Digital filmmaking. Video Production. Videography. All the same in my eyes. Now, I've talked to a lot of different people lately who think they need to get the glossy pamphlets, stacks of business cards, a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, an Instagram account, and email newsletter service like MailChimp, and a business license and an EIN from the IRS just to get started with business. If you're into film and videography, do you think you want all of this nonsense just to start a video production business?
And of course, you don't need so much as 3 credit hours, let alone a whole degree in business.
At its core, business is just about meeting a need and serving people.
It's a lot like what Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Jesus, Oskar Schindler, MLK or countless others did, and I don't mean to over-spiritualize it, but meeting needs and serving people are Godly attributes.
If you absolutely love film and video and want to use either to tell amazing stories of hope, life, true freedom, and a myriad of other things that make this deep and abundant life so amazing, then in order to grow as a filmmaker, you're going to be working with a lot of different backgrounds. To grow as a filmmaker, you need to learn how to finance your projects. You also need to learn how to market your projects. You'll have to cast vision and lead people so that you can serve a story to an audience.
This makes you a businessman or a businesswoman.
For those of you who have the slightest inkling to take your gifts as a filmmaker or a video producer and use them to tell authentic stories of hope and create new connections, stick around. I have a bonus for you at the end on getting started (today, like right now) in landing a contract for a $555 job - bare minimum if you're brand new to client work. If you're seasoned, that floor is higher (e.g. $2,500+).
Let's get crackin'.
1. Buy business cards
This is the biggest rookie mistake that I made: getting biz cards and NOT asking to hand them out.
You don't need business cards right away, as in today - right now - but as soon as you start visiting places/people, it's nice to have dropped $15 for a stack of 1,000.
The older generation, as evidenced by the retired businesswomen and men at Score, believe you need a business card with your name, your phone number, and your email address.
There is a time and a place for a business card - at one point, I switched to using stickers (kind of like Casey Niestat, only I don't plaster them everywhere). At the very least, those suckers can seal an envelope. Then I decided I'd only give out cards if people ask. But cards for my show I'll always be working to develop, Powers & Principalities? I leave those just about everywhere.
Cash is tight and cash is crucial when it comes to starting a business, so don't blow your money in the early days on frivolous purchases, but $15? You can make that by selling x, y, or z on Craigslist. I once sold a graphic novel on Craigslist and met the dude at a Smith's - quick $15. Or maybe I traded for new duct tape. I can't recall. Anyhow, you're going to get food eventually anyways, so you might as well meet a Craigslist dude (or dudette) at a super public place like Smith's (Kroger if you're from the south).
Put a QR code on 'em. Don't worry about a logo (do that down the road). Golden rule here is to keep 'em simple.
OKAY, WHAT ELSE?
When you do invest in business cards, you can get a bundle of them for pretty cheap off of Vistaprint if you must. Do not go for the polished, glossy look or anything like that (people need to be able to write on 'em). Just get a simple business card with all of your information in the top left corner.
If you're up for a good SUV vs. a used Camry, try Moo.
And always give two when asked for one if you can swing it. Go two miles here Bub. Speaking of miles, then log your trips automatically with Quickbooks (well worth the yearly subscription: invoices, expense tracking, profit and loss statements, quarterly taxes calculations... if it makes your head swim, don't sweat it - once you're in business and grooving with clients, invest in this) so you can deduct the mileage later.
Now, the guys at Score harped on this time and time again. It's because in the Western World we read left to right so our eyes are naturally drawn to the top left corner of the business card. That's where your name, phone number, and email should be. Everything else is superfluous.
2. Don't buy a website - do this instead
When I talk about this mistake, know this, I made this mistake myself. In fact I've made all of these mistakes in this post.
When you're starting out and you decide that you want to open your "storefront online" so to speak, to let people know that you are taking your video services out into the community and you are willing to serve them, don't worry about a website right away.
This is borrowing from Cody Dulock, the director of content at the Filmsupply and episode 75 of the original Go Boldly podcast. He said when they are looking at a new artist, they want to see if they have a niche on their Vimeo.
