Regularly the subject of starting a new bsuiness arises here at Creative COW. Many artists want to be in their own business but not every artist will succeed in their own business. To give yourself a chance in business, I offer the following four points of advice:
1. Don't start a business built around software/services/industry you don't thoroughly know and understand. This is a recipe for failure, or if you're lucky it will just take years to reach a baseline. Given the likelihood of a coming recession, it's not a kind market to enter without being able to compete from day one. You may want to get more industry experience if you plan to offer creative services, because this is an extremely difficult industry to survive in. In business texts, this is the first rule they tend to mention because it is one of the leading causes of business failure.
2. You need to solidify what it is your new business will offer, to whom, and how/why you are better. Write it down and read it through the eyes of a prospective customer, because if it isn't a compelling pitch you probably aren't going to win much business. The field is crowded, after all. You started out saying you would be doing stock video/photo, but then went on to talk about web design, editing etc. These could be considered complimentary services for a larger studio to offer since that company could create entire units around these services and dedicate resources toward developing out that aspect of their offering. But an individual or tiny company will have a tougher time landing business because it comes off as a "kitchen sink" approach, and people will be less likely to trust that you are good at any one thing you offer. You are not a general handyman, and that approach doesn't work too well in this industry since each discipline is so specialized and could be an entire career path on its own. A cohesive, tight core focus will also keep your sales, marketing and financial resources focused rather than spread like scattershot across a wide and competitive field of services. Believe me when I say that offering more services is not necessarily better, especially if you don't know how to do those particular services better than the next guy. Maybe consider focusing on video and editing, or just web design, but not all of the things you mentioned.
3. Go to Amazon.com and pick up a library of books on the subject. Not just "how to shoot video" type books, but books that discuss marketing, sales, general business strategy etc.. Remember, when you start a business you're no longer just a video guy, you're a businessman and you need to learn how to run a business. Think accounting, sales, marketing, business development, networking, IT, janitorial, production, billing, contract law etc.
4. Carefully consider, research and plan for things like taxes, business licenses etc. Taxes end up being the death of a lot of companies because they wait until it's too late to understand the law. Remember, as a business (whether you're planning to be a contractor OR a legit business) your tax obligation is much higher, and the laws much more complex. Did you know you have to file and pay taxes quarterly? If not, you need to spend some time looking into it or risk rounding out the year with a tax bill that swallows every penny of profit you thought you made.
Hopefully this doesn't sound too discouraging, but running a business really isn't a light-hearted affair, it isn't easy, and it requires 110% dedication to learning a lot if you want to succeed. Unfortunately, there are no forums, books or consultants that can summarize it. It takes knowing your chosen industry cold, understanding business management reasonably well and being willing to starve, work late and put it all on the line, often for years, before seeing real profit. Once you get to that point, however, it will be the most rewarding thing you've ever done, and will all seem worth it.
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