How to be more a successful solopreneur in the video/film industry

It’s become quite easy these days to setup a solo operation in the video/film industry. Many freelancers have become one-person micro production companies. They enjoy little overhead and require just a few thousand dollars to invest in things such as cameras, lenses, lighting, laptop, microphones and software to be in business.

What’s much harder is earning a full-time living in this field as a solopreneur. Bigger production companies make enough money to provide salaries, but when you are on your own you are relying on each and every gig you can get. And if you don’t get ANY, you need to work another job to make ends meet or risk starving.

In the following, I will be sharing a few tips to increase your chances of success in this business.

Learn Basic Sales & Marketing Techniques

Being creatives, a lot of video and film people lack basic business skills – and this includes selling and marketing. Fortunately, there is a lot of help available online to learn basic sales and promotional skills (Google and YouTube are your friend).

One tip for closing more sales is to list out some of the most common objections you have heard or feel you are likely to encounter and figure out some rebuttals to keep the deal viable. For example, if a customer says, “Your price is too high,” you could counter with “Exactly how much higher is it compared to what you expected” and negotiate based on the difference, as opposed to getting angry and saying, “Okay well I am worth every penny so GOODBYE.” Knowing how to handle objections and close even tricky deals will positively impact your bank account. It takes study and practice to get good at it.

As far as marketing to attract new business, social media is a great solution. In addition, there are other free or cheap tools such as MailChimp, which allows you to send email campaigns at no cost up to a certain number of recipients. Another is HubSpot CRM, which allows you to keep track of customer data and conversations and access the information from any web browser (beats written notes or Excel spreadsheets).

Prepare a killer reel

For shooters, directors, editors, on-screen talent, animators, etc., one of the first marketing assets you will need is a demo or sizzle reel to show prospects what you are capable of.

If you are a director with a signature style, show it off. Potential clients might look at several competitor reels before making a decision, so you want to stand out.

Similarly, show off any niches you are expert in. If you specialize in shooting sports cars and want to pursue more work in that niche, consider cutting a sizzle reel with your best automotive work and nothing else.

For more tips on creating great reels, follow this link: https://www.videomaker.com/article/c01/19141-how-to-cut-a-reel-that-sizzles

Network with fellow video and film people

Get involved with fellow video and film people through whichever avenue available, such as social media groups, live networking events, film school gigs, etc. While you will be interacting with some direct competitors, you will find that they are usually glad to share some tips, collaborate on projects, or even refer work to you which they cannot handle.

As far as those free film school gigs – only do them if you have no paid work of course, but don’t shy away from doing them. That hapless director today could turn out to need your services down the line when they are finally competent graduates.

Post in Directories

List yourself in directories such as shoots.video. Not only does this expose you to people searching for service providers but being listed alongside other professionals adds to your credibility. It also provides a backlink to your own website, boosting rankings in search results, as most directory sites enjoy high domain authority.

One tip here is to update your listings periodically. List new skills, update contact information, and upload fresh photos as needed to keep everything current.

Charge more

While the video and film industry is very competitive, if you don’t make enough revenue because you charge too little in order to undercut others, you and your business will suffer. Cheap clients might be okay when just starting out, but if you keep your rates low, that is all you will ever get.

You will be surprised how many companies are willing to pay handsomely for good work, so test the market by upping your quote and noting the feedback. If you are pricing yourself way above competitors without good reason (experience, better equipment, notable past clients, etc.), your prospects will definitely let you know – so simply adjust until your find the sweet spot of the highest price you can get in your particular market.

Set terms in writing

Failing to use written agreements is a recipe for heartache for freelancers. There are many stories on forums and social media of clients asking for endless revisions or increasing the scope of work far beyond what is reasonable, while refusing to pay extra – or failing to pay at all.

Protect yourself by putting EVERYTHING in writing, from who owns the finished work, to the exact format the deliverables will take, to scope of work fee adjustments. Also, it is recommended to ask for a deposit of 25 to 50 percent, or to even ask for your entire fee upfront. If a “customer” isn’t willing to put money upfront to secure your professional services, be very cautious.

Excellent tips from a production company with 15 years’ experience drafting contracts: https://blog.frame.io/2017/04/21/what-years-of-writing-videography-contracts-has-taught-me  and here is a sample contract which you can modify to your liking: https://nimia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Production-Contract_1.5.pdf

In conclusion

Being a solopreneur/freelancer in the video and film industry can be rewarding creatively and lucrative financially as long as you treat the activity as a bona fide business and not a side hobby. Like anything else, success depends mostly on your own efforts — coupled with a little bit of luck. The more you study both your craft and the art of building a business, the better off you will be. 

Hope these tips help!

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