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Business of Freelancing

Lighting diagram from Colorado Gaffer, Tyler Kaschke
Colorado Gaffer Lighting Breakdown

We spend a lot of time discussing grip and lighting techniques here, but if you want to have a successful career you need to have strong soft skills too!

Here are a few things I’ve learned about working as a freelancer for the past 12+ years that I wish I knew sooner.

1️⃣ Producers hate surprises 🙅‍♂️ Send an estimate before every job if you can. Include the terms of your agreement, like kill fees! Outline your labor and equipment as separate line items. Include mileage on the estimate, if applicable.

2️⃣ You need to be technically proficient at your job, but you also need to be cool to work with. I’ve seen talented people get fired for being rude and unpleasant. Simple charisma hack: Try smiling when you talk to people on the phone!

3️⃣ There’s a balance to strike between being easy to work with and advocating for yourself and your crew. Don’t be a door mat, but if it’s within your power to make something easier for the person paying your invoice, that’s usually not a bad thing. Low friction transactions will get more repeat business.

4️⃣ A safety net of at least 3 months living expenses will give you the peace of mind to turn down the next job from the person who undervalues your time or treats you poorly. I know this is a tough one for people just getting started. But knowing you have things covered when things are slow will make your life a lot less stressful when an invoice arrives late!

For this setup we used a LiteMat Spectrum 4 with Snapgrid overhead as the key, two Astera Titans on the Pepe Silvia inspired wall of chaos (that scene with Charlie from It’s Always Sunny) and a third tube as a hair light. Toss a coupla practicals in there and we’ll call it good. 🦝🆗🆒 Fun fact: this was a fake wall built into a conference room! Art department killed it on this one.

What are some other important considerations for working as a freelancer? Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to leave a comment or send a DM! I try to respond to everyone! 🏄‍♂️

Production @ibotta

Director @baffoos

Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with a grip truck based in Lafayette, Colorado serving Boulder, Denver, Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain region at large.

For more about freelancing business tips and lighting breakdowns, follow me on Instagram @colorado_gaffer


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