by Chris Weatherly
There's a lot to take into consideration before deciding on a freelance filmmaking career. If you've worked as an employee for a number of years, like myself, it can be a huge adjustment. My main goal as a freelancer is to be a commercial director. Of course I want to do some short narrative work here and there, but I want the bulk of my money making career to be as a director.
Sometimes I find myself working directly for a client without an agency. At other times I may work for an agency as a director. When starting out as a freelance director I view no job as too small.
Let me share with you a few things you may want to consider before making the leap.
Build Up Clients Before You Jump Into Freelance Filmmaking
If at all possible, build up a decent number of consistent clients in your free time while you have a full-time salaried job. This isn't fun! You'll have to work a lot when you're off the clock. However, it can pay off big time when you make the jump. The last thing you want to do is quit your job and have nothing lined up. Building up a clientele is not easy and can be time consuming. (My next blog will be on networking which will help with this.)
For my freelance filmmaking venture, I chose to partner with a good friend who was starting a new production company called Wavelength Films
. I was very lucky as he had a wonderful base of client work already. In fact, he had so much work he needed to pass some of it off, and I was that guy. This offered consistent income early on and kept me from having to shop myself around. I hate that part of freelance. But, selling yourself is a big part of this business.
Be Honest With Yourself And Your Partner
If you aren't in a relationship you can just skip to the next point! However, if you do have a partner (and potentially share the responsibility of raising children) you really need to talk openly through all the details before making the move. Being honest and open at this point is a major deal and should be priority number one.
When you make the move to freelance filmmaking your income will be affected and you will potentially have less time to spend with your family. Make sure your partner is on board.
I knew making the switch to freelance filmmaking would affect my income in a big way. I hoped I would make more money than when I was salaried and that everything would exceed my expectations. I could see paying off our house and buying my dream vehicle. I was going to "make it rain". As you can see, I have an active imagination! The realist in me knew my income would slump as I was building up clients and trying to find new jobs.
So I asked my wife if she would be willing to work more to make up for the dip in my income. Fortunately for me I have a very supportive wife. She was working part-time while being the primary caretaker of our children, something she loves doing. To help provide for our family as I transition careers, she now works two part-time jobs to help make ends meet.
She's carrying a very big load, to say the least. It's not easy. I'm grateful for her sacrifice and hope to see this season come to an end very soon. My goal is to get her back to one part-time job and spending more time with our kids.
Have A Plan And Plan On It Not Working
I'm being somewhat facetious here, but it's what happened to me! As mentioned, I planned on taking on jobs from my friend at Wavelength Films
. It was a good plan and was one of the big factors that helped me decide to leave my nice salaried job and become self-employed. However, the client that was giving Wavelength Films so much work went through a leadership change and our work with them froze.
We aren't sure if it will come back, or if we'll ever see another job from them as they restructure. That's just the way life is. You can have the best plan in the world, but circumstances change. What do you do? Do you give up? No, you change your plan.
Hopefully you can learn from my experience what you need to consider before jumping into the world of freelance filmmaking. There are a number of wonderful pros to working for yourself, and of course with that comes a number of cons. (We'll get more into that later!) But, the grass really isn’t greener on either side, and you are no less a filmmaker if you have a salaried job.
In the next post I’ll share some tips on how to network yourself. It’s a key part of getting jobs and making money.
This is the first in a 5 part series from filmmaker Chris Weatherly. Read them all!
Read Part 2 – A New Freelancer’s Guide to Marketing here.
Read Part 3 - Reels & Treatments here.
Read Part 4 - Insurance & Taxes here.
Read Part 5 - The Pros of Freelancing here.
Stay in touch with Chris by commenting below and following him on social media.
Personal/Blog Site: chrisweatherly.com
Production Company: wavelengthfilms.com