Building a business is a learning experience and in my short time as a filmmaker, I have learned a lot of lessons and made a lot of mistakes. The goal of this website is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made along the way by giving you a behind-the-scenes look into some of our productions.

Looking to Start a Business? Here are 10 Tips to Get You Started

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Being successful as a multi-media artist is extremely challenging and requires a lot of hard work. To help with this process, I have developed a list of ten tips to help with your journey as a freelancer.

  1. Insurance, Taxes & Paperwork: The most difficult part of the process for me is the paperwork. Develop systems upfront that will help you stay organized. The longer you wait to get these systems in place, the harder it is to get on top of things.
    1. My go to solution for invoice and expense tracking is Quickbooks. This is a great solution for keeping yourself and your business organized. They also have a mobile app to make things easier for you when recording expenses.
    2. Asana paired with Hill 88 are great platforms to keep projects organized. We also use Google Drive and Dropbox are a great solution for keeping all your projects organized. It allows you to centralize all your assets.
    3. Insurance is a critical part of your business for both liability and equipment insurance. Many companies offer solutions and these solutions vary by region.
  2. Know Your Worth: Never ever fall for the client who hammers you down in price with the promise of future work. I’ve done this and rarely does this ever work out in your favour. The “more work” never seems to materialize and if it does it’s at the same discounted rate of the previous job. One way to avoid this is to define your client base and test the waters. Almost everyone falls on tough times at some point in their journey and it’s key that you do not turn into the ‘yes’ man. It can be stressful but don’t undervalue your work.
  3. Research: Get to know the company you are working with. Find out the type of work they are used to seeing and determine the strategy that they are currently using for their business. Know their brand, their values, their business and their way of doing business. It’s easy when clients come to you for the unique product you are offering but this isn’t always the case. Also, make sure you are clear upfront to your client about what they can expect from the experience. The more homework and prep you do upfront will help in the overall success of the project.
  4. Know Your Product: With any business, it is key that you understand the fundamentals of what you are offering and what separates you from the competition. It is imperative that you finish projects on time and on budget so be accurate with the commitments you make with your client. Generally, I will quote to the first edit because often, especially working with agencies, it is hard to predict the amount of changes that will be required for the given job. I find that agencies typically require at least twice the amount of changes that usually occur when working directly for given company.
  5. Deconstruct Proposals: Your first opportunity to truly show what you can offer is in your proposal. Let your professionalism and attention to detail show through in these proposals. Spend the time up front to lay the groundwork for the project. This is a really good way to let the client know up front what to expect. This generally acts as a blueprint for the entire project. With these proposals, you are also able to refer back to them if the scope of the project changes. It is extremely imperative that you also track all email chains to protect yourself if any issues arise from the process.
  6. Pre-Payment / Terms & Conditions: Cash flow is the lifeline of any business. My typical model for my business is 40-40-20. Make sure you’ve set out the correct terms and conditions for the job beforehand. I typically include these conditions in the proposals so clients know what to expect. I’ve worked with clients in the past who have tried to change the project brief halfway through the project – which is totally fine as long as it’s clear who will be covering the additional costs associated with these changes. One hurdle I have run into is clients who do not read through entire proposals. Make sure you include these terms and conditions near the start of the proposal and not at the end of the proposal. It is also helpful if you walk through the proposal with the client over the phone before you proceed with the job. You don’t need to go over it step-by-step rather, simply provide a ‘coles-notes’ of the package.
  7. Building Relationships: Develop a good working relationship with your client early on. Don’t just become a “yes” person. A client has employed you to give guidance and professional advice. Be careful though, I know a lot of creative people who get pretty upset when the client doesn’t like an idea or concept. Think of it as a partnership with the majority holder of that partnership being the client. It may be tough but in the end, they are the ones paying you so it is key that they remain happy through the entire process. Make sure to also let the client know that they are the number one priority for you. It is highly unlikely that they will be the only client you are working with but it is key to make them feel like they are.
  8. Focus on Clear Communication: Communication is massively important. Develop an open dialogue with your client early on. Feel them out to see how they like to handle projects and find out their preferred method of communication. Some clients are more needy than others so find out what they need in order to remain a happy customer. It is also a good way to judge how the approval process will go if you break this down early on.
  9. Deliver on Your Promises: Under promise, over deliver.
  10. Work With What You Have: Don’t get bogged down about your gear. Your gear doesn’t make you good at what you do. Your ability to develop and maintain relationships is what aids in the success of your business.

So there you have it. 10 tips to help get you started. By no means is this everything you need but hopefully at least some of the points were helpful. The journey is a long one and although it can be stressful at times, the rewards that come when a client is left happy with the work makes everything worth while. Feel free to leave some comments below if there are any lessons you have learned along the way that you feel others would benefit from. Face it, the freelance world is a tough one so why not make it a little easier for others trying to do the same!

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