Growing my business
I'm a videographer/editor in the Philadelphia market, and am looking to get more work. Right now I work full time at a television station, and use my off days to get as much freelance work as I can. I'm about 50% weddings and 50% small corporate videos. 95% of all of my work is one-man band type shoots.
My overall goal is to move to doing freelance work full time, and get more consistent corporate work and/or more wedding work. I'm having trouble finding clients who consistently need more than one job and potentially need bigger productions, consistently getting leads, and with weddings, getting referrals and finding new clients.
So, I was hoping maybe anyone had any advice for me, whether in a similar situation or someone with more experience who could give me an idea of ways to get more business.
You can't serve two masters equally well.
Corporate clients shy away from 'wedding guys:" and wedding/event clients don't think a corporate shooter knows how to tell their story. We know that isn't true, but I'm talking about perceptions and markets here. If you serve both markets, make an effort to make them visibly distinct and separate businesses, even down to having separate web sites and phone numbers (they can all still forward to your pocket phone anyway, but this is customer psychology we're talking about).
To grow the business, I think you have to pick one track or the other, not both. You'll also soon come to a place where you will need to expand your team, by hiring, or other arrangements. You'll be taking on bigger risks, getting more gear, and you may need to open a line of credit to keep your books balanced between billings. You'll need insurance and a lot of other costs of doing business.
Like winning the lotto, or opening a restaurant, the dream of going full-on freelance is attractive to think about. But the reality is often brutally tough, and it it's not for everyone. Especially if you're earning for more than just yourself, but also supporting a family.
Thanks for the response.
Yes, I've definitely heard that being a corporate shooter and a wedding shooter kind of conflicts a client. I'm definitely more interested in the corporate side of things, but I've probably made more money off of the wedding side of things, just because there's been a little more accessibility to brides than corporate/business clients.
Where my mindset is now is I kind of have to do the wedding shoots until I have so much corporate work that I don't need it, but my reality right now is if I just stopped shooting weddings I'd really kill my earnings. Kind of a Catch-22.
Do you have any advice on how to grow the corporate work? The clients I have had liked the work, but some only were interested in the one video and aren't interested in more.
Corporate work has many sub-categories. Training, marketing, PR, commercials, internal, external. The more you know about a target business, the better you know what they might need.
Ultimately, for a corporate client, you're there to solve a communications problem.
Do they need to get a point of view about a specific topic across to local or state government, or to an audience of concerned citizens? Is there some aspect of the business, a new strategy, that needs explaining to shareholders? A video annual report summary? Something to show potential investors? What about the company's social outreach; are there causes or charities they support, and can you make a web video that communicates what they support and how? Does the company have a position within it's wider industry - does it want to create an impression of expertise? Look at a company like FESTO (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHn6sgbOb_cq_oGtyGv9E8g) and the web videos they make of incredible yet impractical flying and moving objects - all powered and controlled by their custom actuators and control systems.
Different audiences look at that and a civilian engineering student thinks: "that's an innovative company I'd like to work for". An investor may see it and say: This is obviously an industry leader in pneumatic and electronic micromachine actuator applications". Internal clients, employees, may just feel pride, or may be inspired to make additional; creative suggestions to management, some of which might lead to new unique products.
There's training for internal workers on safety, on procedures, on efficiency or productivity or salesmanship.
There's LOTS of youtube product out there, much of it bad, that's made as "customer support" how-to materials, or examples of how the product is put to actual use or application in the field. There's testimonials, oral histories, background pieces....
A universe of possible projects is out there to someone who asks the right questions and can communicate a vision to the decision-makers.
Think outside of just "corporate" and think of "institutional" - government agencies, universities, hospitals, research companies. Foundations. Academies.
Research them, find their problems, offer solutions.
I'm not adding much new, just to echo Mark's sentiments that you really need to differentiate the sides of your business.... brides-to-be definitely don't want a corporate video guy... and a lot of people in the corp would wouldn't even consider a wedding guy for work. That's not your fault, of course, it's somewhat the fault of a lot of people who call themselves video professionals and churn out horrid wedding videos. It has really tainted that market, although one of the best video people I know does mostly weddings (and his videos are great).
If weddings are making you money, I certainly wouldn't kill that cash cow. Especially since you have a regular "real" job, which I'm assuming is M-F 9-5, or thereabouts. If that's the case, on the upside that has you working exactly when weddings aren't happening, thus freeing you up for those. Unfortunately though, those days/times are exactly when corporate video work does happen, so growing that part will be harder.
