Are you tired of the corporate grind? Is there a filmmaker inside you that's been dreaming of quitting the 9-to-5 hustle to become a full time creator? Here is our advice on how to become a freelance videographer.
"Do...or do not. There is no try. - Yoda
To Become a Freelance Videographer, Just Become it
1. Imagine all the money and free time you’ll have as a freelance videographer. It’s important to envision your goals before you can achieve them, so think about being debt free, owning a RED camera, and taking 2-3 family vacations per year.
2. Spend a few days thinking about your business name and designing the perfect logo.
3. It’s never too early to start networking and marketing, so you might as well buy the business cards and custom t-shirts now.
4. Register your business name or Limited Liability Corporation, acquire the correct business license, and file for an EIN tax ID from the IRS.
5. Email, text, and social media shout to the world that you’re now a freelance videographer. Remember to thank your parents and spouse for supporting your courage.
Buy Gear That Will Last a Lifetime
6. Time to go shopping! Spend a few weeks diving into gear research to ensure you’re getting the very best equipment, starting with the camera. It’s important to get the right one, because it may be a number of years before you upgrade.
7. Buy all the lenses you’ll ever need, including zoom lenses and a prime kit, because glass is an investment and lens prices might go up in the event of a Japanese natural disaster.
8. Register on all the camera forums and comment on as many Youtube videos as possible. It’s important people recognize your sense of urgency - you only have so much time to equip yourself, and you need to buy the very best gear for your budget right now.
9. A tripod is a lifelong investment, so buy the very biggest and heaviest one you can afford right now, but pay for later.
10. You’ll need a shoulder rig, a monopod, a slider, and a gimbal or glidecam stabilizer for every shoot. Make sure you get the right one because you probably won’t change your opinion later.
11. Make a decision now what kind of lighting you think you’ll need for all situations. Research the photometrics and color data for every light available. Buy 3 of the one light you expect to use for decades.
Filmmaking Gear Without Accessories is like PB&J Without Bread
12. You’ll need light stands, adapters, modifiers or diffusers, plus V-mount or Anton Bauer batteries and chargers. It’s important to own a couple C-stands even if you don’t expect to use them.
13. An external monitor, an EVF, an external recorder and cables are required to get a usable image. Get the best one because your camera’s internal recording and default screen is garbage.
14. Don’t forget the accessories! You’ll want extra camera batteries, rigging pieces, media cards, accessory batteries and chargers, ND and UV lens filters, lens hoods, quick release plates, extra fluid heads, a matte box to look professional, hand grips and camera straps, card wallets, and a variety of designer multi-tools.
15. A teleprompter will save your life. Make sure to get the newest iPad Pro to go with it. Bonus points if you can use it for your personal life (business expenses!).
16. You need to offer aerials if you want to be competitive. Get a drone and learn to fly it. Also spend a couple weeks studying up on the FAA Part 107 drone operating license, before taking the test. Don’t forget to register your drone.
Audio, Computers, and Camera Bags: Somewhat Important
17. Oops you almost forgot about audio! Buy an on-camera shotgun mic, an indoor boom mic, a couple wireless kits, an external recorder, a few long XLR cables, a shock mount, a boom pole, a boom pole holder, and an additional light stand. It’s important to get the very best in audio equipment right now, because you might be able to hide bad audio with a music bed, but discerning audio pros can tell and they’ll make you feel bad.
18. You’re a professional now so it’s time to compute like a professional. Buy a new iMac Pro along with an editing RAID, archive hard drives, near field monitors, a stand up desk because your health is important, a standing mat because you won’t need to wear shoes while working at home, and a lot of FX and plugins because time is money and you’re going to be a super busy storyteller and not a software technician.
19. Buy as much as you can afford in camera bags, suitcases, Pelican cases, neoprene wraps, pouches, and backpacks. You’re going to be traveling a lot and you won’t have any more time for bag shopping from this moment on. Make sure everything is IP68 because you may be stuck in the rain #onset.
Gear Tests Are Part of the Videography Business
20. Now that you have the gear, it’s time to post some gear tests and reviews, while your thoughts are still fresh from the intense research. Create camera tests, audio tests, stabilizer tests, drone tests, and make sure to get nitty gritty on the important details like bitrate, codecs, and button ease of use.
21. You’ll also want to write lengthy reviews of all of your accessories, including media cards, batteries, and camera bags, and offer them as guest posts to industry blogs so you can build your reputation as an expert authority figure.
Become a Web Designer, SEO Specialist, and Digital Marketer
22. It’s time to build a website. As quickly as possible, learn everything about domains, hosting plans, WordPress themes, plugins, HTML/PHP/CSS for customization, graphic design, web standards, and how to write authentically but businessy.
23. Stuck on a WordPress sidebar not working perfectly? Take a break from video and dedicate a couple months to the WordPress codex, enable your browser’s Developer mode, and make sure you master this step before moving on. Alternatively, you could hire a WordPress expert on Fiverr but they will insert malicious code into your site. Better to do it yourself and do it right.
24. Not sure what to put on your site? Tell your story, how you got here, what inspires you, why filmmaking is your passion, how you felt the day you quit your day job. Go into detail about who you are. Make sure to replace every “I” with “we” - it’s more professional.
25. Don’t forget, if you have a contact or newsletter signup form, you’ll need to change your site to an HTTPS format with a proper SSL certificate. Familiarize yourself with htaccess 301 redirects, DNS and nameservers, cPanel, CDNs, captcha APIs, and the process of migrating your database, domain, and static web files away from GoDaddy.
