Determining Editing Rates for a Non-Existent Market
I have scoured the forums looking at all sorts of different rates. When there are members here saying that small projects can be upwards of $500 to $2000 and up for a 30 second commercial, for example, I am floored.
The reason is I am in the northern part of central Texas which puts me about 45 minutes north of Austin right up the highway. The market here for any editing services is quite literally non-existent. Austin and Dallas are flooded out with editors and production companies, but the market here in my county of 315,000 residents is absolutely zero.
I am the only editor in the county. Seriously.
I primarily use Premiere CS6 and After Effects CS6 with some plugins. I'd be able to offer basic editing, some awesome motion graphics, some color correction, the whole bit. (I tend to focus mainly on improving my AE skill.)
This is why I'm wanting to crash into the market here and see what happens, but I am not in what you could call a "video editor friendly" area. This is an area where 90% of people think 50 dollars for a very well done car detailing is highway robbery; also, a car detailing that runs the full course of paint correction and costs 300 dollars would be considered sheer lunacy. It's not that everyone here is a redneck. It's more due to the fact that people honestly don't know how much something like video editing is worth because there's no market here.
I'm wanting to start a small time side business of general editing and motion graphics. I am a college student working a part-time job at the moment, and I love the whole editing game (and wish to make it my career). I feel confident in my ability to create a professional package for a client. My clientele would probably initially involve soccer moms wanting me to cut footage together of little Johnny kicking a ball around with his dad, or someone wanting me to create a graphics-heavy intro for their gameplay videos or whatever, but I am fine with that in the beginning.
However, I'm afraid that even starting with a base hourly rate of FIFTEEN dollars would scare off essentially everyone. If I were to quote hourly rates more in tune with Austin's general rates ($40 and up), people would think I'm pipe dreaming and I'm not sure I'd ever get business.
This part is a bit random, but I did find a person in the area recently that did some editing for a couple clients in days gone past. The person has a demo reel on their Youtube channel. The person said they would charge $100-$1000 for 30 second videos, but looking at some of the finished projects the person created, it's an absolute wonder a client even paid for it. The quality of work the person achieved was on par with a 9 year old kid working with Windows Movie Maker for the first time. Compared to the person, I'd be considered Hollywood-tier, but I'd be deathly afraid of charging that high of a price for a 30 second cut of something that is going to primarily appear on Youtube or websites.
Anyway, the goal of this business in its fledgling state is to do a small, graphical lyric video here, a gameplay intro there, and maybe cut together home videos or anything people have. I unfortunately do not have a proper camera to offer meaningful shooting services (I have a point & shoot with 240/480/1000fps high speed capabilities, though), so I'd be relying on someone just transferring their footage over to my external drive for me to work on it at home. I'm hoping that it could get some momentum through simple marketing and word of mouth.
I might as well try, right? I am a moderately-advanced Premiere and AE user who has a potential market at his fingertips. I'll never know the real condition of the market until I just jump into it, but I have no idea where to start as far as rates in a market that is possibly afraid of what said rates could be.
Hi Patrick -
simple. You can't make a living where you live. End of story.
I moved from New York, to Florida, where I could only get half of my NY rate - to this day.
IT's a choice that I made. If I moved to india, I would be making only a fraction of that.
Solution - don't move to India.
If you move to Dallas or Houston, you will be able to earn a very good living for yourself.
I have driven thru Texas many many times. when I pass small towns like Ft. Stockton, and I
see a small hospital, I wonder "why would a doctor that could earn a fortune in Houston want to
practice in a small town like this, where he can barely make any money ?"
I don't know the answer to this. Your answer - move.
I'll never know the real condition of the market until I just jump into it.
Uhm, yeah you do. LOL Your market doesn't like paying $30 for a detailing.
It's really amazing that we live in a time where 20 year olds think they can go into business for themselves, and even more remarkable that they actually DO, and can succeed. 1990, in the days before NLEs were practical, was a different time -- but Bob and I were in our 30s before we tried this. And like Bob, I moved to chase opportunities. A couple of times.
So Bob's got your first solution. Move to a place where you can charge what you need to in order to survive. Austin is one of the most energetic cities in the world, with some of the most exciting opportunities for creative people. Other successful people operating there shouldn't keep you away. They should tell you that there's a lot of room for people to succeed.
