If you turn on the television or attend a movie, chances are you will be entertained by explosions, fight scenes, and fast car chases. Many of us walk out of the theater excited by what we’ve seen but never giving a second thought as to what it took to make all those scenes happen. The truth is there’s an entire stunt team putting great thought and care into ensuring these action scenes are both safe and entertaining. A stunt designer uses their knowledge of mathematics and physics to create a set design that ensures each scene is carried out safely and successfully the first time and every time after, keeping both costs and injuries to a minimum.
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Learn how to start your own Stunt Design Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a stunt design business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Stunt Design Business
- Form your Stunt Design Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Stunt Design Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Stunt Design Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Stunt Design Business
- Get Stunt Design Business Insurance
- Define your Stunt Design Business Brand
- Create your Stunt Design Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your stunt design business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a stunt design business?
The most significant asset for a stunt design business owner is experience. As mentioned, most individuals entering this industry have up to ten years of experience under their belt. They have put in the work as a stuntman and/or design staff and are ready to move on to the next stage of their career.
Stunt designers should meet with a professional to ensure they have proper insurance coverage should an incident occur. Travel expenses for the entire design staff should be budgeted for, and designers are encouraged to consider the travel budget when determining their fees.
Many designers have a dedicated staff that travels with them from job to job. While this significantly increases startup costs, it often proves invaluable to most as each team member knows their role and are able to communicate amongst the team with ease. To mitigate costs, consider hiring team members on a freelance basis.
What are the ongoing expenses for a stunt design business?
Regardless of your role within the industry, leaders encourage everyone involved to commit to learning new methods through continuing their education. Workshops at the Los Angeles Stunts Training Center typically last three days and cost an average of $975, while tuition to an International Stunt School course can set you back upwards of $4,500.
In addition to investing in continuing education, stunt designers will need to budget for travel expenses, insurance, and payroll/employee-related expenses.
Who is the target market?
If you are considering launching a stunt designer business, you have likely spent many years in the industry. Where have you built your reputation? What producers and directors have you developed a solid foundation with? What sets and/or genres most align with your passion and experience? Where could your knowledge and skills best be put to work? While your ultimate goal is to work on set with a television or movie crew, you may have to work your way back up the ladder in this new position.
How does a stunt design business make money?
Hired by television or movie production teams, stunt designers are paid for each project they complete. Designers rely on past successes and the relationships built on set to gain additional work and build a professional portfolio.
How much can you charge customers?
Fees collected vary depending upon the scope and length of the project and budget. The average rate is $980 a day or $3,655 a week.
How much profit can a stunt design business make?
If you earn an average of $3,655 per week and work 30 weeks per year, your gross annual income will exceed $109,000.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Stunt designers looking to increase annual profits are encouraged to branch out and think outside the box. Commercial skate parks, theme parks, community parks, and video game developers could also benefit from your expertise. Opening a stunt school or teaching workshops are also effective ways to supplement your income and build a name for yourself within the community.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your stunt design business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a stunt design business
Unlike most industries, promoting a stunt design business doesn’t require social media advertisements and targeted SEO campaigns. You started promoting your business years ago when you first stepped onto the scene. Work comes from preexisting relationships. Industry leaders recommend saying “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way and views every job as a way to further network within the industry and develop new skills.
How to keep customers coming back
Each job you do, no matter how big or small, is an opportunity to connect, learn, and grow. Tackle it with enthusiasm and positively represent yourself at all times - someone is always watching. If communicating with others is not your strong suit, look for ways to hone that skill. Word of mouth and networking are key to success in this industry.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Stunt Design Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
Due to the dangerous nature of this business, those looking to enter the world of stunt design have spent many years working their way up the ladder. They are hard-working, self-motivated, and possess a deep passion for their field.
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What happens during a typical day at a stunt design business?
It is the stunt designer’s responsibility to ensure the director’s vision transfers to the big screen and appear as realistic as possible. They must take into account all constraints, including safety, budget, and aesthetics, while considering all potential environmental, cultural, and social impacts. Designers carry a great deal of responsibility with every day’s work looking a little bit different.
On any given day, the stunt designer can be found:
- Meeting with the movie/television director to ensure all stunt-related production needs are being met
- Collaborate with production and stunt staff
- Collaborate with prop masters, wardrobe, and makeup artists
- Planning and choreographing scenes
- Assessing all risks and implementing safety measures
- Working with stunt actors to ensure all scenes are practiced and carefully mapped out and that all potential risks are identified
- Assisting in the building of stunt sets
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful stunt design business?
Stunt designers must possess a wide range of skills. Due to the nature of this business, most have seven to ten years of stunt experience and have worked on a variety of sets. They have put a great deal of sweat into their passion and have learned to maneuver the myriad of subtle nuances present on set. Stunt designers must work well under pressure, communicate well with others, and be excellent problem solvers. Above all, a collaborative personality and team spirit are essential for long-term success.
What is the growth potential for a stunt design business?
The media and entertainment industry has maintained an average growth rate of 2.1% annually and is expected to be worth $43 billion by 2025. This suggests there is a significant opportunity for the stunt designer industry to grow.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a stunt design business?
While this can be an exciting and profitable business, it takes the right balance to achieve long-term success. Industry leaders offer the following advice:
- Become a SAGA member and keep yourself active in the community
- From the day you step foot on your first set, network and hustle. Be patient and willing to learn - one wrong move could result in serious, even deadly, consequences.
- Pulling off a successful stunt requires more than just careful set design. Learn everything you can about the entire filmmaking process.
- Keep in mind that there are ups and downs in this business. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a call for several months. Just keep working on bettering yourself and networking.
How and when to build a team
Most of the top stunt designers have a proven team they work with. They are all SAGA members, and most have worked with each other on various sets. This not only ensures your company is properly represented, but an established team reduces the potential for accidents and/or injuries.