This past year, I've pushed myself to search out more freelance work and not just sit around and wait for it to come to my greedy little hands. Since then, my plate has been pretty full and I've been trying my best to book and manage editing gigs, photo assignments, video productions, etc. While doing all this, I've managed to make my fair share of mistakes and since the internet world loves top 5 list for some reason, here is my top 5 mistakes I've made during my journey to become a better creative.
- "It's not about the gear!" You'll hear this from every blog about photography or video. This statement is only somewhat true. I've spent way too much on junk lenses, lights or trying to build my own stuff when I should have been saving and getting something that would last. Also, you cannot show up to a shoot with a homemade light stand made out of PVC pipe. I mean, you can, but a client will judge a book by it's cover. There is a lot more to this statement than I want to write down, but in the end, use what you can to learn your craft and shape your style, but good gear is called good gear for a reason.
- "Can you shoot this for, say, 70 bucks?" No, sir, I cannot. I used to take any job I could get, just to have some extra money and maybe even build my portfolio. I would take a music video job where payment was never discussed beforehand and I end up getting $40 after a shoot. Because I did that, my name got spread around in certain circles as the guy who can do great work for almost nothing. So then the emails and Facebook messages start to show up.
"Hey how much can u do this for?"
"Well, you haven't given me enough details to give you a proper quote, but I'd say it would be between $400 and $600"
"Nah, that's too much. My friend said you did his video a few years ago for 40 bucks. Can you do that?"
And I still recieve these messages to this day. To paraphrase Nick Cambell, work for free or full price, but never for cheap.
- This is a good segue to my next point. Get a deposit, sign a contract. Here are some contract examples. Do it. Nothing more needs to be said. Unless you want to get strung along for months, get a deposit. Nobody wants to give someone money and then never get something in return.
- Stop competing with others. So, yeah, I did this. I'm ashamed of it. I don't need to be better than anyone else, I just need to create content that my client is blown away by. Don't spend your time critiquing others work and pointing out all the flaws, spend it doing this to your own work. If you do good work, it'll show and it will be known.
- Plan and stick to your plan. I've had a few video shoots completely fail because there was no planning. Pre-production didn't exists. I showed up to a shoot with no idea what I was going to do and had to figure out how to block my scene, what angles, etc on the go. This sucks. Location scout, storyboard, write out a shot list. Do whatever you can to help make the day of your shoot go as smooth as it can. Figure out ways how you can simplify the idea, so it is actually doable. The worst situation you can be in, is to have an amazing idea, but the logistics to do it are impossible. You need to work within your budget and your time.
Also, put your foot down when it comes to this. There is always a client who goes, just try it and see what happens. While this is a great excercise and will teach you new things, doing this when you are on a time and budget crunch will just make everything else more difficult. Especially if this experiment doesn't work. In some cases, you can say, "Well, let's shoot everything on our shot list first and then if we have time, we will shoot this idea". It's a great compromise without ruining the original plan.
I'm almost positive there will be an update to this because I make mistakes all the time. If you want to hear about failures from one of my biggest infulences, check out this speech by Adam Savage on FORA.tv.