Research results

Research results 2018-06-19T18:49:05+00:00

To figure out which business model AV freelancers use to be cost-effective and professionally successful, I interviewed 6 freelancers, recorded the conversations, and wrote down any conclusions for each subject. These reports can be found in the appendix. The business model structure of choice is the Canvas Business model, and an in-depth description of this particular business model can be found here. The following is a summary of the results I discovered per building block, ultimately forming the combined and completed canvas business model that allowed all of these AV freelancers to be successful.

Value Propositions

The freelancers essentially offer value in the form of audio-visual content creation. Although occasionally they also produce additional media formats. They help the customers to fulfill the need for content to share with their audience or target group, and solve the problem of lacking original and branded videos to use for marketing or entertainment purposes.

They also add value to their services and products by delivering unique content with a personal style and signature, something that makes their work stand out from the rest. This is especially valuable in the creative field as the style of the product mostly determines whether a customer chooses that particular freelancer or not.

The freelancers offer audio-visual content from concept development to the final editing phase, and they are mostly not limited in what they can deliver, because they master a great set of skills and techniques. However, learning a new skill or researching a different technique to deliver a product is not unusual for these freelancers.

Customer Segments

The freelancers don’t seem to be bound to one specific segment of customers. However, there are a few types of customers that are typically found in the business models of these freelancers. The companies and clients these freelancers work for are either based in their home country, or also location-independent without a permanent office.

Generally speaking, the following are the most common types of clients to be found in an AV freelancer’s business model:

  • Small and midrange clothing and beverage brands
  • Influencers and models, mostly with a reach of 50k followers or less
  • Clients in the tourism industry, such as hotels, villa’s, resorts and café’s
  • Artists in the fields of music, tattooing, painting, dancing and performance
  • Clients in the leisure industry, such as yoga schools, retreats and touring agencies

Channels

To reach out to their customers, the freelancers sometimes use their social media channels. Instagram seems to be the most popular and effective choice as a channel between the customers and the freelancers. However, they rarely actively promote their business online. The freelancers merely share what they make, and the customers respond. Even having a professional website seems to be unnecessary for them, as almost none of the freelancers I spoke to actively administered one.

Far more important for most of the freelancers is the word-to-mouth advertising of their products and services. They rely heavily on the snowball effect that derives from their customers being happy with the result, and advertise the freelancer to the customer’s partners. Face to face communication is also highly valued as a way to find and reach out to customers.

When the previously mentioned channels don’t deliver the expected outcome, the freelancers resort to their last measurement: cold approach. Some of them mentioned to have directly emailed (unfamiliar) companies with the goal of getting them assigned to a project.

Customer Relationships

Many of the freelancers prefer a close relationship with their customers, believing that this will improve the overall quality and rating of their services. Some even end up befriending some of their customers. This is possible because of the low amount of customers combined with a high level of engagement during work activities. Sometimes the freelancers spend days or even weeks together with their clients while working.

Of course the freelancer serves the need of the customer, but the freelancer also has the task to advice the customer to make certain decisions based on the experience he or she has. It’s also common that the freelancer is asked to completely take responsibility for some creative production choices.

The freelancer always strives to deliver top quality with every product, as this will increase chances of additional business. Sometimes the products and services are offered for free in the initial collaboration. They do this to get noticed and approved of worthiness; in order to get responsibility for projects that otherwise wouldn’t be given to the freelancers.

And finally an important motto for all the freelancers is to have fun when it’s possible, and to be serious when it’s needed.

Key Resources

Some of the key resources these freelancers need in order to keep their business running are all of the hardware that is needed to produce a video. Most of them use a MacBook Pro by Apple to edit the videos and to keep their business organized. The freelancers own a mid- or top range priced digital camera to shoot with, alongside a few professional lenses. Most of them also own additional professional equipment such as a stabilizer, a drone and/or an action camera.

Another important resource is a work place. As most of the freelancers are location independent, they do not generally use a permanent office. A co-working space is a far more common choice, and also gives them a good place to network with possible partners and/or new customers. These co-working spaces offer a good and stable Internet connection, something that is essential for their business.

To be able to perform the key activities they also need subscriptions to Adobe Creative Cloud, a VPN service to use blocked web-domains, stock footage services, royalty-free music, and desired plug-ins or services.

Key Partners

Even the most independent freelancer mentioned using an accountant for the financial registration of their business. Some of them also use a communication agency or virtual assistant to help the freelancer with communication between them and the customers.

Some depend on rental services for any kind of gear they have to use in order to perform the key activities like filming and editing. They can rent a lot of their resources, from high-end camera equipment to editing studio’s.

