How to Start Your Own Production Company: A Guide for Australian Artists

Colleagues-working-on-a-projectYou may have been trudging around the scene for a while now – producing independently, working on a few different crews, or operating as a freelancer in your chosen craft or field.

Whether you’re a director, dancer, musician, or any other kind of creative, there are certain advantages to getting an ABN behind you and lending a level of credibility to your craft that operating under the banner of a business provides.

It may seem completely outside of your wheelhouse to be your own boss or even to be a business owner, but that’s okay! It’s a stereotype for a reason that everyone is either more of a business type or a creative type.

But that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to stray from the beaten track, developing your business acumen to better support your creative endeavours – making you a dynamic force of industry in one of the least industrial sectors: the arts. 

So how do you start your own production company? Utilising the tips in this article, you’ll be well on your way in getting your very own production company off the ground, and begin your next great step as an artist.

Secure the right insurance cover
There is significantly more administrative work in running a business than with creating art alone. And when you are juggling many balls and wearing many different hats every day, things can start to slip through the cracks. That’s precisely why it’ll be a huge boon to look into the different types of small business insurance in Australia.

For example, securing workers’ compensation insurance or public liability insurance can be useful if you’re interacting directly with the public, such as during a live performance. And if you are looking to hire employees down the line, you’ll want insurance cover to protect your business in the event of staff negligence.

Even beyond the legal requirement, securing insurance can be invaluable for helping you to recover from inevitable setbacks that come with running a business. It simply provides peace of mind to know that you are covered in cases like theft or loss of equipment, damage to property, or even workers seeking compensation.

Get your finances in order
It’s important that you have a clear understanding of what capital you have and where you expect your earnings to come from as your business continues to develop. There are always fundraising endeavours and grants or government programs that you can apply for, or you can be idealistic and hope for an angel investor.

In the meantime, investigate small business loans and stay on top of what grant rounds are live throughout the year. You may want to get good at writing grant applications and the like, or to hire employees who can do this work for you.

Depending on your industry, you may turn a profit swiftly or slowly – primarily depending on the demand for your services. With profit estimates in mind, it’s recommended that you be smart about how you are reinvesting money back into the company, how much is worth reinvesting, and where that money will serve you best.

It’s vitally important that you become proficient with balancing budgets, or once again, bring people on board who might be able to budget for you.

Figure out your industry niche
Production companies have competition just like any other business, so it’s imperative that you think about where your company will fit into the tapestry of your wider industry. What gap are you filling in the industry that makes your company of value or gives it a competitive edge?

The answer to this question will likely change based on your industry and skill sets. For example, if you’re starting a video production company, consider what services you can offer that set yourself apart from the competitors. Make your services highly marketable, setting yourself up with an excess of contract work to then fuel your passion projects down the line.

Consider how your niche is conveyed or represented through your brand as well. What is the name of your company and what image does this branding project to the world? Answering this question can help you gain a stronger idea of how you’d like to present both yourself and your company.

Build community and know how to market the brand
Stay plugged into the local community and keep on the pulse. When all else fails, there can be tremendous power in favours for favours. Attend networking events, other people’s events, and generally stay in the loop.

Have people come to your show after attending theirs – they’ll be far more likely to say yes. This can help you to, in time, home in on those you’ll want to be collaborating with more often.

Be conscious of how to market yourself, and how you’ll be looking to generate publicity on a budget. Consider utilising mailing lists or social media to build anticipation for the launch or debut of your upcoming works. 

And think critically about who you’d like to be speaking to in all of these digital communications. How do you reach your target audiences or clients when they don’t even know you exist yet? Where do they congregate? What other brands or companies would they be likely to follow on socials? Where would they be hanging out? What kinds of events are they attending? Asking all of these questions is crucial to developing a strong understanding of your target demographics.

At the end of it all, the creative industries can be highly competitive, and it will likely take time to build momentum. Whilst having a company name and solid industry presence is valuable, along with being able to build your own personal brand, success isn’t built overnight.

So be steady in how you approach the growth of your business. Be ready to invest in the long-term, sinking money now with a clear plan for how the investment will bloom in the future. 

And above all, plan well and plan often. Ensure that your vision is solid and that you have a passion that can be transitioned into hard work and dedication. Passion alone won’t sustain you on this endeavour, especially when you’re steering toward stormier weather, and even with your ‘best laid plans’ in place.

Image: Colleagues working on a project (supplied)