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Five Things I Wish Id Known When I Started The Pros And Cons Of Being A Freelance Creative Tips For Those Starting Out Three Things You Can Be Certain Of 7 8 10 11

How To Brief Well Creating Creative Clarity Define Success The Top Three Things To Specify In Your Brief 12 13 16 19

Organised For Simplicity Back Ups, Archives And Quick Amends The Danger With References Managing Your Time Creative Competence And Continual Learning 20 23 24 25 26


How To Be A Freelance Creative


Making Money Dos And Donts For Daily Rates Tips On Negotiating Keeping Your Money Dealing With Late Payments Getting More Money Investment Doesnt Need To Be Sexy In The Service Of Loyal Opposition 29 31 32 34 37 38 39 41


Communication Building Fruitful Partnerships Working With Difficult Clients Negotiations 43 46 46 49

Why Ergonomics Is Essential To Your Creative Career How To Get Work And Build A Business What To Do If You Dont Know Anyone Building Your Business How To Get The Kind Of Work You Want Becoming More Employable Getting More Clients Doing Unemployment Well 51 55 57 58 63 65 68 69


How To Be A Freelance Creative


Tips On Working From Home Common Freelance Fears A Freelance Philosophy 73 73 75


Working With And Against Your Emotions Building Creative Habits Getting A Fresh Perspective Three Questions To Promote Healthy Creativity Making Ideas Happen 77 78 80 81 82


Creative Ideas Books On Storytelling/Screenwriting Business Books For Creatives Marketing Books For Creatives 84 88 90 92

All My Mistakes And What You Can Learn From Them 95


For Hannah, who always believes in me.

THANK YOU FOR BUYING THIS BOOK How To Be a Freelance Creative is a no-nonsense primer on how to get your freelance career off on the right foot, by laying a solid foundation that will serve you for years to come. If you are already in the midst of a freelance creative career there are plenty of tips on how to make it more enjoyable and how to advance in the direction you really want to go. In my first eight years as a freelance creative, I have received a lot of great advice, made a lot of simple mistakes and learned a lot of valuable lessons. All of these experiences have combined to help me grow and maintain a successful freelance career from humble beginnings - and they can help you do the same. This is not a step by step guide to a successful freelance career; there is no formulaic set of steps to make every freelance career work. But there are fundamental principles that can be applied to any creative business. These are the tips and techniques that have worked for me. Take it for what its worth: agree, disagree, try new things and do only whatever works for you. Your own creativity, imagination and entrepreneurial thinking are all vital ingredients to building a successful freelance life. I hope that within the pages of this small book, you discover a few valuable pointers which help you to succeed in the creative career you have always dreamed of living.

Jonny Elwyn Freelance Film Editor London, January 2014


How To Be A Freelance Creative


If I could go back in time and tell my younger self these few nuggets of information, I could have made a much better, more lucrative start in my freelance career. But hey, you can only know what you know when you know it.

As a freelancer you are an entrepreneur. As your own boss you shape your own business and make your own success. I used to think though, as a film editor, that I was very much at the end of a long chain of events that had to happen before I could get any work; first of all the client had to decide to make a film, then they had to decide to use a producer/director I knew, then that producer/ director had to decide to use me, if I was even available and up to the job. It was only much later that I discovered how easily I could kick start that chain by pitching to potential clients directly and then either sharing the work with other freelancers or taking on more creative roles for myself.

There is nothing to stop you doing anything.

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Raise your rates and ask for more money with every new client. This is one of the simplest ways to increase your income, but for a long time I was nervous to try it. Also, expect to be asked to offer a better deal, so always ask for more than youd really be happy with. However, at the very start of your freelance career, take whatever you can get just to keep yourself in the game. Sell enthusiastically. Whenever you sell yourself and your services to your clients, do so with a confident smile. Always be sure to create genuine value for your clients along with a friendly relationship, and they will appreciate what you do for them so much more. The competition are your community. The more people you know who do what you do the better. You can help them find work and they will help you back. These relationships are vital. Being freelance is much more fun than having a real job as long as you dont worry about money. Getting to a place of not worrying about money definitely takes a few freelance miles to achieve but it is entirely possible.


How To Be A Freelance Creative


If you are considering a career shift to going freelance, or you are fresh out of school and wondering if it is the right career choice for you, then here is a quick run down of the positive and negative aspects of being a freelance creative. PROS Freedom to do whatever you want. CONS No guarantee of constant work.

