Video Editing on Freelance: How Much Do They Pay and How to Get Started

Male videographer editing video montage

Today, I want to share my experience working on freelance platforms as a video editor. I’ve come a long way in my freelancing journey, and I want to help more professionals succeed in this market by creating outstanding videos. Let’s start with a little backstory.

My Journey to Freelancing

More than five years ago, I quit my job at one of the largest companies providing filming equipment in Ukraine and decided to dive headfirst into freelancing. The main reason for this decision was the desire to be completely independent and work as much as I wanted. Plus, I’ve always been interested in learning new things, not to mention my passion for all things computer-related. Of course, I must note that the experience of finding my first freelance order was accompanied by some despair and panic.

I couldn’t quite grasp how, among hundreds of freelancers responding to an order, the client would choose me. At that time, besides my experience working in film production as an assistant operator, I had nothing but a few low-budget clips edited in Final Cut 7 and some very unprofessional intros for YouTube channels. Additionally, I wasn’t confident in my English skills, but my life situation pushed me to move forward, leaving no room for retreat.

Starting Out: The Challenges

Spoiler alert: it took me about three months to find my first order, but this should not discourage you from earning with your talent, even if you don’t have the necessary skills right now. At the beginning of my freelance journey, I tried to find orders on various platforms, but since I didn’t have much success on local or smaller platforms, I switched entirely to Upwork and currently work only through this platform. Almost every freelance platform requires registration, which is fairly typical: name, email, password.

Some platforms require you to specify your field of work immediately. More serious platforms require identity verification, which might involve uploading a photo, documents, or having a very short video call with a moderator. But more on that later.

Tip #1: Be Honest and Professional

When filling out your profile on freelance platforms, I highly recommend being absolutely honest. Upload a photo where your face is clearly visible, use your real name, and honestly indicate your proficiency level in various programs. Remember, you’ll be working with real people who pay real money, and no one is likely to want to deal with a “ProVideoEditor2000” with a cat avatar. After filling out the registration form, if the platform doesn’t require manual verification, you can start looking for your first order. At this stage, I recommend paying special attention to completing your profile.

Write a few sentences about yourself, your specializations, the programs you work with, and your internet speed. At this stage, you need to put yourself in the shoes of a client who might want to hire you in the future. Review top profiles on the freelance platform.

Compare them with your profile. Your page should look as professional as those who have already achieved something on this resource, even if you don’t have many professional works yet.

Tip #2: Building a Portfolio

What if I don’t have a portfolio at all? Basic knowledge of working with a particular editing program can be acquired in just a few days. Once you know the basic functions, you can use, for example, to find footage to start practicing. Yes, your working speed will be low, but over time you’ll gain experience and improve your skills.

So, your profile is set up and looks professional. It’s time to look for your first order and start earning online.

Finding Your First Freelance Jobs

All freelance platforms have a search function, some implemented better than others, but the principle is the same. You select the necessary section, in this case, video editing, sort by the latest, and start browsing new orders. From my experience, contractors for low-cost orders are found within a few hours, but there are also urgent orders.

Clients usually indicate urgency in the job title or description. Remember, at this stage, it’s very important to get some hands-on experience. Don’t chase money; your goal should be to grab a few initial orders with a minimal budget. These orders will be a great motivator, and you’ll start understanding how to work with client materials, and your profile will begin to gain traction.

Crafting Effective Cover Letters

But what should you write in a cover letter? How to persuade a client to choose you? Let’s divide the world of freelancers into several categories. First, there are the lowest-paid contractors, mostly from Asia and India. These guys rarely deliver high quality but constantly try to sell themselves.

Since video editing requires some financial investment, at least having a good computer for editing, this group doesn’t significantly affect our orders. The second category is us, those living in third-world countries. This category can afford good equipment, but for some reason, freelancers from post-Soviet countries either quickly leave freelancing or quickly advance through orders and find regular clients.

The third group is the gurus, who also work with regular clients and aren’t shy about setting maximum rates. These are usually those who have already achieved top status on the platform, and clients offer them good orders. From such a ranking, it can be understood that the entry threshold for freelance video editors is quite low.

