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The Advanced Guide To Online Video: Setting an Explainer Video Budget

If you’re new to the explainer video world, one of your most pressing questions is probably how much they cost, which is why we’re dedicating an entire chapter to it! While we can’t tell you exactly what you’re going to need to spend, we hope this will at least help you set expectations and understand why things cost what they do.

While there are companies out there that claim to create explainer videos for a few hundred dollars, a reputable explainer video company will likely charge between $15,000 and $25,000 for a 60-second piece. The price you pay depends on a variety of factors, including the quality of work, the level of service, and the reputation of the producer.

Explainer Video Steps
Explainer Video Steps

In order to understand why a video costs what it does, and why different production companies charge different rates, it’s helpful to understand what typically goes into the production process and how long each stage can take.

Stage 1: Research and scripting (3-5 days)

Professional script writers take the time to research and understand your company, product, and industry, producing a script that explains your business with clarity and creativity. In order to start on a script, most production companies will request a creative brief in advance, as well as discuss and align on a creative direction and storyline.

Stage 2: Style frames (5-7 days)

Style frames are static images – like a single frame pulled from a movie – that depict how your video will look in its final form. They typically include a background, character, and various assets to help determine a visual direction for the video.

Depending on who you decide to work with, your style frames may be composed from scratch using custom hand-drawn illustrations, or they may use royalty-free stock assets, so be sure to ask before you get started. This can be a major factor in the price of a video.

Stage 3: Storyboarding (4-5 days)

Once the script and style are agreed upon, the illustrator constructs a scene-by-scene drawing of the events of the video. Each scene typically includes the corresponding script line, along with some notes on the action that will take place. A storyboard helps everyone involved understand how the video should play out, and usually prevents any unnecessary surprises.

Stage 4: Voice over (1-2 days)

At this point, the script and storyboard are presented to the voice over artist who records the script. A VO artist will provide multiple takes so the sound engineer has some options to work with.

Stage 5: Animation (10-15 days)

This is the most time-consuming part of the video creation process! At this point the animator takes all the finished assets for the video – the illustrations, voice over, and storyboard – and produces the video using software like Adobe After Effects. Each scene has to be created from scratch, timing every movement to the voice over, and following the progression detailed on the storyboard.

Stage 6: Music and sound effects (2-3 days)

The last stage belongs to the sound engineer who mixes the music, sound effects, and voice to form a professional soundtrack to serve as the backdrop of your animated video.

Each stage is detailed and complex, often including countless emails, meetings, and calls, revisions, and renders. You’ll find that most video companies require 8-12 weeks to produce a video.

Explainer Videos on a Budget

Not every company has $20,000 or more to drop on an explainer video. So if you’re a bootstrapped startup looking to make an affordable video, you do have some choices.

Here are the steps to getting a video made on a budget:

Write the script yourself

Since you own your product, there’s little to no market research involved. You can write your script in Google Docs and share with your team so it becomes a collaborative effort with multiple editors to contribute ideas and streamline thought processes. However, beware of writing a script that only you and your team understand. Before you finalize it, read it to your friends, and your Grandma, just to make sure everyone can understand it.

Record the voice over yourself

…Or find a trusted employee or friend with a great voice to do it. When going the DIY route be sure to invest in professional quality equipment such as a USB microphone. Check out the microphones at Yeti. Use free software such as Audacity, GarageBand (Mac), or Mixcraft (Windows) for recording and mixing options. Record in an echo-free room (like a clothes-filled closet) and minimize outside sound by closing all doors and windows.

If you don’t personally know anyone suited for the voice over, head on over to and hire professional talent for just a few hundred bucks.

Create free or affordable visuals

Stock images from sites like iStockPhoto or Getty. You can expect to pay between $5 and $50 for each image but the upside is you can find just about any kind of image there.

If you know someone who can sketch, you can take their drawing, scan it, convert to digital and then use Photoshop Elements to make cutouts. Here is a finished video from a startup that used this technique with success.

If a live video serves your needs better, consider buying or borrowing a simple digital camera, choose a well-lit location and shoot!

If you have a web or mobile app, consider making a screencast – one of the simplest ways to create video. You can use free software such as Jing (PC) or an affordable, powerful recording and editing tool like ScreenFlow (Mac) or Camtasia.

Written by Salma Jafri
Salma Jafri is Chief Dragon over at She specializes in helping her content marketing clients get more value from their content – be it online videos, social media or blogging. And yes, apparently Dragons and Ducks do get along! Follow Salma on Twitter and Google+ for a dose of zany marketing nuggets.