Ed. note: The following is a first-person account from the owner of a small business.
Like many small business ventures, mine started with a simple premise: Everybody has a story. But it takes a pro to help tell it in a compelling manner. With this idea in mind, I launched a business producing video biographies and family history documentaries.
Before founding Timeless Legacy Video, I spent more than ten years as an on-air television reporter and a celebrity interview producer. I loved the work but found the unpredictable hours difficult to balance once I entered motherhood. Although running my own business entails more work hours, I can dictate my schedule.
Over the past two years, I’ve experienced successes and challenges. I’ve had to garner publicity on a shoestring advertising budget and learn to prioritize an infinite task list. Most recently, I radically adjusted my business model, adding a range of estate planning tools to meet swelling demand.
When you’re starting a small business, you can’t afford to hire a full staff so you pay for some help, barter for other services and call in favors when necessary. The first thing I needed was a brochure and a web site. As a professional journalist, I was able to write all the copy myself but I hired a graphic artist to design the brochure. Several family members provided copy editing, web site production, and legal work gratis.
Beyond word of mouth, it’s been tough figuring out how best to spend my small marketing budget. I spent about $500 on a targeted direct mail campaign, which did not turn up a single prospect. After posting on some "mommy" blogs, I got tons of calls and emails from enthusiastic mothers but many had unrealistic notions of the cost of such an undertaking.
Pricing has been a challenge from the get-go. At first, I offered a low-end package at an impossibly cheap rate. I didn’t want to turn anybody away because they couldn’t afford my service. The problem was I didn’t end up making a dime on the low-end package so, after several months, I eliminated it. It was a difficult decision but I refuse to compromise on quality. If somebody wants an amateur video, they can find someone to do it on the cheap. But the resulting product will reflect that. My videographers are top rate professionals with extensive network television experience and sophisticated video, audio, and lighting equipment. I’m a perfectionist and I’m a seasoned journalist.