I work full-time for an ad agency as a video editor/production specialist. I also run my own freelance videography business on the side. On the side, I have dabbled in the cable advertising market. I never signed a non-compete with my full-time employer, so I don't feel bad (plus I am way underpaid).
It seems like breaking into the cable advertising market is kind of difficult. I have even produced free spots for business owners that are friends of mine, that way I have a demo reel to show potential customers. I even include spots on my reel that I have shot and edited at my full-time job (as an example of what I am capable of). I think part of my problem is that I am not enough of a pest. I for one hate being badgered by salesmen, and pressured into anything. So therefore, I hate doing it to others. My attempts to pick up clients usually involve a carefully crafted letter sent to the business owner along with a thoughtfully assembled demo. 90% of the time, I get no response. Everyone says "call to follow up", but that's when I feel I am being a pain in the butt. Is there a way I can go about this without being a pest at the same time? Should I consider spending the money on advertising for myself?
Definitely follow up once. It's not being a pest to attempt one follow up. It's when you call every week or 10 days for 2 months in a row people will get annoyed.
If your getting a 10% response rate on you mailing your actually doing very well. I usually say that I get bites on between 5% and 10% of my cold calls or emails.
Don't fret following up. Keep calling if someone asks for you to do so. They may be busy, having a bad day, or not interested at that time. Follow up once a month or sooner if they request it. Have a strategy that helps you convey a sense of urgency to the potential advertiser without coming across as negative.
You'll come in contact with some people who are nice and can't tell you no. They will constantly ask you to follow up. At that point, it would be up to you on whether to continue or try and find another approach.
What you want to get out of a phone call, is a face to face appointment if you properly qualify them as potential advertiser who, more importantly, has money.
I wonder how you are positioning yourself when you make these pitches and to what kinds of businesses. The smaller the business you're pitching to, the more they expect you to do and fulfill all the producer functions, essentially a one man ad agency, with all that implies from creative to deliverables... so if you are just pitching yourself as a great editor, that's probably not really connecting with them at a level that will lead to a buy-in decision. They need an end-to end "total solutions" guy that can take their doodles on a napkin and turn that into everything including the time buys and ancillary media. You'll have to talk their language, as a businessman, not as a video guy. I find it rare that people in our business are equally good at both at the same time, those are the guys that tend to make huge bank. Most of us see sales and marketing and business areas as necessary evils that enable us to make the cool videos we want. And I'm no different. But I'm not self-employed right now, so I have the luxury. You'll just have to get over your distaste for sales if you want to get work.
If these are heavyweight businesses, you'll have to beat out their current agencies or internal departments to get any play. That's hard for a rich guy with a large staff, harder for a one man band shop on a shoestring. My opinion regarding this type of client is not to compete directly with whatever they use now, but instead seek to join up with that established team. I.E. pitch to their internal communications manager that you are a freelancer "hired gun" that can be brought in to temporarily bulk-up the team for any bigger projects that come up. Or as a temp to fill in for a missing person, or to provide a specific skillset they don't have, say AE compositing, or CGI.
Working like that, you have to charge more because you're carrying more costs of business like your owen benfits and insurance, etc. but on the upside for them they only have to pay you for the time you worked and not carry you all year. The best part of the temping may be that you maintain a close inside contact so that you're already in their heads when they suddenly get a full-time opening.
Thanks for the wise advice guys. I appreciate it. It's obvious you've all been there before.
[Aaron Cadieux] "It seems like breaking into the cable advertising market is kind of difficult."
Around here, it's easy - you just have to be willing to suck a big Comcast egg. The problem with our local cable is that Comcast has their own studio and throws in the spot as part of the deal - they produce very simple spots. But they do get in jobs where the client wants more. Get on their 'A' list - which means good work for little - (they don't want to lose a client because of high prices for any given campaign) - and they don't want you directing him - advertising wise - to anything else.
