Amber, Filmmaker and Videographer
Hi, I’m Amber and I’m from the UK.
I was born and raised in and around Brighton. I've lived in a house in Shoreham-by-Sea (just down the coast from Brighton) for 24 years.
What do you do?
I am a freelance filmmaker, videographer and editor.
How did you become a freelancer?
I became a freelancer by creating my own website and showcasing the films that I had created as part of my university degree in Film Production. I included films that I had made in my spare time during the summer months of Uni as well. Then I got in touch with a local music artist that I liked and offered to create a music video with her.
Why did you become a freelancer?
Upon graduation, there were no job listings that caught my eye. Other companies were not offering what I wanted to do, or if they were, you had to already have professional experience, not just a degree.
The entry-level roles seemed to revolve around office work primarily, which never has been and never will be for me. Also, something that I didn't realize at the time but had an inkling about, is that I enjoy working independently and being in control of my own work and time.
Where did you find your first paid freelancing job?
Regarding filmmaking/videography work, my first paid job was through an email sent out to everyone on my university course, from two members of the university's alumni, who were now running their own videography business. They selected me to work with out of all the applicants.
What expectations did you have going into this kind of job? And how has it been the same or different from what you expected?
I was very excited to have been chosen and had a positive expectation for what was to come. But the experience that followed was challenging. It definitely brought to light the time and effort that goes into video editing and I also soon discovered that I did not have a strong enough laptop to be able to edit the files quickly and efficiently.
What’s your favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
Not having to face social anxieties related to communicating with others in person about non-work-related matters (with colleagues or just people working in the same building as me).
What's your LEAST favorite thing about freelancing/working from home?
Currently, the lack of a professional setting. I work in my dining room. I would love to have my own bright and branded office, even if it's within my own home.
How long did it take for you to feel like a "successful" freelancer? Until you were able to pay your bills regularly without worrying?
I had a really great streak about 1 year into freelancing full-time. My confidence was high and I was working the most monthly hours I had ever done, for 3 months straight.
How did you price your services when you were just starting out?
Naively. Having not worked on particular types of projects before, or logged any 'working' hours during shoots at university, I had no idea how long it would take me to do things. As I started logging the time I spent on jobs, I began to develop a good sense of what I should charge next time.
It's taken me a couple of years to figure things out (as I've worked across various mediums which require different calculations) but I now have an accurate method to working out my quotes. It took me a while to realize that I had to realistically estimate how long something would take me to do, then apply a suitable hourly rate (e.g. at least the National Minimum Wage) in order to work out my quote.
At first, I was picking numbers out of thin air that didn't sound too high for the client to be put off. Then I started logging my hours for projects and working out how long different aspects actually took me, therefore what I should charge. I later accounted for things like the use of video equipment and editing software, as I started buying more expensive gear.
What was your biggest struggle when you were just starting out?
It probably was the financial side of things - more for the principle of it as opposed to struggling to pay bills (I'm a frugal spender by nature, plus I was and still am living at home with my Dad).
It was frustrating to not accurately work out my quotes (or to not be able to find clients willing to pay anything at all) and working out at the end of a project that I'd just worked for £6 an hour or something!
What do you know now, that you wish you knew back then?
I wish I knew the value of a videographer and the types of prices I should have been charging. But as I was just starting out, those clients may have turned elsewhere anyway, which is the sad thing. There will often be someone willing to do it cheaper; quoting well is a hard thing to balance.
What's your favorite way to find new clients and job opportunities? What worked best for you?
My most frequent work has come from Facebook groups, primarily ones made for female creatives. It's a great place to look out for short-term freelance work. People seem to be using it more and more to advertise for jobs.
What are your favorite tools for work? Any apps or programs you love?
I started using the productivity app 'Trello’ recently which really helped me organize different work and personal aspects of my life. The program I use most for work though is Adobe Premiere Pro - for my film editing.
What's one BIG lesson you learned the hard way on your freelancer journey?
Always receive a deposit (initial partial payment) from a new client BEFORE beginning any work - most importantly before any filming takes place.
In 2017 I did two film shoots (interviews) for a client and arranged a film shoot for the recreation of a past event that had happened to the client. The client was also supposed to star in the recreation. He kept lying about sending the deposit and signing the agreement (saying it was “in the post” which is not what I requested anyway).
He then cancelled the film shoot on TWO SEPARATE occasions. So I had to let the venue know (they were offering us the place for free) and the actors know (who had made childcare arrangements) that the shoot was cancelled. I had to do all this twice.
It was at that point I decided I could no longer continue with the client. He never paid me for any of the work I did. I’m now very cautious about certain behavior from new clients, and more stern in my requests for signed agreements and deposits before filming.
How do you stay motivated when work is tough or there aren’t enough jobs coming in?
I work on other aspects that I hope will improve my chances of work in the future. Recently I experienced a 6-week drought. I had small bits of regular work, but I booked no new clients in at all, despite many efforts and applications.
In this time, I worked very hard on rebranding my website and my showreel towards the type of projects I am most passionate about working on. It's always good to feel productive and keep your mind busy with things that will ultimately still progress your career, even if it's not direct work for clients.
If you met a new freelancer who wanted to get into your line of work, what advice would you give them?
I would give them guidance about the value of videography, and how to accurately quote for projects. I would also advise them to never work on a project unpaid, unless it is for a charity or a cause they are personally passionate about (e.g. female empowerment). 💃
If new people entering the industry are always offering their services for free (which is often the case) and providing promotional content to businesses that clearly have funds to pay for the service, we are completely devaluing our work and contributing to the stigma that videography is not a proper profession/worth paying for.
Any tips or tricks for working with difficult clients?
I believe that politeness is key. One should always keep their cool in any heated situations or at times during particular disagreements. I always make sure that I’m understanding of my clients’ point of view, and will show compassion to their situation, but also politely enlighten them to my opinion. 🙌
If clients are ever rude or unfair, I recommend never reacting in the same way. You should always treat others how you wish to be treated. To me, the client's happiness is the most important thing. Always give clients the benefit of the doubt but it's important to keep your integrity and stand up for yourself. Judge when something has gone too far and potentially step away from a project.
Now that you've experienced all the ups and downs of being a freelancer, would you go back to a regular 9-5 job?
I've actually never experienced a typical 9 to 5 job! But I can definitely say that is not the career path for me. That lack of flexibility, control and variety is something that doesn't fit well with my life goals and ambitions.
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