We have a guest article from James Matthews of BounceColor today. He’s going to take a deep dive into starting a video company on a shoestring budget.
Starting a video production company is hard work and anyone who says otherwise is more than likely a better business person than I was many years ago.
At the time I was confident in my skills but it’s not until you go out on your own that you realise there are many skills that you don’t have.
Thankfully these skills can be picked up along the way, but for me having to figure them out on my own was difficult and in some instances costly. For this reason, this is an article I would have liked to have read many years ago on how to start a video production company.
Name and LLC
This was the first thing that I set up when starting my own company and in my opinion, it was a mistake to do so because depending on the country or state you are living it you then have to register for all kinds of services.
For example, you may need a business banking account and business insurance which is an expense you can do without when you don’t have any money coming in.
I would wait to set up your limited liability company (LLC) until you have some of the other steps in this article sorted out. With that said depending on where you live you will need to register one within a certain number of days after you start trading.
The same applies to hiring new staff members, all new staff members have to be reported to your state’s new hiring office within 20 days of employment.
Creating an LLC for your business can be complex so if you can afford it you can pay a company to set one up for you.
When registering your company it’s important not to infringe on others copyrights so use a website such as uspto.gov to find registered trademarks.
Website & Social Media
When you have a business name and a registered LLC you can then look at registering your website’s name.
Depending on your budget you could use a free service such as Wix.com or hire a marketing agency to build you a custom website, which long term is going to benefit your business. But if money is tight which it usually is when starting just use Wix.
Your website is going to be one of the best ways to advertise your services so take the time to make sure it looks professional and has a call to action on there asking for someone to get in touch with you to hire your services.
There are many domain extensions available to choose from such as .co.uk, .com, .net, .org and hundreds of others such as .io, .marketing and so on.
One tip I would give is to try and get the domain extension that is common in your country. If your business is based in the UK go for the .co.uk, if your business is based in America go for the .com.
Domain names are often taken up, so if your business is called James Mathews Film but JamesMathewsFilm.com is taken you will have to try variations of that domain such as JMathewsFilm.com, JamesMFilm.com, or something brandable such as HitchedStudios.com (all of these are fictitious examples by the way and just an example of what can be done).
When you have your domain name and website sorted out you can then register all of your social accounts. I often see companies make the mistake of trying to use all of the social media networks that exist but as you get busier this becomes impossible to manage.
What you should do is register on the social media accounts where your potential customers are. If you shoot weddings for example you may want to make Instagram your first choice of social media platform.
Whereas a video production company that works mainly with corporate clients would find more success in registering an account on LinkedIn.
When registering your social media accounts you are going to need to get creative with naming as once again most of the good names are already taken.
Showing examples of work
Now that you have your website up and running you should think of it as a constant salesman for your business. The best way to put this salesman to work is to show examples of the work you have done in the past for other clients.
If you haven’t had any clients you are going to have to either shoot some personal projects or let everyone you know that you have started a video production company and you are looking for work.
You will be surprised at how good this can work. Don’t be frightened to take on smaller jobs or ones that are not that well paid initially, it may suck but we all have to start somewhere.
Generating sales consistently
To be a successful video production company you are going to need to build a name for yourself and generate clients consistently.
After you have enough content to show the work you produce you can start to target bigger projects.
3 ways that have worked for me in the past are running social media ads, organic search engine marketing and cold emailing other businesses.
I’m no expert on the above methods but using a combination of them I was able to fill my calendar with constant bookings. Three guides that helped me are included below:
Facebook ads can be run for a few dollars a day so even if your budget isn’t huge you should still be able to generate leads for your business.
One mistake I made early on was trying to target too many people with my ads, instead, focus on your local area and make your advert very targeted.
Search engine optimisation can take a long time to implement, it could even take years but if you can get your video production company on the top of Google when people search for your services you will generate leads daily.
Cold email by far is my favourite way of earning new business. It’s practically free and I’ve landed a client (mid $x,xxx) within 50 emails. Cold email has a bad reputation because people send the same email out to thousands of businesses.
You shouldn’t do that. You should make every email unique to the company you are emailing, just be sure to check the laws of cold email in your country.
Renting Equipment and making your budget stretch
The best thing about starting a video production company is you don’t have to go out and buy expensive equipment right away.
What I did was I waited until I had projects booked in and used the deposits from those projects to rent the equipment that I needed.
Long term you should buy your equipment because it will save you thousands but when you start renting is a great way of getting high-quality equipment without breaking the bank.
You may have a camera rental store close to you and if so go in and talk to the owner and ask if there are any special deals they would be willing to make for you because you will only use them going forward. If your camera store is locally owned and not a chain this can work well.
If you don’t have a camera rental store close to you then there are many to choose from online that offer very fast shipping.
For a long time, my video production company didn’t have an office and all of my editing was done from home, but as your team grows you will want office space.
Don’t jump straight into buying the nicest office you can find, just find one that’s affordable and doesn’t put too much pressure on yourself if you have a downturn in business.
Flexible office spaces can be a good option as you are not tied in to long contracts and you can pay for more desks if you need them.
One of the biggest mistakes that I made with my company was to invoice manually by creating a word document then emailing that document over then checking with my bank to see if it had been paid. The whole process was a nightmare.
From the start, I would advise you to invest in invoicing software. Xero, Freshbooks or Quickbooks are all fairly cheap and they handle the invoicing and you can even hook them up to online payment processors.
The benefit of using invoicing software is that all of your documents are kept in a safe place for when you have to submit your tax returns.
My first year in business was unorganised when it came to my invoices and taxes and as a result, I submitted them late and had to pay fines.
Always be learning
When you run a business it’s always tempting to book in as many clients as possible to keep the cash flow strong, but you only have so many hours in the day and you should keep some time back for learning new techniques.
New ways of doing things especially when editing could save your business hundreds of hours and make your business more profitable.
For example, when I learned I could use lookup tables when editing instead of hours in the colour grading suite it saved me so much time when working on client projects.
This is true for any business and not just a video production company. If you find yourself struggling with any part of the business you should hire someone good at that and then concentrate on your strengths.
You can partner with other videographers, lighting engineers and even bring in someone to help you to market your business. Don’t try to do it all, it’s impossible to be good at everything.
Video Company On a Shoestring Budget – Conclusion
Running a video production company is an amazing job, some of the clients that I have had the chance to work with have made the late nights and early mornings worthwhile. And if you’re looking to start a video production company I wish you the very best of luck and I hope my experiences above have helped you.
Sadly because of health issues I no longer run my production company and after 8 years I sold my stake in the business to my business partner, but I wouldn’t have changed anything if I had to do it all again, including getting fined for filing my taxes late. It all counts in the learning process.
James Mathews is now the content writer for BounceColor.com a company that helps videographers edit their videos quicker through the use of preset digital assets.