Running your Business
Whatever the industry, it is important for any freelancer to have the right tools.The basics are fairly simple and depending on your needs you can either add or subtract as required:
- Computer/laptop/tablet to work on to enable you to answer emails, send invoices, use the internet and social media should you choose for marketing and information finding. If you are required to supply a computer/laptop/tablet to perform your job you may be offered an allowance for the use of this piece of equipment.
- Wifi – either your own or access to it. We live in an increasingly connected world via many mediums and so wifi is an essential part of this connection.
- Anti virus protection for your technical equipment. This is highly recommended as protecting your tech from viruses and potential hacks is key to keeping you safe and your work protected.
- Backup – Hard drive or iCloud storage will give the safety and comfort knowing that your work is safe and accessible.
- Phone or mobile contact. However you work as a freelancer you need to be contactable.
- Email address that is recognisable by your name or business name. Keep it simple.
- Calendar – that links to your phone and other tech is a must. That way your information and schedule is accessible wherever you are. Microsoft Teams and Google both have online calendars. However, there are other options so it’s worth taking a look to see what suits you best. Time tree is a good app if you want to connect it with your family’s schedule for instance.
- Microsoft office or Google Suite are great options for working on documents of all different kinds. They offer easy share and collaboration options also.
- Bookkeeping software is great for keeping your finances in order and your invoices in check. There are loads to choose from so ask colleagues, friends or your accountant which one they would recommend. Examples include; Wave, Sage and Quickbooks.
- Expenses apps are great options to have on your phone also. They can be as basic as simply taking a photo of your receipt and sending it to your email for you to file. Or more sophisticated ones that log and file your receipts as you need them per project. It’s worth researching and asking colleagues which ones they use for reference.
How you get paid
You will be paid in different ways depending on your role. For example, a researcher on a factual series with a 20-week fixed-term contract would likely get paid monthly through the company’s payroll. Whereas, a self-employed camera operator doing a 2-day shoot would likely invoice on completion of the work and be paid in accordance with the company’s terms and conditions (often 30 days after receipt of invoice or weekly if working on a longer term production). The terms of payment should be agreed in advance and outlined in a contract/terms of employment.
An invoice outlines the exact services provided, the service charge, the date the work was completed, your payment details, and payment terms i.e. the date the payment is due. The standard deadline is 30 days unless you have a contract outlining a different payment schedule.
It should also incorporate the individual or company name (if limited company), registered address and VAT number and if not VAT registered, the individual (PPS) or company tax registration number. Finally, if any expenses have been incurred in the performance of that service these expenses should be itemised and the appropriate VAT rate applied to these and charged to the client.
When you’re self-employed, you may not be eligible for sick pay, so it is important to consider your insurance options seriously.
Options are plentiful and it is easy to get lost in the mix. Here are some helpful pointers to consider when looking at insurance:
- Can you afford to not be paid if off sick? Income Protection Insurance is a potential option for freelancers that pays part of your lost income if you’re unable to work because of a disability, caused by illness or injury. It can help pay the bills so you can focus on getting better. Be sure to double check the small print on all Income Protection Insurance policies to ensure that they fit your needs properly. When do they pay out? How much? What do they pay out for?
- Life insurance helps to protect your family financially if you aren’t around anymore. If the worst were to happen or if you got seriously ill, your loved ones get a cash payment they can use to cover the likes of funeral costs, outgoings, bills or credit card debt.
- Public liability insurance for film and TV industry workers protects you if you are blamed for injury to a person or damage to their belongings.
- If you use a car to work, Car Insurance that gives you Business Use cover is essential. Gives you peace of mind and extra cover should you be transporting equipment etc.
- Professional indemnity insurance covers your reputation. As a freelancer, you will no doubt have clients and contracts that are important to your business. If one of them makes a complaint against your work, a professional indemnity policy will pay for your legal fees, compensation and damages.
- Equipment insurance for technical equipment such as talkback systems, cameras, VR sets and graphic tablets. You can protect your essential film production equipment in this way. You can also adapt your cover for extra job roles, contract requirements or upcoming projects.
- Employers’ liability insurance. If you are a small business with even just one employee, then Employers’ Liability insurance is a legal requirement. This can cover any compensation pay-outs arising from a claim against your business from an employee.
- Annual or short-term cover. Next project only lasting a few days? Just need insurance for a month? Short term insurance means you can tailor the protection for your project. Public liability insurance can be bought for just one day, if that’s all you need it for.
- Worldwide cover. Be careful to ensure that the insurance policies you buy cover you for the countries that you are working in. World wide cover is an option but check the small print to ensure you are covered for the exact country or countries you are working in.
Pricing your Services
Pricing your work is one of the more challenging aspects of being a freelancer. Factors that affect your rate will include what others typically charge for a job (the going rate) and what you need to live on. First, you need to understand how the money works.
How does a freelancer earn money?
As a freelancer you will likely have a number of different work contracts over the course of any year. How many will depend on the type of work you do and the size and scale of the projects you are involved with.
You should agree payment terms with your employer in advance of starting the job. This helps you plan your personal budget accordingly. Managing your money between jobs will be important. There may be gaps so you should ensure you have enough reserves to cover these periods.
