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Old April 11th, 2020, 09:36 AM   #1
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Reassessing The Business Side

With alot of us shutdown, and work being slow, would anyone be up for interacting & reassessing things in hindsight on 'the business side of things'. Mostly, what you feel you would change or correct as we move forward?

I feel it could help us all discuss & learn what we could do different to more effectively go forward in the next year or two.


Personally, I suppose I'll try listing mine below:

Marketing/Netwrking/Advertising - I can admit, I was bad at this. I dabbled in wedding advertising, WeddingWire & Google Adwords. I'll admit, Adwords I got ok with, (it shows related advertising like The Pros & other local & national studios and their CPC vs mine, I was up pretty high with them but just didn't get the leads. I felt it helped me learn it & I should've tried obtaining work for it, but in the end had to stop. Probably shouldn't have). Wedding Wire was what you hear, expensive, alot of flyby requests & price checkers, I might've got 1 or 2 booking a year from nearly $100/mo. Did it 2 years, then I think they offered a reduced price but moved me off the 1st page so it was worthless. In hingsight, I did work with a phototographer who was about my age, 45 or so. Had an interesting story, ran a kiosk in a mall for years selling jewelry or something, then over time malls faded. I think they got married & he saw how much photographers charge, and as is typical he got into it. He was really good however, not spray & pray like alot of what I see. Anyway, he mentioned he was paying $1000/month for WW. Crazy, but he said it was the only way he could break in, early on would make $40K year, with $12k spent on advertising, however he said 5 years in he was finally at the point where his referrals exceeded his advertised clients, and he might reduce or stop his WW ads. Food for thought.

Pricing - I was bad at this. Originally I started in depositions in 2010 after leaving an office job. I had my price set but didn't account for how many depos only last 1-2 hours. Good money for 60 minutes of shooting maybe, but when I factor in travel, setup time, troubleshooting, dealing with situations like no one there yet, room not available etc. I didn't like doing them. A year or two later segued into weddings, didn't think Id like them but I actually did. I like the fast pace of them. However, I couldn't market myself as more than a guy coming down in price, as opposed to a business with pretty firm pricing. Also, I once did sorta volunteer work in a lower income city, that's fairly big (75,000). It was charitable, and I didn't expect it but a year or so later got a call from the poliice department. I think the chief had taken my card at the event, and asked I shoot like a quarterly awards ceremony. I mean, government work is ideal, but this is a pretty poor city, I didn't wanna take advantage of it. Plus I thought they were just 'returning a favor'. I should've asked to price it out, and call them back, but instead threw a number out figuring it would be good demo reel & past clients resume type of thing.

Networking - I feel I coulda been more active on LinkedIn/Twitter, about the video industry and local events (like the police ceremony). I'm sorta connected with friends tho, and while it isn't like Facebook, I don't always like to keep them updated on my life. I probably should have the LinkedIn app ready to go for posts tho. I should blog more also.

Accounting/Financial - I signed up for Quickbooks last year, and they have really good free Youtube tutorials, possibly effecient even without QB, just learning about accounting methods, invoicing etc. Paypal actually has a similar lite version of bookeeping. Wish I had a better business model of X income allows for 15% to be spent on advertising, and constantly check everything out. Recently I took a pretty good 'Accounting Fundamentals' course on a site Ed2Go, plus I bought a book.

I can freely admit I made mistakes, I suppose almost entirely in business ownership. I'm a hard working guy, never been late to a wedding or deposition, reliable, dependable etc. Always delivered what was asked & then some. Never really had a dispute of much sort with clients/people. Just, couldn't scale it bigger, and that's on me.
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Old April 11th, 2020, 10:40 AM   #2
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Re: Reassessing The Business Side

Funny I have many of the same weakness and made similar mistakes (lack of advertising, social media, accepting a low price, or blurting out a low number, accounting,...)

I also don't care for depos but they're easy and pay the bills. Do you work directly or take jobs through a reporting agency? With agencies you'll get the volume you need but they take 2/3 of what the client is paying. Average depo through agency is just under $200 for a couple hours (that doesn't take into account travel/setup/breakdown) It's typical to charge more for the first hour like $175 + additional hrs $35. Working direct is more profitable if you can build up enough clients...

I like weddings and I'm pretty good at them but there are a number of things. I'm not good with the stress and long hours, I don't have a consistent second shooter, I don't have the type of reel to charge what I'd like, don't do it enough to be sharp at it, and I spend too long editing (I'm a bit of a perfectionist).

As far as advertising if it works too well you then have hire people and deal with all the crap that comes with dealing with people. You start to become a manager.

Finally being self employed is great as far as not having to deal with corporate cubical work, but security sucks. I currently don't have insurance the cheapest plan is $8k/yr with $5k deductible, no unemployment, no paid vacations, high taxes... makes me depressed just talking about it.
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Old April 11th, 2020, 05:04 PM   #3
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Re: Reassessing The Business Side

I don't mean to say that its reassuring your similar, but I think its good to know it's common in not just this industry, but I think alot of industries. Really no different than plumbers or contractors who do good work, just have trouble with the business side of it, taking in work thru Home Depot or national window & flooring installers, for a lesser fee. The good news is we can do something about it,, I feel admitting it, for me, is step 1. Read books, study online, follow what others are doing.