Ability to charge more money per day. No sick pay, holiday pay or pension. Opportunity to work with many different clients and collaborators. No office politics. Constant variety of types of work, styles, budget levels and creative challenges. Potential for loneliness if working alone at home or not in shared office. No Christmas parties. A clear and direct career progression route is hard to map out.

Take as much holiday as you like, for as No holiday pay means holidays are long as you like, whenever you like, as twice as expensive when you include loss of earnings. often as you like. Cabin fever can be experienced if you Work from the comfort of your own home, free from the expense and hassle have not left the house for days. Also managing work/life separation can be of daily commuting. trickier if your office is in your home.

HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE PROS AND MINIMIZE THE CONS In order to have the best freelance experience it is vital to tailor it to your own specific needs and preferences. For example, if you are a highly sociable person and love being around people all day, working from home might not be the best option for you. Therefore, if you can afford to rent a desk or room in a shared creative work space that might be an excellent way to increase your enjoyment of each and every day. Working in shared office space can also lead to some exciting collaborative opportunities as you are far more likely to have chance encounters when you are actually in an environment filled with other creative people.


How To Be A Freelance Creative

Conversely, if the idea of not being jammed onto a packed commuter train, nor sitting for hours in glacial traffic every day makes your heart leap for joy then working from home is an inexpensive and time-saving option. The main challenge of working from home is maintaining the discipline of keeping focused on work instead of being distracted by household chores, TV or the latest funny online video. At least in a shared workspace there is the social accountability of seeing other people busily getting on with things to keep you on track. Lastly, maintaining a healthy separation between work and the rest of your life can be a challenge when working from home. Having a home office with a door you can close can help you literally leave the office at the end of the day. A side benefit of working from home is that you will save tons of money not eating out for lunch every day. HOW HAVE THE PAST EIGHT YEARS BEEN? I have loved being a freelance film editor in London for the past eight years. I love the freedom that I have from having days where I am not working to pursue other creative endeavours (like writing this book, or updating my blog), seeing friends and generally just enjoying life far more than having to go to work every day. To be honest there have been a fair few times when Ive had no work for a couple of months in a stretch, but even this has never made me long for full time employment. With a little bit of planning and saving, as well as developing other streams of income, you can ride out these tougher times. For me the smooth definitely outweighs the rough.

Through being freelance, Ive been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to occasionally travel with work, meet and work with dozens more creatives than I ever could have in one single company, and been paid more than I believe I could have ever earned in-house. Ultimately, though, I simply enjoy the fact that I am my own boss far too much to ever work for anyone else. Ive learned not to worry about where work will come from or how I will get by, and so I feel very blessed that it has always somehow just worked out in the end.

I simply enjoy the fact that I am my own boss far too much to work for anyone else.


How To Be A Freelance Creative


As a quick aside, here is what I hope is fairly obvious, but useful, advice for those starting out in their creative careers, freelance or not. First impressions count. Make sure you turn up on time and equipped to do the job. Even if that is simply interning and making tea and coffee, be sure you know how to do that! Try to remember peoples names, even if you have to write it down on a piece of paper in your pocket. Remembering someones name is a quick win to making them feel valued, and forgetting it leads to instant insult. Your attitude matters far more than your aptitude. If you are just starting out, no one expects you to know that much of anything anyway, so it is OK if you dont. Just make sure your attitude is one of humble eagerness. Be willing to do any job with all the effort you can muster. Ask lots of questions and hoover up knowledge from those around you. They will feel good for teaching you what they know. It is surprising how rarely those who say they are hungry to learn, actually are. If you are eager, pay attention, make notes and ask lots of questions. You will not only learn more but you will impress those around you with your attitude. And that opens doors. Dont be afraid to ask for feedback on how you are doing and what you could improve on. This helps speed up your learning and draw in potential mentors. THREE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CLIENTS LOVE YOU

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The simplest way to make your clients love you is to offer them freebies. These do need to be cost effective for you (therefore almost negligible costs) but add real value to your clients. Free phone support to less technically-minded clients goes a long way as do other freebies such as easily-created extra deliverables or useful format conversions etc.

Providing quality referrals is also an easy way to keep your clients sweet. Not only referring other quality professionals to take your place if you cant do a job, but also other talented friends that could help them with a particular problem. This is a win-win-win for you, the client and your friend.

The third way to make your clients love you is to build a genuine relationship with them. Get to know their interests, hidden talents, family life and personal history. The more interested you are in them, the more interesting you will be. Also, deepening your relationship beyond work deepens the connection between you. It might sound simple, but how many of your clients birthdays do you know?



