You’ve just wrapped on a two week project that involved a number of 20 hour days. You say your goodbyes to everyone and climb wearily into your car.
You open the dashboard and pull out your phone. You hit the standby button and the phone lights up, giving you a quick flash warning to let you know you’re awfully low on battery.
Before you can even register that in your tired brain, you notice something else: 20 unread emails…and (even more surprising) 12 missed calls and a number of voice mail messages.
You have just about enough battery to get through the voice mails and discover that you have 3 clients in various stages of pissed off-ness. One of the shoots starts in two days and need to delay it as some of their employees are off sick this week. Another client has been trying to reach you about some last minute questions he has on the direction of the project (which starts shooting next week). And, last but not least, you have a less than happy client who needs to get in touch with you about a budget query.
All of these people have been trying to get in touch with you for most of the day. But you’ve been too busy to even check your phone, as you’ve been on your feet for about 20 hours and you’ve barely even had time for food (which you ate hastily whilst talking through the next parts of the shoot with your clients).
Yes, I’m exaggerating some things to illuminate a point. But if you’ve run a video production company for any length of time, you can relate. These are all realities of the industry. People try and get in touch with business queries and we’re sometimes so busy actually “doing the work” that we can’t respond on time – or, at least, during normal polite working hours.
It would be so much easier if we just had someone who could field these queries and not let clients sit in the dark without answers.
That’s where a video production assistant comes in.
The Modern Video Production Assistant
Eventually, your video business is going to expand. When you find yourself getting stretched, especially if you’re just a small team, you might start thinking about taking on an video production assistant to help out with tasks like:
- setting up your meetings with clients,
- organizing your travel and trips,
- or reaching out to potential new customers
- and more.
Yes, these might betasks that, now that you think about it, you weren’t all that excited about doing much anyway.
Besides, everybody can use an extra pair of hands. Whether you have an office or not. Video production assistants come in all shapes and sizes, in-person and virtual. More on that in a bit.
So does that mean that you should start scanning the classifieds? Only if you’ve not been paying any attention at all to what’s been going on online! There really are some wonderfully nifty new tools available, that you should really consider before you bring somebody aboard full time.
First off, are you sure you actually need a person? AI has come a long way since Microsoft experimented with that semi-annoying paperclip.
Take ‘Amy’, by x.ai, for example. This software has been called “the Dropbox of meetings”, in its revolutionary potential for busy people. It’s so humanlike in its communication that after scheduling a meeting, people not in the know have actually sent it gifts, like chocolate, whiskey and flowers, to thank it! Crazy.
Even better, it’s free and doesn’t require any software downloads. All you do is give it your schedule, include in an email and it will do the rest, without you or anyone else needing to learn any complex computer jargon. That’s right, it’s able to communicate with you and your clients in standard English.
‘It’s magic,’ says Michael Yamnitsky, from Techcrunch. Whatever it is, it’s time saved and as I spoke about before, having more time is vital to running your own business.
Taken in a different direction, you can use Crystal, which – though it won’t write your emails for you – will tell you how to approach people you don’t know very well, by analyzing their communication styles. Especially in a business like video production, where you’ll be messaging back and forth with people in a huge range of different industries, something that helps you hone your message and make it more effective can be worth its weight in gold!
Last but not least, have you discovered the power of IFTTT yet? No, that’s not a typo. IFTTT stands for If This Than That. With IFTTT, you create ‘recipes’ that allow you to schedule recurring (and not so recurring) tasks. For instance, you can set up things like a calendar entry to be written in your calendar app of choice when an email comes in with ‘meeting’ in the title.
There are an endless amount of possibilities with IFTTT and this article can’t possibly do its many uses justice.
Here’s a video that will give you some ideas:
AI can only take you so far today. The next step up is virtual assistants. The name is slightly misleading, as they are actually people. The ‘virtual’ only refers to them not being in your physical space. Instead, Virtual Assistants (or VAs for short) work remotely, staying in touch through email, phone calls and Skype.
This has numerous advantages. For one thing, you won’t need extra office space. For another, there’s a much bigger pool of talent out there when you consider the English speaking world, rather than just your local neighborhood. This means that it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to find the right fit, with the right skills, for the right price.
It’s all become possible through such websites as Upwork and Elance, which offer pools of talent hundreds of thousands of people big. That means, you don’t have to spend days trawling the internet, searching obscure forums and dodgy websites. Instead, these websites offer you easy access, with the reviews of previous clients right there at your fingertips!
You can then take on who you like full-time, part-time or only when you really need them. Don’t have any work for them? Well, then you don’t need to pay them. And you don’t have to feel bad about it, as they are using the same websites to find other clients!
We have a great list of freelance/outsourcing options over on our Film & Video Production Jobs Resources section.
So what kinds of things can virtual assistants do?
- Bookkeeping – which, let’s be honest, most of us would prefer somebody else help us with.
- Data entry – they can help you process and manage your database of, for example, prospective clients.
- Data presentation – they can put together a presentation, or at least do enough of the basics that you only have to tweak it.
- Email management and first contact – you can always get a person to be the first line between clients and you, be it in responding to emails you receive, or actually connecting with new business.
- Research – they can do research and write reports on just about anything, whether it be research into a prospective market, client or about developments in your industry.
- Scheduling – they can help you plan, research and schedule your days as well as your (business) trips.
- Write blog posts for your production website – if you find a VA who’s a good writer are hard to find, you can have them write articles for your video production company’s website. This helps with your marketing, your search engine rankings and gets your message and ethos out there to your audience.
- And more – Every day new areas are opening to automation and outsourcing. You remember rule 34? Well, I’d contend that rule 35 is, ‘If you can think of it, somebody’s made an app about it – or at least found a way to outsource it!’
And sometimes you just need to find somebody who can physically be there to help you out in-person – whether it’s in an office setting, on-set or otherwise. Maybe you work better knowing that you can have face-to-face meetings with someone, or maybe it’s that you’re looking for specific outsourced help, like lighting, makeup, voiceover talent or something similar.
Obviously, some things just can’t be done over the internet.
The thing is, that if you’ve outsourced some of your work to the other options I’ve outlined, what you’ll need from the in-person assistant is much less.
The result? Maybe you don’t need them to be around all the time. You might be able to hire them part time, or on a freelance basis. Also, the less broad their skillset needs to be, the easier it will be to find somebody who truly excels at what you need, or – if money saving is what you’re after – somebody that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
And then there’s the fact that nobody is good at everything. So why ask somebody to do it all? Better to let every person do what they’re good at and what they enjoy. In that way, you don’t run the risk of becoming too dependent on one person. Also, you don’t have to worry about overworking anybody, since if you have more work, you just temporarily bring aboard more hands! And on the flip side, when you hit a down turn, you don’t have to pay for any staff you don’t need.
All this serves to make you more flexible, more capable of focusing on being productive, and ultimately better able to deliver a great product. And that’s what counts!
I hope you’ve found this article on hiring a video production assistant helpful. Let us know how you get on in the comments below. And don’t forget to share this post with your friends and colleagues using the share buttons just below this post.
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