Video Production: Hire A Virtual Assistant Through Upwork To Find Videography Clients Right Now




Today, we are gonna take a look at how to use Upwork to help you land more video work by recruiting a quality freelancer to save time and money in between film and video projects.

Note: You should not be using Upwork to find freelance video production or freelance editor jobs. More on that below.

And if you stick around, there is a bundle of goods for you to get a quick jumpstart on finding more clients that's fast and easy.

All of us want to tell amazing, engaging, authentic stories of hope, truth, love, forgiveness, redemption, etc. without being cheesy. Don't get me wrong; we all want to do that.

In between projects, every single one of us has to be doing one of the following:


1. FT Soul-Crushing Day Job

1. practice leadership even without a title

2. practice communication

3. may not pitch at all

4. unlikely to work behind a camera

5. may never be trusted with seeing your department's budget

6. may never learn about marketing while on the job

7. may occasionally work on storytelling

8. may have a micro-manager or two that squashes creativity and doesn't trust you 

9. you have to get your reps in when you're "off," which gets harder to do the older you get 


2. FT Video Client Work

1. practice leadership even without a title

2. practice communication

3. naturally practice pitching

4. good chance you'll set up a camera every now and again

5. practice budgeting

6. learn about marketing

7. become a better storyteller

8. answer to many different people including government entities, and if you don't mesh with some turkey, you can simply say "deuces" when your shoot is done (note: don't burn bridges)

9. get your reps in during the working hours - how are you going to be a responsible manager of a story that will reach millions if you aren't a good steward of the smaller shoots?


Or Option 3: Bon Jovi It & Live On A Prayer

1. some periods of waiting - you'll learn patience and gratitude in spades

2. may have some combination of the former two work options or none at all

3. requires a great deal of faith

4. path less traveled - by a landslide


We all fall into one of these camps. I went from

1 -> 3 -> 2 -> 3,

and boy I still wrestle with being in the third camp.

So having said that, what I wanna show you today is how to use Upwork to help you find more of the people in your backyard, so that you are able to actually take your skills, and practice how to communicate, practice how to cast vision, practice how to lead people and also practice negotiating budgets.

If we don't learn these skills, we will never make it to the 30,000-foot-view where Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, et. al. are at. We have to level up, and in order to do that, we have to be intentional about client work. It doesn't always just land in our lap. If you're of the Bible persuasion, there's a really good story about this idea of taking the initiative with your talents. 

Reality check: even the really talented filmmakers that have people come to them still bust their butts to do quality work.

We wanna continue to use our gifts in big, bold, amazing ways to connect people to the message of hope. Those guys at the Filmsupply are very talented people; even so, I know they take pride with each opportunity, and they view each shoot as a chance to exercise those other skills that we as filmmakers only learn through hands-on work.

1. The market

So if you want to get started with Upwork, there are couples of things that you need to understand. First:

The global market for video production is in a race to the bottom.

Take a look at it:


I want you to see what we are up against. It's not to scare you, but it's up to you to know what this industry is doing.

People who are supposed to be super talented - look at the Upwork numbers. They make up a less than 10% of the global Upwork pool.

The vast majority are willing to work for less than $10 an hour. Now minimum wage is 8, maybe 8 and quarter in Nevada.

$8.25 guys!

Look at this bloke here:

He says he can handle video editing, cinematography, etc. but he is using Microsoft Movie Maker.


You have people who can do a video and they are willing to do it for dirt cheap - less than $10/hour, as though your skill set is comparable to flipping burgers. That's the ole global market for ya.

Now, Here is a guy who can do the 2D animation.

He says he is proficient in Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects. You are gonna find guys on here who will trade their time for pennies on the dollar! I found another guy, one who says he can do motion graphics, graphic design, and video editing, and he'll do it all for $7 to $8 hour. That too is less than minimum wage out here in the wild west!

Now, I realize the dollar is a lot stronger in the Philippines and a handful other places around the globe, but nonetheless, this is the global market that you are competing with, and it is messing up the laws of video economics as we know, and it’s hilarious, but again, this is not to alarm you.

The thing is, there's something that you have that the guys racing to the bottom do not have.

