video production tips and tricks

Freelancer to Business – Taking the Plunge

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This first blog post is very much a one-off, simply explaining how I have approached setting up a media business, where I (we) plan to go, hopefully with some pointers for anyone who finds them relevant. Any blog posts that follow I promise will not be anywhere near as long, and will be more along the lines of our own podcasts & interviews, and general resources and advice that I find to be of use.
 

The Creative Industry

Leaving university with a degree in the creative arts sector is somewhat frustrating. Not to say there isn’t opportunity out there, there is. But such an abundance of learning material online these days means that many are already well experienced and above degree standard before they’ve even reached university age (some well before that!). I would take this opportunity of course to advise anyone doing online tutorials (I’m sure this applies to most fields) to take each with a pinch of salt, for every decent tutorial there are tens and sometimes hundreds of rubbish ones. Stick with those that are somewhat accredited – Lynda etc. and perhaps check the comments for links to better ones. I will share any that I find valuable in future blog posts and on our social media.

University goers will find within their classes the fine margin of people whom are clearly going to make it within the industry itself once they are done – they stand out by a mile, they are engaging, they are in the top percentile, and are equipped with a great amount of initiative. I’m not a believer that initiative, ambition, drive, whichever word you like, are hereditary, and as good old Banksy (apparently) once said “A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to”. Try things, find what works, and use it.

Briefly about me, I graduated from Leeds Beckett University (my experience there was outstanding to anyone looking) at 28 with a 1st Class Hons degree in music production.

With a decent portfolio and skillset of everything that is music production, sound design, field recording, video editing, and some programming, I set out to the various agencies and online platforms looking for employment, open to anywhere in the world. The feedback I received was interesting. For smaller company roles I was ‘over qualified’…. they simply wanted a ‘sound engineer’, or ‘studio assistant’, the only ‘fresh out of college’ jobs with record labels were low paid A&R roles mainly aimed at interns. Other jobs in record labels generally required more of a marketing background. The larger companies I found either had a well paid in-house employee, or they were willing to pay top dollar for some elite freelancers with far more developed portfolios.

The number of (extremely talented) creative freelancers available online is insane. As a quick example, the website ‘www.creativepool.com’ – one of Google’s top search results (Search term: ‘creative freelancer’) alone has a network of over 225,000 people with full (and impressive) portfolios ready to go to work. There are other networks like this one, so is there enough work to go around? Yes. A thousand times yes. As long as you practice your skills and network. Talk to friends, friends of friends, show off your work, get feedback, and practice more. The portfolio will fill up, and you will find that some of those friends both old and new will return for your services.

I decided to take the plunge and go it alone – with the view of growing into an established company able to employ those that find themselves in a similar position to myself in the future.


Startup Research & Development

Business Plan
Ok, obvious, and extremely tedious, but it doesn’t have to be over the top in the initial stages at least. Find out what you need to startup, and make a spreadsheet. It’s likely in this industry that you already have much of what you need, and your requirements early on won’t be much more than an internet connection, a website, perhaps a better performing computer, some extra software, and some sort of advertising (not immediately too important early on if your network of people are giving you some steady work).

My startup cost was £5k – this included web development (thanks for visiting), a mid-level drone, a new camera lens, some video training, various licensing, insurance (business & drone), some music software plugins, and some online subscriptions (Vimeo etc).

Once you have figured out what you need, how much it’s going to cost, and your yearly outgoings, figure out what to charge:

– Take into account your yearly outgoings, and work out your prices from some basic market research.

– By all means give ‘mates rates’ to close friends and tell them to spread the word but DEFINITELY not what you charged.

These are the tabs I have in my company overview. It took about half a day to setup, and is constantly evolving. It is never going to go down the route of what you initially planned for, accept that, ride the wave and make sure to keep on top of things – worry about the way you wanted it to go further down the line. Oh and ALWAYS back your stuff up. Twice.

Registering as a Business (UK)
What does it take to register a business? Answer: Not a lot. Here in the UK at least. I would advise not to waste time with forums and the likes, as, rather to my surprise, the HMRC website is about as outstanding and to the point as it gets. Everything required is spelled out, and it costs absolutely nothing to officially become a ‘company’.

Accountants
Speak to them! Most accountants will give you a free hour consultation to go over any potential business you may be able to give them. My knowledge of accounts and UK tax laws was zilch. I called a local accountant via a Google search, asked for an hour, explained my business idea, and he told me all I would need to keep an eye on and what to expect. A lot of information was discussed in the hour; I couldn’t remember it all (didn’t have the voice recorder). So what to do? Write down what you now know, develop a more specific set of questions from your newly developed knowledge, ‘re-Google’ the listings, and ask the next accountant for an hour. Ask your revised questions, and so on ad so forth until you are on point.

—–Or just pay your £/$400-600 and have them do everything for you if it’s no issue to your pocket.

If you are starting out solo in the business, you can most likely handle what you need to on excel. This is all I had in March for my first official income, and remains all I have – still slow and steady to begin.

Income column headings: Date | Invoice # | Client Name | Amount | Date Paid

Note: A few columns further along is any investment money received and on which date, just to ensure all income is on the same page.

Outgoings column headings: Date | Invoice # | Company | Cost | VAT# | Description| Date Paid

Mileage (For non-taxable income): Rules vary depending where in the world you live of course. Here in the UK – keep a tab of any work-related miles driven.

 

Podcasts, Podcasts, Podcasts.

I used to wonder how many hours of my life was wasted in the car listening to rubbish, so I decided to learn Portuguese, and it worked ‘muito bom’! It’s surprising how much one can learn from background noise on a car journey. Just like tutorials, there are a lot of rubbish podcasts out there, some, however, are outstanding. Whether short 5min snippets with expert tips, or hour-long interviews with people who have come from these kinds of backgrounds, the amount of knowledge to be soaked up is tremendous. Some that I listen to regularly are:

– Entrepreneur on Fire with John Lee Dumas (www.eofire.com) – 20min episodes with experts from all industries contributing.

– Marketing School with Neil Patel & Eric Slu (www.marketingschool.io) – 3min to 10min snippets of nothing but tips on organization, marketing, expanding, SEO, social media etc.

– Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman (www.mastersofscale.com) – Reid Hoffman (Founder of LinkedIn) interviews entrepreneurs who have come from nothing.

– Dorm Room Tycoon (www.drt.fm) – Lessons on how to build a successful startup by those who have already done it.

 

Vision & Taking the Plunge


Throughout the first few months of setting all this up, I knew exactly what I wanted, but had no idea how to go about it. I became hesitant about many things. Apparently, this feeling just passes after a while. At a guess, I imagine the more you think about what can go wrong, the more you realize it’s not the worst thing in the world, the more you numb to it, and begin to crack on with it. Once you immerse yourself in it, whilst the mind does indeed race from time to time, it becomes extremely exciting and enjoyable.

My vision is simple. Be completely transparent with those who I work with, and share whatever information I can to assist them in getting exactly what they require, even if it is ‘the competition’. I am all for open source. As I (we) expand, the idea is not just outsource to those who are in a similar to position of that I found myself in, but to employ a team that is able to compete in all corners of the market.

On a final note (if you have reached this far) since the very beginning, it has been important to me to be able to able to give back to the community by volunteering in various charity events. This will always be the case, and environmental and social philanthropy is extremely valuable to me moving forward.

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