If the portfolio is all over the map, they immediately assume the video producer doesn't know what he/she wants to do. I see this all the time on reddit with kids who slap together a reel. I did this too last year, under the guise of a visual reel. Needs updating? You betcha.
Don't be that guy!
If you do business videos, then those are what you should have a Vimeo page for. Even if it is only one video on a Vimeo page, go ahead and upload that one video.
If you want to go into the business of doing wedding videos, then just have a Vimeo page of wedding videos.
Don't like Vimeo?
Get a YouTube channel (free).
Or a Facebook page (free).
And while unconventional, I suppose you could use an Instagram page just for your work and grow that network.
When you are starting out, you are simply broke. So use the free real estate that's readily available.
TIME: 1-4 HRS.
When you are ready to get a website, and by ready, I mean you have resources coming into the bank account to warrant buying a website, and because I use Squarespace - I'm not an affiliate for Squarespace - then I recommend using their dirt-cheapest option.
It's pretty simple. You can include your name, your contact info, and a link to your reel on Vimeo.
Don't nuke it. Use your name for the domain name:
You get a free domain through Squarespace anyways (you're welcome for the plug Squarespace).
Unless you are consistently creating content every week on your site, you don't need more than one page.
It's the same idea for a church or a mom and pop bakery. If your main business is offline, don't go overboard with pages that NO ONE will visit. The web is just too crowded. I've had to fight and claw with promotion and regular content to reach 1,000+ unique people a month.
Get a single page website when the money warrants it. Until then, stick with a free Vimeo page (treat it like a resume). Use one Vimeo account per type of video (business videos, short films, bat mitzvahs, etc.).
If you are lost in the sauce with Vimeo, here's my detailed guide to uploading videos to YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo.
3. Don't worry about incorporating right away
Now, the retirees at Score in downtown Las Vegas love to joke about how there are more lawyers in Vegas than in the entire country of Japan.
If you're a homeowner, they love to tease that when you wrong somebody, and you are not set up as an LLC or other type of corporation, then that person can come after everything:
Your dog, your car, your cat, your house, your wife, …
Hey, we live in a world where people sue over some crazy things.
Is God bigger than a lawsuit? Absolutely. Does that mean you'll be spared?
This is where I'd cue the Joker's laugh when he first walked in on the mob bosses in The Dark Knight.
We are called to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. So incorporating is not a bad idea, especially if you own a house.
That being said, when you are just starting out, you do not need to incorporate right away.
In fact, I think you could hold off for a while. Do business under your Social Security, look into your city business requirements, and see if even doing freelance work requires a business license.
You do not need to get an EIN right away; you may not need to register with your state just to work as a sole proprietor. This means you are liable for everything and the business funds are the same as your personal checking account funds. They're one and the same if you're a sole proprietor, but don't get hung up on these terms right now.
TIME: 0 HRS.
Once you start to get some traction, and if you want to protect your assets and separate yourself from the business, that's when it's time to incorporate. I know I've been doing looooooooooooooooooooonnnngonnnnnnnnnggggggggg posts lately, but I can't help you with that timing - only you can know when the time is right.
If you're making less than $10,000 as a video producer through freelancing, then it's up to you ultimately, but I don't think you need to incorporate. If you have a house and you made over $45,000 while freelancing as a video producer last year, you should give serious thought to incorporating. I'm neither a CPA nor an attorney though - you know, that standard, indemnifying legalese jargon.
An LLC is an easy way to get started, and it is a pass-thru entity, meaning you just report profits (or losses) on your personal income taxes. Makes no sense right now? Again, don't get hung up on it.
In the meantime, I'm going to borrow from The No Budget Guide To Filmmaking: The 30-Step Guide For Low-Budget Filmmakers, Church Video Production, And Other Artists Who Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.
We live in a broken world that’s in need of grace; unfortunately, we have folks who would love nothing more than to sue you over split hairs.
But don’t panic.
You can set up an LLC with your spouse or other trustworthy person (or do a one-woman/one-man LLC). For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s fairly simple actually.