When a project has sufficient budget, and the freelancer comes short on time or resources, it is common to outsource certain tasks by hiring other freelancers. More people are sometimes also hired to bring value to a product. This is done by partnering up with models and influencers.

Key Activities

Essentially the most important activities are all that needs to be done in order to deliver a video to the customer. This could be anything from concept development, to the production, filming and editing of that concept.

Occasionally the freelancer also helps in marketing related activities such as managing and building social media channels.

To keep the business organized and to keep new jobs coming, they also spend time and energy in managing activities. Communication with customers is a good example. But a lot of other tasks such as troubleshooting malfunctioning equipment and day-to-day organisational proceedings are also essential to keep the business running.

Revenue Streams

The main income source is a time for money model, where the customer pays an hourly (€60-€100), daily (€300-€600) or project based rate (€1000-€3000) to complete a project. These price ranges depend on what kind of customer it is, what type of work is asked for in the project, and what additional values are being delivered. For example, the use of your personally owned camera equipment adds value and can be taken into account in the invoice to the customer.

On top of that, adding a small percentage on the price of renting camera equipment, and the cost of hiring additional freelancers, can generate more revenue when invoicing the customer. In bigger projects it is common to charge a percentage of the total cost for unforeseeable issues during the key activities. The freelancer can earn money on this percentage if ultimately (almost) no extra costs are made.

It’s not common, but still mentionable that some of the freelancers depend on certain fundings and/or grants to provide for a partial income.

Another form of building a cost-effective lifestyle for these freelancers is by accepting barter deals with some companies they work for. By working in exchange for services from said companies, the freelancers can save up on a lot of costs that they otherwise had to make. This is especially often done in the tourism industry to get free travel opportunities, free accommodation and to save costs on food and beverages.

Cost Structure

To start as an AV freelancer, most of them invested in their own camera gear in order to offer their professional services with the right tools. These investments are highest in the starting phase of their business, but occasionally new investments need to be made in order to stay up to date with the latest technology and hardware. However, some choose not to work with privately owned gear, but to rent all of their equipment.

Most of the freelancers have close to no monthly costs besides their daily living expenses. The only subscriptions that need to be paid are software services like Adobe Creative Cloud, an (virtual) accountant, and preferred plugins.

Additionally some also pay for a stable Internet connection or a co-working space. And depending on the projects that are being done, sometimes costs are made to hire models, influencers, and/or other freelancers.

The freelancers that work while travelling also include the travel expenses and possible visa costs to their cost structure. These costs can be avoided by making barter deals with travel companies.

Conclusion

I filled in the Business Model Canvas for each one of the freelancers I interviewed and looked at differences and similarities in their business models. As you can read above, many operate largely in the same way, giving me a good idea of the elements that make a business model successful and cost-effective.

According to the people I interviewed and the American Marketing Association (n.d.), video content is in high demand, and will be the driving factor behind 85% of search traffic in the US by 2019. This means that it is possible to work within a lot of different markets as an AV freelancer. AV content can be offered in many different ways, and to answer this subquestion, I have researched a couple of different ways that I can generate revenue for my company. I did this to get a general overview of where and how I could offer my services and products to reach certain markets.

Selling video products and services directly

The first one is the most obvious, namely the direct contact between the customer and me. This communication could be done over social media, email, phone or real life conversations. Sometimes a communication agency could be used as an intermediate link between the customer and me. But in essence, this way of selling my products and services as an AV freelancer is pretty straightforward and is used by all of the freelancers I interviewed.

Fiverr

A service that can be useful for me as an AV freelancer is a service called Fiverr. This service is actually built specifically for freelancers of all kinds and offers a platform to sell any kind of service or product, called gigs on the website. The name came from the minimum starting price of a gig, which is $5. But this price can become higher with additional options to select from to make the gig bigger than the initial starting offer. The structure of the sales work with different levels, the more you sell and the better your reviews are, the more options you get in selling your gigs. (Fiverr, n.d.)

The service also offers a PRO section where quality of work is higher, as well as the prices and the amount of optional functionalities of your selling pages. Not everyone can become a PRO seller though, because it’s obligated to first apply for a PRO position, and you have to reach a certain level on the regular website as a seller before you can get accepted. (Fiverr, n.d.)

Every 5 seconds a gig is bought, and over 25 million projects have been completed on the website already (Fiverr, n.d.). This makes the website a very active one, but also means that there is lots of competition. One way compete successfully is by using a good descriptive introduction with the gigs you sell, and maybe even support this by examples of your work. This will help you sell better and distinguish yourself from the competition. (John, 2017)

According to Eze John (2017), the trick in being profitable on this platform is to find and offer a gig that is in high demand, is relatively easy to make and can be done over and over again. Anything else might just be a waste of time as the revenue doesn’t make up for the time spent creating it.

