How to create the perfect freelance showreel

Knowing how to make a showreel is essential for any freelance creator of visual content, particularly a videographer, editor, animator or producer.

Our Yellow Cat consultants have watched and critiqued hundreds of showreels to date, and we’ve used this experience to compile an expert list of showreel tips- use these to showcase your talents, make your showreel stand out and secure your next big freelance gig!

Q1 – How long should my showreel be?

As a general rule of thumb, aim for a showreel that’s about 90 seconds in length. A little more or less is fine, but anything less than a minute will seem sparse, while more than two minutes of footage risks losing the viewer’s attention. Keep things short but engaging- bear in mind that the recruiter or client will likely be flicking through dozens of showreels at a time, and will usually make a decision within the first 30 seconds. Your showreel should be ample enough to showcase what you can do, but quality over quantity is ultimately the golden rule.

Q2 – What content should I include?

It goes without saying that your showreel should only include your best work to date. Your task is to sift through your portfolio, curating a selection of your favourite shots and the content that best illustrates your abilities. Here are some additional points on what to include:

  • Be sure to include your name and what you do at the beginning of your reel, and list ways to contact you at the end.
  • Don’t repeat clips from the same project, as it just looks like padding, and never use so much as a second of footage that isn’t yours.
  • Every video is a team effort, so make sure it is clear exactly what you did on a particular project. You can do this through the use of lower third text throughout the video.
  • If you are a VFX artist or a Colourist, a useful technique is to show  before/after shots of your work to show how you have transformed the footage.
  • Be strategic- think about the projects you want to work on in future, and make sure your reel reflects that kind of work. Are you trying to show off your versatility, or highlighting a niche specialism? Which brands have you worked, and would you like to do similar work again?

Q3 – How should I structure it?

As we’ve mentioned, a recruiter or client may only watch the first 20-30 seconds of your showreel before making a judgment call, so ensure your best content is placed right at the beginning to catch their attention. With your most recent and relevant work placed front and centre, you can work backwards chronologically from there. You want a cohesive finished product with a nice flow to it, but now is not the time for a slow build! Maintain a quick, engaging pace that allows your viewer to get a feel for each project, and end on a strong final shot to nicely bookend the piece.

Q4 – What soundtrack should I use?

It’s best to avoid audio clips unless your line of work specifically requires it. Most freelance creatives opt for an upbeat music track, where they can montage clips and cut quickly between them in time to the beat. While this technique is highly effective, feel free to experiment- a slower, orchestral piece can also contrast nicely with action-packed footage. Depending on your industry, strike a balance between a track that sums up your personality and is still neutral enough to be a crowd pleaser. You want a soundtrack that your target clients would be likely to choose themselves, so have a look at past music they’ve used for inspiration. Finally, be careful to use music that you have legal permissions for- Vimeo won’t restrict copyrighted songs, but you may find that YouTube or Instagram end up blocking your content.

Q5 – What platform should I host my finished showreel on?

It’s best to select a known provider that is optimised for showcasing high quality video content. YouTube and Vimeo are the two most popular sites for new freelancers, while more well-established creatives tend to self-host their showreel on a personal website, backing it up with the option of viewing a full portfolio of their work. This type of platform takes time and money to set up and maintain, but helps a freelancer hugely to stand out as a high quality professional in their field. If you haven’t already, it’s also essential to create and maintain a strong LinkedIn profile- this allows recruiters and clients to find your work and reach out with new opportunities.

Q6 – Should I have more than one showreel?

If you have more than one skill set and they’re not closely related, this is probably a good idea. The same applies if you do specialise in one thing, but work across a range of content types, e.g. corporate, advertising, and television. As recommended earlier, you should always mould your freelance showreel to the types of client you want to work for, and what it is they’re seeking- in this case, an all-rounder or more niche specialist? Creating multiple showreels is certainly more work, but in the same way you would tailor your CVs to different roles you can also adjust your reel, to avoid presenting irrelevant content and show that you can do exactly what it is they’re looking for.

Q7 – How often should I make a new showreel?

As anyone in the industry will be aware, video content quickly becomes dated, so it’s important to keep your showreel as fresh and up to date as possible. Your reel is essentially your visual CV and ideally should be updated after every freelance project, as it might be your most recent credit that could land you your next gig. At a minimum, it looks good to have a new showreel for every calendar year. Take out your oldest content and replace with the newest, or alternatively create a whole new piece- showreels go through stylistic trends as much as anything else, so it’s good to keep up with your competitors. Continuously look for new inspiration and get feedback from friends and colleagues, so you can showcase the best version of yourself possible.

With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to creating the perfect showreel!  Our final piece of expert advice is to get inspiration by watching as many other showreels as possible- see what your colleagues and competitors are doing, and learn what works best for you. Check out a couple of showreels from our own Yellow Cat freelancers below.

#1 – Daniel – Editor Showreel:

#2 – Ash – Editor Showreel:

Tripod Brixton,
Lambeth Town Hall,
1 Brixton Hill, London,

Hours: Monday to Friday, 8am – 7pm
Phone: 020 7580 7333