25 Rules and Tips to Follow on Your First Freelance Video Shoot



Lights. Without them, videographers are at the mercy of the sun. That is why one week prior to my first shoot for my first freelance client outside of college I drove 2 hours to Trumbull to pick up a Dracast Pro 1K LED from a friend. I had no idea what the lighting conditions would be like at the client’s location, and this single light would have saved me when shooting the interviews.

I did a lot of preparation like buying this light for the shoot. Needing audio gear, I picked up a Zoom H6 and a Shure lapel mic. I purchased XLR cables and a white balance card. I practiced with everything before the day, bugging my housemates to use them as stand-ins for my shot. I did all of this while leaving my old job to pursue freelancing full time.

Was it going to be freelancing or a slow fall into unemployment?

The shift from full-time wage worker to freelance did not solidify as real until, just 1 day after leaving my job, I stepped out of my car at the entrance to Land Warrior CrossFit with camera gear slung across my shoulder.

The realness of my new freelance occupation hit while I unloaded my trunk of the lighting and audio gear. It hit as I dropped the equipment into a pile in the corner of the gym and looked up to see the big glass windows letting in a soft, even light. It hit as I switched on the camera, and it hit when I raised the light and hooked up the audio and set off to find out who I needed to interview. It was great. There is a thrill to be found in communicating with new people and working with unique composition and lighting challenges.

The huge garage glass windows took the place of the Dracast light as the key light. I used the Dracast as a kicker behind the interviewees to help separate them from the background. I gathered the footage of the class after conducting the interviews. An hour later, I was on my way home to back up and begin the edit. The video would be finished 1 week later. The video is at the top of this post if you would like to watch it.


I learned a lot on this first freelance job. Through mistakes and repetition, the list below highlights the things that I needed to remember when setting up for this first job. Some of these, like setting white balance, can be no-brainers. But, when on your first shoot, you might be overwhelmed and forget to set something else when setting white balance. It is like learning to juggle. While it is not hard to juggle one ball, only experienced jugglers can keep 5 balls in the air at a time.

Before shoot date

  1. Create a calendar event with the location and drive time included. Do this as soon as you finish the call or get the confirmation email.
  2. After the phone call with the client, send a recap email detailing what both of you agreed on. Include the date and time. This is so both parties are on the same page.
  3. Discuss payment and agreement details at the beginning.
  4. Write up a clear statement of the work that will be done.
  5. Research similar companies. What content do they produce? What is similar? How can you learn from their content?
  6. Save screenshots of camera angles and types of b-roll from videos that fit your style. Have them with you at the shoot in the case that you need them. In the past, I have gotten so swept up in one aspect of a camera shoot, like camera placement, that I forgot to check for white balance. Having properly-shot examples at the ready can be a quick way to check for mistakes.
  7. Practice the shots that you think will be useful.
  8. Practice setting up and taking down your equipment.
  9. Pack extra of whatever you have. Harddrives, batteries, SD cards, microphones, and extension cords can all become instantly useful when another fails.

During the shoot

  1. Format your memory cards. I learned this the hard way when one of my SD cards corrupted. Formatting them resets the file structure, clearing out errors in an existing one.
  2. Set white balance, picture profile, iso, etc. and then save it all as a custom profile on your camera.
  3. Match white balance on the lights to your camera.
  4. Focus on the pupils of your subject.
  5. Check for distracting objects in the background and messy shirts or hair or makeup in the foreground.
  6. Test audio by asking the interviewee for more than “say something.” Ask them for their name and how to spell it. Record this as they talk in the case that you need the spelling of their name.
  7. Check audio levels.
  8. Check the eyeline of the interviewee. Are they looking above, below, or in line with the lens?
  9. Actually hit record.
  10. Do not stop recording until the microphone has been removed from the interviewee and is in your hand. Some of the best things have been said when the interview is over, as the interviewee is more relaxed than during the “actual” interview.

