Hustle and Workflow: Strategies to Land a Job in Video Production
Our article last week (“Five Reasons Aspiring Editors Might Need to Move to LA or NY”) stirred up quite a bit of conversation and debate. There were those who confirmed what the article shared, and others who felt it gave the impression working in “Hollywood” was the only or best way to advance your career. (If you haven’t already, chime in on the comments section of the article, or our Facebook page.)
This article was a classic case of “don’t shoot the messenger.” Everyone we interviewed (including the ones we didn’t quote in the article) said the same thing: if you want to work on big-budget “Hollywood-caliber” productions, you have to move to where the action is.
But the article also made it clear that there are many other avenues for those of you interested in pursuing a career in this business. There are other ways you can find both artistic fulfillment, and make a living wage.
All that to say, “Hollywood” is not the only path available to you. Starting today, and for the rest of this month, our Monday articles will be geared towards the various ways in which you can make a living as a post-production professional in this business. If your new year’s resolution was to finally “make it,” you’ve come to the right place.
As usual, let us know what your experiences have been. Share in the comments below or on Facebook.
- Video production is a fragmented industry with barriers to entry getting lower every year.
- In order to land a full-time or even part-time employment doing what you love, there are at least five strategies you should employ.
- Because of the competition, you really have to hustle to improve your odds, contacting upwards of 100 to 500 companies you might be interested in working for.
If you’re expecting to find a job in post-production with a résumé, application, and a degree, good luck. The video production industry is unique, and one of the most fragmented for job seekers. With the dawn of cheaper and easier to use equipment, thousands of new companies and video producers are creating, selling, or editing video, and the standard career path is no longer what it was.
Degrees from even the top film schools in the country are starting to mean less and less, and this wild, wild west environment is forcing aspiring editors and other post-production professionals to create their own opportunities.
Here are 5 tips that will help make your job hunt shorter and more productive. (Note: for purposes of this discussion, we are talking about gaining work as a full- or part-time employee as an editor. However, some of these tips are equally applicable to freelancers.)
#1: Have a Relevant Portfolio
Many editors have portfolios—but will they attract the job they want? Maybe not. Hiring managers want to easily see your past work and how it will relate to the type of video editing they need. Building a relevant portfolio is key.
First, start by identifying the type of companies you want to work for. Use Google and LinkedIn to create a list of 100-500 companies, brands, or agencies that you think match your interests and skill set. This can be a combination of video production companies, creative agencies, entertainment brands, or normal corporations with in-house video departments.
Go to the brand’s Vimeo or YouTube channel and open the top 10 videos that they display. Go through the total list of videos, and ask yourself—“in general, what type of videos are these and do I have relevant editing and post-production work that fits in alignment with them?
A potential employer needs editors and creatives that they can immediately insert into their team to start putting out work. Too many aspiring editors look to a workplace that can “teach them” their ways. You will need to already have the type of work that a video company or marketing department can put to use.
They may be able to refine your work overtime, but it’s up to you to develop your own skills even before you start your job search. Study the work and clients of the company you’re applying to and go out and create work that is strikingly similar.
#2: Do Free Work
How do you get relevant work on your portfolio if you’re currently not employed? Easy—make it for free (or for really cheap). There are plenty of people who will insist that creatives should always be paid. However, there’s no denying that free work is a great way to gain experience and create new relationships. If making free work allows you to get the experience necessary to attract your ideal employer, then so be it.
But don’t just do free work to do free work—be strategic and make it worth your time. Pick opportunities and work for companies for free in scenarios that will output the most relevant and meaningful portfolio pieces that could help relate to your target employer list.
[Digital marketing maven, venture investor, owner of Vayner Media, and “king of hustle” Gary Vaynerchuk is all about using free work to gain a job—but being smart about it. His personal videographer, D-Rock, famously landed the job of following and filming Gary’s life by offering free work.]
#3: Brand yourself in a unique way
If you’re waiting for a video editor job to apply to, you’re too far behind. Given the popularity of these roles and postings, chances are you’ll be lost in a sea of hungry applicants (even if you’re amazingly talented.) For this reason, it’s imperative that you develop a personal brand that will stand out.
“Developing a personal brand is one of the most important things you can do as a filmmaker.” says video director Jakob Owens. Owens has built a successful video career as a music video director, instructor, and co-founder of the BuffNerds YouTube channel (which has over 770,000 subscribers and over a quarter of a billion views. Chances are you’ve also seen quite a bit of him from his photography work on Unsplash.)
“A personal brand is what helps you stand out, land clients, and grow a customer or “fan base” that will support your work. Building a personal brand has allowed me to start various companies and get them off the ground quickly and more easily than someone who doesn’t have that brand.”
Here’s a personal branding checklist that will make sure you’re presented in a unique and meaningful way:
- Purchase your name’s domain name (yourname.com, or something as close as possible).
- Put only your best videos online.
- Add descriptions of what you did on each project, and what other people did as to contextualize your involvement.
- Capture a professional photo of yourself.
- Create a website that tells your story in a bio, easily displays your work, has your logo with a fitting color scheme, has your phone number, and your email.
