Advice from BECTU's Sharon Elliott on how to break into TV

Advice from BECTU's Sharon Elliott on how to break into TV

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(Credit: rawpixel on Unsplash)
(Credit: rawpixel on Unsplash)

BECTU's Sharon Elliott gives her top tips on how to break into one of the toughest industries, TV.

Whether you land your first job with one of our broadcasters, or with an independent company, remember that television production should reward not just those who own the assets but every single person who contributes to the production, from the runner upwards. 

And there’s the rub. Despite the profitability of the sector, and recognition that the UK is a world leader in the field, massive interest in working in TV means that it can be hard to get started and get paid for the work you do. Building a sustainable career is the ultimate challenge for the new entrant.  

(Credit: BECTU)

The best advice to new entrants coming into this dynamic area is to be your own critical best friend: 

  • Value your skills and your commitment and others will too;  

  • Don’t work for nothing (all this does is encourage exploitative employers); the law states that workers should be paid at least the national minimum/living wage;  

  • Put a time limit on any project which isn’t helping you to make the progress you deserve;  

  • Get it in writing! If you’re an employee you should receive a contract within eight weeks; if you’re freelance and don’t receive a written contract set out your own understanding of the terms and send this to the employer; this will help to clear up any misunderstandings later; 

  •  Keep a record of all the work you do (and tax and NI paid, or unpaid); this is vital if you’re completing your own tax return; 

  • If you need to chase a bad debt, act quickly and professionally - BECTU supports members with monies owed cases; 

  • Get connected by taking part in events and trade shows and exploring sources of help; there’s lots of useful advice and training to take advantage of (some free or subsidised) and great contacts to be made, including online;  

  • If your role requires insurance make sure you’re covered and if you have kit be sure to cover this too; 

  • Develop a professional persona; you don’t need to sacrifice your personality to be business-like but remember a good reputation amongst colleagues – being a good timekeeper, delivering what you promise and considering others – will help you succeed; 

  • Be mindful of your online reputation too; don’t say anything in that space which you wouldn’t want your employer, or a future employer, to see.  

We in BECTU, the industry trade union, love television and have the highest regard for the people who make it. We also know the level of commitment required to get established, and the personal sacrifices needed to get ahead. Long hours and lack of personal time are familiar concerns. Low pay, or no pay, is another key challenge for the new starter. But BECTU exists to help.  

Whether it’s the long standing legal right to paid holidays or the conclusion of an important new agreement covering TV Drama (1 December 2017), BECTU continues to press the case for a better, fairer workplace for both staff and freelancers.   

To find out more about the benefits of BECTU membership visit 

Take a look at the free advice in BECTU's Freelance Survival Guide 



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BECTU's Sharon Elliott gives her top tips on how to break into one of the toughest industries, TV.