4 ways to dramatically reduce the cost of your explainer video

Explainer video services

Explainer video prices vary so much, and it’s difficult to understand what the prices mean, so let’s try and clear away some of the mystery.

This is even more relevant today, as many companies plan whole series of explainer videos and it’s critical to reduce the unit cost per video. After all, a small $200 increase in the cost of one video adds up to a whopping $1,000 when considered as part of a suite of 5 videos.

This blog is aimed at showing you exactly how to reduce your cost, in a way that your video production company will understand and be happy to comply with.

We all know that the days of throwing a big budget at a single killer video are shrinking. The secret of web video marketing is to have one video for each page of your website, giving the customer the choice of watching or reading, depending on where they happen to be at the time, and the mood they’re in, and the device they’re using (PC, tablet, ipad, mobile/cell).

A video per page is becoming the norm – not the exception.

There are 4 ways to reduce your unit video cost:

1 – Know what quality of explainer video you’re looking for

2 – In advance do as much preparation work as you can

3 – Use a working method that is lower cost

4 – Cut the right deal

Let’s review each of these one at a time:

 

1 – Know what quality of explainer video you’re looking for

Explainer videos – unlike filmed video or animated character video – are fairly easy to quantify and understand, as they’re basically a series of images & captions set to voiceover, and animated to make them engaging for the audience

To help, most video producers will offer a choice of two levels of explainer video quality, typically as Low Cost or High Cost.

So you need to decide in advance whether you need higher quality or lower quality.

This very much depends on the video topic you have in mind, and who your audience are. If you’re unsure, then you’ll likely end up paying too much or too little.

It’ll pay you to make up your mind in advance and be absolutely clear about the quality you’re looking for.

Here are some examples as a guide.

Higher cost explainer video examples

1 – A home page marketing explainer video. This video has the crucial task of immediately engaging the customer with your proposition, right from the get-go. It’ll need a higher cost video, of between 1-3 minutes, depending on the complexity of your message.

2 – Key products or services video. You need the most engaging effective video you can afford, as these are the videos that will make sales or win enquiries for you. They are key business drivers.

3 – Public information videos. These are the videos we see on government websites or in a doctor’s waiting room, the post office, or anywhere the public have the opportunity to view your message. It needs to be compellingly engaging and clear to all ages, genders, ethnicities & demographics.

In all the above examples, the video has to win over a cold audience, so you need to give it your best shot – and consequently you should expect to pay more for it. Corner cutting on cost here can backfire and mean you have to start all over again.

Lower cost explainer video examples

A video per web page is the goal for video marketers, business owners and managers alike. Low cost explainer videos fill this gap.

Example low cost explainers can be:

> Explaining the myriad details of your technology

> Going into the fine detail about a service you provide

> Offering an in-depth demo

> Explaining a range of related products or services

> Covering 3-4 vertical market niches

In each of the above examples, your video will support the existing text on the page.

This is where unit cost becomes critical, as any of the above may involve you producing a series of videos, rather than just one.

What makes them suitable for lower budget production is that they don’t all have to be at the very best quality.

This is because their goal is to engage and explain to a pre-warmed customer or visitor, who is already interested in what you do. It’s not a cold call.

If you need a series of videos, then determine which videos need to be best quality and which are suitable at tutorial or lower quality, and specify accordingly.

Tip 1 – know in advance the quality of video you’re looking for – higher or lower cost.

Explainer video pricing

Cost Control – text concept on blue arrow flying over green world map background. 3D render illustration.

2 – Do as much work you can in advance

You can cut your costs by doing some of the video production work yourself.

Think of this a bit like buying furniture from IKEA, where you get high quality materials & design, but have to do some self-assembly in order to buy at lower cost.

While most explainer video companies provide an end-to-end creative service, covering everything from concept to script to storyboard to editing & delivery, many will be happy to work with a client partner who will take on some of the work.

What you need to ask yourself is “how much of the video can I produce in advance to reduce the amount of work they have to do for me?”

Here are 3 examples of video work you could do in advance:

Example 1 – Write a draft script. There are some script writing notes right below under “video runtime costs” below to help you.

