Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Video Business: Concepts & Consequences

A friend, follower and (so far) believer e-mailed me recently with a LOT of questions about the video business, how I can make money and stay in business charging the low fees I charge, and essentially wondering if he even should be pushing forward with video, or looking elsewhere to make a living.

His situation is not unique. There are many in the business questioning the sanity of staying with it or getting out, panicking over the current economic situation, or wondering where to focus to return to profitability. The business people asking this of themselves are not only those who just entered the business, or are a couple of years into it, there are a number of 20-year veterans taking a long, hard look at their video production business model as well.

I am afraid that the lengths at which I go to "cover it all" this may have to be a two- or three-part series, but we'll see. First, I will attempt to condense my friend's thoughts and respond to them, hopefully, with some degree of accuracy, honesty and confidence.

My friend wrote:

“As you may remember I was in a totally different line of work until I went to business school the start of 2009. They swayed me to rethink my path and long story short here I am with video. What do we know so far? First I need much help with organizing and setting up and running a business (why I went to business management school) but that is another story.”

“I officially started this career in June of 2009. Reflecting back I was not ready with business skills and I now know I did not have much setup correctly. Where am I right now, still trying to set things up. Your e-mail response made me take a hard look at where I am right now.”

My first response:

What I am hearing in this e-mail, backed by previous correspondence with you, is frustration with a capital “F”. Less than 12 months ago you started business school. You have “officially” been in the video business for six months. You are NOT making any real money yet and I suspect income is a major issue here. NOW!

You need money and nothing is coming together fast enough to counter the fiscal pressures with which you are dealing.

While it is important that you measure your progress, think out your mistakes and refocus on your goals along the way, less than 12 months out the gate is way soon to be expecting miracles of yourself, especially trying to juggle doing business, making money and learning a new trade.

Six months after hanging your shingle is way too soon to expect solid, continuous and renewable business. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly CAN be done, but you're probably too focused on setting up the perfect business to make that happen right this second.

Two things are, or should be, obvious to you at this time: You NEED to focus on a specific marketing approach with a specific (or diversified) product/service; and you NEED to be out yesterday, shooting something, billing for it, and making money, or at least generating cash flow.

The WAY to do this is to start now. Just do it, is a term I use often, and apply to my own marketing efforts, and strategy implementation as well. Sitting around, undecided, NOT focusing on a plan of approach, waiting until things become clearer, or you can focus better, or the climate changes, or whatever, isn't going to cut it. You HAVE to make decisions, decide on a direction and go for it - consistently, persistently and immediately.

This calls for doing something - taking action, not just sitting there worrying about it. If you are in a larger population area take your camera with you, drive around and check out the many (or few?) public parks, ball parks and other areas of youth sports activity. There's everything in every season, from baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer and swimming to events of celebration being held at the local park. It takes a certain amount of gumption and determination to cold call on these things, but there's money to be made by taking a guerilla-style approach to business and conducting “Walk-ON” marketing. This doesn’t work all the time, or every time, but persistence pays.

At the same time, in between your walk-on exercise and guerilla tactics for immediate business and cash flow, take the time to put together a one-page direct-mail letter, or half-page size post card. Do a look-up for whatever areas of interest you wish to pursue in event video production: again, youth sports, martial arts studios, private or school dance studios, area elementary, middle- or high-schools for plays, dance, sports, band, flag and other competitive or performance activities, funeral homes and/or mortuaries for funeral videotaping and montage production and/or projection services.

Work the guerilla approach and direct mail until you start receiving positive reactions and responses. These two areas, if you do them consistently, daily, will finally pay off dividends.

You could also put together something that reflects any type of production(s) you have already done, using snippets of your clips for samples, burn a demo DVD reel and start mailing that to every possible home/business address you can confirm - even if you have to address it to "occupant" or "business owner" at first. Eventually you will begin acquiring names and contacts and be able to develop a more personal approach to a specific person at many of these addresses.

If you are interested in pursuing wedding production, go visit a bridal gown shop, a tux rental place, a caterer, a location/venue, a bakery, perhaps a coordinator and offer to put together at no charge a 3-to-5-minute clips featuring their business, services and products or location. Combine this (especially if they are in a general service area) content with your own demo clip(s) and provide them free to the participations. They will distribute them from their counters, use them for web video and generally promote themselves while promoting you as well.

This could be done with other inter-related business and services as well. Perhaps a pet shop, pet supplies center, specialty shops or other small businesses with complimentary services or products.

But the only way to make this happen is to start now. Do something. Make an effort. It takes a major effort on your part to motivate yourself and push until you establish a strong self-starter mood. The incentive would be gaining business and establishing resources for immediate cash flow, even if it is a $125 down-and-dirty montage, or sales of several highlight videos from Saturday's youth soccer event. Cash flow is cash flow, and on a consistent level it can carry you from month-to-month until you've established broader, bigger and better business resources via your direct-mail marketing strategies.

To be continued...

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher

Monday, November 09, 2009

A Newcomer Wants to Know

Hello Blog Follower...

I know you didn't intend for it to be, but your "how many jobs (gigs) should I take on" question is a bit open ended, and could be answered with a simple, or complex response. I am known throughout the circles of my readers, followers AND detractors, for writing MORE than most of them want to read; for writing LONG answers for what they perceive only needs SHORT responses - T.M.I one person recently responded. But I try to be detailed and definitive when people ask me questions.


OK, the simple answer is if you acquire one gig a month that covers your fiscal needs then, well One Gig a Month. I'm not trying to be coy, but if you only need $2k, give or take, a month to be comfortable, there are numerous gigs that can bring that amount.

More realistically, let's say your gigs average $500 for a 2-3 hour effort, then FOUR jobs a month should do you well. The thing is, in my arena where I do a LOT of memorial montage & projection gigs and have carved a huge niche for myself in the funeral video production business (a vastly under served market for video IMHO) - any given gig of this nature can bring me business on ANY given day.

Since it is feast or famine in this business, I take what I can when it's there, and use my downtime for other pursuits - fiction/non-fiction writing, research, personal projects and marketing. But for example last week, after about six weeks of NOTHING, I had a gig a day for six-days-in-a-row, all of them funeral and/or memorial montage & projection, picking up nearly $600 a day. Sounds like a lot (or a little in some circles) but a $3,600 week is cool to me.

This week I have ONE scheduled gig, but several inquiries and a number of them could come through by the end of the week.

I am telling you this to point out that you will have an ebb and flow of business, and you need to think more of the slow months so that you are in the right perspective when business IS available and not turn away something simply because you're "gold" for the moment. There will be lean times, so if you are in this full time then working two gigs a week on average (as often as you can) that bring in say a grand a week, will take care of your estimated financial needs and offer a pad you can fall back on during the lean weeks - and there WILL be lean weeks. Trust me.

So, shoot for two gigs of some kind a week.

Depending on the extent of your initial business focus: if you are working with mostly events held by individuals or small groups then errors and omissions insurance or liability insurance is probably not THAT critical. I do recommend that you carry both at your earliest ability. If you are careful you will rarely need it but poop happens and you will appreciate the peace of mind having insurance brings. Also, you really should cover your equipment for theft or natural disasters - fire, flood, etc. So, you're looking at something like at least a couple grand a year (if you shop around) for basic coverage of these three types. You'll need to divide that up by 12 to see what you need to add to your $2K "get by" estimate.

Think seriously about health insurance, especially if you have youth and health on your side - the older you get, and the eventuality of developing something that makes you either uninsurable or prohibitively expense to insure: diabetes, heart disease, etc. Premiums for you now will be less, and then you ARE covered when/if health disaster strikes unexpectedly. At your age and given good health you should be able to find something in the $300 and up zone that you can pay for, live with and have further peace of mind about. Trust me, a guy with BOTH diabetes AND a heart condition - at age 60 I am uninsurable, and Obama's designs on health care reform are not going to come into play early enough to bail me out either. So, I live day-by-day, try to remain healthy, and work as hard as I can to develop a financial buffer that might serve me in worsening health times.

I think the marketing plan(s) outlined in my blog articles are sound, and well-thought-out, practical and effective. I really believe that a person could adapt these principles for their business model and efforts and come out ahead. So, unless you read/see/find something that makes MORE sense, then my advice is probably just as good a place to start as any other.

The industry IS absolutely changing AND growing, but in ways that many of the old-timers are not going to be able, or inclined to keep up with. Video will rapidly transition from hard copy delivery - BluRay, high def or standard def delivery on DVD media, even tape in some instances, hard drive, thumb drive or solid state SDHC cards are going to bow (within mine and your lifetimes) to delivery over the internet. As people already download and record, deliver for worldwide collaborative editing projects, upload, share, stream, etc. this method of delivery and use of video will grow immensely. It will do to hard media what cassette did to 4-track; CD did to cassette; digital did to VHS analog; DVD did to tape; et al. The future of video is on the net, trust me.

In my book I will be including a couple of chapters on what I am currently doing to take advantage of this arena of video production. More and more people are going to want/demand internet delivery, although for some years into the future some might continue to want a "backup" on one of the above-mentioned mediums. Yes, your video business future is and will be web centric. Web content and live streaming...get on NOW while you can be among the front-runners, instead of waiting just because shooting, editing and delivering on DVD/BluRay events and standard gigs is easy money. It will be going away sooner rather than later, I am sad to say. YouStream and LiveStream (formerly Mogulus) are good places to hedge your bets.

The "other" things you should know about already IMHO exist - standard day-to-day celebratory events. The funerals and memorials and projection gigs I mentioned earlier. These are the potential daily cash-flow areas that will keep something coming in while/when you're developing, marketing or working your web-related services and honing your skills there. I cannot really see, or imagine much beyond this point in the future but flexibility and diversity are important factors in a video-related business IMHO - be aware, read up constantly, look, listen and study, watch the market, when you hear about something for the first time check it out, see if it offers you something to work with, then plan and jump on it before it becomes totally mainstream.