Jean Paul (2017) mentioned that Fiverr could especially be useful because it allows you to find customers relatively quickly, giving you a chance to prove to them that you deliver quality content. This can build a network of clients that you have a professional relationship with and whom you can offer to do more work for. This could lead to bigger and more profitable projects in the future, if done right.

Eze John (2017) made $1644 dollars in 40 days with his account, giving an estimate of what is possible on Fiverr. But again, this is totally dependent on how much time you spend on it, what gigs you offer and many other factors. Also important to take into account, for every gig you sell, Fiverr takes a 20% commission fee (Fiverr, n.d.).

This service might offer me some value as an AV freelancer. I could earn money with it on the side, or decide to fully go into building an income on this website. But personally at this time it feels like this website will mostly be of value for me in the form of community, instead of its revenue possibilities. I don’t think it is the best service for me to be profitable in for a longer period of time. As I strive to find a way to earn money with work that I’m passionate about, this just doesn’t feel like a good solution. I think it will only be profitable if I can find a good repetitive gig with my skill set or a smart tool that nobody knows about.

However, this service will hold a place in my business model, as a tool to connect with other freelancers and possibly with clients as well. I think it offers a good way to outsource certain tasks that need to be done in future projects. But I have to be wary of the quality; as for now it feels like most gigs offered on there are of low quality. The community aspect of the website could offer me a good place to reach out to other freelancers, for questions or inspiration about project that I can be struggling with in the future.

Stock footage

One of the possibilities of earning money with AV-productions I found during my research is the sale of content to websites that provide stock footage. This platform requires a high level of engagement as time investment, but offers a steady and extensive passive income if done correctly. Stock footage is footage that can be bought and used in any form of AV-production through websites that offer ever-growing databases with said footage (Struck, 2016). These databases will only get better with more (variety of) content, thus the market of stock footage seems unlimited.

Even though lately there are more services that allow pretty much anyone to be a contributor to their stock footage database, most of the well-known services still require a little more than just signing up. For example, some stock services ask for a portfolio or reel to examine the quality of the footage. Once you’re a member your submitted footage still gets checked on quality before it gets approved on the website. Anything below the quality of full-HD video (1920×1080) is not accepted anymore these days, as it’s no longer in demand and is starting to become an out-dated resolution. It’s even speculated that full-HD video will become obsolete in the upcoming years, as 4K video will take over the new standard of video resolution (McCabe, 2012). The stock services ask you cut up the footage in clips and upload them separately to keep the footage manageable.

If you keep your stock footage under 30 seconds in duration, under 750MB’s in size and encode it as a Quicktime (Photo-JPEG at 95% quality) you will meet the submission requirements of most of the stock footage agencies. (Bass Visuals, 2012)

Because of the big filesizes, the footage is mostly transferred by FTP, which can be done by free clients such as FileZilla. If FTP is not an option the stock services mostly provide either an online uploading tool, or they pay for hard drives to be sent to their offices. Furthermore, they ask for each clip to be given a title, tags to index it in the search engine, and a short description. If the footage includes any models, they mist sign release forms so the footage can legally be bought and used royalty free. Finally the footage should not contain copyrighted logos and/or minors clearly recognizable. (Bass Visuals, 2012)

In the first stages of the stock footage market the biggest demand for footage was mostly everyday life shots. But as the databases slowly filled up with content, the demand for these timeless shots started to decline, and instead a higher demand started to form for unique shots that tell their own story. Also shots from places or events that are not so easy to get seem to be in high demand, for example, icebergs in the Arctic Circle (McCabe, 2012). It’s also noticeable that big news events may change demand for certain topics. For example, the Olympics in Rio de Janiero brought a rise in demand of Rio stock footage by 4255% (Maher, 2016).

Bass Visuals (2012) claims that the best way to find out what footage is in high demand is by researching on the actual stock service websites. By looking for certain themes of visuals, you can see how many times they have been downloaded and how much footage is already available. But as these numbers change a lot over time I decided not to get into further details until I actually start producing stock footage for these websites. I did find that at this time drone footage seems to be in high demand according to Gorajek (2017).

The amount of income for a contributor is dependent on multiple factors, making it pretty hard to estimate a normal income. It seems to be that the amount earnings in this market is strongly connected to how much input you put in. Having said that, based on what Gorajek (2017) and Bass Visuals (2012) explain, it also seems that it is possible to earn a living within this market, although it will probably never be an above average income.

