by Lynn Walford
There are currently over 50 million home offices in the United States due to new technology and the personal computer. PCs enable the "little guy" to have the same power and capabilities as big businesses. Radio production people have many talents that lend themselves to at home and part-time money making opportunities. These talents combined with a personal computer's support could grow into full-time profits.
When starting any business, it is important to research what type of business to start. The best businesses meet the needs of the market place and match your talents. It is then important to market your business.
Following are some business ideas that someone with access to studio time or a home studio may want to consider.
Commercial Copywriting and Production Services
"Let your work speak for itself. Word of mouth is the best form of promotion" advises RAP columnist Dennis Daniel. Many of Dennis' clients have found him by hearing his creative productions on the air. Excellent work will bring clients to you, not just from your radio station clientele, but from new sources. You can earn $100 to $300 per commercial, with added on fees of $50 to $100 for extra talent. Jingles may bring in $500 to $1000. Resourceful sound designers have been known to write music for production library companies. Sometimes radio station clients will pay you for extra "creative" time spent on their spots or to produce commercials for stations other than the one you work for. Often, if you do not have a studio at home, you can work deals with friends or stations to use their studios. Working for advertising agencies is more complex and requires demo tapes and an understanding of the agency and the client.
Caller-On-Hold Marketing/ Voice Mail Production
Businesses want to sound professional when they put their clients on hold or send them through layers of voice mail. Many businesses have no idea how to even record sounds into an on-hold audio system. Contact telephone installers, consultants, and large companies you know that lead you through voice mail. Computer companies with technical support often need good voice mail on-hold messages, as do any kind of 800 order number. They don't want their customers to hang-up. In fact, Microsoft and WordPerfect have in-house DJs to keep their on hold callers entertained.
High Speed Audio Tape Duplication and Packaging Design
Actresses, singers, bands, voice-over talent, and DJs all need copies of tapes for promotion. With art and drawing programs and color printers readily available, labels and packaging can be easily designed and produced on a PC. High quality, high-speed cassette duplicators are now much cheaper than they used to be. And purchasing cassettes in bulk quantities is probably less expensive than you think for high quality tape.
Recording of Seminars, Conventions and Events
Professional organizations and conventions often hire out for taping of their speakers. They sell tapes after the event and order multiple copies. Contacting your local convention center, trade associations, colleges, and seminar events may lead to some good contacts. Finding new events listed in your local newspaper and asking them if they would like their event recorded may turn up clients no one else has approached. The organization usually receives a percentage of the sales and you handle the rest. You will want to find events where people will want to buy recordings. A portable DAT recorder can provide the highest quality master recordings.
Multimedia Sound Design Service/Internet Audio Service
Multimedia services and the Internet need recorded sound. This sound must be edited and converted into files. The Internet enables net surfers to hear clips of sounds. Once again, if your work has been varied and excellent, multimedia and Internet companies could use your help. A prominent organization of multimedia and Internet members is The International Interactive Communications Society (IICS). They have a newsletter and meetings all over the US where you can learn about what's happening in multimedia and the Internet. You can also find lists of multimedia companies at the library. Magazines like New Media, will help you learn about the industry. Your local Internet service provider will know who needs help with sound recordings for World Wide Web pages.
Promotions and Public Relations Service
Bands, air-talent, authors, and businesses all need help promoting themselves and getting on the radio. Lists of radio stations all over the country are available on disk from Publicity Blitz (800) 989-1400 and are easily turned into mailing labels. (Note: these databases do not include all stations, just the major ones and mainly news/talk stations, but it will save you hours of data entry.) If you have a knowledge of your local radio scene and know the players, many people will pay you for help getting on the air. They may also need you for demo tapes and recording services.
Demo, Learning Tape, and Audio Book Production
Authors, consultants, and training organizations all need audio tapes made for promotion or sales. Consultants belong to professional organizations, authors to writers' organizations, and trainers to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). Small publishers and audio book publishers may hire out for production service or rent studio time.
Your Personal Computer Support
You will want to have the correct equipment to run your business. Once you know the type of business you are starting, you will need to research the best software for what you plan on doing. The software determines what hardware you will need. For instance, if you are planning to use many graphic design programs, you will need more RAM to run those memory hungry programs efficiently. You may also want to invest in a large screen monitor. You will want a good quality printer that makes you look good. A fax/modem should also be on your shopping list. The ability to send and receive faxes and E-mail are now a prerequisite for businesses. The good thing about E-mail and faxes is that you can send or receive them any hour of the day or night, so they will not interfere with your work at the station. Access to Internet and on-line services will help you with research, creating ideas, and even marketing your talents.
Of course, one of the hottest uses of the PC in the audio industry these days is using it as the platform for a software driven digital recording system. There are dozens of software packages available, many of them needing only a sound card installed on your PC along with a large hard drive. If you don't have access to a recording studio, your PC could be the beginning of your own recording studio.
