Thinking about hiring a video editor to take some work off your hands? Great!
There’s one question you probably want answered first, though: How much does video editing actually cost?
The question seems simple enough. But there are quite a few factors that influence how much you’ll end up paying. Chiefly, those are the video length – both of your raw footage and the final clip – the complexity of the edits you want, and the turnaround time you expect.
Want a very rough, but super-quick estimate?
As a rule of thumb, it takes a professional editor about one hour to edit one minute of a finished clip. Depending on what kind of editor you hire, a pro who is worth their salt will usually charge $30 to $100 an hour.
So, a YouTube video that’s 5 minutes long in its final form can take around 5 hours to edit, and cost you around $150 to $500.
However, there are many different pricing models out there, each of which has its own up- and downsides for you. Let’s dive right in.
What’s Included in a (YouTube) Video Edit?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of price calculations, let’s first clear up what we’re talking about when we say video editing.
Video editing isn’t just cutting and clipping together raw footage into a final product. It also involves a massive range of post-production workflows, from creating motion graphics like titles and logos to adding music and voice-overs.
If the raw footage you shoot isn’t terribly high-quality, your video editor can polish it up. For example, they can fix issues related to color balance, contrast, brightness, and even audio volume. If your footage is shaky, your editor can apply stabilization to make it easier on your viewers’ eyes.
Furthermore, if you want editing services specifically for YouTube videos, some editors also offer platform-specific services.
For instance, they may add subtitles, create thumbnails, and structure your video into chapters and key moments. They’ll be more than happy to use existing channel assets like intro and outro sequences, or create those for you.
Some video editors and video editing companies even offer channel management services. That means that they’ll upload your content once it is finished straight to your channel. They’ll also take care of setting thumbnails, video descriptions, tags and chapters.
As you can see, there’s a broad range of services that may be included in a video editing offer. When you’re comparing actual offers, you need to be careful what services are included and which are paid extras.
Key Pricing Factors in Video Editing Costs
Overall, there are 4 key factors you’ll need to think about when estimating how much you’ll end up paying for video editing services: Footage length and quality, editing complexity, how detailed your instructions are, and revisions.
1. Your Footage
First off, there is the length and quality of your raw footage.
The larger the number of raw clips you send to your editor, and the longer they are overall, the more you will end up paying in the end. That’s because your editor will need to watch every single clip to identify the best ones to include in the finished video.
Similarly, the poorer the quality of your original footage, the higher your bill will be. It’s easy to see why – your editor will have to spend a few extra hours to bring your footage up to scratch.
In any case, you can save hard cash by pre-sorting your own footage and making sure that you shoot and submit decent-quality clips.
When vetting video editing offers, pay attention to the source footage length and size you’re allowed to submit. Many freelance video editors and video editing services impose limits on how many clips or GB of data you can submit for one order.
2. Your Editing Needs
Next up, there’s the complexity of the editing work that your footage requires. Since it’s better to illustrate this, we’ll compare two short clips for this. One is by foodie YouTuber Emmy and features a gorgeous Swedish chocolate cake, the other’s an action clip of a downhill ski run produced by Red Bull.
For the first example, put yourself in Emmy’s shoes: You’re either talking into the camera or showing your viewers how you’re putting all the ingredients together.
There are just two perspectives: Medium long shots featuring you, and overhead shots of what you’re doing. All your editor has to do is to brush up the footage, cut silence and bloopers, and transition between the two views. Then, they add the intro and outro sequences.
Let’s have a look at the result.
Example 1 – Emmy’s Swedish Chocolate Cake:
Editing the second video of the ski run involves clipping together a fast-paced series of shots by multiple drones, footage of action cams worn by the skiers, and more traditional camera shots from the sidelines as well as close-ups of the participants.
There are several slow-motion close-ups, and also an animation of the race’s route, a voice-over, and background music.
Let’s see what it looks like.
Example 2 – Downhill Skiing:
The final skiing video is much shorter than Emmy’s cake bake – 3:29 minutes rather than Emmy’s 7:00. However, editing it takes far longer because of the much more complex edits needed to produce the end result.
3. Clear Instructions
How specific you are about what you want right off the bat is another factor in how much you’ll pay in the end. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. In short: The more details you give your editor, the more efficiently they can work.
For example, if you supply an annotated video script, they’ll be able to quickly get started on telling your story, rather than struggling to figure out a narrative structure themselves. If you have examples of the editing style you’d prefer, it’s a great idea to provide these as well.
Especially when you outsource to video editors that bill by the hour, being clear in your instructions can save you money big time.
4. Revisions and Turnaround
Finally, how much you’ll end up paying depends on how many revisions you need. Usually, you won’t be 100% happy with a video editor’s first draft – that’s why it’s a draft.
There’ll be at least some minor details you’d like changed, from fonts to the volume of background music.
The number of revisions included in the video editing offer is a major price factor, both in hourly and per-project pricing models. Careful – an offer that appears budget-friendly may only look that cheap because the editor requires revisions to be paid extra!
Also, a heads-up: the turnaround time in an editors’ quote is almost always the time until the first draft, not the finished product after revisions. Obviously, extremely fast delivery – like overnight – is going to cost you extra.
All that said, we’ll now show you how to get a ballpark estimate of what video editing will cost you.
How to Calculate Video Editing Cost
Estimating in advance how much a single video edit will cost you makes for better budget planning. In this quick how-to, we’ll show you how to do just that.
1. Analyze Your Footage
To start with, take the time to analyze your footage. Take an in-depth look at the length and quality of your raw footage, and write down your observations. Watch out for footage that’s obviously unusable, or which will need extra editing to fit into your final clip.