How much do I need to live on?
Taking ownership of your personal finances and knowing how much you really need to live on will allow you to work out how much you need to earn each year. A good starting place is a spreadsheet which totals this up. Here is a link to a budget spreadsheet.
Once you know how much you have going out each week or month you can add up all your expenditure for the year. This tells you how much you need to earn, after tax, to live the life you want to lead.
It’s quite common when you are starting out that you do other non-industry work alongside your screen sector work – this work can provide you with valuable soft skills relevant to the sector in addition to much-needed income.
Keeping your Finances organised handy tips:
- Separate your personal banking from business banking. In this way you can easily identify your income and any expenses you may have incurred.
- Download an app that will take photos of your receipts and log them with the relevant details for each project you work on. That way if you lose the receipts you have a back up. There are loads out there so shop around to find one that suits you best.
- Having a separate business savings account means you can put aside any tax liability you have accrued in the year.
- Use your budget planner to figure out what wage to pay yourself from your business account to your personal account. That way, you have clarity over what you can spend and when.
- Freelance work can be sporadic. So if you can build an emergency fund to cover you for those lean periods and/or any unexpected costs such as a boiler or car breaking down.
As a rule of thumb, if you can save up three to six months of living expenses it will give you a cushion to fall back on that will help ease the financial pressure during lean times.
What do others charge?
Currently there is no easy answer to this question as different genres and sectors within screen pay differing amounts for the same job title. For example: a production coordinator in drama will be paid a different rate to a production coordinator in factual. This will be due to the different amount of skill and experience needed to perform those roles and the differing budgets. Likewise, a concept artist with ten years’ experience in animation might be paid double what a junior concept artist is .
It’s not easy to know what to charge when you are meeting a new employer or client about a new project. Don’t be afraid to ask advice from others working in a similar role and to negotiate.
The SPI/SIPTU agreement is useful for anyone working in the Film & TV drama industry as it has a list of crew rates for different budget levels.
National Minimum Wage
Irrespective of the differences paid for roles, Ireland does have a National Minimum Wage which details the minimum hourly wage a worker should receive.
Dignity at Work
Bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour that undermines your right to dignity at work. It usually takes place over a period of time. It can be done by one or more persons and it is aimed at an individual or a group to make them feel inferior to other people. Bullying can be direct or indirect, and can include verbal, physical or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying which is carried out online, through mobile phones, social networking sites, email or texts.
The terms bullying and harassment are different. A behaviour can be considered to be either bullying or harassment but not both. You can get more information about harassment at work through the Citizen’s Information website.
Bullying can take many different forms such as:
- Social exclusion and isolation
- Verbal abuse and insults
- Being treated less favourably than colleagues in similar roles
- Belittling a person’s opinion
- Spreading malicious rumours, gossip or innuendo
- Intrusion – pestering, spying or stalking
- Intimidation and aggressive interactions
- Excessive monitoring of work
- Withholding information needed for the person to perform their job properly
- Repeatedly manipulating a person’s job contents and targets
- Blaming a person for things beyond their control
- Use of aggressive or obscene language
- Other menacing behaviour
An isolated incident of the above behaviour is not considered to be bullying.
Bullying can happen at all levels within an organisation and can be conducted by customers, clients and business contacts. A summary of your employer’s anti-bullying policy should be displayed prominently within the workplace.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) works to ensure that workplace bullying is not tolerated and it provides information and advice on bullying. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) offers a mediation service to help resolve issues informally before a formal process is initiated.
There are 9 grounds for discrimination, including:
- Gender: this means man, woman or transgender
- Civil status: includes single, married, separated, divorced, widowed people, civil partners and former civil partners
- Family status: this refers to the parent of a person under 18 years or the resident primary carer or parent of a person with a disability
- Sexual orientation: includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual
- Religion: means religious belief, background, outlook or none
- Age: this does not apply to a person aged under 16
- Disability: includes people with physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive or emotional disabilities and a range of medical conditions
- Race: includes race, skin colour, nationality or ethnic origin
- Membership of the Traveller community
Harassment based on any of the above 9 grounds is a form of discrimination in relation to conditions of employment. Some examples could include making jokes or derogatory comments. The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 define harassment as “unwanted conduct” which is related to any of the 9 discriminatory grounds above.
Sexual harassment is any form of “unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature”. Some examples include unwanted physical contact or unwelcome propositions.
What is ‘unwanted conduct’?
In both cases, it is defined as conduct which “has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person” and it is prohibited under the Acts.
The “unwanted conduct” includes:
- Spoken words
- Gestures – including offensive gestures or facial expressions
- Production and display of written words, pictures and other material (unwelcome emails or other offensive material).
Harassment and sexual harassment can be by:
- A fellow worker
- Your boss
- Someone in a superior position
- A client
- A customer
- Any other business contact
Harassment can take place at work or on a training course, on a work trip, at a work social event or any other occasion connected with your job.
It may be targeted at one employee or a group of employees and it may consist of a single incident or repeated inappropriate behaviour. Useful links are: