A guide to becoming a freelance video editor
A great benefit freelance video editors have over freelance cinematographers is the possibility of remote work. Whereas directors must be on set, an editor can work from any location. This raises the number of available jobs by an insane amount.
The other bonus? People always seem to be looking for an editor, no matter how many editors there are. The reason for that is most people these days can shoot a video of some sorts, even if video is not their field, but editing is foreign to them. That is where they bring in a new pair of hands (and sometimes demand unreasonable things from those hands in order to make their unprofessional footage look better, but that’s a topic for another time).
So how do you become a video editor and open up this whole world of job opportunities?
#1 Love the idea of being a video editor
This goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway. It’s much harder, if not impossible, to become good at something when you don’t love or – at the very least – like it. Job prospects can only drive you so much. If you think it’s easy money, you’re wrong. You won’t go after jobs you dislike and you won’t do it for free. But if you love it, you will find ways to build your resume, you will want to work on projects for free or low pay just because you get to harness your creativity. You will learn, you will improve yourself, you will look and find work. If you really want to be a freelance video editor, read on.
#2 Learn how to edit video
If you don’t know how to edit yet, do not worry. There are many ways to learn from home in your free time, at your own pace. All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and the desire to learn. Maybe editing is your hobby and you already know the basics, but you can always expand your knowledge before you turn it into your job.
Skill sharing sites
There are many skill sharing sites, such as lynda, skillshare, and treehouse, that have courses on various editing software to get you started. The best software to use is Adobe Premiere Pro, otherwise, Final Cut Pro. These are the standards in the industry, and most people look to hire someone skilled in one or the other. Once you learn how to work on one, transitioning to another won’t take a lot of time.
Here’s a video comparing the two:
When picking up your new skill, make sure you don’t limit your knowledge to simply using the software. You should also learn the boring technical bits. This includes compression methods, codecs, frame rates, video file extensions, etc.
If a client asks you to export an H.264 .mp4 at 6mbps and 23.976 fps with uncompressed separate .wav audio, you are expected to know how. Learn this sooner rather than later.
Wasn’t that confusing? You can confuse your client by sharing this type of information with them too, he’ll think you’re at the top of the game as he doesn’t understand a thing. That’s what separates you from the common folk.
Next step is practicing your new craft. Look for an internship, film students in need of an editor for their short film, or a job as an assistant editor. You can also find courses that are not on the technical aspect of editing, but rather on the thought process you should follow. Learn how to tell a story as an editor.
Watching and studying movies
Finally, technical knowledge is not all you need to become a successful freelance editor. It can only get you so far. It’s only a matter of days to learn all the tools you will use 90% of the time. What makes an editor an editor, is the skill of cutting up video and putting it together to tell a story. What will set you apart is your creative approach, your own personal style. The pulse you give to your story, the way you move from shot to shot or connect scenes. See how other masters of the craft do it, study the rhythm, the way sound follows (or doesn’t follow) the shots.
#3 Now start working
Build and create your resume
You will need this for every job you apply for. Once you’ve gained plenty of experience in various types of projects, you may even build a different resume for different types of jobs you want to apply for (for example, one resume for youtube show editors and another for documentary films).
Another great way to showcase your work is a showreel you will edit. Not only do you show off your skills in the pieces you select, you get to showcase them in the way you cut it as well.
Start working as a freelance video editor!
As mentioned before, editors are always wanted and it’s one of the best positions in the industry for remote work, the kind freelancers often find themselves in. Remote work opens up many more options, so it can increase your chances of landing a job. Depending on your location, however, you may get to find a lot of local jobs as a freelancer, maybe even work for a studio.
Jobs can be found on any job posting site, as well as websites dedicated to audio-visual types of work. Same goes for remote jobs. You can try the most common places, like flexjobs, upwork or outsourcely, but you can also try fiverr and twine, websites dedicated to this line of work. The more work you get, the more you can choose the work you will go after in the future.
And of course, learn how to get your first client.
If this is all new to you, don’t get overwhelmed. Take it step by step and you will get there. Don’t let the technical side drag down your creative side. Editing is a craft, an art in of itself, so find your place in it. Eventually, it will be second nature, stick with it!