The Power of Outsourcing…Editing Part 1

editing-keyboard.jpgIn this third installment on my series on the power of outsourcing, I want to talk to my videographer brothers and sisters. I want to address the issue of outsourcing your editing. In my first two installments, I covered two services for photographers to outsource their post production process, Pictage and Shoot dot Edit (two of our clients). And there are a slew of other companies in the photography realm where pro shooters can have post production work done.

Unfortunately it’s not that simple for we in the event video world. With a photograph, the still image itself is the biggest indicator of the shooter’s style and will be hugely significant in a client’s decision to hire such a photographer. For a videographer, I believe the editing is by far the biggest differentiator in the work. Now, please, don’t send me a bunch of hate mail about how important shooting is. I know that. I think good shooting is paramount for a videographer. But, you can give the same beautiful footage to 20 different videographers to edit, and you’ll come back with 20 completely different videos. For this reason, if you decide to outsource your editing, there’s a lot to consider.

I think this topic is so important, I’m breaking it up into two parts. In this first part, I’ll address the why and the how. In the second part, I’ll address contract issues as it relates to subcontractors.

THE WHY

That’s simple. Because if you want your business to grow to a point where it’s not totally dependent on you to survive, you can’t do it all. That includes the editing. If you’re successful in growing your studio beyond the “mom and pop” phase, you’re going to get to a point where you just won’t have the time to edit all the videos you shoot. So, at some point you’ll need to address the issue of hiring help.

THE HOW

When making the decision to have someone else help with your editing, because it’s so closely tied to the success of your company, you need to make sure that you hire editors that 1) can match your studio’s style, 2) can turn the project around fast enough, and 3) you can trust. This latter one is more related to subcontractors, but it needs to be considered regardless. I know a number of videographers at severe odds with ex-contractors due to allegations of stealing the hiring studio’s work. The process of finding qualified editors can be a long and arduous one. I spent a better part of a month last year going through the process of recruiting, interviewing, and hiring subcontractors.

But even before you actually pick who your editors are going to be, you need to determine their what their status will be. There are essentially three ways you can “outsource” your editing:

  1. Hire employees
  2. Hire independent contractors
  3. Hire a post production company

Hiring Employees

This technically is NOT outsourcing, although it accomplishes pretty much the same thing. The key difference is that when you hire employees, you now have to deal with workers comp, payroll taxes, benefits, etc. The concept behind outsourcing is that issues like these are handled by the company you hire. Here are the pros and cons of hiring employees:

PROS

  • With employees in your studio, you have more control over their work and their work habits.
  • Easier quality assurance.
  • They’re dedicated to your projects and don’t (usually) have other “clients” that could be prioritized over you.
  • Usually, there’s a greater sense of loyalty with employees vs. contractors.

CONS

  • Usually more expensive due to taxes, insurance, and equipment.
  • Most employees will want full time work and a salary. This may be more difficult for smaller studios to maintain.
  • Employment laws (particularly here in CA) are heavily weighed towards the employee. So, you’re more susceptible to penalties if you don’t abide by those laws (e.g minimum wage, number of hours worked, overtime, firing, etc.)

Subcontractors

Hiring independent contractors is true outsourcing: using a source outside of your studio to do your editing. 99.9% of the time, this will be done with independent contractors. As far as I know, most videographers who hire additional editors use ICs. Here are the pros and cons:

PROS

  • Don’t have to pay taxes, insurance, etc.
  • Don’t have to buy additional equipment or software.
  • Don’t need additional space.
  • Don’t need to worry about employment laws
  • Can work on a project by project basis

CONS

  • Many ICs also do work for other studios too, so your projects may take longer to turn around.
  • Possibility of IC stealing your work.
  • Quality control is significantly more difficult.
  • Getting footage to and from the IC can be a pain in the you know what.
  • ICs can sometimes be flakey and undependable.

Post Production Companies

There are a variety of different types of projects that you could outsource to a post production company. Most of the time, it may be one small aspect of a larger project (i.e. a title sequence done in After Effects, special effects, etc.) Many of my videographer blog readers however are event and/or small corporate videographers, so I’m assuming you’re more interested in companies that can edit an entire video for you. I personally only know of one company, Imacron USA, that specializes specifically in editing other (wedding) videographers projects. The pros and cons would for the most part be the same as those for subcontractors, with these addtions:

PROS

  • If the company is firmly established, there’s greater confidence they won’t flake on you.
  • Consistency

CONS

  • Chances are there may be less say in how you want your project edited. For a stand alone operation to be successful, volume is crucial, and volume editing usually means more of a template approach. If your work is more tailored to fit each clients’ needs, this may not be the best option for you.

THE BUCK STOPS WITH YOU

No matter how you decide to outsource your editing, bottom line, the buck stops with you. That means that if your outsourcer screws up, it’s YOUR butt on the line. You can’t say “Well, the subcontractor I hired o edit your wedding lost a hard drive and all your footage. It’s not my fault.” Sorry. That won’t cut it. It’s your studio’s name on the project, and with that comes ultimate responsibility. The good news is, it works the other way around too. If you find a superstar editor who does amazing work, your studio gets the credit. Of course, if you find someone like that, make sure you treat them good.

In the next installment, I’ll discuss the finer points of drafting a subcontractor agreement so that you and the IC’s interests are well protected. Stay tuned…

3 thoughts on “The Power of Outsourcing…Editing Part 1

  1. Great Blog Ron! Outsourcing is a great way to streamline your business. When it comes to editing though I always say the best way to find and keep an editor is to take care of them financially and be clear about what you want. Know how long it takes to get a job done and how much you would expect to get paid and pay them that. If you don’t, your project may get left on the back burner. A lot of editors want to work with us, but I allow few to do so. Mainly because this is an area that I micro manage the most, rarely outsource and often ask for re-submissions. Another tip is to submit the project to your editor (if they are working on their own suite) way ahead of your deadline. Never give a contractor the only footage you have, give them deadlines they can meet, but know when you need to pull the plug and be willing to do so in order to stay on schedule. Failure to recognize a this could put you in a tailspin. Remember that outsourcing is only as good as the person you hire and it is hard to find good people, but not impossible. So when you find a good editor, pay them what their worth, nurture their own growth and hold on to them tight!

  2. Thank you for posting this for videographers. I believe you are right that editing is probably the biggest differentiator of the work especially. Outsoucing does make sense and just as you and the poster “aftproducer” says that when you find a good editor or someone you outsorce to I am hearing that the best thing you could do is treat that person really well. That’s a simple yet great tip. I feel that I have strong edit skills and never thought that there are probably production companies out there even though they don’t have a job opening listed may still be interested in help from a freelancer. Is sending a resume and reel along with a letter saying I’m looking for freelance online or offline editing work a good idea? Or would anyone suggest a different approach? Thanks Ron for this posting, I look forward to others.

  3. @Maria: there’s nothing wrong with sending off a resume and reel to a company. If they’re not looking for editors though, you could just be wasting your time. You’re much better off checking out job boards on video related forums. There’s always someone who needs help editing in your area. Also, make sure you have samples online for people to see. I prefer to view candidates’ work online than getting a stack of DVDs I have to sift through then eventually discard.

Comments are closed.