How to Become a Freelance Videographer
When the first camcorders hit the market in the early ’80s, we all fell in love with the concept of documenting and capturing our biggest moments on video. The problem is that those cameras were heavy and hard to balance, making for lots of shaky, poorly filmed home videos.
Enter the videographer.
Videographers are the people that capture your terrible drunken dance moves at weddings.
They’re the ones behind the lens when you make a goofy speech at your 50th birthday bash.
They’re the people who film your presentation at a corporate retreat, document your gender reveal party, and record your graduation ceremony from the back of the room.
Videographers are in demand, and if you have skills with a camera and editing equipment, it can be a rather lucrative business.
Thinking about using your movie-making skills to build a full-time freelance videography business of your own? Here’s what you need to know if you want to be a freelance videographer.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Freelance Videographer?
No matter how many YouTube videos, TikToks, or Instagram stories you’ve recorded, not everyone has the skills to be a professional videographer.
Videographers do not need to be experts in filmmaking or cinematography. They don’t need to have a background in film production or have spent their lives making documentaries or working as video editors in Hollywood.
However, they do need to have a unique set of skills to get the job done.
Videographers need to know how to use a video camera, but they’re far more than just camera operators. They need a variety of video production skills to film, edit, and produce high-quality videos.
Besides video recording, videographers also need to:
- Have good communication skills
- Be creative
- Demonstrate professionalism
- Use post-production editing software
If this sounds like your skill set, you could very well have a future in the freelance videography business.
What Equipment Do You Need to Become a Freelance Videographer?
Videographers don’t need a ton of equipment, but they do need high-quality equipment to get the most out of their productions.
You can start a videography business with the following five things:
- DSLR video camera
- Editing software
Having the right camera, microphone, and software is vital.
Some of the best software programs for video and sound editing are:
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Cyberlink PowerDirector 365
- Corel VideoStudio Ultimate
- Adobe Audition CC
- Magix SOUND FORGE Audio Studio 15
Need to do a few videography jobs before you can afford to buy brand new equipment?
How to Market Yourself as a Freelance Videographer
The key to building a business is marketing. No matter how skilled you may be, you have to market yourself to get your name out there, build brand recognition, and acquire new customers and leads.
Here are a few ways that freelance videographers can market themselves and get more videographer jobs:
Create a Demo Reel
Some videographers specialize in wedding videos; others focus on corporate videos. Some shoot homes and apartments for real estate companies or make product videos for beauty brands and jewelry designers. Still, others take a more creative approach and produce short films or music videos.
No matter what niche you choose to focus on, create a demo reel that showcases your skills and gives clients an idea of your capabilities.
Since video is what you do, your demo reel should be perfect, with high-quality sound and seamless editing. Once it’s ready, publish it on your website and post it on YouTube for the world to see!
Use Social Media
Social media is a free marketing tool that every freelancer in every type of business can benefit from using.
Your social media platforms should be full of high-quality video content and digital video files that highlight your videography business and editing skills. Clients want to see what you can do!
But it’s who you connect with and engage with on social media that matters.
If your goal is to become the go-to wedding videographer in your city, connect with other wedding vendors, such as DJs, venues, caterers, florists, and photographers.
You can also follow, like, and interact with wedding planners, influencers in the wedding industry, and soon-to-be brides/grooms that might be searching for vendors.
Focus on Local SEO
Unlike freelance writers or graphic designers who can work with clients worldwide, most videographers work within a particular geographical region.
If you want to get to the top of Google search rankings in your particular city or region, create SEO titles that include the name of your town.
For example, create a title tag for a web page like “Wedding Videographer in Philadelphia” or “Best Wedding Videographer in Philly.”
For brides and grooms searching specifically for videographers in Philadelphia, this will help your website rank higher than websites for videographers located in California or New York.
Add Testimonials to Your Website
Whether your goal is to film parties on weekends as a part-time gig or launch a full-scale video production company, you can build your business by adding client testimonials to your website.
When you have a fantastic experience with a client, ask them to write a short review. Adding honest client reviews to your website helps to give potential new clients peace of mind that they can rely on you to record their special moments as well.
How to Set Your Business Up For Success
The trick to launching a successful freelance videography business is to take some preliminary steps before you record even one minute of film for a client.
Invest in Quality Equipment
Videographers need high-quality equipment to produce high-quality videos — but a great camera will cost you.
