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Taking Care of Business
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Old November 10th, 2004, 11:29 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Vallejo, California
Posts: 4,049
How do you build a business?

I was asked this in an email and perhaps my answer is valid for people working in a small-town market. Most of the techniques work in a big-town as well, they just may take longer.

1. I do Pro-Bono work from time-to-time. This work has always led to paying business from people who saw my work. In fact, this is how I started in the commercial end of things . . .

I did a video about a missing child. That led to a gig with the local police department to produce their 100 year anniversary video. That led to an annual gig with them and my own (plastic) badge, police radio, and position as the Official Police Photographer. BTW, I get some wild rides, the occasional helicopter ride, I get to play with the SWAT team and attend their competitions, I get called out when they get called, and every police dog in the city knows me!

That led to doing wedding work for the Chief of Police when his son got married (Oakland police officer, him) and now I'm the videographer for most police personnel in this town who get married. One even paid for me to travel 300 miles to cover their wedding.

The department asked me to cover the West Coast Harley-Davidson Police Motorcycle Competition. I sent free copies of the video to the local H-D dealer and to the H-D factory rep who attended that day. I expect that to lead further too. Oh, and since the Chief's son brought the Oakland Police Department Motorcycle Drill Team to perform, I made certain they got copies of their performance. Now they want me to do a promo video early next year.

Other pro-bono work has led to other paying jobs. The pro-bono work expense was less than attempting to advertise the business, BTW.

2. I am a member of the Chamber of Commerce and I participate in many Chamber activities and have chaired a few committees. Note that belonging to the Chamber doesn't get you anything but a bill every year. It is up to you to use the Chamber as a stage on which you can feature your business. I get regular referrals from the Chamber and they've had me on their radio show which led to more new business. My literature is always in their lobby.

3. I belong to a service club, Rotary International. Mostly this club is about service to the world and local community. But it is made up of many community business leaders. I volunteer to do work in this group as well. I publish their newsletter and shoot video and stills for Rotary events. I get a lot of business from this group and their network of contacts.

4. I teach at the local community college (low pay) where I work with a Hollywood actor (mid-level speaking parts) teaching students how to act in front of a camera. Because they know me, I also do television commercials for the campus theater and I produced a recruiting dvd for their actor training program earlier this year, all paid activities. During the production of the DVD, I got to meet management of one of the major talent agencies in San Francisco, the Directors of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, etc.

I also get to know a lot of potential talent and crew because I work with the actors and the theater technical crews. Instant crew and talent for a lot of my work and I don't have to wonder if they will perform because I've watched them.

5. I now (very recently) serve on the college theater board of trustees. Most of my duties are fund raising for the theater and the training program plus watching over the operation of the organization as a whole. Fellow board members are business executives and some theater managers from around the county. Guess who gets called when they need video?

6. I did a free video for my wife who works for a fulfilment company (a company that fills orders for other companies) because she could not get Johnson and Johnson to visit the plant and see their capabilities. This video perked the J&J interest and they visited and subsequently contracted with her company to distribute their product. If you are a diabetic and got a free blood sugar meter from Lifescan (J&J) through your doctor or health plan, my wife's company shipped it to you. The commission she gets is no small thing so I double-dipped this one.

That video led to her company hiring me to do a bigger capabilities video which I've now freshened twice for more money than the original production. They also recommend me to their friends who now call for their own corporate videos.

BTW, the Operations VP of her company is the Chairman of the Board for the new Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. He introduced me to a bunch of people in San Francisco who are reasonably well placed. Don't know where that will lead.

I did two event jobs at much below market rate this year. One was a Martin Luther King event at the local university (Bubba Paris, ex SF 49er was the speaker) and I met a lot of people who eventually got copies of the work, including Bubba. That led to other work and the University has asked me to propose promotional videos for some of their newer colleges. Oh, yea, and I'm now the 'official' videographer and lighting supplier (see paragraphs below) which means I'll make money this next time around.

Most recently, I did the AV and video work for a municipal swimming pool fund-raiser (to keep it open over the winter). The guest of honor was a local girl who won 5 medals at the Olympics in Greece. (Her father is a local police sergeant, and I know him well from my other work.)

I spent all of my fee on lights (see the lighting forum for details) because the lights were inadequate in the hall. Made a massive difference to the ambience in the hall not to mention the much better video I shot.

Today I handed over the DVDs to the city council member that hired me (ex Police Dept. Captain {get the drift?}) and he is still ecstatic over the AV and the video. Everyone who was there seemingly has congratulated him on the wonderful event. He refers to me for making it all work. Don't know about that, I didn't cook the chicken.

Didn't hurt that the State, County and Local government reps were falling all over themselves to shake hands with the swimmer and look good on the video. They now know my name and how to find me. Most have asked for copies and the city councilman tells them it will cost them and to pay me :-)).

