Why You’re Broke and Other Video Professionals Aren’t

This is a guest blog post from my friend, colleague and fellow business coach Kris Simmons. This post is going to KICK YOUR BUTT!

Image © Mad.Chicken on Flickr

As I’m writing this, I’m strapping on the armor because I know the title of this article has already pissed a lot of you off. Deal with it!

It’s time for someone to put it out there in a way that doesn’t dip this issue in chocolate and sprinkle sugar on top. If you are a talented and passionate videographer but you’re not making any money, it’s your own fault. Period.

If you want to post any one of the 1,000 excuses in the comments below as to why you are struggling, go for it. But remember, they are all just excuses!

The bottom line is that you are NOT doing what’s necessary to be successful.

For some of you, it’s because you don’t know what to do and I can help you with that. For others, you are just too proud to roll up your sleeves and get busy making it happen or even worse, you’re just lazy.

If you are in the second group, there is no secret sauce that will solve your problem. Sorry.

I’m tired of seeing good people fail. I’m tired of seeing professionals with unbelievable creative talent not be able to pay the rent. I’m tired of seeing people work around the clock for years with nothing to show for it. It’s time to stop this madness!

If you’re blood is boiling right now, great. That means I have your attention.

If you are new to the industry and feel this doesn’t apply to your situation, you are dead wrong. What I’m about to share with you are the basic business principles of being successful as a self-employed video professional.

If you ignore them, good luck making your business work. If you master them, you’ll make a great living in this industry for the rest of your life.

Success Principle #1 – Build Your Marketing Tool Kit

Most successful video business owners or freelancers have a marketing tool kit that consists of a business card, website, online demo reel, online portfolio and some type of way to stay in touch with their customers whether it be in the form of an email newsletter, Facebook page, etc.

If you don’t have these tools in place right now, you’re losing money. Stop whatever you are doing and build out your marketing tool kit. Right now! This is one of those situations where “done” is better than “perfect.” You’ll spend the rest of your career tweaking your marketing tool kit so don’t worry about how perfect it is now. Just do your best to make sure each piece of marketing material accurately reflects the way you want your customers to feel about you, your company and products/services. (a.k.a. Your Brand)

If you shoot weddings, make them reflect elegance, luxury, etc. If you are a sports videographer, make them reflect popular sports programming like what you see on ESPN, NBC Sports, etc. If you produce corporate videos, study the marketing materials of other companies in your niche (healthcare for instance) and emulate some of what they are doing with design, layout, etc.

Some of you may be thinking, “Kris, I can’t afford to put all this together.” Two years ago, I might have agreed with you. However, with all the free or close to free resources that are out there today for creating marketing materials, to say you can’t afford it is just an excuse.

Websites like Overnight Prints (business cards), WordPress.com (websites/blogs), Video Hive (demo templates), MailChimp (email newsletters) and of course Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, make it possible to have an incredible marketing toolbox with a very minimal investment.

Success Principle #2 – Build Your Network Like Your Life Depends on It

I’m tired of hearing people say “networking doesn’t work.” It DOES work if you do it properly. It’s been the main marketing strategy since day one of my video production business and is by far the most effective word of mouth generator on the planet! (Social media is great for showing off your work to the masses but 1-to-1 referrals are still much more effective in generating sales.)

So, you tried networking once or twice and it didn’t work. Did you learn how to master your camera in one session? How about your edit system? Did you marry your spouse after the first date? Didn’t think so.

Why would you expect that networking would be any different? In order to be successful, you have to invest time and energy into something before it will give you the results you want or need.

Your financial success is determined by the number of people you have in your network. It’s safe to assume that a videographer who has 100 people in their network isn’t going to make as much money as one with 10,000 people.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about videographers who have a huge network of other videographers. That doesn’t do anything to build your wealth. If anything, it makes you even more broke because you spend a lot of time trying to outspend others so YOUR status updates will also include photos of the latest overpriced camera rig. [Editor’s note: perhaps my favorite line in this article. 🙂 ]

I’m talking about those who have hundreds or thousands of actual business prospects, customers and/or referral partners in their network. Those are the ones who will never have to worry about money again.

Here’s a quick networking goal that I want you to start implementing right now.

Reach out to potential referral partners on a regular basis with the goal of setting up one meeting over coffee or lunch each week. If you produce wedding videos, contact photographers, coordinators, etc. who serve the same type of bride that you do. Corporate video producers should reach out to marketing consultants, large print companies, audiovisual rental houses, etc.

