7 Helpful Business Spring Cleaning Tips for Film Freelancers

7 Helpful Business Spring Cleaning Tips for Film Freelancers
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Spring cleaning tips aren't just for our homes.  Our business practices can also use a spring cleanup.

As freelancers, our careers are our businesses, and spring is as good a time as any to review what we’re doing to keep those businesses moving forward.

Here are seven things worth reviewing on your business spring cleaning list:

  1. Your record-keeping system.

We work for multiple employers as freelancers, and you may be working as both an independent contractor and an employee.  That’s my current situation.  I had DGA a.d. jobs as an employee, but I also had other work as an independent contractor.

I found out from my tax pro that the allowable deductions for each category of work are not necessarily the same.  So I’ve had to adapt my record-keeping accordingly.

If your system for keeping track of expenses is a pile of receipts in a drawer, your system needs an update.

Sloppy record-keeping costs us money in unclaimed deductions as freelancers, not to mention stress at tax time, so it’s worth spending the time to put an efficient system for keeping track of expenses into place.

You’ll be glad you did at tax time.

  1. Your website and portfolio.

Could your website use an update?  Our websites market our skills and should look sharp.

Our contact info should be current, and all links and forms should work correctly.

It may be time to edit your ‘About’ page, too.  Add to your website any new skills or certifications you've received.  If you've recently done some big jobs, or are offering new services, be sure to add those to your website.

Ask clients you've worked with for testimonials you can highlight on your site.

I’m currently checking all the links I have on both my websites.  Yes, it’s tedious work, but our websites need to evolve as our careers progress.

Also, update your profile on other sites where you're listed, such as Casting Networks, trade organizations like Arizona Production Association, and LinkedIn.

  1. Your contact list.

Putting all my contacts into categories and getting rid of some simplified my list considerably.

If you do mass emails through a program like ConvertKit, segmenting lists helps keep things manageable.

Union safety hotline numbers should be easily accessible on your phone if you work on union jobs.

IATSE safety hotline: 844-422-9273

DGA safety hotline: 310-289-5326; after-hours: 800-342-3457

  1. Your set bag.

That bag you bring to set every day needs a good clean-out now and then.  I’ve found old protein bars, dried-out pens, and a sunrise-sunset chart from the pre-cell phone era in mine.

I also realized I hadn’t changed the batteries in the flashlight I carry for years.  Actually, I probably don‘t even need the flashlight, as we can now use our phones as flashlights.

There, my bag just got lighter.

  1. Your tax prep.

As freelance independent contractors, we need to pay quarterly taxes, and it can be confusing because we have to estimate our income without knowing precisely what it will be.

Underestimate, and you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.  Overestimate, and the IRS will have money that could work for you.

That’s why I believe in getting professional tax advice.

And, of course, keeping good records.

No one likes surprises at tax time.

  1. Your rates.

You know you’ll be paid at least union scale if you work on union jobs.

However, as an independent contractor rather than a freelance employee, you need to know the going rate for services in your field for someone at your experience level.

You also need to understand the amount of work each job entails, as all jobs are not the same.

The last thing you want to do is underprice yourself.

If your rates haven’t changed in years, it’s time to assess where rates are now.

There are always variables ranging from the budget to the job scope, but as freelancers, we need to find the rate sweet spot.

You may find your rates need a bit of spring cleaning, or your pricing structure may need a more in-depth overhaul.

  1. Your habits.

I don’t know about you, but my habits can always use a bit of tweaking.  As part of spring cleaning our business practices, we should look at our habits.

Is there anything you could be doing better?

For example, I’m good at reaching out to contacts, but I don’t always follow up.  I’ve probably left more than one potential job on the table by not taking the initiative to follow up.

And don’t even get me started on procrastination.

Our bad habits can derail us as freelancers, so it’s worth doing some self-assessment and changing a few things.

I now have a chart with a timetable for following up with contacts to keep me on track.

Reaching out and following up is part of our jobs as freelancers in our industry.  The better we are at it, the more successful we’ll be.


Those are my business spring cleaning tips for film freelancers, and you can apply them to freelancing in many fields.

Our careers are businesses, and we need to examine our business practices regularly, so they don’t become as stale as that protein bar in the bottom of my bag.

Did I miss anything?  Drop a note in the comments section.





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