starting a business
I'm in the preliminary stages of starting a business doing stock video and photography. At the moment I'm drafting a business plan and so I was wondering if anyone had advice or experience they wouldn't mind sharing regarding how to formulate a business plan and operate successfully in this industry.
I expect to operate at a loss until I can network enough to get jobs, so my focus is on establishing a consistent workflow, marketing and managing my cashflow.
On the technical side, I'm looking at a Macbook Pro laptop, set up for video and photo editing as well as website publishing with Final Cut Studio 2 and Adobe's Web Premium Suite (Including Photoshop CS3). The keywords are quality, speed and portability and I think basing my workflow around this computer and software combination will give me both. These will be investments although I'm intent on keeping abreast of changing technology which might affect me.
Are there any recommendable sources for learning the Adobe and Final Cut software, like specific books or websites? What is it important to consider before entering this field and what are some common mistakes people make? I welcome all comments both encouraging or discouraging! I haven't yet committed to anything.
Thanks for reading!
I wrote a 3 part article about starting your own business in my blogs. One of these days I'll get around to writing Part 4.
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
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Yes! Please, do part 4 when you get the chance! I loved the others! Thanks for those! Great advice!
Paul Del Vecchio - Director
[Greg Lindsey] "What is it important to consider before entering this field and what are some common mistakes people make? I welcome all comments both encouraging or discouraging! I haven't yet committed to anything"
Hi Greg and welcome to the forums. I would have to say the biggest mistake I have seen people make entering this field is thinking that buying a computer and a camera is all they need to make great images. While having great tools is certainly necessary for success, they are only a means to an end. I'm assuming by the sound of your post that you have little to no experience. If this is the case, I would have to discourage you from focusing on stock footage as a means of income. I have over 20 years experience in video, audio and photography and wouldn't even consider stock work as a viable income source. While the internet has created new outlets to sell stock, you are competing with literally thousands of others. Very few make a full time living at it.
Most people who want to get into this industry with little or no experience usually start in event videography. Again, I'm assuming by the nature of your post that this is you, if not, I apologize for the assumption. If you are serious about this, I would check out Video University, a website dedicated to event videographers with lots of advice for the novice.
Best of luck to you.
Higher Ground Media
Thanks for the responses, I am going to read those articles in depth.
To respond to Mick, I do stock video and have a contributer agreement with a well known stock agency already, so what I shoot will automatically have a marketing and distribution channel. I'm still competing but I'm a good deal ahead with this (I hope). I plan to make a niche by offering unique footage.
No, unfortunately I don't have much experience other than having interned with a commercial photographer who taught me how she operated her business as well as her creative process. Everybody starts somewhere! I'm afraid of making too wide a step in the beginning but I see that there's an initial expense in buying equipment I don't have, the rest will be an expense of time and energy with a focus on building experience, all of which I hope will pay off over time. Once I finish school this May I'll have plenty of time to dedicate. I would like to make the world a better place doing something I enjoy!
Much thanks for the advice, please keep it coming!
[Greg Lindsey] "To respond to Mick, I do stock video and have a contributer agreement with a well known stock agency already, so what I shoot will automatically have a marketing and distribution channel. I'm still competing but I'm a good deal ahead with this (I hope). I plan to make a niche by offering unique footage"
Glad to hear it. I couldn't tell by your post which is why I put in the disclaimer. One thing I'm a little confused about though, above you say you're doing and plan on doing stock video, but later in the thread you say you're not planning on offering professional video services since you don't have those skills. Just a little confusing that's all.
Higher Ground Media
Here's some unvarnished advice:
1. Don't start a business built around software/services/industry you don't thoroughly know and understand. This is a recipe for failure, or if you're lucky it will just take years to reach a baseline. Given the likelihood of a coming recession, it's not a kind market to enter without being able to compete from day one. You may want to get more industry experience if you plan to offer creative services, because this is an extremely difficult industry to survive in. In business texts, this is the first rule they tend to mention because it is one of the leading causes of business failure.
2. You need to solidify what it is your new business will offer, to whom, and how/why you are better. Write it down and read it through the eyes of a prospective customer, because if it isn't a compelling pitch you probably aren't going to win much business. The field is crowded, after all. You started out saying you would be doing stock video/photo, but then went on to talk about web design, editing etc. These could be considered complimentary services for a larger studio to offer since that company could create entire units around these services and dedicate resources toward developing out that aspect of their offering. But an individual or tiny company will have a tougher time landing business because it comes off as a "kitchen sink" approach, and people will be less likely to trust that you are good at any one thing you offer. You are not a general handyman, and that approach doesn't work too well in this industry since each discipline is so specialized and could be an entire career path on its own. A cohesive, tight core focus will also keep your sales, marketing and financial resources focused rather than spread like scattershot across a wide and competitive field of services. Believe me when I say that offering more services is not necessarily better, especially if you don't know how to do those particular services better than the next guy. Maybe consider focusing on video and editing, or just web design, but not all of the things you mentioned.
