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    How To Get Started and Stay In The Business
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    First, quit buying gear! Don't buy gear yet!

    Not the answer you were looking for was it? Please read the rest of this post so you can buy all the gear you ever dreamed of.

    Instead, invest your time and money into marketing and selling your services. Your job is to build your business, not to be a Producer, Director, Camera Operator, Filmmaker, whatever. If you build your business and treat it like a business then you'll get to do what you love; whatever that is. i.e. Produce, Direct, Camera, make films, make money and buy the cool gear....

    You can always rent or borrow gear but you can never rent or borrow a customer !

    Once again, repeat after me:

    You can always rent or borrow gear but you can never rent or borrow a customer !

    If you will follow the steps below you'll be amazed at how your business will grow and how much more you'll get to do the things you really want to do:

    Get a really nice, professionally designed business card and have it printed at a real printer, not Kinko's. When you hand it off, the look, the feel of the paper and the design says more about you than you can ever say. Rest assured that Fortune 500 companies, studios and distributors don't do much business with people who have home printed cards, scruffy shoes and a non-professional approach. They'll never see you working off the corner of your kitchen table but they will see you and your card. We're talking $150 here max, not including the wardrobe.

    Make 20 calls a day every day for three months to gather information about companies or individuals who you think might use or be interested in your services, skills, films or products.

    This is information gathering; NOT SALES CALLS ! It's not about you or what you want to do.... yet!

    Just a call to find out who they are what they do and if they use XYZ services. Don't talk about you unless they ask about you! BAD! BAD! BAD!

    How do you feel when you pick up the phone and someone starts selling or telling you right off the bat? It does not work. It becomes blah, blah, blah... However, people love to tell you what they do. Listen to them and don't interupt no matter what! Usually their dime will run out and they'll say "Well, what do you do?". If you listened, you'll tell them what you do and how it relates to and BENEFITS THEM. They do not care what camera you have all they care about is what YOU can do for THEM to help them achieve their goals. It's still all about them, not you.

    We use the Suspect, Prospect, Client process.

    You might "Suspect" someone could be a client but until you call them you don't know. They may say, yes we use video all the time but the guy is way over priced he charges us $500 for a commercial or whatever. Well, guess what...they're not a qualified client are they? They clearly don't value the service. So they're off the list. That is a successful call for you because you know not to bother with them ever again. If you get twenty calls and not one single person has the need or the budget or whatever, then it was a very successful day. You're looking for the occasional diamond through tons of coal....right?

    They may say Yes, we use Barry Green and we love his work! Well, you know Barry isn't doing it for free and they likely have seen and know good quality work. They are a qualified "Prospect". If they use your services with another reputable company, no matter how much they love the other group, they're still a qualified "Prospect". You never know when Barry might be busy or decide to write a book on widgets. You mail and keep in touch with Prospects on a regular basis. It's taken me 6-8 years for some clients to finally call. Then they become a Client.

    Make 20 calls a day for three months and send your business card to the ones that respond, and drop them a postcard every 3-6 weeks. Call every few months.

    In three months you'll know your market, your potential clients, who your competitors are and you'll be on your way with the foundation for a successfull business. You'll still keep making those calls but now most of them will be follow up calls on potential jobs or leads they told you about.

    At the end of a year of doing this you'll have plenty of work but you'll keep doing the calls or hire someone to do them for you. Marketing and sales can never stop when you own a business. McDonalds, Coke, Sony, Panasonic all big companies with worldwide name recognition still have to do it and so do we.

    Something happens when you don't market... NOTHING !

    Now, at the end of that year instead of twenty information gathering calls a day you'll make ten info gathering, ten follow ups and two client calls to say hi and or thanks to your customers.

    This applies and works whether you're wanting to shoot for large companies such as Disney like we do, or if you just want to get started in production carrying sandbags as a PA. If you're a PA you're running PA business, if you're a Shooter, Filmmaker or Producer that is the business you are running and you have to find, qualify and keep in touch with your prospects and clients.

