How to Start a Production Company
Building a production company from the ground-up is an achievable goal. Here are 5 tips to help you start your own production company.
Is running your own production company your dream job? With some clear guidelines, set goals, and a lot of hard work, you can be the owner of your own successful media business. Here are 5 tips for getting your own production company off the ground:
1. Networking is Key
Don’t be afraid to come in at the ground level with the eventual goal of starting your own business working your way up within the industry. Jobs assisting already-established production companies can lead to future work in your field, and eventually, clients of your own.
The importance of networking cannot be overemphasized. Every contact may be a lead for a potential job. Consider everyone you went to school with, every prior employer, and every person you meet as you begin in the business; all may be considered network contacts who can help as you build your company. Maximizing the number of your potential leads and industry contacts helps you secure future work. Sometimes it comes down to a numbers game, so spread that net wide.
Consider joining an industry group to get together with like-minded peers. The goal of such a group is to meet and share contacts. Later, as you get more work and gain traction in the field, you can use this group as a sounding board for your own projects and serve as a resource for others. Exchanging information can lead to business referrals.
2. Set Clear Goals
Setting goals is a lot of just knowing who you are and moving forward with confidence. As you navigate your career keep in mind what you’re good at and how you want to spend your time. Use the answers to shape your business goals and future aspirations.
Don’t feel as though you need to accept every potential job offer or project which comes your way if the work isn’t supportive of your long-term future goals. However, finances can be a consideration. In that case, strike the balance of graciously accepting work that might forward your career in mysterious ways down the road, but don’t get too caught up in chasing money at the expense of your goals. Aim to accept work that lines up with your personal values and motivations.
3. Know What Your Upfront Costs Are Going to Be
Be prepared to shoulder some up-front business costs as you set up your company, and set a budget to cover these expenses. A loan can help you fund your start-up and assist with these initial business expenses and others as they arise.
The first large cost will be a fee to incorporate, and deciding how to register your business will be one of your first tasks as an entrepreneur. A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a corporate structure where the members of a company cannot be held personally liable for the company’s debts. An S Corporation (S Corp) is a type of corporation created through an IRS tax election; this set-up avoids double taxation (once to the corporation and again to the shareholders).
Both an LLC and an S Corp require fees to file Articles of Incorporation. If you elect to create an LLC in New York, Arizona, Pennsylvania, or Nebraska, you’ll also need to pay for publication or notice requirements.
Insurance will be your second big expense. Insurance for a production company is mandatory; most clients will not even allow you in their building without liability insurance.
The third big expense will be the cost of equipment. It’s not necessary to have your own equipment package to start a company or to start working as a freelance cinematographer. Equipment may be rented, and the rental costs can then be included in your rate. Renting equipment is an especially attractive option in the beginning when starting out in the field.
4. Invest in the Right Tools for Your Business
If you’ve never run a business before, the day-to-day business operations can seem daunting. Luckily, there are a plethora of business tools to help small companies run smoothly. Invest in the tools which will help further your business goals.
Even challenging tasks like invoicing now have tools specifically designed to help small businesses. A tool like Fresh Books keeps track of all your reports, which you can send directly to an accountant at the end of the year.
Talk to people who have done what you’re looking to achieve, and ask what tools they use. Plenty of people like to help out those getting starting in their field. Time to tap that broad network of people you’ve been building for some ideas.
5. Set a Rate You’ll Be Happy With in Two Years
When you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to undercut your rate and price yourself very cheaply. However, after you’ve gained some experience, it’s likely you’ll want to start charging more and clients you’ve already set your rate with will expect that your rate will stay the same. Setting your rate for a two-year projection gives your business room to grow while allowing you to build financial security for your business.
What if someone can’t pay your rate? Offer a discount. If a certain client can’t pay your quoted fee, then you can tell them you’re happy to work with them, depending on what their budget is. When you invoice them, include your normal fees, but then note whatever discount you gave them. That way they’ll understand they’re receiving your services at an excellent value and be more likely to work with you again, or refer you other leads. That said, if you can’t or don’t want to work at a reduced rate, then don’t. Don’t be timid about asserting your worth.
The most important thing to remember when starting your production company is to have fun! When work is your passion, it never really feels like work. Following your passion and growing a successful business at the same time is a real win-win.