The Social Freelancer: Media + Music

The Social Freelancer and Trace Relations Music

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.
READ ON – More Tips->

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.

Through one of the responses to the post, I learned about Upwork, an online workplace that connects business with top freelancers.

Their site has many resources for freelancers to looking to further develop their skills and grow their personal brand, and for businesses looking for qualified freelancers to hire for projects.

I was not aware of Upwork before, so I visited the site and I am impressed! I have now signed up as a freelancer with Upwork and 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:

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

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Thanks for tuning in friends, please comment below… – Trace

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posted by Tracy Ready in creative,marketing,Opinion,social media,The Social Freelancer,TV – FILM – VIDEO – PHOTO,Video Production and have Comments (4)

4 Responses to “5 Tips for Freelancers – and ALL Entrepreneurs”

  1. Trace, I would even add to #3 that it’s OK to ask for half of payment upfront, especially in the music industry. And session singers routinely ask for payment in full upon arrival at a session ~ that’s kind of the standard in Chicago and New York, at least.

  2. Skip Frazee says:

    Nicely done Tracy. The suggestions were concise and supplemental information informative. In my case with over 5 decades of learning and experience, it is difficult to select a topic from the wealth of information gained over the years in my own career. I have no doubt you could write tips 6 -10, 11-16, etc. When I am asked how to soundproof a room, a whole page of subjects pops up. What are you going to do with the room, how much money do you have, how big is it, and on and on. Much fodder for many lists. Again, a good set of basics.

  3. Tracy Ready says:

    Thanks very much Skip, I appreciate that you took the time to read it and give me a great comment. I’m honored. Have a great day friend.

  4. Nancy Seibel says:

    Love these tips, especially about the benefits of cooperation and collaboration, and about being a valued resource. I second Linda Freeman’s comment about getting a deposit upfront when possible. When I consult for a nonprofit the bulk of the time and out of pocket cost happens before an in-person or online deliverable takes place. I do mission and purpose driven work, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be paid in a timely way! I also state my late payment policy up front in my contract and on my invoice. My late payment fee is higher than most consultants charge, and it gets the point across. No nonprofit, large or small, wants to pay a late fee.

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