How to Break Out As a Videographer In Your City
In the last couple of years, I've had multiple students and aspiring filmmakers network with me, and it usually leads up to the topic of how they can land a job or get to the next step in their career. So I thought I would write up what I've told them and host it on my site. I've only worked in the Cleveland, Ohio area, so I'm by no means a definitive source of knowledge and wisdom. These are all just my opinions and observations, but I feel like over 8 years I've gained enough experience at different marketing agencies with a large variety of clients that I am confident my advice can easily carry over to anyone trying to stand out in any sized video production market.
Below are some major takeaways that I've picked up along the way, from experience on growing your "brand awareness," networking, professional development, social presence, and what I believe would make you a more attractive job candidate. I've also done some hiring of videographers and can share what I look for in a potential team member, along with some red flags I’ve seen.
Start building your personal brand if you haven't yet
Let me start off by saying that I’m not a fan of the word "brand," even if I use it repeatedly in this post. With that being said, I've grown to accept the word because I've found out first hand that attaching a personality to your creative work is going to make you stand out in the sea of other videographers and creatives trying to land their same dream gig. As a bonus, it adds a relatable and human element to your work.
Even though I'm not a big fan of this part of the business, it is ESSENTIAL as a videographer today. Think about the brands that people love and swear by, like Converse, Subaru, and Yeti. There are hundreds of other companies that sell shoes, cars, and tumblers, but we all seem to love and pay extra for these specific brands. Why? Because we like the personality of the companies, which makes us loyal to them.
Another attractive thing about brands besides their personalities that they stand for a certain quality standard. People love Subaru because it stands for high quality and safety. Yeti is known to keep your drink cold longer than the knockoffs. They are brands with personalities, but they also stand for a certain aspect of quality that a consumer can expect if they purchase that brand. This same principle goes for your personal brands. If clients like your look, your style, and your overall "vibe," then they are going to hire you over other candidates trying to get that same job or project.
Make sure everything is always a true and current reflection of yourself
One more note about getting started is that it doesn't mean you need to make an official business, form an LLC, and jump through all those hoops. At least design some personal branding, like a nice-looking logo and social channels, a polished website, some business cards to give out (yes these are still relevant for videographers when shooting on-site), and an official email address (for business, I use email@example.com, not my @gmail.com), etc. For landing a new job, it's all about looking the part and showing that you are taking yourself and your work seriously. Even after you get a gig, continue to build trust by delivering work that is high-quality, consistent, and on-time. Clients will have no choice but to continue to come back to you for all their video needs.
Have a clean website and solid demo reel
First off, have a website domain that is either your first and last name (if it’s not already taken and you can afford the domain. www.johnhansel.com costs $600/year, so I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger on that….), the name of your company, or something you want to be associated with. I use Wix.com for easy use plug and play templates, all at a reasonable cost per year. Squarespace.com is another popular website builder that people use. I also hear about Adobe Portfolio, but I haven't used it. The bottom line, having a clean, up-to-date, and easy-to-navigate website is crucial!
After you have your site all set up, you need to make sure you have a current demo reel with your best and most recent work, ready to share with anyone that wants to see it. Start the reel off with clips of your ABSOLUTE best work you've ever done, which will hook the viewer and make them want to continue watching the entire video. Be sure to end it with some of your other best work, so it will leave a lasting impression. And also make sure it's under a minute and a half because people's attention spans are nearly non-existent these days. Then once the reel is complete, put it front and center on the homepage of your website.
Bonus Tip: If you really want to optimize your site for search results, look into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your pages. I know Wix has built-in SEO tools that I use,
and there are other helpful articles online about the topic too.
Make sure your website, video reel, and images on social media are completely up-to-date
You want to make sure all content associated with your name is a true reflection of your current self and your work. If you apply for a job, but the hiring manager goes to check your portfolio site and the video reel is from three years ago and there is no recent work to be shown, then that's a red flag that you haven't been active with shooting and editing. Even if you have been working hard but just too busy to update anything, then how will potential employers know that you've been hustling?! Make sure everything is always a true and current reflection of yourself!
How will people know you are an amazing videographer if you don't show them some of your killer videos?!
