How to Become a Videographer or Filmmaker (2023 Edition)

If you have ever wanted to become a videographer or filmmaker, this is the step-by-step guide to show you how to do it.

If you wanted to become a working videographer or filmmaker and get paid for it, what are the steps necessary to do that? As someone who has gone to a 4-year video production program and has does video production full time, I hope I can share a pathway with you that helps get you on the path to making videos and getting paid to do so.

Figure Out A Clear (or Rough) Idea of Where You Want to Go

There are many different pathways that the profession of filmmaker or videographer can take nowadays. When it comes to making money, publishing on Tik Tok full time is a viable choice as is making films in Hollywood. This is going to change depending on the person, but it’s valuable to know where it is you want to go.

  • Do you want to be a short film filmmaker?
  • Do you want to be an online content creator?
  • Do you want to make real estate videos or wedding videos?
  • When people talk about you, what kind of videos do you want to be known for?

Or, maybe you aren’t sure, and that’s okay. You can always specialize and figure out what your focus is later.

However, I do encourage finding 3 people that you admire in the videography/filmmaking world that you want to create content similar to. Whether that is MKBHD, Peter McKinnon, Quentin Tarantino – whoever it is, try to find 3 that you can use as a rough aspirational guide. You can use this as a compass to stay on track.

Action Item

Who are your three aspirational figures in the filmmaking/videography world you want to be more like?

For me, it’s Parker Walbeck, Philip Bloom, and Brandon Li.

Master the Fundamentals Of Your Camera

There is so much to learn in filmmaking from lighting, sound, camera settings, equipment, theory, client relationship, and the list goes on.

At the very least, to begin with, try to get as familiar as you can with your camera of choice so shooting becomes second nature.

If this camera is your iPhone, that is totally fine. Use what you have available to you.

Learn the settings, watch online YouTube tutorials, and do the necessary work so that you can instinctively get the camera out of the bag (or out of your pocket) and begin shooting at the right frame rate, shutter speed, ISO, and aperture at a moment’s notice, while also understanding how each of these things affect the resulting image.

Action Item

Master your video weapon of choice, understanding the ins and outs of every feature.

You can mark this as complete when you are able to get the camera set up in an indoor scenario and an outdoor scenario, properly exposed, for both a slow-motion-focused shot and an interview-focused shot.

Study the Creative & Aesthetics of Film

Once you are comfortable with your camera, it’s time to start making decisions on the different tools and elements at your disposal to better express what you are trying to say through video.

For example, we need to understand the effects of lighting and how it can make a scene dramatic or serene, we need to know how a wide-angle lens makes the audience feels different than a telephoto, we need to know that camera placement plays a huge role in the relationship between the subjects on the screen, and so much more.

To start, begin watching films and videos with a critical eye and begin asking yourself insightful questions and try to find videos that explain that director or videographer’s thought process.

  • Why did they use a singular light on the side instead of filming with just overheads?
  • Why doesn’t that character have a specular (capture light) in their eye?
  • Why was this scene filmed in black and white with a 4×3 aspect ratio?

All of these are intentional decisions that affect the message and play into the aesthetics of the film.

Action Item

Watch videos from your previously chosen 3 videographers and begin to ask why they do certain things in their videos and try to find the answers.

You may observe, for example, that Parker Walbeck heavily prefers using a gimbal or Glidecam over stationary tripod shots for his travel films. Why is that? He has stated, in behind-the-scenes videos, he likes the extra movement and immersion that even slight movement brings to the shot, which also allows people to feel like they are walking through the space with him.

Build a Portfolio of Work that Attracts More of That Same Work

Now that you feel comfortable with your camera and have begun to adventure into the intentional aesthetics of filmmaking, it’s time to wrap your skillsets into making videos, similar to the types of videos that you want to get paid for or get involved in.

For example, if you want to shoot real estate videos, build a portfolio of work around real estate.

If you want to be a wedding filmmaker, shoot weddings. If you want to be a short film creator, make short films.

Put simply, the type of work that is in your portfolio is the type of work you will likely land as a result of it getting shared around. Inevitably, especially early on as you start your journey, you’ll be greeted with a number of different opportunities because you are a videographer.

In most cases, it’s a good idea to take these early on, especially if you are not 100% dialed in on a niche yet, because you can use the videos as practice and you may even find you like that type of work more.

