If you’re considering taking the plunge into the freelance realm but find yourself a little unsure on exactly what to expect and how to prepare for it then here are seven powerful tips for starting your freelance career.
Have a 1-year plan. Ideally, you would be meticulous with your day-to-day planning, but it is also strongly advisable for any startup to consider where they want to be in 12 months time and how they plan to get there. Although taking each day as it comes isn’t necessarily the wrong way to go about freelancing, as we’re talking about your livelihood and your financial investment, we all know that having a realistic plan is the best place to start. Plan your finances, your new business approach, your equipment needs, your unique selling point, your online/social presence, etc.
Play to your strengths. We’ve all heard the phrase one-man-band but it’s not realistic that you’ll be able to offer every single discipline in the creative video production spectrum, so stick to what you know best and offer that to your potential clients first. As an example, if someone began their freelance career with solely video editing but had some prior filming experience then it would be encouraged that they further that aspect of their skill set to forge a shooter-editor persona. These skills are complementary, especially in a smaller shoot capacity. If your motion graphics aren’t up to scratch then don’t go around pretending you can achieve amazing 2D GFX videos because guess what…you’ll be found out in no time and your reputation will be damaged. Stay true to yourself and offer what you do best. Which moves us nicely on to…
Training & Development. Who ever said you couldn’t add skills to your set, so it’s time to consider some personal development. You can find training on almost any skill sets via paid training courses, free online tutorials or better yet, learning on the job. It’s fair to say that any digital industry is changing rapidly, so it would be beneficial for you to remain current and to improve in any areas you feel you lack in. The best thing to do when you hit something you can’t do is to admit that gap in your knowledge but then learn it as soon as you can. It’s common place to jump into online tutorials during an edit when you have forgotten or haven’t known how to perform a particular command or technique.
Choose your weapons. Unless you’re simply going to be a producer, who only needs a mobile phone (tongue in cheek), then you need to consider your kit choices wisely. When it comes to editing, you’ll want to make sure the computer you use has a decent set of RAM (go with at least 16GB), some good processing power and a healthy graphics card. You’ll find these specs in top end PC and Mac computers. If you’re going to buy second hand, try to keep the model less than two years old, you don’t want to buy a tired computer on its last legs. For camera kit, purchase what you can afford or what you think will see a return within a two year period. It’s wise to see what demand there is for certain cameras at the time you choose to purchase because this will lead to increased odds of obtaining work specifically for the camera you select. Consider either a prime lens set or a good zoom lens (maybe a set or a solid single) with a useful range. Here’s a simple consideration for a solid “one-man-band” setup:
- Editing Software
- External Hard-drives
- Lens set
- Audio Recorder (if camera can’t handle audio well)
Be prepared for this to cost you anything between £2,000 and £20,000 (without going into super high end kit) so again, work out what you need and plan this sensibly. Painful, we know, but totally worth it once you see those jobs flying in.
Networking. This doesn’t need to consist of a room full of men in suits, shaking hands and passing around ivory white business cards. You’ll be surprised how fun networking is these days, go into it with an open mind. Get yourself out there, attend events, attend meet ups, join groups, apply for lots and lots of freelance roles, apply for full-time roles and during the interview explain that you’re freelance and would equally like to offer that service. Be bold, be confident, don’t be arrogant and don’t be complacent.
The price is right. A difficult area for any wannabe freelancer, how and where do I price? Some people go off the theory of a project basis that if you decided you were happy with say £30,000 a year and you expected two projects a month than you need to divide accordingly: £30,000 / 12 = £2,500 / 2 = £1,250, hay presto, a project rate to achieve. Not an exact science of course but it helps you plan and price accordingly compared to what you require to earn (be realistic!). Another way of looking at it is simply with a day and half day rate for you and your kit. Make sure you remember to cover the costs you miss out on whilst being freelance, such as pension contributions, holiday entitlement/pay, etc. Whilst we’re on money, clue yourself up on what you can expense and keep those receipts, you’ll need them when it comes to claiming back against your earnings.
Showreel. Whatever you’ve shot/produced that you’re proud of, that shows the breadth of work you’ve completed and that would be of interest to the type of clients you want, throw it all into a nice 90-120 second punchy edit we all call a showreel. Use this showreel to boost your online presence and to demonstrate what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing next. It should grab the attention of the viewer whilst leaving enough intrigue for them to want to contact you or hire you on their next job.
These tips will help you navigate yourself through those early days of freelancing but for me it’s largely down to determination and being a decent person to everyone you work with and meet. Many of the clients and peers you’ll soon gather may end up being friends of yours. Oh, and of course, do the job and do it to the best of your ability.