How to Start a Video Production Business
When You Want More
If you’re passionate about film and video and have the resume and gear to prove it, starting a video production company might be a great career move for you!
Below, we’ve done the legwork for you to provide a free guide to starting a home-based video production business today.
Not interested in starting a video production business? Visit our generic Start A Business Guide.
What Does a Video Production Business Do?
A video production business can take many forms. Local commercials, promotional videos, and wedding videos are just a few of the focuses such a business might have. But, a video production business can even make TV shows, films, or documentaries.
With your own video production business, you might write scripts, hire talent, film scenes, compile submitted audio and visual, or film events to be edited later. If your business is just you, you’ll need to think relatively small in terms of concept—it’s hard (though not impossible) to make a movie with a one-person team for obvious reasons.
Steps to Starting a Video Production Business
Create a Business Plan for Your Video Production Business
Before you get started, you’ll need an idea of what resources you’ll need—and how to monetize your business in a practical way. We’ve answered the biggest questions about clients, costs, and profits below.
Who is the target audience?
The target audience for your video production business will vary based on your niche. If you’re planning to create wedding videos, your audience will be engaged couples. If your focus is on commercials, you’ll target local businesses. If you’re planning to make documentaries, you’ll approach the idea of audience differently—you’ll need to consider who will watch your film in addition to considering what organizations or individuals want these videos created.
Because there are so many ways to approach a video production business, defining your niche is extremely important as it relates to your target audience. You might tackle multiple types of video production once your business is more established, but in the beginning, you’ll need to be focused and narrow in scope.
How do I get clients?
Your video production business will find clients through active social media channels and networking. It will also be important to have a business website that provides information about your services and acts as your portfolio. Potential clients want to see what you’re capable of and how the quality of your work stacks up next to the competition.
Exactly where you find clients will depend on exactly what type of videos you plan to create. Instagram will be your friend if you’re seeking married couples to-be, but it might not be as helpful if you’re aiming to make commercials for small local businesses. Joining your local chamber of commerce is a great way to make contacts with local businesses who might one day be your clients.
Regardless of your niche, networking will be incredibly important to find success in the video production industry. Not only does networking put you in contact with potential clients, but it helps you locate potential investors as well.
How does a video production business make money?
Your video production business will make money by producing videos for clients, and potentially through investor funding. While your business could also make money by selling films to studios or streaming services, this is unlikely when you’re first starting out. In the beginning, making money through client-funded projects is the most likely option. You might be hired to create a single video (in the case of a wedding or event), or you might be hired to produce a series of videos (several commercials for the same business, for example). Either way, you will be hired for freelance or contract work.
- Payment: Some producers require full payment upfront; others may ask for 50 percent to start and the rest upon project completion. Collect payment however works for you, but be sure to detail those expectations in the terms and conditions page on your website (for smaller projects) or in a contract (for larger workloads).
- Contracts: A contract is a good idea not only to keep payments on track, but also to decrease your liability and set reasonable expectations. Though you’ll definitely want to have the contract reviewed by an attorney (consider creating templates that you can tailor to specific projects), be sure to include information about the parties involved; scope of the work; timeline of deliverables; fees and expenses; confidentiality and ownership of work; early termination and mediation.
How much money will it take to get started?
A video production business is not a cheap endeavor to start. By the time you’re ready to start your own business, you’ll likely already have much of the necessary gear. But, if you don’t, start-up costs could be many thousands of dollars.
- Potential gear: Video production is a demanding field when it comes to equipment. While not all of the following gear and is necessary, if you want to run a professional and successful business, you need to make sure that you have the proper equipment to make it happen. You’ll likely need a tripod, lighting equipment, shotgun microphone, boom pole, wireless/lapel microphone, hard drive, laptop, audio recorder, camera lenses, and a camera shoulder mount.
- Necessary gear: Of absolute necessity is a video camera. You could easily spend $10,000 on this item, but don’t have to. The popular Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro starts at $5,595 (keep in mind that’s just for the camera body). The Panasonic HC-X1 is a decent option that comes in at just under $2,700—it doesn’t allow for interchangeable lenses, but it is ready to shoot straight out of the box. Video editing software is another must. Popular choices include Adobe Premiere Elements, which costs around $240 a year (and can be used with both Windows and Mac), and Final Cut Pro X, which costs a one-time fee of about $300 (but can only be used on Mac).