ALSO, look around you for markets that are NOT being adequately served, or overlooked by the majority of independent video services providers (funerals and memorial montages/projection for example - they're not for everybody but they're making ME MONEY!). I'm not the ewwww or squeamish type when it comes to blood, or dead people. Guess 30 years in the news reporting business, doing coverage on murders, rapes, robberies, trials and more have given me a thick ewwwwwless skin and mind. :-)


Turnaround time for me depends on the complexity of the project.
Weddings? A week to 10 days.
Celebratory events? 2-3 days.
Funerals? 3-5 days.
Montages for memorials? less than 48 hours from receipt of materials.
Commercial productions? Whatever time line is established and agreed upon. If I can meet or beat a 30, 60, 90 or one-year contracted time line I will. There's often a bonus built in for me, for early deliver, meeting progressive points along the way, or coming in under budget. I try to play that to my fiscal advantage, but never to the exclusion of the quality of the product - I ALWAYS will deliver MORE than promised or expected. This keeps my clients returning year-after-year and a reasonable expectation of renewable business and referrals.


Essentially, deliver fast, price reasonable and create good-to-great product. Believe me the word will get out and a major portion of your business future will be referral based. Develop relationships within the circles of the business you want to pursue; be it weddings, destination sites/venues, real estate, working for non-profits.

Regarding non-profits, due to the nature of their roles in society NPs are looking for the MOST they can get for the least outlay. But by and large they have gotten money, do have budgets and unless you want to develop a reputation for being an easy mark, charge something for your efforts. Otherwise it will be like when I send in a donation to various charities - Veterans groups, Children hospitals, burn clinics, cancer groups, Alzheimer's groups, etc. I am flooded for years to come with monthly mailings and e-mails seeking donations, even asking for specific amounts. Not my way of giving. I give what I want when I want and can, and quickly turn away from those who are spending too much IMHO for the paraphernalia they send me seeking more. Nuff said.

You've got some reading material here, should give you some things to ponder. Stay in touch. Remember, if you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher, E.C. Come, E.C. Go

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Basic Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a term with which just about anybody in business on the Internet is familiar. If you have not heard of SEO and the benefits knowledge of it offers as it applies to your website, and if you do not know how to get started doing it, TODAY is the time to begin!

Perhaps a vast majority of website, Internet and Google-search-savvy people are aware of the importance of SEO and engage in weekly, if not daily, exercises in an effort to gain eyeballs for their business-based websites. It is my belief that for every one who knows how and performs consistent SEO efforts three do not. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe not.

My readers probably all are SEO savvy to a greater, or lesser degree, but if only one of gains some valuable information from this article then I'll believe it was well worth the time to research, write and include links to potential SEO answers.

SEO? What is that?
Things you can do in the designing of, placement on and adding to the code of your website page(s) that help get your site the attention of search engines. These engines include Google, Yahoo! and MSN (Bing - currently the fastest-growing search engine on the Web according to Website Magazine).

SEO also includes things you can do beyond website page(s) content and code to improve your ranking among search engines and improve results when potential clients are looking for services you offer.

Maybe you are already being crawled by SEO "spiders" (software that searches and logs websites and pages). One way to determine if you even exist, as far as Google is concerned is to go to Google and do a search, entering "site:yoursitename.com" without the quotes.

Creating an SEO "optimized" website and pages
Things you need to know about and use include: key words, domain name, title tag, description tag, headers, body content and links in text. You will need to research, using Google perhaps as your initial search engine to locate information already on the web regarding these elements.

You can start by researching for viable, effective and valid key words at:
• Google
You will need a free Google account if you do not already have one.
• Keyword Discovery
• Word Tracker

Plan your key word usage in all areas on your website page(s) but do not get carried away - lists of repetitive key words will drive search engine spiders away, not attract them. Judicious usage is key to use of these elements.

Website page(s) code includes meta tags, description tags and key words tags. Headers, unique formatting (making subheads bold or italics), and text links inclusion in your body copy also need to be planned for effectiveness and use. Include links in your body copy text that not only take visitors to other pages within your site, but other websites as well. These links, and reciprocal links you arrange between your website and others on the Internet, will help in your SEO efforts.

For example, in this article I might include a link to another of my blogsite articles: such as What Focus is Right for Website?, or to another blog site I read, know and trust, such as In the Viewfinder by Jay Michael.

Another thing to keep in mind is that graphics and images may not be recognized. You need to identify where your images are and in addition to the graphic, find a way to enter text that either identifies the photo or graphic, and/or includes key word content. Also, some people set up their browsers to NOT download website graphics, so the text description offers information they otherwise would not have.

When you have done this there are websites that can help you see just how effectively you've applied these elements to your website pages. I will share some of those later in this article.

Things to do outside your website pages
Speed things up a bit with various search engines by contacting them and submitting your website(s) and/or page(s). It is easy to do, and takes only a little time. Sometimes it takes awhile before your efforts here take effect, but it will work for you in the long run.

The top rated search engines, of course, are MSN, Yahoo! and Google. There are a host of others as well, some independent of these, others integrated with the top three. Do a search using any or all of the top three to identify other search engines you might want to submit your websites to.

In addition to doing reciprocal link swaps with other websites, you can also do something more by submitting your site and business information to Google's Business Center program.

Consider submitting to web directories and social networks
You can submit your website to Exact Seek, Dmoz or Jayde as well and possibly gain a boost to your ranking, as well as drawing more traffic to your sites.

There there's the ever-popular Twitter and Facebook social sites.

Check your results
Finally, when you have done all these things and are ready to see how well it has worked out for you, go to some of the sites that offer you a way to analyze and evaluate your SEO efforts. Keep in mind that some of your activities - search engine and directory submissions may not occur overnight, or even in a week or two. Be patient, keep doing SEO, and keep checking the results with searches and using these sites.

Good luck with your SEO exercises. And remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009 Earl Chessher

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What Kind of Video Producer ARE You?

Essentially,there are 10 general categories of video producers: casual, amateur, hobbyist, part-time paid, full-time paid, inexperienced professional, experienced professional, independent shooter, ENG professional and commercial (entertainment or business) video producer.

* Casual video producers give no thought to videotaping as a business, means of income or even source for entertainment. This producer purchased or was given, or acquired a camcorder of some make or model for the purpose of occasionally recording a personal or family event.

The casual video producer infrequently pulls out the camcorder bag, charges up the battery and gets part of blowing out the birthday candles, a segment of the Grand Canyon Railway journey, carving of the turkey or unwrapping of holiday presents - maybe the kids in their Halloween costumes.

* Amateur video producers
put more effort into their productions. They will shoot longer bursts, record more specific elements of events or trips, and usually pack more than one spare battery. Many of them will actually own a cheap tripod, but rarely auxiliary lighting or additional microphones.

The amateur producer might have simple, basic or free editing capabilities. Amateurs may even attempt to add titles, and "edit" out long, boring footage in an effort to make their productions more enjoyable to view. Amateur video producers tend to focus more on a given subject - trip, nature, event, birds, insects, kids, cars, women - instead of mixing all matter of content in an effort to fill the tape, hard drive or card before dubbing over to reuse their media, or starting a new tape.

Amateurs may actually give some thought to ways to make a dollar or two with their equipment and basic skills. They may have some idea that doing montages and weddings could, in the years ahead, become a decent "retirement" profession to fall back on.

* Hobbyists will usually acquire more than just a camera and a bag. The hobbyist will nearly always have a decent tripod and/or monopod, auxiliary lighting and purchase additional mics or other audio recording tools. Hobbyists will own an editing system purchased with the specific intent to edit productions into a quality finished video.

Hobbyists will seek ways to make money with their video tools, primarily in an effort to finance their real goal - producing video in an area of special interest. The hobbyist enjoys nature, or sports, chasing storms, or simply doing a better than average job of producing youth sports, even social/commnity activity videos and selling some copies.

The hobbyist seeks to make income from video primarily as a method for investing more into videotaping and editing tools to perpetuate the hobby rather than as an income source.

While most hobbyists will remain in that category, some will eventually move into some aspect of business with their video production experience, abilities and tools.

* Part-time paid video
producers could be hobbyists as well, but definitely want or need, or have invested in video with an eye toward generating income to supplement whatever other income sources they have. This is usually a full-time job, or a working spouse, or one or both supplementing retirement income levels.

The part-time paid producer may or may not be considered a professional, and may, or not, consider herself to be a professional beyond being paid for what they produce. Quality may, or not, be a personal issue with their productions.

Many part-time professionals, however, consider themselves creative artists and will put in untold hours in an effort to polish their productions. Perfection certainly is often a goal for them.

While primary focus for part-time producers seems to be wedding videos, part-time video producers may find a niche in car shows, drag racing, surfing, or some other specific area or activity - so long as it generates income. The part-time producer is not always so much interested in hours vs income and cost ratios as he or she is in making a "chunk of money."

* Full-time paid video producers have invested significantly in time, money, equipment and experience with the primary intent of entering video production as an independent business. While a majority of full-time independent professional video services providers work from a small office/home office environment, others focus on establishing a commercial location - even developing a editing/production studio.

As such, the full-time video producer may or may not have achieved his or her, or the client's for that matter, desired level of professional. Interest may be as minimal as getting by, or making a living, to becoming highly successful, building and growing the business, or even expanding to a brick-and-mortar based location/multiple location level.

In most cases the full-time video producer began at one of the previously-mentioned levels with the idea of eventually moving forward into a full-time, commercially viable, video production business.

Budgets for the level of their business operations, concerns or plans will play, or should, a primary role in establishing rates for services and products. Any full-time video producer not factoring in all costs related to their business will eventually experience a short-fall and either go out of business, or have to re-enter the workforce and gear down their video business efforts.

