Be the Guy You’d Want to Hire. February 20, 2013
In the world of freelancing there’s a few really important, really simple things to keep track of:
- Be on time.
- Make sure you charged your batteries and brought enough cards: SD, P2, CF XDCam or tape if you still think it’s 2008.
- Treat everyone on and around the job with the same respect you’d like in return–always.
The first 2 are just straight up fire-me-now-if-I-blow-this obvious, but should always be reiterated. Nothing happens on a shoot without the first two things on that list being taken care of, except maybe a lost paycheck.
The third is the focus of this post.
It should be as obvious as the first two, but sadly, really isn’t in the world of freelance. Regardless of whether Audi is paying you a typical year’s salary for a three day shoot or if you’re shooting your ex girlfriend’s wedding to your ex best friend as a gift you better adhere to a sense of decorum that reflects the image of your business.
As much as your work, your demeanor is your image, is your calling card, is your reputation and is your best networking tool.
And that’s what staying in this business is all about: Your Network.
When you’re working for yourself, you’re your own marketing, sales and customer service departments and the last thing you need to be doing is fielding complaints about yourself. Unless you feel like firing yourself, you’re far better off acting the part of the diplomat than that of a 1st AD.
This business is always going to be one of strikes and gutters. You’re going to work with incredible clients who trust your creativity implicitly and who pay extremely well and you’re going to work with clients who think you should be paying them for the privilege to be ridiculed for how you “made them look fat on camera”. It’s going to be stretches of 15 hour days, sometimes months straight in hellish hotel rooms in horrible places like Dayton in February and Ft. Lauderdale in July and then it can be a couple of two hour shoots for a resort in Monterey and one the week after in Puerto Rico with spa treatments and car service included. It will always be a roller coaster, that is a constant.
The other constant is that the more you shoot, the more people you meet and the more people you meet the more you realize that the first and most successful way to keep working in this business is to impress the people you meet and work with. In the last decade that I spent working in TV and video production there have only been two cases in which I have gotten jobs that didn’t come directly from someone I had worked with or gone to school with in the past.
It’s not about Craigslist or Mandy or LinkedIn or any other job search crap shoot, it’s about who you know and more specifically how they know you and what they think of you. Personally I have a 75% failure rate on Craiglist for jobs that I have been booked for, meaning that (in almost all cases) the client has cancelled the scheduled shoot, misrepresented the scope of the shoot or simply disappeared without paying leaving me with content and nowhere to go.
On the other hand, from people that I have met personally while working in production I have been hired peripherally to shoot weddings, product launches, instructional videos, travel profiles and sporting events–all unsolicited. You never know when the young woman running craft services may happen to be a producer on a project with much larger reach than just the coffee cart she’s at for the evening.
The last piece of advice that may prove to be just as valuable is to consider your professional presence in your social environments. Some of my favorite, most prolific and interesting clients have come to me as a result of my engagement in what people around me are doing when they’re not working. I would never suggest pitching anyone at a dinner party, but being open and polite and engaging is never a bad thing. Over the last few years, I’ve booked a substantial amount of repeat work that came from housewarming parties, art openings, softball (and kickball) games, bonfires, birthday brunches, the gym and an online music blog that I contribute to. When people are not thinking about work and you present yourself as someone who doesn’t consider their career to be the opposite of the drudgery that they face daily, it’s acceptable to talk about it and they’ll remember you.
The people that hire you are the people that want to work with you. We all want to work with people that want us to be there. So build your network by being that person. Be the person that people want to be around whether it’s loading a grip truck or grabbing a martini, or better yet grabbing a drink after the martini shot, after the truck is loaded and you’ve been paid.
This all comes with the caveat that you know what you’re doing when you’re on the job.