I attended a short discussion with two professional freelancers based in Bristol: Lizzie Minnion and Gary McIntyre. Lizzie Minnion works as an editor whilst Gary McIntyre works as a sound designer/editor, neither are directly related to the role that I want to work towards – Lighting Design/Colour Grading – but the idea of working freelance and in post production made this talk appeal to me.
I love the idea of working freelance, being able to choose and work on a variety of projects. However at the same time I worry about having to find enough work for a sustainable income. It is the argument of being your own boss and choosing your own work against having to take work you may not enjoy and having to self manage and chase jobs. I feel there is no right or wrong choice, it comes down to personal preference but there are definitely many factors they highlighted that I have taken away with me.
You need to be open to new ideas and collaboration, you can’t fixate on your own creative vision as ultimately it comes to the decision of the commissioning editor of the project. This isn’t too far away from working on a salary based job as you are working under someone so have to work for them. Debating the creative choice in a salary job could be a good discussion whereas debating it in freelance could be riskier, if you don’t adapt the style of a ‘Yes Person’ then you could risk losing jobs or creating negative reputation. This isn’t saying you are somebodies monkey and act as a button pusher, you should bring your own ideas to the table but you have to be willing to bite your lip to fulfil the desires of the commissioner.
Following this point is the idea that you have to look after yourself, you need to ensure income and consistent workflow before getting too picky as to what you work on. At first it really is the case of taking whatever work comes your way, but eventually once you establish yourself you can start to chose what projects you do and don’t want to work on. Ultimately it is the case of what can generate the income you need at the current time.
Finally the idea of being ‘Pencilled In’ is something to consider. When working freelance people will talk to you about projects but not follow through until the date of the project, they could request your services but when it comes to the project suddenly drop the commitment. The idea of being ‘pencilled in’ refers to the level of confirmation you have to the project, you will never be permanently marked in pen but can be heavily pencilled still leaving room for you to be removed or ‘rubbed out’ from the project.
It is tempting to fully commit to a project prior to its production, Lizzie and Gary both recommend looking after yourself and telling projects that the work must be confirmed or you will take other work offered. The amount of times they have been ‘heavily pencilled’ and then the project is suddenly taken away has really caused cash flow issues, you need to look after yourself first as you could put yourself in an awkward situation of no projects and no income.
As I started off this discussion of freelance working, there is no right or wrong. It really comes down to personal preference. If you choose to work freelance you need to know how to look after yourself. There is the benefit of choosing projects that relate to you, but work can dry up all of a sudden. If you want to work freelance the idea of being a ‘Yes Person’ is really the attitude to adapt.