The Freelancer Lifestyle – An Interview with Carlos Campos

Calling Carlos Campos a jack of all trades I would say is highly appropriate.  He has been living the freelancer life for many years, and has done all manner of projects, from music videos, to animation, to multimedia presentations, to translating, to logo design, and the list goes on.  His intention as a freelancer is to help you make your project happen, whatever it is.  He’s got the right attitude, certainly, that one needs to have if one is going to try to take on this lifestyle. 

For example, if you assumed that living such a free lifestyle is all about being free and having lots of money, you should realize first that many freelancers are humble people in that they aren’t obsessed with money the way others can be.  No, being a freelancer is more about working on stuff you want to work on instead of what someone else tells you to work on, but the operative term here is “work”.  It’s a job, and in this conversation with Carlos I basically talk about his work and what it involves.  So if you want to hear about what really living that life means, buckle up…

I should mention here that the way I met Carlos was in the context of developing an animated nursery rhyme for a song called Slippery Fish that eventually ended up getting quite a few views on Youtube.  This might seem a bit left field for those that know me, considering the type of music I normally do as Young Coconut.

My intent on this particular occasion was to talk to Carlos about music and video production, as our paths crossed that way and this is still what we focus on at this time while working together.  That said, the following conversation you are about to read definitely zigs and zags a bit, and it became more about the freelancing lifestyle in general, while still being tied somewhat to music (the theme of this website).  I think by the end, you will understand something about the work ethic one needs to make this thing work.  Let’s go to the interview now with Carlos Campos.

YC:  Hi Carlos, how are you doing?

CC:  Hey, I’ve been a bit sick recently but feeling much better now, thanks! What about you?

YC:  Not bad.  It’s getting cold here, but things are pretty good!

CC:  Nice! Here in Mexico it can get chilly, too, despite what many people might think! Not as cold as Canada, though, that’s for sure.

YC:  Actually, I always wanted to head down that way.  But I digress…So, today I wanted to talk to you about working with music and video together.

CC:  Yes! That’s right.

YC:  So can you give me your background in both video and audio?  Doesn’t have to be a novel.

CC:  Sure! I’ve mainly worked as a freelancer for clients and businesses who’ve requested auxiliary visuals for presentations and media content such as trailers and other informative videos.

YC:  Aha, right.

CC:  I have taken several courses on multimedia software and techniques throughout my school life as well, though I mostly consider being self-taught, having developed my skills on the professional field, mainly the Microsoft and Adobe Suites, YouTube and Google Data, and Windows/Mac OS.  I hope that’s not too long?!

YC:  No, no.  Sounds like you have a lot of different skills, but you’re more on the video end of things it’s fair to say.

CC:  For the time being, I’m certainly leaning a bit more towards that end.  There’s several elements that make video formats very compelling versus other types of media.  Video production even requires a certain cross-disciplinary, combining audio, images, text and design, which I like.

YC:  Yes, that makes sense.  So may I ask you some questions about how audio factors into your work?

CC:  Alrighty! Fire away!

YC:  Well, to be vague at first, in what way do you usually deal with audio when it comes to your projects.

CC:  That depends on the nature of the project. In a business-type presentation, embedded sound might be useful to give some cues, or engage the audience, but that’s mainly going the be the work of the person giving the presentation anyway.  When working with animation or more music-driven content, it’s a different story.  I usually don’t need too much support in terms of features. My preferred software for audio-editing is Audacity. It’s open-source, which is nice, and sufficient for my needs.

YC: what’s your preference in terms of what you like to work on in terms of video projects that involve music, and why?

CC:  Oh! Well, in terms of what I enjoy doing, I like to get in touch with up-and-coming artists. Whether it’s from the local scene where I am, or internationally. There’s some freshness about them and the way they approach their creations, with such honesty. They’re very open to collaboration, and there’s no need for the content to be too flashy.  In my experience, they’ve been really down to earth and genuine. Just real people, telling a story.

