As a 10-person video production company, we have a lot of clients, and we regularly work with new ones. We sometimes find that our new clients’ projects don’t stay within budget, but incur additional charges - usually for the same, unnecessary reasons.
If you’re new to video and you want to avoid blowing your production budget - or if you’re a seasoned marketing pro who’d like to know if you’re missing anything - here are 8 insider tips, based on our experiences with many clients, that will keep your video project within budget.
The tips are below, but first, if you're a very visual person, here's the Slideshare...
1. Set a realistic budget
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. The wrong way to budget for a video is to decide on a number because it seems about right.
The right way is to ask experts how much your video will cost, and then allocate that much money. Unless you’re a video production expert, you won’t know how much you should be spending, because… you aren’t an expert.
Who are the experts? They're the production companies you'll be talking to as you develop your project. You can find them by asking someone you know and trust for a referral, or by asking your good friend Google. Either way, when you talk to these production companies, describe your project and ask for a ballpark price. (You're probably not ready to ask for proposals just yet.)
If the numbers you get from the experts are consistently higher than what you want to pay, you can do one of two things:
- redefine what you’re doing so it costs less
- adjust your budget upwards
2. Resist the urge to cheap outWe all do it. We all find a low price irresistible. We buy because something is cheap, and then we lament the lack of quality.
The same is true in video production. If all you want is a fast, cheap video, and the quality doesn’t matter, then by all means go with the lowest bidder - even if they’re way below the other bids.
But if the quality of your video is important, because your video is making a statement about the quality of your brand, don’t cheap out.
Instead, go with the bidder whose work you like, who has lots of experience, and who is clearly a good fit. If that’s the lowest bid - great. If not, spend a little more to hire the bidder who’s the best fit.
If you can’t resist the urge to buy cheap, you’re very likely to receive a final video that’s below the quality level you're looking for. You’ll have to pay for changes to bring the quality level up, if that’s even possible. Or, you may have to just abandon it altogether, and start from scratch with another vendor - which obviously is a major budget buster.
3. Make sure you have the time and the focus for this projectCan’t emphasize this enough: buying a video is not like buying a coffee at Dunkin. All the work doesn’t happen behind the scenes, and then your video is delivered, perfectly formed.
You as the client need to be engaged in the process. You’ll need to meet with your producer to collaborate on the script and storyboard, and you’ll need to give feedback at various points in the creative process.
If you don’t have the time to engage in the process, then shelve your project until you do - or you’ll wind up with a video that’s not what you had in mind, and that you’ll have to pay to fix.
4. Be honest and open with your producer
Once you’ve hired your production company, they’re on your team. They’ll help you any way they can, and they want to make the video you want.
But they can’t do that if you’re not open and honest with them.
They’ll assign a producer to work with you, and that producer needs to understand your product, your business model, your goals, and your budget limits if she’s going to manage the production process and deliver the video you want and need.
Your producer is on your team, and wants to do a great job for you. Help her do that by meeting with her, answering her questions, and giving her the information she needs.
If you don't want to share that information, you're running the risk of getting a video that's not what you need, and that you'll spend money fixing.
5. Actively participate in the creative process
Sometimes, people have a poor understanding of the process of creating a video. By this I mean they have no interest in participating before production, and instead prefer to give input when they see a draft - because then they’ll actually see the video, and they can say what they like and what they don’t like.
Here’s something else I can’t emphasize enough:
Holding off on helping to guide the development and creation of your video until you receive a draft is going to cause you frustration AND increase your costs.
Don’t be scared off by the term ‘creative input’. All it means is that you’ll work with your producer to develop the content and the style of your video.
Will it be interviews and B-roll? Will you have a professional narrator reading a script? Will it contain animation? Will it be completely animated? What style of animation do you prefer? Will it contain stock video and photos? What is the mood? What is the message? What kind of music do you prefer? Who is the audience?
Discussing these questions and being clear about your preferences will help your production company deliver a video draft that’s close to being perfect.
And you’ll stay within your budget.
6. Schedule carefully and thoroughlyYou’ll need to coordinate production elements on your end to make sure you stay within your budget. Whether that means booking the shoot location or scheduling everyone who will be interviewed, it’s your job to make sure that when the production crew arrives, everything is ready so they can get the job done in the budgeted time.
If they arrive at 8 am, but the machine they’re filming is unfortunately being demo’d for a customer and they have to wait until 11 to begin filming, you’re looking at overtime charges.
If everyone who will be interviewed is not in the office on shoot day, you’ll need to schedule another shoot day - again, for an additional charge.
7. Make sure you do a good job managing your decision makers
Once in a while we’ll have a client who sends us a list of changes after we deliver a draft. So we make the changes, and then a day later we get a list of changes for that same first draft, from another decision maker. We make those changes. Then a day later another list from someone else. Again, for the first draft.
That’s three rounds of edits for the first draft. And that’s the road to edit cost overruns.
Most production companies limit edit rounds, to avoid the ‘endless edits’ scenario. Your production company wants to deliver a wonderful video that's exactly what you need – but editing time costs money, and they can't stay within your budget if they can't control the edit hours.
Endless edit rounds are big budget busters.
Remember that it’s not your production company’s job to compile comments from various decision-makers into one edit list. That's your job.
So when you receive a draft, don’t send requested changes until you’ve combined the lists from all decision makers into one single list, which will count as one edit round.
That way you’ll be able to request changes to two or three drafts (depending on your agreement) while staying within your budget.
8. Understand what is included in the cost, and what isn’t
It always amazes me when a client contacts us six months after we deliver their video, and requests a change (swap out the logo at the end for their new logo, change the titles of some of the people in the video, change the web address at the end, etc.) and is surprised when we explain that there’ll be a cost.
Or when, just before we deliver the final video, a client says "Oh, forgot to mention that we need three different versions, with different calls to action at the end." Again, there can be surprise when we give a price for the additional work.
I don't want you, dear reader, to make the same mistake because of an erroneous assumption, so here’s an important fact of life:
Your video production company is only obligated to deliver what your agreement says they’ll deliver.
Any additional work beyond the terms of your agreement will cost you. Now, you may have a great relationship with your vendor, and you may request a small change that's easy for them to make, so they agree to do it for free, but don't assume that'll happen.
And there you have it - our insiders tips to help you keep your video production budget under control.