You've probably heard of video's incredible potential.
Whether it's for marketing, product demos, customer support, or all of the above, there isn't a more powerful way to connect with customers and add a layer of authenticity to your message.
Businesses large and small have come to the same conclusion: video is more than just a fad. It isn't going away. It's only becoming an increasingly important element of their strategies, with a skyrocketing investment to match.
But knowing you're ready to jump on board is one thing.
The true challenge is knowing how to start.
It seems like there's someone offering production or post-production services everywhere you look. A huge variety of video professionals, ranging from solo freelancers to multinational companies, are available for outsourcing. Thanks to the Internet, they're closer than ever before.
Many other businesses are opting to take their video needs in-house. It isn't just large companies either. Even small startups are pulling this off successfully with tight budgets.
So let's start there. We'll run down the key differences between outsourced and in-house video services, the pros and cons of each, and how to figure out what to do in your specific situation.
When most people think of video production, they imagine bringing in a hired gun to shoot, edit, and produce whatever it is they need. The idea of outsourcing - calling on an expert from outside your business - is well-known for brands large and small.
Outsourcing is the way many businesses handle their video production needs. Sometimes it's easier to have someone with all the experience and resources needed handle the project while you focus on product development, marketing, and other aspects of your business.
When you outsource your video needs, you often pay top dollar but get a host of valuable benefits:
State of the art resources. Agencies are extremely competitive, so they're forced to keep pace with all the latest cameras, software, and production techniques.
Experience. Outsourced professionals have been shooting and editing video for years or even decades. They come into your project with a lot of experience and a track record of success.
Used to working with clients, making revisions, and producing quality end-products. Outside help can guide you through the process and help you clarify your creative vision.
Outside perspective. Agencies can use their experience to explore your business and tell your story in ways you haven't thought about because you're too close to the project.
Easier to calculate the costs involved. With contractors, you don't have to think about healthcare, social security, and the opportunity costs of having employees shoot video instead of do something else.
Great if you need something quickly. Contractors are used to meeting tight deadlines because their reputations depend on it. If they didn't, their client base would quickly dry up.
Outsourcing isn't without its share of disadvantages either:
Often expensive. Hiring experienced contractors can run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on your project.
One-time expenses can add up. Outsourced professionals are usually pay as you go, so the more video you need, the higher the costs. It can become unaffordable if you need videos on a consistent basis.
Tougher to establish long-term relationships. Talented contractors might form new agencies or get pulled into other businesses in-house. Once you get an ideal workflow with someone, you might find they've closed up shop.
Limited availability. You have to compete with other clients for contractors' attention, which means it could be tough to get a project finished if you need it done right away.
When It Makes Sense
Outsourcing is definitely the most straightforward way to get the video work you need. There's no need to worry about investment in expensive equipment, hiring a team, or figuring out your creative vision in extreme detail. Outsourced professionals are the closest thing available to a - turnkey - solution because they provide all of that for you.
If you've never invested in commercial video before, outsourced professionals can help share their knowledge and expertise to help clarify your vision and project objectives. Great ones will walk you through the process and ensure they tell your story in a compelling way.
All of this makes outsourcing a great call if you're just getting started with video. If you've heard about video's potential but haven't made the leap, outsourcing a project or two will help you get your feet wet without a massive investment or long-term commitment.
Another situation where outsourcing makes a lot of sense is when you need video of the highest-possible production quality or something extremely specialized. Finding the right expert with the right equipment and know-how will increase your chances of your large investment paying off.
You always have an alternative to outsourcing your video production needs.
Doing it yourself!
That's what an increasing number of businesses are doing. From large brands like JetBlue and non-profits like charity:water to small operations like real estate brokers creating studios right in their brokerages, companies committed to consistent video production have made the investment in assembling the team, equipment, and software needed.
In-House Video Pros
Taking your video in-house offers valuable benefits you don't get with outsourcing:
Exclusive availability. You are your in-house team's only client. They're always available to you, and there's zero competition for their time or focus.
Long-term investment in your business. In-house teams know your company and customers better than outsourced professionals. They have a vested interest in seeing your videos succeed over the long haul because their jobs depend on it ñ it's easier for agencies to find other clients.
The ability to produce more videos at a fixed expense. If you see success with a marketing video one month, produce three the next month ñ you can get a lot more value from the employees until you hit their bandwidth limits.
Flexibility. It's simple to change the priority of projects, alter their scope without altering your budget, and come up with last minute tweaks when your team is down the hall.
In-House Video Cons
In-house video production isn't without its downsides, however:
Big up-front investment. You have to think about equipment, production space, software licenses, and most importantly, a team. Whether you decide to hire seasoned pros or train a team of your own (risky proposition in and of itself), the up-front cost is high.
Hidden costs. An in-house team carries costs you might not think about, whether it's health insurance, 401k, vacation time, or other expenses.
Longer commitment. If you decide video isn't right for your business, it's tougher to go a different direction with all that camera equipment, software, and team you brought on board.
Need to buy new equipment and software. Your in-house equipment might work just fine now, but production and post technology is always evolving. You'll have to make more investments every few years or shoot outdated-looking videos.
When It Makes Sense
In-house video production starts to make a lot of sense when: 1) you're already committed to using video in your business, and 2) you have plans to produce content consistently over a long period of time.
Even if you haven't used a lot of commercial video yet, but you're committed to establishing a visual identity and connecting with customers through that medium, in-house production can be a good call. You get the flexibility you need to try new things, tweak your approach, and increase or decrease your production all while knowing what the fixed cost will be.
Finally, in-house production teams are great if you don't need the slickest, highest-quality videos and effects technology can provide. There's a big difference between shooting national TV commercials and product demos or customer support screencasts. Video equipment is only getting better; you might be surprised at how well your moderate equipment investment looks. It just might be the perfect fit for your needs.
It Doesn't Have to Be an "Either Or" Decision
Here's a huge point a lot of businesses overlook:
Outsourcing vs. in-house doesn't have to be an "either or" decision!
These are important decisions, but they aren't mutually exclusive. Nothing is stopping you from assembling an in-house production team and outsourcing special projects on an as-needed basis. In fact, this might be the smartest way to hedge your bets and reap most of the benefits above without the full downsides.
A hybrid approach - having a small in-house team handle day to day video needs and outsourcing rare but important events like the release of a new product video - could be a great choice if you want to track video's impact on your business for a while before deciding to go all in with a large production team.
Getting Started Is Key
Getting started in commercial video can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be.
Figuring out what's right for you - in-house, outsourcing, or a little bit of both - comes down to your budget, goals, and your vision for video's place in your company.
The key is to just get started. Your situation will change over time, and that's okay. You can always make adjustments as you learn and get more comfortable with video.
Do you prefer to outsource video production or use an in-house team? Why? Leave a comment below and share your experience!