YC:  Are these mainly musicians you speak of?

CC:  I think we can call them that! Why not? Haha. Well, sometimes it’s friends of mine, sometimes it’s friends-of-friends, or otherwise complete strangers, who’ve approached me to have a promotional video made for some album they’ve put together or a music clip to go with a song.  I’ve done a few of those.  Some of these people actually go on stage and have a notable following, they tour even. Others, they play at bars and cafés. Others, not at all. I don’t think that makes them any less musicians, though.  For them, the sound can be very important. I generally try not to tamper too much with their tracks in any way and just adapt the footage to match their tunes.

YC:  So you mean recording and videotaping people performing live and then editing it for them?

CC:  On a couple occasions I’ve done that! Then others prefer animated videos to make it more conceptual or to convey something that couldn’t be done otherwise, in real life, that is.

YC:  So music videos essentially…

CC:  Yup!

YC:  Can you describe the types of music these artists are doing?  For instance, is there one specific kind or can it be anything?

CC:  I dare say, not one of them sticks to one specific genre. In fact, they don’t mind going from really grungy-sounding music to stuff that’s more ethereal, cheesy… almost silly sometimes. Hahaha.  I also like that it’s diverse.

YC:  So let’s get a bit more specific here.  How do you approach specific genres of music when it comes to the style of video?  Or do you just wing it every time, and how would you describe your style?

CC:  Well, I’m never completely ready or know exactly how I will approach any project, really. It always varies, which keeps things fun.  I’m fortunate enough that I get to work with a variety of nice individuals in the creative field. Some collaborations tend to be a bit more light-hearted so I get to play around a bit more.  Still, most of my work has been on the more corporate end of the spectrum.

YC:  I guess that’s the life of a freelancer!

CC:  That’s our life, haha, you said it!

YC:  What would you say budgets for projects range in.. like, would you recommend this style of work to others who might be curious?

CC:  If you have the initiative to start creating content, go for it! People usually hesitate a lot before diving in, saying they don’t have a good camera, or that they wish they were more confident, that they need to learn first, or have more money…If you don’t mind the visuals being somewhat amateur-looking (and you shouldn’t, it’s often a plus!), then maybe just take the first step!  Video production can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be!  You can make things more and more professional if you want to down the road.

YC:  I see, so your advice to prospective videographers is to dive in.  

CC:  That would be it, nicely summed up!

YC:  But when people pay you.. what range does that cover, and are you satisfied with that?

CC:  I like to work on a per-project basis. If people approach me and wish to invest in a certain piece, we discuss their goals, their needs and their expectations, as well as their possibilities. That is, whether producing a video with those specifications is really worth it for them in terms of cash, basically. If their budget allows it and I have the skills they need, we settle on a price we both deem fair. If they don’t agree with my rates or think they need something more advanced, it’s OK! We find a solution to that, too!  In terms of my rates per hour or so, they serve only as a guideline, as it might vary. Are you interested in me telling you in numbers how much a certain project might cost, or what my rates are?

YC:  You seem very flexible about rates.. is this the way to swimming in a pool of riches? I’m just asking, if doing the work you do is a viable job and would you recommend others try it?

CC:  Hahaha, well, to me it’s not about making the most money, but having a nice balance between work and personal life since, especially for freelancers, are two things that go hand in hand, and there’s a very, VERY fine line between them. I think having millions isn’t any good if you have no time to enjoy the simple things in life. Enjoying what you do.

CC:  To me, in general, flexibility is key. If you don’t agree with something or the client dislikes some other thing, that can be sorted out by being flexible, and it ends up being a win-win situation.  Worst-case scenario, you don’t take the job, and don’t lose all your hair due to stress!  If the video production and animation interests you, doing it as a freelancer can be very enriching. As long as you like it or want to try, jump in!  You can make a living out of it! 🙂

YC:  And where do you find the most clients?  These days, they say the world is small due to the web.  Would you agree?  Are you looking for people around the world, or mainly is it in Mexico and locally you find people to work with?

