‘It’s a gig-economy’ – everyone has at one point or another come across this sentiment. Jobs, as we know them are changing in nature, with more and more jobs young professionals are taking up either full-time or part-time freelancing as career options, with the increasing number of online platforms that help connect freelancers with opportunities. Freelancing provides creatives with the freedom to determine their work projects and schedules. Freelancing isn’t even limited to a specific field or area of work, no matter what field you’re in, there are always ways to turn your skills into a freelance job. To dig deeper into the realities of working as a freelancer, we spoke with Deena Alsaweer , a freelance videographer to get her take what it takes to be a freelancer.
What drove you to freelance and what has your experience as a freelance videographer been like so far?
When I started freelancing I didn’t set out to be a “freelancer”, I just naively accepted money in exchange for creating a video for someone. My first real freelancing experience was a disaster, and so were my second, third, and fourteenth (I learned my lessons then slipped up somewhere in the middle). For my first freelance job, I sat down with the “client” who vaguely described their needs and I hastily began working on it. The terms of payment were unclear, the loopholes of our agreement were plentiful. I spent a week on a project that was not used or paid for. Each client I sat with from then on forth taught me something new. It was important for me to listen, analyze, and change accordingly. More importantly, I realized that clients are to be satisfied but are not to be in control. It’s your job to sell their idea back to them in the correct way as per your industry standard. For example, let’s say your client needs a video of how milk is made from A-Z and they want it to start with the cow being milked. It is your job to inform them that that shot may be a grotesque visual and that perhaps the shot should be of the cow and the bucket only, leaving out the brutal details. Basically, you are the expert. Understand the client’s needs and the best way, according to your own professional experience, to fulfill those needs.
How do freelancers in Bahrain or the region source work or showcase themselves to potential clients?
I learned how to optimize being a freelancer rather quickly. A rule of thumb is to put yourself in your client’s shoes; if you are hiring a professional, what do you expect from them? You expect a reputation, a history of successful projects, credentials (online presence that is NOT just Instagram), a calling card, a unique style, and most importantly, great work ethic. You wouldn’t accept certain things at your office job, and the same goes for your freelancing work. Basically, create a professional look for your services online and offline.
What should freelancers know about pricing their services or negotiating with clients?
How does Pepsi price their drinks in comparison with Redbull? Exactly, they’re two different products. They are both liquids, but their demographic, style, physical effect, ingredients, vibe, etc. are all different. It’s also helpful to note the fact that McDonald’s costs different in every country. Look around you, assess the market, ask other freelancers in your field. Be fair to yourself and your client. If you have spent years perfecting your craft and spent hundreds or thousands of Dinars purchasing gear then that adds to your value. If you feel as though your work is not top-notch, that’s okay, but it’s imperative that you price your work accordingly until you reach a higher level. If a high-profile client approaches you but cannot afford your services, it doesn’t have to be a hard rejection. Explore your options! Suggest partnerships, long term contracts where the first time is discounted, or have them plaster your name everywhere. There isn’t one formula I can give you where it’s a “yes” or “no” to a single price point. There are too many variables. Rule #1: be fair.
What soft skills do you think freelancers should develop to work in the field?
There is certainly stigma that surrounds the term “freelancer”. People think that if it’s not a desk job, then the rules of professionalism are different. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Any freelancer would need the same soft skills as a corporate employee.
- You need to learn how to stand your ground respectfully
- Negotiation skills
- Presentation skills
- Customer service (patience and making your client’s life easier)
- Don’t go to clients with problems. Solve your problems without involving them as much as possible. Unless the situation is dire, don’t worry them.
Freelance work is often not routine or predictable, how do you think freelancers could overcome the uncertainties that come along with that?
Freelance work will never be as stable as a corporate job. It’s just a different business model, you have to learn it well and accept the differences. It’s easy to be a successful freelancer, all you have to do is produce something new every day. Okay, it’s not “easy” but the answer is there, you just need to implement! Produce and advertise either your own personal work or your paid work as much as you physically can. Unlike companies whose reputation precedes them; freelancers are in control of their own narrative. There’s nobody to depend on to bring business but yourself and word of mouth. It can be slow in the beginning, but with determination and consistency, it can make you very powerful. As long as you are a genuine person and take pride in your work, the rest will follow. The focus should never be on the money.
That being said, it’s time to become business savvy. Learn how to hook your clients! Research business models, agreements, partnership options, etc. Educate yourself! Get creative!