Skip to content (Press Enter)

The ultimate beginner’s guide to freelance video editing

For a video editor, there’s never been a better time to go freelance and take advantage of the booming video content industry. So how do you become a freelance video editor and turn this passion into a successful career? We explain all in this complete guide to freelance video editing.

Discover Dropbox Replay
A freelance video editor works on a project from their laptop.

Freelancing is becoming increasingly popular, as more people are being drawn to the idea of working for themselves rather than a company or organisation.

Creative opportunities in photography, graphic design and copywriting are leading the way for freelance work. As modern digital technologies continue to improve, it’s becoming easier for creatives to work in more innovative and streamlined ways. 

Freelance work also allows creative professionals to identify and occupy niche markets in crowded industries. One such market is video editing – an in-demand skill that can introduce a freelancer to a variety of interesting clients and projects.

If you’re passionate about video and interested in launching a freelance career as a video editor, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to take a deep dive into the process of becoming a freelance video editor – starting with what makes this such an exciting prospect.

Jump to section

Why go freelance as a video editor?

More people are choosing the freelance life because of its flexibility – particularly the ability to set your own schedule and pursue a particular passion or niche.

But these aren’t the only reasons why many video editors are going freelance. Other key benefits include:

  • Low starting costs – all you really need is your laptop/computer and software of choice
  • You can test the waters before diving in – for example, if you work full-time you may be able to reach an agreement with your employer to reduce your hours to part-time, so you can carry out your freelance work without burning yourself out by juggling both jobs
  • You get to be your own boss – and having no other stakeholders means 100% ownership
  • You can chase the projects you are most interested in, rather than the ones assigned to you by a manager
A creative freelancer edits a video project across two monitors.

What does a video editor do?

If you’ve been working as a video editor for some time – perhaps in-house or for an agency – then you’ll already be familiar with the day-to-day aspects of the job.

But if you’ve only edited videos as a hobby, and not in a professional capacity, you may wonder what your prospective clients will expect from you. During the post-production stage of a project, a video editor will:

  • Receive raw footage and import it into some software – hopefully creating backup copies along the way, just in case something goes wrong!
  • Filter through the raw footage to find the most suitable clips
  • Organise the footage into a logical timeline/narrative
  • Trim excess footage to achieve the desired video length
  • Enhance the quality of the video by altering the visuals (such as colours and transitions) and mixing the sound/audio
  • Continually review and revise the video before exporting
  • Deliver the final video to the client in the specified format (and hopefully before the deadline!)

What qualifications do I need to be a freelance video editor?

Unlike some professions, you don’t really need any particular ‘qualifications’ like a bachelor’s degree to be a freelance video editor. Sure, some kind of accreditation could be useful – but video editing experience is more important.

However, there are some basic requirements expected for the job. These include:

  • Training and experience using your video editing software of choice, like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro
  • A good computer with enough RAM and rendering capabilities to manage your projects
  • A strong backup strategy – ideally with a combination of on-site and off-site backup solutions
  • Interpersonal and communication skills, particularly the ability to liaise with clients 
  • Presentation skills – especially if you want to host a live review session when delivering your video to your client
  • Problem-solving skills – for complicated client briefs and other hurdles

You’ll also need a knack for storytelling and a willingness to learn as you progress. Feedback is an important part of the video production process, so you’ll have to be prepared for constructive criticism from your clients and collaborators.

A creative wearing headphones works at their computer.

How to start freelance video editing

Now that we’ve given you an insight into the life of a video editor, it’s time to delve into the process of launching a freelance career.

1. Become an expert in your software of choice

It may seem obvious that you should be comfortable with your chosen software, but it’s very important. Which software you opt to use is entirely up to you, and may depend on your strengths and intended industry – many professional video editors prefer Adobe Premiere Pro or Adobe After Effects for digital visual effects and motion graphics.

By using Premiere Pro instead of alternatives like Final Cut Pro, you can easily share your videos with Dropbox Replay. This makes it much easier for your clients to review your videos and provide any feedback through comments and on-screen markups.

