The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Video Editor

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

There has never been a better time to be a freelance video editor. Thanks to the rise of the gig economy, the demand for more video content in marketing, and the advancements in tech that make remote collaboration easy, more and more talented video editors are turning away from their day jobs to set out on their own.

Maybe you want to work for yourself full-time and set your own hours — or maybe you want to travel the globe while working remotely doing video work for clients. These are valid reasons that might make you think about becoming a freelance video editor, but it can be scary to leave a stable job for the exciting, potentially stressful life of a freelancer.

If you’re thinking about freelancing full-time, this is the guide for you. I’ll go through what it takes to be a successful freelance video editor including how to find clients, how to balance the transition to freelancing, and implementing systems that will help you scale your business.

Collecting the Courage to Leave Your Day Job

Above all, moving to full-time freelance or diving into your own work takes courage. The fact that you’re thinking about leaving your day job means that something is missing for you. Many who make the move are looking for flexibility in the hours and places they work or the ability to do the type of work that really fulfills them.

There are going to be scary moments when you’re thinking about leaving your job. You might think about how you’ll make ends meet and what will happen if you lose a big client.

A long time ago, I read that leaving a job should be treated like swinging from a vine. You need to build enough momentum to feel good about grabbing that next vine (job) so that you won’t fall flat on your face in between. This is 100% true when you’re thinking about moving to freelance full-time.

Transition from Full-Time Day Job to Freelance Freedom

The biggest challenge in setting out on your own is finding enough clients to get up and running. At first, you need to maintain the steady income from your day job, but you have to devote more and more time to your new bosses — your freelance clients. 

Here are my some tips for managing that transitional time between full-time employment and freelance freedom:

  • Make sure that you have a financial safety net (2-3 months of expenses) saved to help you manage the transition before you make the leap.
  • If your business is seasonal, make sure that you’re not leaving your day job during a lean time in your freelance practice.
  • Consider asking your current company if you can work part-time to help your transition go more smoothly (the worst they can do is say “no,” after all).

If you’re in the position of considering leaving your full-time gig, I highly recommend building momentum with your own clients before you do so.

It’s a tough balancing act to build a client base before you disconnect from your day job, and it can be mentally and physically exhausting. A good rule of thumb is to have 2-3 clients who provide regular work as a solid platform to jump off of into your full-time freelance life.

Having a reliable base of clients is a good buffer that can help you make the transition smoother. Needless to say, I can’t recommend jumping into freelancing full-time if you don’t already have a few freelance clients.

Where to Find Work

So, what if you don’t already have enough clients to feel confident in making the move to the wonderful world of freelancing? Let’s look at some ways to build up your client base so you can make the transition.

Explore Your Community

In my own freelance work, I’ve found that the connections I’ve made locally are some of the most rewarding ones that I’ve made, both personally and professionally. Sometimes this becomes a source of work, while other times, it leads to other creatives that you can bounce ideas off of. No matter how small your town is, you can find creative professionals around you--it’s just a matter of finding them.

Beyond your local community, you can also think about the collective of individuals in your creative space. For example, if you want to be a freelance editor of music videos, find out where your peers hang out online and get to know them. A few well-placed blog comments or cold emails can help you build the relationships that lead to consistent work sources.

Ask Your Existing Clients

It’s always easier to grow your work with an existing client than it is to find new ones, especially when you’re preparing to leave your day job and know you’ll have more time to devote to them.

It’s possible that your clients don’t know that you want more work. If you clearly signal to them that you want to increase your impact with them, they might provide you with more work and help you manage your transition to a full-time freelancer.

Increase Your Versatility

Whether it’s an area you don’t feel like a complete expert in or the work seems beneath your current level, going freelance might mean doing work that isn’t exactly up your alley. For example, many videographers will shoot weddings because it’s readily-available work that tends to pay well. While this might not be your favorite type of video editing work, it can help establish a stable base that allows you to do more of what you love.

When you start freelancing, you might need to expand the types of work that you’re willing to do. I rarely said “no” while growing my own freelance work. Not every job will be right up your alley, and that’s okay. You’re still doing work that fills your creative voids--or at least is allowing you to practice your skills.

Make sure that you divide your work into different focuses. There’s work that you do to keep the bills paid, and then there’s work that you do to really feel satisfied. In time, you can trend more and more towards the work that really fulfills you, but early on you may need to sacrifice to take the work that is available to you.

