Featured Freelancer: Karen Cann, Karen Cann Video

I’ve known Karen for about 3 years, since we opened St. Ives Business Lounge. She even kindly recorded a video for the Business Owners’ Mastermind Group, which is certainly worth a watch. Based in Cambridgeshire, Karen is an experienced and talented Videographer, and this is her story… 

What is your name and what do you do?

Hello, I’m Karen and I run Karen Cann Video – I create profile videos for websites and social media. I also edit other people’s footage, author DVDs, and transfer and encode video.

How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer? 

I’ve been freelancing since 2010, and just fell into it when I was made redundant because my employer entered administration. Back then I was primarily a DVD author and there were still jobs to finish for my old employer’s clients, so I decided to complete them on my own kit and it went from there. I also had to choose a job that was flexible around my young family.

What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?

Nobody advised me against it, probably because back then my friends and family had no experience of being freelance. My husband was very supportive and we had a manic weekend of buying a Mac and setting up all the necessary software I needed.

Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?

No, I really had no idea or the money to invest in professional advice and support. I just read the information that the HMRC sent me and attended one of their free workshops on how to manage accounts

How would you describe your clients or customers?

I work with a variety of different clients, but it’s usually small businesses, other freelancers and charities that I create profile videos for.

Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?

Video can be quite intimidating, and also very expensive and time-consuming. To be honest, I’m small scale, but after 20 years’ experience in video I know what I can achieve with limited kit. I can therefore keep costs down for clients and I aim to make the production process as quick as possible. I have a very relaxed, friendly approach, which may not suit everybody, but I’ve been told that I manage to put people at ease and make the process fun.

Is being a freelancer what you expected?  Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?

It’s totally different to what I expected. I work many more hours than I did working for a company. I rarely switch off and I need to be stricter with myself. There can be a great deal of pressure and stress at times. I am slowly learning to get the work/life balance right. On the positive side, I do get to be flexible around my children and don’t need to book time off to watch them on Sports Day!

What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?

There are so many. The main one is Final Cut X for editing, for obvious reasons, and I also love my Facebook groups, such as Freelance Heroes, for advice, support and to keep me sane!

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?

Prepare yourself for hard work and a degree of stress as there is no guaranteed pay cheque. I think there is sometimes a preconception that freelancers have a lovely, chilled out time wafting about doing things when they feel like it and putting in fewer hours!

There are more and more people producing video now compared to ten years ago when there were just a few production companies dotted around, so you’ll have lots of competition. Plus more prospective clients have the technology to do video themselves. It’s a pleasure doing creative work, however, you’ll have to make artistic compromises for clients too as they are your boss.

On the plus side, businesses are now realising how beneficial and powerful video is as a marketing tool and how it can build a relationship with your customer. By 2019 video will account for around 80% of internet traffic, it’s great for SEO and more people are watching online video, particularly on social media. It is therefore getting easier to encourage prospective clients to jump on board.

Be yourself and be honest, don’t try and pretend to be someone or something you are not or you may struggle. Keep things simple and give your clients 100%.

I would also say make sure you have good support around you and don’t hide away behind your computer – get out to network and co-work. Freelancing can become very isolating and lonely. Networking is essential, we are social beings and you never know what opportunities may arise.

What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?

Freelancing is much harder than a 9 to 5 job. If you haven’t the resources to outsource work, you’ll have to do EVERYTHING. As well as your chosen profession, you are an administrator, an accountant, a sales manager and a marketer, to name just a few – you even make the tea! Therefore not only do you need to work more but also the learning curve is massive.

I’ve learnt that I’m hard working, dedicated, disciplined and good at juggling! However, I’m also very sensitive and probably not as good at handling the pressures of finding work/income and chasing payment as I thought I would be.

What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?

Definitely meeting people. When I’ve worked for companies I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing people, but now I meet so many more amazing and interesting people as a freelancer, both on video projects and in co-working and networking. Now that I’m not stuck in an office full time, I have so many more positive experiences and can learn about what’s happening out there in the world, whether in business, in my community or in the arts.

I also get to do what I love – editing video!

What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?

No job security or guaranteed income. Although over the last year I’ve been involved part time in a digital project for a charity, so at the moment I know I will have some income every month.

What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?

I just want to carry on building the business up and making clients happy with my work. I do collaborate on bigger projects with other freelancers from time to time, so it would be great to do more team work too.

What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?

It’s going to be a rollercoaster!

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