Launching Your Video Business: Branding

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Everyone wants to get into video. It’s the most-shared form of communication on the internet. It’s a great way to deliver messages with impact. And it seems easy–you can shoot it with your phone! But launching a video production enterprise–whether a one-woman-band or a fully staffed shop–can be daunting. There’s much to consider: legal form, liability insurance, what gear to buy and where to store it, how to acquire and service clients, and how to yourself and what you do. In this article, I’ll tackle one element of video business ownership that often eludes those of us busy with creative work: branding.

Defining Your Brand

I live in Washington, DC, where you can’t attend any event without someone asking “What do you do?” It’s easy to fall into the trap of exactly responding to this ask. Telling the WHAT of your work. But whenever I’m at a networking event, I try to practice defining my WHY, which is the essence of any brand. So I say, “I’m a filmmaker. I make short films about important issues that make people cry and write big checks.” If people are still interested, then I continue “And I consult and teach workshops because I love to help others tell a better video story.” Sure, the WHAT is in there. What people remember is the WHY.  I always love this Simon Sinek Ted Talk that speaks about the importance of Why for leadership, and I think it translates directly into branding.

Your Brand Promise

No, this isn’t a tag line. It’s what kind of experience you deliver every time, to every client, on every project. It’s the HOW of what you do. And it should be integrated into every platform you use to promote yourself, including when you speak to people about your work (the famous “elevator pitch”).  How do you deliver your services? Are you lightning fast because you have all the latest integrated cloud-based systems and can easily work across continents with integrated teams? Are you a boutique shop that delivers personalized, customized work that focuses on one-on-one client relationships? Whatever it is you do, you need to explain HOW you do it, and what sets you apart from everyone else in the field (which is a lot of us!).

Your Brand Across Platforms

When launching a business, you may be focused on getting those first clients in the door, and maybe setting up your website. But be sure you are present across a couple of social media platforms. If you are targeting tech industries, Twitter is still the place to be. If you want to show off your creative chops, it’s Instagram. For the widest possible consumer reach, Facebook is still idea. And if you want to promote yourself as a professional, and make contacts across industry sectors (and be able to search for new clients among your connections), then LinkedIn is your platform. Tik Tok is making a fast break, but I wouldn’t put all my eggs in that basket in terms of personal branding and marketing.

You will also need a portfolio page where you can direct prospective clients. This can be a page integrated into your website on a platform like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress, or it could be a separate link to your Vimeo or YouTube pages. And don’t forget the most important brand-messaging platform of all: your email address and signature line! I’m amazed at how many people overlook the value of the email signature as a place to tout your website, offer links to new work or special events, or simply include a tag line. Remember that your emails can and will be shared and forwarded, so they are an optimal way to promote your brand–for free!

For more information, try LinkedIn Learning including my new course “Running a Video Production Business”.

 

How to Set Your Rates for Creatives

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As a creative freelancer, one of our toughest challenges is how to set rates. Here are four ways to set your pricing. You can use a combination of these approaches, and sometimes may need to make adjustments depending on your career goals or the needs of a specific project.

  1. Market-Based Pricing – Market-based pricing is generally driven by two key factors: the number of vendors available (supply) and the amount of work (demand). But there are other variables at play. For example, if there are union rates for this job or service in your area, that may affect the typical rate charged–it usually improves it. Or, there may be pressures on the market, such as seasonal demands. Becoming an active member of a local association or meetup group — in my area of Washington, D.C., TIVA and Women in Film & Video , in NY and LA the Blue Collar Post Collective (BCPC)— is a great way to develop friendships with colleagues and learn about trends in your market. The BCPC conducts an annual rate survey which is a great tool for our industry.
  2. Value-Based Pricing – Using this model, the price of your services are driven by the value the customer puts on your work. For those with more experience in a particular subject matter or style of content, value-based pricing can work well. Value-pricing also works if a client really wants a particular team in place for a project and you have the track record to deliver what they need.
  3. “I Need This Job” Pricing – Of course there are stages of every career where you accept a rate lower than you might otherwise because you are trying to gain experience, try your hand at a new skill or tool, or secure work in a down market.  I would just warn that you don’t want to do this very often, or you are likely to get stuck at the lowest rates (and bring everyone else down with you.)
  4. Salary-Based Pricing – Wait, we’re talking about freelancers, right? So why would the term “salary” apply? Well, you may want to set your day rate by determining the amount of money you’d like to (or need to) make divided by how many days you are likely to work. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a good way to see if you are going to make your financial goals. If not, you either need to raise rates, work more hours, or perhaps garner more skills that prospective clients want.

 

These are excerpts from an upcoming Lynda.com course of mine on Freelance Work Strategies for Video Producers and Motion Graphics Designers. Let me know if there are topics you’d like to see addressed!

 

Branding for Freelance Creatives

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Good communication is a top soft skill that can set you apart in a crowded field, and something I look for when hiring a DOP.

Everyone loves to talk about branding. But how do you brand yourself when you are self-employed?  There are a few strategies I’ve used over my years in the video production business that you might find helpful.  I’ll be incorporating these into a new Lynda.com course this year on being a successful creative freelancer. Let me know any specific branding questions you have, as I’d love to incorporate them into the course.

Why You Think People Hire You

Most freelancers promote themselves with the skills they think people are looking for. Their websites show software or tools mastered, areas of expertise, lists of equipment.  That’s fine. But did you know that your expertise is only a small part of why people hire you?  If I want to incorporate a fantastic animation sequence in my next video, I can choose from literally thousands of freelance designers working with all the latest software. What I need in addition to those skills and tools is someone who is a problem-solver, easy to work with, and a good communicator, as we are likely to have a lot of back and forth during the storyboard process.   If you are that person, then your portfolio page needs to communicate to prospective clients more than simply the last projects you worked on. They need to understand HOW you accomplished the work to be sure you’re a good fit for their new project.

Why People Actually Hire You

Soft skills is what we’re talking about here. So how do you incorporate “soft skills” into your branding? References from past clients are helpful–and guide them to talk about your “HOW” skills. Also be sure to describe the personal attributes and abilities that make you good at what you do. These might include your positive attitude, your communications skills, your ability to work with challenging personalities, or your ability to lead a team.  Case studies are another great way to explain the problem or creative issue was that you were presented with, and how you solved it for a client. Be sure to include soft skills in your resume along with lists of hard skills and gear. Also put them on your LinkedIn page and website. These are part of your unique brand value, and that’s what you need to be promoting!