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November 17, 2022

Succeed as a Freelance Video Editor

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Jade Chow

Jade Chow

November 17, 2022
Whether you’re a full-time editor looking to make the leap to becoming a freelancer or you’re just getting started, anyone whose interest has been piqued by video editing knows what a revitalizing job it can be. Read on to discover how you can find success as a freelance video editor, from understanding what will change and what will stay the same once you transition, to actionable advice on jumpstarting your career.
WHAT IT TAKES

From full-time to freelance

The journey to becoming a successful freelancer in any occupation is different for everyone, with its own unique challenges, possibilities, and rewards. In the case of a freelance video editor, these are some early considerations as you start building your career:

#1 Leaving Your Comfort Zone

If you’re new to freelancing, gathering the courage to leave your regular job or pursue freelancing instead of a regular job opportunity, it’s best to avoid as many surprises as possible.

Freelancing can be a highly unpredictable path, especially in more volatile industries – thankfully, video editing is more in demand than ever before. You can better prepare yourself before making the leap by reflecting on the following challenges that freelancers often face:

  • Having the discipline to manage your own time and schedule.

  • An unpredictable income or possibility of slow-moving projects.

  • Less social interaction as you’ll be working alone the majority of the time.

You can read about how to create a schedule as a freelancer in this quick guide on the Filtergrade blog. If you believe these are all challenges that you can handle or even grow from, then let’s move on.

#2 Marketing Yourself & Your Work

A fair amount of market research will go a long way. Understanding the type of clients you’ll be working with (newlyweds, advertising agencies, influencers, and a whole lot of other prospects depending on your ‘specialty’) can give you the foresight to deliver exactly what they’re looking for, and more. As far as marketing your work, creating an impactful portfolio website that showcases your work and contact details will help make you more visible to potential clients and build your reputation.

#3 Joining or Creating an Editing Community

On the point of having less social interaction as a solo editor, you might want to consider joining an editing community if that’s something important to you. Joining a community often provides other benefits aside from socialization, such as helpful insight from other editors who may have encountered similar challenges in the same software you’re using, for example.

#4 Finding Editing Jobs Online

Scouring the web to find the perfect editing job might end with a better payout, but sustainably supporting yourself as a freelance video editor often means finding a handful of websites or social media groups to stay up-to-date with high-quality opportunities. While they may not be exactly what you had in mind, being the first to receive updates is a great way to ensure that you find the most suitable editing jobs on a more consistent basis.

#5 Your Professional Goals

Building on the above point, pinning down the type of projects you would prefer working on to help you refine your ‘specialty’ as a video editor is a good way to attract more of those kinds of projects. Keep in mind, however, that while having an area of expertise is important, practicing how to transfer your editing and creative knowledge into other areas provides more opportunities for quieter months. Additionally, offering a range of services will aid in making your portfolio stand out.

#6 Consistency & Availability

How often you’ll be available to accept projects is up to you, though most freelance video editors strive to accept as many quality projects as possible for more than the payout. Making yourself available and actively sharing your work online equals a higher chance to rub shoulders with fellow editors who may be able to recommend you to their network.

#7 Your Video Editing Portfolio

Last but not least, your video editing portfolio (or demo reel) should clearly reflect your strengths and personal style. If you haven’t gotten around to creating your own demo reel yet and you’re currently showcasing your work on your portfolio site, hiring a professional designer to polish everything would be a good idea if you’re not so much of a designer yourself.

Ensuring that your best work is always easily accessible and highly visible is crucial, as well as sharing a short, sweet “About Me” page for potential clients to learn more about your background and work experience.

Demo reels act as a “sample” of your best work (and only your best work), which usually run up to two minutes long. Some best practices when creating or updating your demo reel are covered in our article, Make the Demo Reel Hollywood is Looking For.

JUMPSTART YOUR FREELANCE CAREER

HOW TO BECOME A FREELANCE EDITOR

Once you’ve considered the above aspects of freelancing, you may already have an idea of how you’ll begin your journey. Here are five of our top tips to jumpstart your career as a freelance video editor:

  • Practice is never overrated.

The main reason many aspiring editors and freelancers struggle to succeed is not due to a lack of practice, but rather because they aren’t focusing on what they’re learning from their practice. If you’re considering a freelance career as an editor, you’ve probably familiarized yourself with your software of choice already; your next mission should be to master your shortcuts and techniques by enrolling in a short course, learning together with a friend or group, and putting online tutorials to the test.

  • Gear isn’t everything, but…

Having the right gear (not the best) for your needs as a freelance video editor and making sustainable decisions when purchasing new gear is perhaps more important than many are willing to admit. While you won’t require top-tier equipment to fulfill the expectations of your clients as an entry-level freelancer, ensuring that you’ll be able to deliver your projects in a timely manner, export them with the least amount of hassle possible, and safely store them in case a client comes back months later asking for their project to be repurposed will impact your overall experience and reputability as a freelancer.

  • Building your client base.

There is a multitude of paths you can take to begin building your client base, like joining freelancer websites, posting in Facebook groups, or reaching out directly to the businesses or people you’d like to work with.

Each one will have a downside that you should be aware of; for instance, you could join a website like Upwork and have a very strong portfolio, but you’ll be competing against thousands of other editors who may have a similar skill level yet offer a considerably lower rate.

This means that, again, your first few projects may not be anything to be particularly excited about, but sometimes, your enthusiasm is exactly what businesses are looking for. A few tricky factors go into what compels a potential client to hire you over someone else, and vice versa:

  • Your hourly rate and portfolio

  • Your previous clients and reviews

  • Your response time and availability

If you’re not chuffed about settling for less than you had hoped for in the beginning, you could have a hard time finding your first client. It’s becoming increasingly common for entry-level freelancers to offer a trial project for the clients they’re hell-bent on working with. A good example would be editors who have a decent amount of experience with local brands, but still offer a polished sample of their work using material posted on their prospective clients’ social media.

Read more about the five ways editors build a positive relationship with their clients in our article on How Editors Get Clients.

  • Business skills are still necessary.

Once you’ve transitioned from your regular job to becoming a full-time freelancer, you might think of it as a free ticket to skip over the paperwork, but unfortunately, the basic rules of business still apply to you. Providing excellent services to your clients means having excellent communication and project management skills. Mistakes happen, and most are willing to forgive if the problem is solved quickly and smoothly. A good way to keep track of your projects can look like signing up for a free Notion account, or a paid work management system like Asana.

  • Expand your skill set as you go.

As you continue establishing your place in the market, more and more work will come in and could require you to fulfill the roles of other aspects of video production than you initially expected. You might be asked to create cutdowns of a full-length video you edited that are tailored to the client’s social media accounts, which means designing, copywriting, creating thumbnails, and sometimes, more. While these may seem like minor additions, anything worth doing is worth doing well – especially for your client.

Today, a generation of one-person teams is becoming more prevalent; connect with others or self-study your way to becoming your own one-person team.

In summary

While every project will vary, Comparably shows that the average annual salary of freelancers in the fields of post-production, writing, and motion graphics is around $59,263 in Los Angeles.

Hopefully, this overview provided you with some guidance on your unique journey to becoming a freelance video editor. Try to view every experience as an opportunity to grow and learn as your build your brand and take your first steps in the freelance world.

    Jade Chow

    Jade Chow

    November 17, 2022

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