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Managing a Video Production Company book cover by Focal Press

Managing a Video Production Company

A Focal Press Book

Managing a Video Production Company is the essential guide to launching and managing a production business. The guide has been written by experienced Video Content Producer Tom Vaughan-Mountford and published by Focal Press (Routledge) in July 2021.

The book guides creatives through the process of starting a commercial production company, positioning it in the market, finding clients, and managing video productions through to completion and payment. It is a culmination of more than twenty years of notetaking and annecdotes from my career in corporate video and television advertising production; and in recent years, as a co-owner of a production company.

Available Now from Routledge in both paperback and hardback, with Kindle edition Available at Amazon


“Managing A Video Production Company is a terrific book for producers who are starting out in this business, those who are ready to level up, or those who need help getting their existing production company running more smoothly. This concise, well-written, and funny guide is a must-read.”

Arthur VincieIndependent Director/Producer, Three Trembling Cities and Found In Time

“Managing a Video Production Company is essential reading for anyone thinking of starting such a company. If you want to know what you don’t know, you should start here. This practical guide will give you the tools to understand what’s vital as you set up and run your own company.”

Chris HansenIndependent Filmmaker and Chair, Baylor University Department of Film & Digital Media

The Essential Video Production Book

Why Are You Doing This?

The use of video as a marketing and training tool is growing exponentially. While the use of video production within business environments is at an all time high, there are countless start-up production companies chasing every available project; many of them are willing to work at cost, or even free of charge. We discuss the harsh realities of starting a production company, and dispel the notion that creative filmmaking talent equates to business success by default.

How to Start a Production Company

The fundamental business structures to consider when starting your own production company are Freelance, Partnership, or Limited/LLC incorporation. Working with the assumption the reader is intending to incorporate a company, we investigate the essential legalities of getting started and highlight to the importance the reader should place on the separation of their personal finances from their business operations. We also consider the importance of creating a professional appearance, and the considerations involved with locating and housing a production company; namely whether to begin the business in a home office, or to consider a co-working space or dedicated commercial premises.

Assembling Your Team

When and how should the reader make the decision to bring more people into their production business? Should these additional team members be freelance contributors or payroll staff? We investigate how to appeal to the right talent, and what attributes to look for in potential recruits.

Promoting Your Business

The chapter begins with an explanation of the important distinction between marketing and advertising. We demonstrate how (and why) to position a video production company in the marketplace, and the promotional tools and advertising channels available to effectively promote a production company. We caution against falling into the trap of using superficial tactics instead of solid and carefully planned marketing strategy.

Business Networking

Promoting a video production business rests almost entirely on the personal connections the founder forms with the rest of the corporate world. If the reader is not prolific and getting to know as many people as they can, it is likely their services will not be on the radar of their potential clients. In this chapter we breakdown exactly how to engage in high quality networking to ensure the reader can identify and engage with the right people in the right places. Making the most of the time they have available to engage in networking opportunities is essential, so we dissect the key warning signs to recognise networking events that should be avoided.

The Gig Economy

Online pitching platforms provide video producers an almost infinite ocean of open briefs, from a truly global client base. Clients have nothing to lose, they simply post a brief in public and wait for the creative ideas and cost estimates to begin landing in their inbox. For production companies, open briefs can be a potential goldmine or a time-consuming nightmare. This chapter investigates the different tiers of ‘gig’ sites from Fiverr to agency-level paid platforms. We analyse the criteria that should be used to better identify legitimate clients and projects, and the warning signs common to the production briefs that should be avoided.

Public Sector Tenders

The public sector is notorious for being demanding of its suppliers, but when the barriers to entry have been cleared, public-sector organisations can become reliable repeat clients. We demystify the complex requirements of tenders, and the formalities a production company needs to be aware of when pitching for projects where creativity and personality are not high on the client’s list of priorities. The chapter helps the reader understand how to ‘read between the lines’ of tender document language and figure out whether the opportunity is really worth pursuing.

Receiving Your First Brief

The essential questions to ask of any client to uncover the true, specific, objectives hidden behind superficial generic instructions. The chapter covers how to spot the occasional brief that isn’t entirely legitimate, and why it is both professional and savvy to conduct background research on potential clients who seem too good to be true.

Production Budgets

How should a video production company decide what to charge for its services? How should the reader get to grips with putting a financial price on the value they provide to their clients? The chapter begins by exploring the psychological hang-ups inherent in attaching financial value to creative services. We then outline a technique to accurately estimate the cost of any video production, while making sure the project is commercially viable and will generate a profit for the business.

Working from Anywhere

Does a video production company need a dedicated physical office space? Can a production company survive when structured as a collective of remote creative workers? This chapter investigates the recent potential to form and manage a production company without a fixed physical office location. At the very least, the reader should appreciate the mindset that it is entirely possible for to form good working relationships with clients far outside their immediate geographic location. In interviews with several production company founders we dismantle some of the assumptions surrounding the importance of ‘bricks and mortar’ office space, and discover how several of them run effective businesses with a great degree flexibility in the location of their teams.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Video Production Company?

