How to Start a Career in Video Editing

Success as an independent video-editor isn't something you can pull off overnight, but it certainly isn't rocket science either. You have to be willing and disciplined enough to learn the tools of the trade and refine your unique talents. Once you do that, the rest is putting yourself out there and getting to work.

Educational options

Your best bet is not to be just an editor, but a post-production specialist. Learn it all. Adobe After Affects, Final Cut Pro, Avid, Photoshop, and Pro Tools to name a few. The best way to do this would be to get a post-production vocational certification from a local college. Depending on the school's requirements, you could get out of there in just a few months.

Getting a film degree is a great way to learn the ins and outs of the industry, who knows, you may even find you have talents in other aspects of production. You'll leave with a degree that makes marketing yourself that much easier.

Get Apple certified if you're able. Apple offers training and certifications in Final Cut Pro. You can sign up on their website, this is something you may want to consider doing even if you have a film degree. The training is excellent, it's focused in what you want to specialize in and will set you apart from the competition.

Teach yourself. There's no law that says you need a degree of any kind to be a video-editor. You could devour every editing tutorial out there but the sad fact is clients will choose someone certified over you and they'll pay them more than you. Websites like YouTube and Creative Cow are amazing tools for continuing your education in post-production. Learn new tricks, new programs, new updates from these sources, after you've mastered the basics from a school or directly from Apple and received that fancy certificate to hang in your cave.

Your marketing materials

  • A demo reel- This is something that is simple to put together in an educational environment. With all those film students near by you'll have plenty of footage to choose from when piecing together your reel. You can also purchase royalty free videos online and some sites even have free footage available for download.
  • Personal website- 'If they can't even get a website up, how will they get my video together?' That's what people are going to be saying about you if you don't get your own website. Don't think you can get away with just an online reel hosted by Vimeo, that screams amateur. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't put your reel on sites like this, you should! As many as humanly possible and they should all link back to your actual website which you can put together through wordpress. What should be on this site? An about you section, contact information, your reel, a list of services, previous clients or a resume and some reviews of your work if possible… you get the idea.
  • Business cards- Please don't order anything with film reels or scissors on it, I beg you. You want to stand out from the rest, show how creative you are. If you have to, pay premium prices and get a graphic designer on it. It's worth the investment. The people you’re handing cards out to can't see your reel. They need to get a sense of what your capable of and be compelled to go out of their way to look up your reel. Cards are important. Don't underestimate them.

Business and clients

You could rent an office, or simply set up shop in your own home (highly recommended). Eventually you may want to rent a small space to work out of and meet with clients. But when you're just starting out, work from home, in your bathrobe, and hold your meetings at Starbucks.

Offer your services on a freelance basis, to local videographers, event coordinators and marketing firms. Even if they have editors on staff, there will be sick days, vacation days, and an overflow of work from time to time. Let these people know you're out there.

You'll probably do a ton of events at first. There's never a shortage of weddings, birthdays and concerts with footage that begs to be cleaned up. Start promoting yourself to local businesses: clothing stores, doctor's offices, and law firms. They all need commercials and maybe even some training videos for their staff. Go to the gyms in your area, personal trainers and yoga instructors may be interested in making their own videos. Think about musicians, actors, any sort of performance artists trying to launch their careers; these people need to make their own reels. 

The types of clients you'll get will vary. Many people think they'll jump out of school and start editing Michael Bay films because they’re so brilliant, you won't. Don’t feel bad, it’s doubtful Michael Bay’s own kid would be trusted to edit Michael Bay films fresh out of school. Succeeding in this business takes a lot of creativity, quality service, and some time paying your dues. Keep putting yourself out there, keep learning, and you'll make it as far as you allow yourself to.


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