As the crunch continues, Angus Henderson provides a 16-point survival guide to making it as a freelancer in television.
1) Be a Samba shark
If sharks stop swimming they die, but I don’t mean that you always need to be doggedly moving forward in a straight line, that might work in a traditional sense for the linear career promotion model laid down by big and small companies alike. While you must continue to move forward, you need to dodge or Samba sideways into related roles and industries. This will broaden your skill base and experience. Many of the things you need in related roles you already have and doing them will grow your understanding of your own chosen career path.
2) True flexibility of mind and action, on the raggedy edge
Be a ‘rubber man’, able to change quickly and dynamically. You will progress faster than nine to fivers as you will need to learn new skills to remain competitive. Be just as flexible on paper, building up a store of different CVs and covering letters for different but related industries and roles.
3) Be up to date. Build skills and training
Knowledge is next to useless if it’s not updated. You must self train and have a constant commitment to finding and funding training courses that will provide real benefit to your chosen role.
4) If it was all about the money we’d all be bankers
When you are negotiating a contract certainly always ask for slightly more money, basing your justification solely on your relevant skills and experience. But also think about asking for a better job title or if they have a commitment to training. Also think about offering to start work a week before they need you at a reduced introductory rate of 75% of your usual.
5) Know your worth. Estimate their spend
You can price yourself out of work both by asking for too much and too little. Try to estimate from company size and potential budget what they can afford to employ you for but always say your rate is negotiable.
6) Details are crucial
Have a business card, but make sure your contact information is correct and up to date. Think about why you need one and give them out with an aim to run out of business cards - they are no use sitting in a draw. You should give out at least five a week.
7) Tie everything in
Your web address must match your company name and your email address in name and design. Even individuals need a corporate identity, for example Alpine Films Ltd, www.AlpineFilms.com, AlpineFilms@mac.com
8) Know your job. Your job IS applying for jobs
Your job is just as much about applying for jobs as it is working them - so be at your kitchen table showered, shaved, dressed and breakfasted by 8.30am with your laptop open and ready to go. Aim to apply for five jobs a day. Make this five up of as many available roles as possible filling the remainder with speculative applications.
9) Have a lunch break
Freelancing is just as much about enjoying the work as it is enjoying your time, so have a lunch break and schedule exercise time into your day. When you arrive at a new job you should be the healthiest most rested person there able to amaze by being on top of your game.
10) Pen. Diary. Phone.
Never leave the house without them and remember what you’ve applied for so you know who might call.
11) Keep in touch
Every time you have a new piece of work, project or training on your CV use it as an excuse to get in touch with people you have worked for before by emailing them your new and updated CV along with a ‘Hi, how are you?’.
12) It takes balls to turn something down
You can’t afford to turn work down, so when you do you better have a bloody good reason and another strong and visible option. It does however pay dividends to turn down low pay once you have plenty (and I mean plenty) of skills and experience, enough for an employer to recognize they are being cheeky with a low offer.
13) At work, you are a guitar string
Guitar strings strummed together produce a bigger sound than when individually plucked. In the same way, a team sounds a harmonious chord when working together effectively. individual strings can be tuned but they can also snap and be replaced. So work hard at being a team player. Be nice
14) Second income
Think about how you are going to pay your bills in the quiet time, bearing in mind that you need time to apply for jobs, be available for interview and receive mobile phone calls. If you are lucky enough to own a property, rent out a room. If not, get a flexible ‘means to an end’ second job. Among the best options are roles related to your actual career or work that can be done after office hours or even temping.
15) Enjoy your work where the work is
Enjoy your job and be prepared to work where the work is - in different cities, even abroad, for different hours - including weekends.
16) For relationship sanity
Make sure your partner understands how flexible you need to be and therefore how flexible they need to be. That you may be away and when you’re at home you’re not just sitting around the house. Also, that sometimes you have money and sometimes you don’t.
Angus Henderson is an ex-Press Association journalist and is now a freelance TV producer/director/cameraman.