How To Land A 4-Figure Video Job

This is a continuation of this guide.

The dilemma. Or dilemmas rather:

People ask this all the time - how much should I charge?

You need to be filling out your checklist when your client is talking with you on the phone. What better way than to have a calculator do it for you?

The biggest problem facing videographers, video producers, and budding filmmakers is the lack of unity. We are one-man-bands, and we all aspire to be auteurs.

And because we do this thing called film and video on the side - OR as a full-time living - we don't all charge the same.

Especially when the global market keeps driving down the prices on digital goods and services. 

Click to expand

We don't have a uniform bar to reference for:

  • weddings
  • crowdfunding videos
  • strictly animated videos
  • corporate videos
  • short films
  • slideshows
  • visual-fx work

and so on, so forth.

When it comes to searching for answers on "how much does a video cost," the front-page answers on Google are vague and very surface-level (like this one).

Thankfully, there is a growing movement (thanks to content marketing) towards longer, more in-depth blog posts. 

Which is good.

We need more intentionality in this area. Really. If we're going to stop and talk to someone on a forum, INVEST in that person. That's discipling. If we're going to teach something, we should teach it and not just give the one-page Chilton's Manual answer.

That means our videos are here to stay, especially with the tools at our disposal. And the demand for quality stories that go deeper will grow, just like the rest of content marketing. 

The best will be longer, richer, and way more engaging than the ole "quick 2-minute video" humdrum.

Have you seen "Making A Murderer" on Netflix?

Don't let the title scare you - give the docu-series a whirl if you're a student of film. 

It is a shining example of longform content, and like longform blog posts, it will be the new norm for stories: deeper, longer, and absolutely detailed.

It's sink or swim champ. Supply and demand.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

You have a family to feed, even if it's just you and your pup Jax. 

Let's break down some of these video production costs you're not thinking through. Do that, and you can easily see if you're going to land a $1,000+ job to begin with.

1. Pre-production

Your client will want one of three things:

  • Production only (which includes Pre-Production of course)
  • Post-production only
  • All three phases of making a video/film

The bulk of your costs will come in the production phase (pre-production as well), and it's always good to gain more experience with directing. Call up your Uncle Bob if you have to for extra help and take every paying gig where you can get real-world experience on set - and haggling with clients. 

James Cameron said we have to work on negotiating our budgets and our fees as directors. 

For you, the one-woman or one-man-band, that's your cost and your gross profit

It's no different when you talk to Steve's Upholstery, Inc. downtown. He's the big studio exec and you're the storyteller. 

Keep pitching.

And pitch again. 

For example, I spent collectively over 30-40 hours sending 11 different video pitches in the last month or so. 

They weren't super outlandish, but they would command a deeper involvement than just a one-and-done small business ad.

Which is why they required more time and attention to detail. 

One so far is on the table. 

Is it a gamble? Absolutely.

Some folks won't respond, even after three e-mails (leave some breathing room for this - Reply is a good service for this that I'm just now testing out).

Regardless, be willing to invest in people, same as our Father invests in you.

And with video, you can't just talk shop. You have to SHOW what you want to do in your pitch.

It also helps to have an admin help you find these leads. 

Broke as a joke? Go to Upwork and hire a VA (virtual admin) to find leads for you and email them for you as well.   

You can easily do it with a fixed price and count it as an expense.

This method of finding leads with your VA is a whole 'nother training in and of itself, and if there is interest in tomorrow's training, I will put it into a course.

2. Production

Your client needs to see where your hours are going. 

Production involves principally a few things -

  • actors
  • crew
  • you
  • food
  • travel time
  • gas
  • insurance
  • gear rentals
  • location costs
  • time spent packing up gear from HQ and unpacking back at HQ
  • and of course payment processing (Stripe, Paypal, Square, etc.)

Do you have a system for this?

Do you know what to put on your invoice if you have a 90-second video for a nonprofit of 50 employees with a 12-day turnaround and Music Bed licensing costs, voiceover work, and merchant processing fees?

I don't either. That's why I built the calculator to do it for me. It doesn't have a name yet, so I'm open to ideas.

