Let’s tee off some action items and take a streamlined approach going forward that’ll really push the envelope and leverage our success. Got your spreadsheets ready? It’s time to go corporate.
As creators we get excited about new projects and constantly ask ourselves “Wouldn’t it be cool if we (fill in the blank)?” Our brains are filled with decisions and opinions about camera choice, shot composition, lighting, sound, editing, graphics, etc. - which is why we so often struggle coloring inside the lines of the corporate world.
At best, our creativity and talents often go unnoticed when a corporate project goes well. At worst, we’re called out for not meeting expectations. This dichotomy between success and failure is a fine line that’s balanced with clients’ intangible weights, including emotions and opinions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s how you can cross the line to success through budgeting, managing expectations and clear communication.
Bulletproof Budgeting - Estimate Guides
If there’s one thing corporations love, it’s budgeting, or lack thereof, for creative projects. This means that the funds for your video will most likely come from the marketing, advertising or public relations department. Businesses know that video work is expensive, and are hesitant to spend the money without some understanding of what they’re paying you for and why.
“What’s the difference between a $1,000 video and a $5,000 video?” If you find yourself trying to answer this question, you’re doing it wrong. Here’s why.
Estimate guide to the rescue. Before even discussing the details of a project, you should provide the client with an estimate guide clearly outlining potential services provided and fees involved. It might be tedious and expansive, but will save you from headache and frustration in the long run.
Take a tiered approach. People like options. Breaking your services into two or more “package” options such as “Basic” and “Premium” allows the client freedom of choice with a clear understanding of value-added the more they spend. Consider offering a discount rate for bulk video production.
Make it easy. At this point you have their business - don’t make it harder for yourself to get paid. Too often I’ve seen estimates that list every possible equipment rental option. Most clients won’t know the difference between a condenser mic and dynamic mic, so why make them decide? Instead, lump your preferred equipment and production needs into one of your tiered package options.
Manage Expectations - Be Realistic
Businesses sometimes assume that “clean and simple” videos are the same as “inexpensive and quick” videos. Recently I completed a rush job for a client - we had agreed on a budget, but the example work they provided was an ad for a network TV show. While the example ad was seamless and short, its style didn’t fit the client’s business and the effects used alone would have quadrupled our budget. Although it made me shake my head, I’m thankful the client provided the example early on so that I could manage expectations and better define success.
Get in their head. If you can understand a business’s motivations and desires, you’ll be able to better service them as a client. Consider meeting for a short strategy session, before production begins, where you can gauge expectations and ask for examples. That way if there’s ever a discrepancy during or after the production process, you can circle-back to what you originally understood.
Be honest upfront. Honesty is the best policy - you’ve heard it a million times because it’s true. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut corners when you’re on a deadline, other times you’ll realize that more work is required than you anticipated. But that doesn’t mean you have to sell yourself short either - stay firm to your estimate guide and be realistic when discussing production and pricing.
Communication Is Key
Video work is subjective. As creators we experience a different kind of creative freedom with video than we do with other forms of media, which is perhaps why we’re so drawn to it. Don’t let this freedom be a curse. The worst feeling in the world is when you pour your heart into a project, only to have it rejected upon completion. Here’s how to make sure you and the client are on the same page for success.
Single point of contact. It can be hard enough dealing with one person’s suggestions and edits, let alone a team of them. Insisting on a single point of contact before production begins can reduce conflicting direction and speed up the approval process, saving both you and the client time. Remember, time is money.
Update when necessary. It’s late and you’ve just finished your first day on set - you get an email “Can we see what you have so far?” Some clients like being involved every step of the way, others just let you do your thing. Make it clear what you will and won’t provide updates for. Because more updates can mean more revisions, which is why you should…
Keep revisions under wraps. With video produciton, Murphy’s law is a reality. So plan ahead and build a maximum number of revisions into your estimate guide. Let the client know that if they exceed their limit, it’ll cost them extra.
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