Reach out to existing customers with the goal of setting up one meeting over coffee or lunch each week. If you shoot weddings, treat the B&G to Starbucks after they’ve had the chance to watch and fall in love with their video. Talk to them on a personal level and explain how you really appreciate them investing in you and that you’d really appreciate any referrals they can provide.

If you shoot corporate videos, invite customers to lunch or offer to stop by their office for a few minutes. Talk with them about how the previous videos you produced are working and ask what else you can do to help them be more successful. Even if they don’t need you right now, you’ll be top of mind in the near future.

There’s no guarantee that they will hire you soon after meeting with them but you can bet that if you aren’t meeting with your customers on a regular basis, other competing videographers will!

Reach out to prospective customers with the same weekly goal as above. Use tools liked LinkedIn, Facebook fan pages and Twitter to find out who your target prospects are and get in touch with them. There are hundreds of free or low cost resources for how to use social media more effectively so get educated.

The other way to do this is to frequent industry association meetings like the Advertising Federation, Public Relations Society of America, Technology Associations and the local Chamber of Commerce. 80% of success is just showing up so get cleaned up and make an appearance!

Again, I hear the moans deep in the distance. “But I don’t have time to do this Kris?”

Okay, if you honestly don’t have time because you are so busy with paying work that you can’t peal yourself away from the computer for a few hours each week to keep your marketing/sales pipeline full, then I’m not talking to you right now anyway. You are clearly one of the few video professionals out there who have figured out how to always make money in this business. Congratulations!

If this doesn’t describe you, then quit making excuses and make something happen!

Success Principle #3 – Get Religious About Staying In Touch With Your Network

I’ve worked with hundreds of videographers since 2007 and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that someone has their marketing toolbox in place, they network all the time but when I ask what they are doing to stay in touch with their network week in and week out, all I hear are crickets chirping on the other end of the phone.

In order for your marketing toolbox and your networking efforts to be successful, you MUST have a mechanism for staying in touch! If you don’t, you are wasting your time.

You can use tools like a Facebook fan page or Twitter profile to do this but my preferred method has always been the email newsletter.

When I meet new people, I add them to my email list whenever possible as long as I feel like they will appreciate and benefit from my material. As long as your emails have a way for them to unsubscribe, you don’t have to worry about getting into trouble regarding spam laws.

When sending email newsletters, I’ve had the best success with having a strong focus on featuring work I’ve done for well-known companies or individuals in my area. No one gives a flip about me or my company, but they do care about what a local hospital is doing with video or how a local business that employs thousands of people is using video to train new employees.

As your network grows, you’ll start to notice more and more results coming out of your email newsletter efforts. You’ll start to get to a point like I have where just about every time a newsletter goes out, you’ll get at least one piece of new business. It’s pretty amazing!

A weekly email newsletter gives me the best results but if you aren’t comfortable publishing weekly, I recommend you do it at least once per month. Anything less frequent than that and you won’t get the results needed to be successful. Trust me, I’ve tested about every option imaginable.

I’m throwing down the gauntlet, drawing a line in the sand, announcing an ultimatum.

Either get busy applying the three success principles above, stop complaining or get out of the industry.

Those are your choices. Which one will you make?

Kris Simmons is an award-winning filmmaker/entrepreneur and is a co-founder of KRE8insights.com, the world’s largest resource for helping talented and passionate video professionals become successful business owners.

12 thoughts on “Why You’re Broke and Other Video Professionals Aren’t

  1. Yeah Ron, you are definitely all up in our faces with this one. But, truer words have never been spoken. In this new age, it’s all about networking and tasteful marketing. If you just happen to do great work, that’s good too!

  2. Great info Michael!! All good basic principles that we all forget or slack off on. Disagree with one small point and that is don’t waste time networking with other videographers. We get to know as many as we can in our area and that results in many jobs that they refer when they are double booked. You spread out your double booking back to them and you have a very strong network. About 15% of all our booking are from other event filmmakers.

    1. Haha Steve! Michael is my bus partner in KRE8 so that may be where you got that from.

      Regarding networking with other videographers, I didn’t say it was a waste of time because it definitely isn’t. However, spending time networking with actual customers and prospects will result in better financial return in the long run.

      If you primarily make yor living as a freelancer, then of course other videogs are your “customers.”

      Great points though Steve! Thanks for contributing.

  3. LOL, so true about everyone wants to show off their new gear.
    C300 and FS100 all around now and the MK3!

    And Kris is right about networking with other people in your industry. Especially if you’re a new comer. Other videographers might recommend you if they can’t take the job, but other vendors would recommend you if you’re talented and different.

    Newsletters are probably best for Corporate Videographers.

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