We have an article today from Thierry Denis, CEO at Helium Films USA. He runs a very successful video production company, based in San Diego. This article covers in detail his most important advice for growing your video production business.
Whether you’re just starting out as a filmmaker or already have some recurrent clients, you may be asking yourself how to take your video production business to the next level.
Here are a few tips that I believe will help your Video Production Company grow.
1. Set up a legitimate business
A well-oiled machine is more likely to keep running under stress, so build a business that lasts and that is designed to grow with you.
Find a catchy name, register it with your local government or state. Set up a website with a cool design and some nice business cards. If you already have clients, think about incorporating, whether as an LLC or a corporation. Get insurance both for your business and for your equipment.
The reason for setting up a legitimate business is two fold:
1. Getting clients for video production is all about trust. If your clients automatically see you as a one-man band with no professional structure, it may be a red flag.
Sure, you’ll get some clients, but probably none of the bigger ones, who will want to work with more legitimate entities.
2. A lot of harm can happen on a shoot. Hot lights fall, a backing DP breaks an expensive vase, etc….
Hopefully this never happens to you, but if it ever does, you want to be covered. An LLC or Corporation will shield your personal assets from most lawsuits, and a good insurance will ensure that you don’t go bankrupt paying for that broken camera.
2. Get your finances in order
Doing business in any industry requires that you get paid, and that you make a profit. That’s why you absolutely need to get your finance in order.
What does that mean?
Automate your quotes, invoices and expenses either with an accounting software like Quickbooks (Resource: Quickbooks files for film/video production), or with the help of a bookkeeper.
Make sure you have some cash saved up to go through the slow season, or to front some of the cost of bigger productions.
That being said, always ask for 50% down on any projects. Sign contracts with your clients, and most of all, pay your taxes.
3. Find the right crew members and talents
You can’t do it all by yourself.
No matter what niche or specific industry you specialize in, you need others to grow and help you achieve your goals.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and go out there to find people that are complementary to your skills, or who can help you think outside the box.
A video production project is no more than the sum of its crew members, so get the right talents on board, and you’ll be able to answer any requests.
4. Get the right equipment (but not too much)
Most of the people I know who are passionate about video production are equipment geeks, in one capacity or another.
When you read blog posts after blog posts about the latest camera, lens, or cool rig, it is very tempting to go out and buy it. Don’t. Don’t buy the latest and brightest.
If you don’t have the cash, the debts will just create an unnecessary strain on your growing business, and if you do, it’s probably better spent in hiring a higher skilled person for the job (see tip #3).
Get a simple kit for the market you’re in, and for the types of projects you are doing on a very regular basis. No need for a Red camera if you’re only doing small online corporate videos! If you do get a different project that requires specific equipment, just rent!
5. Build a relevant portfolio
Go ahead and produce what you want your clients to hire you for. People will hire you based on one thing: trust that you can transform their vision into reality.
Being personable, knowledgeable, and building a positive, open relationship will most likely create trust in the initial bidding stages. But if you don’t have anything to show that is similar to what your client wants, then the sale may be difficult.
So, whatever it is you’re aiming for, produce some of that content with the right style, look, and scope. The more relevant examples you have, the more your potential clients will be reassured that they are in good hands, and that you’re actually capable of doing what you sold them on.
[Editor note: Here’s a recent promo video by Helium Films:]
6. Be visible online and offline
Getting new clients is all about being visible. You may be the best producer/director/filmmaker, if potential clients don’t find you online or in real life, no one will hire you.
SEO and paid ads are a good way to be found online by potential clients. However, keep in mind that SEO and online ads take time and money to come to fruition. If you don’t have either, try other routes.
Online, be part of your community and contribute with relevant content / blog articles / tips that will draw attention to your growing business, and the quality of your work. This is free and can help you connect with your next big client.
Offline, network with as many people as you can, put your work in festivals or events, be part of talks, panels… Anything that can give you a chance to be visible, and introduce your business to the right decision makers.
7. Find channel partners
A channel partner is a company or an individual who will bring you repeat business from their own clients. It could be a marketing agency, a business consultant, or any other entity who’s asked on a regular basis to produce videos for other people but does not have the means in-house, and needs people to outsource it too.
In my opinion, it is critical, especially in the early stages of a video production company, to start a relationship with some channel partners. It’s easier to find one channel partner who will bring you multiple projects a year than to have to keep going out there to find new clients.
It’s easy for an outsider to watch a video online and think “Hmm… that’s fairly simple. Should be easy/cheap/fast to produce!”.
If your clients are not in the video production business, chances are they don’t know much about the process of creating a video.
Time and time again, I’ve had to educate my clients on what it actually entails to create a video, whether in terms of crew, equipment, permits, etc…
Specifically if you’re working with a client who has not produced a lot of videos before, make sure to be very upfront on all of the different parts that come into producing the video of their dreams. Doing so very early on (during the sales process) will ensure that you are perceived as someone trustworthy, set expectations on both sides, and ensure that the communication runs smoothly throughout the whole process.
Outsource what you’re not good at.
Whether it is accounting or 2D animation, there are lots of great resources out there to help you. In my experience, outsourcing some non-critical aspects of your projects or business frees up a lot of time for things that really matter, while streamlining your workflow and processes.
Yes, it will eat up a small part of your budget, but if that leaves you time to sell your next big project, then why not?
That leads me to what you should not outsource: sales. You are the best representative of your video production company. So, unless you have a crippling fear of speaking to strangers and new prospects, most sales should be done by you until you have strong processes, portfolio and reputation in place. Then and only then, bring someone in to do the talking.
10. Position your company & go after the right clients
Make sure to position yourself. Figure out who you’re targeting, and find ways to reach out to them.
Time is limited and you want to make sure you’re tackling the right market. Whether you want to produce videos for a specific industry, a type of business, or whether you have specific skills or a specific style, go after those and don’t waste your time with irrelevant leads.
Of course, one needs to eat, and if someone comes to see you with a project that is not the type of thing you usually do, sure, go for it. But when it comes to reaching out to new leads, focus on both what you want to produce and what you’re good at.
11. Aim high
Introduce yourself as what you want to be, not just what you think you are. Trust yourself to do a good job no matter the size or type of project.
If something comes your way that you feel is too ambitious, just seize the opportunity! Swallow your apprehensions, find the right talents and skills for the job, and just get it done.
I hope this take on growing a video production company has been helpful to you. If you have any comments or questions for myself or Thierry, please leave them in the comments section below. And use the share buttons just below this article to share the post with your friends and colleagues.