When it comes to content creation, businesses need to be able to budget for copywriting, videography, design, photography, social media, etc.
Businesses like flat, easy pricing that they can plan around. So, what is the problem?
Too many organizations tend to think about hiring videographers, copywriters, or designers like they are buying a pair of sneakers. They only consider the deliverable.
Without a clear and comprehensive understanding of what it means to pay for content support services, organizations miss critical steps, neglect to answer important questions ahead of time, and consequently fail to budget appropriately. The downstream effects of this are numerous but not limited to missing due dates, breaking promises, and obliterating profitability.
Whether or not they know it, the truth is that there are many factors that go into creating content.
Today, we’re going to shift the conversation about content creation, specifically as it relates to hiring an external vendor for assistance. Once you understand the true costs of content, you can make smarter decisions about who to hire and do what you need to do in order to ensure the project goes smoothly so you can deliver on-time and on-budget.
What are you buying?
Over the last 10+ years in marketing, I don’t get the sense that a lot of people in business understand how much it costs to brainstorm, research, outline, write, design, and deliver a 10-page ebook, for instance. This is because the business only thinks about the ebook they want and rarely consider the process that goes into producing the deliverable they want.
When you hire a content creator to help with your work, there are three elements included in the price:
- Hard Costs
- The Intangible
Let’s talk about Labor
When you only consider the deliverable, you often neglect to consider all of the following labor:
- Brainstorming / Ideation
- Project management
- Account management
While it’s assumed that all of that will be included in the price, I’ve rarely encountered an organization that truly understands just how much labor is required. They only think about production.
If your deliverable includes multiple forms of media such as copy, photography and graphics, or video, audio, and graphics, you may not have even thought about how many people are truly needed to complete the deliverable. That brainstorming session now requires the time and labor of multiple people, the project management has grown more complex requiring additional time, and each component may require its own set of revisions.
It’s also important to consider how your own preparation influences the amount of labor required. If you do the work on the front end to generate the idea, do the research, and map out the specifications, expect to be able to hire content creators for less because of all of the labor hours you’ve saved them.
Consider the Hard Costs
Hard costs are required expenses that the content creator (generally) makes no money from. When you hire a content creator, just remember that your requirements may lead directly to hard costs which are unavoidable.
Depending on the type of content, it’s important to understand that price from content creators can include—but not limited to—any of the following hard costs:
- Additional labor (camera person, lighting, audio engineer, etc)
- Talent (actors or models)
- Space (film set, permits, etc)
- Additional assets such as music, sound FX, design assets, , etc
- Hardware, equipment, or software licenses purchases or rentals
- Travel and accommodations
Some hard costs are labor costs one degree removed such as the case of talent or additional project-specific labor. Keep in mind that these hard costs may also create additional labor costs such as project management for finding the talent, vetting the talent, or the time spent going through asset libraries to find the appropriate music or sound effects.
Measuring The Intangible
As I covered extensively in How To Go Upmarket, there are three meta-factors to consider in any product or service: speed, quality, price. These three meta-factors all must be considered when hiring a content creator. Do not expect to get all three.
- If you need something fast, expect that the quality will either be lower, or that to get something high quality, that you will pay more for it.
- If you need something high quality, expect to pay more for it, especially if you want it quickly.
- If you need to hit a certain price point, understand how that may impact the speed of delivery or the quality you can expect.
Today, I want to introduce a fourth factor that contextualizes speed, quality, and price. It is the reason I call each of those factors intangible. I’m talking about…
- Someone with unreasonable expectations will find few options except disappointment and frustration.
- Someone with modest expectations is more likely to be pleased with what they get.
Embedded in this is how much control you expect to have in the process.
Ian Bower touched on this recently in our episode of Shareable called The Human Touch of Design. Are you prepared to let the designer solve the problem? Or does it need to be exactly what’s in your mind? Every time I think of a high control client, I’m reminded of the Oatmeal comic How web design goes straight to hell.
Your expectations will define whether or not something is fast, cheap, or good. Keep that in mind.
Bottom Line: How much should it cost?
Price doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with speed or quality.
I’ve seen brilliant creators undercharge for their work convinced that they are frauds. I’ve watched as they pay out of their own pocket for labor costs because they forget to include them in the estimate.
At the same time, I’ve seen charlatans charging top-of-the-market rates getting by on their charisma and bravado.
Price, in our society is not a measure of value…but it is a signal. It is a signal of the value a business puts on their product or service.
So, while I could give you a range of costs, the truth is there are far too many variables for a pricing table to make any sense. Further, even if I gave you the rates broken down to a range by hour, it still wouldn’t answer the question of “how many hours does this content creator need?”
When assessing the cost of a project, you should expect to pay for:
- All of the labor I listed above including the planning, production, revisions, and project management. Not paying for any of the labor is unethical, and if you find a vendor willing to waive the costs of any labor, you should be willing to thank them by lowering your expectations for quality or speed.
- All of the hard costs including additional labor, materials, equipment, assets, etc
- All of the intangibles. You want it fast? Pay more. You want more control that requires more revisions? Pay more. You want it less expensive? You pay with a longer timeline or lower expectations of quality.
While it’s not your job to come up with the price for all of that, you certainly need to have the right expectations set when budgeting.
The true cost of content is this: it takes time, energy, creativity, materials, and collaboration to make a successful piece of content…and all of that costs money.