Every year has a defining quality. An over-arching feeling, sense, mood that colours us all.
What was it for you? For Ande Schurr, it was the year of commitment. He shares his reflections on 2014 and ten lessons for How Freelancers Can Succeed.
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Wherever I looked I saw evidence of the presence, or lack, of commitment.
Commitment is a very difficult thing to have as a freelancer. A relationship with a loved one, a long term project, your own health and wellbeing, sure, these are things you can commit to because they are sizable in both time and impact on your life.
However the day by day nature of freelancing for many people, the sheer fragmentation of working for tens if not over a hundred different producers throughout the year on jobs ranging from a few hours to several weeks can mean that the roots of commitment never get a chance to grow very deep.
So it is important to clarify here that this commitment is not one of loyalty just to the job in question, but to the industry as a whole.
It means that you will help out on that short film, give a lecture or do a charitable project once in a while for a reduced rate because that feeds the ecology of the industry you are in.
It means you recognise that you cannot possibly know what is around the corner. Many such jobs lead to big jobs. Or they foster closer relationships with key people who can one day make your career into something bigger.
I realise this all sounds like ‘doing for the sake of what others can give you’ but in reality, this attitude is really about letting go preconceptions of how your life and career will develop.
All you need to know is that it will. That it will go from strength to strength, regardless of the small gaps, and at times seeming stagnation, if you show total commitment to your industry.
The freelancers who are constantly booked on day by day work, or score the big roles on large films, live productions or design projects are solid, dependable, personable, experienced and weathered or matured by the years they have endured their industry.
These people tie commitment with honour. If someone refers them a job then they do not steal that client for future work unless they have their referral's blessing to continue pursuing the relationship.
So, in the order of what really matters in life, money ranks very poorly. The top qualities are honour and commitment.
I am and will ever be their student.
There is a poignant Japanese saying “no road is long with a friend at your side”.
I write for the person who feels lonely or unsure of their next steps out there in freelance land. Who has tried but hasn’t achieved the level of work they know they are capable of winning. They are scraping the surface of their own abilities and don’t know how to increase their work-load.
I’ve been taught that it is our duty in life to try to expand our capacity. The nature of growing up, perhaps enduring some bullying or tall-poppy-syndrome at the least, may have squashed our confidence so that we function at a fraction of whom we really are so our battle of fighting loneliness and striving for excellence is with ourselves. To become more accurate and skillful, to stand more confidently, to give a little more of ourselves to those in need, that is what we can do to ultimately become the far more limitless person we were born as.
Without further ado, here are the ten lessons taken from the ten stories I posted this year, that will hopefully expand our capacities and help us understand commitment in a new way.
I wish you the very best in your journey.
I started the year with news of my new super small audio recorder and then moved into a message about the apparent business suicide of helping those who want your job.
Paradoxically this act of being unafraid to help those pursuing the same clients as you will give you a reward of its own kind - forcing you to keep on learning and to keep fear and feeling isolated firmly at bay.
Key finding: Turn fear into a positive force, to help you develop.
Sally Tran has a vast mind so full of unique ideas about life that she will be able to continually churn our original scripts for commercial companies who want that point of difference.
This petite perfectionist is not only a writer but a design guru which means she actually can manifest the ideas in her head.
Key Finding: Going ‘commercial’ does not mean you’ve sold your soul. It means you have brains and the ability to transform outlandish ideas into digestible packages.
cOld calling? No biggie!
Forget cold calling. How about just staying in touch with your existing clients? I made the mistake of leaving my communication for so long with some past producers that it’s almost as if it’s a cold call all over again. The freelance game requires constant maintenance, or perhaps we can call it 'accountability’.
Key Finding: Being accountable doesn’t just mean you put your hand up when you did something wrong, but that you put your hand up periodically just to let people know you are still around and keen to work for them.
The film school advantage
Film school bares the brunt of many jokes by self-made individuals who argue that it can never teach etiquette and the things that really matter on a film set.
In the case of Andrew Bancroft, the first NZ to have a short film win at Cannes, it might be a different story. For twenty years Andrew has accompanied his writing with stints at film schools and teaching institutions throughout the country so he knows a thing or two about melding theory with practice.
Key Finding: Film school can be the perfect incubator for those with film making ambitions as long as you spend time on set and get to grips with the reality.
Nadia's recipe for success
Nadia is a star because she believes so much in what she does. It is not about her glamorous career but changing the way people eat.
Listen to the interview and hear the sincerity in her voice.
Nothing is as powerful as a person totally committed to helping others.
In revealing the homework she did to prepare for winning Masterchef, she helps us see that our mind is our biggest ally.
Key Finding: Failure to prepare is like turning our back on ourselves. Nadia not only prepared like a student swotting for the biggest exam of her life, but she opened the door to inspiration when she was on the verge of giving up and found the winning solution.
Our old people have something valuable for us freelancers. It’s the sense of perspective. They have seen technologies morph and industries transform.
While we worry about where our next job will come from we would do well do spot the markers of ever occurring change around us.
I write about a 94-year-old woman who has seen many of the significant events in New Zealand’s history.
I write also about the onset of a crippling condition called the ‘now bubble’ and how to off-set this through keeping a sense of perspective.
Key Finding: Progress is natural. Survival of the fittest is natural. Instead of lamenting on changing budgets let’s offer better services and guard against becoming a relic of the past.
Using music as voice
Burkhard Dallwitz has a Golden Globe for his composition work on The Truman Show.
What makes the great composers outstanding is that they have poured their soul into their work and yet been able to cleverly meet the commercial needs of the film project.
It’s this synergy between surrendering to self and others that surely defines such people.
Burkhard’s story includes writing the theme music for the Sydney Olympics right down to how he wires up his music studio at home.
Key Finding: We may not have the talent to win a Golden Globe but by staying grounded in domestic life, taking care of the little things around home, we keep on top of the little things in our career that can go on to form big things.
Putting the story in advertising
Every possible combination of skills and lifestyles exists for the freelancer. That’s the beauty of working for yourself.
For Alison Farmer, you might be left wondering how she balances everything as a mum of two, completing her PhD and jointly running a production company ‘Farmer Clark’ with her Director of Photography partner Simon Clark.
Read more to see their approach to producing content that is real and still visually slick.
Key Finding: A freelancer brings who they are to the table. If they have academic success, they bring that, if they have other social or technical abilities, they are perfect too.
Finding your rhythm
Finding your rhythm is something that we must do in order to find some measure of peace inside ourselves.
I think your rhythm equates to making time to do the things that matter each day, each week.
As one director put it - “You make your plan A so you have a plan B when you arrive on location”
What happens when you arrive and meet the talent, and see how they are feeling, becomes the Plan A.
This article discusses three important lessons I learned on the film Born To Dance.
Key Findings: Keep trying to make time for those important things each day so you feel you are really living and not merely surviving.