NAB 2015: Tips for How to Be a Successful Freelancer

This week at NAB 2015 Amy DeLouise gave a great talk on ways to advance your career and be successful as a Freelancer. In the 3D and VFX industry freelancing is a very common path among artists and it’s both rewarding and difficult one to take. Getting any tips for ensuring your success as a freelancer is always beneficial and Amy outlines some of the most important tips which you will learn about below. Amy began the talk by discussing the common reasons why new employees feel they got hired, “The company thinks you know something, they think you have certain skills, certain expertise, equipment or tools. That’s what you think at least.” “That is incorrect,” Amy stated, and began to discuss why companies really hire someone, “One of the first things you need to realize when you’re a freelancer, whether you’re a freelance editor, producer, director, etc. it’s probably important to have the skills mentioned above, but they are really hiring you, and how you brand yourself.” Just like a company like Coca-Cola brands themselves, you too have to brand who you are, and really market yourself to be appealing to companies who are looking for freelancers. During the talk Amy asked everyone in the audience to write three attributes that set them apart. After hearing the results the conclusion was that many people in the audience had overlapping attributes that they felt made them unique. Since so many others will market themselves to employers with these attributes, you need to find a way to spin it, and put an angle on it to make yours just a little bit different. For example, many people had “well-rounded” so you need to find an angle on that, and a way to spin so you don’t sound like every other freelancer out there pitching the same projects. Amy went on to talk about what she calls the three intersecting circles that should be part of your brand and how you market yourself, “There should be three circles that all interconnect, these are what you’re good at, what other people need, and what you aspire to do.”

Where You Work

When it comes to freelancing, you’re really your own boss and you have to be accountable for yourself, and ensuring you get done what needs to be done, Amy talked on this a little and discussed the importance of your work area.

“A lot of us have virtual environments. Their inexpensive, you don’t have to have overhead, and there is no in-house support staff, but these virtual environments can be distracting. If you work out of your house and have pets, children, etc. It can get very distracting. And if you don’t have children or pets you still have laundry to do, groceries to shop for, and suddenly you’re wandering around your house doing stuff that isn’t something you’d do while you were at an office.”

There are good and bad sides to both the “virtual office” and the “physical office” with an office there is obviously increased overhead. Amy mentioned that a combination is really where a lot of people are going now, with have one location where you can have meetings and collaborate with your team, and then your home office is more for the work that can be accomplished after these meetings and after everything has been established. One of the most important things to keep in mind though is that if you are working from home exclusively you need to setup a designated area just for work, so you can stay focused.

Social Media

Social media plays a huge role in all of our lives, everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even write our own blogs. You can utilize social media to your advantage to help market yourself, and establish your brand, which Amy discusses.

Many people have two social media accounts, one strictly for their professional life, and one for their personal life but Amy talked about how that is not always the best idea, and showing your interests and passions outside of your skillset, and your professional work can make you more appealing to clients.

“I find that the people I hire who are freelancers will post very interesting things on Facebook, aside from what I already know they know professionally.” This can be anything from your favorite thought-leaders in the space, what you’re passionate about outside of work, cooking, music, etc. It’s okay to share your personal life on your social media outlets because it helps establish who you are as a person.

What Not Wear

This probably goes without saying, but the way you present yourself to your potential client is extremely important. Amy spent a few minutes discussing dress code, and what not to wear. Of course, you should still be yourself but still maintain a professional attitude and wardrobe when meeting with potential clients, or on the job. Working from home as a freelancer can often mean wearing your pajamas for the majority of the day, but you want to try and avoid getting into this habit.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have made a decision about hiring a freelancer based on their clothing. I’m not saying I didn’t already know their skillsets and capabilities, but if two people are equal in terms of skills, and I have a client and a certain situation and I need to create that professional environment, I can’t have them create a negative for my project by how they appear.” Amy continued, “You don’t want to detract from your presentation to a client by what you are wearing.”

Getting Paid

When it comes to freelancing getting paid is obviously very important. There are industry standard rates whichever medium you are working in, and this can be a good place to start from when setting your rate, but Amy also talked about “value pricing” and how this is beneficial.

“Value pricing is the pricing that the customer puts on the item. So, a perfect example of this is hotel rooms in Las Vegas. Certain hotel rooms have a certain status associated with them so they can charge $150 more a night even though you’re getting the exact same thing as another hotel. It’s the perceived value by the customer.” Amy continued, “You need to start thinking about value pricing because you’re not going to be successful if you don’t sometimes vary your pricing based on the value the client puts on it.”

If you want to learn more about some of the tips you can use to be successful in your freelance career be sure to check out Amy’s in-depth article on Five Ways to Revitalize Your Career.