The Ins and Outs of Hiring a Production Freelancer


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You need a video done. You need a freelance video producer. The best way to find one is to ask your friends or colleagues if they’ve worked with one before, the good ones are easy to find. Get some details about the freelancers (were the nice, easy to work with, inexpensive, fast, good, etc.). Follow this trail and visit their website or check them out on social media. They should have plenty of work samples readily available. Browse their portfolio, see if you like their work. If you do, find some contact info and reach out.

So what happens next?

If possible, a face-to-face meeting is great, but at least via Skype or Zoom is handy. There’s an x-factor you get when actually speaking to another human being, and it can be a great opportunity to identify the kind of person your freelancer (or client) is. For instance, if they’re a little more laid-back or a bit higher-strung you can usually tell quickly when speaking in person – it’s hard to determine qualities like this via email.

Initially, try to have everyone involved AND let them know that. Have a designer, scientist, executive, photographer, or VP that will eventually want a say in the project? Invite them in early and get their input. As a freelancer we don’t know who’s important to your company, so the more people who need to be involved early on should be. Make sure everyone who has a say in the project has an initial seat at the table so the freelancer, and entire team really, knows who you’re working with.

Identify and assign a point person. As a freelance, one of the worst things, besides tax season, is trying to coordinate with several different people at the same organization, some of whom might not like each other or agree on the project details. Having a point person to communicate and work with the freelancer will expedite all the communication overall and allow both sides to know who to talk to if something needs addressing. This is a position that can take a lot of time and energy, so be sure your point person is organized.

During this initial pre-production phase be ready to communicate, a LOT. There might be multiple meetings, emails, or phone calls. Be prepared, ask questions if you have them, make sure everyone is on the same page, and be sure to follow up with everything – it’s really easy for small things to fall through the cracks. And this tip goes for both sides – as freelancers we have a lot of questions and they all need answering to help us provide our clients with the best possible service, project, and video. You don’t have to know everything right away, but be prepared to get answers when asked.

What sorts of information could be useful:

After each of these phone calls or emails, FOLLOW UP. At this point there is probably a lot of information floating around – which is normal – just be sure it’s being documented and agreed upon by both sides. This is likely the time the freelancer will tell you what the video(s) will cost, if you haven’t already provided them with a budget. We typically send over a price quote based on these conversations – we’re able to determine how long we’ll need for everything from filming, to traveling, to editing. Contract documents and any other things that need addressing at this time should happen now as well (occasionally NDAs or certificates of insurance will need to be discussed). Be sure every. single. thing. is outlined at this time before any cameras get turned on.

You like the freelancer, you like their work, the price is right, and you want to move forward. Now it’s time to schedule the shoot! Work with your freelancer to identify the dates and times you’ll need for the shoot. Here are some things to consider while coordinating/scheduling the shoot:

  • Depending on the project you might need a detailed itinerary, or just a time and a place to show up. We prefer detailed itineraries – recently we had a client schedule the entire day in 15min increments, and the project went really well. Other times we’ve just needed to show up for 3 hours at a certain time to film a specific event. Be sure to leave time for meals and/or breaks as needed.

  • Will the freelancer need any special permissions, parking passes, media passes, or secret passwords to do this shoot? If so be sure to provide him or her with them at this time. This is also a good time to create a list of contact names, emails, and numbers so that everyone can keep in touch during the shoot.

  • Does the project take place on multiple days? If so either you or the freelancer will need to coordinate hotel accommodations / AirBNB. Freelancers travel with a lot of gear, so having a place with close parking, that’s close to main roads or even the shoot, or that’s just safe is always nice.

  • Something else to consider is food. Like gremlins, you’ll want to keep your freelancers fed. Salty snacks, water, fruit, and anything else that makes you feel like a soccer mom packing for after-school practice are usually a good bet. Lunches and dinners are occasionally needed while on a shoot as well, and it’s always nice to have a plan. Check in with your freelancer (and their crew) about dietary restrictions or anything else like that.

Whew! What a great project this has been! Wait, there’s more? Now your freelancer will likely be in charge of taking those video clips and turning them into a great finished video. Your work will continue throughout this part of the process as well.

The editing process can be time consuming, but is where the real magic happens in terms of the visual storytelling. A few things the freelancer will likely need (and you can get these to them at any point before editing ever starts too):

  • Names/titles for any interviewees.

  • Logos, brand standards, or anything like that.

  • Verbiage or phrasing for any on-screen text (usually at the end, like “for more information visit our website at www….”)

Check in during this time and make sure things are coming along and that your freelancer doesn’t need anything else. At some point, you’ll get a first draft of the video – bring that big group back together and review it. Take notes and then compile the other your teammates have as well, and send them off to the freelancer to make. A good option here is to be very detailed – for instance “:03-:07 – cut this shot of the truck” or “1:15-2:45 – move David’s interview clip to after Jordan’s at 6:04” – this will expedite the process. Broad strokes stuff can be stated generally, so “overall we’d like less slow-motion shots” for instance.

This revision back-and-forth might happen a few times, but eventually you should have a great final video in your hands to use however you want. Be sure to pay your freelancer in a timely manner, and get a W9 from them sooner rather than later since tax season can be hectic for freelancers.

If you liked working with your freelancer be sure to call them again, and pass their name along to anyone who asks!

[Watch the video version of this post!]

We made a few handy checklists to help out with this entire process too:

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