Core skills of freelancing

Young screen industry professionals reveal the skills they needed when they set out as freelancers.

Understanding your core skills

Your core skills divide into three basic types - technical, behavioural and other skills.

Technical skills

Your technical skills are the ones specific to the work you want to do. For example, a camera operator’s technical skills are in camera operation and a VFX production manager’s technical skills are in organising the VFX production. ScreenSkills offers a wide range of training courses for all levels and departments which can help you further develop your technical skills.

Behavioural skills

Your behavioural skills are your interpersonal and communications skills. These are often transferable skills across many industries, sectors and jobs. They include communication skills, working with and relating to others, problem-solving, applying initiative and IT skills. Having a good sense of humour and being a great person to work with goes a long way too.

Other skills

Your other skills are all the other skills, knowledge and hobbies you have. It could be you speak another language, have a passion for medieval history or are a devoted gardener.

When you are first starting out if you show passion and hunger for working in the sector, and can articulate how your behavioural skills are transferable, it can counterbalance having less hands-on experience. Especially if you have valuable other skills which add specific knowledge into the production.

Other qualities needed for successful freelancing

A good freelancer has a balance of skills, passion and financial drive.

  • A passion for the screen sector and a love of the content created
  • The skills needed to play their part in creating the content
  • The financial drive to earn a living working in the sector

Financial drive is a vital ingredient in this mix since without it you have a hobby. Your financial drive drives you to earn your living in the sector.

Motivation and discipline

Good freelancers are motivated and disciplined people. They are punctual and reliable. They communicate in a timely fashion with their clients. They know if they have the capacity to take on more work or if they need to recommend a colleague.

Motivation is easy in the midst of a busy production, but much harder in down time between contracts when you need to look for the next project or sort out your finances.

If you aren’t by nature the most disciplined person you will need to work hard at this to ensure that you keep abreast of everything you need to do. Equally, even the most self-disciplined people can be guilty of putting off the least interesting tasks.

Reputation

You are only as good as your last job, which means that professionalism and reputation are all. Freelancers deliver their services to their clients, there’s no company to hide behind. Your reputation is your currency so make sure you value it. It invariably arrives in the room before you do in the form of recommendations from colleagues and clients.

This is a demanding sector to work in, often with long hours and away from home. Don’t underestimate how important being someone people can get on well with is.

Flexibility

Freelancers need to be able to cope with change and be ready to respond. The business landscape is constantly shifting and so are clients’ needs. Not to mention that every piece of work is slightly different. As you take on assignments for different clients you will see how the ‘same’ job can be remarkably different depending on how the client company operates.

The other side of flexibility is that you have to hit it off straight away with the client and their team and get on with the job. You rarely know anything about each other’s lives and what might be going on. Managing the relationship when you are all working hard for a short period of time means there is little incentive to build long term working relationships - the primary focus is getting the work done.

This means freelancers often worry about whether they are delivering what they are supposed to. Therefore to ensure they do the best job they over-achieve, in compensation, which can lead to high levels of anxiety and stress. Finding ways to engage your client to feedback on your work at regular intervals can alleviate these worries significantly.

Sector knowledge

It’s not enough to know you want to work in the sector. You must have a good understanding of the role you are looking to work in, a passion for the content produced and an opinion on it. Whichever department you work in, or want to work in, you need to be aware of how different content is realised and be able to talk about it. That doesn’t just mean the storylines, it can mean the lighting, camerawork, artwork or gameplay.

In particular when you are going to meet clients about future work make sure you know everything you can about their recent work and be sure to have watched the content or played the game and be able to discuss it.


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