If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere -- with the bonus that it's an affordable, livable city relative to nearly any other major market in the country.
The other solution: work for The Man. You could even wind up with benefits. You can DEFINITELY get other people to pay you to get better at what you do. You can maybe even learn some things about actually running a business, even a one-person business like Bob's, or a 2-person business like the one my wife and I had.
But your subject line lays out the impossibility of making it where you currently. There IS NO MARKET there. No need to sweat what rates you should charge, because you already know that people won't want to pay it -- the definition of no market.
Not that I know anything about where you live besides what you told us..but you really might consider starting to collect boxes. Move away to work for yourself, or move away to work for The Man.
Tim, I believe we may have gotten off on the wrong foot. It seems to me that you're indirectly saying that I'm probably just a kid that happened to get his hands on AE the other day and wants to overlay birthday music on a slideshow of a friend of a friend of a friend's mom's youngest son's photos. I'm not sure, but I just wanted t.o address that.
Also, as I said, this would be a side-business of sorts, not something I'm trying to make a living on right now. I'm working a job and focusing on school so I can transfer to UT, hopefully, to pursue the media realm further.
Moving would not be a viable option for me until next year. I was thinking I could at least try the market around here in the meantime because I'd have nothing to lose.
Well, note that the cost of living is also a lot less than Austin...so you have to adjust for that.
But if there is no market...no one willing to pay for video production services, much less a livable wage...then yeah, there's no point in being there. If you want to work in video production...move to where it is. If you want to live in that county because you love it there...find something that people there do want, and pursue that.
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
Note: the reason I'm in this county is because I grew up here and I'm trying to save money to move to Austin to attend UT down there. I can't just up and move. I also didn't somehow move to this county to try and capture the market. I'm a 23 year old student with an incredibly limited budget at this time.
[Patrick Reagan] " I'm a 23 year old student"
I didn't mean offense with my post. I said 20s, and indeed, you're in your 20s. I know it's different now, but I was in my 30s when I tried this, and in my town, that was considered crazy young to start a business.
I'm just saying that if you can get into something corporate, maybe you could get benefits, maybe matching contributions to an IRA -- set yourself up not only for starting your business but for RETIREMENT. Check other threads -- that's really really hard if you start late.
I also read you saying your skills are moderately advanced. I take that for granted in the COW, even if you hadn't said it.
You asked about rates for a non-existent market (your words). My overly long reply simply suggested that you take your own advice and admit there's no market. :-)
[Patrick Reagan] " I'm afraid that even starting with a base hourly rate of FIFTEEN dollars would scare off essentially everyone."
That's a long hard road, Patrick. Can you get by on $10-12/hr without putting yourself into indentured servitude? If the answer is yes, there's your rate. But take care not to lock yourself into a rate that will leave you unable to move even if you wanted to. Or unable to stay in your town and start a family.
Maybe you can do that on $10-12/hr. But there's your question. Can you live on the rate you'd need to charge? Not often you get to raise your rates these days, so how long can you charge $10-12/hr before your market pushes you even further down?
I'm also assuming that you can get $10-12/hr. What if it's less?
Note when I did this in the 90s that my entire county had 80,000 people in it -- a quarter the size of yours. I know what it's like to set up business in a small town that you love, and I get why you want to. I did it...but if I couldn't have, I wouldn't have. The market decides these things...and you may not even have one.
You're right that you won't know until you try...
...so I'm sorry if I sounded condescending. But I see some flashing yellow lights ahead for you, and a good-sized handful of red ones.
Thank you for your response. I'm sorry if I jumped the gun on that. There was also a paragraph of your initial post that I somehow missed, but I absorbed it.
I could live on that income because right now, it's extra income on top of the income I earn at my day job. My day job is what supports me currently (until I go to UT), and editing stuff would simply be a side venture that could possibly earn me some extra scratch in the meantime. When I move to Austin, I will definitely try to take it to the next level as far as how much more I invest in it.
Patrick, you've had thousands of dollars' worth of expert advice gven you, and you should take it.
However, I'm feeling a little contrarian today, so I'll kick out some ideas here and maybe one of them would work for you just as a getting your feet wet kind of side project - without leaving the homestead.