Example 2 – Search Fotolia (part of Adobe) to identify suitable photographs, infographics and illustrations for your video – or at least identify the style you like. Budget explainer videos are mostly made of vector illustrations & photographs, so you save your video company time by identifying exactly what you like.

Example 3 – Search Youtube or Vimeo to find explainer videos you like, and use one or more of these as style guides for your own production.

Suitably armed with a draft script, a few example videos, and a number of Fotolia images, you reduce the time taken for a video production company to come up with a creative concept. This will reflect as lower cost to you.

How to reduce your video runtime costs

It’s easy to guess wrongly when estimating the length of your explainer video, and since you’re paying by the minute, it’s worth getting this right.

Writing a draft script in advance allows you to estimate how long your video is going to be – and since video length or runtime is a major cost factor – the shorter your script, the cheaper your video.

Every 100 words you write is about a minute of video runtime. This may vary a little, but not by a lot.

Here are the scriptwriting steps:

1 – Write your script copy. It may be edited down from a cut & paste from pdfs, web page or ppts you already have.

2 – Do a word count. Most explainer videos are 200-400 words, rarely more.

3 – Try to reduce the number of words used by:

– eliminating repetition.
– deleting all the nice-to-know points, and keeping just the need-to-know points.
– asking a friend or colleague to do check what you’ve written and comment honestly.

Be ruthless when you edit to reduce word count. Sending a video company a 1,000 word script for an explainer that’s only intended to be 2 minutes isn’t helpful. A 200 word script is.

4 – Speak your script aloud as it’s in spoken not written English.

You will now have a draft script of known length, eg, 350 words or 3.5 minutes.

It doesn’t matter if your script isn’t perfect. Your video company can polish it up for you, as you’ll have done the bulk of the work.

The key is knowing the video length in advance and having a draft script that explains what you want to say.

Point: Don’t rush the script when reading it aloud. It’s not a fast talking radio advert. It needs to run at a comfortable pace that engages, which is around 100-110 words per minute.

Your video brief

If you’ve followed the above you can provide your video company with 4 things:

1 – your video objective & runtime, and where it will be seen, eg, your home page, product page etc

2 – a draft script of known length

3 – examples of video you like

4 – style sample images

This will allow them to quote more precisely, with minimum fudge factor – so you get a better, more accurate price for a project that will require a little less work from them – and this should show in your final price.

Tip 2 – draft your script first and know your runtime

 

3 – Use a working method that is lower cost

How you and your video company work together matters, as it’s another opportunity where you can save, by reducing any time they spend unnecessarily on your project.

If you can specify this in advance, then so much the better.

Here are 3 simple working methods that will help:

Working method 1 – storyboard

Storyboard production is another area where you can potentially reduce cost.

A storyboard is a document which shows each sentence or phrase of your script set against a matching image, like the picture book of your movie.

Video companies will often bill for many hours of storyboard production because they know from experience that you’ll change your mind many times, which all takes them a lot more time than you might at first imagine.

Your cost-cutting mission is to convince them that you want to manage storyboard production efficiently, in the least possible time. And this ought to get your price down.

It starts early in the chain, where you’ve already sent them a selection of images & styles you like. This will make it quicker and easier for them to storyboard your video, ie, select all the images based on your original style choices.

When they send you the storyboard for you to look at, you’ll obviously see some images that you don’t like.

That’s fine. The secret is not to ask them to amend the images for you. Instead, go yourself to Fotolia (or their preferred image library) and identify suitable replacement images (eg, graphics, vector illustrations, icons, photographs, stock footage) and indicate these in your storyboard yourself, ie, you do some of their job for them.

This is a low cost working method, as it saves your video production company the hours they’d otherwise spend on finding replacements, trying to anxiously second guess what you might like.

It’s important to tell your video company this in advance, and make sure they’re happy with this method. Or find another video company, one that’s happy to collaborate on storyboards with you, allowing you to do some of the work.

This can save you ½ to 1 day of billable work, and when unit cost matters, this adds up.

