Sunday, July 19, 2009

At What Price Video Excellence?

Another title for this article could be: "Quality Content & Production VS Production Time/Cost & Pricing" or "Where Do You Draw the Line" between the prices your clients pay and the quality of product they receive?

It's all relevant folks, but to take a slightly different path from those who perceive themselves as ARTISTS I have to tell you it is important to get a rein on your creative impulses and goals of perfection if you want to make money in the video production business.

People in the business with whom I share the occasional all-night phone call, barrage of back-and-forth e-mails or marathon chat discussions talk about how difficult it is to draw the line between what they've charged for a video production, what their invested time is worth, and what value the quality of their product.

The combination of business and art is a difficult one to balance. People in the video business use such terms as perfectionist, critical, picky, artist, professional, and particular when attempting to describe what drives them to put excessive hours into the editing of a video product. Many, though frustrated that they cannot balance fees VS perfection, will ignore whatever business sense or need for income they have in the often unfulfilled interest of achieving artistic perfection.

One thing I have discovered is that there comes a time when editing a video production that the work put into fine-tuning my production enters the law of diminishing returns. The perceived need for further finessing my production often provides no real or imagined discernible improvements.

There's that cliche again about perfection being a goal, not a destination.

The reality of it all is that unless and until we as combo businesspeople/artists accept that at some point we need to consider the bottom line, the stupidity of ignoring what makes money, develops cash flow, satisfies our clients and possibly generates profit in our illogical drive for perfection is overwhelming.


No amount of self-satisfaction. No degree of artistic perfection or originality. No aspect of marathon spit-and-polish is going to result in the client's uneducated expectations and perceptions of quality, a visually (to the masses) better product or, if you are not getting reimbursed for all that artistic anguish, profit.

At some point you are literally throwing away your precious, finite time - a commodity you cannot recoup or replace - for the right-brained part of you that has no interest in putting food on the table, paying bills or establishing a successful business.

Those of you who will, take a moment to assess your business goals. Do you want to become known as a master of the trade, develop a reputation of long, late or even no delivery of your "perfect" productions? Or, do you want to achieve an acceptable level of artistic quality, backed by a reputation for reasonable delivery times at affordable prices.

Do you want to adapt a no wine (or cheese) before its time, or a fresh-brewed tasty glass of iced tea? Both can be satisfying, but some people with whom we do business are not interested in waiting beyond a certain period of time unless the product truly reflects the perfection time is supposed to provide. The vast majority of clients would prefer to spend less for something acceptable, than spend more or wait longer for something that is not appreciably superior.

So, if you charge say, $500 for a wedding production. Promise and give the client something that based on the value of time spent reflects $500, not something you'd prefer to make $1,200 or $2,000 or more for due to over-investing your production hours.

If you charge $2,000 then give your client what, in your best judgment based on hours of production time two-thousand-dollars is really worth.

I am convinced that the vast majority of people in business as independent professional video services providers are putting too much time into tweaking, finessing, creating or even FIXING their productions - time, the value of which they can never hope to recoup based on the prices they charge for their services.

FORCE yourself to be more realistic regarding the work you do and the results you or your clients expect for the amount of money that has been invested toward any specific video product you offer.

Develop a specific market plan that offers specific services and video products that, as a good friend of mine in the business said, "you make painfully aware to the client at the time an agreement is signed" cannot expand beyond what has been promised if they later change their minds and want more.

Also remember: If you market, you will make it © 2009, Earl Chessher


Bill said...

Very true. And you must also remember that many of your client's will never even notice that little extra you put in, that thing you think makes it stand out. For example. I just did a video for a national organization, shot an interview with one of the founders, do you think anyone noticed that I made a cookie of their logo and it was the shadow on the wall behind the subject? nope. But I knew it was there. It wasn't a final tweak or anything, just a little extra. But if they didn't notice their own logo, does one think they will really notice the even smaller things that drive some of us crazy.

Harkening back to my TV news days, working under deadline, sometimes it has to look... "Done."


CorElAnn said...

Dave Williams, on another forum, and in regard to this article, said: "I agree with your message; charge what you are worth and don't overwork it to a non-profit level. You sure used a lot of words to say it though ;-) "
Printed with permission from Dave Williams. Thanks Dave.

Chris Harding said...

Hi Earl

Masterful as always!! I really appreciated your blogs and your positive outlook on marketing. We might be videographers but sadly to achieve our goals we also need to sell our services to our clients. I always try to give the client value for the price they have paid.. no more and no less. Sometimes it quite hard to say to yourself "OK, that's good enough!" when you are doing a low budget job rather than spending hours trying to add the odd tweak that the customer will not see anyway.