At a time when so many freelancers are scrambling for insight and semblance in their career, it’s refreshing to hear from professionals that offer their take on how to handle the COVID-19 crisis.
Aneri Shah, Founder of Sightworthy—a video marketing agency specializing in short-form content—offers a unique perspective for video freelancers interested in working with top brands. And even if you don’t have experience with video content, Shah’s words reverberate to the freelance mindset in general. Shahs is an entrepreneur at heart, and I had the pleasure of learning more about what she does and how she connects freelancers and brands through Sightworthy.
Check out our conversation below:
Due to COVID-19, how has your industry (for Sightworthy) been affected and how are you seeing brands shift to accommodate those changes?
Sightworthy helps brands create social and digital video at scale through technology and a network of creators. As video takes on an entirely new meaning, our industry has been significantly affected by COVID-19.
First off, Chief Marketing Officers and other marketing leaders are incredibly cautious with what messages they’re putting out there in this “new normal.”
Many brands that had large budgets set aside for generic TV ads, experiential marketing, or other mass media efforts are instead using that money to engage communities, raise money for good causes and generally spark goodwill. It’s not necessarily that companies are cutting budgets entirely, but many are hitting pause and reconsidering how their messages will hit their regular audiences before going big.
One of the other big changes we’ve seen industry-wide is that companies are no longer able to hire film crews or rent out expensive studios due to social distancing mandates. So overnight, all professional production methods are no longer viable. Sightworthy has always focused on helping brands repurpose existing assets into authentic social video through templates and a curated, apply-only network of new-age freelance post-production artists.
So now, with film crews on the back-burner, there is a big movement towards repurposing leftover commercial footage, audio, stock footage, and even video shot with Zoom into video clips for Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. This is a good time for post-production artists to take advantage of this by refreshing their portfolios and hustling to get in front of these brands, whether through a platform like ours or through other networks like Fiverr.
Since you work with a lot of freelancers in a variety of skills, what are some of the biggest challenges that you see them facing?
Many freelancers whose main work stemmed primarily from filming with professional cameras and in-person relationships are suffering from being suddenly cut off from work.
One of the freelancers in our network said during one of our virtual hangouts: “I had been working with this client for years, and had direct access to everything in their Vimeo channel. When COVID-19 hit, their marketing team decided to move all content operations in-house and cut off access immediately. That was tough to accept.”
The freelancers who have a versatile set of skills, be it shooting and editing, editing and writing, or overseeing creative direction for a campaign, are continuing to see a steady flow of work come through. The big change for them is that while their work may have been spread out across multiple disciplines in the past, everything during the time of COVID-19 consists almost exclusively of repurposing existing media or other post-production work like animating or illustrating.
I love that you are creating opportunities to connect freelancers with brands in the face of COVID-19—what avenues are you pursuing to help freelancers stay afloat?
We recognize that many brands have hit pause on their campaigns. While this is temporary, it still means that freelancers have to wait even longer to get work and get paid.
To help minimize that frustration, we have started hosting biweekly virtual creator hangouts where we discuss their needs and concerns, even delving into what they’ve been working on in their spare time. We encourage them to submit new samples frequently, and in turn, we make sure to feature them on our platform to our customers.
It’s also a good time for freelancers who are seeing a less steady workstream to step back and look at how they’re positioning themselves online.
Amira Hasib, our Community and Content Coordinator and independent filmmaker, says, “Your Instagram is your business card, treat it that way.” Straight facts. Take a look at hers.
While not every creator is keen on using Instagram as a channel for creative expression, at the very least, keep it buttoned up so that if a client asks to see it, they can quickly get a snapshot of your work presented in its best light.
We’re also producing a short COVID-19 documentary all made from existing media, which allows us to support frontliners while continuing to pay our network of freelancers. More on that to come.
When working with brands and other clients, what are the type of conversations you’re having in terms of what content to produce, how to market, and what platforms are having the greatest impact?
