The Gadget Bag: Dealing With the Downturn
Posted Jul 1, 2008

The economy is on everyone’s minds these days, and as business owners, we’re constantly asking ourselves if and how we can survive this "downturn." There are several things that can be done to help that bottom line—by adding income streams, reducing overhead, or combining the two. Obviously, adding income is a no-brainer, but eliminating waste and unnecessary expenses can also balance the scales a bit more in your favor.We’ll look at cleaning up the bottom end first; that is usually the easiest and quickest way to see a healthier balance sheet at the end of the month.

Create PDFs
Instead of mailing contracts, literature, order forms, etc., create PDF documents and email them to your clients. If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat Pro, there are programs such as deskPDF from for $29.95 or the free PDFCreator from that will handle simple PDF creation. These are just two examples; there are several more. Once you send your info to them, clients can either sign/scan/email, fax, or snail-mail papers back to you.

Get a Paypal Debit cCard
If you have a PayPal account, get a PayPal debit card. This Mastercard debit card can be used for all purchases (even paying bills), but if you have a balance in your PayPal account, your purchase will result in a 1.5% rebate, which is the same as many of the awards credit cards now on the market. Many banks are also offering rewards debit cards (contact your local bank for info).

Unplug Wall Warts
Unplug your wall warts. I’ve said this before, but people don’t realize just how much these benign little lumps of plastic and wire actually add to your electric bill. The average house or office probably has a dozen or more wall warts that contribute to 5%–10% of your monthly bill (they add up). That 3 seconds it takes to unplug them after you charge your cell phone or iPod can save enough to purchase a couple of songs online. Unplug all of your rarely used equipment; many use electronic switching and are constantly using electricity—even when turned off.

Keep Your Tire Pressure Up
Check your tire pressure. Increasing your tire pressure can result in extra miles per tank. Pump up your tires to just exceed the maximum pressure imprinted on your tires. Minimize extra miles by planning routine trips. Plan your post office, bank, and other trips to a single excursion. Saving miles means saving gas.

Reuse Your Paper
Reuse, don't just recycle, printer/fax paper. No, I’m not telling you not to recycle, but instead, reuse it first. How much paper is partially used on printouts or faxes? Save the unused parts, and, using a knife cutter or even just a straightedge, cut them into half-page or quarter-page segments, and staple a stack together to make a notepad. Place it by the phone or next to your editing station for quick notes. Then, when you are done with the reuse, recycle the paper.

Renegotiate Your Phone Service
Contact your phone service provider to see if you are getting the best rate. Many phone companies have package deals or "good customer" discounts that can be had only if you ask for them. I just had my service reduced by $4 per month for having a business line in my state. I thought that I had a great deal because I bundled my business DSL and my phone on one bill, but now it’s reduced even more.

Go All-Cellular
Another avenue that many have gone to is to eliminate the "land" line and operate your business strictly using your cellular phone. You can transfer your business number to your cell (contact your service provider for details) to keep your advertising and business card info intact. If you use a fax machine, you can send your fax to your main business line (saving the monthly dedicated fax number); get a piggyback line (distinctive ring), which is only $4–$5 per month for a separate fax number without call-out capability.If you’re switching to a cellular-based phone system, sign up for an internet-based fax. Fees may be less than the cost of a phone line, depending on your use.

Generating More Income
Now, I’ll discuss the income side of the ledger.

The name of the game is to diversify your business. Too many people are so specialized in their services that when a dip in the economy hits the service they specialize in, they are among the first to feel the effects. This is all too common with those who are in the wedding video segment exclusively. It has happened before and it will happen again, so start revamping your business plans and target clientele to encompass a wider scope of services and packages.

Here are some specific suggestions for diversifying your product and service offerings.

Explore Nonwedding Services
Explore other video services that include nonwedding or other high-price-tag social events (ones in which a single client pays the entire production expense). I’ve found school-based events to be almost recession-proof (oops, I said the "R" word) business. The younger the children, the higher the sales percentage. It’s easier to sell several dozen $25–$35 DVDs than to try to get $2,000–$3,000 or more from a bride. The postproduction is easier too.

Market Your Equipment
Do you have specialized equipment that you can market to other video companies? Equipment such as Glidecams, cranes, booms, jibs, video projection, and DVD duplication/printing systems can generate income for your business by just marketing them to other video professionals via local associations, general business associations, websites, or even by making a couple of phone calls. Chances are that this equipment is just sitting idle most days. I’m not talking about renting equipment but providing a service. I’ve been doing this for years, and it accounts for a consistent 10% of my income year after year.

Offer B2B Services
Offer your services to other businesses. Even in this economy, there are other companies that can benefit from your services and expertise. One that comes to mind is the realty community. Home sales are at an all-time high, and realty companies are always looking for that edge to sell their properties. Many have found that video will assist in that goal. Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other local business association. You would be surprised how much your business can grow from such a membership. I’ve talked to several people with varied businesses who have increased their bottom line since joining one of these groups.

Tap the Worship Market
The religious community is another growing market. It encompasses all of the same needs of other businesses (not to imply that religion is a business but, rather, that a religious organization’s audio-visual and technology needs are often the same as businesses). This market may be a bit more difficult to enter (if it’s other than your particular place of worship), and for all but megachurches, their budgets are probably tighter than yours, but their needs still exist. Video recording, projection, audio, duplication, and basic knowledgebase are among the needs that I have encountered, depending on the denomination and area of the country. I’ve provided some of these services to traveling clergy who market sermons and talks, and it has added a combined $10,000 to my yearly income. And even in this time of downturn, this is one area of my business that’s actually growing.

These are some ideas to pull you through less-than-optimum times. I’ll probably revisit the subject in future columns as it looks like the economic situation isn’t going to change any time soon.

Quick Tips
Here are a few quick tips that may help your business in other areas:

Ed Wardyga (wardyga at, owner of Keepsake Video and KVI Media in Rhode Island, has been producing event video since 1989, specializing in stage productions. He runs the website and is the recipient of the WEVA Walter Bennett Service to Industry Award.Comments? Email us at, or check the masthead for other ways to contact us.