3. Go to Amazon.com and pick up a library of books on the subject. Not just "how to shoot video" type books, but books that discuss marketing, sales, general business strategy etc.. Remember, when you start a business you're no longer just a video guy, you're a businessman and you need to learn how to run a business. Think accounting, sales, marketing, business development, networking, IT, janitorial, production, billing, contract law etc.
4. Carefully consider, research and plan for things like taxes, business licenses etc. Taxes end up being the death of a lot of companies because they wait until it's too late to understand the law. Remember, as a business (whether you're planning to be a contractor OR a legit business) your tax obligation is much higher, and the laws much more complex. Did you know you have to file and pay taxes quarterly? If not, you need to spend some time looking into it or risk rounding out the year with a tax bill that swallows every penny of profit you THOUGHT you made.
Hopefully this doesn't sound too discouraging, but running a business really isn't a light-hearted affair, it isn't easy, and it requires 110% dedication to learning a LOT if you want to succeed. Unfortunately, there are no forums, books or consultants that can summarize it. It takes knowing your chosen industry cold, understanding business management reasonably well and being willing to starve, work late and put it all on the line, often for years, before seeing real profit. Once you get to that point, however, it will be the most rewarding thing you've ever done, and will all seem worth it.
I liked this post so much that I quickly set it up as an article for the library. It will go live later today.
Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and concise post.
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Excellent advice! I'm still in the conceptual stage and things are still being fleshed out. Your points on the importance of good business sense are well-taken and I've read this other places. It wouldn't be wise to expect to be a jack-of-all-trades. I was thinking more along the lines of freelance photography and not offering professional video services or web design since I really don't have those skills. But I'm starting out really really small and just came here for some professional advice. Thanks again.
You're also right about the educational aspect – all that software is no good if you don't know how to extract its full potential. I intend to know what I'm doing so I'm planning on doing lots of reading and homework before I attempt anything so I can stay within my limitations. Like I mentioned in my first post, please let me know of any specific titles which you recommend.
I had not considered the economy, or taxes and contract law so this advice is also very useful. Its obvious there's a lot to learn so for the time being I'm going to keep things very simple and go slow while I do my homework, if it doesn't work out I will be happy to return to school.
It also may not be a bad idea to get a full time job in the field that you wish to work in after you graduate, and just freelance on the side. There are a couple of reason it may be a good idea.
-You have a steady paycheck (comes in handy paying off student loans).
-You get real life work experience in your chosen field.
-You get insurance and other benefits that can cost a LOT on your own.
-It can help you decide exactly what aspects you want to focus in.
-You can see how other business are run. Thus learning how to run one.
Doing the freelancing on the side, will allow you to develop a solid business of your own, but at the same time have some solid income & benefits etc.
There are no "technical solutions" to your "artistic problems".
Don't let technology get in the way of your creativity!
[Zane Barker] "You get real life work experience in your chosen field."
I have just a small contribution to this thread, and in particular, Zane's thought above. The greatest benefit one receives from "real world experience" is learning from others instead of having to re-invent the wheel on each and every aspect of the technology, the techniques and the business.
For example, you can spend hours, days, weeks, etc. attempting to re-create a certain type of lighting effect. Or you can be a still photo assistant or a film video PA or grip and viola... much is revealed to you if you're simply paying attention.
This is all excellent advice. What is the best way to get experience with filmmaking for someone with almost no experience? Can I be a run-around on a set just to see how stuff gets done? This is something I'll look into. I might not have experience but everybody has to start somewhere. What basic skills should I have if I was to assist? What can I learn on my own time to make myself valuable to a filmmaker? I will check postings for positions for this.
[Greg Lindsey] "Can I be a run-around on a set just to see how stuff gets done?"
Well that probably won't teach you much about the business side (probably none), but it is definitely a good way to experience the filmmaking side.
I've told this story many times before... but before I became a wanna-be director I was a wanna-be actor. I literally learned more about the craft of filmmaking (especially cinematography) on my first day on a real movie set than I did in four years of film school... and that is no exaggeration but is the sad but absolute real honest-to-goodness truth.
Watching real pros work is almost never a waste.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.