    The two last components I'd like to add:

    Continuing Education as in workshops, training, reading, DVDs and books. After 28 years I still need to INVEST in my skills and training and sometimes what you learn from your fellow classmates is just as important as the class.

    Realizing the value of hiring professional consultants who can quadruple your learning curve or better. Time is money, wasting time trying to figure out crap by trial and error, particularly technical work is a huge waste. When we bought our first HVX, my first call was to Barry Green to come on a Sunday and do a private session for our staff because we needed to shoot an important job with it the next week. Two months later when we booked another big job and bought the second HVX we flew Barry down to Florida for two days to work with our two crews and Digital Media Manager. Barry is only an example. You need training and consultants in the weakest points of your business accumen, especially the weakest points. Learning by trial and error is the most expensive and frustrating method to learn.

    This system works if you work it. It's kept our little company in business for 28 years working for some of the largest clients and projects on the planet and a lot of small ones too.

    You now have the answer, it's up to you to make it happen. It's still not about the gear but at least you'll have the money and projects to use it on. Statistically 95% of you will try some of this and only 5% of you will have the discipline to keep doing it. This is why only three out of 100 people survive the first five years in this business.

    Now, it's all about YOU and YOU can do it if you want it bad enough.

    Best of luck!

    Robert Starling
    Producer, Director, Steadicam Operator
    Starling Productions, Inc.
    www.Starling.com
    www.LasVegasSteadicam.com
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Last edited by robstar1; 01-12-2007 at 02:12 PM.


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    Thanks for posting this, Robert! Robert runs a large and successful video production company for 28 years, and I asked him to post this here to help our membership understand a bit of what it takes to launch a successful video production company.


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    Admin Jason Ramsey's Avatar
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    Thanks for this thorough post. This is the kind of stuff that is helpful to me.

    Jason

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    Senior Member jeremytuttle's Avatar
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    Thanks for the information. In a about a year we plan on jumping in full force and this kind of information really helps.

    Thanks again,
    Jeremy Tuttle
    :: Jeremy Tuttle of DTC Productions ::

    :: DVXUSER Dramafest Entry - At the Park ::


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    Resident Preditor mcgeedigital's Avatar
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    Awesome advice.

    I'll add It takes FAR less time and $$ to keep a current client happy than it does to find a new client whose business equals the same sales.
    Matt Gottshalk - Director/ Dp/ and Emmy Award Winning Editor
    Producer, Digital Creative for the United States Postal Service


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    And I'll add this: cheap clients are almost never worth the hassle. Bigger clients who pay more will treat you with more respect, you'll make a better profit, sleep better, and have more time. Rinky-dink clients will run you ragged and won't appreciate your efforts and will make you want to quit the business.

    Charge what you're worth. Just be worth more than the other guy, in every possible aspect. Be prompt/punctual/clean/neat/polite, with an attitude that lets the client know you'll do anything and everything you possibly can to make sure they're happy.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry_Green
    And I'll add this: cheap clients are almost never worth the hassle.
    In the very first workshop I ever attended back in 1986 our instructor said:

    "If your clients don't like how much you charge, find new clients"


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    Senior Member Sumfun's Avatar
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    Thanks Robert, that advice was very inspiring! I guess a lot of us pay more attention to gear than to marketing. Or maybe we're just afraid of making sales calls. But what you say is absolutely true - nothing happens unless you market yourself.

    But as I'm sitting down to think of who to call, I can't think of more than 80 or 90 companies to call. At 20 calls a day, that would only last 5 days. So can you give us some examples of who to call? And how do you get through to the decision makers?


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    Senior Member maverickstunts's Avatar
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    Thank you Robert and Barry. Everything you stated was very informative.


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    Senior Member Slimothy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info Rob, very informative. I would also like to know the answer to Sum FUn's question.

    Tim.



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