Leaving Your Job to Start a Video Production Company

Don’t give up your day job! At least, not yet.

Man running a video camera


Vuk Ostojic / Getty Images

So we’ve made a decision, registered a small business, maybe gotten a tax number and cleaned off the kitchen table to get started launching your video company. Of course, the income needs to keep rolling in so hanging on to a​ day job, for now, is key. Work during the day, or when your shifts normally fall and get running that business in the off-hours. Will this be tough? Yes. If you have a partner, will they resent this? Maybe. Do you have to juggle time? Oh, yes. Is it worth it? Totally.

Don’t despair - working both gigs isn’t forever. In fact, it doesn’t need to be for very long at all.

To leave a day job to pursue the dream of running a video production company, there first needs to be some careful analysis. Most of this should have happened in the “making the decision” phase, but it’s important to look at your own cost of living when deciding on what to charge for service. Look closely at your monthly expenses, any other income you or a partner might have, and decide on a goal for your company’s income.

Will you charge hourly, or charge a project rate? What are other businesses like yours charging for service? Do your research, and be fair to yourself. You have worked hard to be good at your craft, so charge accordingly. You won’t do yourself or your clients any favors by charging too little. You’ll end up starving your company of precious cash flow and you’ll need to cram your weeks full with so much work that all of it will suffer.

The key to getting this business rolling and walking out of the corporate office for good is landing that first client. The good news is, the whole world is making a video right now. The bad news is, the whole world is making a video right now. So how do you sell potential clients on the idea of using you versus their nephew and his GoPro?

Getting Your Business Started

Create a process for walking clients through the process of buying and producing a video. Look at how larger companies do it and take a page out of their book. Prepare formal quotes properly and present your vision to clients to help them see their vision in your ideas. Invite them to participate in the production process if it’s appropriate. Create a blueprint for regular communication, and have a serious procedure for each project from which you don’t deviate. Consistency is king when it comes to landing repeat business.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk a bigger picture than what they envisioned. If they wanted a single external training video, do some research into their industry and come back with a handful of ways to add value to the single video project, and a couple of ways to think bigger. Should it be a series of training videos? Should they create internal training videos as well to bolster customer service efforts? It doesn’t take a lot of extra time to do and your clients will appreciate the extra input.

Closing Your First Deal

Now finding that first client to work with may or may not be easy. If you are a natural networker it won’t be hard. In public, when asked what it is you do, talk up your business. It doesn’t have to be schmoozy or premeditated, but having something akin to a ten-second elevator speech can help. Like public speaking, preparation is going to be key. We often start our business without stopping to remind ourselves just what it is exactly that we do. Here’s something like what you might go with, and a couple of slick ways to dodge ​curveballs:

THEM: So, what do you do?
YOU: I run a video production company in ​Toronto. What about you?​
THEM: I’m in sales (they’re always in sales) for a pharmaceutical company. So, a video company. What kind of videos do you make?
YOU: Well, we’re in a growth phase, so we’re taking on projects from a handful of verticals. We’re focusing on corporate videos, ​training content, marketing videos, medical videos, you name it. Basically anything but weddings. (if you’re quick on your feet, tailor your list of project types to the business they’re in - if it triggers a connection in their mind, you could be in luck)
THEM: Interesting. We’ve done video before, but have had mixed results. Are your videos good? (they can word this in a thousand different ways, but companies want to know if they’re going to waste their money)
YOU: We’ve done well so far. Our big focus is on not only delivering a full turnkey solution for customers because believe me - it’s way more fun dealing with a one-stop-shop - but we also give our customers an experience where they can participate in the production process to help steer the project. Whether it’s spending extra time working together in pre-production or if they’re standing on set helping call out shots, we make sure their vision is 100% realized. It’s always tough when creating something as creative - and subjective - as a video or animation (putting ideas in their head) to give somebody exactly what they’re envisioning, but by working closely with our customers they usually end up with something even better than what they had in mind.
THEM: What does a video cost these days?
YOU: It totally depends on size, scale, scope, and complexity. If you have an idea for a video, let’s grab a bite of lunch or I can pop by your office and talk it over. As a smaller company, we’re nimble enough to usually figure out a solution that matches your vision, timeline, and budget.
THEM: Sounds great. We’ll definitely talk.
YOU: Perfect. Here’s my card. The second number is my cell. We’re text-friendly, so drop me a note whenever an idea strikes you.
THEM: Great, here’s mine.
YOU: Perfect - I’ll call you Tuesday to figure something out. (give a specific time - it’ll give you your first test when it comes to dependability, and it forces them to think about their schedule and tell you whether it’s an actual possibility to speak then or not. Works as a pretty good BS detector, too)

Putting It All Together

This conversation could happen in a thousand different ways, in a million different places, but the fundamentals are always there. Casually and confidently get it out there that you do this business and do it well. Don’t belittle your business. Don’t ever give out a price for a generic video over a drink. If you get pushed on this, have a default answer in mind (“The last corporate video we did had two talking head interviews and some b-roll of their facility and operations, and it came in at around three grand”), but you're better off to save money talk for when you're discussing their project specifically.

The art of closing a sale will take you some time, but get that first video locked in and under your belt. Wrapping it up, delivering it and getting your first check as an entrepreneur will feel like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Every cent that is on that check came from your initiative. Wow!