I own a video production company and have a been a producer for the last 10 years. The reality is in today's market everyone needs video, especially businesses! So if you have an opportunity to cash in on it good for you!
Some tips to keep in mind. Once you get known as the cheap video guy, it's hard to break away from that. Also, count up how many hours you spent on producing the videos and see how much you made for your time. If this is a hobby that is one thing, but if you want to make a business then you really need to keep track of your time. Most people, usually prospective clients, don't realize how time consuming this is to do right. And last, invest in a mic. Don't use the camera mic. Having bad audio is one of the biggies that separates the poor quality videos from the pros.
Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions.
Tons of experience here -
I make a full time income making video related products for various businesses.
My first thought when seeing your post was that you charge too little for such a valuable asset. Video is a powerful marketing tool and should be charged as such. Sure you made $100 for producing that video but that business likely just pulled in $500 in sales - where is your piece of that?
My fee for a :30 sec video, from concept to completion is $80 an hour. It takes 15-20 hours to finish and post on the web.
I'm not getting paid to produce a creative or technical masterpiece, I'm getting paid for the results produced from the video. It could be a blurry mess or all the bells and whistles of a blockbuster movie- if it pulls in sales or leads for the client the video did it's job.
My wife and I run a small wedding videography business and we have a steady income coming in from video filming and post-production in the wedding space. As we've tried to tap into the small business market, we've found exactly what you and Tom have experienced. Many small businesses aren't willing to spend $1000 for a 30 second clip or anything like that, it's just not reasonable in their eyes. That's why a few months ago I started a new video production site where I recommend specific pieces of hardware and software, to give direction and purpose to the entrepreneurial Do it yourself crowd. People seem to see the value in investing in hardware and producing the content themselves a lot more than paying the $75-$100 / hour that most video production companies charge for their services, including ours. To answer your hardware questions, we had the same thoughts when we started out and after reviewing the Panasonic HMC40 and using it for over 2 years now I can definitely recommend that camcorder as a great step up from the typical consumer camcorder. It's a great balance between quality and price. I would call the camcorder an entry level professional camcorder, and it's been perfect for us.
When we first started our video business, we just had a few consumer camcorders, and after we finished one of the first shoots, we got a full page feedback email from one of our brides, and most of it was terrible comments and complaints about quality and sound and on and on.
After Investing in 2 Panasonic HMC40 Camcorders, here are some of the comments that we started getting in:
“Freedom Videography did a wonderful job filming my wedding! I am so glad to have such a special day in my life preserved for a lifetime! They were for the most part unobtrusive before, during, and after the wedding ceremony, but still managed to attain high-quality picture and sound. Freedom Videography is professional, courteous and affordable. They even made copies of the DVD for my parents! You cannot put a price tag on a customized DVD of you're wedding day. I do not regret having Freedom Videography as “guests” for my wedding.” Karey -bride
“You guys did an amazing job! The cool edits, all the footage, and adding our favorite songs really made it special and allowed us to relive each moment.” Rob -groom
“This video service is most accommodating and helpful in making a lovely lasting memory for your family. They do what they say, are on time and have great suggestions.” Donna -Mother of the Bride
If your going to buy your own gear then I have a few other suggestions. First, if your going to be producing a lot of videos, I recommend getting a stable powerful computer like the quad core i7 macbook pro. It's an investment up front, just like anything else, but again, speaking from experience, the biggest bottleneck in video editing is the CPU, and the RAM, and that machine essentially has 8 processors and 4GB of ram standard, and it's easy to upgrade the ram later too.
The final thing you want to be sure and have is a good avchd backup solution (avchd is the camcorder technology of the hmc40). You don't want to go through the whole process of making your videos, only to lose them if something happens to your laptop.
Best of luck to you all.