Putting together a comprehensive video budget is a daunting, but important, task. In this guide, I'm going to run through my own template to provide you a starting point for your own yearly budget.

This template is designed to cover typical marketing video productions including on-location shoots that are typically budgeted between $5,000 and $50,000.

For larger commercials, I recommend using a more traditional (and detailed) budget like this one from the Association of Independant Commercial Producers.

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A yearly budget is primarily a forecasting tool and it's likely your individual project budgets will change as priorities shift and things come into focus. So don't worry if you don't have all the information before getting started.

The total budget is comprised of two parts: a master spreadsheet that includes ongoing activities and your project budget templates.
You should build enough project templates to cover the different types of projects you'll be taking on. Again, things will change and no two projects are exactly the same, but if you're building a yearly video marketing plan it's likely you'll have project types like testimonials or case studies or other serialized content that's build around a templated format. To start, let's go over what these project budgets include.

Project Budgets

Project budgets are comprised of four major sections: Narrative Discovery, Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production. In the header, we have a breakdown of each of these sections including the quoted price, the estimated internal cost and a space to fill in the actual numbers so you can track how accurate your estimate was.

In the top right there's a quick calculator to show estimated and actual profit based on the difference between a quoted cost and the internal cost. If you're working internally, swap out profit margin with a contingency percentage. 10% is a good aiming point to help cover unexpected costs.

In this template, the quoted price is editable and the margin is automatically calculated. I like this workflow so you can have granular control over each section. Alternatively, you can set up your budget with a fixed margin and automatically calculate your sticker price based on that percentage.

Starting from the top, Narrative Discovery covers the initial activities before a project kicks off. The initial meetings, research, and the time needed to build a pitch or proposal. In these sections, we're calculating estimated costs based on an hourly rate. This budget is designed around internal costs not sticker price, so I don't build in profit margin in these rates.

Pre-production includes more traditional prep tasks like scripting, shot listing and the pre-pro meetings (internally and with clients/stakeholders) that you need ahead of your shoot. Again this is based on hourly rates.

The production section is naturally a little more complex. Crew is budgeted based on day rates instead of hourly. Some productions like to work on a 12 hour day, but I prefer 10 hours for most corporate projects. Additional expenses are just entered as lump sum but you can break things down as detailed as you'd like. Again, there's room to enter in actual costs on the right.

Post-production is straightforward, again based around allocating hours for each task around a standard rate. There are also fixed costs for things like stock footage or music licensing. Some things to think about here: remember that things like ingest, rendering files and transferring footage take time and it's smart to budget additional time for these beyond the actual editing.

For each project type, generate one of these budgets. From there, you can move into the master budget sheet.

The Yearly Budget

This sheet is where you gather together your project templates and add in yearly costs like onboarding, distribution and reporting. Again, these sections will change depending on the scope of your engagement but this is a great starting point.

Just like the project budgets, the top of this sheet has a breakdown with each sections's quoted price, estimated cost, and a place to fill in your actual costs. In the top right is a profit/contingency calculator.

In the onboarding section, I've outlined typical setup activities for a yearly account. These are calculated as an hourly cost at our internal rate. This section covers things like running audits and building content calendars, basically any long term planning and account setup you need to do.

In the production section, add each production budget along with the estimated number of those types of projects you'll be working on over the year. Just add the cost not the 'sticker price' so you're not double dipping on your profit margin/contingency calculation.

Your line items under distribution may vary a lot depending on your engagement, but in this template I've covered the basics like building posts, scheduling content for publication, and doing ads management. If you have a yearly ad spend budget, you can add that in here too (or bake it into your project budgets).

Lastly on this budget is reporting. This section covers formal reports as well as ongoing meetings and check-ins.

Putting it all together

This template is comprehensive, but it's just a start. No matter if you use this or roll your own, there are two important things to remember:

  1. Spend time thinking about unexpected costs (small things add up)
  2. Make sure to check back in with your estimates. Track your time and costs to improve your accuracy and quickly identify problems.

Keeping these rules in mind will help you build a solid foundation so when things inevitably change, you'll be prepared to pivot.

Happy budgeting!

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