If you could find hundreds of available production jobs in a wide variety of subjects and genres, it would be a dream job come true, right? Umm…well, that depends on your dream.
The Internet has revolutionized the availability of information, whether that be news, music, or, yes, even video. As content proliferates, prices drop. Consumers are gradually getting used to paying much less for content than in years past. This mindset has migrated over to video production clients. Because their bottom line is reduced, they often hope to pay a reduced fee for videos. Sometimes that lower price is just a slight drop; at other times your takeaway pay could mean an hourly wage that looks much more like working for McDonald’s than CNN!
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the online venues where work abounds. We’ll also give you the rundown on pay rates, scummy employers and how to succeed. The goal? To help you leverage the convergence of employment, video and Web 2.0 as you try to track down your next gig.
Hanging Out at the Boards
The first category of potential production employment resides in online job boards. Online job boards have replaced their more static cousins, the newspaper classifieds. These boards usually contain a much larger array of work than you’d ever find in the paper. Sites such as Craigslist and Mandy.com are home to ads for filmmakers, wedding videographers and Final Cut Pro editors. These jobs can range from the respectable to the off color, so proceed with caution!
There are two approaches to finding work from online classifieds. The first is to simply apply to job postings. You scan the latest jobs, locate the good ones and send off your resume. Keep in mind that there are often many applicants for each job and employers are likely to only delve into the first day’s batch of candidates. You’ll avoid wasted effort by only applying to ads posted within the last 24 hours. Make sure you include a good cover letter, as well as a link to a portfolio site so that the employer can quickly determine the quality of your work.
The second method for finding work through classified job sites is by posting your own advertisements in the “work for hire” sections. For your ad to be effective, you need to link to demos and your company website. You also need to be specific about your experience in various areas. You can quote an hourly price, give a project price range or tell potential clients to contact you for a quote. There are several things to keep in mind when looking for work through this venue.
- Know your target hourly rate and stick to it. Employers hoping to get a “deal” on your services make up a majority of the postings on these job board sites. Oftentimes, they have no real understanding of what’s involved in producing quality videos. That’s why you’ve got to be firm about your rates. If they don’t want to pay, then it’s not a job worth taking.
- Remember that only a small number of the responses you receive will result in decent paying work. Don’t get discouraged and grab at anything that comes along.
- Never ever ever share personal information or work with a long-distance customer unless you know where they are and what their business is. Scams abound online, and they know how to sound good to earn your trust. Make sure the client you’re working for has a verifiable local address.
Finding Work, eBay Style
Another flavor of employment websites are bidding boards. These sites not only allow employers to post ads, they also allow freelancers to respond directly to the job and submit a bid. Clients get to choose among the range of bids and decide which videographer or editor they prefer. The bidding site handles the payment process and puts safeguards in place to protect both client and freelancer from being burned. Downside to all this? Fees! Bidding job boards can command an 8-15% cut of the payment, quite a big chunk for a freelancer.
There’s several well-known bidding sites with which to work. Here’s some advice from various producers about finding clients through them:
Odesk.com – David Arbor has been working on Odesk for the last year. Landing his first job through the site was challenging because of Odesk’s rating system (a common feature in bidding sites). “The biggest problem about starting out is that you have no job history so it’s understandable that an employer wouldn’t want to take a chance on you,” David commented. His solution? “I started out at a lower hourly rate than I have now in order to gain feedback. Since then, I’ve gotten five-star feedback on every one of my assignments and now get several invitations per month from employers seeking me out because they saw my profile.”
Elance.com – For Michelle of Chicago-based Mimi Productions, Elance.com provided a client base when her company was getting off the ground. The gigs landed through the site enabled them to build a portfolio. “It is a good place for a young company to get in, to get work,” Michelle advises. But don’t expect employers to have large budgets. “9 times out of 10, you are going to be working with an entrepreneur or small business owner. You are going to be asked to produce a Hollywood-style video with a cheap beer budget. You have to gently help them understand what they can realistically afford!”
Guru.com – Just like its competitors, low budget projects fill the listings at Guru.com. But for Guy Bauer’s company, the experience has been worth it. “It has given me the opportunity to take a wide array of projects from TV commercials to product demonstrations to editing an Icelandic family’s vacation.” But the experience hasn’t been problem free. Guy’s recommendation is to “make sure both you and your employer agree to the project’s scope. I’ve been baited and switched a couple times by employers saying the project will only be x but it’s really x+y+z.” In other words, tread carefully.
Search Engine Video
Next up, web video! Garnering advertising revenue through SEO videos has become a hot field. Companies such as About.com, Demand Media Studios and Howcast.com are all competing for eyeballs through search engines. And the good news? They’re all hiring video producers. The bad news? Their rates are really, really low. But if you’re an out-of-work producer or a videographer wanting to get more pieces for your portfolio, it could be a perfect opportunity.
About.com – This New York Times owned company is fairly well known for its information portals on almost every subject imaginable. They’ve recently begun incorporating video into their subject guides and are looking for producers to help. The company pays a flat fee of $250 per video on spec. To become a regular contributor to the site, you’ve got to submit a test production. If your video passes muster, you’re hired for future work and paid for the test project.
Demand Media Studios – This controversial company is a powerhouse in the search engine world. They’ve mastered the ability to create keyword rich content offerings, both in print and video, that rank high in online searches. Leveraging that, their filmmaker program tries to entice producers by offering $200-600 per assignment. But that money isn’t just for one video. It’s for a set of videos, all based on the same topic. These videos must be shot, edited, uploaded and approved. While that sounds like a lot of work for the money (which it is) some of their producers will attest that the quality standards aren’t high at Demand. These lower standards will let you quickly crank out some of these projects on a regular basis, a good way to generate extra cash flow when needed.
Howcast.com – Another competitor in the “how-to” video field, Howcast.com is a bit of an underdog in terms of viewers. But they’ve been growing and are still a viable player. One of the main ways Howcast tries to set itself apart from the competition is in quality and style. Production standards are reported to be on the higher end for this type of company, and the style of many of their videos lean toward the drama/narrative genre rather than just a straight “how-to” video. Their pay rate is a bit different in that it is tiered according to your time working for them. The average payment per production typically begins at $50 for a two to three minute video.
Landing the Job
As video pros worth their salt will tell you, if you’re serious about making a career in video production, then you’ve got to set your sights higher than the low pay that most of these sites will give you. But in terms of building a portfolio, gaining experience and keeping a cash flow when higher paying jobs are scarce, each of these potential job venues is a great start. One key to success is deciding on an hourly rate which you won’t go below. This will help you weed out the good jobs from the bad and make your time as valuable as possible.
Now what are you waiting for? Get out there and start hunting down your next job. The work awaits!
Julia Camenisch is a freelance video producer and writer who successfully sells stock footage on several sites.