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Freelance Video Editing Questions

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Carolynn NguyenFreelance Video Editing Questions
by on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:28:13 am

Hi all!

I recently just graduated from a film program. I majored in post-production and have experience as an assistant picture editor and as a picture editor on several projects both in school and outside of school.

I want to get started in the film industry through editing jobs, however I haven't had any luck finding a job with a company. I would like to try freelance video editing.

I'm a beginner at video editing, so I can mostly just cut footage, sync video and audio, and other basic tasks. I can work on a variety of softwares for editing. I don't have much experience with special effects though.

So I have a few questions...

What should I charge, since I can do basic editing? I was thinking $15 - $20 per hour, working at only 4 or 5 hour intervals... is that too little or too much based on my experience?
Do I need to make a written agreement for clients to sign? What should I include on it?
Where do you recommend meeting up with clients? I was thinking at a public library would be alright, since I prefer to be able to be comfortable with meeting with clients to discuss projects.
Sometimes I get email for people asking me to call them to discuss projects. Should I call them first? Or email them asking for details about the project first/have them call me instead?
Is there anything else I need to know about freelancing?

I know some of these questions might be redundant, but I honestly have no idea where I should begin...

Any help is appreciated! :)


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Scott SheriffRe: Freelance Video Editing Questions
by on Jun 5, 2012 at 2:30:43 am

[Carolynn Nguyen] "What should I charge, since I can do basic editing? I was thinking $15 - $20 per hour...
Usually, you either charge by the hour, or flat rate (bid) for the job.

[Carolynn Nguyen] "is that too little or too much based on my experience?"
Uh, 20 dollars an hour is only 800 dollars per 40 hour week. Can you live on that?
And that is assuming that you edit 40 hours per week. You still have to book, meet, bill, do maintenance, market, go the bank, etc.

Honestly, what you have told us, is not enough to know any of this.
Can you cut a feature solo?
Can you cut a typical cable reality show including the heavy use of graphics, and mixed codecs?
How fast are you?
Can you color correct?
Can you output in the desired codec, and quality of the desired client?
Are you only going to edit, or are you going to do some shooting and generate some of the content?
In what market?
On your gear, or theirs?
Have you done a business plan?
Depending on the market, there are people that can do all of this, plus shoot the content as well, so if you are only going to edit, you may have some stiff competition.

[Carolynn Nguyen] "I don't have much experience with special effects though."
It's hard to edit anything of appreciable length without at least needing to resort to some type of VFX. Fixing production mistakes, bad frames, blow outs, etc. Part of the gig.

[Carolynn Nguyen] "Do I need to make a written agreement for clients to sign? What should I include on it?"
Search this forum. Or at least go back and read the last 6-9 months. You should come across enough horror stories to make the answer clear in short order.

[Carolynn Nguyen] "Where do you recommend meeting up with clients?"
Your studio, or edit bay. Where you work. Alternatively, their place of business. Next alternative, a place to eat, and your buying. The person soliciting the business traditionally buys the meal/drinks. Business people don't usually meet at the library.

[Carolynn Nguyen] "Is there anything else I need to know about freelancing?"
Freelancing is not about editing, it's a business. You need to do a business plan. It will be a real eye opener. BTW, in the couple of weeks it takes to finish a proper business plan, there will be ten to twenty thousand additional editors in the 'business'. And they are all trying to do the exact same thing, and compete for the same clients.

I might sound like a wet blanket, but it's time for a reality check. You need to look at the worst case scenario and see if you can still keep a roof over your head. Rates are at an all time low. There has never been so much competition, for so few jobs, coupled with the down economy. Then add the low cost production tools that are letting many clients DIY to save money, and the plethora of people willing to work for free, just to get something on their reel...
Well, I think you get the idea. Do the business plan. Be honest. Be realistic.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Carolynn NguyenRe: Freelance Video Editing Questions
by on Jun 5, 2012 at 2:43:39 am

Hi Scott,

Thank you so much for your input! I wasn't really clear enough with my specifications. I can cut shorts, commercials, and small videos. I haven't cut any features before, I can do a bit of color corrections and I would use my own editing software unless the company has their own editing software, then I would probably use that. I'm pretty fast.. I can do a rough cut of a commercial in 2 days, a locked picture in about 2 - 3 days for shorts or commercials. I can work with most codecs.

