Freelancing in any industry is no easy task. You can have a serious portfolio of skills but if you can’t market yourself you could well be spending a lot of days sat at home worrying about paying the bills. What separates a successful video production freelancer from the one that gave up and grabbed a 9 to 5 somewhere else?
The sad truth is I can’t give you all the answers. I broke into this industry at the age of 25 and chose the route of starting my own video production company. I did, however, have a brief spell of freelancing in order to help supplement my income when I was trying to grow the business. What I’m going to share is my experience of building relationships as a freelancer and my experience of hiring freelancers for projects that we run through Giant Leap Productions Ltd.
I worked freelance for a few years back before Giant Leap Productions grew and found my niche in a few different areas. These were as a lighting cameraman, editor and (eventually) director. I got the opportunity to work on some great projects for some big brands and was able to devour words of wisdom from lots of talented crew and business owners.
My first gig came off the back of a panicked self-marketing project where I essentially cut any projects I’d done into a 60 second reel and hosted it on a very basic website. I’ve never been a fan of my own work but I forced myself to step back and try and watch it through objectively. Now was not the time to slump in my seat and fantasise about how things could have gone better if I’d done x, y or z on the day (something I’m still guilty of indulging in from time to time) and instead I needed to put myself in the shoes of a potential viewer of my work and decide whether it would give them the confidence to hire me.
We get crazy amounts of emails from people hoping we have some space on our roster of freelancers that they can squeeze onto. I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for reaching out to companies but most people picking up the emails will be hoping it’s another juicy enquiry they can get their teeth stuck into as opposed to someone trying to sell something. That doesn’t mean your email will go straight in the trash but it does mean you need to grab their attention with something very early on in the email. I can’t speak for everyone out there but for me I’ll tend to respond more to enquiries that feel more personal. Most times I get an enquiry the person won’t know my name but the smart enquirers’ will acknowledge that early on and then proceed to demonstrate they have looked at the website by commenting on some of the videos we have made or brands we work with. The even savvier people will try and link this in with something they have done and make me see a connection between what we need and what they can offer. Other things I (personally) like to see are clearly laid out emails with obvious links to a reel and links to full videos, good grammar and sentence structure and I want to see some personality come across in the introduction.
Now. Things that turn me off a person. I hate waffle and I don’t like overly arrogant people. I want to hear what you believe your strengths to be and the things you are proud to of achieved but don’t be cocky with it. Some people may love that kind of attitude, but it has never personally won me over. Be clear, polite and don’t be afraid to tell me why you want the opportunity. Lastly, let’s talk about daily rates. Pick a rate you’re happy with and put it out there. I used to resent telling someone my rate as I always felt I was potentially missing out on money as they might have a figure higher in mind but they got me to say a rate before they offered one. Don’t get hung up on that. Just pick a rate that you are happy to work for and be quick to tell someone what it is. If they like you but want to budget less per day then they will ask if you can work cheaper. You can then decide whether it’s worth the drop to work on that particular project. The worst daily rate you can get is free. I’ve done a few of those but I learnt very quickly that I’d only do that for projects that really appealed to me in an artistic sense. I worked for free for a couple of arseholes that told me “I needed the exposure” or “that it would lead to more lucrative work” and none of that was true. They also ended up being some of the pickiest, most ungrateful clients I’ve ever worked with. Some of the freebies I went on to do, however, led to me making great friends and the opportunity to see my editing skills showcased at high calibre festivals. There is nothing wrong with free every once in a while but only for a project that you passionately feel you must not miss out on.
My tips for growing your client base as a freelancer are below;
That’s everything I can think of so get out there and market yourself!