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Craig "Burnie" Burns


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Ill be the first to admit that I am spoiled in this business. For the last many years Ive sat around waiting for people to call me for work. The pattern develops like this


When Im busy I am afraid to call, because I dont think I can handle any more work. When the work isnt exactly flowing in I dont want to call, because I think I will sound desperate to my clients. But theres a bit of trouble with this philosophy. It only ensures that I dont communicate with the people who hire me.


Let me acknowledge that we are an industry of specialists. We didnt get into this business to be salespeople, or conduct marketing campaigns (at least for ourselves). We are very quick to get complacent with our existing clients and develop an unfounded belief that they will always have work for us and will always call us. I want to believe this, but that would be lying to myself!


Fact is we are in a very fluid business.


Production companies come and go, people move around, client needs are always being dictated by new marketing trends. All of this is coupled with a very robust stream of new people entering the workforce every day who dont care how they achieve the their goal in achieving market share. That makes it even more important for us as the professional media people we are to stay in communication not just with our existing base but also to reach out to potential new clients.


Think of what the people that hire you have to do.


In my case that means production companies (that hire me). First, they must call their potential clients and offer their services. Then develop a level of personal trust with the people they deal with at that company. Staying in contact with those people ensures that they are in the loop concerning upcoming new projects. They are also positioned to advise their clients when need be on projects they are considering. All the time they are building trust and LETTING THE CLIENT KNOW THEY WANT THEIR BUSINESS!


Let me ask you this


When is the last time you called an existing client to tell them directly that you appreciate their business? You should.


And consider these questions


If you lost two of your clients to other people, how would it affect your income?

If your main contact left the production company, would you be entrenched enough in that company to retain its business?

Would the person who left hire you over the people they already hire at the new company they went to?

Do you think the new people entering the workforce are not going to call your clients and offer their services?

In my business as a grip and lighting provider, I am requested to provide crew with my rentals. If one of my regular crew members has just called or texted me looking for work they stand a very good chance of being the next person I will hire.


If I have to wait for a call back from someone the clock ticks by very slowly. I need to hear back about that persons availability pronto. (Or as close to pronto possible.) I will do whatever it takes to staff the job quickly, because that takes one more thing off my plate in servicing the job.


For that reason I encourage the guys I work with to stay in contact with me at least once a week and let me know their schedules. That alone gets them more work. The people I have to wait for go to the bottom of the list. (In this case, if your phones not ringing, its me.)


The last thing I will say is obvious. It is much easier to retain a client than find a new client. So why not nurture the existing relationships? Might be a good time to call and say howdy!



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It's been interesting for me over the last few years as I've returned to study. I soon found out that the study was all encompassing and that work wasn't going to happen as it normally did and there are only so many times you can decline before you fall off the radar - it took about 4 months until calls stopped. Except out of the blue 2 years in I got a cold call from an unknown to me producer offering me 9 months work in a HoD position.


Obviously it was quite gratifying, (or more likely an indication that they were scratching around in the leftovers!), once again I had to decline.


But what was interesting was following the latent and passive trail of breadcrumbs I must have left behind - from what I can figure out it was a combination of working along side another producer in a much more limited capacity (just some local grunt work) and some overheard conversation, or discussion I wasn't a party to that maybe led him to be aware of my other skills ... and so on.


Who knows ... I would have asked but the guy seemed under the gun.


Anyways, just goes to show, your presence among your peers has an echo.


But to answer your question directly, I prefer to make the call - not afraid to be known to be in the hunt. You can try to frame it like 'I really enjoy working for you, and would prefer you over other employers' - leaving it open that there are indeed other employers actually ringing :)


To keep your intentions above board make sure your first calls are to the employers that you actually do enjoy working for more.

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Great post.


I had a client I did a "low-rate" favor job for on the agreement that their next job was mine. I didn't hear from them for 2 years, and on a whim, I emailed, and they had just lost their freelancer, were desperate for someone, and had forgotten about me. I booked that job, and five figures worth of work through them in the next six months.


Keeping in touch doesn't need to be awful. I use "contactually" to remind me to email 5 old clients every day. I just say hello, talk about what I'm working on, and ask about what they are working on. That's it. But it keeps us on each others radar, and sometimes it leads to work. Sometimes it doesn't, that's OK too. Rapportive is another great tool, as soon as you email someone it gives you all their social links (linedin, twitter, facebook, etc.) so you can connect and stay on the radar that way.


The way the human brain works is you are always going to forget people, and reminding folks you exist isn't a bad thing at all.


And, of course, the best way to keep clients is to be great at your job!

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"My" DOP calls me everyday, even when he's overseas on a shoot. I never have to call him, I know he'll be calling any minute now. I'm sure he'll call tomorrow and the next day. Apparently I'm stuck with him now.



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This can certainly be a humbling profession. Feast or famine for me for sure. Thoughts on how to approach new potential clients (directos, producers, prod companies) in your direct market? Clients outside of your current market? Still learning the best ways to expand my network. Thanks for your wisdom.

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I hate to make calls. However, the fact is people who are good at sales and may with even half of your talent, will get more business than you. We are human beings after all, not just robots deciding based on data. When I am in the set or before that in preproduction, I like to get involved as if it is my project. Once the client is very happy, they tend to remember us for a longer time. However, they do lose our data. for eg. I once got soaked and lost my phone. So I lost all the data of the freelancers who used to assist me in shoots. If they don't call/text/email me, then I have no way of connecting with them. So bottomline is one needs to keep in touch with the clients on a periodic basis.

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