One of the top reasons young people with creative talent decide to go into film and video is the opportunity to work for themselves. Freelancing is a great option when you have a tangible skill set and want job flexibility. Research projects that by 2023, more than half of the American workforce will have spent time as an independent worker at some point in their lives. There are many paths you can take as a freelancer in the production industry - producing, editing, videography, graphics work - that could have you working directly with clients or even on a film set.
If you decide that the freelancer’s life is for you, there are some things you should know to get started. Not only does Storyblocks serve freelancers who are our customers, but they work for us as well. Here is some of the advice we’ve gathered for the creative class of 2019 from our seasoned freelancer colleagues.
(Kaitlyn Rossi, pictured left)
Know the market value of your skills
Before you can start taking on jobs, you need to know what you will charge. Whether you’ll be charging per hour or per project, there’s a balance between setting a competitive rate and earning enough for it to be worth your time. The first step to figuring this out is research. Talk to a mentor or a seasoned professional in your industry. Research rates online and seek advice from forums and discussion groups. If your clients are local to you, you’ll want to understand your local market. There may be average rates, but they will vary geographically. For example, a video editor based in San Francisco will charge a higher rate than one based in Nashville because of the cost of living difference.
Manage your cash flow
Managing cash flow requires having consistent work from a reliable portfolio of clients, forecasting your income and expenses, and having a backup plan to manage cash crunches. Building a client base will take time, but you can establish a cash flow system right away. Protect yourself from getting burned by always using a contract or a ‘statement of work’ with clients and employers. Require upfront deposits to ensure you have the cash to carry you through long-term projects.
You may also consider keeping separate accounts for business and for personal use. If you’re continually pulling personal money from your business revenue, you might not leave enough for your business expenses. A tip that many entrepreneurs and freelancers will give is to pay yourself a consistent salary from your business account. This will make your cash flow more predictable and help you forecast your surpluses and dips.
Ask for referrals and build relationships
As mentioned above, it will take time to build your base of clients. When you’re first starting out, keep an open mind about the work opportunities you come across. Doing a corporate video for a healthcare company may not seem exciting, but you never know what connections a satisfied client can provide. It’s highly likely that your contact at a company will at some point know someone needing your skill set. Keeping lines of communication open and asking for referrals is totally normal - and smart.
Good work speaks for itself. Companies need to hire talented freelancers to fill the voids that exist within their own teams. When you prove yourself as a go-to freelancer that can produce the work they need, your clients are usually happy to refer you to their contacts.
Decide where to do your work
Working from home every day is not for everyone, and historically may have deterred those who could otherwise benefit from the freelance life. Today, some contract and freelance workers have the option to work on-site for a company - which will be the case if you are going primarily for field work. Even if you don’t find yourself in one of these arrangements, the gig economy and the rise of independent work has prompted an entire industry of co-working spaces dedicated to those in alternative work setups.
There are countless things you’ll learn along the way as a freelancer. It can be tough work, yet incredibly rewarding. Loving your craft, committing to self-education and exercising some basic business smarts will get you on your way to becoming a production industry boss.
Kaitlyn Rossi is a creative strategist at Storyblocks (www.storyblocks.com ) and has a background in video production, specializing in producing and editing. Storyblocks is an Arlington, VA-based one-stop-shop for affordable, high-quality stock media.