While it is true your immediate vicinity has no grasp of your value, the internet doesn't care where you live. You could branch out to other markets remotely, as long as you have a high bandwidth connection.
Do you play online games like COD or Battlefield or Halo, with others? There's a booming little niche in taking player's best game footage and re-cutting it into montages as a vanity/prestige thing. They FTP their screen captures to you and you do the magic, then publish to YouTube or FTP it back.
Texas has sportsmen everywhere: you could advertise editing hunting and fishing footage into polished productions.
Small as your town is, it has to have at least one lawyer serving it. Do they ever need depositions shot and EDITED? Do they ever need advertising spots, even just online ads?
If there is a hospital or a jail or a school nearby, all these institutions have a constant need for training materials. Go see their HR people and ask who makes their training media.
How about handling the overflow, editing for a wedding video/events video producer/ a few towns over? By FTP/ Cloud, or overnight shipping duplicate hard drives back and forth, you could help an already established operator keep up with all his editing work, while you build skills.
Visit the local historical society and chamber of commerce. Ask them about a video detailing the history of the town, or outlining it's attractions and amenities online.
All these are jobs you could do at home in your underwear. But first you have to put on your big boy pants and knock on some local doors. Be a Producer and hire yourself.
If none of these plans work out after giving it a good hard try, I'd reconsider moving to Austin or anywhere big, because it is not enough to be talented in a big city. You'll just get underpaid scutwork unless you know how to market yourself and make the "ask" convincingly for the rate you want. Upselling the locals is not a drag, son; it is TRAINING for bigger and better things. This is you AA league time, building skills for The Big Show. Go out and sell, sell, sell!
Two shoe salesmen go to a third world country and find a huge population of bare footed people. One salesman says, "no, this will never work, no one wears shoes here." The other salesman looks at the same sight and says, "wow, look at the potential here." Which salesman are you?
Work to your strengths. Offer editing and post services for production companies in Texas that would happily pay €20 per hour for a freelancer to edit. Do brilliant work and go further than anyone else with your time. Work remotely and build a list of production companies around Texas that you will be able to work for whilst at Uni. Gain experience working on projects for clients who value your work.
However, if you think there is a market for you then test the water. It wont cost you anything bit time to offer services for whatever price you think fits....
How would you feel though if you made a video for a kids sports team, spent 2 days working on it, sent an invoice for $50 and then were asked to do hours of changes and modifications for free? Do you see working for people who don't value your work as good experience?
this thread is becoming insane. Look - if you are a KID, you should get a little job to help support you.
You DO NOT need to be "in your own business" if you are planing to go back to school in Austin.
You should be thinking about getting an INTERNSHIP (free) in Austin with a real company, so when you are ready to WORK FOR SOMEONE, then you will have some real world experience.
AND THEN you start your own company. Stop whining about "I can't make any money" - stop this nonsense with starting your own business before you have even worked for anyone.
I will make this simple - you can't open a McDonnalds franchise without working in a fast food joint first.
I actually saw a Dunkin Doughnuts go OUT OF BUSINESS - how does this happen - because someone with money who had no idea of how to make doughnuts or run a business said "I will invest in a business".
You may know Adobe products, but you know nothing about working, and working for someone, and getting clients. You CANNOT start a business before you have worked for someone in your industry.
This includes the Pizza store, or lawn service business. GET A JOB, learn what running a business involves, and then start your own business. You are just being foolish right now, because you want money "for school and dates", and you have no idea of how to proceed.
Before I reply to the wealth of helpful and useful posts I've received, I must address Mr. Zelin's comment first:
Mr. Zelin, in all due respect, you have made some fairly outlandish claims and assumptions about a person you do not even know, especially when you think I am a whining kid that is... after money for dates? I'm sorry, you are completely mistaken. You take me to be some whippersnapper in over his head when all I was originally asking for was a suggestion on how to move on a market that hasn't been explored yet, and I explained my fears. For you to (incorrectly) assume that I'm a whining kid that doesn't work or whatever seems unreasonable to me, especially when I've held a job since I was 17, and I have worked at a production company before. I don't remember the part where I was whining about not being able to make money; I don't remember even saying that... because I didn't. I haven't started offering any type of services to anyone in the first place because I am trying to get prepared and organized for such a thing. I am seeking internships, scholarships, etc. I'm trying everything in my power to break into the realm of media production.