One of the best cameras for videographers is the Sony A7S III, which will set you back a cool $3,500. If you don’t have the means to buy one, there are many places online where you can rent one for less than $200 per week.
There are also lots of other, more affordable cameras you can buy to get your business started. Once you’re a booming success with lots of money in the bank, you can always upgrade your equipment at a later date.
Check out this review from Techradar; it highlights all the best videography cameras for 2022.
Hire a Lawyer
As a freelance videographer, the best way to protect yourself is to have your clients sign a contract. To create that contract, you’ll need a lawyer.
Never begin work for a client without having them sign a contract first. Contracts protect both parties. They clarify the type of work, timeline, and payment terms. Unless you want to do a whole lot of work for free, contracts are an absolute must.
For as little as $200, you can hire a lawyer to draft a contract that you can send to every client you take on.
Devise a Payment System
It’s up to you to determine how much you want to charge for your services and how you want to collect payment.
Regardless of your rates, it’s best to collect a deposit when the client hires you. Then request the remainder of the fee on the day of the event or after sending the final, edited video file to the client.
Most videographers request a deposit between 20% and 50% of the total cost of the project. Depending on how your lawyer has structured your contract, this can be a non-refundable deposit that you keep even if the client cancels.
For event videographers that shoot weddings and parties, most of your work will take place on weekends. If you have a gig booked for next weekend and the client cancels on you a few days before, it will be too late to book another event.
Having a deposit upfront makes it more likely that the client won’t want to cancel, and if they do, at least you’ll earn a portion of the pay you expected to make that day.
Create a Backup Plan
Clients hire videographers to capture special moments — moments that happen once in a lifetime and can’t be postponed or rescheduled. As the videographer, you must show up on the day of the event and do the job you’ve been hired for.
However, unforeseen circumstances such as illnesses and accidents can occur at any time. If you find yourself in an emergency where you can’t show up to a scheduled event, you better have a backup plan.
Establish relationships with other videographers or consider hiring an assistant who can take your place if you can’t fulfill your contractual obligations.
If you don’t, you could face a civil lawsuit where the client demands a refund for a non-refundable deposit and seeks additional damages.
Always have a plan B in place so that someone can do the job if you can’t.
Discover: 10 Small Business Essentials for 2022
Don’t Forget: You’ll Have to Pay Your Taxes
No matter what type of video projects you take on, freelance videographers are small business owners, and small business owners have to pay business taxes.
Unlike employees who have federal and state taxes withheld from their weekly paychecks, independent contractors have to be diligent about their finances and set money aside to make IRS, state, and local tax payments throughout the year.
Independent contractors must make quarterly tax payments based on how much they estimate they will earn each year. The best way to do this is to forecast how much you expect to earn and then set aside a portion of each payment to account for taxes.
How Much Should You Set Aside for Taxes?
The 2022 IRS tax rate is 35% for individuals who earn more than $215,950 but less than $539,900 throughout the year. If you think your salary will be in that range, you’ll want to set aside 35% of each payment to pay your income tax.
Think it’s more likely that you’ll make around $50,000 this year?
A $50,000 freelancer salary means you’ll want to set aside about 22% of each payment. For 2022, 22% is the tax rate for individuals that earn between $41,775 and $89,075 each year.
IRS tax rates are subject to change from year to year. It’s always a good idea to check the tax rates at the start of each calendar year to gauge your tax liability.
Save Your Receipts!
Independent contractors can deduct all their business expenses from their profits, thus reducing their net profits and taxable income.
To deduct those business expenses, you’ll need to have proof of them. That means keeping receipts for any and every item you buy that’s necessary for your business.
From camera equipment to monthly software subscriptions to the internet and phone you use to communicate with clients, keeping track of every business expense is an absolute must.
Keep track of how many miles you put on your car to travel to and from client meetings and videography jobs as well. The IRS sets a standard mileage rate each year that business owners and independent contractors can deduct from their gross profits.
For 2022, the current rate is 58.5 cents per mile. If you put 5,000 miles on your car traveling to and from videography gigs this year, that’s $2,925 in mileage expenses that you can deduct from your gross profits.
Freelance videographers are in demand, and if you have the skills to do the job, you can make a great living doing what you love.
So create that demo reel. Start marketing yourself as the best local videographer on social media. Create a contract, buy or rent the right equipment, and get to work!
Don’t love the idea that you won’t receive employer-sponsored benefits as traditional employees do?
Contact Gigly now to learn how you can access freelancer benefits that will help both you and your business thrive.