That guy pictured above? He's normally doing all kinds of different work here on Upwork in the way of video editing. And look at that, he is good - 98% job success: "Percentage of every freelancer job as a result of great client experience." This guy is good by the Upwork community standards; he's top-rated. He does it all for $10/hour. And he will beat you out every time except in one area:

He's not in your backyard.

He's in Croatia.

He cannot help Uncle Bob's auto shop that's just down the street from you. He cannot help the mega church that's down the street and suddenly wants to do an actual narrative, dramatic piece, and they don't have a good, solid filmmaker who they can call up to help them out. This man from Croatia cannot do these things because he is thousands of miles away, and he cannot get that chief marketing officer in front of his camera. He cannot go and capture those sacred moments at a wedding or when a loved one says goodbye at a celebration of life ceremony. 

He can't be there, but you can. This is an opportunity that you have right under your nose, in your own backyard, but you have to be proactive about it. You have to go and figure out how you are gonna reach those people right there in your county and take your skill as a video producer to them. 

2. Getting started

So Upwork is not all gloom and doom. You can find, just like every other digital service in this global race to the bottom, help by way of a Virtual Assistant (VA). 

A VA can

  • Do email research
  • Manage your calendar
  • Book appointments
  • Anything you can dream of that's done on the computer - if you're willing to invest in them with time and money

And you can hire a VA to find, say, 50 emails, businesses, owners, and products/services in your backyard, and have them all in a spreadsheet, which I already set up for you in the bonus section below. 

On Upwork, you are gonna create a new account. You are looking for online work. You are not looking to freelance, not in this instance. Here's why:

NOTE: I do not recommend freelancing through Upwork seeing as 3/4 of the video producers on Upwork will underbid you. Clients that hire video work through Upwork clearly want "cheap and fast," not "good."

So what are you doing here? On Upwork, you wanna hire a freelancer VA - that's where you wanna go. So, go ahead and create a free account. You can sign up through Linkedin if you already have an account with them. 

I am gonna assume you are solopreneur. Now, if you are using Upwork as a company, that's fine. You can go and sign up that way. But if you are an individual, fill out the information, say "yes" that you agree to their terms of service.

For all we know, you could be downloading "Mein Kampf." I hope not.

Hit "get started."

I have been using Upwork for months now. The top of my login screen looks the same every time I come to Upwork:

3. Post the job - Find 50 emails

I can go and click on that big green button and it's super simple to roll out an ad for a job (free mind you). 

So here is what you need to choose: your new "post job" is gonna be about finding email addresses, and if you want, you can teach your VA, your virtual assistant to go and take those emails and then write the emails for you-

-or you can use a program like Reply to jumpstart the emails so that you can actually find people in your backyard, approach them in a non-aggressive, non-salesy way and see if you can help them.


That's the whole point of taking your skill set, your God-given skill set, as a video producer or filmmaker, and seeing if you can tell somebody else's story. It's no different when we are at that $10-$100 million budget; we have to be responsible to the financiers and the studio executives who are taking those dollars and repurposing them to sell tickets and ultimately tell more stories. But ultimately, this is no different than what you are doing. They are trying to reach people with a story, and at the most fundamental level, that is what you are trying to do too.

I would suggest using a very blanketed description here. I would say "admin support" - you are looking for web research.

You can say "personal virtual assistant." It doesn't matter because you are gonna explain what they need or what you need help with anyways.

You want to find 50 emails and names of businesses in your town. If you are in Plovdiv, Wyoming, then you need to put Plovdiv, Wyoming. If you do live in Wyoming, this technique is going to be a lot harder for you - headsup! I grew up in a county in Metro Atlanta that had more residents than the entire state of Wyoming!

Now, describe the work to be done:

"I need to find 50 email addresses for businesses in Las Vegas using tools like Rapportive, Email Hunter and Reply, but you can use whatever tools you want to use to find these emails."

