Building a location independent business has been the trend in some circles the past few years. Take your business to a beach in Southeast Asia and sip Mai Thais while you work. Sounds wonderful, right? Well the sand and sun aren’t ideal for video editing but it is possible to run a video editing business from nearly anywhere. Sunscreen is optional.
This post will walk you through why one would choose to become location independent and how and what it takes to become a location independent editor. By the end you will be able to decide if you were meant for the traditional edit bay or editing in cafés.
What is does it mean to be Location Independent?
To be location independent means that you do not work in a traditional office. Your office can be anywhere with Internet access where you can actually get your work done. And let’s face it, none of us are actually editing from a beach chair.
Mobility is the key. You can work from your home, a café or an airplane. Where and when you edit is up to you. Having the ability to work from anywhere is the goal.
There are two aspects to location independence – equipment and clients.
Today large computers, tape decks, input/output hardware devices, mixers and bulky speakers aren’t required to be a professional video editor. Some jobs still require this type of equipment but not nearly as many as 5 or 10 years ago. This section will cover what equipment you need to be location independent. Each editor’s equipment will vary but this is the essential list.
You can’t fly with an iMac in your suitcase or lug a Mac Pro around everywhere you go. The solution is a laptop. It really depends on the amount of “heavy editing” you do but most MacBook Pros should be able to handle the rigors of most editing projects. I wouldn’t try to edit Star Wars VIII on one but over the past three years of my location independence I have never felt handicapped using one for any of my projects.
Two drawbacks are the amount of screen real estate you have to work with and the time it takes to output, render or export. But it comes with the location independence territory.
Your laptop needs to come fully loaded with all of your software. One requirement of most of the subscription-based software like Adobe Creative Cloud is that you have to connect to the Internet every 30 days. This is so the software can check in with the parent company to validate your license. This leads us into the next equipment requirement.
We need the web. Even if it’s just for funny cat videos to keep us entertained during renders. When you are editing outside your home base where you likely have Internet you have two main options.
First is to use Wi-Fi at local spots like coffee shops, restaurants and co-working spaces. The speed will vary based on where you are. I wouldn’t use a coffee shop to upload a 250GB master copy of a feature but popping a 75MB .mp4 onto Screenlight is completely realistic.
Your other Internet option is to get a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. In the US this will run you approximately $100-200 USD for the hardware and $50 USD a month for 5GB of data. Overseas the prices vary. For example in Vietnam you can rent a hotspot with unlimited data for $5-10 USD a day.
You always need a trusty pair of headphones. Noise cancellation is a plus, especially if you plan on working in noisy environments.
External Hard Drive(s)
Having 2-3 external hard drives that are a couple terabytes each is a must have if you plan on editing from anywhere. These are ideally lightweight and don’t require an external power source. The ones I use do require a power source but they fit my location independent work style.
Finding the work is by far the most difficult part of being location jndependent. You must have flexible clients and/or clients that don’t require in-person interaction.
Freelance websites like Upwork.com, Freelancer.com and Outsource.com are a natural place to start looking for location independent work. They can be a mixed proposition though. It’s easy to get lost in endless job posts and while the opportunities seem plentiful they tend to be a race to the bottom in terms of rates. Websites like 90seconds.tv, SmartShoot.com and VideoBrewery.com are more video-focused than the previous examples and tend of offer higher rates but they generally face the same problems.
Companies and individuals looking to hire through these platforms have a tendency of being price sensitive. Your worth will dramatically be undervalued on large, open markets like these are. When you are competing with a global market you must be able to convince those looking to hire why they should pay you versus another editor that will accept pennies on the dollar. It’s tough when you’re a professional going against amateurs in the same marketplace.
Your Professional Network
I’ve found using your professional network with companies you already have a relationship with is much more profitable than relying on the aforementioned websites. A professional network is not built overnight but over the course of many projects over many years. But it’s a million times more valuable than any job posting.
Connecting locally and then specializing and understanding your unique value proposition will help you to leverage the good work you’ve done in the past. This will allow you to negotiate remote work agreements and protect you from some of the price competition with the online marketplaces. It might take some time before you can work remotely 100% of the time. Start with some “work-cations” and build trust from there until you can eventually move all of your work off-site. At this point it shouldn’t matter if you’re down the street or across an ocean.
No matter who your client is with location independent work, communication is paramount. You must work extra hard to build trust with these clients. You have to be able to prove that the entire post production process will be easier for them if they go with you rather than the person right next door.
To do this you must have flawless and effective communications. Aim to have them be short, precise and timely. With every project the expectations should be clear and decided upon early. Use frequent and confident progress updates throughout a project. Ask for feedback and then act on it.
Click here to read more about building a new client’s trust, maintaining trust during a project, and how a well managed process will keep clients coming back for more.
Take a deep look inside and ask if it’s for you
Not working in a traditional office 40 hours a week isn’t for everyone. Working in a location independent way takes all the challenges associated with freelancing and amps them up to 11. It makes sense to ask yourself some big questions and do some reflecting.
How much do you enjoy being around coworkers? Does being near other editors help you or keep you motivated? Can you work as hard or as efficiently on your own? Will you trade off income for flexibility? Are you self-disciplined enough to keep up your productivity when no one is looking? Do you have it in you or have the want to manage clients and run a business since you won’t be spending all your time editing?
There’s good news though. You don’t have to jump right in. If you are a freelancer you can line up a job and take a work-cation and see if it’s the right fit. If you’re not a freelancer you can push to make arrangements with your employer to give it a test run.
From my own personal experience I love the idea of being able to edit from anywhere even if it’s from my basement or kitchen table. The option to get up, pack my gear and take a long weekend out of town while still being able to get my work done makes it all worth it.