Of course, if you have good English skills and a good computer capable of handling video work. So, you’ve come across an order you’re confident you can handle. Be sure to study the job description.

Sometimes clients include a phrase you need to repeat in your response. This is done to ensure that you’ve read the assignment carefully. You can also see the budget the client expects.

This budget can be deliberately low or high, but at the beginning of your journey, I recommend undercutting slightly and offering your services at a lower price. Remember, our goal is to gain experience and find our first clients. Here, you can also view the client’s profile, check how many orders they’ve created, accepted, and paid for, and check the rating of your potential client.

I do not recommend working with clients with low ratings, as if a client has deceived a freelancer at least once, there’s a high chance they might do it to you too. After familiarizing yourself with the task, you can start writing your first cover letter.

Writing the Perfect Cover Letter

Now we’ve reached one of the most important points for a beginner freelancer. How you respond to job postings directly affects the number of accepted orders. But first, let’s step away from the freelancer role and look at it from the client’s perspective. Yes, there are quite a few resources online that help write the right cover letters.

But I recommend going the opposite way. Choose any freelance platform. It will suffice to have one with a simplified registration process and register as a client.

After registration, try to create a job in the profile that interests you; in our case, video editing. I recommend doing this to see how other freelancers respond to orders. Honestly, before I did this myself, I couldn’t imagine the kind of nonsense people sometimes write when they want to get an order.

A few times, I had to hire freelancers for some of my own projects. And it was then that I realized how important it is to write a truthful letter and not try to deceive your future employer. Once, I needed to hire a designer to create a logo.

Since I don’t like to wait long, I chose a creative agency from India, who, without even reading the order, promised me a super design and unlimited revisions until I was completely satisfied. Of course, none of the options they presented suited me, and I simply parted ways with them and chose another contractor with only two works in his profile. He immediately told me he’d only been on the platform for a few days but had finished design courses.

This freelancer provided me with a draft that I liked right away. And honestly, I was very pleased with the final result.

Building Your Portfolio

So, what should you write in a cover letter? What works to show if you’re just starting? As I said at the beginning, come up with a scenario, find video fragments on free stock sites, and create your first videos.

Include transitions, simple graphics, which you can also easily find online. Make a few examples. For instance, one Instagram ad, one video about a popular place, a love story, a film trailer, edit a few drone shots with dynamic music, and so on.

For your first job responses, you need just a few such works. But while you’re searching for your first order, you’ll surely have time to create a dozen such videos, thereby advancing your skills and filling your portfolio. I always emphasize that any work with images or videos is very subjective and creative.

Some people like smooth transitions, while others reject them and prefer only classic cuts. I recommend joining a group, finding a forum, or finding someone who can point out specific mistakes and give advice on how to improve what you’ve already done. You can also ask your questions in the comments, and I’ll definitely answer each one.

Understanding the Creative Process

Remember, there is no perfect edit, just as there is no perfect painting. Some will like what you do, and some will say they could have done it a thousand times better. But let’s get back to the cover letter.

You should introduce yourself, write no more than two sentences about who you are and your specialization. Don’t hesitate to mention that you’re a newbie and looking for work to gain experience and establish new contacts. You can use a translator and create a few letter templates.

Mention your working hours and the time zone you’re in. Be sure to indicate the programs you work with. If you have a powerful computer and fast internet, you can also add this in your message to potential clients.

Then estimate the time needed to complete the

project. It’s better to overestimate and deliver earlier than to disappoint the client with missed deadlines. Some clients can have fixed prices for orders, and some can have hourly pay.

Freelancers themselves indicate their hourly rates. On average, a beginner video editor can expect to earn from $5 to $15 per hour. This is the price level that I recommend setting for your services initially.

Final Thoughts

There is no definite answer to the question of how much you can earn. Some people leave freelance platforms after a few months because they don’t see results. Some stop at a few regular clients who provide them with ongoing work, and some grow their profile, increase their rates, and take on more significant projects.

As with any work, success in freelancing depends on your persistence, desire to learn, and willingness to put in the effort. Good luck on your freelancing journey! Remember, every expert was once a beginner, and the first step is always the hardest. Stay persistent, keep learning, and soon you’ll find yourself succeeding in the freelance video editing market.

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