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5 Tips for Freelancers – and ALL Entrepreneurs

There are many lessons I have learned in more than 25 years in the business of television and video production (this is my 20th year as a freelancer).
Here are five tips I would consider KEY:

5 Tips for Freelancers – and ALL Entrepreneurs

1. Build strong alliances with other freelancers in your line of work and related fields.

Networking and keeping in touch with other directors of photography, photographers, writers, producers and related freelancers has been key to the longevity of my business. Some of them are my direct competitors, but I consider them allies.

Often a job will come up that I am too busy to do so I will refer the client to someone else, who I trust and is equally qualified (and who will not try to steal my client). This works both ways: I have gotten many shoots and writing jobs through this network of freelancers.

Additionally, people that I meet who work in related positions, like sound mixers, make up artists, gaffers and grips are valuable resources. Clients will sometimes ask these people if they know a director of photography or writer-producer who would be a “good fit” for their project.

Another spot where this helps is in gear acquisition: We are often asked to provide cameras or related equipment on a job that I don’t personally own. Usually I know another freelancer who has the piece of gear and will gladly rent it to me for a discounted rate if they are not using it on the shoot day. This is cheaper than getting the gear from a rental house and builds a good rapport with the other freelancer who will then, in turn, be more likely to refer me on a project that they can’t handle.

2. Return every email and phone call.

This tip seems so basic but I have found in the age of social media that many people are lax at returning actual direct messages via email or phone. It annoys me when I send someone a question and they don’t bother to reply, so I try not to be “that guy.”

Even if I can’t do a job, because I am previously booked or the client doesn’t have enough budget for my services, I will reply with “Thank you for your inquiry” and a brief note about why I am not able to do the job. People REMEMBER that you took the time to give them a response and will be more likely to call again. If you never reply, then eventually those people will stop calling.

Also, its important to remember that things change rapidly – the person who is a lowly intern making calls for an employer today, could be in an executive position with a PR agency or larger production house in the years to come. They will remember you if you gave them the courtesy of a call or an email reply.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for payment in full upon completion of a job when dealing with new clients.

It’s a strange phenomenon in creative fields that there are some people who believe that because we enjoy what we do, we aren’t as concerned about getting paid in a timely manner. Funny, I always ask people “when you hire a plumber or electrician to make a repair at your house, do they bill you and wait 45-60 days for you to pay them?” Of course not. But in my line of work, people will call from out of state, that have never done any business with me and expect me show up, shoot or produce a project for them and then wait to get paid on it.

When I first started my freelance business, I did this several times and then ended up with serious cash flow issues. It is very stressful and completely unnecessary. I have since adopted a policy for “first time” clients – I expect to be paid in full at the completion of the first shoot, then for subsequent shoots I will bill them on a “Net 30″ basis.

This policy stated up front establishes that you are a professional and you do expect to get paid. I have found that the ones that complain about this and say they can’t do it are the ones that will try to delay or not pay at all. It’s a “red flag” if they don’t understand the policy, and I promise you it’s better to walk away from the deal if they are not willing to comply.

There are some exceptions I have made for this when dealing with large multi-national corporations – I am willing to do the first shoot for them and bill them for it, as long as I have been put in contact with their accounting department in advance and have their assurances in writing that the invoice will be paid in a timely manner.

Adopting this policy will make the clients respect you more as they see that you are a professional and expect to get paid as such.

4. When purchasing equipment, separate what you want from what your clients NEED and are willing to pay for.

I am a gadget freak, especially when it comes to cameras and related technology. Personally, I would love to have the latest and greatest toys in the market. As a business owner, I have to look at every single purchase as an asset, something with a reasonable return on investment.

Every piece of equipment I buy (as opposed to renting for a specific project) is something that I know my clients are going to want to hire me with on their productions, with budgets to support it.

Example: when high definition cameras were first introduced, many rushed to buy the first models only to find that most of their clients were still delivering videos in standard definition. By the time the clients came around to actually wanting to broadcast or deliver in HD, the tools had already changed, and gotten less expensive. I bought my first HD camera only after having to rent one several times for a client who no longer wanted to hire me with my standard definition gear. By that time, the entry price had come down and I had a reasonable expectation that the clients would continue to want the HD cameras. At that point, I felt comfortable in the investment.

