Creating videos for your businesses—especially at scale—can seem daunting and expensive. You might think you need to hire an in-house video team or an expensive production studio to create a steady stream of video content, but that’s not the case.
As the popularity of video has grown, so has the pool of freelance talent ready to help you produce high-quality, polished videos quickly and efficiently. More businesses are using freelancers to execute entire video strategies from start to finish. All you need is a plan and a bench of talent who can help cover everything from scriptwriting and motion design to shooting and editing.
The cornerstone of your video team will be the editor—and for simpler videos, he or she might be the only person you need to get a video made. But how much does it cost to hire a video editor? Below, we’ll run through some general cost factors to help you frame up your budget for a video editor.
First, Define Your Video Project
Firm up what you’re looking to create. This will help determine the talent, software and equipment, and deliverables you need. Consider asking yourself these questions to get you started.
- Why are you creating these videos?
- What will the videos be used for?
- What type of video do you want? Will the videos feature live footage of people and places, use stock or screengrab clips, or be animated motion graphics?
- Will the videos be relatively straightforward and simple, or require storylines, a script, etc.? In other words, how much work do you anticipate prior to editing, then “in the editing room”?
- Do you need a voice over, or will it be all music with on-screen text?
- How many videos do you need?
Estimating the Cost to Hire a Video Editor
Cost Factor #1: Scope of Your Video Project
The first major cost factor is the overall scope and complexity of your video project. How will the video(s) you create play into your larger strategy? Do you need to create two promotional videos for brand awareness, or are you looking to create 50 short product videos for your ecommerce site? Whether you’re dipping your toes into video for the first time or looking to scale your current video production, this will help inform the duration of the project, and how much planning and coordination you’ll require from a video editor. The longer the engagement, the higher your project cost is likely to be.
Cost Factor #2: Type of Video You’re Producing
What kind of videos are you looking to produce? Lots of factors will contribute to the complexity of your video, but below are a few types of videos listed from most to least complex:
- Full-blown live action with videography, storyboarding, and scripts
- Short stock clips edited together with transitions and music, usually with a story arc or concept/messaging
- Animation and motion graphics
- Interviews or quick talking head broadcasts
- Screen capture videos
With interviews or screen capture, an editor can get started right away with a brief and script. For more conceptual video content or live action videos, there will be more planning and storyboarding before editing even begins. And if you’re including voice over, you’ll need an approved script and recording beforehand, too.
Cost Factor #3: Expertise and Technical Know-How
Harry Yu, a video producer at Upwork, says, “Although video has become easier to produce as technology has advanced, the old saying ‘You get what you pay for’ still applies. Shooting video on the newest iPhone can capture HD footage that looks pretty stellar, but when it comes to a video that features your brand and product, you generally want the highest level of quality possible to affirm trust with your audience. That quality not only comes from the production, but from building a story for the video. and all of the experts they entail.”
While it’s possible to edit together a short video on your iPhone, more polished, high-definition video with complex requirements like transitions and timed cuts require a bit more know-how. Some other features of video that might require more advanced skills include:
- 3D animation. This is next-level video production and requires knowledge of specific platforms and technologies.
- High-quality sound recording (e.g., an interview or outdoors). There’s an art to recording sound so that’s crystal clear, not pitchy or peaky, and easy to edit.
- Professional videography equipment. Hard drives, flash cards, tape-drive video cameras and multi-camera setups — shooting high definition film is a bit more involved than vlogging with your smartphone.
The following table breaks down some average rates of video editors you can find on Upwork.
Typical Rates Charged by Video Editors and Producers*
|Level of Video Editor/Producer||Description||Average Hourly Rate|
|Beginner||Basic video editing software (e.g. Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro). Video editing fundamentals: importing video, logging/identifying selects, transitions, color enhancement, music, sound, and rough cuts.||$20-$45+|
|Intermediate/Advanced||Beyond fundamentals, videography, cinematography, animations, montage sequences, and a polished portfolio.||$45-$100+|
|Editor & Producer||Beyond editing expertise, skills such as project/product management, storyboarding, live action video, video direction, and delegation.||$60-$100+|
*Reflects rates charged by freelancers on Upwork in North America with more than 1,000 hours and 90% success rate.
Cost Factor #4: Live Action Videography, Direction and Production Needs
Live action videos will always be more involved from a production standpoint than videos that can be created from stock clips on a computer by a single person. With live action videos, you have to take into account talent, locations, studio requirements, sound recording, props, costumes, and other technical details that go into filming live actors. This will all ratchet up the cost of your project, and require a much more advanced editor-slash-producer who’s likely to command a higher rate.
Then there’s the direction itself — telling a compelling story using video as your medium. A talented video editor will know how to use scene transitions, graphics, and cuts to give the finished product that professional look and feel. These things take time and experience, which will factor into the overall cost of your project.
Cost Factor #5: Location of Talent
Location is another variable that can affect a freelance video professional’s cost without having any effect on the quality of the work. A big advantage to working with freelancers on Upwork is the access to a talent pool that spans the globe. This can mean leveraging different costs of living around the world to get yourself a better deal on a skilled freelancer.
“The reality is that there is skilled talent is all over the world—not just in one particular location,” says Yu. “The location of the video expert will definitely affect cost. For example, the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to hire because of the high cost of living. But there are really talented professionals with much lower rates in other places where demand is drier.” Likewise, freelance talent outside larger U.S. cities, where the cost of living is lower, often charge more competitive rates.