Adding New Services In A Shrinking Economy

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When the economy tanked in late 2008, I was forced to look at my business and figure out how to best combat the severe downturn in revenue. We have primarily offered post production services since opening in 2004, but what happens when there’s not enough post work to keep the rooms busy? Aside from the obvious solution of trying to increase the client base, there is also the option of adding other services so that you get a bigger piece of the overall project pie. Think of it like being in the stock market. All of my “stock” has been invested in doing post work. That’s great during the good times, but being more diversified will help when things are slow.

So throughout 2009 we’ve added a few new services to help us retain a larger chunk of every project we do.

Production

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The first thing added was production services by way of purchasing a Sony EX-1 camera package and lighting kit. This helped by landing a few new jobs that we would have normally only done the post on, but we now had the whole job start to finish. What made this possible was having an editor on staff that is also a great videographer with years of experience shooting. It was a natural addition, and the camera package has already paid for itself.

Motion Graphics

Next we decided to raise the bar on the kinds of graphics that we can offer. Most editors can create graphics using Motion, AE or the like, but I’m not sure I would call all of these editors Motion Graphics Artists. I know many great editors that are not very good at the graphic side of things. Our goal was to bring some of the work back in house that has typically been farmed out.The first step toward this goal was to block out time to focus on new training, tutorials and some very specific goals/milestones.

One of the big challenges for any editor today is the expectation that you need to learn MANY things, not just editing. As a result,  focus can be a bit scattershot  when you’re trying to build a skill. You may spend time in AE one day, Flash another and Photoshop the next, and  no single area shows any significant benefit.

To help remedy this, I officially declared 2009 “The Year of AfterEffects” and asked that any and all tutorials being done on company time be focused on AfterEffects and only AfterEffects. Period. The results were immediately evident in the work being done, and clients noticed. Within a few months we took on 2 new jobs in house that we would have previously lost to an outside artist.

3D Graphics

Building on that, we decided to start down the road of offering 3D Graphics. This is not as easy as sharpening your AE skills, since the learning curve and time investment can be quite large. But nonetheless we spent the last year training a staff member on 3D. While he’s not quite far enough along to do paying jobs, he’s getting closer every week now. He’s also done a great job on some internal projects and has really impressed me with the speed at which he has picked things up. I have some 3D experience in my past (dating back to the golden days of Electric Image) so I know what a challenge it can be. My estimate is that this effort will start to pay dividends later this year and be in full swing in 2011.

Live Production Services

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Finally, starting this year we now offer Live Netcasting of corporate events, conventions and the like. This is a natural fit into our already popular travel editing packages. For example, this week I’m in Nashville to do onsite editing for the IGA 2010 Global Rally. It’s the usual job with events being shot, edited and played back onsite. But in addition, we are going to be live streaming the awards night banquet live to the web as it happens. This will allow people around the world who were unable to attend the conference to tune into it and even chat about it as it happens via live chat. The client can choose to charge for this access or to make it free to the viewer.

What makes this attractive to the client is that we offer it as a total turnkey solution. We bring all of the Netcast cameras and studio gear needed to  do a live switch with multiple cameras,  roll in pieces and lower thirds, and send it up to the web in high quality, even HD. We provide the hosting, web page design, and if needed handle the sales and access to the broadcast.  The added benefit is that sometimes there will be extra editing needed before the event to create extra roll in pieces or graphics as part of the show.

So this will be a very busy week for me, having both on-site editing and on-stie production of the net event. The schedule worked out that I could do both, but in most cases I would have somebody dedicated to take care of the netcast alone.

BTS Production Photography

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One other thing that I started to offer clients, more out of my personal interest than for the sake of increased revenue, is doing production stills on jobs. This is a pretty easy up sell when I’m already on the job to edit. For example, this summer I’m booked to do a editing job in Sydney Australia. The client on that job asked if I could come out a few days early and take some production stills for a shoot that she’s doing in New Zealand. So I get to travel out a few days early and provide her with some great behind the scenes photos that she can use to update her professional blog as well as her website. And for me I’ll get some extra travel to a great location and have fun taking the photos.

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If you find that you don’t have enough post work to keep yourself or your staff busy, it may be time to take a look at what other offerings you might be able to present to your clients. Ask yourself what else you might be good at, or what else you’re interested in doing. Do you have a passion that is untapped?  I would not recommend offering a service that you’re not interested in or not  very good at.  That would do nothing but hurt you in the long run and possibly degrade a good relationship. But most of us have diverse interests and skills, and could probably find at least one other thing that we would enjoy doing (and enjoy billing for).

Take the time to evaluate your interest and skills, and you may find a new revenue stream for yourself or your company.

3 thoughts on “Adding New Services In A Shrinking Economy

  1. Tom,

    I have been following your blog and I am inspired by your honesty and transparency. In this industry you need to be a jack-of-all trades and a master of a few. I struggle all the time of doing too many things and not really being really good in one thing, but I do get business in Web design, video production and media consulting.

    Keep up the good work, and keep your editing as the main thing, but the key is to make revenue and to love what you do. I am fortunate to love what I do and make a decent living.

    Cheers,

    Chip
    http://www.absolutpresence.com

  2. Great Advice! This is something I'm quickly learning in my transition to freelance editing. There are so many jobs I've come across that require complete concept-to-delivery services, services that you may not necessarily want to do, but need to do in order to better serve your clients.
    Live events, still photography, and motion graphics are all services I've begun pitching to prospective clients.

    ~Mike
    http://www.langetv.com/blog

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