The first big immediate change we saw in terms of content requests from brands was a push for internal communications videos. Whereas before teams were all sitting in one place, millions of teams are now working remotely and checking in through Zoom, so management is looking for ways to communicate company and team-wide announcements in real-time while continuing to drive their vision forward from afar—video is a great way to do that.
The second big change we’ve seen is that people are getting more comfortable turning on video and filming from home, especially as they see everyone, including celebrities, doing it (cue John Krasinki’s series Some Good News).
As a result, now companies are starting to think about how people from their leadership teams could be better promoting their own brands through homegrown video on LinkedIn, which in turn will increase the visibility of their company’s brand. This is an initiative we’ve been pushing for years, but it was hard to get leaders to commit to being on camera unless it was a “professional shoot,” which I always found interesting because I think shots of people—including leaders—that are more authentic are naturally more interesting.
We’ve started hosting virtual workshops with customers on how to “shoot from home,” with simple tips on how to get good lighting and sharpen focus using the gridlines, all on their phones. We then show them examples of professional-looking videos that have been made from these Zoom shots. So editors, take note. If you’re able to show that you can take even lower quality footage and turn it into compelling stories, that skill is hot right now.
What about freelancer talent do you think makes them suitable to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic and emerge successfully?
Everyone is looking to do things differently.
I think diversification—whether it comes to marketing strategy or your stock portfolio—is going to be one of the big buzzwords of 2020. Unlike in-house talent, freelancers have the freedom and ability to learn, absorb, and utilize new skills quickly, and can even rebrand themselves on the fly.
The creators that are most open to really, deeply listening to what’s going on in the market and adapting their skill sets and portfolios accordingly will be setting themselves up for success over the next few years, and even decades.
Even before COVID-19, the content game is changing so fast every time a platform drops a new feature, like Instagram filters, or an entirely new platform starts to dominate, like TikTok, that many companies were already looking to freelancers to help them navigate. It’s not fiscally viable to overturn an entire in-house content team every time something new drops, so technology and freelancers are the future when it comes to content.
You mentioned you have some special projects taking place in April and May—can you share what those are and what they aim to accomplish?
We are headquartered in NYC, which quickly became the epicenter of COVID-19 in the world.
As a way to honor the frontliners in NYC, we started to gather footage from our community and quickly realized that there was a way to tell a powerful story while also continuing to channel money to our creator network. So we are coming out with a short-documentary titled Beyond the Frontlines that delves into the lives of female emergency medicine physicians who are fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines in NYC and beyond.
If you want to apply to be part of this project, reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with what you can provide. Right now, we’re really looking for more footage, so if you’re shooting anything, contact us.
Do you have any advice for business owners and freelancers that you’d like to share?
Diversify, learn, and adapt.
In downtimes, we see the real leaders emerge. It’s the time for business owners and freelancers who are authentic and resilient to drop their egos at the door and figure out how to be helpful using the skills and knowledge at their disposal. At Sightworthy, our team firmly believes there is no such thing as “going back” to normal, only building a “better normal.”
The more time you spend actually figuring out how you fit into and contribute to this normal, the stronger you will emerge. The whole situation reminds me of how when writers went on strike in 2007-08 for 100 days—that’s when unscripted reality TV was born. Now with COVID-19, content and media are fundamentally changing because original high-quality production is impossible. So much new stuff is going to come out of this, and the quicker you can adapt to and join that wave, the better.
Adapt and Grow with Fiverr
Like Shah explained, at the core, brands are becoming more agile, more empathic, and paying more attention to the stories they’re telling and how they fit into the context of what’s going around them.
This is a great thing for the world because they get to see content that actually feels good, and it’s a great thing for freelance video creators because they get to work on interesting, authentic videos and level up their skill sets instead of continuing to focus on corporate projects. With Fiverr, freelancers can easily adapt and grow their success by tailoring their gig packages to accommodate what clients need most.
If you haven’t signed up for a seller profile, now is the time to start! Click here to take action with your freelance career and get involved in the movement.