The better way is to create a web-site and do an Adwords campaign with all the right key-words, like "Comcast spots" etc. It may cost 50-100 bucks a month but your prices can be more realistic and you will probably end up winning some clients for your agency.
It's an either/or. If you do a website you have to explain how a crappy free spot from the cable company ain't goin' to get the job done. Burn the bridge or suck eggs.
Also look into the digital signage networks in your area if there are any. Make a few calls to see what the ad rates are and then sell your production services.
A couple things here from someone who has been EXACTLY where you are. I too did not sign a no compete and started doing some 'on the side' spots on my weekends using my own gear (PD-150, portable greenscreen, merlin steadicam, FCP, After Effects, the typical one man production studio.) The problem was, I got a couple clients (including a couple politicals that got me a bit of a name. including a spot that helped a candidate win a state house bid by 60 votes in what was widely seen as the 'upset of the year' in our state) .....well, not a problem for me, BUT a big problem according to my employer. They saw me as 'competing' with their 'free production with airtime' deals they offered clients, because clients were hiring me, and then they weren't obligated to air on my station as they would have been if they accepted the 'free production with airtime'. My full time employer ordered me to stop......I told them they couldn't tell me what to do with my personal gear on my free time (probably not the smartest thing I've ever done) and that if they wanted me to stop they needed to give me a raise as I needed the extra money to make a living! They responded by firing me.
Now the timing sucked as my wife was pregnant and had to quit her job as she was put on bed rest. Then my station tried to deny my unemployment compensation claiming I was 'fired for cause'. I ended up winning that case as they obviously had no paperwork on this fact (I felt I had been a great employee, even saving them by using my gear on their projects when their gear was being repaired). Anyways, as much as it sucked at the time, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me as I ended up HAVING to make a full time business of it instead of doing it 'on the side'.
I found that I was taken more seriously as it was my full time business. I could meet with clients during real business hours while my competition had to wait for evenings and weekends as they were doing it 'on the side'. And at least where I'm from, business owners appreciate not having to come in on their time off to meet with you! I had a lot of other things break my way and was extremely lucky.
Anyways, as I started this bold new adventure, I had a rough introduction to business 101. I learned a lot of hard lessons. Imagine my surprise a couple years later, when I decided to get the Creative Cow Magazine to continue my education, and find out that pretty much EVERY lesson I learned was in the pages of the magazine. Things like "Don't lower your rates for volume work, get paid BEFORE you turn over any tapes, DON'T DON'T DON'T compete on price as the only logical result of that will be doing something for nothing! Don't be afraid to walk away from a 'grinder' client and so forth. I am telling you, if I would have been able to read some of these articles, I would have been saved a TON of trouble. Lucky for me, my wife's job is running a business for the business owner, and she taught me a bunch of this stuff as well.
Now to your question, I can honestly tell you that I NEVER cold call anyone. I DO a lot of networking/socializing and talking to people about the huge benefits of video to marketing their business and try to personalize it to show them how it could help their business, hand out business cards and volunteer teach marketing classes for our town's small business development center but I don't have to cold call. I get people calling ME all the time. Many times I call back and they will be too busy to talk and ask me to call later. I have a ton of clients who took 6 months to a year from when they told me they wanted a spot until they got around to actually doing it. I start out calling them back once a week, and then after two weeks, go to once a month calls to check in on the status of their 'store renovation' or whatever is holding up the project. Many times they are just busy or want video of something very particular that won't be happening for awhile. I am lucky enough to have enough other projects that I don't depend on only commercials. I get about 1/4 of my income from commercials, I also do weddings, events (sports, music performances and such), freelance news for places like CNN and The Weather Channel, freelance shooting and editing for the local PBS station, live webcasting of government events for the state, and many many other things. Basically I tried to be THE person to go to for anything video related in my town. Sorry, this probably doesn't help, maybe I should just say it's better to be lucky than to be good.