Freelance film work - How to find more work and build a client list

Freelance Film Work

Freelance film work – how to find more work and build a client list. The chances as a filmmaker you are going to be freelancing as opposed to having a full time job. The majority of jobs in film come on a freelance basis , especially the creative on set work. For example on feature films your will be hired anywhere from 1-6 months at a time and for shorts and commercials you may only be hired for one day of work per project.

As such it is safer to build up a client list as a freelance filmmaker. In time the plan is to build up a list of clients you can rely on otherwise you may have large gaps between jobs. When I worked on film sets it took a year of freelancing before I had made enough contacts from freelance film work to start getting called up with job offers.

Judging from the people I know it can take anywhere from one to five years of freelancing to find yourself at a comfortable place where you have enough film contacts. The first year of freelancing is always the hardest and there are several things that you can do during this time to make the most of of the clients you work with.

Steps to Finding more work

1. define your job role

As filmmakers a lot of us use the word filmmaker as a jack of all trades ‘I can write, direct and edit’ collective. For feature film work keep in mind that only one person is hired for every individual job role. If you advertise yourself as an all round filmmaker you will struggle to be hired on film sets.

If you wish to be a videographer you can still find a focus.  Will you be known for corporate, online, wedding, charity, documentary, music videos? Don’t get me wrong you can make  being an all round filmmaker pay the bills – but for film crew work you will need a specific job role.

2. Find your local film groups online

Filmmakers like to hire on a who knows who basis. People don’t like to place there creative projects in the hands of strangers. Which is why being recommend for a job role from word of mouth is the best way to find work in film. To get recommend for jobs enough people need to know you. The easiest way to make initial contacts is to search online for local film clubs, groups and hangouts.

To do this quickly, search on Facebook for groups in your area. Use the Facebook or Twitter search bar as you would Google and search for groups – for example – New York filmmakers , Filmmakers in Leeds. Even a professional who has moved city will have to start making those local connections again. If you find no clubs or groups in your local city likely you are searching incorrectly (Alternatively start your own film group).

3. Apply to jobs in bulk even when you are working

I recommend that you find 5 job sites online that advertise your job role and search for work every week. Especially if you are looking for freelance film work & temporary jobs. As I say after a year or so you wont need to keep applying to jobs constantly – because you’ll have made enough contacts to have a consistent flow of freelance work coming in.

When you first start out in the film industry apply to jobs in bulk. Online jobs do get a lot of applicants - yes you may be perfect for  a job but fail to get noticed because of a large volume of people applied. If you really want a job feel free to send out a reminder follow up email after the application deadline has passed. I applied for work online even when I was working - this helped me find consistent freelance work without there being a gap between jobs.

You can download my list of film job sites here

4.Network in person to meet fellow filmmakers

It will always be easier to make connections with people if you meet them in person. I went to a bunch of networking events when I first started out, I am not someone who thrives in a social setting but this is defiantly a more effective way of making people remember you.

Simply attend an event, introduce yourself and let people know what you do, perhaps hand over a business card. Let the filmmakers you meet know that you would be interested in working with them on any upcoming projects. Where do you find networking events – local film festivals,  through online groups and meet ups. Check to see if your local film council is putting on an event. If your just starting out take a short filmmaking course.

Steps to building up a client list

5.Stay in touch with crew you have worked with

When you work with people follow them on Facebook. Then you can keep in touch with little effort and you never know when they might need you for work. If your not a Facebook fan there is always the less full on Twitter or at the least keep the crew contacts details (full crew contact details found on any call sheet). You never know when you might be low on work and need to email a producer just in case they are hiring. Facebook is defiantly the easiest way to follow people online right now. 

Keep in touch with crew you work with, don’t make it difficult for people to find and hire you online.

6.Develop A positive attitude - it takes time to be trusted

Freelancing in film wont happen over night. That first year freelancing will be the most difficult. It is best not to compare yourself with others online – go at your own pace we are all at different stages in our lives.

A positive hard working attitude will pay off, if you are able to work on film sets happily then you will start to get hired more frequently – the work is hard and most people don’t last too long. Understand that you will need to apply to jobs in bulk at first because most people will hire who they know before a stranger and it will take time to build up that trust in people. 

7.Make a portfolio or show reel

Depending on your job role, consider how having a show reel or portfolio of work can help you stand out. For visual jobs having not only a CV with a list of credits but example of previous work will help. An art department assistant might have photographs from the sets they have worked on and examples of their drawing and craft skills. For freelance film work a director may have a show reel on their website as well as links to full projects. For any job role consider how an online portfolio, with a link to your CV for download and examples of previous projects could help persuade someone to hire you.

Steps Breakdown 

  • Make sure your job role is not ‘I can do everything’

  • Find local like minded filmmakers through online groups

  • Find job sites that advertise work in your area

  • Consider networking face to face

  • Stay in touch with the crew and cast you work with

  • Consider making a portfolio or show reel

Are you struggling with finding more work as a filmmaker? Let me know what the problem is below and I will answer all I can

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms