Your job sucks, you have a mouth breather boss who micro manages everything you do, you fantasize about telling everyone in the office to go and fuck themselves. You are thinking it’s time for a change.
This is where I was a few years ago. I now am a freelance filmmaker who commonly gets called a videographer or a camera person. I fucking hate that title, but I am not going to correct someone for mislabeling me as I film interviews for their course.
In these moments I don’t feel like a filmmaker, but hey you have to pay the bills right?
Life is weird. A few years ago I thought I was going to have a panic attack as I spent my days cold calling realtors and trying to convince everyone I knew to give me a job where I used my camera. Now I tend to take it for granted that I have several clients and I periodically get new inquiries about the work that I do.
I was recently asked about how I got into freelancing. A few years ago before I ever got my first client I used to fantasize about the day that someone would ask me about how I got to where I was at.
Well, it just happened.
Life is great and here is a quick history of how I got into freelancing and some tips I used or learned along the way. Please enjoy and if you find it helpful consider sharing it with someone else.
Ask Everyone You Know
People like to work with people they know and trust. This is why sales is so hard. It takes time to build up a pipeline of people who trust you. Earlier I talked about cold calling. Cold calling worked to a degree. I got a few random clients for smaller jobs this way, but all of my bigger projects and my best relationships with clients can all be traced back to people I have developed real relationships with.
Don’t be pushy about this, but you need to let people around you know that you are now freelancing and you want to work. They may know someone or they may have a project for you.
Don’t Ever Lie
It is always better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver. If it is your first time on set or your first job you should tell someone. Your first job as a freelancer is probably going to be for free so there’s no point in letting your ego get in the way. Let people know what you can do and what your experience is. You are already able to do more than most people can with your camera. Trust me, the truth wins.
The thing I heard the most when I was starting out was, “be good to work with.”
Don’t Work For Free Without Doing This
If you have no experience and you are just starting out you are going to have to prove your worth. Experience will speak for itself in the future. The way I approach clients now is completely different than it was three years ago. This took time for me and it will for you too. One big difference for me now is my portfolio and demo reel. You can’t have a demo reel until you have work to showcase.
Working for free isn’t something you should do for long. I would encourage you to try and only do it once. Passion projects will obviously be free work that you will do but a client needs to pay you.
BUT… before you work for free you need to figure out what you would charge, because you are going to bill your free client. That’s right, even though it is a free job you want to train people to view you as a professional who gets paid like one.
Do the work. Give the client the bill and then give them a 100% discount on the project. Market value is hard to figure out sometimes, especially when you’re staring because not a lot of people are writing blogs or posting online before they ever get their first client. I live in the midwest and I now charge almost 2k a day for a full production, but when I started I charged $500 a day. As I got better I slowly raised my rates. I hope that helps.
A Bonus Tip
How do you get clients? Good question with a very vague answer. The answer is vague because there really are several different avenues you can take as a professional video dude camera person.
What I did and what a lot of people do is volunteer work. I don’t go to church because I am a vegan atheist, but a lot of filmmakers and camera people got started by making videos for their church.
I volunteered at my son’s school to help with their community outreach program. This helped get me some momentum going at the beginning of my career when literally no one was calling me.
Carry on a be a good person.