* The inexperienced or experienced professional will reach above, or fall below, the line as established for full-time paid video producers. While the inexperienced may move up, or fall behind, as circumstances affect their business model and/or learning curve, the gaining of experience will move many of these into a higher level, often better-paid, independent professional video services provider.

* Shooters focus on establishing themselves as experts in the field of video acquisition. The successful ones focus on a specific area of production - working on documentaries, entertainment, even some areas of news gathering - and building a name for themselves. They often have invested heavily on support tools such as stabilizers, higher-end production cameras, shooting platforms and/or other rigs such as cranes or jibs, etc.

By focusing on the specific tools, and quality cameras, their area of specialty calls for, and by developing experience and professional expertise shooters can often hire out for quality pay actually earning more per hour than many full-time, full-service independents can generate. While up-front investment costs may run higher, actual operating expenses may be lower for a potentially faster R.O.I. - return on investment.

* ENG professionals can include any, or all, of the above upon achievement of experience and development of professional talent levels and working their way up the ENG career ladder.

The established ENG professional has worked long and hard, often at poor income levels, to achieve a reasonable position in this field. Perhaps the top 10-percent of this category will generate the highest income levels - the remainder slaving under often thankless conditions at entry-level, or worse, pay scale.

* The entertainment/commercial
(corporate) producer has parlayed talent, experience, investment capital, equipment, branding and more into a business environment where the right connections generate the right business opportunities.

The creme does not always rise to the top here, however, and often folks who strike for this level of production, above or below the line, either fall out altogether or find themselves returning to one of the previously-mentioned categories.

These categories are based on my experience, not necessarily personal investment/involvement, as an independent professional video services provider. There are most definitely many sub-categories or alternative titles, and the success/income range within any of the above, or others, is wide.

A living, or more, or less, is available to a person with the right combination of ambition, incentive, skills and determination who pursues video production. Whatever level you determine to pursue in video business remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What Focus is Right for Web Site

A reader and fellow video business owner whom I enjoy a great e-mail relationship recently inquired regarding my thoughts about web site development and utilization of content for marketing strategies. I tend to shoot from the hip a bit more when I respond to readers/followers and friends via e-mail. Perhaps my following comments to him will get a few comments of their own from others. Opinions welcome.

Dear Reader:

Most of the clips I currently share on my respective web sites and links are CD quality and do take as much as 60 seconds to load up and play. I settled for quality (or better quality) over speed, and will likely always go that route even though I know some people will not be able to access, or not have the patience to view. Over time I get enough who stay with me and business occurs. I can live with the numbers, and when I get all this web site URL works-in-progress stuff up to the next level my numbers should improve. This will be sooner, rather than later.

If I could afford, or trade, and retain enough working understanding of what a so-called web site developer wound up doing with my site, or the whole enchilada for that matter, then I'd not be adverse to using outside help. But web development is going to have to be what I can come up with, gleam from others and beg, borrow or create, operate, update and manage on my own. My margins are simply too small to afford a guru for my web development.

To quote your "back end" web site guru: "consistent with a video producers website," sounds like some subjective mumbo-jumbo to me, but I am always open to possibilities, so I'll listen to what somebody has to say, share or suggest. But the control freak in me usually opts out even though what is being proposed, regardless of cost, is all that and a bag of chips. I'm simply too independent.

I too am looking into how I can offer video hosting for clients and my own reels, samples, etc. I am studying the possibilities, and the affordability, and the scale-ability as well as flexibility (gosh all those "abilities!") and I will test many things on my way to continuing my personal and business web site development and offerings.

I plan to have a shopping cart, secure on-site credit card and scheduling options, etc. It will take me longer to develop all this D.Y.I. (do it yourself), but it will be along the lines of what I have in mind and not another person's interpretation of what I "should" or "could" have. I'm not really obstinate, but might come close sometimes.

My ideal of an "ideal" web site for a video production company/business is ease of navigation, simplicity of information, reduction of redundancy and elimination of rhetoric. TMI, the young people say - "too much information" so I want it to offer views of my work and various specific example of what is possible.

I want it to offer private screening, viewing or access for clients, and the ability to provide feedback for rough cuts projects leading to their final approval for production. I want to offer samples of events I've produced and the ability for those visiting who participated, or are interested in these event productions, to order on-line, perhaps even eventually to download and burn to DVD themselves. I want them to be able to provide links to share, and to be able to pay for all this via credit card and/or PayPal easily, quickly and securely.

I plan for graphics to be lean and mean. I plan to use little, if any, fancy flash-in-the-pan creative flash-type or other graphics and intros. My interest is NOT to entertain visitors, potential clients or viewers, but to provide them with easy access to the services I offer. I do not want to clutter my pages with copy or graphics and refuse to use those stupid-looking amateur spinning cameras, whirling DVD disks or some other goofy motion graphics that do nothing to provide good quality information and distract from my professional presentation.

Limited use of complimentary fonts and graphics is key. Limited (almost monochromatic) color schemes, not ghastly color mixes that induce the gag reflex in normal people. Have I given you some kind of clear idea of what I think web sites should be? Hope so. And I hope I haven't offended you in the doing.

I am of the opinion (if you haven't already, go to www.corelann.com and click on the www.californiaweddingcinema.com link in the middle of the opening page) that iWeb has GREAT potential, especially what I have been able to check out in the iLife 09 series. This site was developed using iLife 06 and there's much more interaction and capabilities now, along with utilizing a MobileMe.com account. I am looking, and leaning, in this direction even though I purchased a GREAT looking template series. I simply do not have the time and money to invest in a huge learning curve for all the software it takes to implement the template series, so it was a bad investment for me. I have access to the software, but no knowledge of it yet, so...

A CLEAN and consistent page design that each web site page adheres to, one that doesn't require a bunch of scrolling down to see it all (preferably one that each page would be almost totally visible in most screen environments); a limited color, font and graphics scheme; specific landing pages for specific marketing drives and promotions, where mention on blogs, Facebook, Twitter or other social sites will bring the curious or interested to a specific, informative and easy to comprehend landing page site. This is my ambition.

Blue is cool. Red is hot. Black is classy. Brushed metals are becoming cliche. Get the picture?

Regarding research by viewing other sites. Freeze frame, generate PDF images, or make simple sketches of what really grabs your attention, what you like, and go with that at first. Check out the web sites that consistently come out on top in your various Google searches, and try to rationalize what it is about these sites that not only seem to please viewers, but also grab the attention of search engines, spiders, bots and butt heads. :-)

iWeb is totally capable of generating some seriously effective web presence. Simplicity and ease of navigation is key to making it work - visually as well as practically.

You asked about a market for real estate video production and services.

Real estate has potential, but insider strength is the best way to get something profitable working, IMHO. And yeah, I'd have to say that industrial and commercial properties is probably better suited to independent video production service provider influence than the mentality among residential property agents that "anybody with a camcorder" can produce quality video for their walk-through needs. You get what you pay for, and many believe the price of a camera is investment enough.

You asked about various and related editing software, and putting them to use.

Over the next three-four months I intend to immerse myself into the full extent and capacity of Final Cut Pro, and all associated Apple-branded software. My plan is to eventually become so proficient in FCP and related software/hardware production that I can offer editing expertise at affordable prices and with sufficient turnaround of quality editing services and product, that many will beat a path to my door for this.

I still want to shoot, develop, create, edit and all the other, but I know my run-and-gun days are going to be more difficult as time, age and wear-and-tear on my abused body grows long. But so long as I can see and hear and have the use of my fingers (or toes - I mean if a guy can play guitar with his toes...) I can sit on my posterior and edit. Right?

And, you asked my opinion regarding Snow Leopard OS for Mac.

I ordered, and have received, Snow Leopard. Before I install, however, I will make an exact copy of my current start up disk in my Mac Pro, pull it out after testing, and also the original start up disk, and I will generate a third (sorry, this is above and beyond, but I believe in backup redundancy and preventive effort) start up system disk that I will then install Snow Leopard over the existing Leopard OS.

I am reading cautionary, but mostly good things, from people who have simply jumped into the update/upgrade and all for the most part seem happy and content.

There are ALWAYS issues, and it is best to see what is being said at Apple and elsewhere regarding certain system/software and third-party issues, needs and incompatibilities, and see if any of these specifically apply to your system, then full speed ahead.

Several people on Video University and WedVidPro, as well as Facebook are claiming total contentment and satisfaction with their upgrade installations. I am not finding an abundance of horror stories. I will do it, only not tomorrow.

Nobody is perfect, nor is ANY software update, upgrade or new introduction. They all, as we humans do, have issues. Some seem insurmountable, others are mundane and relatively unimportant in the big picture. It is always a good idea to let the antsy front runners discover the problems, report them, wait for the .1 .2 or .3 or so update, but those too usually result in a whole new set of issues. I'm an early adapter rather than a wait-and-see guy generally, but only to the extent that it never entirely undermines my "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Is that a conflict? Probably.

Hope this helps. Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009 Earl Chessher

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marketing Video to Schools

September 2009 is upon us. Already students in many districts have returned to school - some love it, others hate it, but by next week all will be back in the groove. This includes administration, staff, students and parental support groups.

It also means that NOW is the time to promote your video production services to grade, middle and high schools. Google is a great place to begin your research, both for the schools located in your service area, and the names of those whom you need to reach regarding video production services that will do something for them, their special interests, or school programs.

And their students, their schools, the parents and various support groups involved. Think PTA and related associations, flag, football, band, choral, dance, drama, grad night, graduation and the many other fund-raising and organizing booster or student-body structures. These groups focus on fund-raising and other beneficial academic, sports, social and other extra-curricular activities INCLUDING VIDEO that contribute to their events, students and goals.