I see nothing wrong with trying to get a very small side business of cutting together footage or whatever I find in order to develop my skill, supplement my primary income, and most important of all, bring service to a customer and know that they are pleased with the service in the first place. I don't feel it is absolutely essential to have worked at a production company or whatever in order to say, "I can make a graphical intro for you for 150 dollars." It wouldn't matter anyway because, like I said, I have worked at a production company, so I've already met your non-existent prerequisite on that front. So, please, you have stated your opinion, and I hesitantly respect it even though the basis of it was completely unfounded, and I did not enjoy your assumptions about me and my character, so I'm not sure if I would like to seek advice from you further. Thanks for understanding.
Now, to address the more supportive and helpful replies I have gotten:
Tim, thank you again for your great advice.
Mark, you have given me excellent ideas and support. Some of these things I haven't really thought of before. I do tend to play Battlefield 3 every once in a while; I could try and explore that option further and see what happens. I have no problem with going out and scouting the area to ask businesses and others if they are needing anything you have mentioned. In fact, this week is my college's spring break, so I am going to jump on those opportunities based on your recommendations. As far as which salesman I am, I would definitely have to say I am the latter. That's part of why I decided to post here. I have a potential market sitting right in front of me with no other competitors, and I'll never know 100% if it's really as dead as it seems until I actually prod it with a stick.
Tom, thank you for your suggestion. I didn't even think about querying distant production companies to try to work remotely for them. I'll try that as well. As far as your question about a 50 dollar invoice, I would probably not feel too well if I was paid only 50 bucks, in this example, to invest two days of work along with a billion extra hours of modifications.
Yeah, my main point was that in the kind of place Patrick lives in, he's got a better chance doing B-to-B (Business-to-Business) marketing than working directly for typical consumers for no margin.
Patrick, Bob's advice is ALWAYS worth a listen; he's gruff but ever so seldom wrong. If he's off-base in his perceptions of your age and ability, blame yourself for not giving enough initial detail, but don't shut Bob out without giving him a good listen because the man has seen a lot of stuff and knows his business.
I would hazard a guess that during busy season, wedding videographers would pay $50-$100 for an edit, boilerplate grade and then some AE work on a mass of h264 footage and stills from a Dropbox account. Poke a stick into some bears in the area and see if you get some honey.
I can understand that and respect it fully, in that case. I don't want to shut him out.
As a mild-mannered retort, I'm not completely sure why those certain assumptions were made just because I didn't explain something that I didn't even think was necessary to provide in the first place.
In light of all this, I will happily forgive Bob for any assumptions that were made, and I will apologize for not providing enough detail. I wish to have no ill feelings towards Bob, and I do understand and respect his seniority on the subject.
Listen Patrick, you should be angry. I am trying to "work you up". You should stop being a nice guy, and go out there and KILL. If there are a million editors in Austin and Dallas, and you want to be in this business, you have to COMPETE against them, and show your clients that you can do a BETTER JOB than they can do, so that you are employed, and that they starve. Not a nice picture ? Well, this is what it's like when there are too many "xzy" of one profession - you have to seperate yourself from the pack, to show why they should hire you. You stated that you are the ONLY person in your area, and people still think that your rates are crazy. As I stated before, you CANNOT make a living in your area, unless you want to do weddings. You have to move. And when you move, you have to compete. I am not questioning for one second that you are a very talented graphics/editor/AE person - I am sure that you are. but guess what - there are a lot of guys out there that are as good as you. And guess what - there are a lot of guys out there that are a LOT better than I am - and I have to CONVINCE PEOPLE on a regular basis that they should hire ME instead of THEM. This is part of being in business. As you continue to do this (should you want to continue to do this), you will become angered that someone with half your qualifications and abilities will get the job, and it may have nothing to do with how much they charged. And this should make you ANGRY.
