Freelancing: Finding Work
For the first time in my career I’m now working as a full-time freelancer. Not having a staffed position is new to me and freelancing has a steep learning curve. But as I pick things up I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned in a series of blogs called Freelancing.
From offline to online, there are a number of ways to find work; and as a freelancer, nothing can be dis-counted. Here’s a quick rundown of how I’ve managed to stay busy.
Probably the most important resource for filmmakers, or any creatives, to finding more work is via the people you already know. You work with people, they like you and/or your work, they hire you again. Or even better than hiring you again, they refer you to other jobs. It’s that simple.
When work is slow, reach out to your network and see if anyone is shooting. If they don’t have any work for you at the moment, by reaching out to them, you’ve put your name on their radar for when work does come up. When I moved back to San Francisco from Chicago I was lucky enough to have already worked in the area before. By reaching out and telling people I was moving back my network instantly created job opportunities.
Often times your network includes people who aren’t necessarily in your field. As a filmmaker, these relationships are equally important. In today’s market, video is everywhere. If your network includes creatives from other fields they are able to use you as a resource for their work, which in turn gets you work. By nurturing relationships with other creatives you grow the pool from which work may find you.
This works especially well with designers. My girlfriend, Loretta, was designing a website and convinced the client that videos would help the site. When the client agreed, who did Loretta recommend? That’s right, J.J. Abrams. But he wasn’t available, so the work went to me. This helped her project, and got me a new one.
Everything you do as a freelancer is a networking opportunity. And I mean EVERYTHING. I’ve already said that video is everywhere, and that means everyone needs video. To capitalize on every opportunity you find, do two things: be outgoing, and have business cards. Talk yourself up when the chance arises, then make sure you give whoever you’re talking to your contact information. You never know who, what, when, where, or how your next project will come to you.
A couple of months after moving back to SF, Loretta and I were walking our dog at a park and stumbled upon a doggy photo shoot. Their production manager asked if Zero would model for them, we said yes of course; and as they were taking picture of our pup, I talked to the photographer about myself. I gave him my card, and two weeks later I was working with him on set.
We live in a digital age. The internet has made communication on all fronts easier. There are a number of places you can go online as a filmmaker to find potential work. Just to name a few: Craigslist, StaffMeUp, Mandy, FilmAndTVPro, ProductionHub, MediaMatch. You can also check for local sites and production offices. In the SF area two awesome places to look are BAVC and the Reel Directory.
These online resources are easy to access and find work, but there are also a lot of pitfalls to using them: scam ads, ridiculous requests for unpaid work, a huge number of applicants; the list goes on. The key to making internet job boards a valuable resource is to understand that they can only be part of how you find work. Make sure you diversify where you’re looking for work.
Visibility is key, a great way to find work is to make sure people know you’re available. It can be as easy as drafting up an email and sending it to your contacts. Let them know what you’ve been working on and what you hope to work on in the future. This puts you in their mind as they start working on new projects.
I try to send out monthly email blasts with any new projects that have been completed and just some general news. On multiple occasions I’ve received calls and emails from producers says “I’m glad you contacted me, I’ve got a job for you.” Production coordinators tend to hire the same people over and over, so make sure they’re thinking about you when they’re looking for crew.
There’s been two big trends in what I’ve been suggesting: networking is key, and everything is digital. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, are extremely handy in staying connected to your network and your industry. You can also keep yourself relevant by blogging (hint, hint, wink, wink) and making use of the tools available to you online.
However, this advice comes with a stipulation. If you don’t want to be inundated with people’s selfies and cat pictures, then keep it professional. I keep my twitter filled with folks from within the industry, and I try to only post industry related content. This keeps me relevant and has even garnered some job leads.
Work may be hard to find. But if you work at it, you can find plenty of opportunities. I’ve just outlined how I find jobs, but I’d love to hear how you all do it. Where do you look for jobs? What do you do to make sure the work comes in? Post in the comments so we can all steal your ideas!
Freelancing: Finding Work