If you need specialized gear for a specific project, you might want to look into whether it’s possible to rent video gear in your region. To lower costs, consider buying used equipment—better for your pockets, better for the environment.
- Recording space: Whether you need to rent a studio will depend on your video production niche. If you’re doing a lot of audio recording, for example, you’ll need a soundproof room (or could rent a studio at an average of $100 per hour). If you’re filming a lot of commercials, you may need a blank space that can be transformed for each project. You might also film on location or rent space on a project-by-project basis.
How much do video production businesses make each year?
Video producers make an average of $57,696, according to ZipRecruiter. At the high end, producers can make close to $100,000. So, it’s safe to assume that your business could make $50,000-$100,000 a year. Ultimately, what you make is dependent on your niche market, location, experience, and ability to network.
How much should I charge?
As a freelance video producer, you can choose to charge an hourly rate, day rate, or flat rate when you take on video production clients. When determining your costs, you’ll want to consider how much money, time, and effort you’ll have to put into the project, as well as your monthly overhead costs. You’ll also want to look at what competitors are charging, and make sure your prices are comparable.
Because most projects will involve many different production elements, it may make the most sense to charge flat rates per project. Perhaps $3,000 for a three-hour wedding and 10-minute video, or $5,000 for a 30-second commercial that involves script writing and talent sourcing in addition to filming and editing.
How much time should I devote to each project?
Not all video production projects are created equal. You might be able to turn some projects over in a few weeks, and others may take a few months. The most important thing is to set realistic goals that will ensure you’re bringing in enough money each month while producing high quality content.
Select a Name for Your Video Production Business
Have a great name idea? Before you start marketing and branding your business, you’ll need to ensure your name is available. Most states prohibit or restrict businesses from adopting names that are already in use. Even if it’s legally allowed, a copycat name puts your business at risk of a lawsuit.
See if your business name is available in your state with our Free Business Name Search.
Trademarks and Domain Names
Plan to trademark your business name? You can see if the trademark is available on a website like Trademarkia. It’s also a good idea to see if the domain name is available, which you can do on websites like Network Solutions and GoDaddy. Even if you don’t plan on putting together a website right away, you can buy the domain name to make sure no one takes it in the meantime.
Choose a Business Structure
Should you form an LLC? A sole proprietorship? Your choice of business structure will affect many aspects of your business, from liability to taxes.
Sole Proprietorships & General Partnerships
If you don’t file any paperwork to legally form a different kind of business—you have a sole proprietorship or general partnership. Essentially, these are “default” business structures. A sole proprietorship has one owner, and a partnership has multiple owners.
These structures have a few initial benefits. They’re easy, fast and cheap to start and maintain. However, the limitations and risks of these business structures quickly become more apparent as your business grows. In both of these business types, you are your business, legally speaking. Your company’s legal business name is YOUR name—so you’ll need a DBA to operate under any other name. Any business debt is YOUR personal debt. If anyone sues your business, they are suing YOU personally.
LLCs & Corporations
Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are business entities formed at the state level. The entity is legally separate from its owners, meaning the owners are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. As a separate entity, the business also has multiple tax election options. For example, both LLCs and corporations can choose to be taxed as S-corps if they meet the requirements.
LLCs and corporations are not quite as simple and inexpensive as default structures. LLCs and corporations come with formal requirements like state reports. They also have more fees than default structures, such as formation and annual report fees. However, the benefits of an LLC or corporation—especially liability protection and tax flexibility—are significant.
Legally Form Your Video Production Business
If you opt for a sole proprietorship or general partnership, there’s no formal paperwork to file to legally create your entity—you just start selling your product or service. However, you will not have any liability protections or tax flexibility.
LLCs and corporations are formed by filing paperwork with a state agency, typically the Secretary of State. To start an LLC, you file articles of organization. To start a corporation, you file articles of incorporation. In most states, you can file these forms online or download a paper form from the state’s website.
Whether you’re forming an LLC or corporation, your articles will require certain basic information about your business, such as your company’s:
- business address
- registered agent and office
- business purpose
- members/managers or directors/officers’ names and addresses
- number and type of authorized shares (for stock corporations)
You’ll also need the signature of someone authorized to sign on behalf of the business, along with the state’s filing fee. Fees vary by state but are typically between $100 and $200. If you hire Northwest to form your LLC or corporation, we complete and submit your formation paperwork on your behalf for just $100 plus state fees.
