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The International Freelancer

How Freelancers Can Succeed: No matter what time you are reading this, it will be the op

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By Ande Schurr

How Freelancers Can Succeed: No matter what time you are reading this, it will be the optimal time to ring a relevant company in some part of the world and introduce yourself.

Who knows when they may be visiting 'down under' next for their filming or other media-related projects.

* * *

What are you like with cold calling? Some people dread it while others don't care and just do it because what is there to lose anyway? I was in the former of these groups at the start of my career and now, thanks to my close association with good confident people from several countries, I have become the latter person.

I have had an incredible run of work from the start of the year till now - working almost every day for the past 5 months on a range of jobs. And now, suddenly, I have one commercial this week. The rest of my Calendar is blank.

A few short years ago I would be worried and starting to feel sorry for myself; wishing I had taken a full time job at a TV studio when I had the chance.

Now I laugh. It's just a game. The god of freelancing likes to keep us from getting complacent. That is why we don't fall for the 'full time job' allure, right? Just imagine always knowing how much you would get paid (where is the motivation in that?) and what challenges you will face that week? I dread the thought of such predictability!

Seriously however, I am not concerned that my calendar is empty. I know the work will come. It always does. Why? Is it because of some vague hope? No. It is because of a positive attitude mixed with an enjoyment of people and a love for sound recording. When I back this combination with a few phone calls, then work follows.

Over the past few months I have worked with Canadians, Americans, Brits, Koreans, Indians, South Africans, and Australians. They were in New Zealand filming a range of formats including documentaries, TV commercials, and feature films.

I have found myself at home with people from each of these countries. They presented me with a completely new style of working together. To elaborate on two of them, the Canadians have the clarity to remain focused the entire day and build a huge momentum. They are an amazing blend of flexibility and openness to change mixed with a clear sense of vision. The Koreans on the other hand work so efficiently and precisely, that if you blink you will miss the take. Just imagine 30 robots working together to build a car at lightning fast speed and you will get the picture.

So what is an international freelancer and how do you become one?

The international freelancer:

1. Has no preferences as to who they work with, what culture, what language. For the first day it may be strange filming with a non-'Western country’ crew but by treating the task at hand as the most important thing, all of their differences of style become irrelevant.

2. Can work comfortably with translators (if they are available!) and watches closely all that is going on so they can make effective and timely decisions without the usual advantage of hearing the instructions in English.

3. Understands that the job is the main event. Differences of language and work style are small challenges that can easily be bridged when you have a strong resolution to do a good job. I have worked with crew who turn their nose up and shake their head in disbelief at the 'odd' work styles of various international production teams. I think this is ‘shooting yourself in the foot’ and making oneself miserable without any good reason. Endure all things on set regardless of how far they deviate from the normal methods. To them, they will think the kiwi way of doing things is very odd and remember: who is paying the wages?

4. Is not a ‘morning’ or a ‘night’ person. That is a limitation that people put on themselves - usually during ‘small talk’. I have fallen into that trap often. My feeling is, within the bounds of adequate sleep, we can all function well at any hour of the night or day.

The Canadian cameraman I was working with earlier this month had a favourite quote: "man plans, God laughs". So, let us take a cue from God and laugh along with Him; look your empty calendar in the eye and smile because you know, with the right efforts, it will be short lived. 

Written by

Ande Schurr

3 Jun 2010

Corporate video producer and production sound recordist now based in Singapore after a 15-year career in New Zealand. Video clients incl. universities, tech startups, medical clinics and business consulting agencies. Sound clients incl. Netflix, Discovery, BBC, National Geo.