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Old May 27th, 2009, 03:06 AM   #1
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Running a high-volume vs. boutique video company

I thought this would be a worthwhile discussion so I wanted to start a thread on it. How many people run a boutique (under 30 weddings/year) vs. high-volume (over 50 weddings/year) business? What do you find are the pros and cons of the model you chose? Did you start with one model and change to another?

We've never run a high-volume business - but did film upwards of 40 films a year and now film around 25-30. I'm running our business in a VERY small market (the entire population of Canada fits into California and California had the same number of weddings last February that we had all year in BC) so it's not because there are millions of wealthy couples lining up for one of our wedding films. I chose the boutique model because I thought it was sustainable and would allow me to have time to market other things I'm interested in pursuing. I consciously did not choose a volume model b/c I didn't want to just film weddings and wake up in 5 years under a mountain of tapes. I also didn't want to be meeting with dozens of clients, keeping track of numerous schedules, and be inundated with a horrendous backlog after working every weekend.

I'm not sure there is a "right" and "wrong" model to choose but I think it would be helpful for some people to hear the rationale behind why certain businesses set up shop the way they did.

Thoughts?
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:57 AM   #2
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I find that in my area high volume means anything over 100 and additional crews on the call list. For example, last year as a solo operator as I have always been I did 62 weddings. High volume for 1 person yes but not so for some of the big box studios in Chicago.
I never wanted to be a high volume person like that IMO you lose control over the end result BUT there is satisfaction in numbers. A good friend of mine is developing a big box and last year di more weddings than just about anyone in the area but with that came more and bigger headaches.
I prefer to stay smaller.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 06:51 AM   #3
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I think this thread is an excellent one! It'll be good to hear people's thoughts about their business model.

I'm always a fan of quality versus quantity, but I guess that doesn't stop us from shooting LOTS of quality products. We just need to find a working system that will allow us to do that.

That would probably mean getting dedicated crew to join the team and making it solid like the Still Motion team :) This is when the other thread "how much do you pay your assistant" also helps a lot in deciding how much you want to invest on people you like to keep around for a long time.

Love this forum!

Santo
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:20 AM   #4
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Hi Don,

How long does it take you to capture, edit and author a typical wedding? How much footage do you come home with?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
I find that in my area high volume means anything over 100 and additional crews on the call list. For example, last year as a solo operator as I have always been I did 62 weddings. High volume for 1 person yes but not so for some of the big box studios in Chicago.
I never wanted to be a high volume person like that IMO you lose control over the end result BUT there is satisfaction in numbers. A good friend of mine is developing a big box and last year di more weddings than just about anyone in the area but with that came more and bigger headaches.
I prefer to stay smaller.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 10:58 AM   #5
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I admire anyone who can pull off 62 solo weddings a year.

Say you work 50 weeks a year, that's 1.24 weddings per week, and unless you are shooting consistently throughout the year that means a lot of double-wedding weekends. Plus editing, capturing, authoring, and all of the back end business stuff and client meetings, I think we have the proof right there that Don Bloom is, in fact, a robot.

At this stage in the game I try to work as much as I can but would very much prefer to do a boutique style setup. I think the biggest hurdle I face (as well as some others... I hope) is having to you-know-what's to proudly and confidently say "I am worth $X." I have no doubt people are willing to pay boutique style prices if they feel you feel you are worth that much, but you have to get to that point mentally where you can say, "I start at $3,000" without any hesitation.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 12:38 PM   #6
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Nope, no robot, just need to make enough to pay the bills ;-)

Last year I did a lot of dobles and some triples-this year I cut back to 41 or 42 right now and frankly, I'm done for the year. 2 triples and a bunch of doubles but honestly I'm way to old to be doing that anymore so next year, it'll be singles only unless there are some ceremony only.

As for amount of footage, I generally have between 3.5 and 5 hours depending on the wedding. If I do prep and the reception is fun and going then it's closer to 5, if no prep and it's a boring reception then closer to 3.5. Average about 4 hours of footage. Capture to print the finished product-hmmm, for short form about 50 hours. For long form about 1/2 that. I wish I had someone else to edit though, it's beginning to cramp my golf game.
BTW, those numbers are for a solo gig, 2 cameras at the ceremony and 1 for everything else.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 06:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Craggs View Post
I admire anyone who can pull off 62 solo weddings a year.

Say you work 50 weeks a year, that's 1.24 weddings per week, and unless you are shooting consistently throughout the year that means a lot of double-wedding weekends. Plus editing, capturing, authoring, and all of the back end business stuff and client meetings, I think we have the proof right there that Don Bloom is, in fact, a robot.

At this stage in the game I try to work as much as I can but would very much prefer to do a boutique style setup. I think the biggest hurdle I face (as well as some others... I hope) is having to you-know-what's to proudly and confidently say "I am worth $X." I have no doubt people are willing to pay boutique style prices if they feel you feel you are worth that much, but you have to get to that point mentally where you can say, "I start at $3,000" without any hesitation.
You hit the nail on the head there Matthew - at the end of day and all things being equal, you have to have the balls to slide a ratesheet with an expensive price on it across the table and be confident that you're worth the amount - no waivering or hesitation.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 07:57 PM   #8
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I'm in what might be called the "depressed boutique market" in that I have 6 this year. Yeah. Six for the whole year. Lets just say I haven't purchased any advertising for next year yet in case there isn't a next year for me.

I didn't choose high volume simply because Idaho only has about 4 "big" providers and one already is the high volume provider (with the additional ops on stand by, etc). The other two are Travis C and I, and we operate in the boutique market (if boutique is determined strictly by the number of events).

