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How to Start a Production Company: A Budget-Friendly Guide for Video Creatives and Startups

Updated: Feb 7

Launch your media production company successfully with the essential guide that highlights foundational investments in equipment, tech, and software, managing production costs, and balancing freelancer rates with full-time salaries, all while learning how Altered State Productions invests strategically to foster innovation and talent without compromising financial stability.


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Every great story starts with a single step, and ours was no different. Starting a media production company on a tight budget means every decision you make needs to count. If you're in these early stages, you're likely grappling with a mix of excitement and anxiety — understandable, given that every purchase feels like a high-stakes bet.


Don't be that creative that splurges on cool tech and hypes  it up on socials. Starting out, you might feel the pressure to get top-tier everything, but it's vital to resist that urge. Practicality is your best friend here. Discerning the absolute essentials from the "nice-to-haves" can mean the difference between a business that survives its first year and one that doesn’t.


Navigate these early investments effectively and make informed choices that provide real value, ensuring your journey in media production doesn’t end before it truly begins. Let's dive in.


Equipment & Hardware

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Why it's Crucial 

In media production, quality is currency. Clear visuals, crisp audio, and proper lighting aren't just aesthetic choices; they affect the viewer's experience and your narrative's effectiveness. With superior equipment, you can achieve higher production values, which clients notice and are willing to pay for. It's an investment that enhances your reputation, attracts more business, and sets the stage for your company's growth. 


Starter Essentials: $3,000-$5,000

When you're just starting, your budget is likely more 'bootstrap' than 'blockbuster.' For about $3,000-$5,000, you can secure a solid starting kit: a dependable camera, a multi-purpose lens, reliable tripods, and some fundamental lighting equipment. These are the seeds from which your local production company will grow. 


Pro-Level Investments: $35,000 

Fast forward to today, our equipment list reads like a filmmaker's wish list. After establishing ourselves in the industry and understanding the nuanced needs of high-end media production, we've significantly upgraded our toolkit. From a run and gun Dallas Videographer to a production team with an hefty arsenal of $35,000 in investment of the kind of gear that makes professionals drool: Sony A7siii, BlackMagic, Canon Mark DS cameras, a Mavic Air Drone, and an assortment of native lenses, not to mention state-of-the-art stabilizers, sound equipment, and LED lighting setups. Plus, we didn't forget the basics — camera bags, memory cards, and filters are still crucial components of our daily operations.



Tech & Software

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Why It's a Game-Changer

Software is pivotal in video marketing, enhancing content quality and audience engagement. It improves storytelling through advanced video editing, tailors strategies with consumer insights, and optimizes distribution across platforms. This efficiency and precision make software essential for impactful, profitable video marketing campaigns.


Starting Subscriptions: $50-$100/month

Your initial journey into media production can begin affordably with software subscriptions ranging from just $50 to $100 per month. This gets you essential platforms like Adobe Premiere Pro for cutting-edge editing, Photoshop for crafting striking graphics, and straightforward accounting software to keep your budget on track.


Full Software Stack: $16,000/month

As our operations expanded, so did our software needs, leading us to a substantial $16,000 monthly investment in a suite of top-tier digital tools. Beyond the comprehensive Adobe Creative Suite, SEMRush, QuickBooks, Corebook, AI Enhancements, and DaVinci Resolve, we've integrated advanced software into our workflow. 


We utilize Cinema 4D for complex 3D modeling services, Pro Tools for refined audio editing, Final Cut Pro for diverse editing options, Blender for animation projects, ZBrush for digital sculpting, Sketch for intuitive design interfaces, Slack for seamless team interactions, Trello for meticulous project management, and Tableau for dynamic data analysis. This tech is not just an expense but a strategic software stack, arming us with unparalleled versatility and proficiency in the competitive media production landscape.


Production and Post-Production

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Why It's a Game-Changer

Your storytelling doesn't end when the camera stops rolling. Production and post-production are the critical phases where your narrative is honed, visuals are enhanced, and your story is finely tuned. It's these stages that dictate the pace, mood, and visual storytelling of your content, making them indispensable for a media production company striving for impact and quality.


Kickstart Your Journey: $2,000-$3,000/Mo.

