How many of you reading this post have more work that you need? Can willingly turn down work because you are too busy? If that is you then you can skip this post. If you aren't one of the few who have more work than they need and are concerned you are missing out on work then you should read on.
A lot of people ask me how to get work or how they can grow their potential client list. A lot of people believe that everyone else has figured out the “magic” to finding paying work. There is no “magic” to finding work. Everyone finds work differently depending on their market, their area of expertise and their network. However, there are common things that people often forget or neglect to do that cause them to miss paying work every month.
Here is a list of things that if you aren't actively doing are causing you to lose money and potential clients.
#1- Talk to Your Exisiting Clients
You might find this to be a bit obvious. A lot of people have existing/regular clients that they wait for them to call them with work new work. This waiting for calls can often cost you work in the long run. Remember your clients aren't thinking about you all the time and there are times where they could use your help if you reminded them you existed. There is a fine line between bothering or begging your clients for work vs engaging them to help encourage them to work together.
Just remember that your clients often only work on things that are mission critical to them and they are not necessarily thinking a few steps ahead. Sometimes when you reach out to your client you appear as a solution to a “problem” they have or have been thinking about. You can easily get an extra couple of jobs a year with this technique if you do this smartly and with caution. Clients immediately smell when someone begging for work and that will harm your relationship and end up costing you work. Do this smartly and view yourself as a resource to help them solve problems and you are on your way to increasing the number of days you work during the year.
So you really should approach your client in one of two ways. First, just touch base and see how they are doing. You aren't asking for work or pitching them on any ideas. Who doesn't like it when someone is “thinking” about them. We are all human and react like humans. This is a good way to build a bond and help you fend off other people trying to lure your client elsewhere.
Secondly, you should have something of value to let your client know about. What that is depends on your client. It could range from you letting them know about new equipment or software that they may be interested about. Helping keep your client educated and informed will help position you as an indispensable resource for them to work with. Positioning yourself as a resource that they don't always have to pay to talk to keeps you in the front of their minds.
Just remember if they aren't thinking or talking to you then they aren't calling you for work.
#2- Bid for Jobs on Job Boards/Lead Websites
How many of you are waiting for leads or calls to come in (from your website, someone to call your phone or a client to call you)? That is great but if that is all you are doing then you are giving away money. If you aren't aggressively searching out new clients then you are shrinking your client base. Even if you are crazy busy don't think this advise isn't for you. I have seen so many people loose their largest client and have a hard time replacing that income and fall deep into debt. You need to be growing and replacing your client list all the time.
You need to seek out and find places online where you can find potential clients that don't know you exist and are looking for your services. If you don't know any of these websites then you aren't being aggressive enough in looking for work.
Here are some examples of places you can find people offering work that are looking for you but don't know you exist.
Every city and town will have their own unique places that people post work for hire. It is your job to find them and monitor them – all the time. Just remember someone doing the same job as you is more hungry than you and is constantly checking and submitting bids. If you aren't aggressive and persistent then this is work you will miss out on.
#3- Work for Free
You might call me crazy but believe me this works. I am not advocating you should work for free often or that you should work for free for anything. What I am saying is that the right gigs you work for free will lead to more work.
How you might ask? Let me explain a few ways this has worked for me.
– You met people who can hire you on future gigs. Often ad agencies do pro-bono jobs for non-profits and they burn out their regular contractors on freebies. These projects that are easier to get your foot in the door and start building a relationship with an agency or production company that you otherwise might have a hard time cracking the door to. If you take the job for free and show them you are a rockstar and they will hire you in the future. I have never worked with someone who loved my work and then said I won't hire you again. That doesn't happen. You will get work because now someone who does hire people knows you exist. Remember if people don't know you exist they won't ever call.
– Work on a gig that is connected to a company or organization that hires production work. I have done jobs where a larger organization is involved but not in charge of the shoot. What happens on these sorts of shoots is that the larger organization has powerful people onset overseeing and watching the production. If they see you doing amazing work believe me they will remember you. They will either ask you for your details on the day or they will reach out to the person that hired you asking for your details. Again being seen so people know you exist is critical.
– Someone sees your work. If you get to shoot something you can make look amazing and the client has an audience to share the final piece with then you win. Having people see your work is key. Once people start to see what you can do they will call. Sometimes pro-bono work is shared to a wider audience and more people can see the work you can produce.
There are many more reasons that this can be good for you. You have to be cautious and calculated in what types of jobs you take but don't just turn down free work. Find out if you can turn it into paying work. If so go ahead and work for free.
#4- Be Seen
This is important for a couple of reasons. First you need your work to be seen. Additionally, and equally as important, YOU need to be seen. If people don't know that you or your work exist then they won't be calling to hire you.
Your Work Being Seen
We would all love out videos to get 100,000 or even a million views but those are the exceptions and not the rule. Also there is no way to predict what people will share and build those types of numbers for your videos.
That doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to make sure your work is being seen. Here are some ways you can make sure people are watching and importantly the right people are watching.
