5 Top Tips for Success as a Film Industry Freelancer

5 Top Tips for Success as a Film Industry Freelancer
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It can be challenging finding success as a freelancer, especially in the highly competitive film industry.  However, each small step you take to build your career can have a powerful effect in the long run.  While there isn't a precise roadmap for freelance success, there are a few proven things you can do that are all but guaranteed to move your career forward.

Here are five top tips for success as a film industry freelancer:

  1. Market yourself.

Look at your freelance career as a business, and businesses need to market their products and services. You're in an industry crowded with freelancers, and you must stay visible to build a long-term career.

Are you in a directory to highlight your services to prospective employers?  Are you on your union's availability list when you're not working?  You can't just wait for the next job to come along; you have to be proactive about staying visible.

Attend virtual and in-person industry networking events whenever you can. I've gotten a great deal of work over the years from the contacts I've made and nurtured at networking events. I've also gotten inside information about jobs that I otherwise wouldn't have known about by networking at industry events.

At the next event you attend, make it a challenge to see how many people you can connect with.  You may be surprised at the results.  And you may even have fun, too.

  1. Continue your industry education.

When I started working in the film industry in the early 1980s, I wrote call sheets by hand on forms typed up by the production coordinator.  There were no computers in offices, no cell phones, and everyone used pagers to stay in touch.

Times change, and we all had to adapt to new technologies.  The industry is changing even more quickly now, and everyone needs to stay current and keep updating their skills.  Fortunately, there are numerous opportunities for continuing education online.

Educational opportunities are another reason to belong to trade organizations and, of course, unions. You'll never be too experienced to learn something new, so take advantage of the endless stream of educational opportunities available to expand your skills.

  1. Keep your social media presence professional.

Today we have the advantage of using social media's powerful tools to help build our freelance careers.  Unfortunately, many people's social media presence is anything but professional.

There's nothing wrong with expressing an opinion online, but nasty, abusive online behavior isn't going to help anyone's career.  Either is foul language or risqué party pictures.

We work long hours in stressful conditions, so your online interactions should highlight a person who's professional and easy to be around for 14 or so hours at a time.  Otherwise, you'll find yourself passed over in favor of someone who appears to be more of an even-tempered team player.

Think before you post.  Enough said.

  1. Build networks with your peers, not just with people who can hire you.

Looking back on my career, I've gotten many jobs over the years through my peers. We've recommended each other for jobs we couldn't take and replaced each other when one of us got a better job. We've worked for each other, too.

Your peers aren't just your competitors.  They're a potential source of future jobs.  Building relationships with them will only help your career.  Make networking with your peers a priority.

Your peers can also be a valuable source of support, as you may have discovered during the worst times of the pandemic.  I benefited tremendously from the camaraderie, safety information, and convivial atmosphere of the online Republic of Zoom DGA meetings with my peers last summer.  Those meetings kept many of us informed and sane during tumultuous times.

I'm grateful for the relationships I've built with my peers over the years and encourage every freelancer to do the same.

  1. Never badmouth anyone you work for or with.

There are some crazy, volatile personality types in the film industry. I've managed to work with more than my fair share of them.  You may have, too.  But I don't badmouth them because everyone already knows who the industry jerks are.  I’d only make myself look bad by trashing them.

In our treacherous industry, loyalty is expected, if not always deserved. I've been on the receiving end of being badmouthed behind my back, which made me angry and upset.  But my reputation stayed intact while the other person lost jobs because of his behavior.

Remember to thank people who refer you for jobs and reciprocate when you can.  Practice set etiquette and have good manners on the radio.  Behave professionally, ethically, and courteously on every job, and people will be happy to hire you again and recommend you to others.

Working as a film industry freelancer can be a gratifying and rewarding career.  It can also be a struggle if you’re not laying the groundwork for success by taking small daily steps to build your career.  Continue to expand your professional reputation on every job, and you’ll find that the jobs will be coming to you.

What obstacles are you struggling with as a freelancer right now?  Reply in the comments section.





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