Prices for video footage range from a dollar to several hundreds of dollars. Depending on the deal that you strike with the aggregator, you could earn more than $100 per clip (although that is certainly the exception). The best part is that in most cases, you’ll earn money on the clips that you shot for many years to come. (McCabe, 2012)

Demand for clips always fluctuates, but you can set prices for your clips yourself. The stock service will almost always take a percentage of the sale for marketing and website maintenance purposes. Some offer a higher percentage if you exclusively work for that stock service, but it is speculated to be more profitable to submit your work to more than one stock service, giving it more chance of being bought (McCabe, 2012). As a contributor it’s important to build up your portfolio, as more content on your name, means a higher chance of customers buying your footage. This also means that it can take some time before your monthly sales actually start becoming interesting. The upside of this though, is that once you’ve built an extensive portfolio, your passive monthly income will probably keep you financially stable for a couple of years without doing any work for it. The following is a graph of the monthly figures earned by stock footage by Jakub Gorajek (2017) in 2013:

I made a selection of stock footage services based on properties that are important to me, such as: the amount of commission they take, the amount of active users, and minimum requirements of resolution for the clips. In the table below you can find a list of websites that will be best to begin with if I would ever decide to go into the stock footage business:

Crowdfunding

During my research I found a crowd-funding platform called Patreon. What makes this platform different from other crowd-funding platform is that Patreon is a source of income for artists of all kinds, that allows the artist to get paid on a regular basis, instead of a funding per project that happens on most other crowd-funding platforms. This is especially useful for artists who release content about once or twice a month on average and rely heavily on their fan base’s input and support. The fans can contribute to the artist’s work and process by paying subscription fees to the artist to help sustaining their work. These subscriptions called ‘pledges’ can be a set price per video or a monthly contribution. The amount of money donated in each subscription plan can be chosen by the contributors, called ‘patrons’, themselves.

The website promises to offer opportunities for every kind of artist, and divides the website into segments for each art category. To encourage fans to donate through a subscription it is highly recommended and usual for the artist to offer the fans something extra, depending on how much the fan contributes. This could be anything from a behind the scenes look, to a signed product or a personal shout out in the credits of a film. According to Patreon’s about page the website has a million active monthly users and 50.000 active monthly creators. Together the creators earn a yearly sum of 150 million dollars, and the average pledge per patron is 12 dollars.(Patreon, n.d.)

What follows are 3 profiles I found on Patreon that are closest to my own content, varying from a really successful profile, to a average performing profile, and finally a profile that didn’t succeed at all.

Peter Hollenshttps://www.patreon.com/peterhollens

This guy is featured on the website, and safe to say he has made it in the Patreon community. He can live from what he earns with the fundings and completely focusses on his fan base within Patreon. He has been making music videos (of his self-written and self-sung songs) since 2011, and has a huge follower base on both YouTube and his other social media pages (1,8 mln Subscribers on YouTube). The amount of money he earns from Patreon is somehow hidden, but I’m fairly sure it’s more than enough to live from.

RedLetterMediahttps://www.patreon.com/redlettermedia

This duo calls themselves RedLetterMedia, producing weird and funny Internet videos. They seem to be doing well on the Patreon, with a monthly earning of $22.046 contributed by over 5.000 patrons. Their YouTube channel almost reaches 700k subscribers.

WatchWhileHighhttps://www.patreon.com/watchwhilehigh

Finally, there is a profile called WatchWhileHigh that seems to make trippy videos, but sadly never accomplished to make their Patreon page effective. I added this profile to the list to show that I found quite a lot of profiles that didn’t make any money with the website and it’s not as easy as it sounds to get funded.

Patreon seemed interesting for me at first sight, but after careful examination I’m pretty sure that it will not be a source of income for me at this moment. I’ve found that all of the successful content creators on there already established a solid fan base and have lots of followers on their social media channels. This made it possible for them to reach out to a lot of people that might be interested in financially supporting them. The page WatchWhileHigh is closest to the content I create, and they didn’t manage to earn anything with their Patreon page.

My social media pages however, are still building, and to be honest I still have a lot to learn about how to grow such a big following. So before I can think of setting up a Patreon page, it is of far more importance to first acquire a reasonable amount of followers. The only possible alternative I came up with would be to find a music artist that already has a big following, and who wants to team up with me as his/her fixed video producer.

Finally, I also noticed that pretty much all of the active content creators are linked and pretty big on YouTube, making that their main channel for releasing the content. A problem with this for me personally is that my main social media channel is Instagram. Another problem is that the video’s I currently produce, are actually infringing copyrights of the music artists, as I never have permission to use the music. As a professional I need to think of a way to combat this problem if I want to continue making these videos.