An LLC represents a limited liability company.
They are the easiest form of a business to launch outside of the sole proprietorship, which if you’re JUST starting out, isn’t a bad idea. HERE’S WHY. Yes, that’s me in the link, and yes, it’s offsite on LinkedIn.
Now, if you're making a serious run (again, services are piling up, you're in hot demand), hopefully you have a team in mind, and hopefully one of those teamsters is your closest confidant and best friend (if not your spouse), so it may be worth exploring the idea of incorporating as a multi-member LLC (fancy talk for “more than one person in the business”).
If you’re just running and gunning as a casual filmmaker slash video producer or you already have the parent blessing (i.e. protection) of a business or a nonprofit (e.g. a church), then all this business jargon is optional. Fast forward as needed.
Here's a breakdown of how setting up an LLC (loosely) works for a bootstrapping filmmaker slash video guy or gal.
Note: It's different for every state.
Apply for an EIN (done through the IRS website). This is free - don't fall for the gimmicky sites that try to sell this feature to you.
Draft up articles of organization. Find a mentor who is running a successful LLC, and ask to be walked through this portion if needed and ask for a copy to model. Docracy can probably help you get started too.
Google the business requirements. You might have to pay the Chamber of Commerce an in-person visit, but if your state is like Nevada, then your state has dumped a lot of infrastructure into their online portal so that you don’t have to burn gas to go bug a government John or Jane.
Go to the Business Office for your city and file for a home biz license, 'less of course you guys already have a dedicated office space to fire up your biz (different for every city). Again, this could be handled entirely online now that it's 2016, but then again you might live in Plovdiv, Wyoming.
Once all of this is done, you will need to open a biz checking account (which you can do at any bank or credit union - shop around) to make sure all the funds for your film/video biz are not in your personal account (or anyone's), but in their own dedicated space.
Bear in mind, by opening a biz, you are now a biz owner. That means taxes are involved at some point (which I'm always learning). The IRS has more to say on taxes than Arlo Guthrie did about Alice’s Restaurant, so you could look to start a solopreneur account with Quickbooks to get help with this area.
A lawsuit-hungry thespian, business owner, community leader, PA, etc. is more likely to hit a wall if you have an LLC running your production than if you're a regular ol' Joe Schmoe with a sole proprietorship (where personal & business funds coexist in the same account).
Be wise as serpents - again, find a business mentor (check your own circle - I bet you know a business owner - supposedly there are 28 million small businesses in America, which figures to roughly 1/12 people you know run a business) in your community and start having lunch with that person, watch football together, develop a relationship.
These are the kinds of friends and influences you will need in your life to
a) have the guts to bootstrap and
4. The basis of any business is sales - go find your first sale!
I talked a lot about this in the last few months or so. For any business, not just video production, getting that first $1,000 contract is a giant hurdle.
I'm a lot like Frank Abagnale (minus the criminal origins story) from the movie and book of the same name Catch Me If You Can. He was a real-life con artist who, after several run-ins with the law and a pretty mind-numbing prison sentence overseas, recanted his ways and joined forces with the folks trying to stop money fraud and has been that way ever since.
In his early days, he would masquerade as a pilot, as a lawyer, as a doctor, and just about anybody else that was a high-profile professional.
In his book, he often explained that he was only a few steps ahead of the game. Especially when he masqueraded as a professor at a university. He stayed about two weeks ahead of his students, if even that.
In a lot of ways, the things that I teach you guys, are milestones that we've hit in the not-too-distant past.
So when I say that you need to find clients to validate your idea of producing videos for celebration-of-life ceremonies or whatever it is you want to create videos for, you need to go and do it.
Just be specific. Write down who you want to make videos for. This step's important - you have to see your vision (what), second to your mission (why).
Are you targeting businesses with 500+ employees and annual revenues that exceed the GDP of 150 sovereign nations?
Is it auto shops downtown?
Write your niche down that you will serve with video work.
Then find those clients, hustle, make connections, and remember: serve, serve, and then over-deliver.
