I'm spending the weekend evaluating a full time offer and weighing it against remaining independant. Tough tough decision. Looking forward to reading it.

Matt Hall
Hallway Media, LLC

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Nick GriffinRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 3:35:21 pm

Consider it done. I'll be happy to email the piece out a few more times to anybody that asks.

HINT: to diminish the possibility of having your email address harvested use "at" in place of "@" and I'll make the change when sending.

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Tim WilsonRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 3:40:31 pm

[Nick Griffin] "I'll be happy to email the piece out a few more times to anybody that asks."

Cut it out dude. Make 'em subscribe. :-)

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Nick GriffinRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 3:45:05 pm

Yes. Boss.

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Tim WilsonRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 4:00:30 pm

Kathlyn's the boss. I'm just her enthusiastic lackey. :-)

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Ron LindeboomRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 4:16:17 pm

[Tim Wilson] "Kathlyn's the boss. I'm just her enthusiastic lackey. :-)"

Yeah, and she keeps me tied to this chair, feeding me nothing but caffeine and sugar cookies, only let me relax to watch The Matrix. I finally figured out that I'm a battery. I wondered why she always calls me 'Duracell.'


Your article will be in the new issue, Nick. It's a great piece of writing.

Ron LIndeboom

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Nick GriffinRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 21, 2007 at 5:42:39 pm

That's just how far down the food chain I am. The boss has a boss who has a boss. (Any wonder I wrote on self-employment?)

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JLN2112Re: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 22, 2007 at 9:34:58 am


I'd really like to read your article on self employment. Is it possible to receive that via email?



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Tim WilsonRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 22, 2007 at 12:56:49 pm

Seriously, I'm asking Nick to hold out. The article will be in the next issue of the Creative COW magazine. It's a free subscription at

Speaking of which, the most recent issue just got posted, and if I may say so myself, it's a killah.


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Tim WilsonRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Jan 22, 2007 at 1:03:23 pm

I meant to mention that the next issue will be out in just over a month. It's going to be another killah, in part because of it being anchored by Nick's article.


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Steve KownackiRe: Videography as a business or Career...
by on Feb 5, 2007 at 7:16:26 pm

That guy contradicts himself too much for me. If it were easy to be in business, everyone would be. First he tells the reader they probably don't have any money, yet goes on to say buy a franchise or hire the best mechanic and business staff while you get started. Um, yeah. And pay them and yourself with what money? The key thing he mentions is relationship-building.

You want to get into this field, but how - self-employed or work for/with someone else? I've seen a number of posts on the cow about small shops looking for commission-only salespeople. That may be a great way in, plus you can work your way to the creative stuff. If you make 20-40% on the sale you'll have your salary (and I assume you're making at least $50K now).

I think you have a better chance of success if you are a successful salesperson than if you are a great artist. You still have to create credible product, but getting the jobs in the door is the tougher skill.


Daily affirmation: computers are our friends.


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