How to Charge for Video Production Creative

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So, one thing we’ve not talked too much about on our creative journey is the money aspect of things. What does it cost? What should video production creatives be charging? What are we charging for our video production creative?

First of all, what is creative in terms of video production. Well, it would be anything that requires you to come up with concepts. Something beyond the simple act of going out with a camera and shooting at someone else’s direction. Typically, we don’t get down the nitty gritty of the fact that you have to make creative decisions in any video production workday, and we consider that to be in the cost of hiring basically creative people from the start. Rather, we’re talking about coming up with the concepts that drive a video production. Sometimes we don’t do this. Sometimes the agency gives us this. Sometimes, but very rarely, the client gives this to us.

So the question is: what do you charge for that type of concept creative? Honestly, for years we gave it away. I’m not proud of this, it’s just we didn’t know any better. A client would come in looking for a video and we’d not only dream up a number of concepts, but also develop them, and then execute while only getting paid for production. This isn’t great business.

Over the years, what we’ve come to the realization of is that you need to charge for your creative according to the type of results your client can expect to get as an outcome of that creative. Now, this has many different considerations.

  1. How big is the client? A bigger client will obviously get WAY bigger results. They will have more money to put towards promoting your creative, and have more products to sell from the creative, etc. For some of our clients one person watching the right video at the right time will mean a $1m sale. That creative being just right to land that person, or bring them in the door – that’s worth something.
  2. What results can you prove from past work? This is why I think it’s okay for people starting out to charge nothing or very little if they choose to. They don’t have much in the way of results to demonstrate; they’ve got to go out there and demonstrate that they can get results. This is both frustrating and freeing, I think. When we made the Google Bellingham video we were just starting with creative, and the client had no money so we basically gave it away – but we did just what we wanted. The end result was we wound up getting paid a lot by other jobs that saw the results of our Google Bellingham work and wanted those and were willing to pay for creative to get it. The only upshot that wasn’t so great for us was that once the bigger money comes in, bigger handcuffs on the creative comes in, too. It’s a tough one that really needs to be dealt with in another blog post.

Anyhow, these two things are just some of what needs to be considered. But, they are a good starting point. They also help you to judge when it’s okay to charge less for creative. For instance, if it’s a small client, they probably aren’t going to get huge results no matter how great the creative. They simply won’t be able to promote it enough. So, it’s good to go into the meetings with that in mind. And, it’s good to not go to the meeting at all if you think you’re going to get paid the same for creative for a $1m company that you would for a $1B company – and vice versa. However, you might see doing the creative for the small operation as a chance to say, “Okay, you don’t have any money, so let’s have some fun instead.” And then you go on and create something amazing that gets extraordinary results within the confines of that smaller client, and later you use as proof for the big guys.

All of this means, naturally, that you need to throw out the idea of charging for creative by the hour. It just doesn’t work that way. It instills the idea that you’re charging by the value, and it reminds the client that this is what this is all about. You’re a value provider, not a vendor.

There is also work that is quite frankly not that creative. Or, in which it is more about the nuts and bolts of the video content then how it is presented. If it honestly isn’t draining you creatively, don’t worry about not charging for creative. However, you have to choose if that kind of work is fulfilling or not for you. You probably have to take some of it and leave some of it, but always be sure when you’re doing less-creative work you’re refining your craft in some way. You will be able to apply that learned craftsmanship to a more creative job later. There is no shame in practice.

So, I’m curious as this always sparks a lot of debate: how do you charge for creative?

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