From Corporate to Solo Videographer

After his corporate employer was acquired, his department was then downsized. Fortunately, John was already doing what he loved. Read his story about a very deliberate and methodical approach to going solo.

by John Windschitl

I really love my job. I know, it sounds trite. But it's true! Why do I love my job? Because I get to help people create memories.

No, I don't work for Disney. Two years ago I was a corporate video producer for an insurance company. I helped people script, shoot, and edit videos for training, safety, and marketing purposes. It was fun and creative. I travelled and worked with many wonderful people.

Then my employer was bought out by a larger insurance company. I got a new boss and soon realized we weren't a good match. A job transfer to a marketing department was not a great idea. The department took a hit from the budget ax about a year later. So there I was - out of work at the age of 50.

Like most unemployed, I went after another job. Like most unemployed over 50, I soon realized employers weren't going after me. The only job offers I was getting were commission-only sales jobs with a notoriously high turnover rate.

It's a small video community in Des Moines and I was able to find consistent video freelance work. With both kids through college, my wife agreed I could make it on my own. I went to a lawyer and became That Video Guy LLC. I soon realized I couldn't stay in business by just producing corporate videos. Event recording and transferring old videos to DVD are also part of my service offerings.

I have 20 years of experience as a wedding videographer. Helping young couples create memories of their wedding day is one of the most rewarding parts of my work. With the aging baby boomer generation, FMVs (family memory videos) are also in demand. In a FMV, a person talks about interesting family members and events. Music, graphics, photos, videos, and films are added to help visualize the family characters and stories. Customers tell me the FMV has great appeal for the younger video generations. One grandpa proudly told me, "The grandkids don't have time to read the family tree but they sure like watching me tell my stories on T.V.!"

But hey, back to my story. I get many clients by referral from video industry contacts and former co-workers. I'm also listed on several wedding websites. With your own company, personal networking and marketing is required. I talk to senior groups, attend bridal expos, and network through organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. Everyone I meet gets a business card. There isn't a day that goes by without another new marketing idea or strategy.

I firmly believe a college degree in the communications field, several years of professional experience, and strong people skills are needed to succeed in this business. Anyone can pick up a video camera and push the record button. But can they tell a story with video? That requires writing, editing, and blending the right elements to make everything work. It also means communicating and working with your customer and the people in your video to make it a success.

My goal is not to make the video my creative masterpiece. My goal is to make the video communicate the customer's message. This is where some video producers lose their focus. They make the video their masterpiece but it deviates from or changes the intended message. Often you succeed as a video producer by being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Technical skills and people skills are equally important when you are a one-person-band.

So, can you be happy running your own business when it's you doing everything? Definitely! Being an entrepreneur forces you to focus and prioritize. You also have to improve your time management and people skills. Do I spend as much time as I'd like producing videos? Truthfully, no. But I do enjoy the entire process of marketing, meeting a customer, producing the video, and giving that extra added value that I know will keep the customer coming back.

You can follow your passion and make a living if you remember it's a business first and a passion second. So what's a really great day for me? It's a day when I get to commit video!