By Steve Yankee

If you’re already in the video business, offering video inventory services is a great way a maintain a steady income flow, using the equipment you already have. If you’re still in the planning stages of your new video career, video inventories are an ideal way to get started, with a minimum investment of time and money.

Natural disasters are not the only reason why individuals need video inventories. Theft, vandalism and fire are also three biggies. And video inventories aren’t just for individual’s homes. Businesses and other insured buildings can also fall prey to acts of God, and especially to vandalism and theft.

So how do you get started in the video inventory business? The quickest route is to start with someone with whom you already have a working business relationship. YOUR INSURANCE AGENT!

Your Insurance Agent NEEDS your services!

In all likelihood, your agent is required by the various insurance companies he or she works with to submit some sort of visual documentation to the insurance company when writing a policy, even if it’s only a Polaroid of the outside of a newly-insured dwelling. So they need documentation; the more, the better –at a reasonable price, of course. And here’s how you get into the business; simply approach your agent in person, and explain this new service you are offering.

The big question: How much do you charge?

It’s best to charge an hourly or flat rate. I think that $25 an hour (with a two hour minimum) is a good place to start, but also be willing to negotiate. You could also give discounts to agents who send a lot of business your way. Or offer to throw in the master tape or a DVD copy –it’s only a buck or two out of your pocket, but its perceived value is much higher to those people not in the video business.

The equipment you’ll need.

Start with the basics; a camcorder. Any high quality model will work. If you don’t already have one, you will have to equip your camera with a wide angle lens. A wide angle lens is necessary to record shots of the entire room and all its’ contents. This is a simple screw-on attachment that normally sells for around $50, and is usually available where camcorders are sold.

Take along a couple of good-quality blank tapes; a hand-held microphone with accompanying audio cables (the best inventory videos are narrated, usually by the owner, and you CAN use the camcorder’s built-in mike but we do recommend an inexpensive hand-held type – try your local Radio Shack store, or the two sources named above); and a portable light (with stand), just in case you have to shoot in any areas that require a bit more illumination than room lights or natural lighting provides. Nothing fancy here, either; a couple of hundred watts should do it.

Let’s get started making money!

Now that you have your equipment and rate structure in place, the next thing you need to know is “WHAT DO I SHOOT ONCE I GET THERE? The best place to start is with naturally, an establishing shot. In this case, I’m talking the exterior of the home or the business –whatever it may be. Then, go through the door and begin.

Have the owner take you on a tour from room to room. Get shots of the entire room first, then follow with close-ups of the items of importance in the room. It may be necessary to shoot the same item from a variety of different angles, and always get close-ups of serial numbers when the item has one. While you are showing the different items, the narrator should be explaining, in detail, when the item was purchased, from who, how much was the purchase price, how was it paid for, and any other relevant information. It makes the most sense to have the owner narrate the video, since he or she is the one who knows this information best.

Be as thorough as possible, making sure you include at the very minimum the items the policyholder would want replaced in case they were damaged, destroyed or stolen. For example, the boxes of old clothes in the attic are junk (not to mention a fire hazard) but the new wardrobe from Bloomingdale’s, hanging in the master bedroom closet, is considered a masterpiece. But the final video content should be left up to the discretion of the owner.

And most importantly, the owner must be there when you videotape!

To keep yourself and your company from having to exercise your liability insurance, make sure you have the owner sign a release before you begin. (Having the owner sign the release about a week in advance not only reminds him/her to be around at the designated time and place, but also gives them time to clean up the joint!

The shoot is done; what’s next?

Once the videotaping session has finished, don’t be in a hurry to surrender the tape to the owner. If the job was arranged by an insurance agent who offered it to the client as an added benefit of doing business with their firm, it makes good business sense to release the tape(s) or DVD(s) to the agent –after they pay you, of course!!! –who can then make them available to the client.

If the session was not facilitated by an agent –perhaps the client heard about your services from a neighbor who had it done, and is looking for the same peace of mind –make it clear that the payment terms are cash on delivery. Billing an insurance agency (especially one you deal with regularly) is one thing; billing a number of individual households is a waste of resources. In any case, encourage the client to store the video inventory in a safe, fireproof location (a safety deposit box is best), and let the client know that you are willing to make back-up copies for them at a reduced rate. ($15 or $20 is fine; make sure you label all tapes properly and clearly, and put them in a dust-proof locking library tape case, too.)

Some other things that you and the client and the participating agent should be aware of when it comes to video inventories…

  • 1) The video is made solely for the purpose of documentation.
  • 2) The owner retains all copyright privileges, including the right to reproduce the video for whatever reasons he/she sees fit.
  • 3) The finished inventory video should be authenticated by an appropriate person, like a notary public. (This is the job of the client, not your job; just suggest that it’s a good thing to do.)
  • 4) As always when starting a business venture, keep up with what permits and licenses you are required to have in your state. I don’t believe that you will have any special requirements to offer this service but it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes to make certain of any local or statewide requirements. A good place to begin your inquiries is at your County Clerk’s office.

You can Start Your Own Highly Profitable Video Duplication and Transfer Business. Our new Special Report is available. Feel free to contact us at the phone number below.