As for Depos, yeah pretty much all my work seemed subcontracted. For that field, I felt it mostly was, as alot need it text to synch to the court reporters transcript I think. I don't know that I was ever contacted by a law firm. Most court reporting firms were national, but I'd occasionally recv'd calls from smaller local ones who I felt I could control my pricing better. A few videographers tried to sub-sub-contract, and outside of doing a few partially as a favor that was not a good method. I did the math on how much everyone was skimming off the top. One guy even asked if I'd take on work in NYC. It's about a 2 hour drive for me plus I know their rates are way higher up there, I said I'd need a much higher pay and he said something about 'Must be nice to be able to turn down work". I was thinking, I'm not gonna wake up at 5am, drive 2 hours, pay $50 for parking, 1 hour setup time, all for a low paying 90 minute deposition and drive 2 hours home.

I don't mind the 'stress' of weddings, I kinda like the run & gun nature of it. I worked with a good photographer early on, he was a fun guy & seemed to be able to turn it off & on like a switch. We'd talk kinda on the side about the day, the maitre de, the venue, and I could tell he didn't love everything about weddings, or the day, but he could almost fake it. And I don't mean he was 'fake' like to the couple, just, he viewed it almost as part of his job, he was hired to be "Happy Josh", which is what they paid for. Then, when he left, he turned off the optimism switch & went home. I kinda picked up on that. Another thing, to me, weddings always run behind. Always. So I just roll with it as best I can.

Do you have a family/kids? $8k sounds high for insurance, is that just health insurance?


Anyway, maybe we need to level up our method of thinking. Instead of subcontracting and taking on jobs, maybe it is about networking and getting in front of decisionmakers more often. Things like that.
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Old April 11th, 2020, 10:25 PM   #4
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Re: Reassessing The Business Side

Insurance is just for me. I just looked it up the cheapest plan $5,172 with $6,500 deductible, covers only 50% of hospital costs, and a medium plan $8,900 with $4,300 deductible... They've got you over a barrel. There is a reason the number one cause for bankruptcy is medical expenses.

I think it's all hard work. For depos its not easy to get your own clients... Most of my jobs are 1hr away but I do take ones near nyc and its hard, up to 2.5hrs each way plus setup and on the record...if it goes all day you can be gone 12+ hrs, if its short its still takes 6+hrs.

The weddings its the physical and emotional stress of being on your toes all day dealing with the unexpected. Still get a rush and actually enjoy it when things are going well and when you get a good result it's rewarding. The work is very seasonal so you have to supplement it with something else and I hate how the editing takes much of your free time...
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Old April 12th, 2020, 08:29 AM   #5
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Re: Reassessing The Business Side

I meant to add, I'm like you with wedding editing. I spent a great deal of time on it, meticulous, I like to time things to the music pretty well, and would rather cram 100 3-5 second shots of portraits or dancing, as opposed to 20 15 second shots. (or something like that). That's where it comes back to haunt me, I'll accept a lower bid beforehand, then by the time editings done I'm not sure it's been worth it. Never hated it per se, just knew my worth was more. I've shot for studios & chains and on occasion seen their work, likely edited overseas, and they seem to just take 12 seconds of random dance floor shots & haphazardly place it in regardless of what the musics doing, fast/slow, uping the momentum etc.

Maybe I need to focus on making that a selling point, to keep my prices firm. Up the value.
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Old April 12th, 2020, 12:36 PM   #6
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Re: Reassessing The Business Side

My friend has a more hands on approach which isn't my style. I think if you are able to plan and direct the bride and groom, and be more selective, you'll end up with less footage to go through and it will fall into place much quicker during editing. Mistakes and problems during the filming stage add exponential work on the back end. You still need to time it to the music and pace it accordingly. The trick is you need a template to follow but be creative enough to alter it in such a way your movies aren't all the same. The more expensive music has stems and the ability to alter/loop the length to seamlessly match the video. Efficient methods and regular practice must speed up the editing stage.
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Old April 20th, 2020, 11:06 AM   #7
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Re: Reassessing The Business Side

One thing that really makes this difficult is in the past I could look for lower hanging fruit, like high school sports. I'll admit I had done a few lacrosse/soccer tournaments locally the last few years. A video guy I know told me a few years ago he no longer does them, just the day rate is too low. I thought it thru and he was right, but if there were too many weeks between weddings, or I just felt like some side cash I could do them.

Now, jobs like that aren't even around. I mean, no jobs are around in the US right now, but even in May/June those won't be coming back. Doubtful until the fall.

I feel it may change the wedding industry for a couple years, smaller gatherings, more <100 guest weddings. With that however, could be an opportunity for more funding avail for weddings, and more of a need for a better impact one.
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Old April 20th, 2020, 11:10 AM   #8
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Re: Reassessing The Business Side

Well, we've learned that primetime TV can be streamed from cellphones now. Of course, this is just a temporary accomodation, but it makes me wonder whether companies will reconsider the value of professional video gear and personnel when this is all over...
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