7 Things to Avoid Doing if You Want to Keep Your Videography Clients

When you work with clients on a regular basis, you quickly learn exactly what not to do if you want them to keep coming back.

But, if you're just starting out as a freelance DP, director, editor, whatever, Jay P. Morgan from The Slanted Lens has compiled a list for you: 7 things to avoid doing when you are trying to build up your clientele and keep the clients you already have.

To sum up the video, here's Morgan's list of things that will make you lose clients:

  • Not having any idea what your client wants
  • Not worrying about your client
  • Not being able to solve technical problems
  • Just giving them what they want -- nothing more
  • Not sharing your work on social media
  • Waiting until the last minute to deliver the product
  • Not contacting your client after the project is over

Now, it doesn't matter if you're a wedding videographer or a DP on a major film, all seven of these things are important to avoid doing if you want to build your clientele, and in turn, your career. However, here are some ways to combat the three from the list that are probably the most crucial.

Know what your client wants

Before you begin shooting a project, clearly the first thing you have to ask your client is what they want -- so, you know, you can give it to them. There are a bunch of ways to do this, even if they're not familiar with your area of expertise the way, say, a director would be. Ask them about what kind of mood, tone, or look they're going for. Ask if there's any big idea they're trying to capture. Ask if there's anything that they absolutely want or want to avoid in their video. Create a mood board, go through photographs and/or movies with them to get an idea of what they'd like their project to look like.

Take care of your client on set

Regardless of the role you're playing on set, you must always be thinking about and taking care of your people. If you're a director, make sure the cast is comfortable, informed, and well-fed. DPs, be sure to communicate with the grips. Solo videographers -- well, you're basically taking care of everybody.

Simply put, no one wants to work for/with someone who doesn't seem to care about them. 

Know your tech

Okay, the C500 is awesome and can capture beautiful images and your buddy is lending you his for some insane reason for this project you're shooting for a client, but -- you have no clue how to use it. Should you just wing it? Probably not. Knowing your way around your equipment is crucial in this line work, because even though a lot of it is creative and inspiring and dreamy, it's also incredibly technical.

You don't want to have to halt production because your camera overheated and you have no idea what to do, or something went funky with your timeline in post and you don't know how to fix it.

A great rule of thumb is this: just try to make the whole experience positive. Care about your clients. Know what they want. Be on time. Communicate. You can almost guarantee that if your client's experience working with you is a negative one, you won't get a second chance.     

Your Comment


Not to be mean spirited here, however, if you are an "independent" whatever, and any of this was news or helped you..... then you should be working for someone until you learn the very basics...Business 101 And you absolutely follow up with those wedding clients you just worked for and the producers / directors of that film you just DP'ed.... it's all about networking, referrals, name recognition...etc

February 24, 2016 at 7:43AM, Edited February 24, 7:43AM


Make sure that the person who you're working for knows what they're doing so you don't pick up bad habits and get yourself in trouble on your films.

I knew a guy who would use copyrighted music without permission for some of their films, and then bully people to try and get their way. Be careful who you shadow.

Doing things as an independent can be scary. Try not to get discouraged and if things don't work out, analyze what happened and find a solution, then press on and don't give up if you love what you do. :)

February 24, 2016 at 9:47AM

George Nelson
Director / Cinematographer

Good advice, I'd like to also add that to many clients a film set can be a bewildering and strange place. They often don't know what all these people with strange job titles on the call sheet are doing there and at their expense, and what the hell is a magic arm!

Too much of this unknown and I've noticed that they can often begin to feel a little left out and panicked and they can then sometimes counter this feeling of loss of control by becoming over critical of each shot. It's therefore an important balance to keep the client involved in the process, in why you're making the descisions you're making and how each stepping stone will lead ultimately to the destination you've both agreed upon, without overwhelming them with too many technical details.

Always stay calm and kind. More matriarchal than the stereotypical shouting and domineering image of a director works best I find. The set is your kitchen, your realm and you and your crew know how to cook the best food in it but you're also acting as a generous host in some ways to the clients so keep offering them little morsels to try via a monitor or a set of headphones and ask them how it tastes. Once they see you know what you're doing and you've given them permission to join in they'll usually feel much more relaxed and included and leave you to it.

Aim to not only shoot good footage but also to have a collaborative, creatively fulfilling day where everyone comes away feeling they worked together on making something good and worthwhile and had fun doing it and I guarantee they will look forward to the filming experience with you in the future.

Despite all the hard work and even after all these years I still think a film set is a magical, exciting place and I love sharing that with my clients.

February 24, 2016 at 2:24PM

Paul fern
Film maker

"Just giving them what they want -- nothing more" is a great one.
I've had companies contact me asking whether I can recut already shot footage.
(Of course!)
I always sit down to understand what they want AND what they NEED.
One time the sales manager told me what he wanted.
Then he showed me a video he was not happy with: the makers did exactly what he told me he wanted...
BUT there was a small element missing: a story!

So this is not only about 'underpromise & overdeliver', but also knowing you craft so you can take what the clients say they want and actually make what they need.
Just following orders without thinking about it can easily turn into the *blind leading the project. And that can easily lead to a mediocre or bad result: the client will not say or see it was their own bidding that made it so, because they relied on you to make it great.
Always use your knowledge, experience and understanding to turn what they want into something they need and something that is even better than they dreamt off.

*) blind for 2 reasons:
- they know their own business, but often hardly understand 'our' medium
- everyone has blindspots. A stranger can have the fresh look to fill them in.

February 24, 2016 at 4:09PM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

#5 feels incredibly specific to the freelance photography segment. As someone who deals with B2B (attaching myself / my business to other businesses doing commercial work), ALWAYS ASK PERMISSION to post on social media. If you're in negotiations with a client and you're the executor of the agreement, make sure you discuss a verbal (and preferably written) contract between you and your client so that they know ahead of time as opposed to after-the-fact.

Even on the periphery of commercial advertisement work and indie film work, be very careful not to break contracts that stipulate what you can and can't do regarding your contributions or "sharing" in the work you're a part of. Part of this has to do with respecting copyright laws where in large works or productions they want to maintain a control over the public's perception of their end product and posting behind the scenes or set photos or videos often gets seen as a "leak" because it can infringe upon the copyright laws granted to the intellectual property owner (ie: not you).

February 25, 2016 at 2:56AM, Edited February 25, 2:58AM

cameron bashaw
Project Studio Owner