Dad always said "do it yourself or hire someone else to do it."

This tool is somewhere between the two. 

In time, I'll have it built in for clients to use if they want, but never to replace real human connection. That's how God wired us, and it's absolutely fundamental to providing goods or services to people.

3. Post-Production

This is where you stand to gain the best margin from your work. 

You might have to outsource music or subscribe to a service that allows a flat, yearly rate for music in your projects (even commercial projects). 

These guys are newer when it comes to music licensing, but they are building up their library and I wouldn't be surprised if they give The Music Bed a run for their money. 

The ole YouTube audio library and the FMA (Free Music Archive) will only get you so far; if you're able to attribute the artist (for example, in your own projects), then the FMA is a great place to check out. 

That's how I found Ryan Little.

Another biggie is color-correcting and color-grading.

Round-tripping with DaVinci Resolve (DVR) is okay, but it burns through your time and your computer's crunching power.

I know Premiere Pro CC allows you to color RAW files natively inside the editor - can the same be said of the Final Cut products or Avid? Comment below.

You have to account for the time spent on each file. If you can color-correct a clip in 2-3 minutes, and you have 60 seconds of footage or about 17 clips, that's time you need to account for.

Plus the time to load DVR. 

And the time to export the colored clips.

Are you able to compute those nuances in a matter of seconds? 

It's only one hill in the long laundry list of post-production services.

Without scaring my client with the 20+ itemized services that go into post-production (some of them are just too esoteric anyways), here's what I show my folks:


If you're tired of underselling yourself, there's a tool I'm rolling out this summer. 

This instant quote calculator... that's in need of a name, but that's not important right now.

The few tools for calculating video production services that are online are okay at best.

I think a huge reason for that is because they were probably made by a developer or someone that doesn't actually operate as a one-man-band (and thus really know every cost/hour that goes into a project).

They have no idea how much time you spend dealing with "no" just to get a single "yes."

They don't understand how much time is tied up in the computer when it comes to exporting and backing up files in the cloud.

They haven't done the heavy lifting to figure out what the music bed charges a church with 102 employees on staff.

But our team has.

You're tired of losing bids and underbidding yourself and we are too.

This tool will not only spit out exact quotes for any project, but it will also list your expenses, man-hours, and profit margins so you're not living off Kraft singles and bleached bread all week.

And you can share all of that information with your client in a ready-to-print invoice.

Pre-production and production services only?

This tool has you covered.

It's really simple. If you're a one-man band (in video production), you have to quote your client fairly, but if your work is REALLY good, then you need to be able account for that. 

On the fly.

And in the first conversation.

Of course you have to gather a few facts first. 

Runtime. Locations. Talent. Etc.

What about other variables? 

Company size? Type of organization? Expected audience size? Project type and music licensing? Time spent on the phone? Skype? Email? Time spent in-person?!?

If you're a production company, you have way more overhead, and THIS TOOL will NOT be enough for you. You have:

  • employees
  • a plethora of insurances to deal with
  • payroll taxes
  • and a monthly rent, among other expenses that the home-based indie videographer and next-gen Christopher Nolans do not have

Your operating expenses > the solo-preneur's operating expenses.

If you're a solo-preneur slash filmmaking hustler that can work with a crew (or work by herself or himself), then this tool is for YOU.

It's your job to educate your clients. When you can give them a detailed reason for your price, that communicates attention to detail, and they will appreciate it.

Price yourself the right way. Pay your actors. Pay your crew. Cover your expenses. Feed your family, and keep working towards telling amazing stories of life change.


Original publication: March 23, 2016.


Las Vegas

I want to encourage others and bring honor to the Almighty in everything that I do with film and video. My goal is to take the first 11 minutes of my tv pilot and seek out decision-makers who can further the conversation about developing it into a show. If my team and I can do that, then we can teach 100,000 other microbudget filmmakers how to do the same thing so that we might tell stories of hope to millions. In the meantime, I'm a son of the King, a family man, a lifelong student of film, and the author of two microbudget filmmaking books.