Didn't hurt that during the event the city councilman pointed me out as the best videographer he'd ever met (OK, he's not met many I guess) and that everyone was well advised to hire me when they needed video work.

So the point is, they have to know you and trust you before you will get many jobs. You can advertise and/or you can network. I prefer to network as I get to choose my clients as much as they choose me.

Are there other ways to do it? Certainly. But this is my way and I like the low-pressure approach to the whole thing.
Mike Rehmus
Hey, I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel!
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Old November 11th, 2004, 09:55 AM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: DFW area, TX
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You have proven that old adage once again. WORD OF MOUTH is the best advertising you can get. You obviously are a talented videographer/editor and easy to get along with. Very informative post.

I'll add my own example here. Was playing golf last week by myself. There was another gentlemen ahead of me and we joined up. After talking about family and stuff, he mentioned that he is a graphic arts designer working out of his home. I mentioned that I do part time videography and he handed me his card. Turns out that he's getting ready to storyboard a commercial and wants to talk with me about it. You just never know where that next opportunity is going to come from.

Best wishes for continued success.

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Old November 12th, 2004, 11:33 AM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Andalucia, Spain
Posts: 301
Awesome Mike! Thanks!
It's not just the quality of the work, but the selling of it. My father was a salesman all his life and he said that his customers always gave him orders because they thought he was a nice guy. Of course the product has to meet minimum standards, but if the product is great as well, then you're "in business"!
Film & TV locations & production Spain
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Old November 13th, 2004, 02:12 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Water Valley, MS
Posts: 52
Re: How do you build a business?

<<<-- Originally posted by Mike Rehmus : If you are a diabetic and got a free blood sugar meter from Lifescan (J&J) through your doctor or health plan, my wife's company shipped it to you. -->>>

Thanks for laying out a business plan that certainly hits home with me. My wife and I are trying to establish our wedding videography company and you have pointed out many useful ideas we will try. And, tell your wife (and her company) thanks for the meter!

Continued success to you / BK
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Old November 13th, 2004, 03:40 PM   #5
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Go get 'em Mike!

The first one's free, but you gonna hafta pay after that. :~)
Mark Sasahara
Director of Photography
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Old November 26th, 2004, 06:34 PM   #6
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10 Steps, to getting and keeping a client

I wrote this for the COW a couple of years ago but thought some of you may benefit from it:

After all the technical hooha, this subject is the bottom line. It's a given that you must be able to provide a top-notch product in a timely manner at a reasonable rate. Know that there are more than a few in your market who can do the same. They will come to you repeatedly for two reasons: State of mind and a good time. Their having a fun day is crucial and should not be over looked. People skills are half of editing. Every market offers different scenarios but here are some tips that can help ensure a long lasting relationship with today’s producer:

1: The session is at nine. Get there at eight. Make sure all the elements are there and ready, if possible. Take this time to have some coffee, listen to some tunes and basically chill. When the client walks in he/she will catch and notate the vibe and that will set a mood for the day.

2: Have fun. That’s the idea anyway right? The more fun you have, the more freedom you’ll be given, resulting in more fun to be had.

3: Feel ‘em out. Do they want to drive the boat? Are they relying on you for input and creativity? If you can’t surmise from their open dialog or actions, simply ask. They’ll honestly tell you and you guys can rock from the get-go.

4: Drawn out times like digitizing beg for conversation. Ensure the technical end is cool but try not to let the one in the big chair get bored. Pick a subject (themselves or their families are two great topics to start with), but keep ‘em into it.

5: Buy lunch. Be happy about it. They’re paying a hansom hourly rate. Have someone bring in some sacks of good food with a smile on their face. Tokens of appreciation are always appreciated.

6: Bring something to the plate. By now they need to know that what you’re providing can’t be found up the road. If you’ve not shown your specialty by now, you’re waiting too long.

7: Don’t hesitate to free them up to do other tasks they may have building up in a workweek. Artists often work more efficiently alone and producers often appreciate being able to run that important errand, knowing they are being taking care of at the same time.

8: Make sure the deadline is met and that you and the client both know the finished product is the best it can possibly be, given what was provided. This is the most important thing in an edit session.

9: Make sure they feel the love. Hopefully by now, they’re already hooked but that almighty dollar speaks loudly. Round down on the hours. If it’s taken 9.5 hours you can easily point out your charging for an even 9. This is always loved by the check-writer and will affect your bottom line in the long run. Note… don’t venture away from your set hourly rate. That’ll pin you down later. Just cut ‘em some slack after the session.

10: Bow tie it. The dubbs are dubbed, you’ve gotten your high five or hug and you can just make it home in time to read bedtime stories. Ask them a simple question as they are leaving. “When will I see you again?” closes another booking nine times out of ten. This easy question is an important link between one-off clients and buddies who show up a few times a week.
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