CC:  Most definitely. Online markets broaden your world. If, for whatever reason, finding work where you live gets hard, you have a gateway that let’s you contact clients where, who knows, they might be just be looking for you!  And believe it or not, word-of-mouth can be a game changer. Whether online or locally, tell people in your circles you do freelance or online work. It’s been extremely useful to me so far!!  Also, I don’t really think about one specific location. If it’s here in Mexico, in the UK, in India or in the Philippines, it’s all just work in the end!

YC:  Would you say you’re full time with that type of work right now or part time?

CC:  Right now, I’m doing this full-time. So far so good!

YC:  Cool.  So as far as the music side of things, that’s generally not your domain, at least in terms of the creation of that music.  Mostly you get music and integrate it with video?

CC:  That’s right.

YC:  And that’s where Audacity comes in handy…

CC:  It’s been a lifesaver for me!

YC:  Technically speaking, you don’t really run into any issues with it, correct

CC:  Nothing major. If there’s something weird, I just look it up and it’s usually an easy fix.

YC:  So what is important to consider when merging video with audio, technically speaking  Because I was thinking about you put it, in that if you have a song, and you have the video done, and you just pop the song or audio in…It just sounds easy.. like too easy.. 🙂

CC:  Hahaha.  After the trimming, boosting, etcetera is done, all it takes is to use a video editor and sync the clips with the audio. It does require patience and several tries, though!

YC:  So do people usually just hand you one chunk of audio and tell you to synch them up, or do you ever have to synch up lots of little bits?  Also, what’s the hardest product you can think of that you’ve worked on?

CC:  Can be a combination of both. I recall this one time where we had like eighty clips that were almost exactly identical! And still had to go through them all to make sure we were using the right ones… Subtle, but it makes a difference, I guess! 😉

YC:  Have you ever encountered “bad” audio from a client, ie. stuff you couldn’t use at all due to it’s crappiness?

CC:  Maybe one or two tracks didn’t have the best quality ever… but thankfully, they were usable!

YC:  How long have you been doing this stuff, overall?  Probably should have asked that before.

CC:  Haha, no worries. Overall, I’ve been dealing with multimedia content for around three years now.

YC:  Did something specifically get you interested in this field?

CC:  Not really! I mean, I like consuming video content myself and it started to just grow on me, I guess.  One thing led to another and here I am now! 

YC:  And so for editing software, what did you need to get?

CC:  I’ve been doing fine with iMovie for running clips together.  Since I usually create the models from scratch there’s no need to add any more steps. There’s Inkscape, Illustrator and Microsoft PowerPoint; any of those I might use often.  And if I ever were to need colour correction tools (not likely) I would turn to DaVinci Resolve which handles those great.  Again, no need for crazy expensive programs!

YC:  But you also do some animating…

CC: I create models or use pre-existing ones on Inkscape, then translate them to PowerPoint to put together the animated sequence!

YC: Sounds like you have a lot of skills in your back pocket my friend.  Animation, video production…Putting it all together with audio, and the list goes on.

CC:  Hahaha, cheers. Appreciate that.  Again, that is something I enjoy about what I do. Being able to include a little bit of everything.

YC:  Is there a place people can check out your work?

CC:  Yup! You can find me on Upwork at this link:  Don’t hesitate to drop by and inquire if you’re curious, or just want to say hi! 🙂

YC:  Nice, I’ll include that in the article, so people can drop by if they like

CC:  Sure! Appreciate it!

YC:  With all that said, I think we can pretty much wrap things up for today.  Thanks Carlos! Talk soon.

CC:  Sounds good! 

And so concludes our interview about all things freelance.  By now, hopefully if you were fantasizing about the lifestyle a little bit, you’re either fantasizing more, or you’re considering another career path.  For guys like Carlos, it’s a lot of work, but it’s also lots of fun!  See you next time!

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