Being an independent contractor or a small business person is not fun. It makes you money. It doesn't make a difference if you are an After Effects or Smoke artist, or you are running a tire shop - you have to compete, and your competition wants only one thing - to get your business. I know very well what it is like to be in an area where there is no work. If I did not adapt my business in Orlando, FL. to become more of a national operation (other states) instead of just Orlando, FL. I would be starving right now. Orlando is not New York City, which is where I am from, and where there was tons of work. I wanted to live here, and I had to adapt, or I would be on food stamps right now. In addition to having to learn about all these new video products, software programs, networking techniques, etc. I have to deal with CONVINCING PEOPLE TO HIRE ME.
It's exhausting, and every business person on this forum faces the same thing. Having your own business is not having a steady job. It's work.
Just look at Creative Cow (for example). They kicked the ass out of the print publications, and don't you think that every one of these publications is trying to figure out how to make Ron and Tim STARVE, so that they can get all the sponsors on their site. And they don't care if their families suffer, and they starve, and are in the street, with no shoes, and no food - THEY WANT ADOBE and AJA as their sponsor,and they will do whatever they can to make this happen.
I am sure that you are a very talented person in our business. You must adapt, so you can make a living, be it support your family, pay for school, or buy crack (whatever you want to do with your money is your business). It's not nice out there in the business world.
I appreciate your input immensely, Bob. You are right on every point, and this is all very motivating. I'm very glad that all of you have been so supportive and realistic while also providing very rich insight into the business end of the production realm.
I'm gonna continue to absorb all this information because it's all so freaking good!
We expect a report Monday night on where in town you stepped up and knocked on a business' door.:-)
I'm half a step ahead! I've asked the local print shop (that is sending me a proof for a logo design I have) if they are needing any type of advertisement or video spot, and they said they might be interested, so I'll keep you updated on that, as well!
Bob your posts get me so fired up I want to punch the video editor that works a few miles from me and steal his wife. Love it.
Hey guys, I have a few questions based on an offer I got on Friday:
I work at an automotive paint store and deliver to body shops all over. (No one wants an advertisement right now; already tried several times.) I've sort of mentioned in passing that I edit and make graphics and whatnot. There is one owner in particular that coaches a football team of younger kids that I told this to. He wants me to shoot his team from the booth for the entire game. It'd be about an hour and a half and he'd like me to do it for all five games this season and then cut out the fat in post to whittle it down to maybe 45 minutes per game.
- He doesn't seem to understand that all I have is a 300 dollar Casio ZR-100, a point & shoot camera that I bought primarily for the 240/480/1000fps high speed capability (and it's a step up from my old trusty Hi-8 camera).
- I wouldn't necessarily be able to rent a camera for these occasions. It sort of depends on this next point here.
- Just as I explained earlier about a market in the void, I'm not sure he understands yet that he'd end up paying more than 75 dollars for me to shoot for an hour and a half, then cut said footage down to about 45 minutes, add any graphics he wanted, and finally throw it onto a DVD or online or whatever.
Which brings me to some more points:
- This potential client in particular keeps assuming that I have some amazing camera when I've told him twice that he will not be receiving the quality he may be looking for unless he wants it to look like a dinky home movie. What if he honestly doesn't care what camera I use? He doesn't seem to care one bit as long as it's 1080p. How the crap would I charge an hourly rate or whatever for a point & shoot?!
- Speaking of shooting rates, when I do graduate to a nicer camera (looking at the Panasonic AG-AC130), general market rates aside, how would one base a price off all the different factors that come with shooting? Shooting may seem more one-size-fits-all than editing as far as pricing, but are there any factors that I should take into consideration?
Yeah, that camera isn't going to cut it for shooting sports.
You could go to ebay or a pawn shop in the next town over, and find something used that could work, in the $600 -$1300 range. If he wants a final product on a DVD, then wide-screen-shooting DV camcorders could be "good enough" if they have the requisite long lens. Get an advance to cover the gear you need in exchange for a promise to cover x number of games. The point being that the client is covering the additional expenses up-front and you are not having to go into debt on the front-end of the project.
But unless this is a coach and all he needs is a wide shot to document how the plays work, one camera isn't enough. A co-worker who is nuts about soccer shoots the team he coaches (it seems) every weekend; he uses one main camera in the stands or on a tall pole, plus he places two or more "wingman" cameras in different spots like on the goalposts and strapped to a light pole near mid-field, and edits the multicam in post to look like a live-switch.
Your first question back to the potential client is:
How will you use the footage: for coaching purposes, to document the plays, or for "entertainment"?
