Starting a video production company: 9 steps you can’t skip

Read more

"

One of the most common questions we get as filmmakers is from folks who are interested in starting a video production company. Entrepreneurship in any field is hard work, especially in a field like independent film production that is chronically underfunded, but it’s by no means impossible, of course! Regardless of your business goals, there are a few steps anyone who is interested in starting a video production company needs to take. You don’t have to do all of these steps in exactly this order–you should do what makes the most sense for you personally and professionally–but all of these things are necessary. Let’s dive in.

Decide what you want your business to be

There are so many video production companies out there, and so many niches. Maybe you want to focus on your own narrative films, maybe you want to do wedding videography, maybe you want to get hired to work on other people’s film sets, maybe you want to do a little bit of everything. This is the time to decide what you want your business to be. What’s your niche? What skills do you have to offer? What types of projects do you want to be working on? You also need to decide if you’re doing this solo or if you’ll be hiring other people. Or, maybe you’re working with a creative partner and will be co-owning the business. This is the time to have realistic conversations about what your duties will be and how you’ll stay accountable to each other.

Speak with a professional

At this point in the process, it’s a great time to speak with a small business lawyer, an entertainment lawyer, or someone else who specializes in your niche. It also might be a good idea to talk to other filmmakers or videographers who do work similar to yours to get advice about how to proceed. So many things go into starting a video production company, and it’s always helpful to speak with professionals who might have advice about your specific situation, tips from their own experience, or even things they wish they’d done differently. If you don’t have any filmmaking contacts, New 32 does coaching calls where we are happy to offer guidance, or you can reach out in local filmmaking Facebook groups to see if anyone is willing to speak with you. Other small business owners also may be a helpful resource, but remember that starting a video production company is wildly different than, say, opening a restaurant, so keep that in mind as you connect with people.

Create a business plan

There are a lot of resources out there on how to create a business plan, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but essentially, your business plan is your roadmap for your video production company. This document should include your short and long term goals, how and when you can to achieve them, how you plan to cover expenses, and, of course, how you plan to make a profit. There’s a lot of fun, artistic elements to starting a video production company, but this is the time to be grounded, realistic, and practical. This is when you’re thinking about things like insurance coverage, funding, and what success will look like for you. If you want to do a little bit of everything, where will you start? Choose something you’re good at, focus on that, and then give yourself the opportunity to grow later on down the road.

Seek funding

Unless you’re independently wealthy or have managed to save enough money to support yourself and your business costs while you’re getting things off the ground, you’ll probably need to seek funding elsewhere. Your business plan will help you get a small business loan, which is probably the best way to start. Some businesses are able to connect with investors, which in our personal experience takes a combination of luck and many, many years of hard work and networking in the industry, so it’s not a super realistic short term plan if you need funding now. Crowdfunding is also an option, although raising enough capital to start a business and pay your bills while you wait for it to profit can be a full-time job in and of itself. A note of caution: make sure any financial commitments you take on won’t ruin you if your company doesn’t work out. 

Register your business

There are lots of steps to registering your business, and some of the guidelines vary from state to state. Do some research on the requirements for your state, and then get to work. Like the business plan, this part of starting a video production company is not especially fun or creative, but it’s exciting in the sense that it’s a big, concrete step towards your entrepreneurial dreams. You’ll need to pick a name (give it a Google and make sure it’s not taken!), get registered with the state, apply for a trademark, get an employee identification number, set up a business banking account, and more. New 32 is an LLC, and we strongly recommend you consider incorporating as an LLC as well; this business structure protects you from personal financial liability if something goes wrong. If you have any questions or concerns, at this stage it may be wise to set up another consultation with a lawyer who specializes in small businesses.

Figure out your equipment

This should be included in your business plan, but if you’re in the video production industry, you are going to need to either rent or buy equipment. Figure out what needs you’ll have, what equipment will work best for you and your business, and what your price point is going to be. Don’t be afraid to reach out to experienced videographers or cinematographers to ask them what cameras, lights, etc might be right for your specific needs. I’ve heard from several entrepreneurs that they regret buying too much gear too quickly, so make sure you aren’t getting caught up in what everyone else is doing or getting too much too soon. Be realistic and start small, with a great deal of consideration for what you actually need.

Figure out your rates

If you’re going to be creating work for clients, you need to have rates. There are lots of ways to set rates, but it’s important to be aware of what other people in your area are charging for similar services. Think about who your ideal clients are and then figure out what price point might work for them. Remember to be realistic, and keep in mind that as you gain experience you can tweak your pricing. As a new company, it might be wise to keep your prices lower until you have a solid portfolio and client relationships. People are willing to pay more when a business has many reviews and client testimonials. Some emerging filmmakers and videographers do pro bono work in order to build their reel and gain client testimonials. If you can afford to do a few projects for free or for a reduced rate, this is a great way to let other people know that you’re dependable, professional, and do good work.

Build your online presence

Your online presence can include a lot of things, from your own website to social media accounts. I have a whole article about building a DIY filmmaking website that you should check out if hiring a web developer isn’t in your budget. I also have an article about how to brand yourself as an artist that may be helpful at this stage in the process. I strongly feel that every filmmaker needs a website, regardless of if they’re looking to do client work or not, and it’s not a bad idea to be active on social media. At the very least, reserve the usernames related to your company, even if you don’t plan to use them often. The internet is a great place to connect with potential clients, collaborators, and even investors and distributors, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, even if it’s slow going at first. It can be difficult to build a following on social media, and it can take up a lot of your time if you let it, so make sure you’re specific about your goals. It’s possible that part of your business plan involves monetizing your social media, which takes a lot more time and effort than simply using it to connect with clients.

Create your first project

This could be as simple as booking your first client gig, or as complicated as producing an entire film. Whatever your first project is, it should be in line with the business plan you already created. Once you reach this step, you’ve officially started your own production company! Good luck, and have fun.

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Author

Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

You may also be interested in…

How to make a short film with no budget

How to make a short film with no budget

Making movies is expensive. I’ve written about micro budget filmmaking, but what if you’re wondering how to make a short film with NO budget? Here are my thoughts on how to produce and film a short film if you have literally zero dollars to put towards it. Remember...

read more
What does a film producer do?

What does a film producer do?

What does a film producer do? When I first started working in film, that was a big source of confusion for me. I’d always thought that the producer was the one who funded the movie, but my producer friends were always making phone calls and updating spreadsheets… and...

read more
How to make money as a filmmaker

How to make money as a filmmaker

It’s a question that comes up a lot in our DMs. Everyone wants to know how to make money as a filmmaker. I’ve written before about independent film funding, but paying for a creative project is very different from paying yourself… and paying your bills. Everyone...

read more
google.com, pub-2352126854827201, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0