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o/t: for all of you freelancers

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o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 11, 2006 at 2:41:17 am

I am quitting my job and opening a production company. I was wondering how and where you find your freelance jobs and how often is it that you work for a company long distance to you. For example if you live in Detroit and do work for someone in LA?

The market I live in is not big enough to support my business, however I would like to know what the process is of getting clients from everywhere, what sites you use, I know a lot of it is how good you are.

Are clients willing to ship tapes to you via mail or the web?

Any input would be greatly appreciated!


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Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 11, 2006 at 6:38:10 am


Funny you should mention "Detroit" and "LA" specifically. I live in Detroit, and at one point one of my largest clients was in LA. The industries I work in (graphic design & web development) lend themselves to working remotely more than video editing or compositing might due to file size alone, but I have seen individuals run successful businesses in those areas remotely as well (i believe mk12 even started out in rural Kansas and just kept sending reels out to prospects).

Most of my clients are spread across the country from CA to NY, FL, KA and few misc others. And personally, I prefer it that way. I'd rather not spend time driving around town, going to meetings and such when I could be designing :)

3 things to get you started (because people love lists :)

(1) Network, Network, Network - Even if your area isn't large enough to support work in your industry (what city do you live in, near?) There are tons of online forums (though none greater than the COW of course :) in every field where peers and prospective clients alike lurk. In fact, your competition/peers are often a great source for work. It's been my experience that freelancers tend to feast or famine, and when you're swamped, it's great to have a network of reliable, quality peers that you trust to farm work out to. Never be without your business cards, and never post in a forum without your website/portfolio contact in your sig (unless you prefer anonymity regarding anyone who might be googling you).

(2) Target Your Market - When marketing, aspire towards finding the sweet spot between being an arrow to a bulls eye and a grenade in an ocean. Persistant direct mail campaigns to a well researched short list (agencies, potential clients, past clients, leads - say 50-100 tops) has a greater potential of producing outstanding results than a more generally targeted list of 1000. It also pays to mail to less prospects more often (quarterly or more) than mailing to more prospects less often. So if you're thinking of advertising to 1000 or more prospects once, don't bother, it's a waste. Mail to 50-100, 10 times instead. This, in conjunction with a useful monthly newsletter, will help maintain a presence in your current client's mind as well as introduce you to new clients.

(3) Craigs List - know it, love it, use it at least weekly for both posting your services to and responding to ads from. Your milage will vary regarding the quality of client you garner from there. Many people are looking for handouts, or cheap work. However, there ARE definitely big name companies that post anonomously from time to time and even small ones that are well worth the time. The key here is sending out basic boilerplate emails (customizing them slightly or extremely depending on the potential of the post your responding to). I send out anywhere from 700-1000 emails a month responding to posts looking for work across the whole country in my downtime. Even when I'm busy, I still try to do it. That might sound overwhelming, but once you automate the system a bit (macros, templated emails, multiple email accounts to accomodate CL's limit) you can typically get through it in about 1-2 long days of emailing. My success to date is about a 3-5% response rate, of which about 10% turn into actual paying clients.

So that's my .02 (or .50 as it may be). Hope it helps.

- m;cha31
"persist @ something & the world revolves towards you"

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Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 11, 2006 at 7:52:30 pm

Agreed. Network, let your friends know you're looking for work, join groups like BDA/Promax, and whatever you do make sure you have a fantastic reel.

Good Luck!

John Davidson____ writer | producer | director____

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Steve Wargo
Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 12, 2006 at 7:46:21 am

You didn't mention what the job is that you are quitting. I would hope that it is in the field of production and that you are opening a production company because you have tons of clients waiting for you to open the doors.

Do you have the following?

A business plan
Cash to cover 8 months of overhead.
Equipment that is debt free
A family member who is an accountant
Business insurance
Mentors to save your bacon
A good lawyer
Technical skills

The most important skill to have is SALES.
The most successful producers have minimal equipment and merely sell the job, hire someone to do it and then collect the money.

This business is dog eat dog and I have seen many people get into the business who wanted to get in for the "art" side instead on the "money" side. Art is what hobbies are for.

Have a clientel ready for you when you open. Hire a highly skilled person and pay them a lot of money. Make them sign a non-compete agreement.