Film festivals

Film festivals offer a different kind of approach of earning money with my work. Festivals don’t seem to be lucrative at first glance, but could open up doors for me that lead to more interesting and personally satisfying projects in the future. This is my attempt of finding out how I can use these festivals to my advantage.

According to Anne Krüger (the founder of Berlin based film-related blog, found at www.mediasteak.com), whom I spoke to at a Dojo community meeting about professional problems on the 24th of January 2018, film festivals are mostly interesting, because they will allow me to meet people who are interesting for my career. These people will open new doors for me that will help me reach my personal goals, and will probably get me a lot closer to an artistic approach of earning money with my artwork. Anne also said that lots of artistic institutions come to film festivals and sometimes offer grants for artists to keep working on their projects. It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly will change for me, but it’s more accurate to say that going to and submitting to these festivals will give me chances of meeting people, not coming will eliminate those chances. It’s up to me if I will take those chances (Hooper, 2013).

The following list sums up 3 different kinds of festivals that I selected as examples of festivals that will be interesting for me:

Financially seen, these festivals could give me revenue in the form of prize money in case one of my videos ever get accepted and selected to win the prize. But of course, this is not to be expected. Moreover, I found out that most film festivals actually ask for submission fees that could range between 25 to 100 dollars. These fees can sometimes be avoided by sending emails to the organization with a link to your film and a personal story about your work and asking for a fee waiver. This could result in the organization being excited about your film and generous enough to redeem your fees (Film Festival Secrets, n.d.). It is recommended to create a good communication with a strong impact on the organization of the festival, as this will raise your chances of getting accepted. It’s also notable that it should be clear in the communication what kind of value you would bring to the festival. For example, how my video is an international premiere, or fits perfectly to their niche. A lot of organizations also appreciate it if I will raise their publicity by writing and sharing on social media channels with big reach. (Van Hove, 2016)

While speaking to Lexington Stanley on the 5th of January in one of my interviews, he told me that getting a feature on a big channel online is somewhat like being played at a film festival these days. As many of the viewings and communications happen online now, putting too much focus on offline festivals seems like a waste of time, according to Lexington. He says that on Vimeo there are lots of possibilities with big channels that share (short) films with their audience. Some of them pick the videos themselves, but others allow you to submit your work (sometimes for a small fee).

In the table below you can find 3 good examples of channels on Vimeo that allow submissions in my style of videos:

As an artist it is of importance that you keep showing growth and can prove your significance where your work is being shared or exposed. Where traditional art could be measured by how many, and which museums showcased said work, with digital art on the rise, it seems to be far more logical to prove your worth by how many, and which festivals and online channels your work has been shown at. The more your work gets featured, the more proven you are as an artist.

In 2016, Spieler wrote about a platform called Withoutabox allows any film creator to publish a film on their website. This service then shares that film to its complete database of film festivals all around the world, making it a great tool to connect with film festivals. It also provides a good way of searching for particular film festivals in their database when needed, and comparing fees and other attributes of each festival.

Film festivals can definitely be of value for my artistic freelancing career, but should not be my one and only focus. This is because the festivals might open some doors for me that will be useful in the future, but will probably not bring any revenue any time soon, and even if it will, it will not be enough to live from.

In the world of film festivals, its best to find my niche, being something like experimental, artistic music videos, and find the festivals that match that niche best. I should focus on these festivals to avoid wasting time on other festivals that will probably never screen my work.

I have already experienced first-hand how the focus on the wrong festivals will delay my process big time, as I’ve submitted a short film I made to the International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR). This film got declined, after I waited for 4 months to hear the results. In hindsight I realized that this festival was way too big for my niche, and should never have been my main focus. I gave it another shot at a smaller niche festival called ‘Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen’, a festival that is a lot more focussed on artistic and experimental videos. However, my film got declined here as well.

Film festivals not only offer a big screen for my work to get played on, but also offer value in the form of community. Just going to places like that already bring me value by surrounding myself with likeminded people in the same field of work. If I can also get myself to reach out to people and network a little, I allow myself to get lots of opportunities to meet people that are important for my career.

And finally, this research gave me the realization that in these days online platforms can be seen as the new film festivals. Therefore it’s important to not forget about these channels and also invest time into trying to get these platforms to feature my work. These platforms sometimes even bring more views than actual film festivals will.

Teaching

When certain skills and knowledge I own as a freelancer become valuable for other people, teaching can also become a way of earning money. I haven’t researched into this subject yet, but included it in the recommendations to look into.

