Contracting in the media or film industry

The media and film industries have a wealth of opportunities for contractors and there are a variety of jobs on offer to independent professionals who want to work in the sector. From entry level positions to senior roles, on screen ‘talent’ to those who stay very much behind the scenes, it is possible to find contracting work that suits a range of skill sets.

Starting out in the media or film industry

For many media contractors, their journey begins with an industry-specific course which will give them a grounding in their chosen careers, such as writing, directing or producing. There are other routes into the business, such as apprenticeships, work experience placements and internships. There are also transferable skills that can be adapted for use in the media, such as accountancy, marketing and PR. 

If you have a dream career in mind, then working up from the bottom can be a great way to get a taste of what your working life could be like, find out how studios work and build a network of contacts which could be invaluable as your career progresses. Anyone who intends to establish a career as a contractor could benefit immeasurably from having a well-rounded understanding of the various roles that are all vital to the success of a production. 

Life on set

Unlike an office job where you might need to learn the ins and outs of how to load the photocopier and where the loos are, working on a film or television set is a completely different experience. Everyone has to start somewhere, so people are usually patient with those who don’t have a lot of experience, but there are some things you can do to ensure that you are making the most of every opportunity and earning yourself a reputation which could help to ensure that you are always in work.

There are things which might seem obvious – turning up on time is a bare minimum, but arriving early will really impress your colleagues and give you an opportunity to learn how to set up. By pitching in wherever possible; you will learn valuable skills and make contacts across a variety of disciplines which will help you to establish yourself as a team player. 

Asking questions will help you to learn the things you need to know about your chosen profession, so if you don’t know something don’t be scared to admit it. Even if it’s something you should know,  it’s better to ask than to make a mistake which could waste everyone’s time and try their patience. Make notes whenever someone shares new information with you and you will soon find that you have to ask less and less and will be able to work independently.

Vital skills

If you are hoping to carve out a career as a technical professional, then you may find it easier to gain relevant experience in a related industry. For example, there are a number of roles for sound engineers in corporate production companies, theatres and recording studios. Having some hands-on experience will give you an advantage over other applicants for roles in the incredibly competitive world of film, television and media, so it’s worth exploring your options in these sectors as you work towards your dream career. 

Similarly, camera operators can find their feet in the world of corporate videos or offer their skills to local musicians and venues which host events such as weddings to build up their portfolio and earn a reputation. 

This strategy can also work for those who are interested in more creative roles. Budding writers can hone their abilities by working in advertising, script writing for corporate videos or volunteering to write for educational charities and other outreach programmes which will give you some on-the-job experience and improve your prospects in your chosen profession.

Finding work

Unlike traditional employment, contractors have a degree of flexibility over when and where they work, but this does mean that most contractors find themselves actively seeking work relatively frequently. Ultimately, the goal is to be sought out by employers and be offered enough work to avoid having to spend too much time chasing down opportunities.

However, it’s important to have an idea of where to look for profitable contracts when you do need to find work, so spend a little time researching your specialism to learn where the best jobs are found. From prop-makers to production managers, script writers to social media strategists, there are industry-specific websites which are used by recruiters who want to attract specialist applicants. 

It’s also worth joining any forums or online groups designed to cater for people in your line of work as people are often able to recommend ways to get a foot in the door, advise on where particular companies are likely to advertise and offer the benefit of their expertise to those who are just starting out. Some online groups organise meet-ups which allow contractors to get together in person, and these can provide some valuable opportunities to meet people in similar lines of work.

Many general recruitment sites do include media, film and television jobs and for those where you can set up alerts, you may find that you get some interesting opportunities delivered directly to your inbox. 

Building up a network of contacts is always important for contractors in any sector as so many opportunities are offered via word of mouth. It is always worth introducing yourself to anyone you meet in a work capacity and have a stash of business cards at all times as you never know when you might come across someone who you want to remember you. 

Social media sites such as LinkedIn can be invaluable as well – by creating a profile and keeping it up to date, you are allowing any interested recruiters or potential colleagues to keep up with your professional achievements and providing a means to contact you should they want to.

Contracting Finances 

As a contractor, it is important to be aware of your responsibilities when it comes to managing your finances. You will need to keep meticulous records in order to have a clear picture of your income and outgoings, and it is important to understand what you can and cannot claim in the way of expenses. 

HM Revenue and Customs do provide specific guidance notes for those who work in the film and television industries because the very nature of the work means that contracts and projects are often short-term and involve specialists at different stages of the production. This means that there is a wealth of information available about how best to organise your finances, although it can sometimes appear impenetrable.

If you are in any doubt as to the best way to manage your money, then seeking expert advice is always for the best as making a mistake on your tax return can be costly and time-consuming to resolve. An experienced accountant, such as Orange Genie Accountancy, will be able to ensure that you are maximising your income and that you don’t get any unwelcome surprises when submitting your tax return. 

For more information on how Orange Genie Accountancy can help you and your business please call us on, 01296 468 185 or email accountancy@orangegenie.com.

Why Orange Genie Accountancy?

Orange Genie Accountancy offers fixed fee accountancy packages to contractors and freelancers. Each client has unlimited access to their own dedicated approachable and friendly accountant. All Orange Genie Accountancy accountants are specialists in the contracting market, so they can give you bespoke, high quality advice.

We will always keep you informed about anything that could affect you and your company. Our relationships with our clients are extremely important to us so we'll be in touch often, whether it be face to face, over the telephone or email.

Our packages start at £75 + VAT a month for an online service. Our most popular package is £120 + VAT a month which provides you with your very own dedicated accountant as well as:

  • Unlimited accountancy support
  • Face to face meetings so we can get to know you and understand your contracting goals
  • Proactive contact
  • Director and employee payroll
  • Annual Return
  • Self-Assessment Return
  • A fully compliant service so you are safe in the knowledge that you are meeting your legal obligations
  • Access to the Freeagent Software, which is updated in real time so you can always see how your business finances are looking

​And much more, includingaccess to wealth management advice, IR35 reviews and pensions planning. 

If you would like to appoint Orange Genie Accountancy as your accountants please either fill out our enquiry form or give one of our friendly expert accountants a call on 01296 468 185 or email accountancy@orangegenie.com

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