With all that being said, I should probably follow my own advice and go finish editing my 2019 reel…
Bonus Tip: If you are REALLY trying to make a brand stand out using your social media and website, then make sure everything is 100% consistent across all platforms, like colors, fonts, spacing, styles, etc. If you really like a certain color grade or filter for your videos, then do your best to always use those colors and tones. Make it so that eventually, people will see a photo or video from you, and they will know that it is one of your videos. That's the power of branding.
Create personal video projects in your spare time
Whether you're on a family vacation, at a weekend festival in Cleveland, or just hanging out with friends at the park, bring your camera along and record some moments to put a small recap video together. And don't think that you need to own a fancy camera, just use your phone or invest in a DJI Osmo Pocket or GoPro to carry around. Keep in mind, it doesn't have to be perfect. Understand that you probably aren't going to be submitting it for any awards, but it will help you to start gaining more technical experience with your gear, find your video style, make you more confident and comfortable with shooting and editing, as well as give you some potential footage to put on your demo reel. It's also nice to look back on memories!
Don't be afraid to post and share your work
The more eyes that see your videos, the better chance an opportunity could arise. If you post your videos on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, use hashtags and tags to include relevant people, companies, places, and keywords. This will help your videos get more exposure, possibly appearing in the right person's feed who is looking to hire a videographer. It even helps to just share your work with friends; because they might work for a company that is looking for a videographer, and your name will come to the top of their mind for a recommendation to their hiring manager. I can’t stress how important it is to put your work out there for people to see, otherwise, how will people know you are an amazing videographer if you don't show them some of your killer videos?!
Tidy up your social media
Channel your inner Marie Kondo and comb through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, any place that has a trace of you and has your name connected to it. Only have stuff visible that you would want a potential employer to see. I know it sounds lame to have to censor anything about yourself, but it's a 100% fact that social media is the first place employers look to try to get to know more about you, see what you look like, etc; before even bringing you in for an interview. It’s pretty much their first impression of you. It's the sad truth, but trust me, it will help you in the long run. Especially for a videographer, your Instagram is your new resume, so make a good impression! If you absolutely do not care what anyone, employer or not, think about what you post on social media, then please ignore this point.
Keep constantly learning
While trying to find a new job, I was watching tutorials for Premiere and After Effects all the time, as well as refreshing my mind with videos on basic techniques and fundamentals. Instead of just mainly watching TV shows or playing video games to relax after work, I was making time for YouTube tutorials and film podcasts. If you keep learning, honing your craft, and putting yourself out there as much as possible, it will show in your technical skills, making you become way more valuable to potential employers and getting freelance opportunities. Whether it’s YouTube/Vimeo, studying movies, taking online courses, listening to podcasts, or reading books and blogs, never stop gaining knowledge!
Network with local creatives
When it comes to networking, knowing the right person can get you that "in" you need to work at a cool studio or agency. Utilize LinkedIn to connect with fellow filmmakers. I would also look up companies or popular videographers in your area and just reach out to them with a direct message if you enjoy their work and respect them. You honestly never know who will respond, but if they do, then that could be the start of a professional relationship.
Even look up events in your city on www.meetup.com and other similar sites. They usually have some groups that you can look into and attend.
To be successful in the creative field, you are going to have to prove to people that you are good enough to get paid for your professional services. Just like any other service, the higher-quality clients are going to choose you based on reputation, word of mouth, likability, and quality of work. No one is going to pay top dollar for your video services if you don't check all of those boxes. You're going to have to do a lot of video shoots at the beginning of your career for free, or less than you think you deserve, but you can’t let it be discouraging! You will need to come to grasp with this lifestyle quickly, but once the ball gets rolling and word of mouth spreads and you start producing work that you are proud of, then you are well on your way of getting noticed, which equals more work for you!
Build trust by delivering work that is high-quality, consistent, and on-time
It's unfortunately true that nothing is going to fall into your lap, and you have to actively search out new jobs and opportunities, but there are plenty of gigs out there if you look hard enough. The fun production houses and ad agency jobs are going to come from things like a killer work ethic and strong technical knowledge, along with networking, referrals, and knowing the right people, not from randomly checking and crossing your fingers on a job board site like Indeed. So if you put into practice everything I listed above, you'll be golden and land a gig over someone that isn't actively giving everything they have to their craft in due time!
If you want to connect, here are my social handles:
Portfolio Site - www.jhmotion.com
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnphansel/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/jh.motion/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jphansel2/
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