Model / Influencer

I’ve found that becoming a model or influencer can be really profitable these days, and it might be an interesting option for me to combine this with my educated AV content creator experience. I also included this in the recommendations to further investigate.

When working as a travelling freelancer opposed to a freelancer who only works in one country, there are some things that should be taken in consideration in order to keep the business running. Financially seen there are a couple of consequences of working while travelling. I will answer this question based on my personal situation and my top 3 of most suitable places I want to work in.

Taxes

Firstly, some financial situations that are not bound to a specific location, but are tied to the Dutch law and tax structure for me as a freelancer, or just general financial things to keep in mind. As a digital nomad it is possible to dodge certain taxes or even to completely work tax free with your company. A lot of digital nomads work without ever paying any taxes and they get away with it. However, even though it might be possible to do that legally in some rare cases, most of those digital nomads technically work illegally without them even knowing (YouTube, 2017). Legally it would be possible to refrain of some taxes or even eliminating all taxes by setting up your business in tax friendly countries and terminating your residence at your country of birth. New Zealand is the most tax friendly place you could set up a business according to (Waliszewski, E Gofus, & Tripscout, 2017). But as it is highly recommended to hire a lawyer and tax consultant to set up your business in New Zealand legally, I decided that for now it’s way easier and safer to keep doing business from my home country and try to understand those tax laws first, and take the loss of the obligation to pay tax for granted.

On Monday 9th of October 2017, I attended a seminar from the Dutch tax authorities, informing business start-ups about the basic understandings of tax laws in the Netherlands. I found out that my business operates in the normal tax rate of 21% (Belastingdienst, n.d.). For products sold outside of Dutch soil, there is a 0% tax rate, but this does not count for services. For services offered outside the border it mostly means I have to pay the taxes that are stated by the place the services are offered at that time (Van Noort Gassler & Co, n.d.). When operating my business, whether it be on Dutch soil or while travelling, a minimum of €10.000,- a year has to be earned and 1.225 hours has to be spent working for the business if I want to make use of tax benefits. Anything less than that will place the business in the ROW category, meaning the income comes from extracurricular activities, and you will not be seen as an entrepreneur by the Dutch tax authorities (Ik Ga Starten, 2018).

Monthly costs of living

In the table below you can see an overview of my monthly costs of living. The top part of the table shows the monthly expenses I have regardless of what location I choose to work in. The middle part shows the average cost of living of the three countries I found are most suitable to live in as a digital nomad. At the bottom of the table you will find any other expenses that have to be made in these countries. As found in the sub question about the legal situation in each location, Germany does not require any special visa or permits for Dutch citizens. Therefore no additional costs have to be made to live in Germany.

Legally seen, digital nomads ought to take some things in consideration before planning to work abroad. The legal matter might seem difficult to understand completely, but could be merciless when not taken seriously. I am researching this question based on my personal situation and my top 3 most suitable places for me to work in.

As a Dutch citizen

To start off with, some legal rules apply to me as a Dutch citizen. The fact that I have to unregister from my municipality if I stay abroad for more than 8 months per year is one example of those rules (Backpack Centrale, n.d.). Not complying with that rule could mean an expensive fine from the government as a result. Also to be legally able to drive a motor vehicle in most non-EU countries, an international drivers license must be held. Not having an international drivers license could mean that I am not insured if I get involved in an accident. If I come across legal problems a Dutch consulate in the country I’m in is a good place to get legal help. Consulates are there to protect the Dutch citizens in case of problems, and the ground the consulate is on, legally operates under Dutch laws. (Rijksoverheid, n.d.) (Waliszewski, E Gofus, & Tripscout, 2017)

Copyright

Regardless of what country I’m working in, working as an AV-freelancer means that I will produce videos and other creative products. With these creations it is strictly prohibited to steal or copy other people’s work, art, music, videos, or any other creation that falls under the copyright law (Crowell, 2010). The only way to legally use or copy other peoples work is by getting the permission of the creator and having them sign a release form (Peters, 2004). This is also necessary when you take a picture or video of someone that is clearly recognizable as the subject of the content. The exception of this is when people are shot as part of a crowd and not a focus of the production. I might also need a release form from the location of shooting if it’s not a public domain location.

In some cases it is permitted to use other people’s work because of the fair use policy. This policy states that when creating things in the following categories, you might be able to dodge copyright laws. The categories are news reporting, criticism, comment, scientific research, teaching, and parody (Manzer & Levy, 2010). Four things are taken into consideration to decide whether something falls into the fair use policy. Namely the nature of the work, purpose of the use, the amount that is used in relation to the original work and the effect it will have on the value of the original work (Levy, 2008). Because I almost never make art in one of the categories mentioned above, I will probably never be able to make use of this policy.

