The Delicate Art of Bidding on Freelance Video JobsBy Bradley Little May 23rd, 2019
We’ve all stared at a wine list, unsure what to order. It’s a delicate balance, after all. You never want to be “that person” ordering the cheapest bottle, but you’re also not rolling in dough. So you try to split the difference, ordering the second-cheapest option. The bottle you choose, priced just above rock bottom, tends to be the best-selling bottle on the menu.
Turns out the phenomenon is not limited to wine. Among our clients who take bids from freelance videographers, we’ve noticed they often pick bids the way you’d pick a bottle: not the most ambitious and expensive option, but not a proposal so low-budget that it’ll come out looking like home movie night at the student union.
Freelance videographers and producers wonder all the time what fee they should propose for a project—and rightfully so. You don’t want to throw out something too expensive and alienate the client, but you also don’t want to pitch so low that you don’t stand to earn a profit. To boot, there’s the issue of knowing and protecting the value and integrity of your brand. No project, we think, should dilute what you’ve worked so hard to build.
Bid for the sweet spot
Keeping all that in mind, the best strategy for freelance videographers and producers submitting a video proposal is to provide three options: a budget option, a sweet spot in the middle, and a “bells and whistles” proposal on the top end. The middle option should be your best guess—the one you expect the client to choose. What should it include? That will depend on the client’s budget range, which they should communicate to you in Contently’s platform before you pitch. If they haven’t provided a budget range, ask them for one.
If the client still resists giving a budget range, even when you ask—trust us, it happens—take a look at context clues they’ve provided, like example videos and other work they’ve done in the past. From there, well, follow your gut. This is where pitching three price points comes in handy—you’re giving yourself a few shots at hitting the bullseye.
We recommend crafting your sweet spot proposal about 5-10 percent below the top end of the budget range. This isn’t a hard and fast rule—by all means, pitch what you feel is appropriate—but be mindful that pitches well over budget are usually a non-starter.
Hedge the budget option’s appeal
Historically at Contently, we’ve asked freelance videographers and producers to explain in their pitches how they’d handle a project if the budget was reduced by 20 percent. This gives clients a sense of where their money is being spent. We want them to see what they have to sacrifice if they cut their budgets. That’s where we recommend setting your low end—20 percent lower than your sweet spot. Make sure it’s a rate you can still execute against, but also make it crystal clear what the client forgoes by choosing the bottom tier.
Throw in all the bells and whistles
On the flip side, you want you describe what a 20 percent budget increase could do for a project. Take the time to show off the great work you could do with a bit of extra money. You may think clients will never go for the filet mignon, so to speak, but you’d be surprised. Sometimes clients have more money to spend than they let on, and investing in a sales pitch for your most aspirational proposal is a great way to show off the value of the top-of-the-line option.
Remember, low-balling is not a winning strategy
Pitch budgets that will allow you to comfortably produce a project and earn some cash on top of expenses. Don’t sacrifice your schedule or other important line items in the name of winning the project. Of course, sometimes it may be worth making a couple sacrifices to win work with a big brand, especially if your first project might lead to a retainer or repeat work. Just ensure that you’re making your decisions strategically.
With all that in mind, our final piece of advice is to de-emphasize budget as much as you can. Though we expect freelancers to put a lot of thought into their budget ranges and tiers, your main concern in a pitch should be crafting a story that will help the client achieve their goals. Anything budget-related is work you’ll have to prepare on your own, and the client-facing messaging should simply demonstrate how you’d bring the story to life with the numbers you give. Focus on characters, creativity, and visuals when you show up in their inboxes. Budgets are important, but only a great story will get you in the door.
Brad Little connects brands with top-tier multimedia freelancers in the Contently Talent Network and oversees the video pitching process at Contently.
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