2. Pick a Final Length
Next, decide on how long you want your final video to be. This can be an estimate, but you will need something to tell your editor.
3. Estimate the Edit Complexity
Based on your footage notes and ideas, guesstimate whether your needs are basic, advanced, or high.
- Basic edits involve cutting and polishing your footage and audio, and dealing with simple stories.
- Advanced edits may include animations, complex motion graphics, and dynamic storytelling.
- You can think of high-end edits as TV-grade and higher – and that kind of polish often requires an entire team.
4. Estimate Editing Time
For every minute of finished video, put down 30 to 60 minutes for basic editing. If you’re looking for a complex, super-polished edit, go for 1 to 2 hours per minute.
5. Calculate Your Video Editing Cost
Check out hourly rates for editors or companies, then multiply that with the hours of editing time from above. For a first guess, you can assume:
- $20 per hour as a reasonable minimum
- $50 per hour for a decent basic edit
- $75 to $100 per hour for advanced editing
As an example, the editing cost for a 5-minute video would be in a range of $100 to $500, assuming that editing it takes about 5 hours.
Take a good look at the length and quality of your raw footage, and write down your observations. Watch out for footage that’s obviously unusable, or which will need extra editing to fit into your final clip.
Pricing Models for Video Editing Costs
There are three major pricing models that video editors use: hourly, video-based, and subscription-based. Which one you pick can have a major impact on how much you spend on video editing overall.
Model 1: Hourly Rates
Hourly rates are common if you decide to hire a freelance video editor, for instance through platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or PeoplePerHour.
Even though you’ll certainly find offers as low as $15 per hour, expect at least $30 per hour for quality work. Most professional video editors base their rates on the complexity of the edits and the extent of their own experience. Some charge as much as $100 to $150 per hour.
According to Upwork, rates for basic video editing services on their platform range between $20 and $45. For intermediate work, including animations and montage sequences, you can expect to pay $45 to $100 per hour. And if you need pro services like storyboarding and live action video direction, you’ll end up paying at least $60 per hour.
Be wary of offers that look too good to be true. They usually are. Unless your video editor lives in a location with ridiculously low costs of living, there’s usually a catch.
Model 2: Video-Based Editing Cost
Next, there are fixed-rate agreements, based either on projects or on packages. Both deal, in principle, with a single piece of work.
Project-based pricing means that the editor or company you hire gives you a quote for the project. While this quote may be in “hours”, the important bit is that the price is fixed, however many hours the editor actually puts in. You’ll pay the quoted amount in the end, no more, no less.
Of course, this doesn’t apply if you agree to modify the project. You might decide, for instance, that you want to shorten your video by a minute, or add a brief animation. You’ll get an updated quote in this case.
Package pricing, on the other hand, is often offered by video editing companies and sometimes by freelancers as well. The freelancer or company offers a specific kind of work at a set price, and you take it or leave it.
Usually, there are clear conditions for package pricing. They’ll specify the allowed length of original footage, file size, and the number of included extras such as thumbnail design. There’s also often a strict limit on revisions.
The upside of package pricing is that it’s often less expensive. This type of pricing allows for very good advance budgeting for both you and the editor or company (which is why they’re cheaper). Plus, you might even get a bulk discount if you buy credits for several edits in one go.
The main drawback is that these packages are often pretty bare-bones. Frequently, you’ll have to pay extra for add-ons, like export into different formats. Shop around and compare with an eye on the fine print. If you’ve got a lot of special needs, this probably isn’t the model for you.
Model 3: Subscription-Based Pricing
If you’ve got a predictable content volume, you could save costs and make sure that a video editor will always be available for you by opting for a subscription or retainer agreement. These are actually slightly different things.
Subscriptions are usually offered by video editing companies. You pay a monthly or annual fee and get a certain quota of videos you can have edited in return. The subscription price is fixed, whether you actually use your quota or not.
Here’s a typical example:
Video editing services sometimes advertise these subscriptions as “unlimited video editing“, but there will be a lot of fine print.
For example, some “unlimited” video editing offers only let you submit one project at a time. This can put a very inconvenient limit on your monthly video output. For example, say a company has a set turnaround time of 48 hours – until the first draft. Depending on how many revisions you need, it may well take four or five days until you have the finished video. Consequently, you’ll only be able to produce around 7 videos every month.
Retainers, in contrast, are something you agree on with freelance editors. Here, you pay an up-front fee for a certain amount of hours the freelancer sets aside to work for you. If you opt for a pay-for-work retainer, the editor will refund you for what you don’t use.
If it’s a pay-for-access retainer, it works more like a subscription. You’re paying the freelancer for the “access” to their work time, and you don’t get refunds for “unused” time. This is a bit like hiring them part-time, but much simpler, and without the commitment of an employment contract.
How Can You Minimize Your Video Editing Costs?
Calculating video editing costs is a complex business. Overall, you have to estimate the length of your raw footage and final product, as well as the complexity of your edits. Then, you need to decide which pricing model you want to opt for.
To minimize your costs, though, there are several things you can do in any case: provide clear instructions, pre-select high-quality footage, and compare several offers by editors and video editing companies. Vet companies thoroughly to make sure that they produce high-quality results and you won’t have to haggle about extra revisions.
All this together goes a long way to making sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Around $150–500, depending on your footage and your editing needs.
You can expect to pay around $300–1000. It depends on your footage, and what exactly you need done.
Around $25–45 per hour for basic work. For advanced video editing, you can expect $45–100 per hour.
“Unlimited” video editing subscriptions don’t put a hard limit on how many videos you can have edited in a month or week. However, there’s often a soft limit in the fine print: Only one video will be edited at a time, which often takes days, meaning what you get is actually something like 8 per month.