Video Production Business Tips – Make More Money on Low Budget Video Productions

I was offered to produce a video project which consists of four 5-minute videos with a budget of $10,000. A few years ago, I would have fallen out of my chair laughing like a hyena because there is no way I’d ever be able to produce that much content for only ten grand. Well, I figured out a while back that instead of turning down a low-budget project, I should think about how I can turn the client into a temporary producer, thus reducing the amount of hours I have to spend on the project.

Now, when I approach the client about my plan for having them contribute to the project so that I can still produce the video with their proposed budget, they often agree. It’s not always a cake walk though.

Here’s what you can do to make such low- budget video projects more profitable.

1. Develop a budget for what you would charge them retail if you produced the video under your normal rate structure.

2. Figure out which project tasks you can have the client perform so that you can remove those elements from the budget.

I have found that having the client write the script and plan the shoot days is a great place to start (with your help of course!). You can take it a step further by having them log the footage and select the shots they want to use in their script. Just remember that the more you delegate things to them, the longer the project will take to complete. Strike a good balance so you’ll arrive at a budget that makes the client happy without overwhelming them with video production responsibilities.

3. Once you figure out what you’d like the client to do, develop a proposal and share it with them.

Tell them how much money they will be saving by handling those tasks and be sure to give them as much advice as you can prior and during the video production process. Even the most inexperienced client will be able to do all or most of the tasks you have assigned them, especially with a little hand holding. I give them templates to work with so that what they give me will be congruent with my work flow. Explain to the client that by you not having to do those tasks, you’ll be able to spend their budget on making the video spectacular. In the project I referenced above, the $10,000 will be spent shooting and editing, not in planning, coordination, scripting and logging.

4. At this stage, one of three things will happen.

The client will either agree to your plan and sign your contract, they will not agree to your plan and will sign the contract of one of your competitors, or they will appreciate the fact that you tried to figure out a way to produce the video with their proposed budget and will ask you what the cost will be for you to handle the entire video project. If the latter happens, simply quote them what it will take for you to do the entire project and remember to repeat everything you have done up to this point with the next prospective client/project.

5. Let’s assume the client agreed to help produce the video in order to keep costs down.

You have to educate them about what exactly needs to happen and when it needs to happen. Whether they mean to or not, they will often try to put the tasks you have assigned them back in your hands. When this happens, you simply have to tell them what still needs to happen per the plan outlined in the agreement. Most clients will understand and will proceed until they have completed their tasks for the project. Other clients will realize that they have bitten off more than they can chew and will ask you to quote the fees required for you to take over the entire project instead of them doing it. When this happens, jump on it! Get a quote back to them right away when they are ready to approve the additional budget.

6. If the client remains on task, you have to make sure they aren’t writing a script that will cost more for you to shoot and edit than what was proposed.

Remember that they don’t have any idea about the impact of what they wrote in the budget so you have to guide them along the way. For instance, they’ll want to shoot 5 interviews in 5 different locations. You’ll have to convince them that it would be better for the budget to do the 5 interviews in one location over the course of one day. If they agree, you’ve just preserved a lot of your budget. If they disagree, you can explain to them how their decision will cause you to go over budget based on your agreement and supply them with a quote for the additional work. They will either agree to the additional charges or they will simply schedule all interviews in the same place on the same day. You win either way.

7. After the footage is shot, burn time code DVDs and give them to the client for reviewing and shot selection purposes.

If you negotiated it properly, it will be their responsibility to choose the best takes and to record the time code into the script. Once they start this process, they will either do it all with no complaints or will realize how time consuming this process is and be willing to hand it over to you (for an additional charge of course).

Making your client a producer/director for the video project not only helps you make more money, it helps you to develop a great working relationship. Clients will see you more of an expert after you have walked them through the video production process. Assuming you did justice to the finished video, it will be VERY difficult for them not to hire you for future projects. You have proven that you are an expert, they are happy with your finished product and they know you will do whatever possible to help them stay within budget. In their minds, you offer the best value for their investment. That’s a great place to be as a videographer.

So, how did my low-budget project work out?

I had the client write the scripts and coordinate the interviews. Her scripts were longer than 5 minutes each and she approved an additional $3,800 in fees to complete the project. Plus, she is ecstatic with the finished videos and has already expressed an interest in producing other videos in the near future.

If you are smart about approaching low- budget video projects, they will no longer be considered low- budget. Remember that the only thing that really matters is that you meet the client’s goals for the project and the hourly revenue meets or exceeds your video business goals.