I don't live on my own so I think 800 per week is reasonable, and I do have a part-time job as well and schooling too, so I wouldn't be able to work 40 hours per week anyway. I should have been more clear, I am looking to freelance so that I can gain more experience in the industry... not as a full-time job as of yet. I would only look for freelancing full-time once I get tons of experience, but for now, I am looking just for a casual or part-time kind of freelancing...

I was thinking public library since it's public.. but I guess a coffee shop or a restaurant would work! Thank you for your suggestions.

I don't know what a proper business plan looks like, looks like I'll need to do some more research!


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Scott SheriffRe: Freelance Video Editing Questions
by on Jun 5, 2012 at 6:21:09 am

[Carolynn Nguyen] "I don't know what a proper business plan looks like, looks like I'll need to do some more research!"

There are tons of resources for a 'proper' biz plan. But most of that is for when you are looking for investors, or trying to get a bank loan. I believe a person in your situation doesn't need anything that is quite that formal in presentation. What you really want is a visualization tool to flush out all expenses and non editing tasks that go along with freelancing, examine the potential market, cash flow and then see if the rate you want to charge and the number of hours available, all work out. Some of these numbers have to be assumed, or market averages, or the so called SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess), but try to be as accurate, and realistic as possible. Many folks make a fatal error of using the most optimistic figures they run across because they are so enthusiastic about their business, but the real world rarely works in this fashion. It is better to be the pessimist when working on a business plan.
One thing to remember is that even if you have low expenses now, that won't always be the case. It is really hard to significantly raise rates with existing clients, so you might want to work on a version that also includes what you need to make doing it full time, where it is your main income, and see how different that is from your current situation.

I'm glad to hear you can do more than edit. With so many 'editors' entering the market every day, this will give you an advantage over the competition.
Good luck!

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Mark SuszkoRe: Freelance Video Editing Questions
by on Jun 5, 2012 at 4:33:33 pm

You may want to build up experience as an apprentice to an existing wedding video operation.

The plusses here:

There is always a lot of work to do
You don't have to chase down business
You have some control over the hours
you learn to work fast and efficiently
You build skills while solving problems in exposure and audio, etc.
You build some client relationship skill
Could expand into other kinds of events work like corporate meetings, etc.

The minuses:

Not likely to pay well
somewhat seasonal work
Job has high turn-over


Work under an established pro until you're more seasoned. Fresh as you are, the market is already saturated with people that have more skills and experience than you, and they are all racing to the bottom as far as pay scales. Anybody hiring today has their pick of people that already bring a lot to the job. It is exceptionally hard today for a newbie to get hired at anything like a serious wage.

Meanwhile, if you have editing assets at home for private use, start your own editing projects, with yourself as the client. Work on some "spec" projects, demonstrations, charity things, whatever you're personally excited and passionate about. Don't wait for a client to show up; BE the client, MAKE some videos. Add these to your demo reel, and use the process to make contacts and promote yourself.


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Craig SeemanRe: Freelance Video Editing Questions
by on Jun 6, 2012 at 1:53:56 am

Charity things . . .

The single hardest thing about starting out as an editor is actually not the editing . . .
It's the marketing.

Find a not for profit that you like and has high visibility in the community.
Examine their needs and goals (that will be an important business lesson for you) and offer to produce a video to meet their goals.

Consider getting some sort of public credit for the work (maybe a note and/or link to your webpage) with services donated by and/or the right to use it on your demo reel and marketing.
You've meet their marketing goal (hopefully).

Your marketing goal is being visible to the donors and supporters of the not for profit because, if they like your work, and know you are sympathetic to something they too are passionate about, they may hire you for their own paid work.

At the very least you'll have something to use on your website that you can truly say you were producer/editor on. Even if you aren't overtly credited on their site, their donors may find the work on your site as a demo.



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