The world of internet freelancing has created a vast amount of unique opportunities for people all around the world.
Online freelancing has made the world of work easier and smaller as experienced and knowledgeable individuals can now easily find freelance clients with those who are looking for their desired skill set.
For many, it’s a bright new world of work where you can organise your own schedule, take time off whenever you want or need or even work remotely whilst travelling the world.
One key area of online freelancing that has emerged throughout the last few years is videography. Videographers were previously limited to video houses and studios which charge the earth for production costs.
Now, individual specialists can be hired for on-going work or one-off projects that can range from creating 1 minute video clips to editing feature-length movies and documentaries.
The growth of freelancing platforms such as Upwork continue to increase and are helping to bridge the gap between freelancers and projects.
Source: Upwork – Google Trends 2004 – Present
Video is a major asset in today’s digital world and is required by brands and organisations of all types.
In 2018, phenomenal 81% of businesses use video in their marketing strategy which has increased from 63% in 2017. 65% of those who don’t use video say they’ll plan to use to it in 2018.
Source: Video Marketing – Google Trends 2004 – Present
Video is hot right now – there’s never been a better time to offer your skills to this emerging online trade.
So whether you’re looking to become a video freelancer to create explainer videos, corporate productions or place your video content in funky content mediums such as a video cards / video brochures for clients, continue reading our comprehensive guide to kickstart your freelance video production career.
In this article:
The Two Types of Videography Freelancer
1. The ‘One-man-band’
As a ‘one-man-band’, you’ll own cameras, microphones and other shooting equipment that allow you to take on physical shooting gigs in your area or region.
Most of these will be events like weddings, events, music videos, short films, promo videos and corporate videos.
There is a ton of work in this IF you’re close to the kind of regional hubs where this style of work takes place.
- Physical shoots are often quite lucrative (several hundreds pounds or dollars for a day’s work)
- Face-to-face networking can lead to ongoing or permanent roles
- Start-up costs are obviously high and are even higher if you want to bid for top level gigs
- Competitive freelance environment in major cities
If it isn’t possible to position yourself favourably for these on-site gigs, or if you plan on taking the digital nomad path to online freelancing, then do not fear – video freelancing is still easily achievable.
2. The Digital Videographer
If you wish to stay mobile or don’t live in proximity to a region with regular filming opportunities then you can work exclusively from your PC.
Whilst your PC and video editing skills will need to be good enough to finish projects, you won’t need to purchase filming equipment.
Your daily tasks could involve editing, animation, mastering, colour grading, CGI or almost any other task that can be performed ‘in-the-box’ (e.g. within editing software).
- Can work remotely from anywhere
- Lower start-up costs
- Little opportunity for face-to-face networking
- Limited to work that involves video editing software
What Qualities Should a Good Videographer Have?
As a person, a good videographer should be creative and pragmatic in solving problems.
In the freelance world, prospective clients will often contact you with a basic set of needs and expect you to work out exactly what they need.
To work out a client’s needs, you’ll need to be able to make a critical assessment of their technical expectations and respond accordingly.
Communication is key as you’ll be messaging prospective clients all the time.
Being able to communicate in a concise, friendly and professional manner will win you more jobs more often.
This is massive – no matter what your freelance portfolio says about you, a poorly written cover letter will reduce your chances of getting freelance work.
Aside from that, you should be flexible and intuitive in responding to client needs.
The freelance world is largely message based but it’s still important to remain humanistic in your conversations.
Research, Learn and Educate Yourself about the Film and Video Production Industry
Knowledge is power, so make sure to refresh up on your movie making knowledge and know the video production process in and out because it’ll help you to build your skills and find freelancer clients fast.
The video production industry is huge and this is largely thanks to the entertainment industry.
Films, documentaries and TV programs occupy the vast majority of the video industry in terms of revenue and employment. Box-office revenue is forecast to exceed $50 billion in 2020!
The online freelance videography landscape is formed mostly by smaller projects and occasional ongoing work but it’s still a massive industry.
The number of freelance workers in videography has grown vastly and in the UK, just under half of all workers in the video industry are freelance.
Knowing what to expect is really important when you start out freelancing. Here are some examples of what to expect from a freelance video career:
- TV and film. Even large organisations like Film4 and the BBC will look to hire freelancers but most frequently, you’ll see smaller private projects advertised like producing interviews or corporate video.
- Example: You might be expected to film someone in an interview format (e.g. a talk on a new product release) and then professionally edit it to perfection.
- Events. Gigs filming events of any kind are commonplace and could be anything from filming corporate training days to weddings, parties and music events.
- Example. You might be expected to film a village fete for a day and then edit down the footage into a fun showreel that will be promoted online.
