Tips for Tackling a Solo Video Project
It’s always great to have a team to work with, but sometimes I find myself working solo on a project. This can happen due to budget constraints or because the current project amount outnumbers the personnel available on the team.
In these cases, it can be tough to pull yourself out of a team-oriented mindset, think about the project as a whole and how you can get everything done within budget. Especially if you are working with a limited number of hours.
Here are some things I like to keep in mind.
Try to Meet Face to Face With the Client Before Starting Production
Meeting face to face puts a person behind your emails and phone calls. When working solo, this can be very important, as you will have to address all client concerns, field complaints, as well as brainstorm and talk the client through their ideas.
Meeting face to face gives you an opportunity to engage the client in a personal atmosphere. You can also use this as a consulting opportunity, or a storyboard session, and provide some great starting material for the client while billing for some extra time. Either way, meeting in the beginning can help set a positive tone for the rest of the project.
Make a Timeline
Before going headlong into production, make a timeline that sketches out rough dates for when each stage (pre-production, production, and post-production, along with any proprietary stages) will be done. This gives the client things to look forward to, especially on larger projects where the final look (a.k.a the really exciting stuff) may not come together for several weeks.
Block out the Video
Do rough cuts, toss in screenshots, block out your animation… whatever it takes, block out the entire video from start to finish. Move fast. Avoid focusing on a single element for more than 10 minutes.
The main point here is to keep budget constraints in mind, especially if you bill by the hour. You want to make sure you have a finished video when the deadline hits, and not just a few really great looking scenes–which has happened to me more than once.
Create a Daily To-Do List
For me, it helps a lot if I keep track of my own progress from a top-level perspective. I am more of a creative person first, and it is very easy for me to get lost in details and exciting possibilities, and miss things that should be prioritized for the “greater good” of finishing the video.
So every day, first thing, I sit down and list out what shots are left, what base elements still need to be created/edited, what animations/designs are needed and the client concerns that need to be addressed. It’s simple stuff, but it gets my mind in the right orientation to make the most of the hours I have left for the project.
Don’t Be Afraid to Stick up for Your Ideas
This is one of the hardest things I have had to learn, but one of the most important. For me, it’s easy to imagine that, since the client is paying for the video, you should give them whatever they are asking for. Otherwise, they’ll get upset and never work with you again, or ask for a refund, or quote Michael Scott.
While this may be true of some clients, I’ve learned that the vast majority are not only open to new ideas, but many times actually need you to fill in many of the creative gaps for them. And when they do object to something you come up with, pushing back can be a very positive experience. Not only will sticking with something you’ve already labored over save you time and increase profit but when your reasons are well communicated the client may come to respect and trust your abilities that much more.
Make That Money
Even after all of the work you’ve already put in, handling estimating and invoicing can be the most difficult stage of a solo video project. The number of clients I have had asking for the final video before paying their invoice is too many to count.
There are plenty of times where I have given a video to a client, only to realize they’ve only paid a portion of their invoice. Sometimes the client may not realize (sometimes they are well aware), the main thing here is to make sure the client knows they won’t receive the final product until the full invoice is paid.
Have a meeting, show them your work. Have a good time, but draw a line in the sand and make that money. Your work is worth its salt.