I get asked quite often how I got started on the road to freelance. Was it hard work? Luck of the draw in getting a break? Well… yes and no as both apply to my case. It was not only luck and hard work as much as it was branding or to put it another way… establishing a digital identity.
When I started I had very limited skills in graphics, had no idea what 3D was but knew I wanted to do this type of work. Like a lot of digital hobbyists (for lack of a better term) I was well versed in computers, knew my operating system and could build my own computers. Not earth shattering skills by any means but solid basic skills just the same. I have just described almost everyone in machinima at this point. Yes there are those that struggle with the computer but for the most part we all “get it” when it comes to learning new software and developing our skills.
One thing I had going for me was a background in old school Banking in which as a loan officer I was required to market our bank to potential loan and deposit customers. From this vocation came a better understanding of how image was everything to everyone. Didn’t matter what you may be hawking… skills or product… the image projected was far more important than the skills possessed or the product being sold. I may not have had the skills of a digital journeyman but I did all I could to promote an image of professionalism while still being able to back it up… albeit a little weakly at the beginning… with letters of reference from previous clients. All were very glad to give me the letters even though my skill level was very low at the time.
I was also fortunate to learn marketing from some real pros in the business and these folks drove home that same simple fact. Its about the brand! Think in terms of what comes to mind when a person see’s your work, logo or name.
Ok… let’s say you have an online identity. Do you manage it or just let it roll naturally? If you are not managing it then I hope your “roll” is positive because it only takes a few petty words here and there, acting like a primadonna (we all know at least one) or abusing your position within a team or project to set back years of positive work and project an image that you might not be able to repair. After all… who wants to work with an overbearing ogre?
Freelancers are truly a dime a dozen so think carefully about how you interact with the public. If you have a tendency to not play well with others then you may find that you are losing that tendency and actually getting along because you are being proactive instead of reactive when you manage it.
I can’t say that my brand in Machinima is well known as I travel in small circles but my brand in my areas of freelance expertise are known well enough to keep me employed. I’d love to be a household name for my type of work but I’m happy staying busy and I stay busy working with people who make me look good and protect their brand as much as I protect mine.
I will admit that it is easy for some of us to do this as our personalities allow it but we are almost all alphas in the freelance world or we wouldn’t be disciplined or driven enough to work as freelancers. Apply that discipline to your brand. Seize on a logo, a name and a screen name then stick with them. Continuity is very important to good films and just as important to your digital brand.
Skills alone are not enough. There are many gifted artists out there that could do my work in their sleep but they aren’t. I want to keep it that way so I manage my brand which involves being the guy that the Creative Director or Videographer wants to work with instead of the extremely gifted primadonna that ruins the project for everyone.
That’s all part of managing the brand in my world. So from my point of view I would say that establishing and managing your digital brand/identity is as vital as your skillset. Simply put… define yourself and manage what you are and what you do.
Its hard enough to get started in freelance so concentrate on your brand and work may FIND YOU!