Today we’re looking at how to become a consultant within the film or video industry. Consultants are paid big money to advise on various aspects of the process.
For example, you could be a consultant to advise indie filmmakers on how to get funding, or how to sell their film on a variety of filmmaking markets.
If we’re talking about the video industry, you could be a consultant who offers their skills to businesses who are looking for digital strategy to grow their sales.
The options really are endless. Let’s take a look at how to become a consultant.
How to Become a Consultant
You might have thought about becoming a video or film consultant? This is a popular way to go, especially when you have gained a large amount of personal experience in the field. If you feel it is time for you to also share your knowledge, experience and expertise with other people, especially those who are still trying to survive in the industry, then this could be a role for you to explore.
People will always need consultants. Definitely, there are a lot of opportunities in this direction, and it’s a potentially very lucrative business to get into.
What’s also good about this route is that you don’t exclusively need to be a consultant, and stop making your own videos, you can do both, as long as you can manage your time and energy well.
As a starting point, if you’re considering the consultancy route, you may refer to this checklist by the Institute of Management Consultants USA.
To help out with how you can gain ground as a consultant, I have jotted down a few things that can give your some advice as to how you can move forward with this pursuit. We’re look at which direction may be ideal for you and how you can make good money in this sector!
1. Identify your Niche
It first starts with knowing where your strengths are. Not everyone has, will and or even wants to, take on every job within the filmmaking process – taking on roles from scriptwriter, editor, director, director of photographer, gaffer, and so on.
And the same goes for you becoming a consultant. While you may have a lot of industry experience overall, ask yourself: what really are the areas where you are strongest in?
After identifying what kind of role you find yourself more confident in, it would also be good to look into areas that you are not so good in, and brush up on them.
But, let’s also talk about what kind of sub-industry you are eyeing, or want to focus on with your potential consulting. It isn’t always good to be a jack-of-all trades, because the tendency is that theories and practices for one kind of area may not be applicable for another.
Let’s take for example, planning for a short film versus a a doc feature. It definitely helps build your reputation when you are focused on a specific kind of consultancy, because there are so many, yet specific markets for each of these niches.
Once you do, you’re already one step further to getting the right kind of people looking for your consulting services.
As we’ve covered a lot in the past here on the site, trying to target everyone is rarely a good marketing strategy.
2. Build a Name in the Industry
It’s all about building a name for yourself. A good reputation as the go-to person for the kind of niche you are targeting.
How do you get to this point? There are so many ways and opportunities to get your name known. It starts with who you know.
Think about all the people you’ve worked with (or for) film industry yourself. Keep them in mind, especially if you were able to work well with them and they liked you. They can be your first professional point for referral.
Let them know immediately that you are in the market as a consultant. They may refer you to someone, or spread your name out into their network as well!
Now, don’t forget your family and friends. While this may be a bit obvious, you can still use them to add to your web of connections. They may know someone who may need your consulting services, and may help get you in touch with them! While this may not be a strong connection, they may also be able to provide some leads.
But, don’t just stop there. Continue to network and build your web. Make it a habit to network regularly. You can set up a time frame every day, or commit to going to social events that will help you with your business.
There may be screenings, film festivals in your area, independent short films in the nearby art school. These are ready made potential avenues to meeting new people in your field. It may be good to print out cards and distribute them at these meetings. Or just exchange social media details and get in touch that way.
Don’t forget, even when you have a regular flow of clients, it still helps to gain more contacts. They may not need your consulting services now, but keep them in your contact list and keep stoking the fires every now and then just in-case. An email newsletter is fantastic for this!
3. What’s your Price?
So, eventually this question will come up, as people start to turn to you to get your advice for their films and videos. How do you respond?
There is a fair amount of consideration and computation that goes into it.
How would you price your services? There are generally 4 ways to go about it:
Bill per hour
Many freelance consultants like to bill per hour for services rendered. This may be a bit tricky, because you also have to determine when the hour starts and when it ends. This can be a little ambiguous, especially between those you know well as clients and friends.
You will also need to figure out, the kind of charges you may have when they contact you out of your expected hours, with emails, calls, or quick meet-ups
Charge per project
Another option is to charge per project. This may be a lot easier for the film industry, because films and videos are projects. After all, they have an end date.
You can estimate the costs based on the kind of time package you’re going to offer them, or just have an overall price with multiple tiers of pricing. You’ll need to consider things like:
- Will you always have to be onsite?
- Do they want you there all the time from the initial kick off meeting to the final render?
Get on a retainer
Retainers sometimes become an option, especially if you are contracted to a production house. This keeps you on a set monthly fee for the number of hours you agree to with you client, for example.
Perhaps this production house has regular projects, and would like to get your inputs for topics to add into the scripts, or would like you to come in for the almost-final edits, to add in your professional ending cut, or maybe you’re going to be primarily advising on budgets and funding of future projects.
Negotiate for bonus options
Sometimes, you can also negotiate for bonus options. This can come on top of your hourly, by project or retainer fees. These usually come out from profit-targeted film projects where your ask can be from 5-10% of net profits. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that a lot of films don’t ever show a profit.
4. Share from your own Experience
People pay for a professional consultant to help them make great things better, to be able to go the extra mile. If you have interesting (or unique) personal experience to offer, then this further legitimizes your position as a consultant.
Your professional services are to help them get that extra boost in the film. Perhaps:
- You have a new formula to make set up faster: share it with them.
- Or, when writing scripts, you found an outline that worked really well for you.
These tips may be considered valuable information for the team that you are working with. They want to know how to make things:
- More efficient
If you have a solid track-record of providing information that achieves the above three things, then they’ll trust you and be more likely to desire your services.
You are in a great position to influence people to not make the same mistakes you made, and to improve on what successes you have achieved.
As a consultant, you have the benefit to positively steer the project with the advice you have shared with them. However, a great consultant also takes accountability for their word and works to ensure that they execute on what they say they will.
If you feel very strongly about the project taking some missteps, you are in the position to call it out, and warn the production crew of the missteps as you see them.
Your experience allows you to see that route before it’s travelled, so let them learn from the mistakes you made, and avoid them.
5. Their Success is Your Success!
As a consultant, think that wins are mutual! We’re talking win-win situations here!
When they are able to fulfil their project successfully, it means that you have also been able to successfully do your part. Enable the team and don’t work as a hurdle to their success. Keep objective about your work, and provide advice that would help the project succeed in the best way.
As the supposed outsider with the potential of looking in, you also have a bird’s eye view all around. And, with your experience and expertise, this should help you identify what can be improved on, as you all are going through the project together.
It also helps to keep your figurative door free for anyone who may have questions or doubts about what they are doing. While it should have been clear what their jobs are supposed to be, sometimes one or a few of them may get side tracked, or have the lack of experience to perform in the best way they can.
As their consultant, you can inspire them, as it’s your job to do so, and show them how things can be done in a way that works more efficiently and effectively.
This is an incredibly rewarding career and I wish you luck if this is the avenue you take!
I hope you’ve found our article on how to be a consultant helpful. Are you a working consultant in the film or video industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.