I get it. Any valuable work should be paid. Especially creative work which, even though it's rewarding and fun to do, is draining as well.
It's hard work. Prepping. Shooting. And then... tens of hours in front of the computer editing. Might look sexy from the outside but it's not.
Anyway, if you're in the creativity business, you should read Hugh MacLeod's books. They're good fuel to keep you pumped:
- Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
- Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination
Before going into details about getting clients as a filmmaker, let's agree that this is not about your skills in shooting and editing. Nor it is about camera gear or the best software. You're a magician for anyone who doesn't know how to do videos and needs your service - remember that!
It's about smart marketing and being a hustler. And if you're against that and don't want to taint your art with such mundane things like money... well, I advise you to click away.
However, being a player in the real world is much more satisfying than pure art alone, don't you think?
1. If you have nothing to show, just lie.
Can't remember in which of Hugh's books I read this story (I think it was Evil Plans) but it's a great lesson about making something happen.
There was this guy and he wanted to be a filmmaker. He had no portfolio but wanted to work for a certain video production company.
So he goes there to apply for a job as a cameraman or editor (doesn't matter). When the guys at the firm ask him about his demo reel he tells them he had been shooting lots of paid videos with couples having sex but he can't show anything due to the confidentiality clauses in the contracts.
He basically said he produced private artistic porn for sophisticated couples. How freaking cool is that?! :-)
I mean, if you were in the recruiting team, who would intrigue you the most? A random videographer or the guy that shot porn?
What I'm saying is you gotta alter the truth to your advantage. If you don't, others will do it and they'll get the job.
Marketing is a battle of perceptions. Don't believe me? Just look around.
Win the gig with perception and then you'll back it up in reality with high quality service.
Speaking of marketing, you may also wanna check out the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Your art must constantly blend with salesmanship and these books are gold for your small business.
2. Wanna get rich shooting videos? Work for free.
Sounds counter intuitive, doesn't it?
What you have to do is either work for free or for the right price but never be cheap. Because when you're cheap, you get labelled as cheap and it'll be difficult for you to escape that label.
It's really hard to compete on price coz there will always be the next guy willing to work cheaper. And price can only go down when you're competing on price. You don't wanna find yourself in a situation where you work a lot for very little.
Whereas when you work for free, you'll be labeled as generous and that will get you further. You provide more value and thus your prices can only go up.
So build your portfolio by doing a few videos for the companies you admire. If you like cars, offer your services for free to the closest Porsche showroom. You can also shoots events that you're interested in.
Later on, when you'll be selling your services, you'll be able to say: Look, I did this for Porsche and this for Toyota. And you would't be lying coz you actually did those videos for those companies. If the prospect asks you how much you charged Toyota, you can say it's confidential.
The point I'm trying to make is you must have a few videos that involve some companies. This means you're in the business of doing videos. If all the vids you have are with your cat (or your holiday videos) it'll be harder to position yourself as a freelance videographer.
Now, a serious market for independent filmmakers consists of weddings. I personally don't like weddings (I barely went to mine). I think it's too much work.
But anyway, if you wanna copy the best in weddings (on this part of the world at least), check out my friend's portfolio: Calin Manescu. He also does events - watch this Drift and Burnout Car Show:
3. Seduce your clients. Have them come to you.
The beauty of building an online video portfolio is that it can easily be an automated machine for getting new business.
If you want your machine to reach as many people as possible, you gotta spice up things with some viral videos. Anything out of the ordinary, exotic or funny.
It's easier to convince, say, a furniture manufacturer, to do a video with you if you also have some off-topic popular videos. For some reason, people act on the principle called famous by association.
So if you can do viral videos, your client thinks some of that virality will go into his/her video as well - and that's not necessarily true (and he/she also knows that).
The videos that get shared a lot on social media are the most powerful marketing agents you can have. Just remember, very few people share corporate presentation videos. Do something different once in a while or even better: make it a rule to create funny corporate videos so you can leverage those as well.
Since you love doing videos and maybe don't like the business part that much, do the kind of videos that make people wanna contact you. Once this happens, you can rest assured that those people actually want to pay you to work for them. Easy selling, that's what it is.
Getting clients is not always about doing the best work. Be smart, be human, be approachable but most of all apply lateral thinking and hustle.
What do you think? Leave a comment and let's chat.
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