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Old January 25th, 2006, 06:54 PM   #1
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What are the chances of making money in photo/videography?

Do to some certain political goings-on there is a real chance I might loose my job. With the status of the IT sector and my attitude of working in it the odds of finding a job matching my current income are none. Being in hefty debt, as I look around the house all I see is dollar signs on my things. Strolling the basement full of video gear, there are only two choices: Earn money with the stuff, or sell it.

I'm wondering if anyone could weigh on the chances of an amateur XL2-enabled videographer/editor earning enough to live off of. I hate to be doubtful but I do not think I am savvy or cruel enough to start up my own business, I would have to somehow shoot for someone else.

I own and/or have experience with the following equipment:
Canon XL2 kit, Canon GL2 kit, and numerous smaller MiniDV camcorders
JVC-GY-DV500, don't own, but can set up and operate
Monfrotto tripod 505 head and a few cheap tripods
A small Canon 10D kit /w Speedlite 430
A moderately capable editting suite
A small sound kit (Azden shotgun, cables, headphones, Beachtek etc)

I have the following experience:
A basic knack for A/V ever since my folks couldn't hook up the Beta VCR when I was five
Three years of weekends on independent film sets, ranging from special effects to lighting, sound, camera assistant, set building, pyrotechnics, technical, welding, driving, even "acting"
Shot a "Making of" documentary for an independent film while I worked in it
No formal training, just what I taught myself, read, or learned from other people.
Can operate the Canon 10D and love doing so but wouldn't call myself a serious photographer yet. Through a bizarre serious of events last weekend I actually got my 10D plugged into a pro studio's RF flash system and snapped some portrait shots. That was my first time on a portrait set :}
Currently enrolled in a college level digital photography class.

I do not have any formal work done. Everything I've finished is either silly home movies or things that I can't release w/o violating an NDA.

The only real reference I can site is the producer of an indie movie I worked on. He worked on television in LA, moved to St Louis to shoot his movie and loves everything I did. Currently heads an AV departement for a university.

I am really interested in hearing if anyone has gotten anywhere in video or photography with a rap sheet this short. Or, if anyone has any advice for my predicament. I don't want to sell my equipment, but I don't want to starve either. Thanks for any tips.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 09:49 PM   #2
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If you're trying to replace a decent IT corporate salary with benefits, that's probably a long shot. The going rate where I live for a good, experienced shooter is around $50/hour, with much of the work being a few hours on weekends. A better plan might be to see if you can get a little work doing video to supplement any money you can make from another "day job," and take it from there.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 10:59 PM   #3
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Well, you could just get a job as a in-house video producer for a large company. Most companies are trimming/cutting cost to meet the bottom-line. You'd have to sell yourself and make them see how much cheaper it is to have their own inside guy. Most of these companies charge an arm/leg for outside work, and only the top-notch promotional stuff seems worth the price tag. However, 75% of that stuff is simple straight cut video for product training, etc. Not worth an $800/day camera-man or $1500/finished minute of video.

I did this, coming from an engineering/product development field. Mainly because I like producing video/animation better than crunching statistical math and becoming one with microsoft excel. I took on the simple stuff and saved the company a ton of cash. Eventually I learned how to do the promotional stuff as well. I occasionally do a few side jobs, but the benefits and health care are worth the 9-5. I do think about freelance, but having a family to feed is too risky.

BTW, I thought IT was a good paying and in-demand field. Have you thought about doing freelance as an IT guru? Use what you have to get what you want.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 11:14 PM   #4
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As an IT guy myself, I can see where he's coming from. Many big companies now are shifting people around with the new year. The company I work for (I'm the network admin), just recently recruited a new President, and he's cutting costs left and right, moving people around, etc. etc. The joke's always been with our IT department as being the only department in the company that doesn't make the company a dime. I work for a Life Insurance company, so it's true, but if our whole department was to be gone they would be spending about 10x as much hiring 3rd party work (believe me, they don't pay anything)...

Anyway, I've looked into starting my own video business (actually, I'm working on doing this in addition to my day job). I think it's every American's dream to be their own boss, but even if I could become successsful in the video field, Kevin's right, employee benefits through a company are outstanding. For example, I pay $30/week for my personal health insurance, and it's a pre-tax deduction. If I wanted to just go to my insurance company and buy the same policy, it would cost like $300/month. My dental insurance is like $2/week, plus I get paid vacation, sick leave, overtime, and discount life insurance.

At this point, I don't see myself giving up a day job simply for the benefits. I know your situation is different, but I would look into another day job just for the benefits that will save you a ton of money.

On another note, I've also looked into starting my own IT company, it's a great idea, but there have been so many of those pop up recently, plus there's huge liability in setting up networks for companies. They have to be very secure, and if they lose company data, you could land your ass in court! Sure, there are a lot of video places too, but each one is different. They each have a different "style" or they all add a different personal touch to their videos either through the style of shooting or in editing. Anyway, I think a normal 9-5 with some extra video work on the side is the best way to go... for me at least
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Old January 25th, 2006, 11:15 PM   #5
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These days I find little difference between freelance and being your own business except the extent to which you are full service. They both require marketing to get the jobs.

With your gear if you can book a couple of weddings a month you may be able to tread water and decide how you want to grow in other directions.

It may take time but you may even find corporate niches relating to both IT and Video. Sometimes being a specialist can help. Imagine someone with a medical background specializing to medical product videos for example.
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Old January 26th, 2006, 07:50 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Seeman
...
It may take time but you may even find corporate niches relating to both IT and Video. Sometimes being a specialist can help. Imagine someone with a medical background specializing to medical product videos for example.
Craig's right on that. My background in medical product development landed me the job in medical product training videos. So, I'd go for the IT angle.

Ditto also on the wedding jobs. Those $1000 weekends will help. Certainly the first thing I'd take on if handed a pink slip.

Before you decide, you need to be honest with yourself. Do you like working in the video business? Money should not be a #1 priority. If you love it enough, and get good at it, the money will come.
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Old January 26th, 2006, 12:08 PM   #7
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I had a 20 year IT career. Let me just say that the schools that advertise late at night have now shifted form promising people IT careers to promising them video careers (with their training over course). So the glut is about to occur in the video business, not a good choice for an entry-level career change, since they will hire a 20 yr old for slave wages before they will hire you (even for slave wages). If you can build your own business, it may be more reasonable, since few 20-somethings have the needed people skills and discipline.
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Old January 27th, 2006, 04:43 AM   #8
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It is a lot easier to make a profit in photo than video because the editing time is a lot shorter, so your rate per hour goes up to a reasonable level.
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Old January 28th, 2006, 12:57 AM   #9
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If you want to get into the freelance IT side of things, join the computerbusiness yahoo group. Most of the people on that mailing list do freelance IT work. I think there is a wide spread in their incomes, although the median is likely lower than what you earn now.

In any freelance endeavor you pursue, I think the main tricks are:
#1- Finding clients.
#2- Talent / experience. Yes, this is #2.

Without clients, you won't be able to make any money!! If you have a knack for working with people and networking, then you probably have a good chance of making money at this. If not, I'd explore your options.
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