If you must really use a piece of work made by someone else, for example if the client really demands you to use a certain song in a video, you could make an indemnity agreement with your client that states that the client will be reliable for all financial burden if a lawsuit might follow from using that work (Ignatowski, 2018).

VISA’s

Travelling to different countries often requires a visa. Acquiring the right visa can be a difficult and expensive task. As a travelling AV freelancer, you ideally want a visa that allows you to earn money in the country of your stay. However, visas are not yet designed for a digital nomad lifestyle and both tourist and business visas have their disadvantages.

Many digital nomads opt for a tourist visa to travel on. These tourist visas have some restrictions. Firstly, the disability to travel outside of that country while residing on that tourist visa. Secondly, a tourist visa also makes it illegal to work in that country; therefore earning money while travelling on a tourist visa is prohibited. This means that digital nomads that travel on a tourist visa earn all their money illegally. Of course, there are ways to work around this. Working as a digital nomad often means working with clients from overseas, that have nothing to do with the country you are living in. The money could go from the client right to your bank account that is registered at your home country, making it a bit of a grey area legally seen. Most digital nomads currently travel and work on tourist visas and don’t experience any problems with it. However, it is always recommended to watch out whom you share with that you are working in their country, as some locals may report you to the police. Asian countries are know to have corrupt police forces that will take advantage of tourists in their countries.

Getting a visa for a country takes time and often needs to be prepared in advance. You will also need a passport that is valid longer than 6 months, with enough empty pages for the visa. Some countries require some specific vaccinations, depending on where you are coming from. For me as a Dutch citizen, no vaccinations are obligated to take to enter any of the 3 selected countries.

Thailand and Indonesia block certain websites such as Reddit, Facebook and Vimeo that might hinder the workflow of a digital nomad while operating there. This is easily solved with a subscription to a VPN service.

The Thai SMART visa recently got introduced and excited a lot of digital nomads as it looked like a visa specially designed to acknowledge the digital nomad lifestyle. But it turned out to be more designed to make it possible for companies to bring in expensive foreign talent to work for them easily, and it is only aimed to help Thailand’s development (James, 2018)

VISA options for 3 favorite countries:

While working in the Netherlands, I was not aware of any specific preconditions regarding my AV equipment. Apart from the obvious things to take into consideration before preparing a shoot, like what time of day to film, and what the weather forecast will be, I didn’t pay any attention to the connection between the weather and the performance of my equipment. Working with expensive equipment in more extreme climates, however, can become a bit more of a challenge. I asked all freelancers that I’ve interviewed what their experience is with technical issues in extreme climates, researched certain subjects that haven’t been mentioned by them, and carefully paid attention to my own experiences while living in Bali, and the following information is a description of the things I found out and learned about.

Temperature

Electronics are, just like people, only capable of surviving and functioning in certain temperatures. Electronics might fail when exposed to extremely cold or hot environments. More specifically, the CPU of a computer or camera should generally be kept under 105 degrees Celsius, unless stated differently in the specifications (NVIDIA, 2010). Working on high performance tasks such as editing video in hot climates might pose a threat to the CPU. To avoid this, you can work in air-conditioned rooms to help keep the temperature beneath the maximum (Lexington Stanley, 2018).

Most commercially manufactured electronics can operate in the temperature range of 0 – 85 degrees Celsius (Intel, n.d.). Electronics mostly come with batteries to supply the electronics with power, and the performance of these batteries also reacts on the temperature. Generally speaking, batteries perform best in warm temperatures (27 degrees Celcius), and can drastically drop in performance in lower temperatures (Battery University, 2008). Electronics will also be more vulnerable to internal damages when exposed to extreme temperature swings, for example when leaving an air-conditioned or heated room. Too much direct sunlight on equipment can also damage it and should be avoided. This can be done by bringing an umbrella or simply by working in the shadow whenever it’s possible. It is also advisable to give your equipment time to cool down once in a while when working in high temperatures (Wilson, n.d.).

Wind

Besides the temperature, wind is another factor that can damage electronics in a couple of ways. Filming on a beach with salt water might damage the camera, because the wind can blow nearly invisible salty vapour in your camera when swapping your lens, leaving a layer of damaging salt on the components (Jade Morssinkhof, 2018). In dryer areas, wind can also bring damage by blowing up dust and sand. This can place dust inside of your camera or it can leave scratches on the glass of lenses. The scratching of lenses can be inexpensively be avoided by using UV filters on lenses when filming in dry and dusty areas (Therkildsen, 2014). Salt, dust and sand in your camera can be avoided by being careful when swapping lenses. Preferably doing this in places without these things, like a car or a room.

