3 Steps to Landing Filmmaking Clients

MattBusiness, Filmmaking, Video Production2 Comments

Last time around, we talked about Client Mining and Farming. Let’s now imagine you have a prospective client. If they’ve watched your reel, and they’ve visited your website, then you are more than half way to landing them as a client.

However, there are a few things you have to keep in mind when landing filmmaking clients.

The Client For Life

Your ultimate goal in life is sustainability. Sustaining yourself with what you like to do. This means your goal with any client should be repeat business.

At the outset, you don’t know which client will be a godsend or a headache. Some may even be your best friend and help you acquire more clients.

My friend Mario still plays poker with his Disney client (ex-Disney employee now), and that client helped us get more clients within Disney departments.

So your mindset should be that the client is there to help you as much as you’re there to help them.

I’ve had clients call or email me a year later after working together because they remembered how well I treated and serviced them. I’ve had clients who call me and only want to work with me and my team. I’ve also had clients fly us out for shoots instead of hiring someone local for cheaper.

As long as you take care of your clients, your clients will want to take care of you.

Meeting The Client

Your first interaction with a potential client will be over email. Rarely will the first time be over the phone, but after a few email exchanges, the client may want to meet in person.

The meeting will either be at the client’s office or a coffee shop. You will need:

  • Your reel on a laptop or tablet.
  • Extra business cards.
  • A portfolio pad with pen and paper.
  • Concepts for executing their video.

You bring your reel because clients usually bring extra people with them that haven’t watched your reel yet.

Make sure to have the video ready to play and don’t rely on internet to stream it. Just have it ready to go because every minute with a potential client is precious.

If possible, bring a partner along as well. Usually someone who is good at chatting and small talk is ideal. They will help fill in the silent gaps that are inevitable.

Either you or your partner should be the one asking all the questions and the other one should take notes. Memory is always foggy so don’t rely on it, take as many notes as possible.

Here are some dos and donts (most of which might seem like common sense, but sense isn’t all that common):

  • Don’t be overly nice or polite, nor too quiet and uncouth.
  • Don’t curse in front of the client.
  • Don’t be late.
  • Don’t talk too much.
  • Always be aware of time.

Try to make a first meeting last no more than an hour, max. Some of this goes without saying, but I had a partner once that did not know these things.

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Interview Your Clients

As much as the clients are interviewing you in the first meeting, you must also interview them. You must chose your clients wisely.

The rule of thumb is that if you don’t like your clients in the first meeting, chances are that you probably won’t like them any better on the next meeting.

On your first meeting, either phone or in person, make sure to drill them with questions:

  • What is your budget with this project?
  • What is your goal?
  • What is your marketing plan? Your social media plan?
  • When is the video due?

You are looking for the professional client that arrives on time, knows exactly what he wants, and spells it out in digital ink or on paper.

Stay away from clients that arrive late, are ambiguous, and/or are not sure of exactly what they want. Clients like this are usually very indecisive and cause headaches and frustrations.

They will drag on a project longer that the budget allows because they can’t decide. Or they constantly ask you for your opinion on everything. If they’re asking you on your opinion not related to videos, then they’re going to be a problem client.

Also, don’t believe the very charming people that are extra nice, that constantly sweet talk you or others. Or people that promise you more work before you have even worked together. They are bullshitters.

Clients that make you wait in their office an obscene amount of time before meeting them (I’ve had a client take phone call after phone call in front of me), or clients that don’t respond back in a timely matter are also not worth your time.

They don’t respect you enough to think that your time matters as much as theirs. These are bad clients and not worth the money.

So Who Are the Ultimate Filmmaking Clients

You are looking for clients that are logical and methodical, but not robots. You’re looking for passion, but not emotional seesaws that change moods with the wind.

If a client is too much “insert-adjective-here,” then they will be like that for as long as you interact with them.

For example if the client is too controlling at the first meeting, then they will be very controlling on the actual shoot.

Sure, these people may be creative geniuses or really rich, but these people are unbalanced and it is always a double-edged sword.

In my opinion, these people are headaches waiting to happen. You are welcome to disagree.

So what do you do if the client is less than ideal?

I recommend walking away.

If you need the money, take the job and learn the lesson the hard way. I know I did…many times.

Every time I don’t listen to my gut, or I do things for money knowing very well the mental heachaches it will cost, the money is usually never worth it. I’d rather 100% give back the money to get back the lost time.

However, if you really-really-really need the money, make sure to charge them 3x more.

Startup Stock Photos

Clients As A Gate To More

But…what if it’s not much money, but the clients are a gate to better opportunities?

One day the three of us (Mario, Rocky, and I (editor’s note: Gio) were in a rapper’s studio trying to pitch ideas for a possible music video. They had connections to up-and-coming rappers that produce awesome music videos. This rapper was just a stepping stone for us.

The rapper and his entourage smoked weed and listened to their music over and over again while we sat quietly, waiting patiently.

When we finally had time to ask them questions, we would get interrupted, or the rapper would get distracted.

When we pitched ideas, he would go on wild tangents or spit ball his own horrible ideas.

After two hours, we still had no solid concept, just mushy and vague ideas. We had to go back, work on more ideas, and come back to schedule another meeting to pitch again.

I told my partners it’s not worth the headaches to work with these people, but they didn’t listen to me. They tried to pitch more ideas, and in the attempt to schedule another meeting, the rapper never replied.

In another story, we had a guy that had connections to Coke. We took meeting after meeting with this guy discussing a video shoot that he would show off to Coke execs and try to get a budget for a cross-country web series that he would hire us for.

After shooting the damn pilot video, the guy never paid the last half, so we never sent him the video. All of that time wasted.

There are more stories, but I don’t want to depress you.

My advice is don’t work for a client solely based off of potential opportunities because chances are you will be gravely disappointed. You have to earn your opportunities.

You cannot rely on just one client or potential client opening the door for you. You must be willing to walk away with your dignity intact.

There will be other opportunities and there are many ways to reach your goal.

One client made us earn our first $100,000+ first feature film. We first shot a 15 minutes short film for $7,500. The client loved it so much, she “suddenly” found investors for a full length feature film.

We actually shot the first 15 minutes of a feature film, instead of a just a short film, we just didn’t know it. They never told us that they were planning a whole feature film. They just told us they were going to use those 15 minutes to pitch a TV show.

We had earned our opportunity to shoot our first feature film and got paid for it.

Anyway, after you’ve interviewed them and you’re happy to take them on as a client, the next discussion is always the cost.

Next time around, we’ll discuss budgets.


I’m Giordany. I’m writing a book on how to start your own video business. Every week, I’ll be releasing exclusive new chapters here on Matt’s site, Filmmaking Lifestyle

Join me in the discussion – hate it or love it, I’d like to know. Feel free to chat in the comments below.

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