- Video editing. This is a major area of freelance videography, the work can be incredibly varied so being flexible is key. I.e. many individuals and organisations might film some footage themselves and then realise they have no way of professionally editing it. Alternatively, they might have received tons of raw footage and need to decide which clips to use for the final version. Video editing can be anything from taking hundreds of clips and turning them into coherent footage to colour grading and lighting or CGI.
- Example. A business filmed a DIY video of their factory production process and want to edit it into an awesome video with some enhancements to colour and lighting.
- Animation. Animation is obviously an entire industry in its own right but jobs requesting short 1-minute marketing videos are extremely common. You don’t even need animation skills to create them, you can use online programs such as Moovly. Combined with a bit of video editing knowledge, you can enhance animations created with these programs and touch them up to a higher professional standard.
- Example: An IT security consultancy want a 1-minute animation detailing the key areas of online security and how they can assist with prospective clients.
When you’re entering the world of freelance videography you may quickly realise that you need to become well versed in a diverse range of areas in the industry.
Take the time to train yourself in areas which you’re interested in working in.
There are tons of courses on everything from basic and advanced animation to extensive video editing.
Some websites which offer online videography courses:
- Video School Online
- Larry Jordan
Select and Learn a Video Editing Program
Being able to understand and use video editing software is one of the most challenging areas of modern videography.
You need to be able to understand the client’s request and contextualise the actions you’ll need to take within your favourite editing program.
As an aspiring videographer, it’s likely that you’ll possess some video editing software knowledge already but if you plan on stepping forward into the freelance world then you’ll need to select your weapon of choice and brush up on your skills.
We advise that you pick one main editing program.
There really are tons of options but the industry standard is probably Adobe Premiere Pro. It couples with After Effects and other member programs of Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
For many aspiring freelancers, Adobe Premiere is prohibitively priced at $19.99 monthly but fortunately, there are plenty of viable alternatives to choose from.
YouTube as Video Resource
If you’re looking for resources for learning video editing then look no further than YouTube. Here are some great tutorial channels:
- Justin Odisho
- The Film Look
- Peter McKinnon
Purchase the Right Equipment
As mentioned earlier, determining your path in freelance videography will be a significant factor in determining what equipment you’ll need.
If you plan on forming a ‘one-man-band’ which can take on physical shooting jobs like weddings, events and corporate videos then you’re going to need a considerable amount of video equipment.
Your budget equipment range could cost between £2000 and £50,000 or above and it should be viewed as strategic investment.
- A professional camera. The Panasonic HPX170 is awesome (pictured below)
- A professional microphone kit
- Battery chargers of all kinds, spare batteries, cables, accessories, tape
- Optional lighting gear
- Optional lenses
- Optional green screen equipment
The ‘one-man-band’ path isn’t for everybody. If you’re not going down that route then you should concentrate on the following:
- A professional level laptop, preferably with a big screen (4K is becoming increasingly important)
- Solid backup hard drives like the OWC Elite Pro (minis)
- Professional monitor headphones such as the Sennheiser HD 380
- A USB microphone like the Blue Yeti is a great microphone for portability
Your Freelance Portfolio
A videography freelance portfolio revolves around something called a showreel. This is a reel of clips that showcases your best work.
Most showreels are short and can be even as short as one minute in length. However, we recommend aiming for 3 minutes of well-labelled and organised footage.
There are a few ways you can display your freelance portfolio.
You can showcase it publically on Behance, a social network designed for creatives or place files in a Google Drive folder and link that to prospective clients along with a text transcript of your work.
Alternatively, you can upload your portfolio to YouTube and/or Vimeo. Vimeo Pro that allows you to upload password protected videos which is useful if you just want to show your clients edits or cuts.
To strengthen your portfolio, be active on Social Media and leverage tools such as BuzzSumo to scout out and connect with Social Media Influencers.
If you’re YouTubing your portfolio then work hard to promote your content so you can gain some likes, views and comments.
A great way of building your portfolio’s credibility is by posting relevant links around forums such as Reddit, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups and Slack Communities.
Whilst it’s great having a fixed portfolio, you need to realise that your work will develop and you’ll need to gradually add to your reel.
This is why freelancing platforms such as Behance are great as you can update your portfolio at any time.
Tailor Your Freelance Portfolio
Be aware that it’s best to tailor your freelance portfolio to each client you’re applying to. For example, if you’re applying to an art / creative project then you might want to miss out more corporate videos and vice versa.
Animate and Label Your Footage
Always label and annotate footage.
You can either add text and captions, slides between projects to explain what they are or if you’re using YouTube, you can annotate with the Annotation Editor (now called Cards).
This will help you to keep organised, reduce your time spent building different showreels or portfolios whilst giving you more time to apply for potential freelancing projects.
Establish an Online Presence
Building your reputation is the biggest factor that will help you gain access to the most exciting and lucrative freelance opportunities.
The first profiles you should focus on are your main client generation profiles. These will most likely be Upwork, PeoplePerHour and other freelance websites (full list in the next section).