We've found corp work tends to fall in one of two realms... the first is a company that needs some production for something, it's usually fair-sized budget-wise, we produce something nice and high-end for them, they're happy, and we never (or rarely) hear from them again. It's not our fault, or theirs, it's just that we filled a need they have, and now they don't have the need anymore.
The other side is companies that we do much lower-budget and lower-end work for, but we do a lot of it, over and over again... because they have continual needs.
We had one Fortune 500 company that we worked for for a few years. Painfully simple and low-end work... little $3K jobs but they kept happening over and over again, every week or two (with almost no heavy lifting, practically trained-monkey work). Unfortunately for us eventually the company was sold to a bigger company, and all their video work was then handled by the "home office" elsewhere. Event though there was nothing creative or artistic about the work, it was definitely a cash cow that we missed.
Those kind are hard to find.
One suggestion would be to ingratiate yourself to and align yourself with advertising agencies. We do mostly TV commercials and the majority of those are through ad agencies.... but even if you don't want to do commercial work, most agencies also have corporate clients. While we have worked for many corporations directly, just as often (maybe even more so) the corp work we've done has been through a company's ad agency... everything from training videos, to safety videos, marketing reports, PR vids, annual report videos, etc. Ad agencies aren't just for ads. And if you are really good and make them happy, you can work your way into a really good position with agencies. In our market there are some agencies that mix it up... using different production companies for different jobs. But more often than not people stick with the folks they know and like... with the majority of our agency clients, we do all of their video/film work, whether it be corporate, commercial, web, whatever.
To that end, if you aren't already a member of your local AdFed, join it... go to their monthly lunches/meetings, network, meet people. On the public relations side you might also get involved with your local public relations council (here in Alabama it's the PRCA)... the internal marketing people in corporations tend to be more involved with the PRC than with the AdFed, although many are involved in both.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thanks for the information and advice, definitely gave me a lot to think about.
My schedule is a little unorthodox, so while I have a full time job, I have a couple days off during the week and a decent amount of time off, plus I'm usually off Saturdays for wedding work. My plan has been when I can't do all the freelance work and take a little vacation with my time off, that would be my time to do freelance full time, but the key is getting there.
What I was told in school by a professor who had worked as a freelance videographer/editor that the way to really have a bit of a safety net is to have three clients who consistently need work, because if one slows down, another may pick up. Obviously, there's no guarantees, but right now I have one client who has been using me consistently and could potentially be one of those three, but I'm kind of at a loss at how to find more. So I think the strategies here are good places for me to start.
Would cold-calling/e-mailing be a good idea with both potential clients and ad agencies be a good idea (after doing the required research)? I've always been hesitant because I didn't want to come off as either desperate or as a pest. Do you think there would be any value to that, or should I focus more on the networking so people get a first-hand of experience of me first?
Let me add to Mark and Todd's excellent advice.
As a one man band you are in a excellent position to make money. Once you grow, so will your expenses and stress levels - even worse, if you enter the mid-range of the market, you will be squeezed by other freelancers and bigger companies.
It is not clear where you are placed on rates? And how much equipment you carry for the freelance work that you do?
However, here goes:
The wedding video trailer (3rd August 2014) on your Facebook page looks great - it is well shot. Although as a potential client I would be really concerned about Youtube muting the music sue to copyright issues.
In general, if you are using Facebook as a connector, you should post at least one or two updates a week (I got the link from your Cow profile).
Your LinedIn page needs some work - this is normally my first point of call, and yours appears to be frozen and not putting your freelance work at the top.
Talking of freelance work - would I as a corporate company hire a Videographer to produce my video? No.
You need to brand yourself as production outfit, rather than that of an individual freelancer. Print some cards, do a show-reel and then hit the business networks where you are placed. Don't forget that there are many companies who would look for strategic relationships - such as web designers looking to add videos to client sites etc.
You mentioned that you have already done some small corporate videos - have you asked those clients that you worked for, for a reference? Or even better, if they can make introductions to other companies looking for videos?
Finally: I can see that you work for QVC. I am not suggesting that you compete with your one and only employer. But it does give you a unique insight into making product promotional videos - I am sure that there is a very large market of garage businesses who have products to sell, but cant afford, or are not large enough to play with the big networks. But that won't stop them from having a product demonstration video produced.
Hope this helps?
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
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