26. Your website will never be found if you don’t apply SEO with precision. Spend a few months/years learning about long tail keyword research, on-page optimization, and backlink campaigns. Take out a small loan and subscribe to SEO tools including Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, SEMRush, Keyword Tool, Long Tail Pro, SEOQuake, SpyFu, and maybe 3-4 more for good measure.
27. Content is king, so start blogging regularly using proper SEO strategies, including articles that are at least 2000 words. Also write additional long form articles to pitch to other sites, in order to build your backlink portfolio.
28. Alternatively, don’t do any of that, and just write one 200 word blog post about the number of hours of video consumed per day in this country. Spend a few hundred dollars on a blackhat backlink buying service. And call it good.
29. It’s time to get social. Create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. Nobody likes spammers, so make sure to post quality content and comments daily to each of those platforms for months, before apologetically submitting a link to your own content.
You have to Spend Money to Make Potential Money
30. Vegas baby! Pack your gear bag for NAB, where you’ll rub elbows with everyone else who has already executed the above steps and have important advice for you about what not to do next.
31. Amsterdam baby! Get out your calendar and mark the dates for other industry tradeshows you won’t want to miss. You should be attending one at least every other month, to keep your videos and blogs and social feed fresh.
32. Don’t leave money on the table. Add a section to your website that lists out all your gear and your rental prices (and don't go too cheap - not a lot of people out there have hand-selected the perfect gear like you have). Make sure to get additional insurance to cover potential theft or loss from your rented gear.
33. Imagine the kind of money you’ll be making from gear rentals. It’s important to visualize your goals before you can achieve them. You may need a sign on your front door to direct the walk-in traffic.
34. Time to go shopping! Now that your primary gear will probably be out for rent most of the time, you’ll want to buy a better kit for yourself. Your old gear is getting long in the tooth anyway.
35. Conduct additional gear tests. But this time be smarter and think like a business person. Enroll in several stock video websites and start making money from your footage. Don’t forget the classic “hands caressing tall grass” shot.
36. Tax season is coming. Better get a jump start by learning everything about bookkeeping, reconciliation, proper expensing, 1099s, depreciation and amortization, and self employment tax. Enroll in a Quickbooks course at your local community college.
The secret to making money with videography: Preparation
37. You’re ready to take on some work. Subscribe to lead generation sites like Bark, Mandy, Thumbtack, ProductionHub, Staffmeup, and anything else that shows up when you search “Videographer Near Me.” Invest a few thousand dollars in buying credits - they’ll certainly pay off when the leads start flowing in.
38. Become a member of your local chamber of commerce and other business groups. Offer presentations on such topics as “Hours of video consumed by people daily in this country.”
39. Congratulations, you’ve got a job lead! Your family friend has a nonprofit/wedding/lecture/performance and they heard you’re a videographer. Pat yourself on the back, your marketing efforts are working. It’s a nonpaying gig, but there might be a lot more work later if you’re a good fit.
40. Subscribe to pro accounts at Vimeo, Dropbox, Frame.io, and Asana in order to ensure your client is taken care of. Details matter.
41. Your client probably wants the video on DVD, so research and buy an old Macbook that still works with DVD Studio Pro or iDVD.
42. Video editing is time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Buy as many plugins as possible to make sure this project doesn’t suck up your time from potential paying gigs.
43. Get a Video Blocks subscription or buy stock footage to make this project really stand out.
44. Before you start editing, put together your best clips from this shoot into your first ever demo reel. Promote it on Facebook and Twitter to show the world what you’re capable of. Don’t forget to buy a Vpedal to caption your video.
45. Music is expensive. Avoid unnecessary costs by creating your own music bed. Spend a couple months buying the best USB keyboard, ukelele, and DAW to record your upbeat corporate track. Enroll in a music theory class at your local community college.
To Learn Videography You Must Become The Teacher
46. Don’t just focus on the current client - you need to create a lead generation system. Learn how to build a customer sales funnel with email newsletters, paid ads and landing pages, and autoresponders. Invest in a Virtual Assistant to handle your potentially busy inbound leads.
47. Spend a couple months creating an ebook or video series that provides inbound leads with the secret to successful videography. Jump start your newsletter subscription efforts with a paid ad or giveaway.
48. Why duplicate other people’s failures? Enroll in a business consulting program that promises steady work, enough money to buy a RED camera, and the freedom to take 2-3 family vacations a year.
49. Save on consulting costs by agreeing to provide a testimonial about how the program has helped you take the first step to a life of freedom.
50. Learn how to make a better living by becoming a consultant yourself. Spend a few months building a side business, website, and paid advertisement funnel that teaches others “How to Become a Videographer.”
Embrace The Creative Lifestyle
51. To truly enjoy the freedom to create and live the life you desire, it's important to have a steady income as a base. Look for monthly retainer work that may be a bit boring and repetetive, but pays the bills. Start by asking your former boss if they have any work for you.
52. Embrace the freedom of being able to take on your former corporate work, at all hours of the day or night, from the comfort of your home office, without the shackles of a 9-to-5 or the golden handcuffs of a paycheck and benefits.
53. Spend a weekend finishing your family friend's free video. Pat yourself on the back, you're a freelance videographer now.
54. Filing for bankruptcy is one of the best perks of being your own boss. You get the gear, the business training, and the creative lifestyle, without having to pay for it!
And that's all it takes to become a freelance videographer. It takes a considerable investment of your time and money, but in the end you can say you did it.
Did we miss any crucial steps? Add your suggestions below.