Is a career as a freelance videographer right for you?

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Profit by shooting digital video

If you work in the creative industries – media, marketing or advertising – you are probably aware of how rapidly digital video is taking off in South Africa.

Digital publications and brands are embracing video as a powerful and engaging way to tell stories – a shift that is creating interesting opportunities for enterprising freelancers.

If you’re already a writer or a photographer, adding the skills of a videographer to your CV could help you secure more work. Or it could be a career option for someone entering a career in media and marketing.

Today, video is king. Everyone wants video as part of their content creation for social media, blogs and websites in general. Here are some tips for entering the world of freelance videography.

What you need to become a freelance videographer

Becoming a freelance videographer is about more than just buying a video camera.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before getting started as a freelance videographer:

  1. What kind of education do I need?
  2. Is there specific equipment I should buy?
  3. How do I break into the field once I know the craft?
  4. When can I start making money?

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Getting schooled in videography

To be a freelance videographer, you need to know your way around a video camera. There are several ways to go about this.

You can learn on-the-fly, teaching yourself through a mix of taking short online courses with sites like Udemy, watching YouTube tutorials, and spending some time out in the field using your video camera.

Or you could take a more formal, practical course with an institution like the Media Academy, Orms Cape Town School of Photography or Oakfields College. Getting a piece of paper showing you have completed some training can help you secure your first gig when you are just starting out, and have no portfolio or client history.

At some point, you will need to start shooting video. That is where your lessons will come to life, and you’ll realise how much more you need to learn. While shooting, you might find your videos are coming out dark, and this will tell you that you should brush up on lessons about lighting. If your subjects aren’t in focus, you’ll know that you should learn more about that too.

In other words, the best training will come from filming people, places and things.

2. The freelance videographer toolbox: What to keep in yours

What does a videographer need? At a minimum you need a high-quality video camera, but what else? The answer varies depending on the type of videos you plan to shoot, but your list may include:

  • A tripod, a monopod and/or multiple tripods.
  • Different lenses for various angles and types of shooting.
  • A backup camera
  • Backup batteries for all your equipment (especially the video camera itself).
  • Wireless microphone(s).
  • Backdrop(s).
  • Lighting equipment.
  • A quality computer.
  • Enough storage to handle large files whether on your computer, an external drive or cloud storage (video takes up a lot of space).
  • A GoPro.
  • Some videographers keep a drone or two in their toolbox for aerial shots and b-roll footage.
  • Software for editing.

The tools you have in your box as a freelance videographer might depend on your budget when you’re just starting out. Over time you might add pieces, but the most important thing is that you at least have a good quality video camera to start.

3. Breaking into the business

When you start out, determine what you want to shoot so you can start networking to establish connections in the industry you choose. For example, if you want to shoot weddings, you should network with wedding vendors.

This will all be easier if you are already working as a writer or photographer and can offer videography as an additional service to your existing clients. But if you are starting from scratch, you could offer your services pro-bono to charities to start establishing your portfolio or trade services with another freelance or entrepreneur.

Once you have enough jobs under your belt, you can create a highlight reel of the footage to start promoting yourself to new clients.

4. Branding yourself as a freelance videographer

You could shoot as an independent contractor but creating a company name gives you a way to brand yourself and what you do.

Choosing a domain name for your business website is just as important as creating a company name. Remember, there’s a good chance the domain name you want is already taken, so be flexible with your company name.

Some of the things you should consider in branding yourself are:

  • The name you want to give to your company.
  • Establishing a website that acts as an online portfolio (this makes sharing your work much easier anyway).
  • How you will get involved in social media.
  • Which niche you most want to shoot videos for (being the expert videographer in one niche could yield more referrals and work).

5. Start making money as a freelance videographer

You may find that it takes time for your videography business to take off – so it’s not a bad idea to initially treat it as a side hustle. How quickly you start making money, and how much you earn will depend on various factors including your:

  • Experience
  • Equipment
  • Portfolio
  • Referrals and testimonials.
  • Existing business network.

While you’re learning the ropes, take small gigs at first and build your way up to bigger jobs. This way you can find your footing, hopefully get good testimonials, and learn along the way what works and what doesn’t for you and your business.

Where do you go from here?

You’ve learned the skill, got your feet wet, added some pieces to your portfolio and hopefully started making money. Now, you just keep moving on up from there. If you’re lucky, you will start getting higher paying gigs in no time at all. If you want to increase your chances of attracting new opportunities, you may consider placing your brand on the map using GoDaddy’s Website Builder.

This article has been adapted from an original piece by Ashley Grant.  

Image by: Background photo created by freepik -