How To Be A Freelance Creative


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You will have periods where you are not earning. There will be dry, fallow, stressful periods. This is OK, it is par for the course. The important thing to remember, to be certain of, is that this is part of being freelance. The decision to make is: does this instability fit with the season of life that I am currently in? If not, it might be right to move out of being freelance. If it does, then you just need to ride it out. The more you plan ahead, save for such times and be proactive, the easier these periods will become.

If you compare you will despair. The more you measure yourself against other freelancer friends, salaried friends, people on the internet, credits you see - the more you compare where you are with where you want to be and the more you focus on the gap - the more you will despair. The important thing to remember is that this is a false comparison. You didnt have the same opportunities, connections or life as them. There is no basis for comparison. Get on with your life, your career and push it in the direction you want. Comparison is a waste of time. You have no idea what is going to happen next. One of the constants of being freelance is that jobs can come out of nowhere, jobs that seem like a sure thing can fall away at the last minute and you dont control what happens next. You can do your best to line things up, work hard and hope that they come about, but if you hold onto them too tightly the bumps in the roller coaster will become more aggressive. Youll pitch and plummet with every twist and turn. The more you can learn to relax, to enjoy the ride and to hold things lightly, the easier it will be. I think part of this lightness can only come with experience, with a few rides on the freelance roller coaster under your belt.


BEGIN WELL AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW The most important stage of any creative project is the brief. In filmmaking the script is the blueprint from which all other decisions will be made, and the success or failure of any film can often be traced back to the script. Was it ready? Was it polished? Were the character arcs thought through? They say that problems in the third act of a film the pay off are really problems in the first act the set up. You can only pay off what youve properly set up. But the script isnt always up to scratch and often it shows in the final film. In the same way in many other creative endeavours the brief can often be as vague and ill-defined as we need a website or we want to update our marketing. This can sound like a simple enough problem to solve, but without asking the right kind of questions, in sufficiently probing detail, the project can get off to a bad start and never really recover. Of all the projects Ive ever worked on that have run into trouble down the line, it can always be traced back to not spending enough time on the brief. So how do you brief well? It begins with asking the right questions.


Depending on the project, the time it takes to define the brief might last from an hour or two to several days. A lot of it will depend on how well thought-through the clients request is, and how clearly you understand what exactly it is they are trying to achieve. The more you can put yourself on their side of the table, walking in their shoes, seeing things from their perspective, the more you will be able to understand what you need to do and why you are being hired to do it.


Briefing Well

How To Be A Freelance Creative

Taking the time to do this is invaluable because you are far, far, far more likely to produce good, effective and client-pleasing work when what you are creating is what they actually need. This might sound very obvious, but youll be astounded how easily this step is skipped over. It is also important to remember that as human beings we dont always know what we need until we see it. So what kind of questions should you ask? Questions like, but not at all limited to, these kind of questions:


1. Who are we trying to talk to? 2. What are we trying to say? 3. Why? 4. What do we want them to think/feel/do as a result? 5. What would success look like? How will we measure that? 6. How will the final product be used/distributed/watched/experienced? 7. How will it fit in (with the brand/website/world/etc.)? 8. What is the one thing this is all about? We will now go through each of these areas in more detail to get a better grasp of why answering each of these questions is so important. 1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE The most important element to truly grasp in any creative project is who is it for? Who are we trying to talk to, get involved or sell to? Often as artists and creatives we can end up making things for ourselves rather than our audience. For example, if you are hired to help sell more washing powder, and you are a hip young twenty-something, the chances are you wont really connect with your target audience (unless the company is seeing a big new market in hip-young twentysomethings, which seems unlikely) if you make something you think is cool. To a mother of three what you think is cool, and what she thinks is useful and good value are probably worlds apart.


Briefing Well

How To Be A Freelance Creative

So, know who your audience is. What are their desires? What motivates them? Why would they want to engage with your project? Take the time to answer these questions in detail and your project will be pointing in the right direction from the start.