This is a great looking profession from the outside but remember this. To get clients, you'll probably have to take them from someone else. Can you do that? What do you have to offer? Why should anyone hire you? How many awards do you have now? Hire slowly, fire quickly.

I could go on forever but if you are planning on doing long distance video production, you're probably destined for failure. Don't go into this business or any business because you're good at the skill involved, such as, a great plumber should not open a plumbing company. Fixing drains is not where the money is. The money is built on being a business manager, the one who hires others to do the work. A great cook should not open a restaurant. A fantastic camera person should not open a production company.

Call the S.C.O.R.E. office in your town and meet with a business counselor.

I used to build off-road race trucks and got into video as a hobby. The video business looked intriguing and the first year, I made $2500. After 25 years, I'm finally getting the hang of it. (IMHO)

The downside. Any smart business person will give you this advice: Build a business with the intention of selling it. Have a generic name that can transfer to another person or corporation. Sell it before 10 years time. Do it again. If you are the business, you have nothing to sell but used equipment (Worth nothing) and a client list. If you are the owner/manager and you have a team that goes with the company, you now have something to sell, unless you're operating out of your home.

Good luck,you'll probably need lots of it.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona

It's a dry heat!

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tony salgado
Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 12, 2006 at 10:34:46 pm

Damn Steve,

That was a great post filled with very valuable advice for any newbie thinking about swimming amongst the sharks.

I sincerely hope the original poster takes heed of your great advice.

Tony Salgado

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Kevin Wood
Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 12, 2006 at 8:49:05 am

Unless you have a a really bad job, or a really big bank account, you might want to consider doing production work part-time as you build a client base.

You can still follow all of the sound business practices that you need as a part-timer. When you get to the point that your production work is making you more money than your job, then would be a good time to go full-time.

FWIW, this isn't to dissuade you from starting a production company. The tone of your question suggests that you might need to do some further planning first.

There will be a ton of work to do that's not production related, that also doesn't bring in money (such as building your business infrastructure). Spend time planning your business, and have a better idea of your sources of work. Implement your plans in small steps while you still have an income, without the added pressure of no income. Find people who need your skills and subcontract, especially if the web is your main venue.

There are plenty of resources available, and your best opportunity for success will be if you don't simply "wing it" and dive in with no plan.

K. Wood

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Nick Griffin
Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 14, 2006 at 12:34:08 pm

GREAT advice, guys! Sharing insights like these are exactly why the Biz COW was created in the first place.

Let me add one more thought for a start-up (and for on-going operations, as well): Don't buy stuff until the exact point in time you need it. Computers, monitors, RAIDs only get cheaper as time marches forward. Cameras and lenses only get better. Keep debt as low as possible and hold onto money like it's... LIKE IT'S MONEY.

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Bob Cole
Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 14, 2006 at 8:56:22 pm

[Nick Griffin] "Keep debt as low as possible and hold onto money like it's... LIKE IT'S MONEY."

Best radio ad I ever heard was in the Midwest somewhere. A small town furniture store owner did his own voicing, and he said, "Come to Big Charlies' Discount Store. 'Cause I know, money is hard to git and it spen's ever'where!"

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Nick Griffin
Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 15, 2006 at 1:40:56 pm

My favorite furniture ad was in print, from a New York dealer named Sofa King. Their tag line is "Our prices are Sofa King low." (Works best in New York and New Jersey.)

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Re: o/t: for all of you freelancers
on Jul 17, 2006 at 8:11:58 pm

Great Thread. I'll throw in my own two cents.

I own a small broadcast design company in NYC. We've been around for about two years, and believe me, the hardest thing is to find new clients. It's like a puzzle . . . you have to figure out an approach that works best for you and provides results, and run with it. You're not going to get many calls back or positive responses, so have patience!

I can't stress enough how important it is to have clients with you from the get go, most likely people who you have worked with in the past. I have a few regular clients that allow me to live comfortably while always looking for more. Have loyalty to your regulars too . . . mine have been with me since the beginning, so I always bring my best to the table.

Also, if you can get an intern to handle the e-mails and auxillary work, do it! Besides being the lead designer here, I'm also the web site maintainer (which explains why it hasn't been updated in a few months), the accountant, the salesperson, the DVD designer, and a couple of more hats. If you can find an intern to take some of this work off your hands, your better off for it.

All the best!

Paul Waszak
Creative Director
Red Lynx AVS

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