That being said, it is NOT too late to put together a one-page direct-mail letter, basic postcard and/or even a relative specific or general-purpose demo DVD and get these marketing tools into the hands of the people who matter at your area schools.

This is, of course, if you are interested in diversifying and/or expanding your focus beyond a singular video production interest - wedding video, for instance. Nothing wrong with, provided you are free to offer services beyond Saturdays and Sundays, or holidays, introducing your business to a highly lucrative second-tier profit structure.

• Start with a one-page letter addressed to a specific department and individual:
Patric Stwewart, activities director, Spamburger High School; Coach Ted Patterson, SHS Athletic Dept.; Ima Twitter, Drama & Dance Dept., SHS. And so forth.

• Be specific in your offer, not general: Dear Ima, My Video Company specializes in productions of high school drama, dance and choral performances of two hours or less, offering opportunities for the parent support group to raise funds, or utilizing direct sales to parents, resulting in no cost to you or the school for professional video production services.

Give them a price range, in one or two sentences outline your approach to "fund-raising" or "direct sales" opportunities. ALWAYS find a way to make it obvious what's in it for them, their benefits and opportunities.

Sure, it's all about wanting their business and making money for your production company, but find a way to make the benefits to THEM sparkle like a diamond.

• Follow up with a postcard, either one of your own creation and design using decent quality card stock and a decent quality color printer; or check out a professional service like America's Printer where you can get unbelievable service and product quality for great prices and fast turnarounds.

Tell America's Printer you got their name from this blog. It might count for nothing. They might slam the door in your face, just kidding. Or, who knows, maybe they'll toss in something extra. No guarantees, but it doesn't hurt to name drop.

There are many other professional print sources but I have had personal satisfied service and quality products from America's Printer. You can find a host of other on-line, or location print services offering competitive quality and professional product in the back of pretty much any computer, video, photography or writer's publication on the magazine racks. Or, do a Google search for postcard, brochure or promotional printing services.

Your direct-mail post card should be short and sweet. Don't cram a bunch of copy on that two-sided space with the thought you HAVE to say it all. Simple, straight and to the point. For example...

Provide your choral department, students, their friends and family with professional video production of your school year productions.

An introductory price of 20 orders @ $25 will get you professional video production and DVDs for performances of two hours or less at no further cost to you, the drama department, or your school.

Check us out as www.schooldramavideo.com (not a real URL, to my knowledge) for more information, or call today (phone number here).

• Follow the one-page direct marketing letter, and the postcard with another short and sweet cover letter accompanied by your short specific, or general interest demo DVD.

If you do not yet have school event coverage you can use for this, then skip the demo DVD until you do, or until you identify resources that will allow you to provide representative examples of the coverage and production values you are capable of giving them. Always, however, be honest and up front regarding whether the samples provided are YOURS, or "representative" of what you are capable of delivering.

DO NOT offer up a wedding demo DVD or production sample in an effort to represent your production and editing capabilities, or product quality. If the market you are approaching is not a bride-to-be, or interested in wedding video production services, they WILL NOT make the link to production quality - only the huge gap between their potential video interest and your wedding sample will stand out.

Kiss THAT one bye-bye. Next!

It is important to go beyond a one-shot approach. Multiple direct-mail tools used over a six-week, or more, period of time are effective. A one-page letter, received but perhaps not even read or kept on file, will not make for success in acquiring money-making gigs.

Repetition, visibility and linkage, name recognition are important elements of a successful and effective marketing strategy. Only a consistent presentation of video ideas and services, combined with reasonable prices and an offer they cannot refuse (a get-acquainted special, for example) will get a foot in the door. Raise your target market's awareness level, and keep it high, by using a multiple-times campaign approach. You will eventually get their attention and gain valid name recognition.

Oh, and money-making gigs as well.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! ©2009 Earl Chessher

Friday, August 07, 2009

What’s in it for ME!

What’s in it for me? People in the wedding and event industry might not come right out and say it, but this is the thought running through their collective minds whenever some video producer or photographer whom they have never before met calls them up with an invitation to lunch.

Yeah, such an approach can work. I have heard numerous people in "the business" claim that THIS is the way to start relationships with other wedding and event vendors. "Buy them lunch." "Wine and dine them." "Offer them a piece of the action." Really preposterous when you consider how blatantly obvious that is. Might as well ask: "Can I get into your pants?"

All these people KNOW what YOU want from THEM. But have you ever given serious consideration to the question they WANT to ask, and sometimes do? "What's in it for me?" Certainly not a free lunch once a month, undying friendship, constant calls, e-mails, announced or unannounced visits. Fake handshakes, smiles and personalities that the video producer tries to make real.

Let me ask YOU a question, if you dine out frequently enough. Can you tell when your server, or the greeter is seriously glad to see, seat and serve you? Are you able to see through the ones who might really try, but still come off with fake smiles, lackluster enthusiasm, over-the-top fake friendliness? Sure you are...
...most of the time anyway.

Well vendors are no different. If any of them have been in the business for very long they've been hit and bit by virtually every approach, come on, gimmick and free lunch you can imagine. They can see you coming from a mile away, and know by how you're gearing up the body language: "Ah, no, they think, another offer for free lunch, conversation requiring time I do not have or want to spend, thinking I'll throw business their way for a $15 salad."

All but most hardened of them will be turned off by your blatant effort to "get into their pants." There are a select few who will take you for all the free lunches they can get, accept all the under- (or over-) the-table kickbacks or bribes they can get, and still string you along on a one-note dance while giving you nothing in return. Well, maybe the occasional carrot.

It is going to take you a lot longer and a lot more than the time and money to provide a couple of free lunches before you will convince these people of any level of sincerity, of any degree of experience or professionalism.

So, you might ask. What CAN I do, how CAN I establish solid, fruitful, productive, reciprocal professional relationships with people in the business? How, what can I do to earn their favor, their referrals, perhaps eventually even some level of trust and friendship?

The professionals will tell you to buy lunches, press the flesh, get a foot in the door, show high quality production work commiserate with the level of the industry service with whom you are attempting to establish a relationship. They argue that once these people "really" get to know you, see you you work, view the awe-inspiring quality of your wedding video production they will WANT, even beg you to work their venue, exchange referrals, etc. because you are so good you'll make THEM look good.

Dream on.

You establish GREAT wedding and event industry service provider relationships by immediately answering the question in their minds: "What's in it for me?" You do this by giving them something personally, professionally and career-enhancing worth their while! What might that be?

Let me start by pointing out that we're all human. We all want something for nothing, or for as little effort as possible. That is why the independent professional wedding and event video services providers in this business all fight over the 22% wedge of the bridal pie that contains people "friendly" to video, who WANT video provided they can afford it, or be overwhelmed by the quality of production of the person/company offering video. Video producers battle each other over clients who WANT video instead of figuring out how to win over some of the 80% of the bridal market that really doesn't think video is all that.

The same in our approach to establishing GREAT vendor relationships. We'd all like for this to be as easy as a couple of free lunches, and of course our charismatic and glowing personalities.

Dream on.

So, you give them something of value. You're a video producer. Find out what their video related needs might be. Do they have a professionally produced and recently updated demo video? Do they need professionally produced clips of their service, business or venue for their web site? Would they like to have a quality production that can be used for handouts at the bridal shows they frequent, or business card videos they can incorporate into their direct mail marketing strategies?

Yes, those needs exist! A LOT of people in this industry have the misconception of independent professional wedding and event video services providers; that we might be accomplished, even creative and with a bragging wall full of production awards, but that when it comes to advertising and marketing video production they need a "real" professional.

While there are venues in some areas that video producers would "die for" or spend a bunch of money to be on the list (one company in New York comes to mind, spending several thousand for a place of honor on the venue's referral list) there are thousands of others that might be a bit more humble, and receptive to your video production capabilities.

These venues, services, etc. would react positively to participating in a production that they can use to promote their wedding and event business. This helps you how?

All you ask is that they accept the production upon approval of its perceived value and quality, of course; accept your promotional poster, counter display and graphically interesting DVDs and willingly and freely distribute them to their potential clients; and that they accept your wedding and event demo DVD sampler that is included on the DVD video marketing tool you have provided them.

Update these demos when you need to, or when the vendor requests it. Visit them, e-mail or call to make sure they haven't run out of DVDs, or to address problems or issues that might have come up. Convince the people with whom you have established a solid and new relationship that you are as interested in providing them with a value and service in return for their cooperation, referrals and good will as you hope they are.

Service them, but do not pester them. Show them what a REAL professional can be. The cooperative arrangement you've made by showing what is in it for them will bear fruit.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Monday, August 03, 2009

More Than A Business Card!

Business cards are certainly effective, affordable and convenient. So are brochures and fliers and posting on Twitter and Facebook about your business, services, products and successes.

But sample and demo DVDs are even better, more effective and certainly worth the time, energy and money to put together, keeping a pile of them in clam shell cases so your quality graphics show through, and being prepared at all times to hand them out just as you now do with your business cards. YOU ARE doing this with your business cards, right?

Quality DVD samples have a sustained shelf life, are easily revised in a relatively short time, and the production costs can be kept down by printing and burning them as needed. Those of you who do not have the graphics skills or printing resources can always justify the value in having a company like DiscMakers do 3-color or full-color printing on blanks for a very reasonable rate. You can keep these in stock and burn what you need as you need, knowing the graphics quality will make your demo a standout marketing tool.

Demo dvds are not like business cards, where changes in address, e-mail, web site, location, partners, etc., or those godawful untimely changes in area codes, can cost you as you dump the thousand cards you JUST had printed last week because you HAVE to update information; same for brochures and fliers. The advantage is being able to generate what you need a few at a time as needed, without breaking the bank or trying to find a place to store a thousand or more commercially created disks. Also, you can control the information, the look, the revisions, the distribution and contents without having to worry about commercial production company turnaround times, rules and/or production restrictions, over- or under-run fees, etc.