Create Internal Policies and Procedures
It’s important to put your company’s internal policies and procedures in a written document, especially if you’re starting your business with others. Partnerships have partnership agreements. LLCs have operating agreements. Corporations have bylaws.
These documents look a bit different for each kind of business, but they serve the same general purpose. They ensure there’s a clear path forward for any major issue that may arise, from changes in ownership to closing the business. LLCs and corporations also typically need an operating agreement or bylaws in order to open a bank account.
Get an EIN and Register for Taxes
Nearly all LLCs and corporations will need to request a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. If you file corporate income taxes, have employees, or file certain franchise taxes, you must have an EIN. An EIN is also a common requirement for opening a business bank account. Most businesses can request an EIN by filling out the IRS’s online form.
Your EIN is for federal taxes—but you’ll likely have state and local tax obligations as well. You will most likely need to set up an account with the state’s Department of Revenue, and you may need to apply for a state tax ID or a sales tax license as well.
Learn more about how to Get an EIN for your business.
Open a Bank Account
A business bank account keeps your personal finances separate from your business finances. For LLCs and corporations, keeping separate finances is essential for maintaining liability protection. To open an account, LLCs and corporations typically need to bring to the bank a copy of their articles, their operating agreement or bylaws, and their EIN.
Obtain Required Licenses and Permits
Many businesses will need a business license to operate. Licensing information—as well as any zoning requirements or other permits—can usually be found on the city or county website.
If your home is part of a homeowner’s association, you’ll also be subject to any of their restrictions for home-based businesses. Some areas may also require home-based businesses to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (a document certifying the property owner has given the business permission to operate).
Depending on where you’re filming, you may need to acquire a permit from the overseeing city or government agency. Permits are not always required to film, but you’ll want to look into this if you’re going to be filming on public land, obstructing traffic of any kind, using a space for something other than its intended use, or if you’ll be using obtrusive equipment.
Next Steps for Your Video Production Business
After your business is up and running, there are a few additional steps you may want to take as you grow:
- Get online: With your domain name, you can create a business website. You can hire a professional or use a website-builder like Wix or WordPress. You may also want to invest in online ads through a program like Google Ads.
- Hire employees: Hiring employees requires quite a few steps. You’ll need to collect W-4s and I-9s from employees, report the new hires to the state, set up withholding, pay for unemployment insurance, distribute any required documents and notices to employees, and display wage and safety info in the workplace. Employer.gov is a good place to start, followed by your state’s tax or labor office.
- Get business insurance: While LLCs and corporations protect you from personal liability, you don’t want your business to go bankrupt in the face of an accident, injury or other disaster. At minimum, it’s a good idea to look into general liability insurance. For a video production business, general liability insurance may even be required before a landlord lets you rent out a studio and will also protect you in the case of property damage while filming on location. You’ll also want to insure your film equipment, which may fall under the commercial property insurance category.
How Do I Know if Video Production Is Right for Me?
What’s it really like to work in a video production business?
Running a video production business is a busy and creative endeavor. You will need to consistently think multiple steps ahead, and will likely juggle multiple projects at once. If you’re your only employee, you’ll need to be ready to do it all: sound editing, video editing, filming, talent sourcing, script writing, networking, marketing, and more.
Depending on your niche, you’ll also need to be ready to work odd hours and days. If you’re filming events such as weddings and festivals, for example, you’ll need to be willing to work nights and weekends. You may also need to be willing to travel (at least regionally). While this business isn’t necessarily easy or relaxed, it has the ingredients to be rewarding, innovative, and exciting.
What does it take to succeed in the world of video production?
To create a successful video production company, you need to be a go-getter who’s extremely disciplined when it comes to deadlines and production timelines. Not only do you need to be creative and talented, you need to be motivated and persistent. A video production business will require you to wear many hats until you’re able to hire employees, and even then, you’ll need to be an excellent multitasker. While a lot goes into creating a successful video production company, if you’re motivated, goal-oriented, and excited about this prospect, there’s only one thing left to say: action!
Ready to Form an LLC or Corporation?
Northwest Registered Agent is here to help with all your small business ideas and needs. Answer a few simple questions about your business, and we’ll prepare and submit your formation paperwork to the state. We also provide your new business registered agent service, free business forms and guides, and much more.