Supportive Software: To support your business you will need record keeping software. You will need a financial record keeping program such as Quicken from Intuit. In order to claim expenses for your business, you need to keep a record of every penny you spend on your business for supplies, telephone (you can't claim your monthly service charge for your home phone, only long distance or a separate business phone), car mileage, computer equipment, copying services, or a mail box rental service. (For more detailed IRS allowable expenses, the IRS has free literature). It is also highly recommended that you open a separate checking account for your business. It will make it easier for you to keep expenses and profits separate.
There are other types of software programs that are very useful. A Personal Information Manager (PIM) such as ACT! or a database is useful for keeping track of your time, expenses, and clients. A word processing program for letter writing and a spread sheet for number crunching are also helpful. Desktop publishing programs, clip art, and art programs will help you design your brochures, business cards, cassette and tape box labels, and literature.
Keep it Legal: You will also want to make sure that you operate a legal business and that your local municipalities allow you to work from home. Zoning laws are changing, but many cities and counties allow different forms of work at home. Call your local City Hall, Chamber of Commerce, or check with your librarian. It is also important to check with your State Board of Equalization to see if the service you are providing is required to charge sales tax. Many part-time business operators are shocked to find out that after two years of business, they were supposed to charge sales tax. If they did not collect sales tax, they then can be fined and made to pay the sales tax themselves. Most cities require a business license for any kind of business. Ask about licenses when you do your research.
Creative Marketing: In order to succeed in your business you will need to market yourself. Faxes, letters, tapes, and E-mail can all be sent on off hours. Remember, not everywhere in the country is it the same time that you are experiencing. If you're on the west coast, you can call potential clients on the east coast early in the morning. If you're on the east coast, you can call potential west coast clients when you get home from work. Depending on your station, they may allow you to do work at the station, as long as you're doing a good job.
Directory Listings: To obtain new clients, directory listings are an inexpensive way for people to learn about you. To be listed in your local telephone directory, you usually need a business phone number and six months to a year notice. However, there are many other directories you can list in for free. Radio Business Report Source Guide and Directory offers free listings for companies that do airchecks, jingles, remotes, voice-overs, duplications, consulting, and engineering. Their deadline is the end of October. Radio and Records Radio Report and Directory lists production services for free with deadlines approximately the end of January and end of June every year. In your local library is a directory of directories, Directories in Print, published by Gale Research. If your company name is at the beginning of the alphabet you will be called first.
Conventions and Trade Shows: I have made thousands of dollars and met the most influential people in many industries by attending conventions and trade shows. Not only is it a tax deductible trip (almost everything but only 50% of the meals and entertainment), you will also learn inside information about the industry. At the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas earlier this year, many production people learned about the latest equipment and met up with potential clients from all over the world. I met a Program Director from Tokyo who was looking for an American rock and roll music show to broadcast in Japan. I also received free copies of trade magazines and newspapers. Besides all the learning that was going on, there were parties every night. One night at the Hard Rock Cafe, a tape company hosted a party where everyone got up and sang karaoke. Exhibitors were also seen dancing to the Village People's YMCA with all the appropriate hand gestures. There are conventions for almost every type of business, and many times the convention center in your city may have the convention for your industry. But don't confine yourself to conventions just for your industry. There are opportunities for you in many industries.
It's Better Safe than Sorry: Because you are using your computer to support yourself and your business, you will need to backup files frequently. The last thing in the world you will want to have happen, is losing hours of work if your hard drive crashes. Back your work up. Also, consider computer insurance. During the Los Angeles earthquake, one of my students' computers was destroyed. He did not have computer insurance. Computer insurance is inexpensive and could save you many frustrations if your PC is stolen or destroyed by a catastrophe.
With your personal computer to help you with the task of starting and running a business, you will be able to increase your income and deduct your expenses. Many home-based businesses turn into full-time ventures. The average home-based business income is over $50,000 a year. You can work anytime, anywhere, and make as much as you want.
For your convenience, a list of resources with addresses and phone numbers follows:
American Society for Training and Development: 1640 King Street, Box 1443, Alexandria, VA 22313. Phone (703) 683-8129.
IICS: 14657 SW Teal Blvd. Suite 119, Beaverton, OR 97007. Phone (503) 579-4427.
National Multimedia Association of America: 4920 Niagara Road, 3rd Floor, College Park, MD 2070. Phone (800) 214-9531.
Make Money with Your PC! by Lynn Walford, Ten Speed Press (800) 841-B00K.
New Media, P.O. Box 10639, Riverton, NJ 08076-0639. Subscription Inquiries (609) 786-4430.
Radio Business Report, Source Guide and Directory, 6208-B Old Franconia Road, Alexandria, VA 22310. For Listing contact Dave Seyler, (703) 719 9500
R&R Ratings Report & Directory, 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., 5th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067. For listing contact: Ted Kozlowski, (310) 553-4330.
Small Business Administration:
National Association of Broadcasters:
The Computer Insurance Agency, (800) 722-0385
Safeware, (800) 848-3469.