The BEST thing you can do with your free time this month is to create a broad-range demo featuring any kind of productions you have done, from weddings to graduations and celebratory parties, to birthday, anniversary or retirement and more, burn it to DVD, make a few and keep them handy. Hand them out with the same abandon you distribute your business cards. Though more expensive per handout, chances are you will be in awe of the response levels and the extended shelf life as people receiving them realize and perceive your demo is worth hanging on to or sharing with others.

Plus, demo DVDs do not become wrinkled and crinkled, accidentally washed in the machine, or tossed into wastebaskets as readily.

Demo DVD business cards in clam shell cases with quality graphics and meaningful, chaptered, selective content. Effective! Go for it! Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009 Earl Chessher

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Developing Vendor Relationships

A lot has been said about the value of developing vendor relationships. Suggestions about how to do this range from hugs and smiles to lunches and dinners, or drinks and bribes. Whatever works, right?

Here's what I am doing. I've mentioned this before on E.C. Come, E.C. Go as a marketing tool, and had at one time done so myself with some success. But it's time to do it again because folks, it WORKS!

I have been visiting area vendors, meeting the owners or managers face-to-face, and making them an offer they cannot refuse - producing a 3-to-5-minute introduction DVD of their products or services for a "free, take one" counter display at their business.

I will shoot, edit and produce the DVDs, distribute them to the participating vendors, and keep in touch with them regarding need for more, changes to content and visitor reception. Together we will discuss needs over time and take action to make this a compelling marketing tool with an extended shelf-life. Interest and curiosity by both regular and potential visiting customers and clients, as well as window shoppers will compel them to take one home.

My original thought was to be selective and get one of each wedding industry vendor to participate. Due to the response so far I have two programs in progress. I have signed up two florists, two bakeries specializing in wedding cakes, two photographers with studios, one DJ, two venues, one tux rental location and two bridal gown locations. These are located in different "zones" of my service area and it will be simple to develop a DVD for their demographic communities.

My first shoot is in two weeks for one of the florist shops. The rest are planning their content, discussing their ideas, e-mailing me with questions and concerns, and actually participating in some serious communication that is already expanding our relationships.

I will post a final report after one, or both, projects has been brought to completion, productions are packaged and on the counters at these businesses.

Yes, the DVDs ONLY feature ONE independent professional wedding and event video services provider - MY COMPANY!

Yes, I am doing this at no charge and delivering the first round of 50 DVDs to each participating business with printed graphics and using paper sleeves.

Yes, this has already developed into some interesting possibilities for other business with the services involved, as well as people they know who are looking for video production services.

Yes, it is work, and will take work and an ongoing commitment to keep it rolling. The effort can, does and will pay off in GREAT vendor relationships and contacts, referrals and other business possibilities.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Sunday, July 19, 2009

At What Price Video Excellence?

Another title for this article could be: "Quality Content & Production VS Production Time/Cost & Pricing" or "Where Do You Draw the Line" between the prices your clients pay and the quality of product they receive?

It's all relevant folks, but to take a slightly different path from those who perceive themselves as ARTISTS I have to tell you it is important to get a rein on your creative impulses and goals of perfection if you want to make money in the video production business.

People in the business with whom I share the occasional all-night phone call, barrage of back-and-forth e-mails or marathon chat discussions talk about how difficult it is to draw the line between what they've charged for a video production, what their invested time is worth, and what value the quality of their product.

The combination of business and art is a difficult one to balance. People in the video business use such terms as perfectionist, critical, picky, artist, professional, and particular when attempting to describe what drives them to put excessive hours into the editing of a video product. Many, though frustrated that they cannot balance fees VS perfection, will ignore whatever business sense or need for income they have in the often unfulfilled interest of achieving artistic perfection.

One thing I have discovered is that there comes a time when editing a video production that the work put into fine-tuning my production enters the law of diminishing returns. The perceived need for further finessing my production often provides no real or imagined discernible improvements.

There's that cliche again about perfection being a goal, not a destination.

The reality of it all is that unless and until we as combo businesspeople/artists accept that at some point we need to consider the bottom line, the stupidity of ignoring what makes money, develops cash flow, satisfies our clients and possibly generates profit in our illogical drive for perfection is overwhelming.


No amount of self-satisfaction. No degree of artistic perfection or originality. No aspect of marathon spit-and-polish is going to result in the client's uneducated expectations and perceptions of quality, a visually (to the masses) better product or, if you are not getting reimbursed for all that artistic anguish, profit.

At some point you are literally throwing away your precious, finite time - a commodity you cannot recoup or replace - for the right-brained part of you that has no interest in putting food on the table, paying bills or establishing a successful business.

Those of you who will, take a moment to assess your business goals. Do you want to become known as a master of the trade, develop a reputation of long, late or even no delivery of your "perfect" productions? Or, do you want to achieve an acceptable level of artistic quality, backed by a reputation for reasonable delivery times at affordable prices.

Do you want to adapt a no wine (or cheese) before its time, or a fresh-brewed tasty glass of iced tea? Both can be satisfying, but some people with whom we do business are not interested in waiting beyond a certain period of time unless the product truly reflects the perfection time is supposed to provide. The vast majority of clients would prefer to spend less for something acceptable, than spend more or wait longer for something that is not appreciably superior.

So, if you charge say, $500 for a wedding production. Promise and give the client something that based on the value of time spent reflects $500, not something you'd prefer to make $1,200 or $2,000 or more for due to over-investing your production hours.

If you charge $2,000 then give your client what, in your best judgment based on hours of production time two-thousand-dollars is really worth.

I am convinced that the vast majority of people in business as independent professional video services providers are putting too much time into tweaking, finessing, creating or even FIXING their productions - time, the value of which they can never hope to recoup based on the prices they charge for their services.

FORCE yourself to be more realistic regarding the work you do and the results you or your clients expect for the amount of money that has been invested toward any specific video product you offer.

Develop a specific market plan that offers specific services and video products that, as a good friend of mine in the business said, "you make painfully aware to the client at the time an agreement is signed" cannot expand beyond what has been promised if they later change their minds and want more.

Also remember: If you market, you will make it © 2009, Earl Chessher

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Business at Under 70 Cents a Gig!

Tap a demographic that is virtually guaranteed to come to you, absolutely values your video services and products, and consistently invests in video or related services! For less than 70-cents per prospect you can triple, even quadruple your response levels and bring in more business!

Whether you sell and deliver only one wedding video, give away countless highlight thank you DVDs, sell extra copies, distribute copies to the ceremony and reception venues, wedding planner, activities director, the caterer, the officiant, band, DJ, string ensemble, singers, photographers or anybody else...
...you are doing more than giving away "comp" copies in an effort to build connections with other wedding service providers. If you do not go the small additional expense to purchase double-disk capacity (thin line) cases and include one or more of your demo DVDs along with EACH AND EVERY production you deliver you are throwing away a golden opportunity!

This stands even more so for independent professional video services providers (IPVSP) who have diversified beyond the wedding market into the countless other events categories introduced over the years in E.C. Come, E.C. Go. As I have noted in previous articles here, upon starting out as an IPVSP focusing on wedding video production, I almost immediately recognized that I was limiting my income potential by holding such a narrow business focus. Now, after going full time and broadening the scope of services offered by my company, much of what I produce falls in the "work once, sell many" category. Each and every product delivered is a unique opportunity for marketing.

Keep an ongoing mailing list of all customers and clients, groups and organizations that purchase your services and video products. Keep the list current and fresh, adding notes that not only provide you with the name, address and phone numbers of previous buyers, but when they last purchased a product or service, and what it was. Also, how many years they've been coming to you, if they have recommended you to others, and it doesn't hurt to catalog special dates - anniversaries, birthdays, new arrivals, perhaps even career highlights as you become aware of them.

Keeping this level of information is important to your overall marketing strategy, but for now I will stick with getting your demo DVD into the hands of all these people.

As an independent it is difficult to be all things to your business, but if you want a guaranteed resource for re-sales, renewable business and referrals you need to keep and maintain your client base list with the understanding that every customer is MORE THAN JUST A NAME!

If you do nothing else, ALWAYS use double-disk capacity cases and ALWAYS include a copy of your most current general purpose, wedding or other special events demo DVD. Sure, it takes time, effort, money and might sound like a LOT of investment of each into what could prove wasted expense. No, not wasted!

If, however, you do not take advantage of this guaranteed HOT client list and market every time you deliver, you are throwing away a lot more than 70-cents per prospect. This is by far the cheapest renewable marketing approach you have at your disposal.

Provided your DVD graphics look professional, and are pleasing to the eye, you can almost be assured that sooner or later it will be pushed into the player and reviewed. Better yet, the shelf life will be virtually as long as that of the product you delivered because nine-out-of-ten recipients will put that demo BACK into the double-disk case. And, the client will remember where your demo DVD is, or be reminded every time the production keeping it company comes out to be seen again, and again.

Can you say that about the demos you hand out casually in paper sleeves, or direct mail to valid, but cold call, addresses? While I also believe in the direct mail approach for getting my demo DVDs into the hands of prospective clients, I realize it is never going to be as effective as putting my demos into the hands of people who already know me, my business, my services and my products. The reduced shelf life of direct mail demo DVDs means I have to repeat this often to achieve a similar level of success - at a greater, but still worthwhile, expense

I purchase and use double-disk capacity, clear thin line cases from Edgewise Media, DVD blanks from any number of direct e-mail sources including CDRDVDR Media, Ink Caddy II bulk ink refills from DenverDisc where I also originally purchased my Ink Caddy II bulk ink delivery system for about $125. I also purchased my DVD duplicator system from DenverDisc, formerly Reliant Digital.

