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When to Hire Versus Learn a Skill: A Guide for Video Crews, Freelance Camera People, and Production Houses

7.29.15

Camera-equipped drones are a great example of a rapidly-evolving product with increasing consumer demand. In the film production industry, this potential slice of the business model simply cannot ignored. But even as the barriers to entry drop, the fact remains: it takes great skill to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) well—let alone to capture stable, worthwhile images.

We’ve been discussing the age-old dilemma for this business: When freelancers and video crews should invest in equipment rather than rent. Another angle on this is when to learn a new skill versus hiring an expert. We have answers on both!

Rent (or hire) when:

The technology is brand new

In 1991, consumers who just couldn’t wait to get their early digital cameras forked over $1,000 for a Dycam Model 1 that captured grayscale images at 376×240 pixels. The equipment held 32 images at a time. A decade later, novice photographers could get into the game for $69.99 for a camera with higher resolution, color images, and more storage. Today, we can spend a couple hundred bucks for a smart phone that takes higher quality images, shoots video, and practically makes dinner.

You don’t expect to make this a major aspect of your business

For example, if you intend to use videography on land (with aerial images as the occasional supplement) as your main source of business, find an expert in drone photography to hire when the client wants that service. This ensures customers still get the best product and you expand your connections without having to invest the time or money required to do it well.

The rules are unclear

Again with the drones. The rules and permits required can be a little overwhelming. If you have someone who can lead the way and knows the process, it’s best to leave it to them so you can focus your valuable time elsewhere. If the FAA may crack down on the operation, you don’t want to risk fines that will cost you more than you’ll make on the next 10 projects combined. As rules are loosening and being defined, you may decide to go ahead and pull the trigger and buy the equipment/learn the skill.

It’s not an exact science, but making smart decisions is possible. Check out our other posts on this topic:

Here are more things to keep in mind when buying equipment, and what rental houses teach us about buying versus renting equipment. 

Enjoying our series on how to invest in your freelance company? With almost three decades in the industry, we have a lot of tips—and connections. Sign yourself up on Crew Connection for free and let our international clients come to you. Want to talk to one of our coordinators? Contact Us here or call us anytime at 303-526-4900.

About Crew Connection

Crew Connection connects you with video production crews across the country and around the globe. With more than 25 years of experience and thousands of shoots with film crew pros to our credit, you can trust our expert coordinators to match you with the right freelance video crew and equipment—every time.

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