As a freelance filmmaker, you are likely going to have a lot of clients. And working for these clients could last anywhere from a day to many months at a time. Additionally, it’s even possible to be working with more than one client at once.
It can become complicated to manage a lot of clients as a freelancer. A happy client will also hire you back repeatedly for work. Which is what you need if you want to freelance full-time. So, don’t skip this step, learning to manage clients is an important skill to learn.
Below you will find advice on how to navigate the world of freelance clients.
To begin with there are two ways you could become employed. The first is from applying to a job advertisement, and the second is through a recommendation. In either case, you need to communicate clearly with your client on the work terms.
Clear communication is vital if you want to avoid future problems. It makes sure that both you and your client know what to expect from the work arrangement.
When you are contacted for a job you need to decide if it is a good fit for you. And this means asking a lot of questions. It’s also important to talk openly about money and have a basic idea of your daily working rate. The BECTU website provides details on rates for UK film workers.
Here is a list of questions you should consider asking a potential client.
- What are the expected work days and work hours?
- Will expenses (and if applicable accommodation) covered?
- What is the daily working rate?
- Will there be an additional payment for any prep or overtime hours worked?
- Will there be a need for additional work days for revision? (for example, an Editor might charge additional days for re-edits)
- Who owns the intellectual rights? (important for certain creators such as graphic, artists, screenwriters, composers)
- When will I get paid?
A contract is a written agreement by a client and an employee on the work terms. There are two types of contracts, one is an email agreement and the other is a formal signed contract.
If you are working on a brief job, an email agreement is fine. However, for lengthy work that has a lot of money on the line a formal contract is ideal.
In any case, professional film, TV and commercial work will provide contracts. Although if you are a company providing services you will need to create a contract (which can be sent signed via email). Low-budget and independent film work tends not to provide contracts.
So you will have to create you’re a contract if you want one (checkout our production forms page).
If you are providing a service (for example, an editor, videographer, composer) you will need to have a work length estimate. You will also need to take into account re-edits, re-shoots, and revisions. It can be difficult to know at first what to expect but in time you will understand what clients expect from you.
Whether you are working from home or on film sets you need to develop a work schedule (which requires discipline). Some people find that having a routine and a home office space helps.
If you are working on a film set you will need to organise your jobs around one another carefully. You will also need to spend your time between jobs looking for more work, networking, and improving your skills.
Whatever your job role, as a freelancer you won’t have a holiday or sick pay. So you will need to plan time off carefully and learn how to switch off when you are not working. This can be a hard skill to master and will only come with experience. In case you do get sick it can also be a good idea to have a contact replacement.
Here is a list of apps that might help you manage your work schedule.
To get paid a freelancer will email an invoice to their employee. In brief, an invoice details what work you have done, your wages and your bank details. To help keep track of invoice payments you can use tools such as Wave or Freshbooks (we now get 20% off!).
Hopefully, before you send your invoice you will have enquired about payment time with the client. Typically clients pay within 30 days of sending an invoice.
But unfortunately, as a freelancer, you are not always paid on time.
Some freelancers choose to have a late fee. For example, raising their invoice payments by 10% for every month an invoice payment is late. For project-based work, you can also negotiate for 50% payment up front and the rest when completed.
If you are not paid after 30 days you will need to start chasing up the payment (unless stated in the original agreement). Here is a sequence you can follow on how to go about this;
- Firstly re-send the invoice. Occasionally emails go missing and people forget to pay
- If after a week you have not heard back re-send the email again and call them if you have a phone number. If they fail to get in touch with you, try to get in contact with someone higher in the company or the accountancy team if they have one.
- If you’re certain your client is not going to pay you can send an email and letter to their company. This letter can also include a small claims court threat.
- Then if they still fail to pay, you need to decide if it’s worth taking them to court.
- Lastly, end the client relationship. Don’t be afraid to get rid of a bad client.
Managing clients is a skill you can only become an expert at with practice. Good communication before accepting a job will help you avoid a lot of future problems. 👍
Next, learn about..
- Finding Film & TV Work
- Marketing & Self Promotion
- Managing Clients
- Taxes & Finances
- Education and Skills
- Industry Sectors
- Film Crew Glossary
- Production Crew Rates
- Useful Links
- Free Film Production Forms