Here is what I would suggest, and I'll repeat this a few more times in this post:  once you have this process working, and if someone is indeed gonna help you in this project of finding possible leads, and if you have a good working relationship with him, then after one or two times, you should strongly consider using them from then on. Invest in them, okay? One of the greatest services you can do for a fellow man or woman is to teach them a good skill. Yes, it goes above and beyond what you are doing with the usual film and video, but if YOU DON'T GO ABOVE AND BEYOND, you will not hack it in this business (or any business) for long, and you won't be trusted be with a big budget film to reach millions of people.


You need to invest in your people. Make the time and commit to it.

If you think you can't lead, if you think you are the worst teacher ever, get over that doubt, crush that fear, and address it head-on because you will not grow as a filmmaker with that poor attitude. You cannot do the one-man band stuff forever.

It's not that difficult.

Take this challenge - force yourself to teach someone else how to use a skill set like Rapportive, Email Hunter and/or Reply. I won't go into those here but if you want more on those tools, comment below.

Now I take my video skills to the businesses downtown because I want to grow as a businessman so that I am a better filmmaker and better equipped to serve you, the microbudgeter. Everyone under the sun wants to teach you the best 4k camera under $1k and how to use it. 

No one wants to teach you the finance or marketing side of things, and that's what you'll find here at CF.

Obviously if you want to do just bluegrass country folk banjo-and-washboard music videos, you need to adjust your language. I like working with businesses, and I recommend it for you because it is the easiest way that you can start with paid video work. Businesses always have stories, and they are always trying to reach more people with their stories, know what I mean Vern? At the most fundamental level of business, they (businesses) are trying to reach people with what they are offering, and they have a story to tell, and they are bringing a service or a product to market to benefit their fellow man.

If you don't wanna to reach out to the businesses in your backyard, that's your prerogative, but you are missing out on that VALUABLE practice with pitching, communicating, leading, budgeting, etc. that will be hard to come by elsewhere. Big studio execs are business people - start learning how to work with them!

Now, you don't have to use Upwork to find people who are just looking to capture their kids' first birthday parties. I've never met a birthday videographer, but I'm convinced they exist, and the ideas behind outsourcing the work are the same.

4. Guidelines

Let's make sure we also have some guidelines for these people we're outsourcing work to.

Don't include businesses that are _________.

You fill in the blank.

Stumped? I would recommend staying away from adult entertainment, money lenders, other media companies, big corporations like Taco Bell, etc.

Are you adamantly opposed to the libertarian party or politics in general? You can say that. You can say "I don't wanna work with churches, and I don't wanna deal with non-profits."

Be specific. 

Then build a sheet to your liking for your VA to store this information, or use the one I have for you below. Tell the VA "I will create a Google Sheet and share it with you. Please fill it out." Then include the link to that sheet.

If you're training someone on the aforementioned programs, then mention that at this point. For example, "I have a tutorial for you on how to use Email Hunter on Linkedin and inside of your Chrome browser." 

5. Skills

Check all of the following:

  • This is a onetime project. Don't say it's ongoing work. You need to find someone you can work with.
  • You wanna hire one freelancer.
  • Skills needed - I would say Google Sheets, Google Apps, Google Docs, Email, and Research.

Working with the global market here, you are working with people that may not have ever used Email Hunter or Rapportive or any of the other dozen tools that are out there to find emails.

Show grace.

In case you skimmed, be willing to teach them, even if you do not end up working with these people for very long (if at all). Again, if you learn to value people that you wanna work with, whether that's you working for them or the other way around, then you are going to have an attitude that says let me equip you because a true leader, and this is for every filmmaker, a true leader makes sure that he or she cares more for the people in their employ than himself/herself.

You wanna make sure that you are elevating your people so that they can succeed. That is your primary job as a filmmaker. If you do that, people will follow you. They will support you because they know that you have their best interests in mind.

6. Pay

Never do hourly pay - for yourself or your VA's - always pay a fixed price. You need to make sure that you are going to offer a flat rate, especially with Upwork. I will never do hourly work through Upwork because it's a little harder to do damage control and mitigate any kind of abuse.

Are there safeguards for hourly work on Upwork? Yes. They have "milestones" that you can ask a VA to reach before some of the escrow'd money is released to them. 