Working method 2 – voiceover

If you use your video company’s preferred voiceover artist, you’ll end up getting better value than if you choose one yourself.

Watch a few of their video samples, and pick one of the main voices they use. They may well have an arrangement where the voiceover gives them a preferential rate, or does free amends or fixes, which in turn reduces the cost to you.

Working method 3 – script

Once your video company has polished your script, don’t go changing it. Accept it as it is, unless there’s something glaringly wrong, or a very minor amendment.

Tip 3 – Agree the working method in advance, send example illustrations and assist with the storyboard

 

4 – Cut the right deal

If you know you need more than one video it pays to cut a deal for all of them at the same time upfront.

However many clients are wary of doing this in case everything goes horribly wrong.

Instead, the client typically orders one video with the promise of more to come, and expects a price that reflects this potential on-going business.

The truth is that video companies have heard it all before. Promises of “more videos to come” won’t reduce the price as well as “here’s 3 videos to quote for today”.

You also need them to recognise that you’re a proactive customer who’ll help with the creative decisions in a constructive way. You’re relatively easy to please – the exact opposite of the difficult customer who’s never satisfied.

In effect you’re a cheaper customer.

Additionally, you need to make sure everything is put in writing first so there’s no doubt as to what’s been agreed. Always have a formal contract with an agreed specification and terms & conditions of business. This avoids any unforeseen legal issues or complications ever arising.

So, cutting a deal for 5 videos (if 5 is what you need) in the beginning will get you far better value, and a better working relationship than ordering one video with the promise of more.

Obviously this means you’ll have to do your research thoroughly, take references, check out lots of samples, take alternative quotes, and explain to all of them how you want to be more involved to keep video production costs down.

If you’re careful, and pick a good explainer video company there should be minimal risk.

But you have to do the homework.

Successfully comparing explainer video quotes

Since you’ll be taking alternate quotes, especially if you have a series of video modules planned, you need to know how to compare quotes, as the bottom line price can conceal as much as it reveals.

They key element is to know the Day Rate your video studio charges for editing or design. If it’s too low or too high, you need to know.

To give you an idea of prices, start around the $300-$450 dollars per day mark and see where this takes you. There’ll always be cheaper, and certainly dearer. But it’s a starting point when assessing comparative quotes.

The 2nd element is to know many days of video editing you’re buying. Again, does it look too high or too low for the quality of explainer video you want?

Here’s a guide to assessing the number of “edit days” you need:

> High cost explainer video: Each 30 seconds of video runtime takes a day to edit. So a 2 minute video requires 4 days of editing time.

> Low cost explainer video: Each 60 seconds of runtime requires a day of editing. So a 3 minute video takes 3 days.

NB: This doesn’t include storyboarding, or any other design time – just the editing.

Individual video companies may vary a little with the above, but on the whole it’s right. For example if you wanted a complex animated character video – which is time consuming work – then the editing may only deliver at the rate of 10 seconds of runtime per day, or less.

What if the video company won’t specify rates or times?

Some video producers prefer to specify a bottom line for the whole project, and don’t provide detail.

They call it “providing a solution”, which is often cover for concealing an expensive day rate until they’ve got you hooked on their design ideas and concepts.

This concealment is no use to you. They obviously know their costs and how long things take otherwise they wouldn’t be in business.

Politely but firmly request a full detailed quotation.

Explain how you wish to be proactive in the project, and are happy to follow their working methods, and that you won’t be a difficult customer, always changing your mind. Tell them you’ll generally be happy with their recommendations and welcome their guidance.

If they’re still reluctant, then abandon them and look elsewhere until you find what you want.

A final note of caution: Your objective here isn’t to beat them down on day rate. You might succeed in this, but they’ll never like you, and always grudge going the extra mile for you when you need it.

Pay what they ask, but try to buy less of it, is the message.
Summary

It’s quite feasible to dramatically reduce the cost of your explainer video if you:

1 – Know what quality of explainer video you’re looking for

2 – Do as much work as you can in advance

3 – Use a working method that is lower cost

4 – Cut the right deal

You’re welcome to write to me if you have any questions mail(at)rossiterandco.com

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