2. COMMUNICATE CLEARLY As a follow-on to knowing who your audience is, tailoring the way in which you communicate with them is the next crucial step. They say that the responsibility for clear communication rests upon the speaker, so if you cant understand me, I need to change the way Im communicating in order to help you understand me. This is also true for almost any creative project, because we are the ones initiating the conversation. Unless you are targeting a highly specific elitist audience who revel in insular jargon, youll probably want to shape your communication in such a way that it could also be easily graspable by anyone. Would your mum understand it? Your grandfather? Your five-year-old niece or nephew? If not, your message probably isnt clear enough. Doing the hard work of simplifying the ideas, concepts and message into a form that is immediately and easily digestible can often take more work that we expect. But by simplifying, condensing and clarifying you can make your work far more attractive, engaging and impactful because it will work for so many more people. You really can do more with less. Part of the difficulty in achieving this simple clarity, especially in corporate settings, is that clients want to pack their communications chock full of text, statistics or multiple messages. They want to say and do more, but often they ultimately achieve less. Film, for example, is not the best medium for communicating acres of text. Yet clients might feel that it is vital to do so. Is there a way to achieve the same aim in a simplified way? Can greater detail be provided externally to the film on a website or handout? Knowing what you are trying to say, using the most suitable creative medium and really working on the clarity of how you are saying it, is crucial to producing an effective creative project.


Briefing Well

How To Be A Freelance Creative

3. TARGETS MATTER The next set of questions you should be asking are all about the most obvious part of the brief. Why are we doing this? What are we hoping to achieve? Therefore what are we hoping the people we are communicating with are going to think/feel/ do/change as a result? Without a clear target to aim at you will be by definition aimless. Knowing why you have been employed is often Without a clear something that freelancers can feel less concerned with after all, work is work, right? But if the target to aim client hasnt really thought through why they are at, you will be re-branding their website, changing their product design or making a film, you can often be drawn by definition, into a trap. You will make something, potentially aimless. something spectacular, but it will end up being unfit for purpose and therefore a waste of time and money, because the client either didnt know, or wasnt asked why they really wanted it in the first place. You might go home well paid with some more great work in your portfolio, but it wont have been a success for the client if it didnt deliver what they needed it to. This failure will be linked in their mind to you, and, unfair though it may be, in the future they might be less willing to venture into your creative world again, which would be a hugely wasted opportunity for you. The ultimate conclusion of this thought, though, is that when you are in the process of creating a brief with the client you might arrive at the conclusion that they really shouldnt be making what they are asking you to make. Maybe they really dont need what you are offering and so they shouldnt hire you. You will build a huge amount of trust, loyalty and respect with them if you put their needs above your own and advise them to go after the thing they really need. This might cost you in the short term but it will pay off in spades over the long run. It will also present you with the opportunity to bring in a friend or company who does do what they need. This will also help you win friends with those who end up doing the work, and they may well return the favour. 4. LINING UP TO THE GOAL By knowing what the outcome of the project is supposed to be, you can then work to line everything up to that conclusion. In filmmaking every line of dialogue,


Briefing Well

How To Be A Freelance Creative

every scene and plot point should all be lining up with pushing the protagonist towards their ultimate goal. Every part of your project should be adding to the result of achieving that final goal. If the point of the website re-brand is to convert more visitors into customers, every part of the design, layout, colour palette, functionality etc. should be contributing to that goal. All other goals must be subordinate to the ultimate goal, and if something is not adding to that goal it is likely hindering you achieving it in the best way possible and so should be removed. The good is the enemy of the best. Once you understand what the goal of your project is, also make it obvious and easy for your audience to understand what you are asking them to do. Find a way to do so without pandering, or boring them along the way. If the audience is truly engaged, and understand what the pay off will be, they wont mind doing a bit of work.

5. DEFINE SUCCESS One of the pitfalls that creatives can most easily fall into at this stage of the briefing process is getting overly excited. You have spent all this time and effort really getting to know the client, absorbing their problems and ambitions and now countless exciting creative solutions are sparking in your brain. It is very easy to feel at this point like you are done with the brief, but by pausing for one moment and asking a simple question What would success look like to you? you can really add a lot of extra value to your client and to your services. By defining what success is for the project in the eyes of your client, you are also establishing a way to measure whether the project is successful or not. It might be that the client wants to get a certain number of new customers, email sign ups, views, likes etc. It might be that they give a surprising answer and reveal something you didnt know before.

It is possible that the scale of their ambitions could be wildly optimistic (We want this to go viral) and so it is wise to then try to frame their metric for success a little more conservatively. It always helps to under-promise and then over-deliver! Saying something like Lets aim for a million views on Youtube, but if we get to 250,000 we can all agree, that will still be a huge achievement.

Take the time to define what success will look like to your client.


