10 Pros and Cons of Film Industry Freelancing

10 Pros and Cons of Film Industry Freelancing
Share this

Freelancing can be wonderful. It can also be highly challenging, especially in the film industry. Working as a freelancer can offer a great deal of freedom if you can handle unpredictability.  We’ve seen recently that ‘secure’ jobs often aren’t that secure, and unexpected layoffs happen in every field.  The pandemic has put many things into perspective, such as not relying on just one job.

I’ve spent my entire career freelancing, and it was a good fit for my personality type and desired lifestyle.  If you’re wondering if a career as a film industry freelancer is right for you, here are some pros and cons.


  1. Flexibility.

It’s great to be able to take the jobs you want when you want.  If you want time off between jobs, you’re free to take it.

You’re also not stuck working for a horrible boss indefinitely.  All shows end, and you can move on to something better.

  1. Working with a wide variety of creative people.

It’s interesting to see how each department contributes to a project, from sets to costumes to makeup to lighting.  There isn’t another industry like it, and each show is different.

I’ve always thought it’s a lot better than sitting in an office cubicle all day long.  Working around so many creative people has always been one of the plusses of being an industry freelancer.

  1. New locations.

Anyone who’s been freelancing in the industry for a while has experienced a wide variety of locations.  You’ll see many parts of your city you’d otherwise never see.  And location filming can be anywhere in the country or the world.

Multiple locations can be logistically challenging but also rewarding to experience.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the job.

  1. Learning new things.

Because we work with so many directors as freelancers, we’re constantly learning new things about filmmaking.  And that’s not counting the wide variety of industry workshops and seminars that are available.

If you pay attention on set, you have the opportunity to learn from the best and expand your knowledge.

  1. Good pay and benefits if you’re in a guild or union.

The jobs can be erratic, but the pay and union benefits are solid.  The older I get, the more I realize how valuable these benefits are.

If you want a freelancing career working on set, this is the way to build a long-term career.  Healthcare, including vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage are not things to scoff at.  Neither is having a pension.

Thanks to the industry guilds and unions, we freelancers have those things available to us.

That’s the good part of freelancing.  Now for the downside.


  1. Long hours and crazy schedules.

The long hours you work freelancing in the industry can be brutal.  The call times also vary, so you may start the week working days and end it working nights.

I won’t even begin to mention what that does to your weekends.  Suffice it to say that you should probably do something else if you want a normal family life with regular work hours.

  1. Erratic work.

When it’s busy, you may get one call after another for work.  Other times, it seems there isn’t a job to be found.  You have to prepare for this mentally and financially as a freelancer.  Otherwise, it can be devastating.

If you’re the type of personality who doesn’t mind that type of unpredictability, then freelancing is great.

  1. Jobs can end abruptly.

There’s nothing worse than believing you have a job lined up for the next few months, and then the show gets canceled unexpectedly.  It’s happened to me several times.

It even happened on one show after the studio had spent big bucks on a still photo shoot with the star on a Friday.  Monday, the show was canceled.

Jobs ending unexpectedly is why you always have to be networking, even when you have a job.  You can never get too comfortable as a freelancer.

  1. The work can be physically demanding.

Even if you’re not moving equipment, working on set is still physically demanding.  It can also be dangerous.  I’ve had several accidents on set, as have many of my colleagues.

We’re on our feet for long hours, often without sitting down at all.  You have to be prepared for that if you want to work on set.

  1. Sleep deprivation is common.

We all know that sleep deprivation is damaging to your health.  Unfortunately, it’s an occupational hazard of working on set as a freelancer.  There’s been a movement to limit the hours worked on set, but it’s never happened.  Even with the pandemic, the hours remain long in the industry.

The long hours also frequently lead to job burnout.  Just about everyone who’s worked on set has experienced it.  At least as a freelancer, you can take some time off.


So those are some of the main pros and cons of freelancing in the film industry.  Despite the negative aspects, you still control your destiny more as a freelancer than being stuck in a dead-end job.

If you enjoy the work and can handle the stress, sleep deprivation, and erratic paychecks, freelancing in the industry can be rewarding.  Just be ready for anything.

Share this