I recently got a DM on Instagram asking this:
“Hey Pete, I was just wondering if you would be able to help me out by answering a few questions about the business side (nothing too hectic) about how you getting jobs etc? Just feel like I don’t where to start and would love if you could get back to me if you would be open to help me out with some guidance/tips!
Keep crushing it!!”
And it left me thinking that a lot of people are stuck in this situation, just as I was around a year ago!
So I wanted to give you the best answers that I can based off of what I actually do to get clients for my photo and video work, but I'm also going to give you a view from hindsight, and if I could go back to where I was a year or two ago, what I would have changed knowing what I know now to get better results.
So most of my clients at the moment come purely from referrals.
This is where you're going to find most of your income will come from, because business owners all know each other, and people in the same industry all know each other, they speak to each other a lot. Especially in the social generation that we live in, referrals can be online as well, don't forget that.
So if a brand or a company (which you'll be working for most of the time) share your stuff online it will get attention of all of their competitors, and all of their friends in industry. That is huge for getting business, because you will then get contacted either directly from people in the industry who are interested in your work, or you will get referred by the business owner or company that you originally worked with.
So that's where most of your long-term income will come from. I think referrals are definitely a long term game, and probably not what you want to hear now, but keep them in mind and make it easy for yourself going forward. Business owners respect authenticity and professionalism. Be on time, be professional, be a man of your word, and you will go far in the industry.
As for getting initial jobs, it is hugely important to use your personal network. I used to race Mountain Biking, so I know a lot of people in the cycling industry because of this.
That's why a lot of my work is in cycling and sports, because this is through personal network. A lot of my friends are athletes and they need videos for their sponsors. They turned to me to do this work for them.
Once you do a job for a friend and their sponsors / boss, etc. like it and their sponsors will start using you for more and more projects that may or may not be in the same industry or region that you did the first ones in.
A good example of this is my work with Devil's Peak. I got a contact in Devil's Peak through filming a mountain bike race for a friend, and now that one video that I did for them of the race has resulted in a lot of work from them, who are a massive company.
I think for what you need to understand is that if they are paying you they need some type of guarantee on the deliverables.
Business owners want it to be as low risk as possible for them, so that's why I say it is super important to get a portfolio up and running as soon as you possible. This is so that you have somewhere that you can share your work to and have it all collected in one space. It just shows professionalism if you have a website or portfolio, where a business owner or an individual can go look and get a good idea of what your your work is like.
It doesn't have to be all of your work, I would only put your best stuff on your portfolio. This just makes it a lot cleaner, and like I said more professional than just saying “oh, look at my Instagram, or something like that.”
Yes your Instagram will play a big part in you getting photo and video work, but that's not the be all, end all. Instagram is just a tool in your marketing, it's not where everything should go. It's also a massive lack of control.
You don't control Instagram.
Instagram could have a bump in the algorithm, or anything like that, or Instagram could get taken away for some unknown reason and pull all of your hard work is gone. Where as if you have your own website, which you control, and that can't be taken away from you, you don’t run that risk, and it’s a solid foundation to stand on.
Yeah basically just get a portfolio up as soon as possible. 😂
I personally use Squarespace just because it's so easy, especially for portfolios. I have used WordPress, but it’s just a bit more complex with hosting, particularily for photos and videos.
There are other great offers out there, like Behance, which is great, especially if you have an Adobe creative cloud subscription, because its all included in your creative cloud subscription and it won’t cost you anything to set up a Behance.
Basically, all you need to have is your contact information, then all your best work in one place, and anytime a client is talking to someone about video or photo, they can direct them straight back to your portfolio. You want to make it as easy and straight forward as possible for them.
With regard to free work, I would say do as much free work as you can, especially in the beginning. This is definitely something I didn’t do enough of, and is the foundation of your career. If you're not earning any money now, you have no excuse not to do free work, but be clever about how you do your free work and only offer out free work if it benefits you in some way.
So how would free work benefit you?
A big one is exposure, but make sure you’ll actually get exposure from it, and you’ll be credited clearly.
A tactic that I use as I send out a bunch of Instagram DMS to companies that I would like to work with, and I offer completely free shoots. This is to get a foot in the door, because they have very little reason to turn you down, especially in a social media generation where everybody wants content.
If they see the message they will most likely say yes and Snap it up, which is amazing because they are massive portfolio pieces, especially if you working with credible businesses.
This will give you social proof, showing other potential clients that you have worked for big companies and that you actually know what you're doing.
The second way that you could benefit from free work is if it is in a region that you are pretty weak at, with your video skills and it will help your portfolio a lot. For example real estate, fashion, Etc.
If you don't have experience shooting real estate reach out and do a free shoot to get some type of experience and portfolio in it, and then leverage that to go further down into the niche.
Most often than not, the person that you did the free shoot for will come back to you with a paid shoot. If they don't that's fine, but now at least you have credibility in that industry you can then go to other real estate agents, or other businesses in that niche and say to them “Hey this is the video I did, so if you are looking for photo and video I can offer you this”, and then you start earning money off of that, because you have a credible source and reference of your work.
This was a very rough transcription of a longer voice note, but i think it’s the best advice that I could give based off my current situation in freelance work.
So what are the key takeaways from this that you can implement straight away?
- Make a clean portfolio. Simple is better, don’t overthink this, just do it. (It shouldn’t take you more than a couple days. I did this website you’re on now in a day!)
- Offer free work TO BUILD YOUR PORTFOLIO & NETWORK. Do this only for credible, already established businesses/people. They aren’t going to find you, you’ll have to reach out to them.
- Follow up on leads! This could be anyone who’s shown an interest in your work.
- Once you have a relevant portfolio and network, you should start attracting jobs. If not, send some emails and offer your services!