If coaching, your equipment outlay will be for the one camera and tapes/cards plus a good tripod and batteries. If for Entertainment and as a memento for the players, you're going to want the wingman POV cameras covering the end zones. Either way: single camera with long lens and accessories, or multi cam, your equipment outlay is going to be at least a grand for everything, possibly two grand. That means your equipment costs, before your editing charges, will average $200 per game over the five games. If you edit each game for $200 flat, that's a bill of two grand total or $400 per game, but you end the project at least at break-even, maybe with a small profit plus you now have the gear, all paid-up free and clear so the next job, at the same rate, is ALL profit.
An important issue on the side is: can you shoot sports? It can be tougher than people know, to shoot it right and with just one camera.
Getting the camera(s) will be an investment. It might be nice to have this one guy finance the gear if you can use it for other, future gigs elsewhere.
You will want to figure into your rate card calculations the time spent shooting the five games, and you can't be afraid to charge a fair rate. They will either accept it or they won't. This potential client is a consumer-type client, with low price expectations. Remember I said earlier your better bet for a good ROI is to work the B2B circuit and work for Organizations and businesses. I'm not telling you to not go ahead with the football thing if you want, but I'm saying beware that it doesn't get in the way of the overall B2B strategy. I have passed up small gigs occasionally because we couldn't agree to a price I was comfortable with. If you are working for less than your day rate, you are typically losing money and your time is better spent trolling and marketing for more worthwhile accounts. So, think like a Producer; look at the Big Picture and ask yourself how the opportunity serves your long term overall goals. What looks like a nice little deal can become an albatross around your neck if you over-promise and under-deliver for a wage that's less than the time was worth. Don't do it for less than minimum wage!
We're veering into what should be another thread I think, but Ima weigh in anyway.
I've shot sports one camera, and Mark's right - it's brutal. But I've never done a whole game. That's inconceivable to me. I used my knowledge of the sports to set up where I hoped a highlight play might occur -- easier in baseball and basketball than soccer, where you might go tens of minutes without a score, and no obvious place to have been set up the rest of the time.
For all that a baseball diamond is bigger, the action on the whole tends to go inward toward the diamond. Not the case with soccer, where, no matter where you position yourself, you could find yourself in full zoom for all but a few seconds of the game...and running as hard as any of the players to keep a usefully framed shot the rest of the time. A tripod for single-camera shooting is out of the question.
Do note Mark's point about a camera in the bleachers AND on the light pole. You HAVE to be above the field to see movement around the ball with any perspective. A zoomed-in shot will shorten the distance between objects in the scene. From the ground, zoomed in, you (or the coach) won't be able to tell how far apart the players are, how far the ball is moving toward you or away from you, etc.
With some of these logistics in mind, you can start to build up a collection of gear along the lines Mark suggests. No matter what you decide you're willing to spend on all this, you HAVE to put that number in one pile, with your time in the other.
I'm going to bring this around to the same point that several of us have suggested to Patrick: chase market rates at your peril. You HAVE to cover your costs at the very least. If you can't afford to do the job at the rates the market (or client) will bear, DON'T DO IT.
So be careful laying out your costs. Be honest. Then tell the client how much it will cost, no negotiating, this is what it's going to take. If he doesn't want to pay that much, wish him well and move on with your day.
Unless you decide that you're okay with giving away your time, which is also a perfectly valid choice that all of us have made at one time or another. But you start by KNOWING your costs. Everything else follows from that.
For more details on shooting, please fire up a thread in the Field Production forum. A lot of clever folks there who have done an awful lot of this kind of thing.
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I have no idea why I didn't sign up to this forum earlier. This is million dollar information and it's just so great to get so much golden feedback. Thank you, Mark, and all!
Also, I've never really shot sports before. While this may be strange to say, if I did shoot for this client, this would be a "learner client," I guess you could say. He is the type of person that if I can overlay some text on the screen and the image quality is crisp, he'll quite literally be amazed. So, while I have my own standards, of course, pretty much anything is gonna blow this guy away, so I might as well try to get my feet wet shooting sports with this client while I can and just wing the crap out of it.
[Patrick Reagan] "He is the type of person that if I can overlay some text on the screen and the image quality is crisp, he'll quite literally be amazed."
