Here’s the story about how I launched my wedding videography business. I grew my now-successful business using the trial and error approach, so hopefully, by reading my story, you will learn what to do and what not to do to help fast track the growth of your business.
I was around 20 years old when I got approached to do a wedding video for the first time. A friend’s sister was getting married, and I was offered $250 to shoot her wedding video. At the time, I was shooting on my SONY VX2000, a standard definition camcorder that recorded to mini-dv tape (it’s amazing how far we’ve come).
I told the bride that I had never shot a wedding before, but she agreed that my video would be better than no video at all. The first video went fine, and I even set up a second camcorder to document the ceremony. Of course, I used no microphone and used no artificial light at that time.
I estimated that it would take me around 6 months to turn the video around since I was in college at the time, but the bride said there was no rush at all. After I shot the first wedding that summer, I ended up selling my VX2000 and unbeknownst to me, my college switched their editing bays to HD solid-state, and I now had no way to capture the footage on my DV tapes to my device.
And so, the wedding video footage sat. For three years. I was not off to a good start.
Lesson One: Don’t Procrastinate.
If I had captured the footage on my DV tapes to my editing device right after the wedding, I wouldn’t have had to wait so long to fix a problem that only became a problem with time. I ended up purchasing a used DV cam for around $60 to attempt to capture the footage, but that camera did not work.
Eventually, I paid $100 for someone else to capture the footage for me and send the files to me. I did my best to edit the shaky Standard Def footage into a beautiful video in a now full-HD world, and sheepishly delivered the wedding video to my first client.
In my defense, I never cashed the check I was given, and I lost a lot of sleep over this. Which leads me to my next lesson:
Lesson Two: Underpromise, Overdeliver
This kind of goes hand in hand with the procrastination thing. If you say it’s going to take 6 months to edit the video, do it in 3. If you promise 6 hours of coverage, stay for 8. If you promise a 5-minute highlight reel, make it 7 minutes.
If you say you’re going to do something, do it. And not only that, make sure you do a little extra. It’s the little things that you do that will make the difference and set you apart. The day of the wedding, be organized, show up early, and have a plan of action for the day. It will show.
Lesson Three: Delegate
At some point, you’ll realize that even though you enjoy shooting weddings by yourself and being the “affordable” option in your marketplace, you’ll realize that by having a ONE extra set of hands, the product you will be able to deliver to the bride will be better TEN-fold, (and you can charge accordingly).
In 2017, I changed my legal business name from Tyler Edic Wedding Videos to TEA Associates and stopped offering a one-shooter wedding package. Not only does it protect my name from someone else’s mistake or poor behavior, having a second shooter will relieve so much stress from the job day-of and in post.
EXAMPLE 1: The day of the wedding, you can stay alongside the bride during the photoshoot, while your second shooter goes to wherever the groomsmen are preparing to get coverage. Not leaving the bride’s side means not missing or worrying about missing crucial moments of the day.
EXAMPLE 2: In the editing bay, it will make events like the ceremony and reception easier to edit because you’ll be cutting between two different dynamic camera angles.
So in summary, having a second shooter is less stressful, saves you time in post-production, and allows you to charge more money. My advice is to stop shooting alone and hire a second shooter as fast as you can.
Lesson Four: Go legit.
Remember, I’m not a lawyer. You should consult legal counsel and/or a tax advisor before making business decisions, and the following section is based on my experience only.
Based on my experience, I definitely recommend getting a business license as soon as you want to take the business seriously. You can start with a DBA, or Doing-Business-As, and open a bank account in your business name. This will allow you to keep your business money and personal money separate, go through a whole tax season, and really get a better sense about how much money you make each year after factoring for taxes and expenses.
Keeping your finances separate is advantageous to the growth of your business for a number of reasons. Use company money and write off business expenses such as camera gear, gas, food and clothing. These costs are much harder to track if you don’t take the right actions up-front.
After some time, you may decide to incorporate your business into an LLC, Limited Liability Corporation, which is what I did with the TEA Associates, and acquired an EIN, Employer Identification Number, from the IRS, Internal Revenue Service. This step will further remove you and protect you from your business entity, but require you to basically file your annual taxes for yourself and your business.
Lesson Five: Always level up.
Over-delivering on your wedding videos, in addition to garnering your business referrals and positive reviews, has another huge advantage. The future-bride looking at your portfolio and considering your service is basing the amount she is willing to pay based on the quality of your work.
So, always thinking about expanding and growing the quality of your work and increasing the number of products you offer. Can’t afford the latest greatest 4K camera? Rent one. (I rented a SONY a7iii body and Ronin S gimbal for a wedding in June 2019 for $200 for 5 days). Don’t have a drone license? Find a local drone pilot to come to your wedding and get that one magical shot that will elevate your video to, literally, the next level.
Lesson Six: Don’t let your mistakes define you.
Sh*t happens. Bring extra batteries, extra SD cards, and use 2-3 audio sources if possible. If you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it and just move on. Your mistakes are only failures if you don’t use them as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Lesson Seven: The customer comes first.
This is especially important to remember as a wedding vendor. The product you are creating for your “customer” takes place on one of the most important days of their lives. Listen to the family’s input, take note of important moments and emotional connections throughout the wedding day, and approach every interaction with confidence and pride. You want to make the whole process simple, easy, and open to your customers. Last note? Weddings are hard, but they’re also a lot of fun. Enjoy yourself throughout the day and your positivity and enthusiasm will shine through your work.