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Feeling Overwhelmed, need advice.

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Lindsay McCutcheon
Feeling Overwhelmed, need advice.
on Jul 30, 2016 at 2:40:06 am

Hi everyone,

I recently uploaded a video to Youtube I had been working on for five months featuring Disney movies from the past 30 years.

Link Here:

It went a bit viral and got over 2.1 million views over the past 3 days.

Anyway, I've been inundated with requests to do contract work, some from big name companies and I'm totally overwhelmed.

This is an industry I'm interested in breaking into but I have no formal training with industry standards/rates etc.

I have no idea where to go from here and I'm afraid of wasting these companies time, but at the same time I really don't want to pass up these opportunities.

How did you first get into the industry? Should I be accepting these offers? If I do what do I charge?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Brian Mills
Re: Feeling Overwhelmed, need advice.
on Jul 30, 2016 at 4:19:23 am

Hi Lindsay:

I saw your video the other day when linked to it and was really impressed. Well done!

You've got talent and you've got skills, so heck yes it's time to jump in and "go professional" (ie get paid).

When working in the professional video world, I generally find two types of clients: those that want you to spearhead the creative vision and those that want you to execute the vision of a creative director.

Big companies fall into both camps, actually, as sometimes you will be commissioned by one branch of the company to do a work that may not be the voice of the whole company, usually for "internal" consumption, and so you may be expected to spearhead creative. Or, the big company will have an outside ad agency or at least a marketing manager that will manage creative, with you executing their vision.

I make this distinction because when I was starting out at least, I found it much easier working under the direction of a creative director while learning the ropes. You will start to see how clients think and what they need with this person acting as a buffer, so to speak.

When talking to these potential clients, make sure you feel out exactly what they want and who will be in charge of directing the piece to get there.

My other advice is to just be really clear in mapping out what they want (graphics? animation? shooting? editing? how long final piece will run?), when they will get it, how the process will go (approvals? revisions?) , etc. I always have this conversation before I give a price, because this is info you gather in crafting your bid.

If you are unsure if you can deliver at the level the client expects (and hey, I've been doing this for years and still feel that way from time to time), a good thing to do is ask to see the last video they produced, or, if they haven't produced one, ask them to show you an example of a video they would like to emulate. Then you will think: A) I can do that B) I can do that WAY BETTER or C) I am really not ready to tackle that level of work right now.

Only take on a project that you believe that you can actually deliver. BUT REMEMBER it is ok to stretch a little sometimes or you'll never grow. If you have a little knot in the pit of your stomach by getting the job that means you're on the right path. If you feel sheer panic at the thought of doing the project, you are in over your head.

Get everything in writing, at least in an email, as to what you will do, when you will do it by, how much they will pay you and when they will pay you. Also, how do revisions work?

It is hard when you are starting to give a project price. Once you have done this for awhile it gets easy because you pretty much know ahead of time how many hours it will take. If you do quote a set price for the project, make sure you put in there that the client only gets TWO ROUNDS of revisions without starting the clock of paying hourly for each and every revision or they will never stop tinkering with it EVER.

In negotiations, he who throws out the first number loses (or so the saying goes). Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised if you ask "what kind of ballpark budget do you have to dedicate to this project?" and they throw out a number WAY HIGHER then what you were thinking. If that is the case, I always come in a little lower than that OR up my game and bring in more resources to the project than I originally planned to because I want to make the client happy and give them what they are paying for.

Sometimes the client will throw out a ridiculously low figure, but instead of simply saying "no", I manage expectations and say "I can't deliver what you are asking for for that price, but what I can do is save money and lower my bid by..." and then look for ways you can lower expectations by getting them to pay for the voice talent or maybe using stock footage or a template instead of starting from scratch. Be a problem solver.

I can't say how much to charge, because that is such a varied number based on the market you serve. I charge $100/hr and some people tell me I'm too high, and I know I'm cheaper than a lot of people, so it really is a spectrum. But If you are doing it as a freelancer on your own system, I think anything under $75/hr is probably too low. I'm sure others will chime in with other thoughts on that.