- Create a LinkedIn profile and add your videos and a bio.
- Have recommendations written on your LinkedIn from past projects and include those references and testimonials on your website as well
- Write in your bio and on LinkedIn that you’re available and interested in full-time work.
- Fill out your Twitter, Facebook, and other social media similarly (if you don’t want to use your personal accounts, make a business page on each of these).
- Remember that a brand is not just a series of logos, social media accounts, and bios. It’s all of that, and more. It’s what people think of you and your work when they hear your name≥
Once your digital presence is established, it’s time to lead people to your brand.
#4: Reach out to potential employers and do a test project
Instead of waiting for jobs to appear, go out and create your own job at a company. Many companies are willing to hire for a position if the right fit comes along, especially in video. By reaching out and establishing direct relationships, you’ll not only position yourself for future hires, but there’s a good chance you can land a job fairly quickly.
Take your list of 100-500 companies and find the potential hiring manager. For marketing agencies, this could be the owner or the creative director, and for video production companies this is typically the owner or VP. For standard corporations, this will be a bit more complex, but often a good start is the Director or VP of Marketing.
Here are a few tools you can use to find the right people to contact and their contact information:
- LinkedIn: Search through company types that fit your targets, find the marketing or creative director, and add them. You can often find their name, email, or other contact info right on their profile. You can message them on LinkedIn as well, although these messages are often ignored, so don’t rely on this.
- Email search tools: Hunter.io and Snov.io are just a couple of the tools you can use to identify the email address of the people you’re looking to contact. Here’s a full list of great tools updated for 2019.
- ProductionHub: founded 20 years ago, this is a leading network of film, video, and television production professionals. You can use it not only to find freelance work, but find and connect with owners of video production agencies.
- The telephone: sometimes, just a good old-fashioned cold call to a company can get you the info you need. If you have the hustle, call 100 companies or more asking for their HR manager.
- Common Sense: do you already know the first and last name of the hiring manager? If her name is Jane Doe, chances are her email address is one of the following combinations: jane.doe@, jdoe@, or jane@. The larger companies typically have firstname.lastname@.
Once you’ve found your target employer’s hiring manager and contact information, start your reach out with a phone call.
A test project could be a paid gig, cheaply paid, or free. Gauge this per situation and depending on how bad you want to work for that particular company.
If you hit their voicemail, leave a voicemail and call them back in a week. If you don’t reach anyone, send an email with a similar message. Keep the email short and respectful. Try to include something relevant you noticed on their site or LinkedIn that creates unique conversation.
Once you have called or emailed all the companies, keep following up. In fact, you should follow up until you reach every single person and they do one of three things:
- They tell you to stop contacting them.
- They have provided positive or negative feedback*
- They have agreed to a test project with you.
Apply this feedback to your work and follow up again with new improvements on your work with integrated feedback.
Once you’ve spoken with a hiring manager, add them on LinkedIn and follow them for updates on job status. Use a job hunting template from a tool like Google sheets, Asana, or Airtable to track your candidates.
(Below is an Airtable database template used for job tracking.)
When you’re finished with your initial list, reach out to an additional list of companies after that. It sounds tough, but if you continue this process your network will explode in size and eventually you’ll land something.
#5: Relocate to a city with a larger economy
If you’re repeating tip #4 and having a hard time, you may benefit from physically getting to a place with a larger economy of job hires in the industry. For some, this is impractical until you already have full-time work lined up; but if you have the flexibility to move to a place with a larger economy, it’s just simple math that you’re more likely to land work.
If you’re from middle America or some other small town, chances are there aren’t a ton of jobs in video production around you. Moving to the nearest major city won’t necessarily get you a job, but it can definitely help your chances.
(In light of some of the responses to last week’s article, let me make it clear that you do NOT need to move to a city like Los Angeles or New York. There are plenty of “big” cities throughout the country, or wherever you live, with a more reasonable cost of living and lifestyle experiences.)
Nonetheless, larger cities will have more work. Again, this is for those of you seeking employment. As we wrote a few months ago, a savvy freelancer should be able to market his or her services to potential clients around the globe.
“With the internet, you are able to find work wherever you are,” according to Youtuber Justin Odisho. (Justin’s channel has over 625,000 subscribers and over 57 million views.) “However I do believe that if you were to move to the heart of the action, perhaps to a big city like L.A. or New York, you may find more opportunities to network and discover. It is up to you if you can pick up and go based on your situation.” (Let us repeat: don’t shoot the messenger.)
Being local to a metropolitan area will help you more easily meet and network with hiring managers in your area. Plus, you can build a local network of freelancers and other video professionals who can be instrumental in referring you to full-time opportunities.
Some get lucky and find full-time work without following any of these tips, and others will need to follow these for months and months before they pay off. Either way, it’s important that you maintain the right attitude during this process.
If you work hard, even if you’re not the best editor or shooter in the world, you can make it.
Need some inspiration? Read the hustle stories of television editor Zack Arnold or music video editor Taylor Tracy-Walsh.
Header photo of Picrow Studios by Chinaedu Nwadibia and Peter Lang.