The greatest leader to ever walk this earth, well, what kind of example did he set?
You can do this.
→ Have absolutely zero portfolio? Be strategic about free work and gain some credibility! Here's how.
→ Need help cold-pitching clients? Read on amigos.
→ Never been to a networking event to forge new business relationships? Gotcha covered.
TIME: 6-12 HRS.
Today, I’m giving you the 48-hour $555 challenge.
If you tried the $1,000 video challenge and failed (I failed too at the time of its original publication), then, this challenge is for you. If you looked at the challenge and got scared, this smaller job is for you - or - if you are brand new here, this new challenge is for you.
Over the next 48 hours, I want you to find a client in your town who is willing to work with you and hire you for a $555 (or more) video job.
Keep it simple:
1 location (theirs), one on-screen talent (owner... CMO... shoot, anyone with a fancy title and Linkedin profile for that company/nonprofit/church), one 3-hour shoot, and one revision. That should be no more than an 18-hour job with customer service and post.
If you’re experienced and can add some value, charge more; charge a $2,500+ job.
To help you get started, I’ve got couple of bonuses for you.
First, you're going to get a spreadsheet that will generate an email to break the ice.
Second, I'm going to show an email-finding tool that you can install right inside your Chrome browser, and then walk you through how you can use this bad boy.
Third, I'm going to show yet another email-hacking tool that you can use right inside your gmail to find piles of emails. All you need is the company name and the name of the individual, and you can usually find information. If it's a small outfit, you might be out of luck with this third tool, but if it's REI, you'll dig up some emails.
Sound good? Look no further than the #009fec button below:
Hey, I'm just tired of films like this one:
And I want to see YOU take your talents to the people that need to hear it the most that they're not worthless, they're not pieces of junk, and there is hope.
P.s. yep, that was by yours truly when I was finding my footing with video production.
Here's a parting thought: even if you will never step foot on a church campus, there are over 350,000 of 'em in America alone, and most of 'em are still learning how to use video - unfortunately, it's mostly this kinda Bantha fodder (above).
In other words, they need your vision. Desperately.
You don't have to agree with them. You can be staunchly atheistic, but still love video and be willing to give them a helping hand.
Think I'm nuts for that last idea? See the blue box below, or better yet, stop reading and get started with your video biz!
Bunny Trail: Chat With An Atheist
I posted a question on reddit not too long ago. A small group of us are looking to plant a church in Vegas, and I have this crazy idea on how to do it for pennies on the dollar using video and free streaming through YouTube.
Being a guy who follows Jesus, I thought I'd ask the subreddit /r/Christianity.
I had a tough filter though: I wanted real answers from real church planters, not speculative textbook malarkey.
Until this detailed answer from TheRussell:
I was one of several that got together and started an atheist church. It is now into its third year. I looked up church planting on Google and found some good information. There was not much info but the little bit was there was really helpful. There are some simple formulas that you need to be aware of. There is research on what the size of a startup church needs to be to be successful, finance, insurance and the other bare-bones essentials.
A patient, careful Google search on church planting and revivals will be well worth the time.
We were about 2/3rds through the prep before I had the bright idea of looking up church planting. Turned out we had followed the advice without being aware of it very closely. It helped a lot to get confirmation on what we were doing. To be honest, we followed the physical parts of the advice but of course not the spiritual parts. There was no praying that I was aware of but of course some one could have if they wanted to.
We talked twice a week on Google Hangout and then moved to GoToMeeting which was only slightly better. It is hard to describe just how much detail has to be dealt with. It is daunting. We spent a full day in a face-to-face meetings with all of us going through detail after detail on two separate days as we were getting ready to open - in addition to the online meetings. There is not a mountain of paperwork but there is paperwork and there has to be someone that will do it.
I don't remember who our insurer was and is but I could find out if it is really necessary. As I recall there were several and it was pretty cheap. They insure our kids group and meetups too.