After the shoot

  1. Back up everything to at least 2 harddrive locations.
  2. Create a consistent back up folder structure. I do “yearmonthday-FirstnameLastname-Organization/Company-detailofshoot” so “20171214-JohnDoe-ESPN-BasketballDonationDrive”.
  3. Create a consistent folder structure for your workflow as you edit. All of my projects have these 5 folders in the main project folder: Assets, Audio, Exports, Footage, Premiere.
  4. Label your exports by version number, not “final” or “finalfinal” or “ReallyFINALYESFINAL.” Version numbers look more professional because the client will not think that you think you are done when they have changes in mind.
  5. Check your renders before you send them off. You are the first to know if you left the audio too high at one point, left a track on mute, or did not drag the adjustment layer to the end of clip. You do not want to be the second to know.
  6. Follow up with the client about leaving a review or giving feedback.

5 Actual Ways to Get a Job, Especially When You’ve Left Your Hometown and Network

Three weeks after I had graduated from college with two degrees and no job, my girlfriend, brother, and I hopped in my car and set off “East.”

95beac_5aa9d9f9761e46d38e55192a5b692841-mv2

The concept of East—of vast Montana sunsets and dark and silent South Dakota nights, of the warm shores of Lake Erie’s cape, and of stone walls laid like cracks on dry soil lurking throughout New England’s forests—of three-thousand miles east from Portland, Oregon to Hartford, Connecticut had appeared as all positives, as an adventure into the unknown, as my Bilbo Baggins moment.

But, after we had dropped my brother off at the airport in Boston, and while standing there at the drop-off gate, the car handle cold on my fingers, I knew then that “East” now glowered as all negatives. I did not have job. I did not have an income. I did not have friends or a network that I could contact.

If you’ve got those three worries on your mind, then the most beneficial thing that you can do for yourself is to believe that all three are temporary even if you don’t know for how long.

Three months have passed for me in Connecticut. I found a job within the first month and secured an income as a result. And I have friends.

Here is what I did, and what you can do, to get a job when you’ve gone AWOL on your hometown.

1. Call (not email) local businesses that are in your field of interest. Ask questions about those interests that will help you get to know the area. If the call goes well, ask if the company does informational interviews or shadowing.

Does the concept of cold calling a business make you uncomfortable? If you’re like me, then heck yes. Do it anyway. Within two calls, you’ll be desensitized to the discomfort of the task. You’ll have far more power to reach out to businesses, you’ll grow in confidence, you’ll improve your interview skills, and you may just add to your network if the call goes well. Say goodbye to bashful job hunting.

Informational interviews and shadowing get you in the door and face to face with the people who you may work with. In an informational interview, you ask them questions about the company. This is your chance to find out if you want to work for the company. With shadowing, you get to follow somebody around as they do their job.

2. Search on Facebook, Meetup, YouTube, and other social networks for groups that do things in your field of interest. Reach out to those groups.

I am an editor and videographer. I made a group of friends and got work for my portfolio simply by searching for groups local to my area and reaching out to them. Let them know that you’re new to the area, that you share their interests, and that you’d like to be a part of what they do. People will want to share what they’re passionate about, so tap into that.

3. Get a trial of LinkedIn Premium and kindly message recruiters at local companies that are in your field of interest.

Keep it short and simple. There are plenty of guides on Google for writing messages to recruiters. At the least, by reaching out, and if they respond, you will gain some knowledge about the company and area.

4. Contact local charities and non-profit companies to see if they would like to use you for work.

Charities and non-profit companies generally have deep, deep networks. Either by volunteering or giving them your skills for a project, you are, as a result, building your resume and network. Plus, you’re contributing to the community.

5. Participate in community events.

Speaking of community, there are always events going on in the area. See if you can get involved. Contact the organizers of farmer’s markets. Go to socials and ask business owners about their work. Invest yourself in the people around you and in turn they will invest in you.


The keys to all five of the ways to get a job above are to stay active and sincere. Always have something cooking in your job search. Those far and few sparks of goodness that give you a jolt of confidence to continue the hunt–when a recruiter calls you back, when a business owner gives you his or her business card, or when you are invited to an event by a group on Facebook–will not occur if you let yourself slow down. Stay active.

As well, stay sincere. Anyone can spot that resume in your bag, in your mind, on your face from a mile off unless you leave it at the gate. In other words, reach out to people who actually interest you, who you engage with in a way that is more than head bobbing and wondering when to pop the resume/business card question. If not, then you are wasting time for everyone.