With the economy in free fall and full time filmmaking jobs disappearing quicker than you can say ‘recession’, freelancing is becoming the way talented filmmakers (or should I say ‘content creators’?) can get paid work.
The advantages of freelancing are the flexible working hours and being able to pick and choose the jobs you want to do. The disadvantages are the long weeks and even months when no one needs your services.
I have been talking a lot lately to Stacey Perlin, a publisher and film professional based in Calgary, Canada. Stacey serves producers looking to outsource marketing and public relations services, and helps them find general production/development services for their projects. Like here in the UK, most film professionals are freelance.
There are a few simple rules you should apply in order to succeed as a film freelancer:
Film producers hire individuals who are specialists in their field. If they want someone to build a doorway, they hire a scenic carpenter. If they need an editor, they hire one who they have heard from other producers is very good. Decide what it is you like doing, learn the skill and craft, and become known as the best in your field.
2. Discern your ideal client.
Stacey makes this terrific point: “What makes you a unique product? Your passions, your tastes and your skills. There are clients out there looking for your exact combination. Do yourself a favour and market yourself to them. It’ll bring you the work that you want to do and motivate yourself to keep in the game.”
3. Get good at self promotion
The best showreel or portfolio in the world does you absolutely no good if you keep it tucked up under your bed, where no one notices it until two weeks after you die when the neighbours complain about the smell drifting into the hallway.
Get really good at self promotion.
Stacey and I agree that networking skills are worth the investment. Stacey adds: “Enrol in networking workshops, attend a variety of regular mixers and get to know people!”
4. Follow the rules
Running your own business means attending to the nitty gritty. Creating and chasing invoices, filing your tax returns, collecting and reclaiming VAT, making sure your bank account is organised are additional chores you need to make time to complete.
5. Don’t become a snake
Whatever you do, never ever say anything negative about anyone else, or you will get known as a snake.
A recent close friend left Raindance under the guise of disenchantment and then immediately spat out a slew of virulent emails to all my close friends and colleagues. Did this succeed? No, in fact the opposite. For all my friends to whom I was bad-mouthed realised it came from a snake – someone who can never be trusted. And my dear friend soiled and ruined overnight all the professional relationships they thought they had built up. No one will now work with them.
Don’t let yourself be known as a snake. The professional way to make your displeasure known is a direct conversation with the person who has annoyed you or let you down.
6. Learn to say thank you
A polite and courteous thank you may seem like the proper thing to do, but in a world populated by millions of emails, it is no longer enough.
Get a card with a suitable image (or make one yourself) and thank the person in wirting. Get a stamp and mail it, making sure that your name and contact details are legible.
Another good strategy is to acquire some interesting postcards, and drop potntial clients an occassional card while you are on your travels. It will remind them of you, and hopefully get you higher up on their call list.
7. Make yourself accessible.
Again, it takes a Canadian to point out the obvious. Stacey has really stright-forward advice: “Find out where your ideal clients come together. Is it in person? Do you see them on facebook or twitter? Then create contact points on those platforms.”
As in many things in life, there is this golden rule: Underpromise and overdeliver. You will definately get call backs.