5. Above all, strive to be a valuable resource for your clients.

This is an over arching attitude that should encompass all of your client interactions. It relates back to Tips #1 and #2. If I can’t do a particular job for a good client, I will spend some of my own time to connect them with someone who can.

I let clients know that they can call me anytime with any request, and I will try to help them.

I am also “up front” with clients when I don’t have a good recommendation for them. I only refer people that I trust will do a great job. If I am not sure of that in a given situation, I let the client know it, and they appreciate my candor.

If they are unsure of how to approach a project, I will happily listen and try to give my advice based on my years of experience in the business, whether or not I will be directly billing them for a particular job. It keeps them coming back, they remember and respect me for it.

Please comment below. What do you think of these tips?

The backstory to this “5 Tips” Post:

I have had some excellent, insightful responses to my blog about stepping back and re-evaluating my business and priorities in the creative life: The Freelance Life: Hitting the Reset Button.

Andrea Reed of Upwork sent me this nice note:
“Hi Trace,

I’m Andrea, from the marketing team here at Upwork. We’re an online workplace that connects businesses with the world’s top freelance talent faster than ever before.

I came across your “The Freelance Life: Hitting the Reset Button” post, and was impressed by your commitment to quality as freelancer. You have some interesting thoughts that I think would be great to share with the freelancers who use our website. There are so many factors in developing a successful freelance business, from building your personal brand to choosing the right clients to work with, and I’m curious: what works best for you?

We’re hoping you’d be willing to write a post for your blog highlighting some of your best advice for freelance writers, photographers and video producers.”

Thank you, Andrea, for your kind comments about the blog and my approach to business as a self employed, freelance media professional. I am happy to provide a few tips.

I was not aware of UpWork before your email, so I visited your site and I am impressed! I have now signed up as a freelancer with your service and will encourage my readers to do so as well.

Freelancers: No, this is not an ad. I am not being paid by UpWork for this post. Visit their site, make your own decision: UpWork

Trace Ready "The Social Freelancer"

Trace Ready “The Social Freelancer”

Trace Ready is a Director of Photography, Writer, Producer and Vocalist based in Dallas, Texas. His band Trace Relations has released their debut studio CD “Prosperity Street”
Connect with Trace: TraceProductions.com

Like this? Help Trace keep his wheels on the road for the photo series “Vanishing Texas” and continue posting to this blog while juggling in “the freelance life.” – HERE:

Vanishing Texas Photography by Trace
Supporters receive my undying gratitude and a free copy of my music CD, “Prosperity Street” by Trace Relations Band

Read more…

posted by Tracy Ready in creative,marketing,Opinion,social media,The Social Freelancer,TV – FILM – VIDEO – PHOTO,Video Production and have No Comments

The Freelance Life: Hitting the Reset Button

“In taking stock of ourselves, we should not forget that fear plays a large part in the drama of failure. That is the first thing to be dropped. Fear is a mental deficiency susceptible of correction, if taken in hand before it gains an ascendency over us. Fear comes with the thought of failure.” – Douglas Fairbanks

I am taking stock of myself this morning. This quote from Douglas Fairbanks reminded me of the mentally crippling nature of fear. It is the root of all inactivity, a sign of regression instead of progression.

It is important for me to take a step back, take stock of all I am doing, examining what’s working for me and what’s not.

Merging "work" with creative

Merging “work” with creative

I reached a point of overload at the end of 2014. Multiple projects have been started, some pieces complete, others needing more time and work. This blog, while rewarding to me on a psychological level, is only moderately successful in reaching larger audiences.

