How to Start a Production Company in the 2020s
Ready to go your own way? Here’s the best way to build a successful video production company in the 2020s.
For many, the best way to start out in the film and video industry isn’t to sit around and wait for a job or internship to come to you, but rather to put boots on the ground and go out there and start working for yourself. And while this might work for small projects and some mom-and-pop clients here and there, eventually you’re going to need to put together a real team, settle on a name, and open up your own production company.
Easier said than done, right? Especially in this new, modern era of video where everything is changing seemingly by the day. And while there will always be a need for a standard corporate talking-head video or an informational explainer animation, the needs of clients are shifting towards social and mobile friendly content.
So, for those looking to make the plunge and invest in themselves and their new own brand, here are 10 steps to build your own production company in the 2020s (and into the future).
1) Do Your Market Research
Starting a video production company might seem like a dive-in-head-first proposition, but you absolutely must do your research beforehand. If you look across the industry, you’ll see that many small video production companies actually (and wisely) focus on more specific needs rather than operating as a catch-all “video production company.” What are your skills, preferences, and — most importantly — what are potential clients in your area looking for?
For the 2020s, many clients are looking away from “video production companies” in favor of more holistic advertising, web design, and SEO companies that include video as part of their multi-platform marketing efforts. Talk to potential clients early, network with others, and search around online into what other companies are offering and how they’re offering it.
2) Create a Business Plan
From there, it’s helpful to put your plan down on paper. It’s always been good practice, but in the 2020s having a solid business plan is crucial. not just to keep your structure and numbers all nice and together, but also to show to any potential investors, advisors or even clients in the early days. If people are going to put their trust in you and your company in any capacity, they’re going to want to see proof that you’ve done the work and have a plan that makes sense. Plain and simple.
3) Put Together Your Team
While not a necessity that you have partners or a team when you’re just starting off (because you can be a business even as a sole proprietor – more on that below), I gotta admit that working with friends is always better than working alone. Plus, there are going to be very few projects that you’re not going to need at least a few people to help out on. The question becomes are those freelancers that you hire to help, or are they business partners or employees.
All these questions will be up to you to match against your business plan and finances, but know as you’re building your team that it’s always important to surround yourself with people you respect, trust and can count on as you’ll be putting your financial livelihood in their hands as much as they are in yours.
4) Decide What Type of Company You’ll Be (LLC)
Furthermore, when deciding on what type of company you should be, you have some important decisions into how you’ll classify yourself in regards to your structure and taxes. Here are your options with some links for more information.
Sole Proprietorship: “A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual with no distinction between the business and you, the owner.”
LLC (Limited Liability Company): “A limited liability company is a hybrid type of legal structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership. The “owners” of an LLC are referred to as “members.” Depending on the state, the members can consist of a single individual (one owner), two or more individuals, corporations or other LLCs.”
Cooperative: “A cooperative is a business or organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Profits and earnings generated by the cooperative are distributed among the members, also known as user-owners.”
C Corp (Corporation): “A corporation (sometimes referred to as a C corporation) is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders. This means that the corporation itself, not the shareholders that own it, is held legally liable for the actions and debts the business incurs.”
S Corp (Corporation): “An S corporation (sometimes referred to as an S Corp) is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election. An eligible domestic corporation can avoid double taxation (once to the corporation and again to the shareholders) by electing to be treated as an S corporation.”
Partnership: “A partnership is a single business where two or more people share ownership. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business, including money, property, labor or skill. In return, each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business.”
5) Find Your Niche
Another avenue that many video production companies are taking in the 2020s and looking into the next decade is to find a solid niche to exist in and to push it hard. For example, if you’ve worked a lot in documentary filmmaking you might consider branding your company as a documentary-focused production company. But further than that, you can push your documentary expertise as a selling point as a niche-expert in branded documentary content, a new style of videos that have been becoming more popular with clients here in the past few years.
Whatever niche you might decide, it’ll be important to focus in on your target audience early on, often in everything from your company name, to its branding, to how you set up your clients and teams.
6) Choose a Solid (and Searchable) Name
As far as choosing a name goes, the world is really your oyster. Be creative and have fun with it, but do know that there are at least a few rules and guidelines. First, and most obviously, you have to find a new and unique name that hasn’t been used before or violates any copyrights. To best check your ideas to make sure they’re legal you can use the National Business Register here (you can also check domains, LLCs and trade marks there as well).
Your other goal for creating a production company in the 2020s is to choose a name that is simple and searchable as that will be a huge part of your success and findability moving forward. A good search-friendly name is short, simple and ideally reflects a keyword that clients would be looking for anyways. You can also consider using the name of your city or region if you’re looking to focus local so that your company pops up for relevant searches for your area.
7) Create Your Website and Online Presence
Another huge part of a video production company’s success in the 2020s is to have a solid website and a strong online presence. Luckily, in the 2020s this is also quite achievable thanks to some great breakthroughs in web services. Check out Wix or SquareSpace for some simple, yet dynamic, web designs which are easy to use and highly customizable. Or if you know a bit more about web design using a platform like WordPress can be even more sophisticated.
For your online audience, it’ll take a bit of work to build up and keep active, but having a strong online presence on at least the following will help tremendously: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram. You don’t need to spend all day on them (unless you can have a dedicated social media manager), but updating them weekly (if not daily) with your latest works, company updates and commentary on industry trends should keep you in front of clients new and old.
8) Find a CPA and Set Up Your Bookkeeping
Also, before you finalize any filings, hirings or client contracts, please take my advice and talk to a CPA or lawyer / legal advisor to make sure everything is properly squared away. I know many small businesses are running off the cuff in the beginning and think they’ll just “figure it out later”, but that attitude can put you in big trouble down the line. A CPA will help you set up your own financial records and bookkeeping so you can ideally account for every cent in and every cent out. This will make it immensely easier when it comes time to do things like file your taxes, take out loans, pay your employees/contractors and send your client invoices later.
9) Build Up Your Client Network
The most important step of the process for, you know, actually making money with your new production company is going to be finding clients! You can read up much more on some tricks and techniques for landing new clients here, but rest assured it comes from steady networking and – most importantly – delivering solid work. Once you have those very first clients though, you want to leverage them early and often as they’ll be your best allies in building up your client network – which is what you’re really after.
10) Focus on the Future and Beyond
Finally, for a video production company starting and looking for success in the 2020s and beyond, we are all in the same boat as we’re watching the industry shift in bold new ways. Just twenty, thirty years ago video production companies were shooting analogue tape and working heavy in video-post and transfer. Now the future is looking towards smaller digital productions, social media content and perhaps an eventual shift predominantly mobile.
To really stay ahead, it’s best to keep your eye on all manner of future technology and industry trends and be ready to make the changes needed to shift towards the future. Otherwise, you might just be left behind.
For more video production tips, tricks and advice, check out some more articles below:
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