Briefing Well

How To Be A Freelance Creative

This also helps to frame the value of what they are investing into the project relative to the outcomes. If, for example, theyre hoping to raise 100,000 in donations, investments or new customers and the project is going to cost 20,000, they will be reaping a 500% return on that investment. Framing that conservatively, if they only make 50,000 they will still reap a 250% return. In some cases it might be harder to define what success looks like. If the client asks for greater brand awareness or a cooler looking website etc. it will be harder to prove that it has been successful, unless you can agree what an outworking of that success might be. So something like adding in a customer survey to see what people think of the new website could be valuable addition to the project brief. Taking the time to define what success will look like to your client, and how you will measure that success, is a simple way to add another layer of value to your creative services and ensure happy clients. 6/7. END-TO-END THINKING A film company that I often work for expanded their services into building websites, because they were frustrated with the growing number of clients who they would make online films for, but then find months later that the film still hadnt made it onto their clients website. They expanded their thinking from simply handing over the finished film, to ensuring that it actually got seen. By asking questions about how the final product will be experienced by the target audience, and the world into which it needs to fit, you can not only discover a lot of useful information that will help shape the project itself, but you can also uncover ways in which the entire process needs to be joined up from start to finish. This might reveal an opportunity to provide the client with even more services or, at the very least, point out the other people you will need to connect with to ensure a successful handover of your deliverables. It is worth asking questions that delve into areas that you might not be being asked to pitch for, in order to successfully join up all the dots and find ways to increase the size of your offering. Think about what still needs to be done once you finish work on a project. Could you offer more services to take up more of that work yourself? 8. IN A NUTSHELL I know of a very successful businessman who will refuse to invest in a new enterprise or project unless it can be summarised into three specific paragraphs.


Briefing Well

How To Be A Freelance Creative

This isnt because hes a lazy reader, but because he wants the pitches he receives to have been well enough thought-through that they can be summarised in this way. As a final discipline, it is important to be able to sum up the projects purpose and goals into a single sentence or phrase. This should help demonstrate that you have really understood all that the client is trying to achieve and it acts as a final sounding board with them. When they hear you say So in a nutshell, the project is all about they may well say Well actually, I think its really all about THE POWER AND IMPORTANCE OF PAPER As a final point I cannot stress enough the importance of getting all of the above down on paper. This is vital to ensuring a good relationship and smooth landing for your project. Not only is it helpful for you to be forced to translate all that you have spoken about into a (hopefully short) document, but it allows you to literally check that you are on the same page as your client. You should express the brief in your nutshell phrase and then expand upon all the answers that youve collected as a result of your questioning. Who is the audience, what are you communicating to them and what will they do as a result of the project? What is the metric for success and to what level? Detail what you will deliver, when and how. Note down in what ways you will require help or co-operation from your client (e.g. supplying assets, people, time, resources etc.) in order to proceed. Include a budget for what all of this is going to cost (which doesnt need to list every tiny detail) and when you need those funds to be released. TERMS AND CONDITIONS APPLY A quick note about contracts: I am not a lawyer. I know a few, but I am not one. The vast majority of my work as a freelance film editor is for only a few days. It isnt practical to draw up a contract for every day that I work. But I do have a set of general Term and Conditions, which I send to every new client that I work for, so they know how I operate my business. For more on these please read the Bonus Material that came with this book. If the project you are undertaking feels large enough in its scope, scale or risk to you, that you feel like you should have a legally binding contract between you and the client, then you definitely should. Like a good accountant, a good lawyer will save you money in the long run and help you sleep better at night.


Briefing Well

How To Be A Freelance Creative

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Include a deliverables list what is the client going to actually get at the end of this project? If they are going to get a hard drive with the final assets on it, or if you are going to keep a copy forever, you need to budget for this cost. Add a 10% contingency into your budget. This helps to cover all of the unplanned and unexpected things that will inevitably happen along the way. Whatever is not spent can be refunded upon delivery.

Submit a timeline for the process of delivering the project, including when you will show work in progress, client feedback opportunities and deadlines. This will help the client not to feel out of the loop on what should be happening.

Committing all of this to paper will protect you in the long run. Should the project encounter a problem, run aground or erupt into a major disagreement, if you have supplied what the brief details, the client wont be able to claim that this isnt what you agreed on at the beginning because you will be able to point to a piece of paper that states exactly what you both agreed to. In addition, as often happens, if the project evolves as it progresses, you will be able to clearly identify how these new deliverables, requests or ideas are outside of the scope of the original brief and therefore are outside of the remit of the original budget. Clients should only get what they pay for, but that doesnt stop people asking for more. By having a definitive list of what they are getting for their money you can more easily establish what extras they will have to spend more on, if they really want them. Sometimes of course it is good to throw in some freebies to sweeten the deal, but more often that not, more work is more work and that incurs a fee.



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