You’re fresh out of school. You’ve been waiting for this moment for four years, and now it’s happened: you’ve landed your first corporate client. What next? Here are some tips to help you kick things off.
Build your brand
By brand we mean how your company appears from the outside, and what it stands for. A strong brand makes you look credible and helps to create a memorable business that people want to be connected to. Pick a name that stands out, and is related to what you, in particular, offer. Using your own name as a brand is more personable but will potentially attract smaller clients. Also, consider the simplicity of the name: is it easy to remember the corresponding url or twitter handle?
Developing a visual identity is just as important, get a great logo and share it everywhere. Think about corresponding design elements (color, typography, shapes). Finally, a tagline goes hand in hand with your logo and is your promise to your audience – can you explain what you are and what you do in about 7 words?
When you’re first starting out, you can’t just sit around and hope people will come to you. You need to build a credible online presence.
Next, get your Facebook and Twitter (and other social platforms) presence going, and make sure you post to them regularly. Even if it’s just a “Hey, see what we just did for our latest client!”, or “Check out the new service we’re offering”. This way, clients are always being reminded you’re there and can watch you develop.
Finally, word of mouth is always the best advertising. Every time you deliver a project and see a smile on your client’s face, ask them if they know anyone who might need your services and encourage them to recommend you.
For a few more tips, check out 5 keys to growing your freelance business.
Get your business incorporated
This might sound like a boring bit of admin, but protecting yourself as an individual, or as a husband/wife/parent is critical. When you’re incorporated, if someone sues you for professional reasons, they will be suing the business, and your personal assets will be protected. As a small business owner, you are subject to some of the laws and tax regulations that apply to large corporations. In addition to incorporation, make sure you check out the tax obligations in your location.
Pick your software
While your expertise and comfort levels might guide your software decisions, your budget will also come into play. FCPX (Mac only) is a flat $300 fee, while both Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Avid Media Composer are available on a $50/month subscription plan. Keep in mind that some programs are Windows only (including DVD Architect, pretty much the last prosumer DVD authoring program).
To work out what you need and the best way of buying it, sit down and make a road map of the type of services you’re planning to offer in the first twelve months of your business. Then list the applications you’ll need to do each service. For example:
Jan – April:
Web file creation – Sorenson Squeeze, $X
DVD authoring – DVD Architect, $X
3D animation – Cinema 4D, $X
You may decide that you won’t offer all services right off the bat, as they’ll require more cash up front on software. Update and refer to your roadmap regularly to prepare for the next phase of your business.
It’s crucial to choose the right storage platforms for the work that you’ll be cutting. Many new editors think, “I’ll just get a large system drive and edit off that!”. Bad idea. You should never have media on the same drive as your OS: if your hard drive is damaged, you’ll lose all your files. G-Raid Technology and La Cie are excellent starting places; they have a range of drives covering a selection of interfaces.
There is a slight difference between demo reels and a showreel, and both are important. A showreel showcases the range of work that you’ve done and is edited in a snappy, creative way. A demo reel shows the work you can do in more detail and with longer segments, giving clients a clearer understanding of your style of editing. Your demo reels will help potential clients decide if you’re the right fit for the post production on their next job. If you’re an editor that works on different types of productions, make sure you have demos that show each genre.
Manage client expectations
As soon as the project begins, you need to establish some guidelines to ensure things stay on track. Without these, you’ll be surprised at how quickly things can unravel. Develop a timeline and agree on a communication schedule (with all key stakeholders!) and milestone reviews – this way the the client can leave you to do your work, knowing they’ll be brought in at critical junctures. Finally, once you’ve set attainable deadlines, stick to them. Never over promise and then under deliver – this is a sure recipe for disappointment all round.
Quoting and billing
Consider charging per project instead of per hour. This gives the client peace of mind around the project budget but also, if you work quickly and efficiently, means you don’t risk devaluing your expertise on an hourly rate. A Statement of Work shows that all parties have agreed upon the deliverables and the project price (and anything outside of that will increase the price of the project).
When billing, consider using invoicing software to give you a professional look and make sure everything is calculated correctly. Freshbooks or Xero will help track your clients and the amount of money you are owed. Make sure to include a due date and full details of your preferred payment method on every invoice you send.
Lastly, the most important thing to remember is never work for free. Your time is valuable. A credit in someone’s movie or TV show doesn’t pay your rent, or the lease on your equipment. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you feel you deserve. You might lose a few clients, but the ones you deliver for in exchange for a fair price, will be clients for life!