Before Getting Started…
As with other money making ideas involving photography or videography, there is an upfront equipment cost involved. The first thing you’ll need to start videoing weddings (besides a wedding) is high quality equipment. No, this does not mean that you’ll have to sell that Betamax camcorder you bought in the 80’s, but it does mean that, in order to be taken seriously, you will need to invest in semi-professional gear. In addition to a camera—and ideally you will have more than one—you will need a tripod, preferably of the fluid head variety, an audio mixer, and a diverse collection of microphones, including a remote system. How much you choose to spend on your equipment, and how many accessories you choose to purchase (such as a Steadicam support system, crane, or a track and dolly system) will largely determine the price of your wedding packages.
A smart business practice would be to offer several different packages, which vary by what equipment will be used in at the ceremony, how much of the ceremony will be filmed, and how much footage will be shot. For example, a three camera set-up with full cinematic capability, including Steadicam, crane, and dolly, could fall in the $5,000 to $7,000 price range, where as a more average, two camera set-up with Steadicam shots only could represent an attractive and affordable middle package, priced between $2,000 and $4,000. Altogether, the initial investment is daunting, but can be paid off quickly if you are committed to making contacts and looking for work.
If you have doubts about purchasing an entire crew’s worth of equipment, whether because you aren’t sure of your own capability as a videographer or because it just isn’t financially viable, a safe alternative that would prevent you from falling into debt, and would also provide you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the equipment if you aren’t already is to rent. Search your area for local audio/video rental shops, and experiment until you are comfortable.
Building a Customer Base…
Whether you have owned your own equipment for years, or have never picked up a camera before in your life (and especially if in the latter case) you will probably have to offer your first project as a videographer for free. Unless you are an experienced videographer transitioning from another kind of event, it is unlikely that a client will trust your skills without at least a demo reel to show them. One option to circumnavigate this is to offer a family member or friend who is soon to be married your services. This is how a lot of other businesses in this industry — ex. wedding planners — get started. It will give you an opportunity to prove yourself and to put together a portfolio of your video work, which you can showcase to other potential clients. More importantly, however, once you film one wedding, you can begin working on client referrals.
While there are many kinds of events people want (and generally will pay to have) recorded, weddings may be the best, firmest ground on which to build a steady business. People have always, and will always be getting married. Budding wedding videographers have the advantage of that wide and regular pool of clients when first starting out, where other small business owners may have to first do thorough market research to find their target clients. But make no mistake, just because the work is there doesn’t mean that it will drop itself at your feet wrapped in blue ribbon. As with most money making ideas, especially in the entertainment industry, work comes primarily on the basis of referral. In other words, if you want to work, you have to market yourself and your product.
Fortunately, this does not entail extensive—or expensive—advertising technique. Rather, the most powerful, cost-effective method of spreading the word about your services is by word-of-mouth. Client referral is a very powerful form of marketing, because it allows your service to speak for itself from the mouths of those who have already been impressed by you. Invest some time and energy into developing a strategy that will inflate your referral rate and get your name into more people’s doors. Platforms like social networking sites are a perfect place to start building and maintaining a client base, and, again, will save you and your business money in the end.
Client testimonies also serve an expanding wedding video business as well. At the end of every contract with your clients, ask them to respond to a feedback form that you have drafted, and incorporate their reviews in any material you use to market yourself—website, flyers, brochures, newspaper ads, etc.
Pricing Your Services…
One of the most difficult parts of running your own wedding video business will be finding the right price point for your service. Remember that you are sacrificing one or both days of your weekend in order to make a profit, not just to pay for any equipment you’ve invested in or need to maintain and repair. There is no exact science to calculate what you should be charging, but in general, you should aim to make at least a 10% return annual return on your investment. Furthermore, remember that you are in fact running a business, and as such, are eligible for a handful of tax deductions that you can and should claim to absorb some of the cost.
This guide is nowhere near comprehensive, but should serve as a starting point for you if you have an interest in video that you would like to develop into a revenue-generating business. The most important thing to do in the beginning of your pursuit is to simply practice shooting. Shoot everything. Sharpen your eye for composition, train your hands to respond to the activity around you while behind the camera. Nothing is scripted at a wedding, so when Uncle Earle spills his glass of wine on a bride’s maid’s dress, or when a nephew demands a dance with the bride, you have to be ready to capture it. You’ve got enough information to start your business—the slate is set, now get shooting!