(1204 words – 4 min read) As a small video production business owner, you are creating and quoting countless projects for a wide variety of clients. And for me, the most challenging job you will ever be engaged in, is approving the budget and winning those jobs in the first place!


Pitching or quoting; whatever way you look at it, is about taking the client’s ideas or brief, adding in your thoughts, with a detailed budget attached.
‘This is what we propose and this is how much it will cost’.
I wish it were that simple. :-/


Your ideas are the easy bit. Calculating how much to charge for those ideas, your time, the crew’s time, everybody’s time….is the 64 million dollar/rupiah/yuan/peso/dong….question.


Sometimes you are lucky; the client has an idea of what they want to spend. 🙂 That is certainly a bonus. You can structure the creative, the crew, the locations and the post production around a figure that is real.  Then there are no surprises when the client opens your proposal.


You may decide to stay under that figure OR, you may, on the other hand, push the budget over the client’s figure. That’s always a risk and you need to be sure you cover that off.


How? By managing expectations and justification.


If you have jaw-dropping concepts that marry directly to the client’s brief, with all the key corporate video elements, that’s part one. Then you table a detailed budget breakdown that will deliver those ideas? That’s part two. THEN, you add an array of impressive credentials; a showreel complete with a sample of your idea in it, while showing that you’ve surrounded yourself with the very best professional creatives and crew, thereby totally convincing the client you are the right people for the job.


Then and only then, are you in with a chance.


So let’s be quite clear, here. Quoting comes as a package.




You can’t have one without the other.


Present the client with awesome ideas, an impressive quote breakdown but an amateur hour showreel that shows very average work, you are a long shot to win the business.


Conversely, great credentials with a reel showing similar types of work, a substantial quote but have presented no ideas on how you propose to substantiate that figure.


The client will rightly ask, what am I getting for that budget?


Then you have the arrogant version. No idea, One single figure $$$$(way above the brief) and a couple of links. The message? We are good, this is our price. Take it, or leave it.


Good luck!


Ok, let’s talk about the budget.


Establishing the budget before quoting


At the briefing stage it is vital to, wherever possible, find out what budget you are dealing with.


What that does it clarifies the client’s expectations. But you know sometimes that can be a distorted little affair.


1. The client is slightly out of touch with reality.


The client gives a budget at one level, then offers a visual example of what they would like at a much higher level, completely out of kilter with the budget!


That requires an open, frank discussion right there and then.


Sort it out, so you’re not wasting each others time.


Then sometimes you are working through an advertising agency or PR company and they don’t know what the client has for a budget. At the end of the day, they have to make something out of it, as well.


It’s a juggle for the quoting parties.


You may have a colleague on the inside and that’s an asset worth preserving.  Or better still, you’re a regular supplier. In which case you may need to work harder to become a regular supplier and get more opportunities down the track.


2. Keeping regular work coming


But never, ever assume, because you are a regular, that you can quote higher. That will be your undoing, as there will always be someone you don’t know in the decision-making process, demanding the cheapest price.


The regular supplier is required to be regularly quoting low, to ensure regular work.


Surround yourself with smarter people than you.


So when completing your quote, you are deciding on a million elements.


This idea you have put forward… what do you need to achieve it? Who will your film crew be, what level of expertise from my suppliers will you need?  Is there room for a script writer, camera assistant, make-up, more professional talent? Location scout, gaffer, grip or do you handle some of those roles in-house? OR do you outsource? What type of camera? Where will this film end up? Could it end up a broadcast commercial, or just online social media?  Is it a full day shoot or two half days, location or studio, public or clients? How many talents for the casting? How much editing do you allow for?  Six hours, or one long day? Graphics? Are they animated?  What’s the production house margin going to be?


You regularly check where the client’s figure is in relation to your quote. 


If you have no idea, what do you think the client can afford?


If most of the costing elements are made up of in-house labour time only, you can afford to pair the price down. The old adage of ’70% of something beats the heck out of 100% of nothing’, rings oh so true.


Once you’re happy with the budget, you’re still only one third of the way there.


Help the client to visualise the project


I have always taken the attitude that you almost have to pre-produce the job to win it.


That means giving the client a view over the horizon to the production; offer them some talent samples (not actual actors but age or attitude examples, plus a couple of indicative locations.


Once again, not live locations but a style guide, before you do the actual reccy; a range of locations with contrasts in art direction and feel. You may even have some music samples.


All these elements are based on the client or agency’s brief.  Without going too far out on a limb, you are presenting them as conversation starters during your pitch time….and a head start, should you be successful.


Prove you can do it.


The final element, gathering together yours and your key production crew’s credentials, with video samples of their work. That may be something to show on the presentation day, or links to leave with them to view later.


It helps wrap the entire presentation into a neat, little package; professional and interconnected.


Two more things to remember: 


One, as a final glance, do a spell check.


Nothing worse than spelling the client’s name wrong on page one!!


Two, make sure before the meeting, you have checked that what you are bringing to show them, is playable at their facility.


Never assume that, as it’s a high tech client or media agency, they know their way around the IT in the boardroom.  Generally, that is not the case. Take a thumb drive with your presentation in various formats.


I hope this has helped you learn a little more about quoting. At times it can be daunting but adopt the boy scout, be prepared motto and you’ll be fine.


Kind regards,