One common question at this stage is: Where do I find work?

Since you don’t have a body of work to share to convince anyone of your skills yet, it can be challenging to land a paying gig.

Two great options you have to get started are to:

  • (1) offer a free video in exchange for being able to use it in your reel or
  • (2) film a personal project, that is similar to the type of work you want.

You can ask a realtor if you can film their next home for free or film your own home or even find a friend’s home to get started in that niche.

In Parker Walbeck’s course Full Time Filmmaker, he is a big advocate of what he calls the “free to fee” model, in which you provide the first video for free with the expectation that future videos would cost $X amount. This is a powerful way to easily land early video gigs, with low pressure on you, but with also opportunity for future work.

Action Item

Shoot a portfolio item focused on the type of video you want to get paid for or involved in. Do this as many times as you need to and share it on your relevant social media platforms. An easy way to find out if your work is worth charging for is when you start getting inquiries on how much it costs to do a video for them.

Pro tip: when doing the free video for a client, always tell them the price the video would have been if it had not been a portfolio item. This way, they internalize the value and if others ask how much you charged them, you can politely ask them to share that number with the people who ask.

Find Your Target Monthly Revenue Goal and Work Towards It

The path to making video production a full time or even a side hustle is one that is incredibly rewarding but also full of its own challenges. And one thing that many I have seen struggle with is making the kind of money they need to make.

The best way I have been coached on doing this is figuring out what money you hope to make in a year.

For easy numbers, let’s say you want to make $60,000 as a videographer in a year. That means, to reach this goal, you need to pull in $5000 per month. And, for this example, let’s say your average video engagement is $1000 and, for every 3 people you book meetings with, you are able to move forward and work with 1 of them.

So, to make $60,000 in one year, you need to book roughly 15 meetings to convert into landing 5 $1000 video jobs every month. Or, if your numbers were different and your average video engagement was $5000, you could just book 1 video per month.

The main takeaway here is this – begin to be intentional with what your target yearly goal is for your video revenue and break it down into what your monthly goal is. Then, you can find the sweet spot of the number of projects you need to have per month. This can also help provide useful guidance when it comes to adjusting your rates.

Do you find making 5 $1000 videos per month better, 2 $25000 videos better, or 1 $5000 video better? Obviously, this will depend on what you can actually secure and is also based on the $60,000 figure from above.

Your goals may start lower near the $20,000 or $30,000 and that’s totally fine. It’s your goal, anyway, not someone else’s.

Also, I just used the numbers above purely for example, though in practice it can look very similar. I did want to say that I am aware of the different expenses and taxes associated and those would need to be factored in as well, but this was more for illustrating a general idea.

Action Item

Figure out your target revenue goal for the year and break it down into months. Come up with a plan to reach that goal by identifying how many video projects you will aim to land and at what cost per video.

Wrapping Up With Becoming a Videographer and Next Steps

I have worked hard to try to condense years of experience as a full time videographer into a sequence of steps you can take to eventually get to the full time mark. Of course, there is a lot more to it then just what I’ve written, though I truly believe the core steps I have outlined above are essential and necessary to get there.

So what now?

  • If you are on a budget and at the early stages of filmmaking and are not sure if this is something you want to pursue, use the guide above and try to research the topics I have covered. There are many free resources that dig into these concepts on different layers and for different niches but may require some digging and a bit of trial and error.
  • If you are ready to invest in a program to become a full time videographer or filmmaker, then there is no better program to do that then Full Time Filmmaker. As someone who graduated from a 4-year Bachelor’s Program in Video Production, I will say that Full Time Filmmaker better honed my skills to make money than any of the courses I took in college.

If you want to sign up for Full Time Filmmaker, you can click the button below to learn more about their program. If you are still uncertain but want to learn more (free) tips that will help set you up for success as a videographer, watch this free webinar from the Full Time Filmmaker team by clicking here.

I want to end by saying that you can become a working videographer or filmmaker without spending a dime. YouTube is a great free resource that I personally use all the time to pick up new tricks and skills and you can always try to find a successful videographer to learn from, too. But, if you want to shortcut your path to filmmaking success, then a course like Full Time Filmmaker will help you do just that.

I hope this was helpful for you and if you have any questions about filmmaking, videography, or just want to drop a note, feel free to reach out to me here.

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