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Freelance Video: Keep a Client From Doing It Themselves

Rebecca Case

In the world of freelance video, some clients will insist they don’t need you. Here’s what to say to keep yourself in the game.

Top image from Wistia

Every so often, you’re going to run up against a client who decides to “do it themselves.” Because equipment is cheaper and more accessible than it has ever been, people get the idea that production is cheap and easy. However, they are not accounting for variables like quality, skill, or equipment overhead.

Here are a few things freelance video artists can discuss with a client who insists that they can keep their production in-house.

Talking Point #1: The quality of their marketing video reflects directly on the their customer’s perception of the quality of their product or service.

Freelance Video: Quality
Image from Shutterstock

This means that if it looks like they cut corners to make a cheap video with a low production quality, it will appear to their customer that they cut corners and offer a cheap, low quality product. And because of the pervasiveness of it, we’ve been exposed to enough quality video that we’ve come to expect it. Even the people trying to get their projects funded on Kickstarter know that you have to have an awesome video if you want people to invest in your product.

Luckily, if they have anyone in that company invested in the brand, they can help be your advocate for this. Ugly video is not only ineffective, it can be harmful to sales.

Talking Point #2: They won’t do it cheaper by keeping it in-house.

Freelance Video: Not Cheaper
Image from Vision Media Post

They are thinking, “I’m already paying this person, I’ll just have them do it.” Nine times out of ten, it seems that the employee they pick to do this work is fresh out of college and assumed to be tech-savvy (this is seldom the case, by the way).

A business owner is always going to be thinking about the bottom line and that’s what is motivating them to not hire you — but they may not be thinking about lost productivity and the cost associated with that. You may have to remind them that producing a video is not as simple and pointing the camera and turning it on. Will their employee understand how to use the camera (even at a very basic level), light the subject, capture usable audio, and then edit the footage? Or what about techniques to actually make the footage look good, how to color it in post, or add animations and effects?

Seven Pictures, of Hollywood, CA, notes the benefits of an independent production company over an internal solution.

Video production companies come with a staff of other creators that help in the creative process to make these quality videos. Between cinematographers, editors, professional lighting crews, and hair and makeup artists, an independent production company employs these creatives, thus getting you the best rates and best professionals tailored specifically to your project.

Remind them that there are a lot of pieces to production they are likely not even aware of and the time it takes to learn all of these skills (let alone master them) is significant. If they account for all the hours of lost productivity involved in letting their own people do it, you are going to be able to create it at a lower cost to them and be able to turn it around significantly quicker.

Talking Point #3: They will not get a good ROI on equipment.

Freelance Video: Equipment
Image from Shutterstock

I’ve seen this happen again and again: a company will buy a nice video camera thinking that’s all they need. They then try to use it a few times and, because they are not using a operator that actually knows how to work the camera (and because they are missing the dozens of others things that go into making quality video), they give up. The camera gets stuffed in a closet, and they end up needing to outsource their video anyway.

By letting you source and provide the equipment, they don’t have to bear the burden of owning those depreciating assets. If they choose to do it themselves, they’ll have to spend some money on equipment and when they start comparing that cost to your fee, it will quickly become clear that they’re really not saving anything. Mark Suszko of Creative Cow mentions demonstrating your value over the sunk cost of an equipment purchase.

The market is over-saturated with talent right now so you can hire great talent with complete gear for cheap. Why duplicate that in the office, only to let it sit around 4 out of 5 days depreciating, not being used? The P/L ratio on any internal communications division, no matter how large or small, is always running, always being examined. You need to show added value for existing every day, and minimize costs without a return on the investment. Make yourself the executive producer and director/editor, and hire out the other jobs as needed.

They also don’t have to worry about researching the best equipment and making buying decisions. As knowledgeable members of the industry, we have a significant head-start at, not only knowing the benefits of different brands and different models, but also what everything is. There are a lot of different kinds of gear and it takes time to understand what they would need.

Unless they are really going to invest in a production team that can be consistently doing work using said equipment, it will be under-utilized and likely forgotten. Instead of throwing money at something that won’t give them any return on their investment, they should throw it at you, right?

The Bottom Line

They will invest in video production with you if can trust that they can get a better product and a better value from you. It will benefit them to transfer the burden of production to you and it allow them to concentrate on what they do best.

Here are a few more helpful articles from PremiumBeat about working with clients and managing their expectations:

Got any tips for making the most out of a career in freelance video? Please share them in the comments below!