What makes this business exciting and the right business to be in at this point in time?
This is an exciting time for me to be starting up my own business as I am at the stage now where I am beginning to feel like a professional filmmaker and media practioner. Although I have been learning these skills for over five years now I am really starting to properly realise and cultivate my creative vision as a Director and cinematographer. Through working on a broad range of projects particularly at university I have also grown and gained skills in the areas of project management, producing and being a team leader which along with my placement with Coventry University’s Institute of Applied Entrepreneurship has given me a strong stand point for working as a freelancer and developing my own creative business.
With the ever-increasing rise in the number of smart phones and tablets, the world of online digital portfolios and E-Commerce is not just becoming more popular but beginning to become a necessity for many businesses and freelancers. Being a freelance media producer in the twenty first century is filled with possibilities and now is a great time to be doing this kind of work. Technology may expire and get replaced by new technology but there will always be a market for media producers to create web content.
Given the current economic climate in the UK and around the world, it can be difficult to gain a job or experience in the creative industries. I am excited however by the prospect of setting up as a freelancer, working for myself and choosing my clients.
- Business Objectives:
The short, medium and long term criteria by which you will measure your success. SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-constrained.
What do I want to get out of my business? For the meantime the answer isn’t necessarily money. I look at myself from the point of view where I am reflecting upon myself from the future. I am aware that the point in which I am walking out of university is not going to be the height of my financial or professional success and so I am allowing myself the time to grow. Attempting to start up my own production company now and working as a freelancer will probably not be the same company or business that I will be working for or running in ten years time. I am setting myself up for a lot of mistakes and space to make them in order to find out who I really am as a practioner. I suppose I would say that my immediate plans are more of a career kick-starter and a learning curve.
How will I measure my success? I got in to media production because I find it stimulating. If my only goal had been to make lots of money I would probably have gone down a different route and therefore I would say I will not necessarily measure my success financially. Of course I need to make a living but I think to me success lies in the creating of something that is enjoyable, satisfying to me and inspirational and exciting to an audience.
Realistically in the short term I would find it very rewarding to work for some clients and get some recognition for what I am doing. I want to establish myself as a media producer and so my long term goals would include earning enough money in a year to work as a soul trader, getting recommended and maybe even head hunted.
I have learned that most new business will make a loss in their first year, break even in their second year and hopefully make a profit by the time they reach their third year. I think this process is achievable but I think that being aware that this kind of work won’t start out easy is the first step in reaching my goals.
- Products and services:
What are you gong to sell and how? What are the benefits of using you over your competitors? What might stop people using you?
I am going to be selling a service rather than a product and therefore I intend to start out as a Soul Trader rather that a Limited Company. The service that I intend to sell is working through the stages of video production from pre to post production and delivering the final product to the client for their required needs.
I have some projects in mind to begin my journey as a freelancer. I am the co-founder of my production company, Creeping Sun Productions and one of my first project ideas is one called ‘Jamfact’, which is the production of music videos and musician video profiles for promotional and entertainment purposes. I also want to partake in the filming of live events, gigs and weddings and provide a simple and reliable service nationally. I want to carry on making short films to build my portfolio and showcase the level of production I am capable of in order to interest potential customers.
With the rise in the number of free online website building features such as Wix, 1&1 or moonfruit, a small business may now find it simple and effective to set up their own website without worrying about HTML code or paying for an outside contact to build their website. However building a website is not enough. You need content. I want my production company to be there to offer affordable and effective promotional videos and photography content for small local businesses.
Other production companies of a similar nature to my own with more experience and credibility may lead my customers astray. Anyone looking for a professional video to be made will likely go straight to an established production company with a good reputation. This is where I again want to clarify my intentions of using my production company as a career kick starter to gain industry experience and recognition. I have to be prepared to face competition and I believe that by working at this for a few years and stretching my business to become more mobile I will in time by a better choice for consumers. However approaching the industry now for the first time means I am full of ambition and ready to take the challenge.
Below is a business model/strategy, which I have put together for my customer and financial work flow strategy.
- The market(s) for your business:
What evidence do you have that your product/service fills a defined need?
I am aware that I have desired skills and that there is space for me to work in my chosen field. From working on projects outside of university over the past few years, almost like a part time freelancer, I have been asked on many occasions to film at certain events and produce videos to a required need. These rules don’t change after I leave university. Primary research and experience has led me to the conclusion that media content is needed everywhere, all over the media, web and television and is content that cannot be created or replicated by just anyone. The skills that I have learned at university are specialist skills, which are constantly on demand.
I have recently been in contact with some friends who are starting to produce emergency reconstruction training videos for hospitals, which are currently in high demand. I have lined up some paid work over the next few months in helping with some of these projects, which should prove to be an important networking experience along with the chance to test out my professional skills on a paid project.
- Promotion and communication:
What is your broad concept and USP? What market segments will you target and what is your strategy for reaching your target audiences? How will you protect your position?