It's late and I'm rambling, but I really do wish you the best of luck in starting your career.

Oh, and keep making and posting amazing videos on YouTube. That way you can show them all of your amazing creativity.

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Lindsay McCutcheon
Re: Feeling Overwhelmed, need advice.
on Aug 1, 2016 at 7:53:26 pm

Hi Brian,

Thank you so much for putting the effort in this detailed reply!
Those were exactly the questions I needed answered, I still feel a little overwhelmed but it's so great to have this information to work with.

Thanks again!

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Kylee Peña
Re: Feeling Overwhelmed, need advice.
on Aug 14, 2016 at 11:33:52 pm

Hi Lindsay, I meant to reply to this when you posted it. It's really cool that you were able to put your talents on display and let your work speak for itself in order to begin breaking into the industry. If you want to work in this field, you should definitely take up some of these opportunities that are coming to you now. I think it'll all be great experience you'll learn a lot from, but you should also watch out for anyone trying to take advantage of you. A video you did on your own time that gets over two million hits means you shouldn't be doing any work for free, even if you don't have a lot of experience or credentials. If someone pitches you something that's a "great opportunity" remember it's a business transaction where they get a product -- it's not a hand out, you should get paid too.

This goes to illustrate something really important about this industry: everyone's path is totally different. You ask how other people got into this field. That's a good thing to ask because it demonstrates how many paths there can be. Just don't try to closely align to one of them because the way you're getting in -- talent + YouTube + ubiquitous internet -- did not really exist even 10 years ago. I posted my first videos online in 2001 and there was no way to distribute them to my friends besides putting links in my AIM away message window (which was hard because a lot of them had DSL or dial-up) or burn them to a DVD! Now video can flow all over the world in a few minutes and people can watch your stuff in airplanes and subways and in the bathroom.

I got into the industry through a relatively mundane path. I wanted to do it from a young age, so I went to school and then got a job in the field. But all of that was easier said than done because it's competitive and heavily based on building relationships. But that's one thing we all share: meet people that do what you do and listen to them.

I think finding people that do similar work to what you're being offered would be very helpful to you. A big part of doing solicited work for corporations and stuff is managing expectations. My first freelance gig for a big corporation was a DVD authoring project. I had many more years of experience technically than you do now, plus a degree, plus a certification in DVD Studio Pro from Apple! But walking into a meeting with that client and trying to figure out what they wanted vs what DVD technology is capable of doing vs what is appropriate for user interface design was incredibly stressful and difficult. Their designer sent me backgrounds that were 300dpi, and I went round and round with myself for several hours over whether I was wrong to request the art as 72dpi, assuming the designer must know that video is 72dpi (at 300dpi, the graphics were tiny once everything was resampled!)

I KNEW I was right, but I got caught up in second guessing myself. Which I mention mostly to illustrate that whether you're brand new to all this or went to school and work in the field, you're going to be in a lot of situations (especially earlier in your career) where you're not confident. That's fine, it's all a learning experience. You'll maybe sometimes mess up, mostly you won't, and either way you'll find yourself on the other side with new information.

Accept offers that are interesting to you and seem realistic. Try to find someone trusted in your circle with this experience. When I was new, I found a local editor I had worked with at an internship and shadowed him a few times to see how he worked. And then I was like oh, he works how I work because I'm also an editor. Duh. It was affirming to be in the room with someone who had been around when I had been mostly self-taught, but you come to realize you do things a certain way because they're efficient.

What you should charge varies quite a lot by area and scope. You should ask in your local circles, or look back in this forum for threads about that. Just keep in mind you should define the project pretty specifically, and then if the scope expands, stop and ask the client to reassess what they're asking you to do. If a contractor gives you a quote for fixing your plumbing and then comes in and sees that they actually need to replace all your pipes, they're going to give you a new quote for that, right? Video stuff should be no different. Sometimes clients don't really grasp this, so be firm.

I have written and write about these kinds of topics a lot, including last week. If you're interested, maybe check out my latest blog:

Good luck!

twitter: @kyl33t

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