And they (Upwork) have couple of checks and balances so that they can keep the system working. But you're not blind; you know abuse exists at every level.

Always go with a fixed rate for a job like this.

Related: Freelancers - Flat rates or by the hour? Always give flat rates.

This kind of job is clearly a 1099 job (domestically), so do not offer an hourly rate. If you are hiring an American worker, and you hire them repeatedly (to the tune of $600 or more in a year), then you will need to fill out a 1099 for them.

If it's an international freelancer, you won't need to fill out a 1099. Just write the the costs of hiring them off as an expense. 

Back to my plug for training your VA:

Give them $10, $20, or whatever you wanna do, but I recommend you train them and pay them for it. I pay my VA $10 to find 50 emails, names, etc. If you have a brand new VA, give 'em $20 because you are gonna give them the skills that they need to complete this job. Or better yet, create two jobs - one is the training, and the other job is the actual work you're hiring them for. 

Why would you pay for someone's training?

Because on this site, I always challenge you to over-deliver. I want you to value the people who are put in your path more than you value your own ambitions. So stop horsing around with the little league stuff, and level up Mang!

Remember, your VA has a family, a roof, and overhead as well. They may be in a third world country, they may be in Wichita Falls. It doesn't matter. They need to provide too, and you are now providing an exchange of goods and services to go and do that. That's a win-win situation.

Update (6.9.16): Upwork is changing their fee structure, so if you're working with a first-time VA, I recommend padding the amount you pay them so they are not absorbing this 20% cut (highway robbery).

7. Screening question

If you wanna see if your potential VA understands how to use Google Sheets, you can maybe think of something esoteric to Google Sheets and put that question in the field.

I sometimes add something real basic, like

What does =if(a1>5,"Ok","Error") return if a1 contains the value 4?

just to see if a worker really understands Google Sheets because I don't want somebody who has never touched Google Apps to take this job.

In any event, you will then go to "post job" or "preview," and you are gonna get people pouring in, asking if they can work with you. And you are gonna get some people that will just throw spammy cover letters at you.

They're not going to read through your ad, they are not gonna see what you are really asking about because it's their m.o. to spam you with their default cover letter. It's bad (the spammers) on Upwork, so it requires some patience on your part. Good folks exists. I promise they exist, else Church Films wouldn't be where it's at today without the help I've found on Upwork.



You are now an (occasional) employer who occasionally hires occasional employees.

Pro Tip: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you put $x.xx in escrow and check that the VA has the first 5 emails/names/businesses, before having them work on the remaining 45 if it's your first time. Like I said earlier, I usually pay $10 as a flat rate for finding all of this information for 50 emails.

Again, I suggest paid training ($5-$20) to get them started on finding emails using Email Hunter and Connect by Clearbit (if you're lost in the sauce on how to use those, I have a bonus for you in this post).

  1. This investment shows you care about them more than your 50 emails/names/businesses, which you should, and if you don't, you're not cut out to be a filmmaker who stewards multi-million dollar budgets and large crews where a LOT of people look to you for wisdom, guidance, and their well-being. 
  2. This ensures they get the work done and preps them for success with future work, with you or someone else.

Okay now get to it! 

Start up your Upwork account and leave a comment on the post when you have started the Upwork process, and let me know when you have landed your first VA to help you find people downtown that you can take your video service to.

And here's Johnny! Er, um, here's your long awaited bonus section:

  • Spreadsheet I use with my VA to catalogue names and emails
  • Message you can use with a VA to find leads
  • A video walkthrough of this entire blog post

To get in on all of the goodness, download your bonuses here: 

If you liked this, try:

How to land a $1k video Part 1

How to land a $1k video Part 2

Original: June 3, 2016; updated August 4, 2017.

Jake the film guy

I want to encourage others and bring honor to the Almighty in everything that I do with film and video. My goal is to take the first 11 minutes of my tv pilot and seek out decision-makers who can further the conversation about developing it into a show. If my team and I can do that, then we can teach 100,000 other microbudget filmmakers how to do the same thing so that we might tell stories of hope to millions. In the meantime, I'm a son of the King, a family man, a lifelong student of film, and the author of two microbudget filmmaking books.