For newcomers in the industry, an initial monthly outlay of $2,000 to $3,000 is a practical starting point. This covers the basics: travel expenses for nearby shoots, minimal location fees, basic props from local vendors, entry-level talent scouted from platforms like Backstage or local agencies, and initial cloud storage via services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Budgeting for freelancers from sites like Upwork or Fiverr for specific post-production tasks is also crucial at this stage.


Elevating Our Game: $8,000/Month

As the shots became more complex, so did the monthly expenses, averaging around $8,000 to ensure each project was nothing short of excellent. This comprehensive budget meant we could afford more distant, picturesque locations, premium props from specialized providers like Prop Houses, and seasoned talent from reputable agencies. Our focus on product video production in Dallas enhanced our community connections and efficiency.


Additionally, we invested in expansive cloud storage solutions from vendors like Amazon Web Services or Adobe Creative Cloud. It also allowed room for those unique requirements — green screens from providers like B&H for those special effects shots or renting that RED cinema camera from a local equipment rental house for ultra-high-quality footage.


Marketing and Business Development

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Why It's Crucial:

Even the most captivating media won't market itself. In a field where visibility is as vital as quality, your creativity in marketing and business development is what takes your brand from the editing room to the spotlight. It's about showcasing  a message that's more just seen, but sought after, turning viewers into clients, and projects into portfolios and  marketing case studies.


Grassroots Growth: $0 Initially

Initially, our budget was a solid zero. Zip. Nada. Our early marketing strategy? Do good work. That was it. Our clients did the legwork, spreading the word based on the quality they received. It was organic, authentic, and our strongest marketing referral program, which is free. You should do the same. 


Leveling Up: $2,000 in Q4 of 2022

But growth means change, and change means investment. Come Q4 of 2022, we knew it was time to expand our horizons. We funneled $2,000 into paid media and Google marketing, targeting our audience with the precision of a seasoned archer. This strategic financial leap marked our transition from a word-of-mouth favorite to a competitive presence in the digital marketplace, connecting directly with those who needed our services the most.



Salaries

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Why It's Crucial

In the media production business, your team is your greatest asset. Paying fair wages isn't just an expenditure; it's an investment in talent, dedication, and the creative force that propels your company forward. It ensures motivation, sustains livelihoods, and fuels the collective passion that drives creative endeavors.


Bootstrap Budget: Freelancers & Part-Time

When you're just beginning, the steep learning curve doesn't afford you the luxury of making mistakes. It's wise to outsource specific tasks to freelancers or part-time staff, especially those that require specialized skills you may not possess, like creating a videographer price sheet.


Utilize platforms like Upwork or Fiverr to find skilled professionals who fit your initial budget constraints. This approach allows for flexibility, keeps overheads low, and lets you focus on core business tasks. Remember, it's equally important to pay yourself a livable wage, even if it's modest, to maintain your well-being and motivation as you navigate the early stages of your business.


Committed Team: $350,000 Annually

As our business matured, so did our financial commitments to our team. We earmarked $250,000 annually towards salaries, affirming our trust in our crew's expertise and dedication. The budget is our highest expense but its nowhere near how valuable our first and second generation team are; we believe that when you take care of people in your business, the people take care of your business. Fostering a committed workforce, reducing turnover, and encouraging a sense of ownership and pride in the work produced is the most important for us.


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So there it is, the ledger of our journey, a testament to the audacity of a marketing video producer starting small and dreaming big. But beneath these numbers lies a tale of relentless hustle, of unyielding determination, and an unquenchable passion for creating something meaningful.


This initial investment, scary as it was, allowed us to take on our first few gigs, transforming our first expense of $1,500 into a promising $7,000 in revenue. From a humble $1,500, we have built a venture that has proudly generated over $250,000,000 for brands and businesses worldwide.


As we explored the impacts of each investment, we discovered that when you truly love what you do, you aren't just creating a business - you're crafting a life that's rich in purpose, fulfillment, and success. That's the real wealth we've accrued, and it's priceless.



 

Altered State Productions stands out in the Dallas video production market, bringing a decade of experience and a stellar 5-star rating. The agency is known for its innovative spirit and commitment to commercial film production, making it the best choice for those seeking affordable video production companies. Their adept team excels in delivering top-tier content while respecting clients' budgetary frameworks. If you're searching for a video production company near you that skillfully balances cost-effectiveness with high-caliber output, Altered State Productions in Dallas is your optimal choice.

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