How to Decide if You Should Take a Freelancing Gig in the Entertainment Industry

This article is a guest contribution from Savannah Marie, public relations specialist and founder of Mixios.com

deciding on a freelance gig

Bruno Mars wasn’t paid for his Super Bowl performance, but the exposure made it well worth it

In the arts and entertainment industry, it’s common for people to work as freelancers. Musicians, actors and videographers often work on a freelance basis, especially when they’re first starting out.

Freelancing can really be a great thing — you get to work with new and interesting people and plan your own schedule.

However, freelancers don’t always have the same protection full-time employees do, meaning it’s easier for contractors to take advantage of them. You don’t necessarily want to accept every freelancing gig you’re offered. Accepting compensation well below what you’re worth isn’t just bad for you — it’s bad for everyone in the industry because you’re telling a contractor it’s OK to pay that low.

Here are some things you need to consider before you say yes to a freelancing gig.

Show Me The Money (Please)

How much you’ll earn is the first factor you need to take into consideration. If a gig pays really well, you should almost always take it. Exceptions would be if it involves dangerous, unethical or illegal activity. Even if you may not be doing exactly the kind of work you want, you still need to pay the bills.

For example, if you’re a singer you’d probably prefer to sing in a theater, concert hall or similar venue. In reality, you probably need to take gigs at churches, weddings and bars to make ends meet. These venues may not be ideal, but they will help make ends meet.

Build Your Experience 

Even if a gig doesn’t pay incredibly well, in some instances it may be worth taking. Especially when you’re just starting out, it’s vital to learn more about the business. Being a freelancer in the entertainment industry can be stressful, and it can take some time to adjust to the lifestyle. Whether you’re a sound engineer or a pianist, doing gigs can cause a lot of anxiety, and you have to know how to perform under pressure.

Performing itself is an art form, and the more you do it the better you’ll get. For artists, there’s a big difference between performing in your room and being in front of an audience. If you’re a videographer, there are different kinds of equipment you may have to use, and you have to set up in a variety of ways depending on what you’re filming. You’ll want to become acclimated to indoor and outdoor venues in a wide variety of situations.

In many instances, the right kind of experience is just as important as formal education in honing your skills. In fact, the whole premise of unpaid internships is you’re “paid” with knowledge of the industry rather than actual money.

I’m not suggesting you should work totally for free; rather that you should consider gigs that help your craft even if they don’t pay as much.

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Gaining The Right Kind of Exposure

Another reason you may consider a gig is if it will help you gain exposure. For example, if you’re a composer, writing a jingle for an organic gardening commercial would enable more people to hear your work. While working on the project, you might also come in contact with public relations specialists and producers who could help you get more gigs in the future.

Like many industries, success in entertainment depends on networking effectively. Who you know is often more important than how good you are, what training you have or what your past experiences are. Sometimes the people you meet at a gig could help you get many more.

Even famous entertainers sometimes do gigs just for the exposure. Although the initial gig may not pay much, the experience could pay for itself many times over. Bruno Mars did not receive any money for his Super Bowl performance, but he felt the publicity was enough compensation.

What do you think is most important when you’re deciding whether to take a gig? What kinds of gigs would you turn down?

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.

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