If you have a smaller budget for your explainer video, hiring a freelancer instead of a video agency might be more within your price range.
Video agencies do fantastic work, but it’s hard to scrape together 2000-10,000 USD for a video, especially when you’re just starting your business.
You can find a great freelancer who can do fantastic work, but you’ll need to do your research before you hire one.
How do you find the right freelancer for you?
Before you start looking for a freelancer, you need to decide how you want your video to look and how much you can spend. Try to find an example video that is similar the video you want for your brand.
Freelancers are generally less expensive than agencies; however, you need an appropriate budget for your requirements.
If you want a 2-minute custom animation video with voice over and a script, don’t expect to get that for $50. There are freelancers who might do your project for that amount, especially if they are trying to get started, but don’t assume that is the norm.
Pros: These sites are great for finding freelancers of various skills and cost. You can post project requirements with your budget and let freelancers bid on it.
Cons: There is a verification process for accounts, but not for skills. You will need to assess freelancers based on previous work and ratings.
There are also so many freelancers, it could be difficult to choose someone.
There are also agencies like Video Brewery that connect clients with freelancers who specialize in video production/animation.
Pros: All their freelancers are design specialists and they have an application process for their freelancers.
Possible Cons: Costs could be higher than what you could find on Upwork; however, cheaper may not be better.
What should I look for when hiring a freelancer?
1. How much of your project can the freelancer deliver?
Ideally you want a freelancer who can do all the work, but that might not be possible.
There is a risk for hiring too many freelancers. They will all have a different take on your project and there might be inconsistencies in quality. Coordinating the script, video and audio will require a lot of organization on your part.
2. Look at Samples
This will be the most telling of their skills. Try to request a sample that is a similar style to what you’re looking for or at least a similar project.
3. Ask them about their Process
This will be most telling of their communication and organization skills.
4. Ask them about their terms of service
This is going to tell you about what they offer and how.
It’s also a good time to discuss what you are looking for as well and clarify your expectations.
Common issues due to uncommunicated expectations
If you want the source files for your project, you need to communicate this upfront. Generally, you are paying for a final product when you contract a project. Sometimes clients assume they own the source files because they paid for the project; however, the designers actually own the source files. If you want the source files from the designer, you need to make this clear upfront to avoid any issues.
When you contract out a project, you might be paying for the final product, but that doesn’t always mean you are buying commercial rights.
Animation platforms like GoAnimate do allow people to make and sell videos; however, the GoAnimate account owner owns the commercial rights. The rights do need to be transferred before the video can be used commercially by the client buying the video. This is a separate fee than the cost of the video creation.
I always include a note about this upfront, but as a client, you might just want to check with your freelancer to avoid any surprises later on.
5. Look at references or testimonials
This is important and can give you an idea of a freelancer’s track record. A good reputation does mean a lot, but some freelancers starting out might not have this to go on.
What if the freelancer doesn’t have a track record on the website I’m looking at?
All freelancers have a starting point. Maybe this one is just starting out too. Track records are definitely a good indication of their work, but it’s not everything.
Some freelancers might have 5 years of experience doing their skill at a regular job and perhaps they are trying out freelancing.
A freelancer starting out will try to have at least a sample or two of something they’ve created by themselves. If they don’t, you could ask them to complete a short sample before you hire them.
I’m concerned about starting a project. How should I organize a contract with a freelancer?
Create milestones throughout your project
Freelancing sites like Upwork let you fund numerous milestones so you can pay for the project in stages.
Even if your freelancer has a proven track record, you still might want to fund the project gradually.
I created a video for a client and they established two milestones. One for the script writing and storyboarding. The second was for the video production and voice over.
I thought this was a great setup. We could focus on each stage and once approval was given, I received payment. We still made some small revisions after the first stage was approved, but we were able to hammer out major issues before moving onto the next stage.
I felt this also created a level of trust between us and lowered the risk. We’ve all heard horror stories of having to chase down payments or work we’ve paid for. Our milestone setup meant my client could fund part of the project (lower risk for him) and ensure each stage was to their satisfaction before moving on to the next part. I was able to receive payment for work I had done so I didn’t have to worry about doing the entire project, handing it over, only for the client to disappear and me having to hope I’ll get paid.
Higher trust between client and freelancer makes for a more collaborative effort, and your freelancer is more likely to go above and beyond for you. If this is the first time you’re working with someone, milestones could be the way for your project.
If I use the milestone method, can I still ask for updates and revisions?
It’s not uncommon for a client to request small revisions after approving a stage. The only time this is really an issue is if you want to completely change parts you’ve already approved. There is sometimes a need to completely change a part, but the key is to make sure you don’t do this repeatedly during one project.
I usually leave the voice recording for last because sometimes clients will want to make revisions to the script, even after giving final approval. Most times these revisions don’t really affect the video, just the voice over, so by making the voice over my final stage, it gives the client some extra time to think about the script.
Why shouldn’t I just pay once the video is completed and given to me?
You can do this, and it’s good for you to ensure you get the project to your specifications because the freelancer wants to get paid. Definitely don’t pay for something until it meets your requirements. But, if you don’t have an established track record as well, it might make your freelancer a bit cautious.
I personally like the milestone method because I feel it’s overall less risk for everyone.
Give yourself and the freelancer a reasonable out
Sometimes you find you and your freelancer not working out. Be upfront about what you want to do if you want to cancel the project. It could also be a good idea to discuss how to proceed if the freelancer wants to cancel. Better to be prepared, then in a conflict later.
If they’ve spent some time working on your project, it is not unreasonable for the freelancer to want compensation for their work. Try to discuss this upfront, so again, you can avoid any issues down the road.
Hiring a freelancer is about finding the right one for you. How do you know if they are right? They should have the skills to match your project, and should communicate clearly and effectively. Ultimately, your budget will determine what you can get, but if you’re already investing in this project, you want to invest properly. If you do have a small budget, make sure you are realistic with your expectations. You might want to work with this person again, so you don’t try to get a $500 video for the price of $80. If you’re nervous about working with a freelancer, you can give yourself (and the freelancer) some peace of mind by funding the project in stages.