DAVID KAMAU – CINEMATOGRAPHER AND DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY (D.O.P)
There is an obvious shift in the job market. It is not business as usual and if ever there was a time to understand the world of entrepreneurship and freelancing this would be it. The 8 to 5 system as we know has and continues to crumble before our very eyes. We must find ways to honing our craft in the context of freelancing and consultancy. This week we focus on one freelancer’s journey into the world of cinematography; David Kamau has been in the game for 8 years. These are his tips;
On packaging and branding oneself as a freelancer
Packaging and Branding first starts with the decision to ensure that your end product is the best quality you can churn out at any given time, given the resources at your disposal.
There is more that goes into branding, it’s not just a skills affair though. How you handle people generally will determine a lot. Awesome technical skills with pathetic people skills will still not take you far.
How I handle clients, how I present myself to potential clients and past/present clients is one of the greatest assets I have discovered in my journey this far.
My number one marketers are past satisfied clients. A good name is the best marketing tool there is. That said, they will only put in a good word for me if they love how I handled them from the first time we met up to the time they got the final product.
The other tip is to capitalize on social media marketing – posting snippets of work done on digital platforms. That way others get to know what I do and have a taste of the quality of what I produce.
The next tip is collaboration. Collaborating with other cinematographers/production houses is also a brilliant way of branding yourself.
Challenges you’ve experienced as a freelance cinematographer
For one, seeking out clients is a continual challenge one must deal with. Cinematography is also not a cheap affair – not if one is going to produce a top-notch picture and sound quality. Equipment used is expensive which in turn translates to the high cost of production. This means that some clients will consider your services too expensive. As for me, I have set a standard which I live by as far as my business is concerned. This has sometimes meant that there are offers I had to turn down because if I accepted the amount offered I could not deliver on the level of excellence I would have wanted to. It’s a sacrifice I have had to make a number of times.
There is also the hectic chapter of dealing with clients who do not honour their word when it comes to completing payments. Sustaining a reliable network of clientele is the last challenge I will mention today.
Advice to someone who wants to step out
Don’t be afraid to start. Start where you are with what you have. Believe in your passion and in the picture God has painted in your mind.
Write down your vision clearly and how it can be achieved. If you don’t have the right skills get those who are ahead of you, approach them and learn from them.
If they have some vacancies to take up assistants, take that as an opportunity. We are in the information age; embrace it by reading, researching then practice by being someone else’s assistant in the field you are interested in. This has worked for me. Earlier on when I was starting out, I volunteered a lot and even requested to follow some of my mentors then around. I learnt a lot, later on, some of my business opportunities came from the same people. Just endeavour to be excellent and have a teachable spirit.
I must say however that it takes time. Be teachable and of good character generally. Be patient and believe in yourself – if you don’t it will be hard to start or even get ahead.
Don’t fear failure, it’s part of the journey to success.
Success is relatively unique to every individual. The fact that I can take care of my family, pay bills and do some investments here and there is a great joy for which I bless God.
The fulfillment of doing what I love and making clients happy by turning their ideas into reality is also something I consider a great blessing.
I have met and made great friends in this line of work. I have traveled to so many places within and without Kenya and I must say that it’s a great plus.
It’s said your network is equivalent to your net worth, I can’t complain. This has been my reality. My networks have been my opportunities.
Summary of your journey as a freelancer
To be honest, “nothing good comes easy” is the phrase I can best use to summarize my journey. It’s been a challenge. It’s been tough but with a positive attitude, I believe that tough situations are meant to bring the best out of us. I’ve managed to navigate through the challenges and by the grace of God I have not yet given up. I have seen the fruits of persistence, hard work and maintaining a positive attitude while at it.