The Main Event: Don't Sell Yourself Short
Posted Dec 1, 2004

If you are not careful, owning an event video production studio will reduce your hourly earnings to minimum wage, or worse. Are you pricing your business into bankruptcy?

Many videographers across the country routinely undersell their services. A recent Modern Bride survey revealed that the average price of a professional videographer was less than half of the cost of a professional wedding photographer. I found this very curious and wanted to get to the bottom of why it was happening.

The first things that's worth noting here is the difference between cost and price. What the Modern Bride survery showed wasn't the relative cost of videography and photography but the price. So you'd think it would stand to reason that the costs a videographer incurs to do a shoot would be half the photographer's costs, right?

I compared the equipment needed to do the two jobs, and here's what I came up with:

The videographer needs his production tools, which typically consist of a camera, lights, tripod, batteries, wireless mic, light batteries, equipment cases, battery chargers, field monitor, and-yes, of course-a backup camera with lights, tripod, batteries, wireless mic, light batteries, equipment cases, battery chargers, etc.

The photographer's on-site production package includes a digital camera or two, various film cameras, assorted lenses, several flash memory cards, flashes, light meter, lights, batteries, cases, and chargers.

Lets say for the sake of argument that each professional has around $20,000 invested in production equipment. Now let's take a look at their respective studios. The photographer will have a computer, monitor, scanner, and printer, plus Photoshop CS for his digital needs.

At minimum, the videographer has a computer, monitor, scanner and printer, as well as Photoshop CS, along with Adobe After Effects (or comparable compositing software), editing software and possibly hardware, a program monitor, a DVD authoring and burning system, duplication VCR's, a couple of source VCR's, and a nice big-screen TV, with a DVD player for showing his product to clients.

The photographer has lab costs that constitute a significant portion of his expenses and by extension his income, but the videographer will also have to invest up to 60 hours editing a project. So by my calculations, photographers have lower costs, yet they also set their prices at least twice as high as the average videographer.

The event video industry has self-confidence issues. For some reason we feel we are not good enough to charge as much as photographers, in spite of comparable if not greater expenses and a similar expectation of expertise. Is it because the event photographer was there first? Or is it because the client values photographers and their product above and beyond what the videographer can produce?

Event videography has been established now for over 20 years. This has certainly been enough time for us to get over being the new kids on the block. Granted, we still don't get the media coverage that some other vendors do, but we can't let this relative inattention plague us with insecurities that prevent us from commanding higher prices.

So many of our clients are falling over themselves with praise for us after they have seen the finished product, it should be easy enough to convince them to pay appropriately for the services we provide. I am confident they value their wedding or event DVD as much as they do their photo album. Perhaps, secretly they prefer the DVD and would have easily spent three times the amount for this more complete account of their special day.

If you're in business to make a profit, your pricing needs to cover a lot more than your overhead costs. You need to assess the value of your shooting time, post production time, and the time spent visiting with your client. All you really have to sell is your time and expertise, which are clearly worth more than a minimum-wage job.

If you are confident in the value of your work, charge what you are worth and not what the competition charges. We all need to get over the idea that the way to compete in this business is by offering the same services as our rivals for less; why not offer something better or unique for as much or more? And that doesn't mean buying a more expensive camera or NLE. There are things you can do to increase profit without having to invest in more equipment.

Every six months try raising your packages $200. This way it won't seem like a huge jump.

Increase your marketing activities. Networking is the most efficient and least expensive way of marketing. Be sure to network with the type of vendor that services the clients that you want to attract.

Take a look at your studio. Could you present yourself better to your clients? Are you using the Web effectively? How are your promotional materials? If they're not getting the job done, maybe it's time for an overhaul.

The final hurdle is the fear of charging what you're worth. Easier said than done, but if you can break through this fear-which is really the only thing holding you back-then you'll be on your way to financial security.