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Freelance Tips & Tricks

with Michael Hennings

For our second edition of appsky’s “Freelance Tips & Tricks” blog series we talked with Michael Hennings, freelance Director/DP in Omaha, Nebraska. Michael has been in the Omaha video production scene for over six years, both running a team and as a freelancer. There’ve been a lot of important lessons along the way, but here’s a few that he’s found most useful since he struck out on his own.

Don’t invest in things you don’t need.

In the video industry, technology is always changing, and companies are always trying to sell you the latest toys. They are really tempting! Instead of getting focused on what the newest thing is, focus on your cameras and devices as tools. Think about what your client needs and what you need for the project. Consider what the actual limiting factors are, and don’t over-invest in things that don’t matter. Remember, you can always rent something you don’t have! In video, creative direction, lighting, audio, motion, and many other things are more important than camera selection. Don’t acquire too much overhead! If you want to have a studio, never pay for more space than you need.

When it comes to video, things like creative direction, lighting, audio, motion, and many others are more important than camera selection. Don’t acquire too much overhead! If you want to have a studio, never pay for more space than you need.

Work to build good credit.

It might sound strange, but having access to credit cards and personal loans can make or break your freelance business and dramatically affect your lifestyle. Sometimes you don’t want to be worrying about waiting for that last check from a client to buy equipment, prep for a project, or literally eat dinner. Stressful!

Good communication is key.

Answer emails, return phone calls (we know, it’s hard), text, do whatever you need to do to stay organized and respond promptly. Clients like getting a response within 24 hours if possible, and it makes them feel valued. If a method of communication really doesn’t work for you, consider leaving it out of your marketing materials.

For instance, Michael’s preferred method of communication is email, because it’s traceable and he can look back on it, and then texting for the same reason. For phone calls, he saves for cold contacts or complex conversations.

Cultivate relationships.

Video is all about collaboration. Your network is just as valuable as your work, and sometimes more so. Connecting is hard work sometimes, but it’s necessary. Network with clients and like-minded professionals in similar industries. If you get sick one day and need to complete an obligation, you’ll want someone to call.

You’ll also undoubtedly run into a problem you’re not sure how to solve, and having someone to talk to for advice can completely change the outcome for you and the client. Be nice! Your friends will make or break you.

Scope projects properly and be clear on price.

Do a good job scoping your projects. Focus on the concept and creative direction before price, because that’s what sells your work. Be clear about what you expect a project to cost. If there are unknowns and possible variables, be clear about those, and be clear to communicate to your client what their responsibilities are.

Don’t charge the bare minimum you think you’re worth, because then if something comes up you will have no options but to ask the client for more money. Clients may be okay with your price even if it’s more than you think you’re worth, but they do not enjoy surprises. If a potential roadblock appears, let your client know right away. Don’t cast blame, simply present the options forward.

If you are in a position where you are considering piling on fees at the end of a project and you did a poor job of communicating cost, ask yourself if it’s worth losing a client over. Likely, the relationship is much more valuable, and if the client comes back, do a better job next time.

Healthy time management.

When you’re freelance, it’s often feast or famine, which means there might be periods where you’re working very hard and periods when you’re slow. But likely, after you’ve established yourself, your time will be more valuable than your money, and how you spend it is important. Good time management is being organized in your process, knowing when to work and when to take a break, avoiding distractions, and developing a SUSTAINABLE lifestyle. You need to keep your health, and you need to set aside time to relax because you are your business.

If you’re unhealthy, you can’t work, and if you’re unhappy you’ll (rightly) question why you’re even doing it, and your work also suffers. Know when to stop working.

Michael had some amazing insight to share and we’re so appreciative he took the time to share his wisdom and talk about his personal experience with freelance.

Again, we hope people who are considering doing freelance, those who are new to freelancing, or a freelancer themselves, find this helpful and enjoyable. Keep your eyes peeled for more insight from different kinds of creative freelancers, like animation, design & illustration, and so on. Thanks for reading!

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