What equipment and facilities should a new company purchase with their start-up capital? When starting a production company it is essential to temper the enthusiasm to buy non-essential kit. Founders should ask: Is this purchase going to return a profit for the business before it becomes obsolete? We debunk the myth of ‘investing’ in equipment: it is ultimately going to become worthless or obsolete. We investigate what constitutes an essential purchase, and what is better brought in as-required.

The Creative Pitch

Expert insight into dissecting a brief and using it to develop creative ideas to present to the client. This chapter explores the reasons to research a client’s brand and understand their aspirations. We delve into how to demonstrate the experience and creativity of a production company and blend it with creative concepts, demo animatics and soundtracks, and the outline costs, and package all these elements as a cohesive and compelling argument. We also look at the two primary reasons pitches fail to connect with the potential client – and the methods to correct the problem. We also look into the psychology of rejection, and how to use a ‘No’ from a potential client as a source of insight for delivering better pitches in future.

How to Write an Awesome Script

An exploration into the main reasons so many corporate video scripts fall short of their potential, and why improving this creative skill can be a competitive advantage for a production company— especially when working with clients who have difficulty expressing themselves in an engaging manner. We look at the differences between superficial underwritten scripts and bloated overwritten scripts— and how to draft a snappy and concise script that will meet the needs of the client and viewer alike. We explain the importance of the one message, one video, one target audience method, the difference between passive and active voice, the technique of script editing, and the way to make a script more engaging by reverse engineering the facts a client wants to convey into questions that the viewer wants answered.

Keeping Your Production Organised

Starting a commercial production company requires a highly organised mindset, and this extends into project management too. Clients need to feel their production is in safe hands and being organised is the best way for a production company to demonstrate that their clients can have confidence in them. This chapter investigates the importance of a Call Sheet, Shotlist, and Risk Assessment to keep a filming day running smoothly, and a breakdown of what information they should contain— and why.

Coaching On-Camera Contributors

The job of a production company does not end at simply showing up to do the filming, clients want to convey their messages with clarity and energy. This will usually require enthusiastic coaching by the producer. With help from two public speaking coaches we demonstrate some techniques to put on-camera contributors at ease, built rapport, and conduct effective interviews that will provide strong soundbites for the client’s video. The chapter uses illustrative examples of how good performances were coached from nervous interviewees and amateur presenters. We highlight common faults in interview technique that can cause an interviewee head off at a tangent, and the tricks we have used to get a piece to camera back on track.

Communicating with Your Clients

Challenging relationships wreck projects and cause clients to never return. Dealing with clients poorly has a tremendously negative impact on a production company’s reputation. Often, the root cause of strained client relations is poor communication. This chapter analyses how to build a close and mutually rewarding client relationship that lasts through thick and thin. We examine how maintain clear and unambiguous communication, how to manage clients who operate by committee and extended chains of command, methods of forming reliable collaboration, the tracking of billable time, and how to keep relationships flourishing long after projects been completed.

Approval and Delivery

How to diplomatically manage and accommodate the input of clients. We provide a step-by-step technique explaining how to obtain the feedback required to keep a production progressing; without leading the client off course or causing them information overload. We cover the importance of clear version control, naming conventions, and watermarking. The chapter highlights the critical importance of objective checking procedures at all stages of the production process, and the techniques to set and meet production deadlines.

Doing It by the Book

Following the rules of copyright, and attribution; and the etiquette of client confidentiality in corporate communications is the hallmark of a professional. Social media gaffes can torpedo a client relationship in just a couple of clicks, and we provide an illustration of the damage that can be caused by over-sharing business activities on social media. This chapter details why production companies should only use assets purchased from legitimate stock footage and music libraries. It also introduces the care that should be taken when using productions for clients in self-promotional material.

Behaving like a Pro

In a crowded industry it is vital to maintain a consistently high level of professionalism, especially when working with freelance crews and collaborating with competitors. A professional must also seek to understand and be sympathetic of their clients’ office politics and use tact and diplomacy to eventually become regarded as part of their clients’ teams. Professional production companies offer carefully considered advice to help their clients reach their objectives, but also understand when to take their clients’ requests onboard—keeping a relationship amicable—even when the client might be incorrect. Lastly, we consider how to remain objective when a client critiques a production; we close by discussing a method to remain impeccably professional even when dealing with a genuinely disruptive client.

Managing Your Tech

Efficient production companies construct speedy and reliable technical infrastructures. We examine the choice between Mac and PC, and the importance of investing adequately in equipment that is of the right specification to do the work. We detail the critical importance of having multiple backups— and the time-tested procedures to make sure project assets are never at risk of getting lost. The chapter then investigates the options for long-term archival of media and the potential future value of client assets.

Managing Your Finances

The most important factor thing to remember while starting a production company is to make 100% certain you're always getting paid for your work, forecasting ahead, and always ensuring you have enough cash to stay in business.

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