How to Start a Production Company

Everything you need to know about starting up and running a successful production company

If you’re looking to start your own production company, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find everything you need to know.

There is a general feeling in many walks of life that hard work pays off – and to an extent, that’s true. Many people in the video and film industry started in exactly this way: working hard to pay their way. However, although this may work for a time, it isn’t the whole story and at some point you’re going to want more. So why not assemble a crew, and establish your very own production firm?

Research & Refine your Business Idea

As with any business, before you can get started you’ll need the right tools for the job. The production industry is very competitive, with many big players vying for the top. However, if you have a talent for video production and the determination to work hard to achieve your objectives, you’re off to a good start. This section will take you through the stages of beginning and running a successful production firm.

Step-by-step

The first thing you need to consider is what you would like to do in the field of production – or more simply put, find your speciality. This is a large market with numerous subdivisions and many highly specialized firms, so finding out what you’re interested in and best at will help you narrow down the options. So, what are you most passionate about? Do you have any areas in which you excel? What kind of work have you done previously for clients and businesses in terms of production?

Answering the above questions will assist you in determining how you want your production firm to be. There are plenty of options out there, from film, industrial or commercial work, video, cartoon, screen capture, or motion graphics. Finding your niche will allow you to concentrate on a smaller portion of a large market and excel at what you do. As a result, you’ll be able to refine a certain skill set while also establishing a solid reputation.

Requirements

Now that you’ve got a broad notion of what your business will be focused on, let’s talk about equipment. What you’ll need in this respect will largely be determined by the types of clients you work with and the work you intend to do. This ranges from professional DSLR video cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, and assets to having your own studio space. All of these things are the basic necessities for any production company.

A less straightforward factor to think about is the software you may need. You’ll want a great video and photo editing application – Photoshop and Premiere Pro from Adobe are fantastic tools for such tasks – as well as 3D modeling software such as Maya, 3D Max, or Blender. Blender is a terrific free solution, and might just do the trick depending on what you want from your software choice. Maya and 3D Max are pricier options, but they offer more features and have been firm favorites on the market for many years.

Creating your Business Website

When it comes to standing out, branding is an essential tool for any company in today’s market. You’ll want a name that is both relevant and memorable, so developing a brand name with the help of our business name generator will certainly help you on your way. Afterward, you can register a domain and begin designing a logo. Having an online presence will allow you to share news, blog entries, and announcements as well as making it easier for potential clients to find you. For this reason you should include a dedicated blog page and a services page in addition to the landing page, which will highlight the most significant features of your business.

For many small businesses, the prospect of setting up a website can be daunting – after all, not everyone is tech savvy, particularly if IT isn’t your sector. However, setting up a website doesn’t need to be complicated. Many hosting companies take the needs of the average website owner into account, and have tailored their services to small businesses with limited technical knowledge. We recommend BlueHost to host your website because they offer a simple one-click WordPress installation tool, a 60 percent discount on hosting, and a free domain name.

Adding a blog to your website is also a great way to increase organic traffic and grow your business. Take a look at our complete guide on the easiest and best method to set up a WordPress blog.

Once you’ve settled on a basic layout for your site and uploaded everything you need to get started, there are plenty of useful resources you can use to monitor its performance. For example, setting up Google Search Console will allow you to view how your website ranks in Google and for which keywords. On the other side, Google Analytics will assist you in determining how visitors engage with your website. Sessions, devices, real-time traffic, and reports are just a few of the data that Analytics delivers to help you better understand your website’s visitors.

Marketing Your Business

In an industry teeming with competitors, you’ll need to stand out – and this means having a great marketing plan in place. Naturally, your main goals will be to increase traffic and gain new customers, but you’ll need to take an organized approach to this. There are various marketing methods on offer that can help you to do this.

First of all, social media is essential. Long gone are the days when these platforms were simply chatrooms for teens – today, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are extremely effective tools for increasing online traffic and gaining followers. And don’t forget to check out lesser-known platforms like Stage 32. Although not widely known outside the industry, they are dedicated to professionals in the production sector and will lead you directly to your target market.

Networking is key, and is especially critical to the success of your business in its early phases. With this in mind, you’ll need to step away from the screen and attend some local events, as there’s no replacement for meeting people in person. Try making copies of pamphlets, business cards, and other advertising material to distribute at these events.

Setting Goals and KPIs

So you’ve set up your company, gone online and networked to your heart’s content: now, what’s next? Once you’ve covered the basics, you’ll need to focus on maintaining and improving the conversion rate of visitors on your website.

Devise a strategy to do this and keep an eye on what the competition are doing. Is your website intuitive and appealing to potential customers? Are your competitors doing something you’re not? Even if things are going well, this is an ever-changing market so it’s important to stay at the top of your game.

