Archive for the ‘Freelancing’ Category

Free Video Production Work

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

It’s a catch-22. You need the video work so you can organize a demo reel, but you often need a demo reel so you can get the video work. It’s unavoidable. People want to see work samples before making the decision to hire a video professional or video production company. So, what if you are trying to get started in the video production industry and need something on your reel? How do you get hired? One of the tactics I used when I first started my business was to give away some video production work for free – no strings attached. This approach might not suit everyone’s circumstances, but there may come a time early in your career when you need to work for free in order to beef up your reel. However, before you give away the farm, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, you should know that I only worked for free once. That’s it. Granted, I have done other pro-bono work in my career, but those jobs were done in exchange for some other goods or services or they were done for causes I support. So, be careful if you decide to offer up your services for free. You don’t want to build a reputation as someone who does video work on the cheap. Know what you are worth.

Second, know who to approach. You might think that businesses would be knocking down your door if they heard you were giving away your video services for free. However, the truth is, people can be pretty hesitant to accept something for free. They are always looking for the catch – the fine print. They don’t want to get caught up in something they didn’t anticipate. So, if you feel that your reel needs some commercial work, or some long-format work, try talking with family members first. You may have a great uncle, an aunt, a cousin, etc. who runs a small business. You could approach them, discuss your situation, and see if they would allow you to produce some videos for them at no charge.

Third, be honest about why you are offering your services for free. Whether it’s a family member, or a close friend, or a new contact, let him/her know that you are starting a new video business and you need some content for your reel. If that individual is a small business owner him/herself, he/she will certainly understand. It’s important to be up front about your motivations, because (as I mentioned in point #1) you don’t want to gain a reputation as someone who will work for little-to-no-money. You simply want to include some additional work on your reel so you can charge other clients fair market price for your services.

Recommended Podcasts

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Over the last couple of years I have subscribed to a variety of different podcasts that appeal to my specific interests. I’m always on the lookout for interesting podcasts, so I thought I would list some of my favorites. Hopefully you will find some of these interesting, entertaining, and useful.

  1. THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE – This podcast speaks directly to those who work in the creative industry (writers, graphic designers, artists, photographers, video professionals, art directors, etc.) Each episode is designed to help the creative professional avoid burnout by providing tips on how to stay motivated and have a successful career.
  2. DISHY MIX – On this podcast, host Susan Bratton interviews the top names in the New Media and Digital workspace, discussing things related to marketing, advertising, media, social media, video, and the Internet.
  3. FREELANCE RADIO – Although Freelance Radio is no longer producing new episodes, there is an archive of about 50 episodes that provide useful information for anyone operating a freelance business. In each episode, a regular panel of four freelancers discuss one central topic. Issues range from client relations, to bookkeeping, to generating new business, to ethical dilemmas, and budgeting.
  4. THE/FILMCAST – I’ve listened to several movie podcasts, but this one has to be my favorite. Each week, David Chen, Devindra Hardewar, and Adam Quigley discuss the movies and TV shows they’ve been watching, go over the latest film news, and conclude with one in-depth movie review. The occasional guest panelist includes other film critics, actors, and film directors.
  5. INSPIRING WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT WITH ZIG ZIGLAR – Each episode of the Zig Ziglar podcast features brief insights from Ziglar regarding sales, careers, life, family, relationships, and goals. The show provides great motivation for anyone, regardless of the profession. Plus, every episode is short – no more than 10 minutes, which means they can be digested easily.
  6. INTERNET MARKETING – Produced in the UK, Internet Marketing is one of the most popular podcasts of its kind. Episodes feature insights to help listeners gain increased visibility for their business through a wide array of online tools.
  7. THE DUCT TAPE MARKETING PODCAST – This podcast is for anyone looking for practical advice on how to market a business or service. In each episode, host John Jantsch interviews a marketing expert that provides useful information for online and offline marketing.

Video Production Trade Offs: Give-and-Take

Friday, March 5th, 2010

On the set of "Lifted"

Running a successful business (whether you are a sole proprietor, small business, or freelancer) depends a lot on exposure. Visibility is incredibly important, because when a company is in the market for your services, you want to be the first vendor on the call list. Sometimes, when you are first starting out, gaining exposure means conducting business trade-offs. For example, you might shoot some photos for a local publication in exchange for ad space. You might design posters, ads, etc. for a local event in exchange for sponsorship recognition. Nothing is wrong with this approach, but it’s important to be very selective for whom you do these trade offs. If you aren’t careful, you will find that you are spending a lot of time and creative energy for little in return. Sometimes the exposure pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. The trick is to learn how to find those trade-off opportunities that will maximize your publicity. You also want to be aware of those groups, businesses, non-profits, etc. that are only interested in how many “freebies” they can get out of you. Doing favors is fine. Donating your creative talents to a worthy charity is fine. But ultimately, you have to pay the bills and you have to make a profit. So it’s important to strike a healthy balance between the two.

