March 29, 2011
by Kris Simmons
Imagine getting calls from 5 major clients all within a couple days of each other. Each of them need a pretty substantial video project turned around in a hurry and it happens that they are all due within a couple days of each other…less than 4 weeks away.
Could you handle all this work by yourself? Do you have enough employees to handle such a workload? If not, what do you do?
In my case, I decided to handle producing and directing responsibilities for all the projects and to take on the editing tasks for one of them. The rest was outsourced to talented shooters, editors, production assistants, virtual assistants, etc.
Looking back, I wish I would have hired out the editing for that one as well since I logged so many hours in the suite but since that one was for my #1 client, I figured it would be safer and more likely to deliver on time if it stayed in my hands.
So, the goal was to fulfill more than $40,000 in production contracts in less than 30 days. We nailed it but it was definitely the toughest thing I’ve done since the economy took a dive back in 2009.
Here are some of the benefits of hiring the following contractors to help with your projects.
· Director of Photography – A good, affordable DP usually has their own production package complete with camera, lights, audio, etc. On a shoot, their job is to make sure everything looks good in the camera. Since most of my productions don’t have the budget for a true gaffer (lighting professional) or an audio technician, we typically make everything work with me, the DP and a production assistant.
Even though I’m a DP myself and have worked on thousands of productions, it’s still better in my opinion to have another DP on the set so I can spend more time dealing with client issues and making them happy. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to think creatively and let someone else do all the hard work!
Seriously though, with another DP doing all the labor to get things ready for a shoot, you can spend time talking with your client about other project opportunities or manage other projects via email, text or phone while waiting for the next scene to get set up.
I’ve found this single strategy to help a ton as it relates to managing several projects at the same time. Very profitable!
The cost for a decent DP can run anywhere from $500 to $1,000 for the day. I’ve had success finding guys who are on the lower end of that price range so do your homework…they are out there.
One way to reduce the cost of hiring a DP is to get them to use all or most of your equipment. They’ll typically prefer to use their own camera and I’m usually fine with that. But as for all the lighting gear, audio equipment and accessories, they can use what you already have if that will reduce cost.
· Production Assistant – Believe it or not, I have finally found a guy who is the perfect production assistant. He works for around $10 an hour and is willing to do whatever I need him to do, whenever, wherever and however. He just waits for my call and instructions and off he goes.
I used to think the only way I could effectively use a production assistant was on the set of a shoot. I was wrong. They can pick up or drop off media, run errands, make calls, research stock, etc. You name it and they can do it…and for cheap!
I try to ask myself this question before I sit down to do any task or jump in the car to run any errands…Is this something my production assistant can do or is it ONLY something I can do?
Basically, is my time better spent on this task or would I be better off hiring it out for $10 an hour while I jump back on a billable task where I can generate $100 to $150 an hour? Or, better yet, so I can get back to managing several projects with outside vendors so I can generate even more than that!
When it comes to finding a good production assistant, don’t assume that they have to have training in the video production industry. In fact, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. Someone with video production training is looking to move up as fast as they can so they’ll view your PA job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better.
Instead, find someone who happily works in the $10 to $12 per hour price range and has for years. Then, interview a couple of them to find out who has the best attitude towards work and life. That’s the production assistant you want to hire. Someone who proves they can be on time, dressed properly for the job and who takes direction or follows instructions very well.
These people are out there and once you find them, do everything you can to keep them busy enough so they don’t go looking for other work.
In my opinion, you don’t need to make them an official full time or part time employee.
Set them up as an independent contractor and only pay them as you need their services. You may want to talk with your accountant before doing this but this arrangement works well for my video business in the U.S.
· Editor – I have found that outsourcing the editing process allows me to get my life back. My wife and children are the most important thing in my life and I hardly ever see them when I’m stuck in the edit suite for days or weeks at a time.
If a project budget supports it, I try to hire out all or most of the editing process. I still create the video on paper using the video script and edit decision list (EDL) but after that, I let someone else do the days of labor required to put it all together.
Then, when they are finished, I can review their work and request edits as necessary. So, a few hours of my time at the beginning of the edit, an hour or so at the end and the edit is complete. Someone else spent the 30 to 40 hours in the middle which gave me plenty of time to manage other projects, spend time with my family and sleep!
A good, remote editor can be found in the $25 to $40 per hour range. As the economy improves, these hourly rates my increase a bit but for now, this seems to be the going rate. Remember with high-speed internet access and FTP transfer services like YouSendIt.com, DropBox, etc. it’s easier than ever to work with editors anywhere in the country or world.
For projects that have more files than you can transfer online, FedEx or UPS can have a drive in their hands within 24 hours.
The question you have to ask yourself is, what’s your time worth? If you love to edit so much that you’ll never hand it off to another, then you should seriously consider hiring out all or most of the other production related tasks.
In my case, I love to edit but all I can make while I’m editing is $100 to $150 an hour. If I hire the edits out at $30 an hour, I can make $70 to $120 an hour while doing other things to promote my business or while doing nothing at all.
Working with outside editors also puts me in the position to manage several edits as the same time and that’s when the money can get very interesting. I can generate close to $400 or $500 an hour by working with other professionals to complete projects. An amount not possible if I’m going at it alone.
Plus, the best part of all is that I can deliver videos way faster than any of my competitors and when the project is complete, so is the contract with the outside vendors. I’m not paying for employees to sit and stare at the walls.
Higher profit margins for me with faster turnarounds for my clients. Everybody wins!
For more ideas on how to prosper as a video business owner or freelance videographer, check out these resources >>>
Thanks for reading and have a profitable week!
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