7 Reasons Why Freelance Techs Should Be Starting An Online Business

Learning Something New Is Already Second Nature 

learning new skillsI spent quite a few years in the audio-visual industry as a technician. I did a little project management and latterly moved into the business development side of things. I’ve been telling people some bits and pieces about those years recently and it occurred to me that they actually gave me a pretty good start as an online entrepreneur. Here’s why I think learning something new and starting an online business is very well suited to audio visual freelancers.

What I saw time after time in the industry was how tough it can be as a career. What normally happens is that young people often enter the industry straight from college where they studied something like sound engineering or theatrical lighting. The dream was usually to become sound engineers to the stars or sought after lighting designers – a life of travel, glamour and excitement.

Sadly the truth is that those kind of jobs are few and far between and actually tend to involve long apprenticeships – making tea, helping out with the menial stuff etc and volunteering for every tedious task that comes along just to show willing and soak up experience (and spilt drinks)

This Is Not What I Signed Up For !

So very often the viable alternative – the foot in the door – is to find a job with an AV company as an audio visual tech. The behind the scenes people that work the equipment at corporate events. This at least gives you the chance to use some of what you learned at college and to start being a professional of sorts. Albeit you’ll be working on awards dinners, corporate events and conferences rather than rock n roll gigs or big entertainment productions.

Like the glamourous jobs though this will also involve a degree of apprenticeship and you’ll be expected to be multi-skilled rather than a specialist tech in your chosen field. Most commercial AV companies do basic equipment hire and look after the daily AV needs of hotels and other venues as well as the bigger events. This I know from experience can be mega frustrating as a lot of your working day will be filled with brain dead activities like the dreaded flip chart delivery…

The Dreaded “Emergency” Flipchart Scenario

learning new skills


So a typical day might involve a lot of delivering flip charts (these are often “emergencies” I used to visualise desperate men in suits writing on each other when they had forgotten to order a flipchart from the venue), projectors and other items. You might then be working on a show at night or on a weekend after a week of being a glorified delivery boy. Not really what you signed up for! I don’t think I can remember a single person I knew in the industry who actually set out to be this kind of tech.

Eventually what tends to happen is that this becomes too much to bear. Yes you might move through the ranks and be the go to guy for sound or lighting but you’ll never get away from the – needs must – 9-5 delivery aspect of the job. In fact if you are on more and more late night events on top of the flip chart thing you get jaded pretty quickly. Yes the overtime stacks up but you’re too tired to spend the money!

What’s the next move then? For most techs who have reached this point, haven’t been made redundant and still want to stay in the industry, it’s the freelancer route. This way you can pick and choose jobs and attempt to specialise in the area you want – or can you….

Certainly in the UK, events are pretty seasonal. Budgets for events have dropped vastly since the recession so managers of AV companies are pressured to use less freelancers and to negotiate for lower daily rates when they have no choice but outsource freelancers. This kind of puts you back to square one in terms of earning more money. If you get a reputation for knocking back work – which will sometimes be a day doing daily deliveries (back to the flipcharts) your phone will soon stop ringing: Reputation is everything.

The attraction to freelancing used to be that with a higher daily rate than an employee you could, in theory, work less as well having the ability to specialise. That’s not been the case for many however in recent years.

Many AV companies have reduced their overheads to compensate for lower budgets by ditching employed technicians. This means there can be more need for occasional delivery guys (flipchart specialists) in busy times. Couple that with a decrease in spending on events – conferences now don’t always have to be in venues – and seasonal downtimes and it’s a tough game.

Can you see yourself doing load-ins at 3am when you’re 40, 50 or even 60? – with YOUR bad back!


Why is starting an online business a suitable alternative or additional revenue for freelance AV people then?


  1. Technicians are used to quickly learning new skills and adapting to circumstances
  2. Many of the core skills learned are immediately transferable and ultra useful in online marketing.
  3. The ability to work in niches you are passionate about – to sell products related to the area of the industry you specialise in(or wanted to)
  4. The ability to market your own services online – whether in the form of digital information for people interested in learning new skills or to literally promote your offline services, or both.
  5. Already used to working outside of the 9-5 – it’s one of the reasons you got into the AV industry in the first place and it’s the main reason people work online.
  6. Discipline. If you’ve supported yourself this far an freelancer then you have discipline, lifeskills and a good work ethic. Both necessary qualities for online success.
  7. You can still work while you build the business (possibly even during shows instead of being on Facebook or watching movies when you’re stood down during dinner ; )

So if any of this makes sense and you want to learn how you can go about re-skilling for the new economy and starting an online business – get some free videos by hitting the switch below and at least investigate. If nothing else you can tell us how you would have done the lighting better ! lol