My choice is determined by how many clients I have. I don't expect that I'll ever hit the decision point between high volume and boutique because 1) Idaho won't have that many weddings that are rich enough to afford video and 2) I will probably never get that much of the market share to have that many clients.

Though if I were to choose, I suppose I would choose boutique because I like running the cameras, working the insanely long day, etc. I have more fun shooting than I do editing (and I happen to think I'm dang good at shooting) so I'd almost rather be the shooter to some one else's high volume biz than be the biz man behind the desk of a high volume business.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:25 PM   #9
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Hi guys,

I think it really takes guts and patience to turn yourself into an "expensive" videographer.

Because I have instances (many of them) inquired to me over the phone and ask about my price. After I gave it to her, she straight away say thank you and said the price is over my budget kinda thing.

I asked her whether she's seen my work and she said she hasn't.
I told her to see my work first on the website and vimeo, and she said she would, but I don't think she will.

Maybe its my wrong treatment to new customers, I should have fed them with good work first before talking about price, but then, you can't help that everytime you get a customer that turn their back on your price, you start thinking "is my price too high?"

And in case you wonder, my price is not 10k. hahahhaa

So... guts and patience.

Jason,
I had a look at your website and I don't think you're that someone who deserves doing 6 weddings a year. Your prices look good, your showreel look good, your website look good. Is this your first year? Maybe more customers will come in time but I don't know your market so... I'd say, if you can, try advertise more and more smartly. I know that we can't really see what it does to us, but I have instances where people come to me when they saw my ad a long time ago.
How could I know my ad being seen??? I don't.
and maybe also try to cut deals with other vendors. I don't go that way, but it can work. I prefer to refer people because of their good work, not because i get "tipped"

Hang in there buddy!
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:27 PM   #10
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Jason,
Keep in mind that the geographic area plays so much into the marketing and describing what we are. Big box or boutique. I looked at the population of your great town as of 12/2004 and saw a population of 182,000. In this area that's about the size of 2 suburbs in Cook County. What I'm saying is in my area I have a population draw of about 9 million people within about a 100 mile area and frankly 100 miles around here is a pretty easy drive. I'm 60 miles from Rockford a rather large city in Illinois, 90 miles from Milwaukee, and only about 350 miles from St. Louis, not that I would actively market there but the point is, in a smaller market you have less to draw from and less competition but it's all relative. I have about 20 to 25 other videographers within a very small area. Now some are 1 or 2 weddings a year and some are much much larger so it's all relative.
Also keep in mind that while the demographics are different so is the cost of living so pricing is relative as well.
Anyway, if you keep doing top quality work and underpromise/overdeliver, keep marketing yourself, your business should and will grow.
Don't fret.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Susanto Widjaja View Post
Jason,
I had a look at your website and I don't think you're that someone who deserves doing 6 weddings a year. Your prices look good, your showreel look good, your website look good. Is this your first year? Maybe more customers will come in time but I don't know your market so... I'd say, if you can, try advertise more and more smartly. I know that we can't really see what it does to us, but I have instances where people come to me when they saw my ad a long time ago.
How could I know my ad being seen??? I don't.
and maybe also try to cut deals with other vendors. I don't go that way, but it can work. I prefer to refer people because of their good work, not because i get "tipped"

Hang in there buddy!
Yeah I spent nearly $3k in advertising this year, which by my prices is 1/3 of my total income this year. I have been at this price level for 2 years, and I had an equal number of bookings this year vs last year (previous years were 1/2 that). I've been shooting for 6 years, though the first few were sparse in bookings (word of mouth and google only).

I think it is a function of our market. There really isn't room for another high end HD provider (Travis has that covered and I have no desire to compete with him) and there is a low cost bulk HD provider (who just recently upped his game with a new web site, demos, etc) and then the 1/2 dozen or so "single guy single cam" outfits.

Unfortunately I think there simply isn't a market big enough to support too many more bookings. So I have taken that into account and am pushing on the other segments of my self employment biz hoping that Weddings + other = mortgage + food + etc.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:50 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
Anyway, if you keep doing top quality work and underpromise/overdeliver, keep marketing yourself, your business should and will grow.
Don't fret.
well said!

Santo
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Old May 27th, 2009, 08:51 PM   #13
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great discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Susanto Widjaja View Post
Because I have instances (many of them) inquired to me over the phone and ask about my price. After I gave it to her, she straight away say thank you and said the price is over my budget kinda thing.

I asked her whether she's seen my work and she said she hasn't.
I told her to see my work first on the website and vimeo, and she said she would, but I don't think she will.

Maybe its my wrong treatment to new customers, I should have fed them with good work first before talking about price, but then, you can't help that everytime you get a customer that turn their back on your price, you start thinking "is my price too high?"
Hey Santo - you're not Robinson Crusoe in that scenario! I don't think there's any 'right' answer to dealing with initial enquiries - some people you're going to be a fit for and some you're not. It's impossible to be everything to everyone.

I've had instances in the past when I know for certain that couples wouldn't have booked me based on prices alone. It was only after I offered sending out a demo DVD in addition to printed price lists, so they could view some previous stuff that they found the budget and decided to book.

Another technique or 'tactic' (for lack of a better word) that some studios use is not publishing prices at all without getting couples into the studio to showcase work.

At the moment if the enquiries push for prices without seeing any additional work to what's on my site I've kind of settled on the 'starting price of $x' and offered a demo if they're interested. Seems to be doing pretty well but I find this particular aspect a constant juggling act.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
if you keep doing top quality work and underpromise/overdeliver, keep marketing yourself, your business should and will grow.
I think this quote by Don is great advice.

Cheers,

Matt.
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