Writing the script on freelancing

clapper board Film production companies turn to Hyan Thiboutot for his expertise as a "script doctor"

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A new survey has indicated that 2,500 "micro-businesses" have been launched in Scotland this year.

Two-thirds of these businesses only employ one person.

So what is it like to start out on your own? One Canadian-born scriptwriter says he is thriving as a freelancer.

All movies used to be made by huge production studios, like Disney and Pinewood, where huge teams would work together under one roof.

But every aspect of film-making has had to keep up with rapid developments in technology.

That means the look of films has changed on-screen - and so has the way film-makers collaborate off screen.

It's now possible to play a key role - even if you're self-employed, working alone and the movie's being produced on the other side of the world.

'Script doctor'

Hyan Thiboutot is doing just that. He's a self-employed scriptwriter, based in Edinburgh, having come to Scotland from Canada 15 years ago.

When he lived in Montreal, he headed up the writers' department of a large production company.

Here, he's self-employed and he usually works from home - but he's very busy.

"I'm a script doctor," he explains.

"Film production companies often hire me at the beginning of a project to adapt a book for the screen. Or they'll call me after a production has got under way, to change a screenplay.

"It might be when they need to shave the budget, or remove a character. Right now I'm working on a Canadian feature film - a $25m production."

"Much of the work I do is internet-based - I'll email, use Skype, or phone. Or if I have to, I might fly to meetings in the country where I'm needed," he adds.

Staff costs

A new survey, for online outsourcing firm Freelancer.co.uk, has found a growing number of people like Mr Thiboutot who've found a niche working on their own.

Of 2,500 Scottish micro-businesses set up this year, 65% only employ one person. Many started up because they were confident they could keep staff costs to a minimum.

"This survey shows that it's easier for businesses to set up without worrying about having expensive staff costs that can drain resources and ultimately lead to a quick bankruptcy," says Bill Little, European Director of Freelancer.co.uk.

"Yet they are still putting money into the labour market, hiring at least one member of staff and hiring others for short-term work, often over the internet."

New opportunities

The UK government's Department of Business, Skills and Innovation recently found businesses which only employ one person had doubled in number between 2000 and 2012.

Start Quote

Many of these business owners are part-time workers themselves, setting up their business with the security of having a steady income”

End Quote Bill Little Freelancer.co.uk

Some of these new firms were set up by people leaving a full-time job because their employers were shedding staff. But others were choosing to make this move, because of new opportunities.

Bill Little explains: "Many of these business owners are part-time workers themselves, setting up their business with the security of having a steady income, and then only going it alone when they are sure the business will be successful.

"Being able to hire staff as and when they need them gives them the flexibility to control costs and ultimately succeed."

Of those surveyed, most said they had been able to do it because they can employ people as and when they need them - suggesting the businesses today were more willing to employ people for short-term jobs.

And 43% of firms were able to hire people for short-term work because of the availability of a remote workforce on the internet, allowing them to hire accountants, legal advice, marketing and sales staff, as well as design and branding services with confidence.

'Growing market'

So for Mr Thiboutot, this is an exciting time.

"Right now I get lots of work from North America," he says. "They produce huge amounts of drama programmes for cable and pay-per-view TV channels.

"But there's a growing market in China too, and I'm getting lots of work there too. I've become a stand-alone business. And my work's in demand."

Mr Thiboutot, though, admits there is a downside to working on his own.

He explains: "Working in this way is a double-edged sword. You can select your hours, projects, and the people you work with as long as you meet the deadline.

"But there's lots of competition for the work I do. The quantity of work can also fluctuate, and there are some months of the year when things can be quiet."

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