This is where the concept of key performance indicators, or KPIs, comes in. These indicators can help you stay on track and grow steadily by determining which areas may be improved. Here are a few key performance indicators for a production company:

  • Views of a film or video
  • The budget allocated to the project
  • Rate of play
  • Engagements on Social Media
  • Rate of click-through
  • Sources of traffic
  • monitoring of web pages
  • Conversion of click-throughs
  • Watch hours
  • New viewers daily
  • View-through rate
  • Conversion of view-through.

Plan your Finances

Investing and managing your money wisely is a make-or-break factor for many small businesses, so it’s a good idea to have a plan for this as well. Another important thing to remember is to keep your personal and professional accounts and assets separate. Maintaining a clear vision of your finances at all times will help you plan and organize your expenses, and there are many tools available to help with this. A few are listed below:

  • Shoebox (the App for Receipt Management)
  • For online billing and bookkeeping use FreshBooks
  • For accounting purposes, use Wave Accounting
  • Use Expensify for expense reporting.

These apps will make it easier to keep track of your incoming and outgoing and help you plan your finances in general. Factors you’ll need to take into account include things like equipment, office space, marketing costs, travel, and employee salaries, among other things. The start-up costs of a production company can be high, and if you’re not careful, you may find there are other expenses that crop up unexpectedly. Here is a brief summary of what you need to consider.

Office Space and Office Equipment

This is an obvious, yet essential part of running your business, and one of the largest costs. Of course, the rent you’ll be paying will depend on the size of the space you’ll need, so it’s important to get this right. Is there enough space for your staff to work? How much floor space will you need for filming areas and casting rooms? Will you need additional meeting rooms with whiteboards, seats, and tables, or can you double up? Although you don’t want to end up overpaying, it’s important to be realistic about how much space you’ll need. Overall, paying rent could set you back up to $10,000, depending on where you are in the world.

Staff

Staffing also varies depending on what you’re doing, but a small company will probably need at least 5 team members to begin with – from managers to video editors and artists. But it’s not just the numbers – you’ll need to decide on the level of experience you’ll need from your employees, and therefore how much you’re willing to pay them. This will have a significant impact on your monthly payments. Assume you’ll pay a base salary of $4,000 per employee without bonuses, for a total of $20,000 each month — again, this is on average. Managers will be paid more, while office assistants will be paid less.

Computers

Hardware for production companies is expensive. You’ll need a decent computer with a high-end GPU and CPU, as well as faster SSDs and cutting-edge screens. The iMac Pro is an excellent example of a professional computer.

Digital Equipment

Now it’s time for the software, which is also expensive in digital production. The Adobe Suite, which includes Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Illustrator, will cost you at least $49 per month. An annual membership to Maya costs roughly $3,500, and 3D Max costs around $1,500. So it’ll cost you about $8,000 if you don’t need modeling software on each and every computer.

Despite the fact that these are the base prices, there are a few others to consider. They range from insurance for third-party liabilities, theft, and fire to medical-related charges for your staff and marketing costs.

There are several choices available to you if you require financial assistance. A bank loan may appear to be the most reasonable option. You can also get approved swiftly if you have an excellent business plan. However, it would help if you also thought about crowdfunding, as it’s one of the most popular ways to get funds for your startup.

Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Owning a business is both rewarding and challenging, and one of these challenges is constantly keeping up to date with the latest developments. This will not only keep you up to speed with the competition, but also give your staff the opportunity to improve and maintain their interest.

Here are a few excellent books to help you be more adventurous and in the appropriate mindset when managing your production company:

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • The Achievement Habit by Dr. Bernard Roth
  • Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris
  • Producer to Producer: A Step-By-Step Guide to Low Budgets Independent Film Production
  • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  • The Producer’s Business Handbook: The Roadmap for the Balanced Film Producer

Podcasts are also an excellent method to stay current with current events and learn new things. Here are a few that you might find useful:

  • MFCEO Project Podcast
  • No Film School
  • Filmspotting
  • Entrepreneur on Fire
  • The Gary Vee Audio Experience.

Other things to consider when starting your production company

Legal Requirements

When it comes to legal requirements, the first and most important step is to choose the right business structure to register as.

You can choose from a variety of business structures, including a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company, a partnership, and a corporation. Schedule a consultation with a specialist to get advice on the best structure for a production firm.

Accounting & Bookkeeping

Tax reporting is something vital to think about. Different taxes will apply depending on where you are. So to manage your finances and work with your books, you’ll need an accountant.

Wrapping Up

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to what you’ll need to start your business, but it is a great start. You’ll likely have your own steer about where you’re heading, but this overview should help guide you through the basic framework you’ll need to get started. As a general rule, start small and then expand to limit your risk. By balancing creative input with some savvy financial decisions, you’re much more likely to end up with a successful production firm.

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