You really want to ace your profile on these platforms and make them look as good as you possibly can. Fill out all profile info, qualifications, etc.
Here are some other social media accounts we recommend:
- YouTube: This is an obvious one. You should routinely upload projects to YouTube. Obviously, any personal project is fine to upload but you need to check with clients if you want to upload clips to a reel of recent work.
- Behance: This is Adobe’s own creative social network. It makes for a great digital portfolio gallery and even features its own built-in jobs page. You can sync it up to Creative Cloud if you wish to, enabling you to easily cut bits out of your project from Adobe programs for easy upload. Behance allows for the upload of almost any media and will retain high quality which is important for any visual portfolio.
- Instagram: Instagram is obviously buzzing with users and with hashtags, you can easily fire off your work into useful and relevant social circles. Instagram can create leads for you all by itself if you simply track your activities and Instagram them regularly. The big downside to using Instagram is that it can destroy file quality and videos are the worst affected.
Client / Customer Acquisition
Your main arena for client acquisition are freelance websites. These are sites where employers in the form of individuals, organisations and businesses can post requests for work.
As a freelancer, you can browse their listings and apply with a cover letter/proposal. Some job posts will have budgets but many are just a guide – it’s up to you to judge the job in terms of hours and pay.
The Major Freelance Job Platforms:
Take a look at FreeTrain’s Freelance Jobs Board as well.
When you sign up, complete all forms properly and make sure to include a friendly portrait photo as a profile picture.
Some websites, like PeoplePerHour, have an endorsement feature where previous clients can vouch for your work similar to LinkedIn.
When you apply for work:
- Your cover letter is everything. We recommend being upbeat and enthusiastic in tone. Always read the job post and reference it in your cover to letter to show that you’ve actually read and understood it. Relate your experience to the job and explain how your skills are able to fulfil their project’s requirements.
- Try to be helpful. That means offering your own insight as a creative professional. Build rapport by asking about the project and complimenting it if appropriate.
- Always ask questions to help you refine your brief. If you accept a job and then ask tons of extra questions then it doesn’t only make you look like you didn’t consider the role, it also gives your client an opportunity to load you with more work and extra tasks.
- Consider these psychological tips for composing messages. You should always try to gauge the tone of the job poster and respond by matching their tone and sentence length. Matching their messaging showcases your flexibility with language and showcases to potential clients that you’re competent at writing video scripts.
- An Example of an Outreach Message: Hi [Name] I was just looking through your project notes/job listing, I’ve worked in XYZ before, etc. Please see my attached showreel which contains the following clips, I’ve previously worked on [Project Skill], [Project Skill 2] that are specifically relevant to your [Project Name]. I look forward to hearing from you.
When you take on freelance work, the most likely scenario is that you’ll be offering a freelance rate per milestone or project.
For example, if the task is to edit 2 hours of film footage then it’s up to you to consider how long this will take you and offer an overall amount that covers your time and work.
A second scenario is that you’ll work at an hourly rate.
To do this properly, you’ll have to give the client an indication of how long the project will take and then charge per hour. You’d then begin work, track your time and charge accordingly.
Time tracking is optional but there’s no doubt that it’s a rising force in the freelance world.
Time tracking helps both you and your client to view and understand the activities that have contributed towards a project’s completion.
Sometimes a client will be pretty stringent on seeing timed evidence of your work but most of the time, they’ll be happy for you to take as long as you want so long as you stick to their budget.
Time tracking software ranges from simple timers that you can stop and start yourself to more complex programs that track your software usage and display work data in graphs and charts.
The Benefits of Time Tracking Software
Time tracking allows you to:
- Discover and track how long your work is taking so you can work out your hourly rate. This can help guide your freelance rates for future projects.
- Keep work within your client’s timescale and budget.
- Show your client graphical information on what you’ve been doing with your time.
Several apps that we recommend for tracking your time are:
- Time Doctor
Google Chrome Extensions for time tracking:
- Simple Time Tracker
So we’ve covered all of the essential areas that you need to focus on to kickstart your video freelancing career.
Now, it’s up to you to make it happen, be confident and realise that it will take time to establish yourself as a quality freelance videographer – it’s definitely worth the wait.
Always be positive, pragmatic and enthusiastic about your approach to freelance videography – it’ll be a great experience!
At the beginning, things will be their slowest but that’s normal and so long as you press on, you’ll 100% see results if you follow the steps in this guide.
Never give up and always look to better your own knowledge as you go forward into the freelance world.
With a bit of time and effort, landing serious gigs is possible and they’re not just lucrative but are also a lot of fun!
One thing can lead to another and before you know it, you will realise that you have a full-blown career in freelance videography. Good luck!
This article was produced by Sam Jeans from Vidioh, a video brochure marketing company that make incredible video in print products that help clients to engage with their prospects, customers and employees.