In the past, I have been asked to produce video content for various non-profits. Many times, these non-profits have little or no money allocated for video. I try to help out when and where I can, and I have learned that if you are willing to make special arrangements for them, then they are willing to negotiate with you, so that both parties can benefit. For example, a few years ago I did some video production work for a non-profit. I was willing to do the job pro bono, hoping to gain some exposure among local businesses. Last year, the same non-profit came to me with two video projects in mind – First, they needed a promotional video for an annual fundraiser. Second, they were interested in producing some PSAs. I worked out a deal with them that I would produce the promotional video for free and in exchange they would pay me my normal production rates for the PSAs. It was a deal that benefited both my business and the non-profit.

I would encourage all of you to be charitable, but I would also encourage all of you to be business savvy as well.

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Ethics Question – Producing Video For a Client’s Competitor

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Video production is an industry full of variety. In my career, I have covered several different businesses, topics, people, and places. Browse through any video director’s client list and you will no doubt see a broad spectrum of projects. However, there may come a point when you are approached by one of your client’s direct competitors to produce video content. Should you take the job or should you politely refuse because of your existing relationship?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors – most importantly, the nature of the relationship with your existing client. Here are some things to consider:

  • If you signed a non-disclosure agreement with your client, then legally, you might not be able to accept a job from a competitor.
  • If you signed some kind of non-compete clause, then you probably won’t be able to take the competitor’s job.
  • Let’s suppose you produce a lot of content for your client on a regular basis. And let’s suppose each video requires you to be out on location meeting with your client’s vendors and other people your client does business with. Over time, these vendors might come to think of you as part of your client’s business (even though you, in fact, are an independent contractor). If those same vendors see you representing a competing company, they may take offense and the credibility of your first client could be shaken.
  • If your client considers you as their “go-to” guy/gal for production work, they may get their feelings hurt if they realize that you are doing work for their competitor. In which case, they may not want to hire you for their next project. Be careful not to burn any bridges.

Ultimately, the choice you make should be handled on a case-by-case basis, because every situation is different. Obviously, if you have only produced one video for a client, and that project is now five years old, it’s probably okay to accept a job from a competitor.

It also might be helpful to address these concerns with a new client before the first project gets underway. If the new client is looking for a long-term relationship, then you probably need to discuss any non-compete policies the company may have. I know it’s tempting to jump at a good offer when it comes your way, but more important than new jobs are the relationships you have established with your existing clientele.

So now I’ll open the floor for discussion. What would you do in a situation like this? Do you agree or disagree with the considerations mentioned in this post?

I Hate It

Friday, October 9th, 2009

We all take pride in the work we do, but our self-confidence can be shaken in a heartbeat when someone responds negatively to a project that we’ve devoted so much time and attention to. The creative world is a subjective one. Someone might look at a video and deem it a masterpiece. Someone else might look at the same video and ridicule it. Criticism hurts, but its affect on our future work can be either positive or negative, depending on how we respond.

  • Some clients will always be deconstructive. There might be some clients out there who will never be happy, regardless of what you present to them. If you find that a client is constantly tearing your work apart, without offering any suggestions for improvement, it might be time to end the relationship. Perhaps there is a personality conflict. Perhaps your style doesn’t mesh with their vision. Whatever the reason, it might be time to refer them to someone else.
  • Criticism can help you improve. Some clients genuinely want to offer up their opinions to help you create the best work possible. Early in my career I had a client that took a chance on me. He saw my potential and hired me. I was excited to work on the project, but when I submitted a rough cut, I received a call from my client who said he hated it. I instantly felt sick to my stomach. The following weeks were difficult for me as I tried re-cut after re-cut. He responded to each version with a long list of changes. Although the project was frustrating and stressful, I can confidently say that the client helped me improve the quality of my work. Today, my clients are incredibly pleased with the videos I deliver.

Receiving criticism is never fun, regardless of the spirit in which it is given. But we need to use criticism in a positive way. Let it motivate you to view your own work from a different perspective. Let it encourage you to try new things. Let it challenge you to better yourself.