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The Freelancer’s Guide To Landing A Full-Time Job
If you’ve been working freelance most of your career, you may not expect some of the differences between the worlds of full-time and freelance. Here is how to make the transition to a full-time job in the entertainment industry.

So you want to get a full-time job, huh?

What, is working 12+ hour days on set just not doing it for you anymore? Are you tired of not knowing when your next gig is coming and wondering if you’ll ever be able to take a real vacation?

Or maybe you’re adulting now and having a family and benefits are a new thing you get to worry about.


There are a ton of reasons to pursue the full-time route and there are definitely some cool opportunities now becoming available as the industry changes and more and more companies are investing in building rockstar in-house teams – rather than depending on external resources.

If you’ve been working freelance most of your career, you may not expect some of the differences between the worlds of full-time and freelance.

As a professional recruiter, I have helped many film and media professionals at some of the best companies in LA. As a former HR professional, I’ve seen some of the best and worst when it comes to job applicants and interviewing.

I’m going to help you navigate the nuances of how to land a full-time job that you may not have previously considered. 

Just don’t forget about me when you hit it big time, kay?

So where do I find one of these full-time jobs?

You’re probably used to learning about and landing opportunities from word-of-mouth and the existing network you built.

With full-time, you’ll be swimming in different circles than you’re used to.

Because full-time roles are seen as more of a long-term investment as opposed to gig work, there is typically a longer vetting process that starts with a formal application.

Usually, companies will recruit through a combination of posting opportunities on job boards and actively recruiting or ‘head-hunting’ their target candidates. Here in 2020, the majority of recruiting is done on LinkedIn.

Create a LinkedIn Profile

If you’re still resisting LinkedIn, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Because LinkedIn has a high-quality pool of candidates, it attracts the best companies to post their jobs, so you will find more full-time production opportunities on LinkedIn than anywhere else. In addition, if you take the time to complete and fill out your profile thoroughly with the right keywords, you can get actively recruited and messaged job opportunities. Free jobs. Literally. Come on!

You should also keep an eye on job boards (Indeed and EntertainmentCareers.net are good choices) as well as Facebook groups.

And of course, you should also tell everyone in your network that you’re looking for full-time jobs. If you are even distantly connected to anyone who works at your target company, getting an introduction could definitely increase your odds of being considered. But don’t just depend on word-of-mouth and your current network.

Your resume – the trailer for your career 

Your application process starts and ends with your resume.

Many freelancers that I’ve worked with have resumes that internal HR people would shudder at.

The standard in the freelance world is simply a timeline with role, production, and maybe date. That’s it. 

This, for example, won’t fly for full-time.

If your career was a movie, your resume would be the trailer. It should tell a story that makes sense and include all of the great highlights.  You’ll need to add more details to your work rather than just the production name, date, and your role. The recruiters don’t know you. They will be looking to decipher any areas of common ground with your experience and their background. But how do you know what’s important for your resume and what’s not?

The details that will support you the most are metrics, achievements, and any awards.

Metrics demonstrate the scale of your environment and your capabilities. For example, a production manager could say that they

“managed budgets from $20K$1M+ per shoot and crews of 30-120.”

Or, an example of an achievement would be

“Pitched video concepts that went viral with over 1M views on YouTube.”

If you’ve worked with any known talent or brands, list that, and if any productions you’ve worked on have won awards, be sure to include that too.

In addition, for full-time roles, internal HR and recruiters will likely be looking for someone with longevity or stability in their background. This is because they want to invest in someone who will be with them for a long time (or the length of many, many gigs). This will be a challenge if your background is predominantly freelance, where you might have periods of not working between projects and less ‘consistency’ simply because gigs don’t last as long as full-time. Anything you can do to demonstrate stability will be looked on favorably. For example, if you have worked with the same parties over and over again, I would list that. Or if you work several roles, for example, Production Manager, Producer, and Line Producer, you may consider ‘grouping’ your gigs under the roles you played.

Take the time to invest in your resume because recruiters will be using it to decide if you are worth the time to interview against the hundreds of other candidates who have also applied. It’s worth it to invest in the style and content and edit out any grammar mistakes.

The interview – like a date, but you don’t have to buy dinner

Many freelancers I know don’t have a lot of formal ‘interview’ experience. They just get hired based on their past work and reputation. The extent of an ‘interview’ in the freelance world means confirming the rate, scope of project, role, and dates. There are no questions about your hopes and dreams. The time to hire is usually pretty quick and if it’s not a fit, well, you just don’t get called back the next day.

With a full-time role, interviews are very important. Companies view their full-time employees as long-term investments and want to know that their considered candidate will stay long term and be a “cultural fit”.  You need to prepare to sell yourself while also avoiding inadvertently revealing something that could turn off your prospective employer.

Recruiters and HR will likely be asking you about your motivation and career goals, so the key is to align it with their goals. When they ask any questions about your long term vision or what inspires you, make sure your answers are consistent with working full-time. You also will want to show enthusiasm for the specific company you are applying to. “I just want a job” will not fly.

Think about it – if you were on a date, and asked the person what they’re looking for, is “anyone will do” something you’d get excited about?

If it’s going well, be prepared to discuss compensation. There is a delicate song and dance that will go along with salary negotiations in the full-time world. It is your responsibility to know the market rate for your skill set in your location. You can use data from Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn to get a sense of the going rate, or you can also calculate from your gigs and extrapolating out to an annual salary (keep in mind that you will be receiving benefits as a full-time employee such as healthcare and PTO that you’re not getting as a freelancer so account for benefits in your calculation). Have in your mind a fair number for your experience. Don’t expect them to just pay you what you consider fair if you don’t know what that is. No one is going to advocate for you better than you!

The recruiter or HR will typically ask for your rate. It’s usually smart to ask them what the salary range is for the position so that you don’t risk shooting either too high or too low with your initial ask. If they get squirrely and avoid giving you their number, you could throw out a loose range with some room on the top end to negotiate down (for example if your ideal is 90K, say 90K-100K depending on benefits). That way even if they low ball you, you’re still getting what you wanted.

If the rate is not what you’re looking for, there’s a way to negotiate for what you want, definitely a way NOT to negotiate. For example, I once had a candidate interview with my client for a role. We had an initial interview and confirmed the role was paying $20/HR, which he agreed to. Then, during an interview with the client, after sitting through an hour-long conversation talking about his background and the company, when asked if he had any questions, he leaned back in the chair, folded his arms, and said “the rate you’re paying is crazy cheap. With my experience, I typically get $30/HR and I doubt you will find anyone as good as me at that rate.”

Obviously, this did not go well for my candidate.

In the full-time world, you need to exercise tact when discussing salary. If the salary is low, you can ask if they are open to negotiating for a more experienced candidate. If they’re too far off where it wouldn’t make sense, you can politely decline and ask to be considered in the future if things change (and they might if they can’t find anyone reasonable at their rate!) But you won’t get anywhere by being overly confrontational and insulting people.

Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect, but these tips should put you on a good path. If you need additional help, feel free to follow and connect with me on LinkedIn and stay in touch with the team at Wizardy as we’ll be posting additional employment resources in the future.

Any feedback, thoughts, or suggestions? Let us know!

About Kyra Willans

Entertainment industry writer and talent connector based in Southern California.
June 8, 2020

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1 Comment

  1. NICOLE STEINWEDELL

    Excellent content! Right up my alley and advice I needed to hear. Thank you!

    Reply

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