My broad concept is exciting tailor made videos with a unique creative spin. Regarding unique selling point I intend to continue building upon my portfolio to the point where I can use it as a production template. I want my clients to be able to look at my portfolio and use it as inspiration for their own ideas, which I can then take forward, and implement. I also have my own personal music composer who can score music for all the work I produce. This will work on an experience exchange basis to begin with but I intend to pay my composer once I start making profits.
The market segments I want to aim towards are musicians, small online businesses and live events. My strategy for researching my target audiences and clients is to research in to these individual market segments to determine needs using media channels and sources of primary research.
Protecting my position may come in the form of building a rapport with clients and attempting to contract more and more work with a small client base. Straying too far from my client base early on may cloud my professional decisions and work flow. I want to become a trusted professional with a small number of clients to begin with.
What kind of business will you be? What external skills do you need to bring to your business? How will you source them?
I want to set up as a soul trader meaning I can work from home initially. My business will be flexible if I give enough time to it, client friendly as the business would not exist without clients and by designing my workflow around my clients I can please them more. I want to run a business, which actively seeks out clients by identifying what other businesses need that I can provide. With this in mind I thought about what entities some businesses may require but are unable however to provide for themselves. Most websites require artwork, photographs, logos and video in order to seem appealing to a passive or potential customer. This is where a media practioner may for example spot a freelancing opportunity.
I can identify some external skills that would be an ideal advantage to bring to my business. I would like to collaborate with a sound technician and lighting manager to help improve the quality of my work as well as have a social media team to market my business effectively. However it is extremely cost effective to set up a website and purchase a domain which can be marketed through social media sites and professional networks quite efficiently.
In order to bring new skills to my business I would say networking would be very useful and collaborating with other small production companies using ‘shooting people’ for example.
By continuing to take myself down different avenues of media production I believe I am working towards being more flexible in my skills and with my business.
- Funding and finance:
What resources do you need to start and develop your business? How will you find it? How will you manage your finances?
Considering funding I am aware that there are countless pots of money out there that are used to invest in new businesses. What I’m referring to are mainly government schemes to encourage growth within our economy. The government sets aside some of the taxpayers money to use for the encouragement of enterprise. Last year I was working with the IAE and ‘students in business’ and was entitled to some funding to help start my business and this year we had the Chancellors Fund to help with Final Projects on the degree. I want to look further in to what funding I may be able to apply for and perhaps seek help in my application. I will need some funding to start my business and some of the things available include direct grants, repayable grants, soft loans, equity finance and free or subsidised consultancy. Startup loans can also be sought from some of the banks such as NatWest, which I want to research further.
Leaving university also means leaving behind the free hire of media production equipment. To produce the kind of work that I endeavor to produce means I will need to get some startup capital. Some of the equipment I will require includes cameras, lights, microphones and editing software.
Managing my finance in the long term would ideally be taken care of by an accountant or someone capable of navigating around tax return forms. In the meantime this will have to be taken care of by myself and so remembering to keep receipts and pay the appropriate tax will take up a lot of my time.
- Risk management:
What kinds of things can go wrong with your plans? What strategies have you got to minimize or overcome those risks?
The first problem with my plan that I can visualise is not having enough business knowledge to take my plans forward. Coming from a media background, I have not been taught specifically how to run a business. However in the last few weeks I have left as a student I have arranged to meet up with my business mentor from last year at the IAE. He has been able to break down the do’s and don’ts of starting up for the first time in the past and I want to verify some things such as writing terms & conditions, when to register my business, how much money to charge and who to target.
Not getting enough work to support the business and myself is another pitfall I could fall in to. I need to keep the business active either by working on projects or marketing and advertising what I do in the right places. Spreading the word through business cards, social media and word of mouth is all part of my marketing plan.
Meticulously planning my work schedule should definitely help in avoiding taking on too much at one time. Being too ambitious with time constraints is something I’ve learned not to do as a student and the same applies outside of university. Simple things like keeping a diary or schedule to fit work in the right places will save me a lot of heartache when it comes to meeting deadlines, particularly when the business is young.
Working out payments before beginning a project is essential for getting paid right. If I am going to be my own boss then the person that pays me is m e. By working out my hourly rate as freelancer or perhaps a fixed sum depending on the project and adding expenses on top is a sure way to make sure a profit is made. Also considering payment, a terms & conditions section on my website is essential when making contracts. To ensure a payment is actually made I will need my clients to understand these set of rules and sign all relevant paperwork before a production might commence.
- Future plans:
What is the lifespan of this business? How will it grow and how will you make that happen? What is your exit strategy?
I have other passions in life. Someday I want to teach music. However I will attempt to keep this business alive as long as I feel it is still a satisfactory career choice. I do not work solely for money because job satisfaction is very important to me. However for the meantime I feel passionate and excited by the prospect of being my own boss and managing a creative business. The life span for the business may be five years or ten years.
When selling a service rather than a product my exit strategy has less to do with selling off goods and more to do with intellectual property. If I were to run a successful business for a number of years I would make sure my work is protected so that I do not lose ownership if the company were dissolved.