Patrick, the previous two threads from Mark and Tim only begin to hint at some of the tools and techniques needed to make a game video look like a television broadcast. And THAT's quite likely what most civilians -- people with no clue of what's behind what they see on TV -- have as their expectation, a switched television broadcast. It's not their fault, it's just that most people outside of a discipline have very little idea of the inner details of the discipline and most of us tend to simplify things we don't fully understand.
My advice is to enter into this very carefully and make sure that your prospective client has been fully briefed on what you can (and more importantly cannot) physically accomplish with the gear you will be using. MANAGE THE EXPECTATION and, as others have pointed out, be willing to walk away if you can't be funded to do the job properly.
Patrick - on the Sports side of things, look at everything you can find online at the local level, and see if there's anything there that you can't do. There's a certain level of expectation with sports - color commentary (even on a simple level), on-screen scores, multi-camera shooting...
I've both shot and produced lots of sports stuff over the years - the toughest, in terms of camera work - soccer and ice hockey - the ball or puck, respectively can change directions in the wink of an eye, and if you don't have a wide shot to cut to from up in the stands, you'll be screwed. Most sports beg for multi-cam shooting, and even the lowest level ones are often shot with a small remote truck and a director, so that the games can be cut live. Editing ISO reels into a game package is a nightmare, and you could lose your shirt doing it that way.
Here's an example of what a small hyper-local station here in NH does for their sportscasts - bear in mind that it's hockey and basketball season up here:
Patrick - you have stumbled into the goldmine portion of the COW.
Bob Zelin speaks the truth, and it usually only registers with 5% of new members - the rest hoot and holler until they realize he is right on the money.
Simple question - if you know the locals don't have a lot of money, but you wish to stay local, and you only have a Fischer Price video camera, how can you solicit your services if you can't really afford to do the level of work you are selling and based upon the low prices in your area, you'd lose your shirt on every project if you had to rent gear.
In any business you have to take a certain amount of risk initially, in your case to invest in some better gear. It is a Catch 22 situation - you can't afford the equipment you need to do the work that would pay enough to afford the equipment. It is a double Catch 22 because even if you have the equipment, the prevailing low monetary values in your area will prevent you from earning enough money to make back your investment and make any profit.
Good luck. Good to see you making an effort to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
Mike, I've always had the idea of trying to sell my services to people as I've developed some skill, but what really set this off was a number of people who were asking me to make strictly motion graphics-based videos. I would, of course, be able to do that without a camera. I was thinking that if I drummed up a handful of side-jobs like that, I'd be able to simply pay cash for a nicer camera (and that is the only way I'd buy one). After that, I'd be able to expand a bit.
As far as Bob, I've already realized he's right on the money, and I enjoy that his initial post was simply to motivate me. I already find Bob to be awesome.
I am not trying to make a living with this currently. This would simply be to get some experience and extra money until I try to move next year, as well as just see how the market really is in this area. This would be what could be called a micro-cottage industry venture. As I've said multiple times in this thread, I have a day job and go to college. I would technically be making profit from every job, regardless of size, because I currently have nothing invested unless you want to count the software I've bought, but that was originally purchased for personal use, not necessarily business use.
I am not trying to jump out with both feet and say, "Yes, I can shoot your 35,000 dollar wedding as a one-man operation with a 300 dollar point and shoot camera." That was never my intention, and that would be ridiculous. Because of my low marketplace/business experience and only mooooderately-high amount of knowledge concerning Premiere, AE, etc., I would not feel comfortable taking on larger jobs until I took the baby steps in order to get to "that level." That doesn't mean I can't charge a bit of money to make a 30 second, graphics-based intro for someone or cut together some folks' footage.
As far as the sports filming thing, I went ahead and turned that down because I further explained to the potential client that my camera wouldn't be sufficient for filming the games. Not to mention his budget was 40 dollars per game. Aka... 40 dollars for me to go through the entire production process, from written outline to finished product. Some of you guys charge double that PER HOUR, so... yeah, no deal.
The good news is that a couple friends of mine that make music are needing a demo for a "Who we are" type of video for their company. I had them sign a contract stating the terms, and I am currently giving them a "first-time client's discount" of sorts at $25/hr.