Freelance Filmmaking: Part 1 - Making the Leap
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 FilmmakingIf 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 PartnerIf 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.
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