Lining up talent in the form of musicians and service leaders is one of the most problematic and changeable. Artists are famous for being hard to deal with and they don't come by the reputation without cause. Having someone with an artistic streak work with them helps a lot. This is 2016, so you have to address the tech required for what you are doing. Online organization sites are helpful. Having people on board who are tech savvy is a huge help. Setting up Facebook, Twitter, Meetup and other accounts with donation buttons has to be done. An email forum was a big help. Having people with graphic experience is a huge help. Having people who have organizational experience with volunteers is huge like political campaigns or event organization.
We had to upsize our venue three times as the date approached and this took some negotiation. Fortunately we hadn't put down a deposit before we had to move. It was nerve-wracking because there is always the chance that in the end no one would show.
For sure, check your calendar and make sure you don't conflict with some event on your kickoff. Check local and national calendars. That can be devastating.
It turned out we had an extraordinary woman on the team that was incredibly bright, incredibly social, completely unflappable and she had a lot of time to devote to the project. She probably was responsible for about half of all that got done by the time we opened. We tried to get as much diversity in the founding group as possible, but we ended up all white and about equal men and women. All of us had from some college to a masters. We were from mid-thirties to early sixties. So we were not very diverse. We tried but not hard enough.
You have to line up volunteers from a far-flung group and that is not so easy, but you have to have them. You have to set up your RSVP site like Meetup so people can sign up for volunteering too.
Over the course of the run up and afterwards we had no arguments but another group on the other side of the country detonated with lots of recrimination of the, "You aren't a real atheist" variety. It had the first event and a couple of more and struggles along to this day. It is not just Christians that judge each other's untheology.
We started organizing in April and opened in November.
We opened with about 3000 dollars but we weren't paying any wages. None of us slept the night before the opening.
The opening was a smash success. It was the biggest gathering of atheists ever in the LA area. It was raucous and fun. Great music. Great talk. What a relief.
After it is over, it is not over. You have to clean up, thank volunteers, get your PR out, thank your donors, get ready for the next one.
It seemed to take about six months to settle down into a routine. Then it took another six months to really get in a groove.
We just squeaked by financially for the first year and then the larger donations started to come in and we could relax a little.
I have seen a couple of others get underway successfully and they followed about the same pattern.
It seemed the most important part of the effort was to have a flexible, smart, capable group to start and a demand for the plant. All the guys in the founding group were willing to step in and do any part of the work. We all did things we had never done before. We were all willing to put forth our ideas and preferences but also to acquiesce to the vote without rancor. We are all still friends and work on each other's projects. So it was a success in many ways.
I just heard a NPR article on grit. The jist of it is that you have to have grit to get things done but too much grit can make you keep on with something that is a lost cause that wastes time and resources. Then your grit is called stubbornness. You only know in hindsight if it was grit or stubbornness. You have to look for that sweet spot where you give it all you have but be willing to recognize when it is time to retreat or put things off. You have to look for that in your teammates as well.
Good luck with it. You can always get in touch if you have a specific question."
I was in a band once with an agnostic, a staunch atheist, and a loosely LDS guy. I was the "Jesus" guy. Yet, we all got along fabulously and jammed for 2.5 years until I moved out of state.
I've had and still have the same experience with filmmakers. Regardless of our beliefs, most of us are perfeclty fine helping one another out, and for that matter, we're okay with helping out the nonprofits and churches.
They need your talent. Trust me, they really do.
Soon, I'll publish a detailed guide for navigating charities using Guidestar so that you are able to work from a position of strength when negotiating video production work with them.
Be helpful. Go above and beyond, but don't work for pennies on the dollar.
How do I clear the cache in Adobe Premiere?
Boot up Premiere.
Look in the top left corner for the Premiere menu.
Navigate Premiere Pro -> Preferences -> Media
You should land here:
If you see that screen, then hit the big CLEAN button. Then hit "Okay" in the lower right-hand corner of this menu.
You take the kitchen trash out (or delegate it) so that the roaches don't open a resort, right? Do this every so often with your Adobe products.
Original: May 20, 2016 - Revised: Feb 3, 2017 and then again on Feb 12, 2018 and then again on Feb 10, 2019