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Tips for freelancers

I’ve both been a freelancer and hired many dozens of freelancers, so I’ve seen it from both sides. Successful freelancing comes down to two factors – having a relationship with hiring managers at production studios, and your overall reputation among those people – ignore either and you’ll fail.

The first step is to make a list of all the producers, creative directors and art directors at the production studios in your local area. These are the positions typically responsible for hiring freelance artists, so focus your efforts on them. Get their email addresses from the studio’s website or by calling and asking the receptionist for it. DON’T call the hiring managers directly! Producers/CDs/etc. are very busy and really dislike being interrupted by job hunters. Show that you respect their time and understand their needs at every step, and they’ll appreciate it.

Email each of these hiring managers with a short, personal note. The subject line should specify you are a freelancer, the discipline (After Effects, etc), and your full name. This way they can easily find your email later on. The email should include:

• a brief introduction – who you are

• specify your skill set, but don’t list every creative discipline under the sun. No one hires a Web/3D/After Effects/Editor guy.

• one or two sentences about your credentials – what work you’ve done, clients you’ve worked with, your schooling etc.

• provide your hourly rate – even if you are willing to negotiate the rate, you still NEED to provide a baseline rate so they understand your general expectations. Just mention that it’s negotiable

• your email address and phone number

• a resume – attach a PDF file, not a word document

• a link to your online portfolio – yes, an online portfolio is mandatory

Make absolutely certain that there are no typos or errors in your email, resume or website, that the portfolio link you’re giving them is typed correctly and works, and that there are no dead links or other problems on your website. Errors like these will reflect poorly on your attention to detail, and will cost you the job in many cases. I can’t tell you how many artists have sent me broken portfolio links and emails full of typos. Honestly, I just trash their email and move on. This line of work requires significant attention to detail, and if you can’t get the opening communication right, you’ve failed the first test.

By the way, don’t bother with the classic BS job application language (“I am seeking rewarding and challenging employment blah blah”). No one will read it. Be real and be yourself, just show some maturity and professionalism.

Getting a gig from a new client is just the beginning – getting invited back is what separates the professionals from the slackers. Once you land a freelance job, it is vital that you impress your client and show them that you are worth hiring again. Show up on time, don’t turn in lazy or sloppy work, work quickly and efficiently, be organized and ask questions rather than making assumptions or mistakes. But most important of all, be kind and friendly to everyone from the CEO to the cleaning lady – seriously, you want everyone there to think you’re the greatest. Many times artists reserve their friendliness for the people they think “matter,” but that lowly tape deck operator may be best friends with the Producer, you never know.

Finally, here’s a crucial point that many artists don’t seem to get – the managers at production studios talk to each other and share freelancer contacts, because finding good artists isn’t easy. Word DOES get around, so if you do a bad job or have a bad attitude, you’re not just losing that client – you’re burning a lot of potential bridges. The key is not just getting more work from existing clients, but getting referrals as well. Otherwise, you have to start from scratch to land every gig you get.

Source: Brendan Coots (LinkedIn)


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