Water

In tropical climates, an unexpected heavy rainstorm can surprise you and bring water damage to any electronics you are carrying. This can be avoided by taking good precautions by for example bringing protective gear to cover up electronics when it starts raining. Cameras can also be equipped with underwater cases or specially designed raincoats (Aldorama Learning Center, n.d.).

What seems to be more of threat for electronics in tropical climates is the level of humidity. If the air gets too humid, or if sudden temperature switches are made in humid areas, condensation can form on your electronics, leaving a devastating risk of water damage. It’s advised to always switch your lenses in air-conditioned rooms, and to let your electronics gradually cool down or warm up when switching between surroundings of different temperatures and humidity. When lenses do get condensation on the glass, it can be removed by holding the lens in front of an air-conditioner and spitting on the glass, followed by carefully removing the spit with a lens wipe (Yoeri Stor, 2018). Another way of avoiding condensation is by packing your electronics in a plastic bag when making high temperature and humidity switches. You can also put silica packets in the plastic bag to take in any extra condensation (Wilson, n.d.). High humidity areas can also cause mould on electronics, which can be very damaging (Daniel Freelancehuman, 2018) This can be avoided by putting electronics in dry boxes (Gabriel, n.d.).

Problems

From personal experience, after my bankcard got skimmed, I learned that solving problems that need overseas shipping to or from your home country could become a bit of an issue when living overseas. It took about a month before I received my new bankcard, something that would only take a couple of days in normal situations. This should be taken into consideration, as broken electronics can cause a long stretch of issues if they need to be sent overseas for repair. Yoeri Stor experienced the same thing when his camera broke and had to be sent back to the Netherlands for repair. (Yoeri Stor, 2018) Finding electronic stores at the place of travel could solve this, but that could be somewhat of a challenge as not all electronic stores in Asia are as trustworthy as most western electronic stores. (Yoeri Stor, 2018) Although not solving the issue of overseas shipping time, a generally advisable thing to do according to Anna Pesavento (Anna Pesavento, 2018) is to have a good electronic insurance when working as an AV freelancer around the world.

AV equipment specifications and restrictions

As an AV-freelancer you need to have your own equipment. In the table below you can find an overview of all the technical equipment in my possession.

For the editing of videos having a good computer is essential. Because of the nomadic aspect of my business, I choose to work with a laptop rather than a computer, because that travels easier. In the table below you can find the recommended specifications for high performance editing in Adobe Premiere and After Effects. You can also find the specifics of the laptop I currently own. When you compare the two, you will notice that my laptop does not come close to the recommended specifics. Add to that the fact that I’ve had this laptop for almost five years, and one can conclude that an upgrade is needed in the near future.

As my camera can film 4k and 4k is the new standard in film making (Baskin, Butler, Rose, & Sanyal, n.d.).

When you have a business it is important to keep investing in that business to make it grow. In my case that means, among other things, that I have to keep investing in my technical gear to be able to schoot better footage for my products. Besides a new laptop, the next big investments that I want to make are an action camera, a drone and a stabalizer. In the table below you can find a comparison of different types of these electronics.

After comparing these electronics I made a decision on which would best fit my needs. As said earlier, I need a new laptop because mine is getting old and can’t keep up with the work I have to do. Furthermore I also want to invest in a new camera bag that can also carry my laptop, so I have everything in one place. The drone that would best fit my needs is the DJI Mavic Pro. I also want to invest in the GoPro Hero6 to film better action shots and the DJI Ronin-S stabalizer to stabalize the footage I shoot. Finally, I would like to make travelling with all my equipment easier by investing in a lighter and more compact set of lenses.

In short

The three things that need to be taken into consideration while working in different climates are temperature, wind and water. Each of these things can have a damaging effect on AV equipment if not handled the right way.

  • Make sure not to overheat the CPU of your equipment. Preferably by working in air-conditioned rooms while working on high performance tasks
  • Store batteries at room temperature or slightly above.
  • Use UV filters to prevent lens scratching from dust and sand.
  • Be careful when swapping lenses. Preferably doing this in places with no dust, salt vapor or sand.
  • Take precautions for water damage in tropical areas. Preferably bringing protective gear or raincoats for equipment.
  • Gradually let your equipment warm up or cool down when switching temperatures or humidity.
  • Carry electronics in a plastic bag (preferably with silica packets) to prevent condensation.
  • Store electronics in dry boxes to prevent mold.
  • Be sure to have a good insurance for your electronics.