Does this situation sound familiar to you? In the spring of 2014, I sat down and created a year-long calendar to launch a new program for my previous employer. We set goals for developing program guidelines, training our staff, and developing a marketing campaign to support the sales for our new program.
And then, suddenly, it had been 9 months! Our program was polished and ready to launch, but a few of the critical components to our marketing campaign hadn’t gotten checked off the list. Luckily, I already had a great working relationship with our graphic designer who took pity on me when I called her. I managed to create and print a great brochure within 4 weeks, in time to hand that brochure out at a major event.
I see this all the time with Video Brewery’s clients. You’ve developed a great product and are about to launch your website, and your web developer asks for the video that you discussed featuring on your homepage. And by the way, they need it ASAP.
Or, maybe you’re not in a rush, but this is the first video you’ve ever made. The process of reviewing proposals and identifying the right video production company can be tricky. You can’t just turn to Yelp reviews to give you insight into who to hire.
So, before you rush to hire the first company you talk to, here’s our full breakdown of the 23 essential questions to ask when choosing a video production company.
About the Company:
1. How long have they been in business?
2. How many explainer videos have they produced?
3. What is your team structure for this project or who else will be involved?
4. What is their company culture like and does it mesh with yours?
We firmly believe that there are no one-size fits all answers to the 4 questions above and the right fit for your company is based on a variety of factors. Your project budget will heavily influence the company’s that are answering these questions for you, so keep that in mind. With a smaller budget, expect to be talking to smaller or younger company’s, freelancers, or organizations based overseas. A larger project budget will attract more established video professionals, both company’s and freelancers.
5. How do they decide whether a video they’ve completed is a success or not?
6. What video in their portfolio are they most proud of and why?
7. What do they think is the most important aspect of the client relationship during the production process?
8. What’s one of their biggest blowups/mistakes during a project, and how did they deal with it?
All of these questions have a number of appropriate answers to them. Look for the company that answers these questions with something that makes you shake your head in agreement.
Your video producer is going to be producing one of your key marketing tools for selling your product, make sure that you learn as much about them as possible. You want to understand how they operate, just as much as they should understand you and your product.
9. When can they start the project?
In-demand video producers may not be able to start on your project right away. Instead, you might finalize a contract to start your video project starting on a future date. Don’t assume that the video production companies that you are discussing your project with can start right away. (You know what they say about assuming something!)
Pro-tip: Make sure you get everything in writing! Any detail that is discussed in person or over the phone about your video project should be followed up with, in a written manner. This includes your project’s start date, pricing, included bits of production, and the estimated timeline.
10. What timeline do they propose for the project?
The typical animated or live-action explainer video will take 6 – 8 weeks to produce and follows this general timeline. If your project needs to be produced in a shorter time period, have your potential video production team produce a revised timeline for you. Once you start your video project, make sure you keep track of your timeline so that you meet your video release date!
11. What potential hold-ups could there be?
The response that your potential video partner gives you will vary depending on whether your project is animated or live-action. In live-action projects, the list can be lengthy, with hold-ups including location permits, weather, or talent hiccups to name just a few potential problems. If your video partner isn’t able to look at the project and name a few potential hold-ups (including delayed client feedback 🙂 ), they’re probably not going to be the right professional fit for your project.
12. How will communication and edit requests be handled?
This is a big one, and responses will be a good barometer for how organized your potential creative partner is. We recommend hiring a video partner who has a formal project management tool (which also gives you the added benefit of tracking requests in writing) that they use on all projects. In fact, we think this is so important, that we built one specifically for Video Brewery’s clients and creatives to use on all projects.
In addition to a project management tool, you should set up formal expectations for a kick-off call, regular check-in’s, and a project debrief at the end.
13. How well can they write?
The most important element of any explainer video is the script. Whoever will be writing the script for your video (sometimes an internal team member or even you!), needs to be a talented and accomplished writer.
14. Does the creative understand your business?
Just as important as their general writing ability, is their ability to understand your product or business and explain that to your potential customers. If your potential video partner can’t identify the elements that make your business special, how will they translate your business into sales for your company? By the time you are finalizing your proposal and video concept idea with a creative, they should understand your business.
15. Ask to see samples of previous script work.*
At Video Brewery, we’re big believers in collaboration. Ask your potential video creative to provide a couple examples of scripts that they’ve produced, from the first draft to the finished product. Just like with this blog post, scripts go through revisions and collaborations, taking a look at different versions of the script will help you understand how they evolved.
*Ok, we fibbed. This one isn’t really a question, nor is the next one. So I guess this is really 21 questions and 2 requests for examples.
16. Ask to see examples of assets they have built for other clients, including characters and design treatments. *
This one is animation specific and very important. Take a look at the different styles your potential animator uses and identify an animator whose body of work fits the style you are looking for. Not every animator will be able to replicate every style, and if your heart is set on something that looks like the Sharkwrap explainer video your chosen video partner should show you examples of that style up front.
17. Will the designer be using stock characters or custom designs for your project?
Again, this is an animation only question (though, for live-action, you should ask where the talent is going to come from). The answer to this question is frequently tied to budget and timeline. On projects with shorter timelines or smaller budgets, animators will generally draw from stock characters that they have already created or have purchased. If this is the case with your project, find out how frequently they have used those characters in the past and if they were used in videos that were created for your competitors.
18. How many voiceover options will you have to choose from?
Have you picked up on how many different elements are combined to create your video yet? You’ve got a lot of decisions to make and the person narrating your script is another one. Make sure that you’ll have a few options to choose from at the very least. And, if you have specific ideas or target customer locations, be sure to ask the next question.
19. Do you have access to (specific need eg. accents, age, gender, etc.)?
Is your target customer persona a young professional who lives in London, England? Then you’re going to want your video to appeal directly to them. Finding a voice over professional who sounds like your target customer is one way to make your video resonate. Your chosen video partner should have the resources to help you find the perfect person to narrate your video!
20. Will the music score and voice over licensing suit your use, ie. web/broadcast and perpetual?
We’ve all seen the stories about YouTube pulling a video because of licensing issues. Protect your investment in video, by making sure you use licensed music scores and voice overs. In the case of an explainer video that is embedded on your website and used on YouTube and your other social media marketing channels, you will need your licensing to be for web/broadcast and perpetual.
Rights and Ownership:
21. What is the pay schedule?
With Video Brewery projects, clients pay a deposit of 50% of the total video projected costs up front. That helps cover any up-front costs associated with producing the video including licensing, location fees, and talent fees. The balance is due upon completion of the video. Projects are subject to our Video Services Agreement. If you’re hiring a video production partner outside of Video Brewery, expect to see a similar payment structure and agreement.
22. Who owns the final video files/assets?
In general, you should expect to hold full ownership of the video once your final payment is made. Most creatives will retain rights to use the video as part of their demo reel and portfolio. For animation, the individual character assets can be negotiated over, if you want to make sure that the characters are never used in future works (and they were created specifically for your project). With live action projects, you can negotiate over the rights to unused footage for use in future projects.
23. What if there are changes that need to be made after the fact?
Nobody gets it 100% right the first time. Other times, things happen that are outside of our control. Find out what your video partner will charge to update your video in the future, from fixing typos, to changing a phone number, or anything else that could come up!
Before paying a deposit on your video project, you can do everything possible to make the entire process successful. Doing your due diligence up front will avoid missed deadlines and wasted money. Why wouldn’t you take the time to start your project on the right footing?
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