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Great perspective Earl.
I outsource the editing and graphics part of my projects quite frequently so here’s a quick tutorial on what it takes to be successful working for a guy like me.
1. The editor must be willing to work for an average of $30 to $35 per hour. I don’t pay by the hour, only by the project but that is what the per hour usually works out to be.
2. The editor must have all the same software I do so I can pick up where they left off with future re-edits, etc. and so that I have masters and project files for everything.
3. The editor must have a good high-speed internet connection so they can upload/download huge video files without wasting half a day due to bandwidth restrictions. If a client needs a last minute change made to a project, the editor has to be able to make the change and upload it to me in as little as an hour or two. Speed is key.
4. The editor must be responsive at all times. Deadlines can be intense and if I need to speak with you at 8am to discuss strategies for getting a project completed on time, I don’t want to chase you all morning just to have that conversation. Answer your phone or email immediately so I can handle that piece of business, then move on to other things. I like to have conversations early in the morning then leave you to work all day. Then, I’ll check back in around 4pm to see if there is anything you need from me before I quit for the day. It’s frustrating when you work as long and as hard as I do to get a phone call at 10pm on a week day from an editor who wasn’t available to talk during normal business hours.
5. The editor must be able to read the instructions I give in an EDL (edit decision list) and be able to add their own touch to my notes.
6. The editor must realize at all times that this is my project, my client and my risk. If the project fails, I fail. What I say goes. I’ll entertain ideas but when I say “let’s just execute the plan” it’s best to just execute the plan instead of wasting time brainstorming creative concepts. Time is money and I don’t have a lot of patience for conversations that don’t move projects forward.
Even though it seems like I’d be hard to work for, I’m not. Many of my editors say that I’m the most organized producer they’ve worked with. My scripts are tight, the EDLs are color coded with what elements are video/photos, graphics, music, interview bytes, etc. so it makes the editing process very efficient. Plus, in most cases, I pay well before 30 days after the project is complete. I once was a freelance editor myself so I understand how important it is to get that cash moving quickly!
With all that being said, yes the market for freelance editing has shrunk. However, I believe that if you market yourself better than others, you will get your share of the projects. I’d start by forming relationships with other local production companies and producers. Get a feel for what their needs are and find ways to make their projects better, more profitable, etc. Explain how by hiring you to handle their edits, they can have an additional 20 hours a week to get out and promote their business, etc.
If they charge $100 an hour and pay you $30 an hour to do the work, they are making $70 an hour off of your efforts and they now have plenty of time to generate more business. You want them to generate more business because it offers more editing work for you. It’s really a win/win. It costs money to run a business, pay for marketing, etc. so don’t feel like the producer is getting rich off you. Odds are good that when it’s all said and done, they are only making the same per hour on that project as you are. They are just able to manage a lot of projects at the same time because people like you are making it possible.