How to be the video freelancer that everyone wants to work with

Aug 23, 2019

I’ve been running my video production company for five years, and while we have always had a small staff of producers, camera operators, editors and animators, we still regularly use freelancers to support us on shoots or to help us out in the office during especially busy periods.

In fact, we have used over 300 different freelancers over the last few years. They have enabled us to take on projects that we would otherwise have had to turn down; they’ve brought a fresh perspective to shoots; and we’ve benefited from their specialist skills on particularly technical projects.

We know what makes a great video freelancer, so here are ten habits of the best freelancers we work with.

1) They work on the relationship

All relationships require hard work and those freelancers who go out of their way to foster strong relationships with us really stand out. They check in regularly to keep on our radar. They keep us updated when they acquire new skills. But (probably most importantly) they always ask for feedback from our producers after projects to ensure that they are delivering a service we value.

2) They make our lives easier

Our producers are typically juggling 10-15 projects at any time. That means 10-15 different clients, shoots, edits, and voice-over recording sessions. They are busy so if you can make their lives easier (by responding quickly to requests, reading your call sheets well in advance ,and being generally efficient) then they will keep coming back to you.

3) They help out

We never expect a freelance director to do a runner’s job, but when they help out with things like waiting with the kit on the street while the camera operator fetches the car, we remember – they are nice people to have around on shoots and we want to work with them again.

4) They communicate like pros

Whether a crew member on set, or a designer working remotely, communication is key. We need to know that you understand the brief and we need to be able to trust that if there’s a problem, you will let us know.

5) They are friendly

No one wants to spend a day on set with a moody camera operator or an angry director. We like to work with easy-going (but professional) people – it makes everyone else enjoy the job so much more.

6) They have manners

Manners matter in all situations. Don’t smoke on set (even on your breaks). Turn your phone off and put it away. Look enthusiastic. Greet people. Thank the runner when they bring you a coffee.

7) They treat our clients like their own

We regularly have to introduce freelancers to our clients, and we need to be able to trust that they will be professional and engaging when we do so. Be positive. Be professional. Suggest original ideas. After all, you’re representing our brand and we notice when you do it well.

8) They are punctual

There is no excuse for being late for a shoot (or even a meeting). The best freelancers arrive early (because they know that’s the only way to never risk being late) and they are generally reliable and trustworthy.

9) They commit

We know that freelancing can be tough. You have some weeks when no one books you, and days when three jobs land in your inbox at once. It’s hard to manage your time with so much uncertainty. However, we need to know that when you have accepted a job with us, you’ll do it – you won’t drop us at the last minute if something better comes along.

10) They invoice properly

We make a point of paying our freelancers promptly. But we can’t pay you until we have received your invoice. Your invoice should be sent on time. It should reflect the rate agreed with our producer. And it should only include expenses that we have approved.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.

Jamie Field

Jamie Field runs TopLine Film, a video production company with offices in London and Cape Town and clients all over the world.