Ryan E Walters lists a few tips to keep in mind when taking the plunge into freelance filmmaking.

So you have decided to quit your day job and venture into the exciting world of freelance work, where you get every day off, you set your own hours, and life is always enjoyable. At least that is how it feels as you sit behind your desk finishing out the remainder of your two week notice. It is true, there are many perks of living life in the freelance world. However, it is not for the faint of heart, as it brings with it a whole new set of struggles. In what follows, I’m going to to give you seven tips on how to succeed in the world of freelance, so that those struggles will be fewer and easier to bear.

Tip #1: Know your budget and have savings
If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading the article I wrote on determining your day rate. Knowing how much you need to make down to the penny will enable you to realistically put a plan into action. In addition to knowing what your minimum budget needs to be, I recommend having at least 3 – 6 months of savings. Not only will this enable you to make it when work is slow, but it will give you the financial security you need to have to be able to say “no” to jobs. There are a TON of low-to-no paying projects out there, and there are just as many people clamoring at the chance to fill the role. But that doesn’t mean those projects are any good, or worth your time. If you have savings to fall back on, you’ll know where your next meal is going to come from, and you can be more selective in the jobs you take (even the well paying ones). If you have decided that taking low-to-no paying work is acceptable to you, then it would be best to develop criteria that will help you decide if the project is a good fit.

Periodically, I will take on low-to-no paying work if it falls within the criteria that I have decided on. For example, some of the questions I ask myself are: Will I be working with people I enjoy working with? Am I interested in the project/does it excite me? Will I get the opportunity to learn something new? Will I get the chance to be creative and push my limits? Will the project get completed? Do I trust the people I’m working with to follow through on their commitments? How will this impact my current workload/schedule? Will I have the tools, and time I need to deliver results I will be happy with? The answers to these questions directly inform my choice to say yes or no to any project that comes my way, and especially those projects that have little-to-no pay. By knowing your budget and having savings you free yourself to make smarter business choices that will further your skills and career, rather than just taking any job that comes your way because you need to pay the rent. (Side Note: Having savings has allowed me to also turn down well paying work where I was less then confident in the people behind the project. You will be better served if you make choices that are not purely motivated by money.)

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Having savings is hugely important because you’ll probably find yourself having dry spells…maybe more often than you’d like. Not everyone, mind you, but many (especially in Hollywood) are holding on by the skin of their teeth.

One tip I would want to add is maybe do some market research and if you can realistically predict that work of the nature that you seek is going to remain in some area, maybe you’d go where the work is.

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