How I Make $1,500 / Month Freelancing in Athens

Hey, I’m Aris.

So how did I start?

Good question, I suppose that would be back when I was really young around 13 years old or so. We had just recently gotten a webcam for our family computer and it was love at first sight. That got me into making small videos with minimal editing in Windows Movie Maker

Then by the age of 18 I decided to get a bit more serious, I started playing around with After Effects by watching YouTube videos and trying to copy what I saw. My favourite tutorials were made by Andrew Kramer and at that time I was using my father’s camera, a canon 500d. Soon after that a friend of my parents that saw one of my videos and asked to work with me – I mostly did small editing jobs for him and which lead to some motion graphics shortly after that. 

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From there on some more clients came in through word of mouth and a little while later I started my first YouTube channel. I posted a small web series revolving around a video game coming to life.

That also gave me some traction and some job opportunities. So I did freelancing for a while, until I got tired of client hunting and client management, so I decided to get a 9-5 job in something totally different! I worked as a technical support agent for a while and then got promoted to a trainer / supervisor.

I did that for around 2 years, but that didn’t make me really happy, so I am back to freelancing. I’m currently trying to balance between making videos for YouTube and learning game design at the same time.

So, in total I would say I have been freelancing for 4 – 5 years give or take. I haven’t had any significant savings and I started pretty young, so I just lived with my parents for quite a while until I could make it on my own.

Who inspired you to become an editor / Game Dev?

My inspiration without a doubt was a bunch of guys making silly visual effect YouTube videos back in 2009. Their YouTube channels are Freddiew and Corridor Digital, I loved their videos but what I loved even more was their behind the scenes.

Besides that I suppose I always wanted to be a storyteller in one way or another, so I guess if it wasn’t through videos it would have been something else, maybe games.

How did you get your first client as a freelancer? 

So, as I’ve mentioned before my first client was just a friend of my parents that happened to see my work. No promotion or anything like that. I don’t believe that I had any huge clients, what worked for me was the fact that I had a lot of recurring customers.

Here’s a tip on how to keep your customers coming back, first of all know your selling points. For example my selling point is that ”I am a Jack of all trades”.

Once someone has gotten to know me for any one of my skills and they were happy with my results, I would pitch them everything else “visual effects, motion graphics, graphic design, direction of photography, editing and writing”, so now that they already trust my work, they are definitely coming back for more.

Another thing you can do for customer retention is always over-deliver, put that bit of extra thought on everything that you do, if you are creating a logo, make a small presentation, sell the story behind it as well as the design itself.

If you are selling a montage, explain the reasoning behind the most important cuts, help them see that you are not just mindlessly cutting clips together.

What’s your editing process once you have the files?

Oh, that’s a great question!

It really depends on the scope of the project, but usually I like to work in an organised yet non-linear fashion.

Meaning I locate the part of the video that I am the most excited about and I feel has the most potential and start from there. Now there are a few different steps you can add or take here. 

For example, right now I am shooting my own clips, so I always begin with a script that turns into a shot list that later on turns into a storyboard.  

My storyboards usually are more like a shot list with timestamps and comments rather than visual depictions of the things I am aiming to make, unless I am working with other people on the same project, then visual communication is almost mandatory.

Once we have the shots down I create an organised folder structure that is usually broken down into:

  • Main Editing folder (Our project files)
  • Sound and voice overs (music and audio / voiceover)
  • The visuals (videos, recordings and animations)

Now, if I am creating motion graphics inside the video I will also create an extra folder and name it ”Resources” that is more or less a misc folder.

Once everything is nice and organised I’ll start working towards the first draft.

At this point I make a choice:

What’s important in the story? What story do I want to tell?

Depending on that I decide on an editing style – I will throw all my resources in the project and start playing around. After a while I get a feel of the rhythm that the story needs, I start looking for music if I don’t already have a specific track to work on and then the rest pretty much comes into it themselves. 

The most important part when you’re editing for yourself or others is to keep an organised structure inside your project – You need to know where everything is at all times in case you need to change something on the fly.

Which platforms & tools do you use?

Well depends on the job, but usually After Effects will always be needed, I even edit most of my videos there. After Effects is almost like a second home to me so I prefer it over Premiere even for editing.

Which project or video are you most proud of? 

There are 3 projects I really love and I am proud of.

First one is my latest video on my channel. I’ve put over 500 hours on making the video and the game and I am really happy with how it turned out.

Second one would be the first music video I’ve ever made, and although the video didn’t go as well due to some “band drama” that was going on at the time, it was something that gave me a ton of insight into working with musicians and fast moving projects. So, the knowledge I got from that experience is invaluable for me. (unfortunately the video is no longer available publicly due to that same drama)

The third one would be a cinematic battle teaser I made for an indie company, because it was an experience on it’s own. We had to sit down with the developer of the company at the time, and come up with a camera control system that would work with what I had envisioned for that teaser as well as film in a completely digital environment.  

Where can someone see your rates, if they’re interested in working with you and are you available? 

At the moment I don’t have more room since I have embarked on a journey to learn game design and coding recently. I might take on more projects at some point, if I run low on funds and you can contact me here or on Instagram.

Do you have any advice for young freelance editors?

Make things that you want to make and when you get stuck look to the internet for answers. When you feel like you are ready, start posting your work on the internet, people are a lot more helpful than you might think. Also 9 out of 10 times you shouldn’t work for exposure, people are going to exploit you!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?  

Luckily COVID-19 hasn’t affected my work all that much. As for the future, hopefully I will be able to live off of my YouTube channel and games.

9 out of 10 times you shouldn’t work for exposure, people are going to exploit you!

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