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.