Ian Servin is a passionate freelance video producer and director who’s worked with brands such as Ford and Nike on everything from small projects to complex campaigns. He is a guest writer on the Wistia Blog.
I’m a freelancer, and that means I pull double duty as a creative and as a business owner. I’m just as often building proposals or setting up meetings as I am actually filming something.
Finding the right clients and formulating a plan isn’t the most glamorous part of creating videos, but it’s definitely the most important. I’ve developed an efficient system to help me spend more time behind a camera and less time sitting at a desk.
This is my 3-step workflow that I use to move potential clients toward signed proposals.
The first part of a project is understanding what a potential client wants. Discovery is the most important step, and often it can take the longest time. A client may not know what they want, even if they think that they do. So it’s our job to translate their objectives into actionable game plans by asking the right questions.
“A client may not know what they want, even if they think that they do.”
I have a simple questionnaire that prospective clients have to go through before we have an initial meeting. Their responses not only help me understand their needs, but they can quickly let me know if they’re a good fit, or if I should refer them to someone else. If it’s not a good fit, better that we both know before making any major time investments.
_1. Do you have a vision for this project? What does it look like?
2. Do you have any examples of videos or images with a similar style or tone?
3.When thinking about this project, what are your overall goals and objectives?
4. How would you define success?
5. What kind of budget do you have set aside for this project?
6. When are you looking to get started?
7. What is your ideal deadline?
With these 7 questions, I can understand the basics of what I need to accomplish, and I’m ready to start thinking about possible approaches. I’ll need a lot more information to build a proposal, but I save that for the creative jam.
I turned my discovery meeting into a short questionnaire in Typeform to speed up the process and get to creating faster.
The creative jam takes place when I meet with the prospective client for the first time. It gives both of us an opportunity to ask follow-up questions and go through possible approaches to the project. The goal of a creative jam is to leave knowing all the information I need to create a proposal.
We’ll lock down the overall vision, talk about logistics and how we’ll execute on-location. We’ll also talk about what happens after production and create a plan for distribution and promotion.
At the end of a jam, the client and I are comfortable working together and are on the same page. They’ll know exactly what to expect in the proposal, and I won’t have to waste time making a ton of revisions before moving forward.
I build client-specific templates in my proposal software, Proposify, to save time. Instead of creating a new document from scratch, I can plug in a few variables and send it for approval right away. No InDesign knowledge required.
My proposals are simple and straightforward. I give an overview of what we’re doing, a timeline for when we’re doing it, and a budget breakdown to show how much it all costs.
While I keep my proposals short, it’s very important that they clearly communicate a plan of attack. Often, proposals will wind up getting approval from stakeholders you’ve never met. Someone should be able to walk away with an understanding of what you’re doing from the proposal alone.
“Often, proposals will wind up getting approval from stakeholders you’ve never met.”
If you want to save even more time, you can use marketing automation tools to supercharge your pre-production process.
I followed this excellent tutorial by Brennan Dunn to automatically collect emails on my website, send out my discovery questionnaire, and schedule the creative jam. It uses Zapier and Drip to connect tools I already used like Pipedrive, Typeform, and Calendly, into one seamless workflow.
More recently, I noticed I was spending a lot of time estimating budgets, so I built a tool (shown below) in Typeform using its calculator and logic jump features. It knows the kind of production I do, and what each part of the process costs. After I answer a few questions, it generates a fairly accurate production budget that I can write into a formal proposal.
This has been especially useful for clients that need the flexibility of multiple scope options.
By setting up a workflow, you’ll save time and rest assured you have all the information you need to start production. It’s also scalable, so whether you’re a department of one or part of a larger team, you’ll have a consistent process to stick to. Using common marketing automation tools to supercharge this workflow will save even more time in pre-production and pave the way for success on set.