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How to Determine Your Video Budget

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The video budgeting process: It always starts with the question “How much does video cost?” The frustrating answer, of course, is: “It depends”. The next and more helpful question is “Depends on what?” The answers to which, I’ll outline below.

Note: Video production can involve so many variable line-items that going into specific costs isn’t really helpful in a post like this. This is more a strategic evaluation approach to uncover the cost-drivers to be explored further.

What are the goals?

This is the big one. We all want an impressive video but is your budget realistic to affect the outcome you want? The quality bar has been set quite high for leaving a great impression. If your budget isn’t realistic, then you’re just wishing. That said, many a great video can be made cost-effectively. With the right idea, smart use of resources and time, I believe just about any goal can be met.

What parts of the plan have been decided

It’s worth asking. Many times a client wanted “X” but we ended up doing “Y”, all because assumptions had been made and then re-examined. Perhaps there’s a smarter/better/cheaper/easier/more creative way to achieve your goals.

How might you measure success?

One of the challenges with video is that it’s hard to justify a large expenditure when you’re not sure if it’s really worth it. One way to look at it is that if a $10K video helps you get just one client that has a lifetime value to your company of $20K, then you've doubled your money.

Who is the audience?

There are big differences in how to approach an audience who knows nothing about your company/product than one that does. Having a good handle on where your audience is coming from may have can help you craft content that resonates more. Ask yourself: Who are they? What do they like/hate? What are they likely to know?

Where will video live?

Is your plan to put your video on your website, You Tube, Social Media, etc? The place where your video lives affects audience, tone, content-style as well as length. You’ll be better off with channel-tailored content rather than ‘one-size fits all’.

What time do you have?

If you are short on time, money can fix that. No money and no time, well, not good. Most video projects seem to average 2-6 weeks, but it varies widely.

Where might this video fit into the sales process?

Really this is about finding out “how important is image”? Is this video the first impression or later in the evaluation process? Generally, the closer the video is to the first impression then the more important it is to have a larger budget to make that great first impression.

What are the likely components of the video?

It’s OK if you don’t know yet. If you do have a sense of what the asset ingredients are likely to be, then you can start to figure out what it will take to harvest them at the quality level desired.

Who’s involved?

This can be very telling, very fast, for example: Do you already know that you need 10 client interviews and that they are scattered around the world? This also includes the internal stakeholders: If you know that there’s “X” amount of people in your company that need to approve decisions then you can start to make assumptions about revision rounds and what that may mean to your budget.

How important is trust? Are you trying to convince? Since seeing is believing then actually showing a product, a reaction in an interview, a place, etc. can mean all the difference. Ask: What might it take to communicate by showing?

How much control can you afford?

Control means being able to get what you want, but production has lots of moving parts. Being able to afford control doesn’t just mean in dollars but also in time, effort, pulling together resources, using ‘political capital’ like asking favors, etc.

What might be the cost of cutting corners?

There’s inevitably going to be some corner-cutting and settling but choosing how is a big decision – a strategic one that should be made from the start. Picking which things to settle on can be determined by looking at the cost of doing so to the end product. Asking “does this really matter?” can be delicate in some situations, but also revealing.


Your project’s success depends on whether it has the fuel to do what it needs to do. The sting of failure is disproportionately weighted as compared to any benefits of cost savings. Better to set yourself up with a realistic budget based on the goals and challenges you face. Again, if you don’t allocate a realistic budget, you’re just wishing, and that’s obviously just not a sound business strategy.

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