At $60 the Ink Caddy refills provide me with approximately 11 full cartridge replacements at a significantly lower price; any duplicator will save you time - mine does; double-capacity thin line clear (or black, or white) cases run about 40-cents each; I use Taiyo Yuden blanks exclusively and occasionally get them for less than 30-cents each in bulk. DiscMakers also provides quality products though a bit more than other places, and a GREAT line of duplicators at incredibly competitive prices.

If you want to look into DVD duplicators with copy protection check out Randy McNally and American Recordable Media. Super Media Store has GREAT prices on regular DVD duplicators as well. McNally offers a 5-target dubber with copy protection and no additional fees for under $900.

This equipment and materials, along with the two-sided 98 brightness 24-lb. paper stock I purchase from Fry's Electronics or Staples, about $9 a ream (500 sheets, 8.5 x 11"), my graphics skills and continually updated demo DVDs (new demos due out soon) provide me with a fail-safe marketing approach to renewable business.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keeping Busy in a Down Economy

The California Governor is writing I.O.U.s and nobody wants to accept them, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. AIG is planning more bonuses. Cap and trade threatens a new focus on economics. A national medical plan overhaul is going nowhere fast. Radically reduced home equity and values has people looking a life on the streets. People with lots of money "on paper" are finding themselves in a reality check.

A lot is being said about the very real economic threats to small businesses and independent professional service providers. All of us who once enjoyed a modicum of prosperity are now worried that our investment in tools of the trade and education will be for naught.

One group tells us the sky is falling! Another group says everything is going to be OK. Who to believe. And, whatever you believe, what can you do about it? How will you weather the economic slump and the myriad ways government, big money and competition, or worse, pose threat to your survival?

While the wedding business as a whole is cutting way back with a return to potluck rehearsal and reception dinners, home made cakes and punch, family and friends shooting photos on some of the hundreds of consumer-owned digital cameras, even shooting video with any one or more of the countless camcorders available for a few hundred dollars, the wedding video production community continues to fight over a 20 percent, or less, wedge of the business pie.

Is there no good news in sight, or even over the horizon? Well, it's actually up to us who have established, or are trying to build up, perhaps simply maintain, a independent professional video services provider business.

Survival, even growth, perhaps prosperity are as simple as marketing. Now, more than ever it is important to realize that customers simply are not going to be calling you like they used to. My mantra, "If you market, you will make it!" © 2009, Earl Chessher, is true more today than ever, and if we in our chosen business fail to work even harder to gain market share, the sky is going to fall on top of us.

We can no longer depend on the simple routine of people searching for our services and products, or happy and content clients with a modicum of discretionary spending money telling others with a happy modicum of discretionary spending money how wonderful we are, and that they should use us. Today, more than ever, we're going to have to prove the value of our services and products, convince even the willing that they need professional video in their lives, and that what we give them in return for their hard-fought dollars is something that will hold its value for years to come.

Just know that if you do NOT market, you will NOT make it! That simple. OK, Earl, you ask, what would you suggest I do? I'm glad you asked.

1.) Go back and review my article "Your Basic Marketing Strategy" and DO IT! Now!

2.) Research the video market. Google key words for video production possibilities other than just weddings. After reading a number of the money-making ideas on E.C. Come, E.C. Go, figure out what areas are being under served in your service area and focus on them, using the basic marketing strategies listed in No. 1.

3.) Slim down and simplify your approach to production services, editing and delivery. Find ways to cut your costs without cutting the quality, and see if you can set yourself apart by offering something better and still more affordable than the competition.

4.) While you still have a dollar or two you MUST invest that into generating eyeballs, direct mail marketing strategies, and utilizing all available social web sites for the purpose of letting people know who you are, why they should care, and how to find you.

5.) Sell yourself, your services and your products like you've never tried before. Do like Jack Bauer - "Whatever it takes!" Go the extra mile. Stay up all night and deliver a day, two days, even a week earlier than usual, or promised. Accept a smaller deposit, or even establish a payment or layaway plan that the more economic strapped can handle. There's nothing better than building up a substantial cash flow operation by bringing in clients who make consistent and timely weekly or monthly payments.

6.) Take some risks. If you don't, if you persist in playing it safe, some competitor somewhere is going to stretch his or her luck and actually get lucky. If you believe in yourself, your business, your talents and skills, then gamble a bit. This is not a time for the timid, so if you fall into that category, grow some hair people.

7.) I have said this before, but it bears repeating: Dust off those demos, or take the time to "get around to doing one" NOW, and put them in the hands of people. Another slogan of mine: “Somebody somewhere celebrates something...every day!" © 2009, Earl Chessher holds true, and people might not think they can afford to have their celebrations professionally captured and produced, but you could try to convince a few of them you're worth the price.

Memories, good or bad, now more than ever are important. People are in financial holding patterns, cutting back on out-of-state, or country trips and vacations. Many are recording their own memories, using those countless digital still cameras and camcorders to preserve their moments spent on simpler outings. But that often leaves some member of the family out of the picture and brings up a selling point you can use to your own advantage.

8.) Hold off on investing in new equipment if your current tools are workable. Stay with standard definition, use cheaper lighting sources, to heck with how they look if they get the job done, and take care of your microphones, back up systems, computer or other editing systems like you have never done before. Spend the dollars necessary to keep your production arsenal maintained and in good working condition. Stretch the use of your current equipment for another year, maybe two. Sweat it out for now, making do with what you have. A house can STILL be built using a handsaw and hammer folks, now isn't the time to spend money you don't have on technology you don't really need to get work.

9.) Offer yourself to others in the business who advertise for help wanted/needed, and work for the "other person" an hour or two here and there. Essentially you are selling your time and it could very well be cheaper in the long run than what it costs you to advertise, generate and produce your own gig. Do not stay at home doing nothing when you could be working on another business person's dime. You may not have the luxury of refusing work just because it's possible a higher-paying call for a gig "could" come in.

10.) Do not sit at home and give in to a state of perpetual depression. Once it gets a hold of you, incentive drops, you lose your drive, your creative impulses take leave and you wind up sleeping in later, covers over your head, waiting until it's too late in the day to do anything to overcome your mental funk. Find a way DAILY to be productive, force yourself to be aggressive and not give in or give up.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that turning on the computer and tripping through the headlines, doing Stumbleupon, posting on Twitter and Facebook, or reading all eight pages of your web site and reading forum posts from three years back is doing something.

Understand that while it is fine to commiserate, to seek others of empathetic ear, to share laments, complaints and anger at religion, foreign entity or government, don't let that become your crutch or excuse for not doing something about the business.

If you do nothing more than one, single, isolated thing daily to sell, promote, communicate or offer your services, you will have accomplished a positive move in a direction that can keep you in business, if not flourishing, through the hard times. You have two choices in life - quit, or keep going. For those who survive and take action, quitting is not an option.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Market Those Documentaries

Everyone has a story to tell, right? Probably just about everyone of you independent professional video services providers also have a story, read "documentary" you want to tell and produce. It doesn't HAVE to be a labor of love, or just something you produce simply to get it out of your system.

You might not make a killing, create a huge following or generate a name for yourself in the documentary industry, but you can certainly earn a few extra bucks, perhaps even cover the costs of what was originally to be that out-of-pocket labor of love simply by making it available to others.

With the bountiful resources available for self-promotion, distribution, producing and delivering your documentary, there is no serious reason for considering your work a closet shelf video. The viewing public is starving for stuff, and a significant number of people "out there" will invest in a copy of your production if they know it, and you, exists.

With such a diversity of interests, with the whole wide world at your disposal, with literally billions of eyeballs scouring the web, folks doing the Stumble Upon routine, checking out DealMac, Amazon and a myriad of other resources; with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and a host of others; with the availability of hundreds of video viewing sites on the web (see "Video on the Web" May 24, 2009 - E.C. Come, E.C. Go ) you have a marvelous opportunity to produce, market and make money off your documentary video production.

People such as Jay Michael, of In the Viewfinder, are not only performing standard commercial and event video production services, but also researching, developing and producing valid documentary video and selling their work to the consumer. Like special interest videos (see the blog article "Make Money in Special Interest Video" March 28, 2009 - E.C. Come, E.C. Go ) you are developing product while also pursuing something in which you are personally interested, and willing to invest your time into creating. How rewarding!

You have invested the time, energy and money into pursuing your documtary, planning it, obtaining the content to create it, editing it, perhaps even sharing it with a few interested friends and fellow video producers. So, instead of putting that production on the shelf and occasionally pulling it out to peruse, market it! Get some income out of it. Don't expect a million seller with each and every one of your productions, but you can, over time, develop a following that will result in a lucrative, perhaps even full time, video production and marketing business.

Always remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Friday, June 26, 2009

Costing Entry Level Video Business

There is no single appropriate selection of tools of the trade to enable the enterprising video services provider to start a business. Tools run the range from free to cheap, simple to complex and affordability standards for one individual will be too high or too low for another.

Also, the perceived look of a professionally equipped independent video services provider is a subjective one. Tastes too vary for each individual wanting to start a video production business. Some will "settle" setting aside pride for practicality while others will go into hock for the latest and greatest, even purchasing equipment that may never be used on a single, solitary gig. Still, there's no single right or wrong way to enter the business of independent video production.

What I am about to propose is an equipment list and costs that, IMHO, includes the basic tools a serious independent professional video services provider will need to do a better than adequate job out the door. This list is by no means definitive - there are always incidentals, gadgets and tools that will come to mind over time, adding to the arsenal of an experienced professional.

And last, the following list could be considered, perhaps, the TOP of the low end. It is certainly not the cheapest, nor necessarily the best tool set for the money, but by and large I believe overall it is the easiest route to acquiring, editing and producing quality video product for the client.