Good Work Begets Good Work

Word-of-mouth is by far the most effective way to gain steam in building a freelance practice. Always remember: Good work has a way of getting noticed. Do good work, share it with your followers, and more business will more than likely gravitate toward you.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your clients for recommendations. When you finish a successful video project, shoot them an email asking them to refer you to peers that might be in need of video editing. Don’t have clients of your own yet? Build video projects for your portfolio. If you want to be a freelance video editor, there’s nothing stopping you from going out and shooting video of your own and turning it into an impressive project. It’s this type of initiative that can lead to landing your first client. 

Get a Little Creative

There are so many different ways to go about making money off of your video work. Make sure you are getting a little creative with your opportunities. Exploring Reddit threads for new ideas and opportunities, selling some of your footage, and volunteering your video skills to a nonprofit are just a few ideas that are a little out of the ordinary. You’re a creative, so get creative!

Setting Up Systems for Success

So, you’ve found some clients and are up and running in your freelance video editing work--but how do you keep your business humming and growing as you take on more work?

The results you provide to your clients is far less time consuming than building the business itself. You need to think about systems, or ways to create routines in your work. WIthout systems, everything feels like chaos. Here are some routines that you should consider when transitioning to freelance work:

  • Consider using a project management system like Trello, Basecamp, or Asana to track multiple clients and projects at the same time.
  • Divide your time up carefully between tasks like administrative work (responding to emails, issuing invoices) and the actual editing work that helps you deliver results to your clients
  • Build an onboarding checklist for new clients to help them acclimate to how to work with you.

These systems are a way that you can manage an ever-growing freelance business.  If you don’t have systems, repeated steps that you follow, your business can quickly become chaotic.

How to Invoice Clients

At the end of any projects, you’ll need to issue an invoice to request payment. An invoice is a formal request for the client to pay you for the work that has been completed. Invoicing is one of the most important steps in freelancing and makes sure that you don’t have delays in the cash flow that keeps your business running. 

When it comes to invoicing, the key to success is discussing payment details as early as possible. You don’t want any surprises when the invoice lands on a client’s desk because this could delay your payment.

Issuing invoices via PayPal is quick and easy, but there are other services like Quickbooks or Square that you can use to handle payments. No matter what service you use, the most important part is that you make it easy for your clients to pay so that there are no delays. You’ll pay a small fee with any service to handle payments, but the benefit is that you can accept credit and debit cards for easy payment.

Here are the key details that every invoice should include:

  • Payment terms: How soon do you expect payments? Do you give a discount if the invoice is paid quickly?
  • Due Date: Above all, make sure your client knows when you expect payment. Thirty-day payment terms are standard, but the important part is that you spell these details out in the invoice.
  • Service Details: On the invoice, ensure that you include enough details so that your client is familiar with the invoice that lands on their desk. Large companies may be juggling many freelancers, so details help ensure that your job doesn’t slip through the cracks.

Save Time by Outsourcing What You Can

When you’re scaling your business up, you have to look for opportunities to reduce your workload. Growing your business is about switching gears from being a videographer to being a businessperson who focuses on growing the client base.

It helps to outsource the parts of your business that you can. Maybe you don’t have time to get out and shoot new footage or create new sounds to elevate the quality of your next video project. That’s why it helps to subscribe to a service like Storyblocks that can provide you with a full library of footage, templates, and audio. Stock footage and AE templates can help you save your time and money because you won’t need to hire a videographer or travel for your footage. You’re likely to even find something better than what you would have created or been unable to create.

Subscription services can help you with some of your content needs, but you should also think about seeking help from other creative professionals. Especially if you’re still at your day job, you may need to farm out some of the work to others so that you can, well, sleep a little.

The bottom line is that if you’re spending your time pitching new clients and drumming up new business, you might not have time to do everything. Think of outsourcing what you can to those you trust to keep your business growing.

The Next Steps

At the start of this guide, I pointed out courage as the single most important aspect of making a leap into freelancing. It’s true that there’s some risk in working for yourself, but it can be so rewarding when you finally take the leap.

Here’s what I hope you’ll remember as you think about growing into a full-time freelancer.

  • Build a base of clients before you make the leap by expanding relationships with existing clients and finding new leads.
  • You’ve probably already mastered the creative aspect of your work, so make sure that you brush up on the business side of things. Have contracts ready, invoicing systems in place, and a group of people you trust to take on work in case you become overloaded.

Play to your strengths. This means outsourcing parts of your practice to those who can handle those aspects better. Consider using stock footage and royalty-free audio to elevate your video.

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About the Author

Jordan McElwain
Jordan McElwain
Jordan is a Content Marketing Specialist at Storyblocks. Aside from when she dives deep into a topic to provide detailed information and advice, you’ll find that most of her pieces are short, sweet, and to the point. She loves looking at the data to find topics that readers are interested in, but most of all she loves her dog, Luna--ask about her if you want to be bombarded with a million puppy photos.

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