So be ready to say yes to her, and be prepared with your contract forms and liability insurance. Corporations need your talents. The business world recognizes social media as a vital communications tool for marketing and public relations. Nearly every major corporation has YouTube and Facebook pages, and they are constantly seeking fresh and engaging content. Small businesses are the nation’s biggest employer. While you may get lucky and land a lucrative production contract at a large company, don’t overlook small businesses. Right in your backyard are mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, and other small companies that want to expand. They may or may not yet recognize how powerful a website or YouTube video can be. Your job is to educate them.
Many stores probably don’t have websites, but their owners have heard of YouTube. Show them some YouTube success stories, such as business videos that have gone viral. Write a guide to using YouTube, and give it to business owners. If you have no samples to show them, offer to make a video at no cost so you can have a demo.
Join or visit business groups in your area, such as Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs. If you have a projector, give a short educational presentation at one of their meetings. Show these businesspeople that online ads are a cost-effective alternative to newspaper or radio advertising.
In addition to stores, service companies can benefit from videos. Lawyers can use a short video explaining trusts or wills. House painters can show the extensive preparation needed before painting. A grocer can demonstrate how to pick the best produce. An insurance agent can explain the need for disability coverage. Videos help boost Google page ranks, and potential customers may share the videos with their friends.
Bigger businesses are within your reach too. While small businesses are ubiquitous in your area, you may be hesitant to approach the larger corporations. Corporate marketing departments see social media as an avenue to greater brand exposure and more customers. However, they frequently get so bogged down in their own bureaucracies that they have to rely on outside contractors (you) to help them develop new projects (video).
Carry copies of your demo DVD and business cards everywhere you go. Practice your elevator pitch (a 30-second statement about the impact of video that could be communicated in an elevator ride, if that’s all the time you have to make your point), and be ready to give it whenever the opportunity arises. Business owners get invited to weddings. They’re found in checkout lines at stores, at sporting events, at health clubs, and, yes, at the golf course. Business takes place everywhere, and if you’re confident about your abilities as a video producer and you have perfected your elevator pitch, strike up a conversation and find a way to weave in your pitch at the appropriate moment.
Invest in yourself. Take a course or two in business, attend training workshops and conferences, hire a business consultant, and maybe even rent a small office. Develop your website, not only to showcase your talents but also to provide information that prospective customers want. This includes blogs on using social media for marketing, tips on what to wear on camera, and insight on how to incorporate photos and other visuals into a finished video. Learn about business finances. Hire a bookkeeper to track your income and expenses and make cash flow projections. Schedule lunches with prospective clients, successful video colleagues, and maybe your accountant or lawyer. A casual conversation over a meal can sometimes be more valuable than taking a class. You may even develop a mentor relationship that can help support your business in years to come.
I started my video production business after I was laid off from a staff position. My employer hired me back to produce a couple of videos, but after that I was on my own. I arranged meetings with as many people in the industry as I could find. Eventually, I found some colleagues with whom to start casual joint ventures. One was with another laid-off videographer; we developed a video production class. Later, a student in our class provided postproduction equipment for a small office that I rented. After my office mate left, I found another one who had a broadcast camera. We traded rentals of his camera for my editing suite. Over the years my business grew at a slow but steady pace.
I recently wrote a book titled Corporate Video Production (see Stephen Nathans-Kelly’s review). I spent a year researching and writing the book, and, in this column, I’ll share with you what I learned. We will also look at the myriad opportunities for freelance video producers, now that corporate videos have matured beyond the boring formats that used to characterize them.
We will discuss how your skills as an event videographer can be applied to producing videos for businesses. Corporations are moving their productions out of studios and on location, and they are using smaller cameras and laptop editors. If you’ve ever done a same-day edit, they’ll benefit from your nimble shooting and editing skills. Companies produce conferences and events that they need filmed or streamed live, and they can use your storytelling abilities to document their projects. Before long, you’ll be developing opportunities to apply your skills to produce exciting videos for the business world.
Stuart Sweetow (sweetow at avconsultants.com) is the author of the recently published book Corporate Video Production. He runs Oakland, Calif.-based video production company Audio Visual Consultants. He taught video production at UC Berkeley Extension, was associate editor of Wedding and Event Videography, and was a contributing editor to Camcorder & Computer Video magazine.