While my approach is Apple/Mac based, there are alternate, more affordable but not necessarily more simple solutions in the PC environment, and software to boot. I remain convinced, however, that the iMac with OSX and its included DVD and video editing software is the easiest and quickest out of the box approach to editing video.

That being said...

iMac starts at $1,199 video editing and dvd creation software included in iLife

SD camcorder Canon GL2, $2,000 new; $1,500 used
HDV camcorder Canon HV30/HV40, $689 to $850 if you shop around

LitePanels Micro Light, $350, or less (or more, if you really want more light)

Rhode VideoMic shotgun, $150, or less, if you shop around

Zoom H2 digital audio recorder, $179, or less, if you shop around

Manfrotto (formerly Bogen) tripod, $105 to $500, or more, but you don't really need more. There's always Sachtler, starting at $1,400 and worth the price but way more than you need to spend for camcorder support.

Headphones - Sony MDR 7502, $50; Sony MDR 7509HD, $200; Sony MDR 7505, $85; or Audio Technica ATH-M30, $70, ATH-M50, $139.

Batteries, 3-hour bricks run $80 and up, depending on your camera. Belt batteries are OK, I've used them extensively, but they are heavy and no longer the must have option long-record-time needs.

Also, assorted miscellaneous cables for connections to/from your various digitizing, audio recording and editing components, say $150.

The above list will get you started.

You will also want a web presence of some kind. Service can run you south of $30 a month, and there many free/cheap options for developing a web site, blog or other means for advertising and marketing your video company. For a cost, you might consider utilizing iLife's iWeb software and an annual MobileMe account, $99.

Optionals include:
A brace/bracket system for the HV30/40, around $150 or so, and enabling you to attach your wireless mic, LitePanels, or other, on-camera light, and other accessories, as well as perhaps a...

Beachtek audio adapter, DXA-2s, about $180; DXA-6A, about $280

A USB mic for narrative recording in the studio, $50 and up.

An audio mixer...
Behringer, $109 and up
Mackie, $249 and up
Alesis, $299 and up
Tascam, $299 and up

Many will say a wireless mic system is NOT an option, and I do not disagree, but I included it under optional because there are elements of independent video production where you can possibly get by with the camcorder mic, or the Rhode mic mentioned above.

Wireless mic systems from Azden, Audio Technica, Shure and Sennheiser start around $250 and can go well over a thousand dollars. Many systems in the $300-$500 range are very serviceable. Do some research into frequencies as some mics on the market will soon be obsolete due to changes in frequency availability. You'll want to move above the 700+ range for sure.


Do not overlook the montage/video projection arena in providing video services. When I originally entered this market my total investment came to more than $5,000. And I still paid the investment off in less than six months after focusing on video projection services as part of my business operations.

Today, you can come well under $5K, perhaps half or less.
Projector: Epson EX50, $650

Player: WalMart cheapie, $35, or less

Powered speaker system: Samson, Fender, Bose, $700 and up; less if you purchase one of the many offerings in portable PA systems, just know that your audio quality will not be as good, nor your audio capacity/range as broad.

Da-Light projection stand, $250, or less; again you can "get by" with even a cheap wooden tv table, but I strongly suggest something sturdier and more stable - accidents happen and I swear people go blind as they come near projection equipment on stands.

The Screen Works t-stand 6x8 foot model front projection screen weighs in at $800, or less. There are many other options but The Screen Works will always be my go to company for screens of any size, shape, description or price.

Projection services = $2,435!

Another future (or sooner) acquisition will be at least a 1x3 DVD/CD duplicator, $350 or less; CD/DVD capable printer for inserts and disc graphics, $200 or less; external hard drives for project storage, often under $100, depending on capacity, and the prices continue to go down, not up, for huge storage capacity HDs.

So, to round things up and off I will use the lesser of any above pricing for totals.

Acquisition: $1,673, or less if you shop around.

Editing: iMac, $1,200, cables, etc. $150

Total = $2,873 + $30 a month for web marketing = $3,050

Optionals: (that will soon become things you can't live without) = $739

Future Business Options: Projection services = $2,435; DVD duplication, printing, project storage = $650

Final note: If you wanted, and could come up with the resources, you could spend a total of $6,874, or less if you shop around, and start up a virtually full-service video production company.

Are there other costs? Of course: business cards and other support/marketing forms; tax, business licensing, DBA, legal costs, etc. These and other elements such as various insurance premiums, maintenance, repairs, emergency purchases and more can run your expenses of entering, doing and maintaining your video business another $1,000 and probably closer to $3K.

Even so, with some investment of time, researching of instructional resources, determination and growing experience, an initial investment of under $10,000 to start a business that can become profitable in less than a year makes independent video production one of the least risky business investments available.

Even at $10K, this is 1/10th of what you would have spent 20 years ago; 1/2 of your probable investment 12 years ago; and still a significant savings over what you would have spent for the same/similar tools less than 8 years ago. Many of the old timers in this industry continue to pay on their original investment, trying to sustain a business based on equipment that is now slow and sadly antiquated.

You can come in well under my figures, but again I have to say that the easiest way to invest today and start working (making money) tomorrow would include a serious portion of the equipment listed above.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Your Basic Marketing Strategy

If you commit to the following 10 basic marketing strategies your business will grow in size, income or branding. At least one area will experience positive improvement if not all three, based on your consistent application of and dedication to the following.

1.) Mail one demo with cover letter a week of some kind to a valid home address
2.) Mail one demo with cover letter a week related to a valid business address
3.) Mail 10 direct mail letters a month to dance, martial arts, high school or other
4.) Mail one postcard a day to any good potential business, family or group source
5.) Post one business related item a day on Twitter; get an account and use it
6.) Post one business related item a day on Facebook; get a facebook account and use it
7.) Respond to all phone or e-mail inquiries within 24 hours of their receipt
8.) Stop and visit one random potential resource a month in your service area
9.) Identify and send 10 e-mails a month to any desired potential client resource
10.) Spend one-half hour a week on Google, searching for and reading something about marketing

Successful marketing relies on consistency and being persistent. Once you get into the groove all the above should not require more than an average of 15 minutes a day - less than one 8-hour working day a month.
Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's it Cost to Produce Average Wedding?

What's an average wedding video production cost?

There are certainly other, different and alternate incidental and real costs, but I break down the average cost to produce an average wedding to this = $1,709.

And that is not figuring on two operators at the event for 8 hours, only 1; also only 30 total hours editing, not a possible 40 to 50 or more in some cases.

Person hours 8 x $50 per hour = $400
Road time hrs 2 x $25 per hour = $50
Gas/car exp = $16 avg
Food = $20 avg
tape stock = $18
Editing 20 to 40 hours @ $35 per hour = $1,050 for 30 hours
Insurances = $20 avg per event, based on a $1K annual premium?
Electricity = $5 (no logic applied, arbitrary number)
Equip depreciation/wear = $25 per gig avg
DVD, ink, paper, cases = $5 per unit
Postage = $10
Web costs = $20 per gig avg est cost
Advertising = $20 per gig avg est cost
Space, office, room use = $50 per event/gig est

At $1,709 a wedding video producer would have to make $50 per hour based on an estimated 38 hours per wedding/gig to break even.

Based on $75 per hour for 38 hours, the producer would be bringing in $2,850 - a potentially feasible/reasonable price point. And a fair price to offer the potential client.

I'm not averaging this on weddings. And, I strongly suspect that there are not too many others averaging $3,000 per wedding production either.

Essentially, wedding video producers are all losing money on weddings that call for an investment of 40 plus hours and are bringing in less than $3K. Using the less is more principle it is possible to do WAY less and make something, if not actually MORE.

This makes wedding video production truly a labor of love, no pun intended. Clients often do not realize that they are getting a good value if they hire an independent professional video services provider with referrals and experience who has a $3,000 base fee for quality production work, based on the hours and REAL costs involved.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Outshining the Competition

There are six basic ways to set yourself apart from the competition. Five basic ways to establish yourself, your business and brand in a prominent position in your career as an independent professional video services provider.

1.) Price competition
2.) Price competition (not a typo, or a mistake - read on)
3.) Production value
4.) Branding
5.) Delivery
6.) Packaging and presentation

Additionally, there are four basic elements that effect a positive influence on your potential clients, referrals, past and renewable customers and the millions of eyeballs you strive to reach daily.

1.) Personality
2.) People
3.) Price
4.) Product

Additionally, there is one basic rule of thumb in successfully establishing your business, yourself and your brand.


While the captions may be similar, there's a vast difference between each. Each is also, however, directly related and intimately linked to the base concept of the other, and all are crucial to your overall success - in high times as well as periods of economic distress.


You have a unique style, a unique product, a unique personality, and a creative expression that is by and large recognizably different from, if not superior to, the works of your competition.

Therefore you charge more, expect more and receive more from your client base than the average and below independent professional video services provider. You can do this because you have taken the time to develop a unique style, a front-running, trend-setting approach that is original, unique, exceptional and readily identifiable.

Like testing dark colas - you are able to recognize the difference between Pepsi or Coke, and colas 1, 3, 5 or 7. It can be discerned. And you command a premium for your highly sought creations.

Price competition of the highest order.


You have a quality product with good-to-great audio, solid shooting, excellent coverage and professional standards that cannot be impeached. Your pricing is fair for what you deliver...
...the "meat and potatoes" if you will, of documentary style, un-embellished production work - stable, consistent color, discernible audio quality and solid coverage.

And, you are "affordable" - reasonably priced in a range that the average client can afford with a little budget bending. You do not give it away, but at the same time you are not placed in a category by the seeking public consumer that makes you a cheat.

While affordable you are not cheap by definition. You do, however, study your immediate competition and attempt to establish quality, services and pricing that under most circumstances will edge the competition out = set you and your business apart.