I struggle with the ups and downs of my production business TraceProductions.com as I have for 20 years now. The video and television production business has been rewarding. My career has taken me all over the world and given me a (mostly) steady income and incredible experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But it is a changed business. For too many reasons to go into here, there is nothing but downward pressure on pricing for many of the services I have traditionally provided for my clients. I stay busy and am grateful for the work I have but it is less profitable than ever before. I have grown and moved on, learning and developing new skills that continue to enrich my life’s experience. Read more…

posted by Tracy Ready in marketing,Opinion,Psychology,social media,social networking,The Social Freelancer,TV – FILM – VIDEO – PHOTO,Writing and have Comments (5)

16 Quotes on Politicians from American Humorist Will Rogers

“This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
– Will Rogers

2.) “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
– Will Rogers

American humorist, writer and actor Will Rogers

American humorist, writer and actor Will Rogers

It is fascinating to me how Rogers’ quips, written in the early 1900’s, resonate so soundly today. His biting wisdom and humor held both Republican and Democrat feet to his sarcastic fire when he felt they deserved it, which was often.

3.) “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”
– Will Rogers

How appropriate for today! Think of the influence that John Stewart and Bill Maher (comedians) have on the voting public.

“William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was an American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor. He was one of the world’s best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s.” via Wikipedia

Read on, more Will Rogers humor and wisdom >> Read more…

posted by Tracy Ready in Humor,Opinion,Writing and have No Comments

…and that’s why I love to sing.

“Have fun while you can ’cause fate’s an awful thing. You can never tell what might happen and that’s why I love to sing.” – T-Bone Walker

T-Bone Walker (1910-1975)

T-Bone Walker (1910-1975)

This quote from T-Bone Walker, one of my heros of the blues, sums up life for me. I enjoy my life and career in television, video production and photography, but before all that I was, and continue to be, a singer and lyricist. It’s an integral part of who I am. I don’t make a living at it, but I will continue doing it as long as I am alive.

When I am singing I can suspend everything else in my mind, all the ups and downs and rocks in the road of life, and just be “in the moment” with the song.

It calms me and makes me happy to be alive at the same time …and that’s why I love to sing. – Trace

What about you?

Trace. Photo by: Rick Moore

Trace. Photo by: Rick Moore

What takes you to a place where you can feel alive and “in the moment?”
I would love to hear about it, please comment below. Thanks.

Read more…

posted by Tracy Ready in creative,Music,Opinion,Psychology and have Comments (2)

Starting from a place of humanity

Someone angered me on a job. Now I’m driving home, seething. Someone cuts me off on the road. I boil some more. I walk into the house and discover dog poop on the living room carpet and a tail wagging dog demanding my immediate attention when all I want to do is sit down and have a beer. I yell at the dog, then feel guilty about it. A suck-y day.

Taking a look within

Taking a look within


Sound familiar? It should because “that’s life”.
I have succumbed to the anger spiral way too often, but I think I am getting a bit better.

I started by reminding myself that everybody has issues. The person who initially pissed me off could be going through an incredible emotional upheaval; a divorce, a death in the family, a problem child at home or an unreasonable boss. Starting from a place of humanity means understanding that there is another thinking, feeling human being on the other side of the equation.

So what?
My own cycle of stress stemmed from one altercation on the job. Once I realize that my adversary is probably suffering in some way too, I can stop feeling angry about the squabble. I feel some compassion and understanding, putting me in a better frame of mind when I hit the road. The person cutting me off doesn’t bother me as much, and the dog? Forget about it, I’d love him and feel sorry for him anyway.

One change in perception can alleviate a whole day of tension and wasted mental energy (anger).

What say you? Comments invited and appreciated in the section below. Thanks!

Related Posts – click the titles to read on:


Focus on What You CAN Do, Not What You CAN’T

Remember Moments that Matter

Trace Ready "The Social Freelancer"

Trace Ready “The Social Freelancer”

Trace Ready is a Director of Photography, Writer, Producer and Vocalist based in Dallas, Texas. His band Trace Relations has released their debut studio CD “Prosperity Street”
Connect with Trace: TraceProductions.com

Like this? Help Trace keep his wheels on the road for the photo series “Vanishing Texas” and continue posting to this blog while juggling in “the freelance life.” – HERE:

Vanishing Texas Photography by Trace
Supporters receive my undying gratitude and a free copy of my music CD, “Prosperity Street” by Trace Relations Band

posted by Tracy Ready in Opinion,Psychology,The Social Freelancer and have Comments (3)
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