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Tips for Successful Video and Film Freelancing

Jonny Elwyn
By Jonny Elwyn
By Jonny Elwyn

Whether it’s the first day of the project or the last, these 10 tips for successful freelancing will keep you on the top of your game.

If you’re new to film and video freelancing or just starting out in a creative industry these 10 tips should help you get off on the right foot and also help you wrap up your projects in the best possible way. This obviously isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully it will help you find your way if you’re new to the business and get you hired for more freelancing work in the future.

Photo by Jason ilagen

5 Tips for Your First Day on a Project

1. Be on Time

In the film industry on time means 15 minutes early, as one director I work with a lot likes to say. This is especially true of on-set freelancing when the day is often running to a tight time schedule. You don’t want to be the one who is holding up the crew from turning over. Check the call sheet for your call time and be there early. Those extra minutes will also give you time to fraternise with the rest of the crew (an important part of networking in the film and video business).

2. Bring Your Tools

Whatever kit it is that you need to do your job your way – make sure you have it with you. As an editor this means either bringing my laptop, headphones, spare harddrive, etc.  If I’m in a client suite a USB stick with my keyboard settings on it, some favorite key sound effects and some pre-made Compressor settings are always with me. Having these to hand saves me plenty of time trying to get the suite how I like it. Whatever your profession come prepared.

3. Don’t Bring Lunch

Photo by Manny Valdes

If it’s my first day at a place I’ll usually make a point of not bringing lunch with me. Why? Because I want to have a decent excuse to get out and stretch my legs and take a breather. If the client offers to buy lunch – excellent, but it usually comes with the ploy of making you eat ‘al-desco’ and squeezing out some more work. Obviously if you’re on set its more than likely you’ll be catered for.  As an editor more often than not I’m left to my own devices and I prefer to seize the break.

4. Remember Names

Remembering someone’s name is an easy way to make them feel valued. It is a tiny thing to get right but failing to do so is apt to make everyone involved feel awkward. If you’re bad a names then scribble it down or make a point of saying it each time you meet them. Make it natural, you don’t want to appear like a weirdo.

Photo by Sashafatcat

5. Bring Your T&Cs and Payment Terms

Always sort this up front.

Ts & Cs? Terms and Conditions.

Payment Terms? How long it will take to get paid, usually something like 14-60 days depending on what end of the spectrum you’re on.

I have a document I send to new clients detailing how long a day is, what overtime is paid at, how long they have to pay the invoice, what kind of content I will and won’t work with and that I am permitted to keep a copy of the work for my portfolio. I’m pretty flexible on some of these (portfolio) but not on others (content, payment terms). It’s just helpful to have everything on paper from the start.

5 Tips for Your Last Day on a Project

Finishing well its arguably just as important as your first impression. Here are 5 tips for freelancing to help you finish well and make the most of the opportunity.

Photo by Emma.Kate

1. Finish on schedule

Finishing on time and on budget is often what makes the difference between getting hired again and not. Earning some extra brownie points and (hopefully) some overtime putting in the extra hours to get the job delivered on deadline is what will solidify your relationship with the client and won’t be forgotten. If it looks like you won’t be able to deliver on time, warn people early.

2. Put in your invoice

It always astounds me when freelancing friends take ages to put in their invoice, because they don’t like doing admin. Don’t you want to get paid?! I try to make sure I email in my invoice once the project has been successfully completed and everyone is happy. If it is a long gig (more than a week or two) then I often split the invoice by week (or month).

Make sure you know who is responsible for paying you (and who to send your invoice to of course). It is important that your invoice has clear information on how to physically pay you. A lot of bigger organisations will fold their freelance invoices into bi-monthly payment runs, which can lead to frustrating further delays if you don’t get your invoice in on time.

Photos by Tax Credits

3. Get a copy of your work

Once a job is done and dusted its often harder to go back and get the client to unearth a master copy of the finished piece. So the last day is the easiest time to ask to take a master copy away with you (you can persuade them that it will save hassle in the long run).

Building your portfolio is an essential part to sowing seed for future jobs and demonstrating your professional prowess. Make the effort to get a copy then and there if possible. Or ask who you can follow up with to get a copy. Obviously sometimes this isn’t possible depending on the gig you’re working on, but try your best to get something that shows what you contributed.

4. Back Up

It is impossible to tell which projects will get resurrected for a re-edit, re-shoot or re-vamp in the future. Keeping a copy of all your important project assets (projects files, final split-audio masters, notes, reference photos etc) will ensure you’re ready for any eventuality. As an editor I will keep a safety copy of the project files, final deliverables and sometimes a media-managed final timeline.  This way I don’t have to shoulder the burden of long term storage but I am ready to re-edit.

5. (Later) Get Feedback

This is something that I’ve not seen many freelancers do, but it makes a lot of sense to do it. A few weeks after the project is (or you are) finished, call or email in and ask for any feedback the client might have on what worked well, what you could improve on next time and other skills or services they could really use.

This feedback will help you improve and making contact will hopefully help bring you to mind should there be more work in the pipeline.

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