What To Expect When Requesting A Quote From A Video Production Company
Book after book, blog post after blog post, seminar of seminar! Lots has been said about pricing! Most of it, however, comes from the vantage point of ‘how to price your services as a business’, but in today’s article, I want to inform you on the client’s view of what to expect when asking for a quote from a production company.
With that said, every company is going to do their pricing slightly different, but I think I can confidently say that the pricing structure I’m about to talk about is one of the most common ways. This is also how I do my project pricing.
PRICING IS ALMOST NEVER STANDARDIZED
Let’s first start with the basics and then we’ll get into details. First off, you need to understand that no two videos are exactly the same, each requires different efforts, amounts of time, special equipment, planning, and much more that I’ll go into detail about later. For example, let’s look at these two SuperBowl commercials below as an example. Both are 30 seconds long, but both had very different production processes and production values. (Note: I have not seen or hear of the behind-the-scenes of either of these, so these are general observations from the mind of a video director)
Alright, let me point out some differences. Starting with the first video, the Pringles commercial, the biggest things I want you to take note of are these.
It had one location, one lighting setup, no major CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), both subjects stayed in the same location making audio easier, and there were only a few different camera angles.
Now let me point out some details about Michelob’s commercial.
It had 5 shooting locations, multiple camera angles and lighting setups for each location, some shots required camera movement (not just on a tripod like Pringles), there was major CGI involved (actual robots weren’t used [sorry to burst your bubble] and every scene had a robot in it), there was intense sound design (even without dialogue there are sounds that have to be included or created such as footsteps, robotic joint motions, golf swings, boxing gym ambience and bag hits, cycling machines, laughter and background chatter, thunder and rain, pouring liquid, and probably a few others I missed).
Hopefully that gives you a very, very, very, brief peek into the fact that even though both are 30 seconds, they are VERY different from a production standpoint. I wish I had a dollar value difference for you, but I can guarantee you it was a BIG difference in $$$! I’ve actually had clients, who are were requesting a quote for my video production work, ask for a quote for a 30 second video and then give no other information. When I proceeded to ask for more details they didn’t understand why I couldn’t just price it out knowing the final duration. Moral of the story is, IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT!
PROJECT CUSTOMIZATION AND DETAILS
More often than not, when someone reaches out to us, they don’t give enough details in their email for me to give an accurate price. Naturally, one of my follow-up emails says “Sounds like a great project, is there a time we can hop on a phone call and discuss some more of the details?”. To this, a lot of people are turned off because it sounds ‘sales-y’, which I get, but it simply isn’t a realistic expectation. Every project is custom to the clients needs, goals, end use, budget, and deadline. Here are some important questions that I typically ask if you request a quote:
- “Tell me more about your company so I fully understand what you do, who you market to, and how you want to be perceived by the public”. This is a crucial and often overlooked question by young professionals or freelancers, but is typically one of my first questions. How can you expect me to create content or an advertisement that is in line with your company if I don’t know your company? It’s like going to the mechanic, asking them to fix your car, and then the mechanic starts replacing parts without ever asking what’s wrong with car. Our goal as a production company is always to help your business! If your company has a negative perception, I need to know about it in order to help fix that. If your sales are low because your website has no imagery to capture peoples attention, I need to understand that the content is going to be used on the website to help with sales. If you have a very niché target market, I need to know that so my content aligns with that demographic. Hopefully you get the point; I can’t blindly create content without first being relational and understanding the company.
- “Do you currently have ideas for this project or are you wanting my help in developing ideas?” I LOVE projects where we get help with the creative vision, however sometimes the client already had their marketing team put something together. Now, obviously I will still give my feedback and insight as the professional in my industry, but I need to know from the start how much they’re depending on me for the vision of the project.
- “How is this content going to be used?” This is another big question that get’s overlooked. Yes, to some extent it doesn’t matter because you may used the same file to upload to your website as you do to your instagram profile, but at the same time it does really matter. First of all, let’s think about the type of people or the format of the end medium. If this is going on Instagram, people are quickly scrolling through content and we need to make sure that our video or photo catches their attention right off-the-bat so they don’t keep scrolling right past our content. Furthermore, some social media platforms have time limits. For example, if you want to post a video to Instagram on your feed, it needs to be less that 1 minute. That’s important because if the plan was to create a 3-5 minute video, you won’t be able to use that on Instagram. We’ll have to create a second version of the video that fits within Instagram’s 1 minute limit (a second version means extra editing time for us, an important detail when quoting a project.)
Furthermore, let’s say you wanted to use this content on nationwide television. That is very important to know! Suddenly it becomes extremely crucial to have all our licensing and legal ducks in a row. Also, some networks have very specific technical specifications that need to be met as to the camera capabilities, color profiles, bit depth, resolutions, duration, bit rate, etc. Again, these kind of questions help us determine which gear we will be using and the cost of licensing.
- “Do you have a deadline?” This is important for obvious reasons. If you have a big production and you want it done next week, it may mean I have to put other projects on hold, hire extra help, pay people and crew overtime in order to meet you deadline, order last minute plane tickets that are now very expensive, etc. It helps me know a lot about your project and what to expect.
- “Do you have a budget?” Another obvious but important question. Let’s say I have two identical shoots with the exact same content shot-by-shot, but one is shot at 1080 resolution and one is shot at 4k resolution. That single difference could be the difference of $1,000-$10,000, again depending on a lot of factors such as do I need a specific camera that will need to be rented, how many days will that need to be rented, the amount of data storage that will be needed, extra editing time because of larger files, etc. Almost everything in video production can be upscaled or downscaled depending on budget, so knowing if you have a limit is important.
Every project is custom to the clients needs, goals, end use, budget, and deadline.
There are a few other details that will come up as we talk about your project too. Once we know budgets and goals and what the project will look like, it then allows me to take into account things such as how many locations (travel), specific locations needed (may require city filming permits), how many actors, models, or extras will be needed, how many days can this shoot be completed in (will we need accommodations for people, are we providing food, etc), how many crew members will be needed on set to accomplish the desired vision (some shoots are harder than others when it comes to lighting setups, time limits, camera movements, hard to reach locations, etc). A lot of these will flesh themselves out as we get to talk about your project
CONCLUDING A PROJECT QUOTE
Hopefully, if your eyes haven’t already glazed over, you see that there are a lot more details involved than just “the final video should be 30 seconds long.”
With that in mind, the next step after we’ve either met or had a phone conversation is for me to go back to my computer, look over my notes, gather my thoughts, and put together a project proposal. Since there is a lot for me to consider, I never give quotes off the top of my head. I made that mistake in my initial years of starting a business and learned that it’s very easy to under-estimate and loose money on a project. It will give more peace of mind to me and to the client if I can go and put together a well formulated plan and a price they can count on. Most of the time I can tell people that I’ll have them a proposal by end-of-the-day, but depending on the size and complexity of the project it may take a few days to get you a proposal.
The way I personally like to operate my business is that a quote can be relied on so long as the parameters of the project stay relatively the same. I don’t operate Wahlman Productions in a way where I quote you one thing and then after the project is over, send you a bill for all the ‘fine print’. In the initial proposal I give you an exact quote for the project discussed and I clearly lay out in advance what extra costs would be charged IF the scope of the project changed.
At this point, once the proposal is in your hands, I confirm you received it and then, after giving you some time to read through it, I follow up to make sure we were on the same page and that nothing was mis-communicated. If all was good and the client wants to move forward, that’s when the real magic starts to happen.