– Add your videos to your social media channels. Don't just leave the video on Vimeo or YouTube and hope. Let people know that you do great work. It is self promotion but you can't afford not to be to an extent. If you don't do a bit of self promotion then you will be turning down work from those that would be seeing your videos.
– Embed your videos in your monthly HTML emails. Wait, you mean to tell me you don't regularly email your current customer list? If you are not emailing your customer and inquiry lists then you are really throwing money out the window. These are people that have already worked with you and/or have identified you as someone they would like to work with. Show them that you are not only good enough to work with but they are missing out on all the cool things you are creating for others. Believe me if you are doing amazing work those people will call to offer you work. Remind them you are still around (while at the same time showing them you don't need their money so you aren't desperate or begging for work.)
– Send your work out to bloggers or other people with networks. People love to share amazing work. They also love to share work that has an interesting story for how it was made. This isn't a good idea for every video you create but take your best and brag a little.
There are more ways you can be seen but what I am really imploring you to do is find ways you are actively (and continually) promoting the great work you are doing. Let people know you exist so they can SEE your work.
#5- Ask for Work
Seems simple right? How many times have you asked if people need your services or if you can help them with anything? A lot of people have a hard time asking people for work. That is what separates great salesman from order takers – the ability to ask for the deal.
Don't believe me? Let me give you an extreme example. I had a potential client come to me (at the time I didn't know who they were and have never worked with) and started to ask me some advice on what they could do to improve their corporate videos. I went through their videos and talked for a while about their needs. The whole time it felt strange as they found me because they loved my work and considered me an expert in what they wanted done but they weren't directly asking me if I wanted to work with them. So the more we talked the more it seemed like they wanted to have me do work for them but weren't asking. I was trying to play it cool and not come out and say well heck I'll do it. After a while longer I took my own advice and said if you want I can help you will all this. They got excited and said that would be great. They have 12 productions a year that they are now hiring me for. All it took is for me to ask them.
#6- Add Someone to Your Rolodex
A lot of times we work in our own world and are constantly chasing work of our own and not thinking about others that do what we do (think competitors). Since networking is critical to our business I want to encourage you to add a competitor to your rolodex. This might seem insane but hear me out.
Whether you are a production company or a freelancer you have people in your area that you are competing with for work. Most people treat their competitors by not interacting with them. You should take a different route and you should embrace them.
The reason for this is because everyone l know has at least one job if not a couple every year that they need to hire other freelancers or another production company for one reason or another. When it comes time to hire someone people call people they know, have interacted with or that they have contact details for. You need to add people to yours and they will follow suit. Put yourself on the short list to get more work. If not again you missed out on paying work this month.
#7- Did You Update Your Reel?
I have only been asked once in the last 10 years for my resume. My reel on the other hand I get asked for weekly. Many times people will just ask for some samples of the work you have done and a client list you have worked for. Your demo reel is a highly undervalued way you can get more clients.
If you update your demo reel every couple of years or even every 12 months then you probably aren't paying enough attention to your reel. Your reel is a way to get a larger variety of looks into a short viewing clip. People who want to hire you don't have a ton of time. Make it easy for them to say yes to hiring you. Do the heavy listing and present yourself in a way that makes it easy for them to hire you and be confident you will do a good job for them.
If you have a large enough pool of projectsyou might benefit from cutting a couple smaller reels to showcase particular types of your shooting skills. Some clients just want to see your green screen work, others a variety of your interview lighting. Use your head and think about what people are asking you to see or what will help you win more gigs by showing.
Take some time and update your reel. Just don't forget to get it out into the world. Add it to your website, facebook, social media channels and your email list. Again if people don't see it and know you exist they aren't calling you for work.
#8- Practice/Learn a new skill Technique
If you are a freelancer or own your own production company then there are going to be days (or some weekends) that you don't have a paid gig. How do you spend that time? If you aren't practicing new techniques or learning a new skill then you are not ensuring a long career with jobs that will pay more.
The general trend in our business is for people to get jobs by having a wide and varied skill set. If you aren't expanding your skill set then you are willingly turn down paying work. More and more a director/cinematographer has be able to edit and/or do motion graphics. Post production professionals are often being asked to shoot video as part of their jobs. This cross pollination of skill sets won't be ending any time soon so if you don't adapt then you are asking your clients to find someone other than you to work for them.
If you can work a few hours a week and continually learn and expand your expertise then you are telling your clients and potential clients you are the one for the job. If aren't learning and expanding then you are giving away potential gigs you could have otherwise handled. Don't turn down work by not trying.
Money makes the world go round. If you don't have enough revenue then you can't do the job you love. If you don't have enough clients you can afford the gear that will help you grow. Don't turn down work that you don't know about by not doing things that are easy to do. You chose this career. Get off you butt and start finding more work. The world loves passionate, intelligent and nice with people. Make yourself, or your business, the person they didn't know they wanted to hire.
Please let us know which of these tips helped you book a new gig this month. Happy Shooting.
(cover photo credit: snap from Law Professor Blogs, LLC.)