As a creative, there is great value in building a close family of friends, allowing you to share in the joys and pains found in the film, television, and other facets of the creative world. Too, your network of collective wisdom can serve to steer you toward growth and success. Below is a conversation I recently held with one of my good friends, “Jay,” regarding a fundamental strategy for finding the next creative project — used with his permission.
“Jay” is a freelance video editor in NYC, credited on various nationally broadcasted long and short-form documentaries and news pieces by major networks.
Jay: I’m wondering if I should commit to a couple more months of guaranteed Monday-Friday work with health benefits repurposing old [TV series] episodes with no direct benefit to my career path, or do I turn that down to make myself available for actual editing like I’m used to?… I had to turn down a project for [Major Broadcaster] project last week since I’m on this repurposing gig. I guess the good news is it would only last a couple more months if I accept the offer to stay in the current role. They know I’m interested in stronger editing roles, but as you’ve experienced, once a team likes you, they often want you to stay where you are.
I’m still at a stage in my career where I have to obtain credits. I have a relatively low amount of credits compared to many colleagues who work on projects I like/would like to work on. That’s why I’m more unsure about the path. Lots of it goes back to just trusting God!
Don: Ah. This is VERY understandable. Credits are the resume in our industry. Unfortunately, we can’t predict what is coming down the pipe.
Jay: I wish I had a crystal ball! One thing I’m also noticing about freelance work is that my professional relationships are not as strong as they could be, compared to those who might be in the same workplace holding full-time jobs. I go home many days having very little interaction with them.
Don: You are correct. It takes time to develop relationships, going through the fire together.
Jay: … [Freelancing,] you don’t work with the same people consistently for a long period of time, typically. With full-time work you see the same people day-in and day-out.
Don: Here’s what I might recommend: Take a project, even if you don’t necessarily like it, with a projected endpoint when the cash is needed. Save up to meet your expenses. Later, it’s easier to say “No” to a project when you don’t need the money.
Too, and I see this as a necessity, take the time to meet with a couple producers or post supervisors in the time gaps or your free days. Shout out to connections monthly via email or phone to let them know where you are. Ask if they will need any help on upcoming projects, and let them know your availability just in case they get in a pinch. Now you are achieving a deeper level of relationships, more similar to fulltime, but adding your level of experience as a leveraging tool.
Schedule networking so you grow your contact list & keep up with every contact on a monthly basis. You can generally use the same/similar email to reach out to these individuals. Periodically, reach out with a pro-level question to solicit input—people enjoy providing answers when they feel it’s worth the time, and it keeps the conversation from being one-sided.
Consider doing this in LinkedIn messenger, providing a link to your reel after your communication to highlight your quality work.
Jay: I very much agree! There are some people I contact less often as to not drive them crazy, and others I contact once every 2 months or so if their team is usually booked for several weeks. If it’s a client with short-term projects I’ll contact them more often.
For many creatives (self-employed, independent contractors, etc.), we are modern-day gypsies, of a sort, since we go from project to project. While we often find the process rewarding, it comes with drawbacks and numerous unknowns. That said, here are some Keys to live by:
- Budget your money and save so you have freedom in deciding what projects you will accept. Having a choice to say No is empowering.
- Networking is a key to future success. Cultivate real and lasting relationships. Treat people as partners to growth and professional development, and not merely as stepping stones or rungs on the ladder,
Photo by Ryan Tauss on Unsplash