I only listed it twice, but there is a third and viable approach to competing by price. I know a person in the industry who refers to this category as "scum sucking bottom feeders" but that label is not necessarily accurate in the reality of things.

Some quite confidently have found an underserved market - the low/no budget client - and have honed their acquisitions and productions to a fine line, doing what is necessary and ONLY what is necessary to put out an acceptable product that is cheap, fast and good.

Along with any of the three pricing structures, early delivery will enhance the renewable business, encourage the referrals and enhance perceived value. The possible exception being, as many in the higher pricing bracket have noted, that people who pay more might actually expect, or be willing to wait longer for delivery. The concept being that of a good wine or cheese - it takes time to refine a high quality product.

In my personal opinion, many often use the above as an excuse for delaying work on a product that should and could have been finished much earlier; their way of denying a lackadaisical work ethic. True or no, the longer it takes to deliver any video product, the more opportunity for misunderstandings and hard feelings to get in the way of the results. This usually adds up to negative marketing value for you and your business.


Multiple cameras, multiple operators, multiple points-of-view (POVs), redundant audio backup and resources, consistent audio levels, color correction, white balancing, solid shooting techniques and great framing are all important ingredients of high production value.

A second tier to this is the creative content: unique angles, exceptionally intimate and poignant shots, high emotional quotient, special moves using any of a number of available camera stabilization systems at a broad range of prices and functionality.

A third tier is treatments, special effects, etc. and knowing when to use them, and when to let the visuals and audio stand on their own merits. This tier is most successful when used minimally and when the artist has practiced and studied the applications and learned how to use them to the best effect, or not.

Production value often is taken to mean an over-application of too many production elements that result in a work that is too far out there for all but the most open-minded client. Too many in our industry think with color, weird intros and exits, over-done blown-out shots, flares, and more the way early industry video producers used to fight camera shake - "strobe it!"

All too often, too many think they are fooling their clients and their contemporaries when they over-apply color, black-and-white, slow motion or other effects in an effort to cover up mistakes. They do this when back up footage, carefully acquired cutaways an B-roll footage, and solid editing capabilities would serve them better so far as creating a video representing high production value.

On the one hand the right production value will further set you apart from your competition while the wrong concept of what represents production value will also set you apart - but in a negative sense.


Set your values high. Generate visibility and linkage everywhere that identifies your product, your name, your chosen or elected image or logo. Use it in your packaging, on your stationery, your post cards and direct mail pieces, your web site.

Be consistent and persistent in presenting your brand. Continuity of use is important. This is why so many of your major brands are variations of their original visual elements - updated to keep with the the times, for sure, but retaining much of the identifiers that are so valuable to the brand now.

Rarely will a company that has maintained and sustained a long-term branding decide to can the image and start all over. The success level of this approach is low and rare. The shape of Coca-Cola's original bottle, the Pepsi symbol, AT&T's stylized globe, Nike's swish are only a few of the successful branding elements that are strongly defended by their trademark holders, and not subject to total change - the branding identity is simply too strong after so long.

So is yours, from your company name and visual identifiers, to the style and content and approach of your productions, to the packaging and labeling...
...all this identifies you, your business, your product and who you are. Think long and hard about how you want to do this and develop a linked and consistent look that covers everything you use to represent your business and product.

If you think and realize that you got is all wrong, change quick and change early, making a new marketing decision, look and name as well. I mean, there are times when you have to accept that you made a mistake, and can only hope that you haven't waited too many years and done too much work that change is going to do you more harm than good.

I wonder how soon Chevrolet made the decision to pull its Chevy Nova model from Portugal when it realized Nova in that country (pronounced no vah) means wont go?

Tie it all together, make it link visually, audibly and solidly in every facet of your business. Consistence and persistence in applying your brand will make a huge difference in setting you apart from the competition in the long haul.


It has been said that you cannot have all three - good, fast and cheap. Yes, you can. Yes, your clients can. And should. If not good, fast and cheap, at least good, fast and affordable. Or, how about GREAT, FAST and AFFORDABLE! What a concept.

Early and on-time delivery will go a long way in gaining customer endorsement, referral and renewable business. It only takes one or two times coming in past deadline to change an otherwise satisfied client into one bad-mouthing you and seeking another source for your services and product.

Even if you deliver a "great" video product, if it is six months later than promised, a year later than expected, and following upon the back of the countless excuses and broken promises along the way, you're history my friend.

Even if you have an unbeatable price, the lowest in the lower hemisphere, a give-away price, extraordinarily cheap price...
...oh, and a "great" product, late delivery and the lies that often accompany it will negate any good will or potential for client satisfaction.

Set yourself apart from many of your competitors by simply delivering as promised, or earlier than promised/expected, and doing more than was expected. Go the extra distance to establish yourself and your business and product as not only a great combination, but one that is reasonably priced AND always delivered early or on time.


These are components of branding and delivery, and also go hand-in-hand with pricing, perceived value and all the other things you do in an effort to set you, your business and products apart from the competition. Packaging and presentation, given a quality product delivered in a timely manner and provided for a fair and reasonable price, will further set you apart from the crowd.

Quality full-color, clean and creative, professional quality graphics on your inserts, DVD and CD surfaces, as well as the quality of the cases themselves, how you label and mail or hand-deliver - neat handwriting or clean and professional-looking mailing labels that carry forth your branding and company identifiers - all have to do with your image - what further sets you apart.

Don't give in to the thought among many in our industry that "less is more" when it comes to packaging and presentation. Too many are looking at ways to cut their costs and doing it "bassackward" by cheapening the looks of their final delivered product, or covering up with cheap materials.

Determine what it will cost you to deliver a professional quality package and product. If you have to job them out because you simply are not artistic or creative enough with print graphics, or do not own the equipment or possess the software knowledge to do it yourself - find out what it will cost you to outsource to a professional and factor that into your prices.

Do not cut corners with the presentation and quality of your final product if you want to successfully set yourself apart from much of the competition - people in the business who either do not know better, or couldn't care less, or are simply too lazy or cheap to make the effort.

By going this one step further in your overall business strategy and approach you will soon become recognized as a standout among your competition.

Now, the four "P's"

Personality, Price, Product and People (not in any particular order of importance) are, in my humble opinion, of absolute equal importance when it comes to having a positive influence on your potential or renewable client base.

Perhaps it actually IS impossible to win everybody's heart, or faith, or trust. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

In spite of the economy one of the three things I enjoy most on a personal level is dining out. And I have my favorites. And, among those favorites I often feel I also am a favorite of the host, owner or server(s) there. I can tell early on if the establishment's representatives are simply parroting their training by rote, or do not really "feel" the smile or warmth they try (poorly) to convey.

Likewise, I can tell if they are really sincere, truly trying, and are committed to establishing a positive relationship with me as the patron, and presenting the establishment with which they are associated in a positive manner.

Treat me good and I will leave a decent tip, smile at you when I enter and leave, tell others about my pleasant experience, or participate with affirmative remarks to web or phone "quality" surveys, and return. Do all this AND make me believe it is genuine and I will tip large, smile wide, return often and with my friends.

The same with your business. Be informative, patient, honest and sincere. Fake it (if you have to) until you get it right and can come across as Mr. or Miss Sincerity of the Year. It isn't THAT difficult folks. And openness, honesty and sincerity will go a long way to establishing the relationships with potential clients that convert them into return, referral and renewable clients - year after year.

Again, you cannot win them all. People are unique, different and often as perplexing as they can be. Go into any given business atmosphere knowing that your personality, as hard as you try and as sincere as you come across, simply will not always win them over. People react and respond to a million triggers and it only takes a second to pull the wrong one. So, get over it! And realize people are diverse and someone out there isn't going to like you for a bounty of ill-founded reasons.

Be honest about your pricing. And firm. Be firm. Sure, you can flex a bit, but knowing the value of your work, your experience and the professional quality of your talents, equipment and software, don't always drop to the lower denominator. Allow some degree of "dealing" if you are so inclined. While being compassionate and understanding about their economic woes, also define your limits early on so false expectations do not take root too soon.

Don't hem and haw around about what you will, might or will not do for a given price. Shoot straight and your successes in negotiation will rise to the top. Honesty is always the best policy. Do not make promises you cannot or do not intend to keep. Your clients will call you on it every time. Do not let them assume something. If you are aware that they may be misleading themselves, take the responsibility to steer them, and yourself, clear of that pitfall.

Show what you do. Share your product(s) and deliver what you show. Again, be honest about what they are seeing. Control the presentation, but also allow them to see enough of your honest work and creative talents that they can be comfortable and confident that you are the honest, easy-to-get-along-with, professional you represent yourself to be.

Clients get around. They see a lot of stuff, be it web clips, sample DVDs, interviews with independents or exposure to large studio environments. You might get by with the occasional misrepresentation of others' work as your own. It is wise, if you MUST show something you did not personally create or produce, that you are up front about this, noting to your potential clients that while you did not produce this element specifically, you are using it to represent that you CAN provide similar or exact work of the same creative caliber and unique quality.

You will eventually get caught out in this age of a shrinking global community and the World Wide Web.


Did I say "consistent marketing?" ALWAYS market yourself, your business and your services and products. Be relentless. Never stop talking about, showing or elaborating upon your concepts, availability, flexibility, creative drive, price, experience.

Use every possible available resource for getting the word out about what you do. Go for every eyeball you can get. Use the web, Twitter, Facebook and the host of other available social sites to full advantage. Inform, advise and advertise.

Market EVERY DAY! Don't kid yourself that calling a phone number and leaving a message, or hanging up after a busy signal is your effort for the day. KNOW that you must do something definitive, be active and engage potential clients in some manner on a daily basis or your market share will slant toward your competition.

Be consistent in your marketing efforts and you will receive consistent positive results. You will SEE the difference, and recognize it for what it is - successful marketing.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher