How much does video editing cost, like, for real?

video editing cost

So you’re thinking about hiring a video editor to take some work off your hands? Fantastic

But one question probably stands between you and that decision: How much does video editing cost? 

It seems a simple enough question. But there are a lot of factors that go into how much you’ll end up paying, like the length of your raw footage and your final video, the complexity of the edits you want, and the turnaround time you expect. 

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 will usually charge $30 to $100 an hour if they’re worth their salt.

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.

outsourcing video editing

What’s included in a (YouTube) video edit?

Before we jump into the gritty details of price calculations, let’s first clear up what we’re talking about when we say video editing

Video editing doesn’t just mean 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 your raw footage isn’t very high quality, video editors will usually try to polish it up by adjusting elements like color, contrast, brightness, and stabilization

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. Some will also create channel assets like intro and outro sequences. 

When you’re comparing offers further down the line, you need to be careful which of the services above are included and for which you’d have to pay extra

video editing cost

Key Pricing Factors in Video Editing Costs

Overall, there are 4 key factors that can help you estimate how much you’ll end up paying for video editing services: Footage, complexity, your instructions, and revisions.

1. Your Footage

First, there is the length and quality of your raw footage. The more raw clips a video editor has to sort through, the more you will end up paying. Similarly, the poorer the quality of your footage, the longer they will take to bring it up to scratch

In any case, you can save hard cash by pre-sorting your own footage and making sure that you submit decent-quality clips.

2. Your Editing Needs

Next, there’s the complexity of the editing work. Let’s compare two short clips for this. One is by foodie YouTuber Emmy and features a yummy-looking cake, the other’s an action clip on downhill skiing.

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 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 bloopers and pauses, and seamlessly switch between the two views. Then, they add the intro and outro sequences. 

Example 1 – Emmy’s Swedish Chocolate Cake:

Editing the second video involves clipping together a fast-paced series of drone shots, action cam footage, and regular cameras. There are several slow-motion close-ups, and also an animation of the race’s route.

Example 2 – Downhill Skiing:

Even though the final skiing video is shorter than the cake bake, editing it takes far longer.

3. Clear Instructions​

How specific you are at the beginning is another factor in how much you’ll pay in the end, and it’s often overlooked. In short: The more details you give your editor, the more efficiently they can work.

For example, if you supply a video script with annotations to your editor, they’ll be able to quickly get started on telling your story, rather than struggling to figure out a narrative structure themselves

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, there is the number of revisions that determines how much you’ll end up paying. 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’ll like changed, from fonts to the volume of background music. How many revisions you’ll need is a major price factor, both in hourly and per-video pricing models. 

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, very short delivery times – such as overnight – are going to cost you extra.

That said, what follows is a very quick how to for getting a ballpark estimate of what having your video editing will cost you.

video editing cost

How to calculate video editing cost

video editing cost sample calculation

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.

Analyze your footage

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. 

Pick a final length

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.

Estimate edit complexity

Based on your footage notes and ideas, make a guess whether your needs are basic, advanced, or high. 

  • Basic edits involve cutting and polishing your footage and audio, and deal 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.

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.

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. 

video editing cost

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.

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 find offers as low as $15 per hour, quality work starts at at least $30 per hour. However, many professional video editors base their pricing on the complexity of the edits and the extent of their own experience. Some charge as much as $100 – $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

video editing cost depends on the editor and your needs

Video-Based Editing Cost

Next, there are fixed-rate agreements, based on projects or packages

Project-based pricing means that the editor you hire – usually a freelancer – gives you a quote for the project. You’ll pay the quoted amount in the end, no more, no less

The only exception is if you agree to modify the project. You might decide, for instance, that you want to make your video a minute longer, or include a brief animation. 

The quote may be in “hours”, but the important bit is that the price is fixed, however many hours the editor actually puts in.

Package pricing is often offered by video editing companies. The freelancer or company makes an offer for 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 additional services. There’s also often a limit on revisions

The upside of this kind of pricing is that they’re often less expensive and make 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 drawback, though, is that these packages are sometimes pretty basic, and if it’s not specifically included, you’ll pay 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.

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 a retainer agreement. These are actually slightly different things.

Subscriptions are usually offered by video editing companies. It means you pay a monthly or annual fee and get a certain quota of videos you can have edited in return. The subscription price remains fixed, whether you actually use your quota or not

Here’s an example:

subscription content example

Always check what's included in a package or subscription.

In some cases, video editing services advertise these subscriptions as “unlimited video editing,” but that claim will come with a lot of fine print.

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 for-work retainer, the editor will refund you for what you don’t use

If it’s a pay-for-access retainer, it works like a subscription. You’re paying the freelancer for the “access” to their work time. This is not unlike hiring them part-time, but without the complications and commitment of an employment contract. 

video editing cost

How Can You Minimize Your Video Editing Costs?

Calculating video editing costs is a complex business. Overall, you have to estimate the complexity of your edits, the length of your raw footage and final product. 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 your footage, and compare offers by several editors and video editing companies. 

All this together goes a long way to making sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Ready to give professional video editing a shot?

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.

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