If you don’t have any hands-on Premiere Pro experience, YouTube tutorials will become your best friend. These can guide you through the video editing process from start to finish, and help you create sample videos to hone your skills before taking on freelance work.

2. Find your niche

There are lots of creative people out there – and anyone with a smartphone could call themselves a ‘video editor’ after altering mobile phone footage to share on social media like TikTok.

What differentiates the professional video editor from the amateur is the specialism. By trying to take on projects in every possible genre – commercials, property listings, events like weddings and graduations, music videos, the list goes on – you’ll never be able to truly master one area that you’re especially talented or interested in.

Ideally, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Find a niche and develop a complete understanding of the styles and expectations of video content in that genre. This will enable you to craft a more impressive portfolio that will stand out to potential clients.

3. Create a portfolio

A portfolio is an important resource for showing off your work. As you build your connections and your reputation as a video editor, a portfolio could ensure you’re not constantly having to reach out to clients for work. Instead, they may be able to find you through their own research, word of mouth or a referral from a previous client of yours.

Your portfolio could be a YouTube channel or website where you sell videos directly. Whichever platform you choose, it really needs to show off your editing skills and help you attract the right kind of attention.

A YouTube channel can act as a marketing tool for sharing your work across other platforms. A website is more traditional and customisable, and you can include a form or contact information so interested parties know how to get in touch with you.

A creative works on their portfolio on their laptop.

4. Network, network, network

Any freelance video editor will tell you that building your connections and networking are absolutely crucial. 

There are a number of great platforms available for finding freelance video editor jobs locally, nationally or even internationally. Online job boards, video-specific Slack groups and gig-centric websites like Fiverr will enable you to build your professional profile and help your freelance work gain momentum.

LinkedIn will be instrumental in gaining connections. It will not only allow you to filter through and apply for job postings, but also mean you can put your name, face, and reel or portfolio in front of potential clients and creative collaborators.

In the early days of being a freelance video editor, you could volunteer your time or lower your hourly rate for a non-profit or solopreneur with a limited budget. By building strong connections early in your career, you could develop lucrative working relationships with clients that last years.

5. Develop your business strategy

As your freelance career starts to take off, you’ll naturally have to adapt your business strategy. This doesn’t just mean increasing your hourly rate as you gain more experience and fine-tune your skills, but also:

  • Developing your billing system
  • Improving how you pitch to potential clients and collaborators – you might want to use creative tools like Dropbox Paper to brainstorm ideas and Dropbox Capture to record and share your project proposals
  • Improving your understanding of contracts, invoices and tax obligations
  • Setting schedules, boundaries and expectations with clients – including keeping track of meeting agendas and assigning tasks where appropriate, so everyone is on the same page
  • Adapting how you present and deliver finished projects to clients – using tools like Dropbox Replay to host live video review sessions and gather feedback

Tips for freelance video editing

When you first go freelance as a video editor, finding your feet will mostly be a case of trial and error. It’ll usually take some time to build relationships with clients and establish yourself in the market. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure your success:

  • Be proactive, not reactiveif you think your skills in a particular area are lacking, undertake more training to try and improve. Don’t wait until it’s too late, like when you’ve submitted a project to a client!
  • Be open to feedback and willing to learnsometimes it’s hard not to take criticism personally. But when feedback is actionable, like the on-screen markups and frame-accurate annotations in Dropbox Replay, you can stay ahead of the curve and know exactly what to do to sharpen your skills.
  • Be efficient with your client commsuse Dropbox Capture to record videos for clients running through any issues or questions you have about a project. This helps you get your message across clearly and is more personal than an email.
Two reviewers provide feedback on a video in Dropbox Replay.

Take your freelance projects to the next level

Dropbox brings everything you need to elevate your freelance video editing career. 

Use Dropbox Capture to create more compelling pitches for clients. Get your message across with videos recorded right on your screen, so you can clearly say what you mean – and demonstrate your skills – without the pressure of a scheduled interview or meeting.

And with Dropbox Replay, it’s never been easier to share videos for review. Replay helps you get to that ‘final_final’ edit faster by enabling reviewers to provide frame-accurate annotations and on-screen markups.