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DIY Video vs Hiring a Professional (Updated January '18)

Here is a video update with where I stand on DIY vs hiring a professional crew. Not a lot of changes, but - I do have a suggestion for figuring out if it's worth it for your org! 

(original post from Feb, 2015 is as follows)

In January I had the privilege to sit on a panel with some amazing video experts in the Twin Cities, at Social Media Breakfast. We gave DIY tips, tricks, and resources to check out. We talked about the evil thing that is autoplay (in my opinion), and which brands we think are doing a great job when it comes to video content. But, we ran out of time before getting to one question.

"When should you hire a professional? When should you just do it yourself?"

Great question. Of course, being a professional that would like to work with you (hint hint, I like your new look great!), of course I lean towards the "You should always hire a professional," camp. But, with the technology and creative spirit that is out there, I don't think you should go without video content...just because your budget doesn't allow for a professional. So, here are a few scenarios where...if playing the part of content strategist, I'd make the decision to hire versus doing it in house.

First, what videos are best done in house?

1. Behind the scenes videos: anything meant for social media/candid content.Are you reacting to a current event? What about office games, singing happy birthday, off the cuff reviews of a product? Why? These videos are meant to show the current personality of your team. They show how real you are. Spontaneous. Back during my days at we took a video of our newsroom when our website was down. We were playing paddleball, reading, dancing, juggling...of course it was staged, but it was fun content to throw on social media, to curb the complainers while our IT folks worked their magic to get us up and running again.

2. 7-15 second vine/instagram style posts. Again, this will be very "inside baseball" content of your team. Of course, if you want these to appear polished and if they have any type of comedic timing whatsoever...I'd say hire a pro to shoot a bunch of them at once to maximize the time you're paying for.

3. Challenges. Think: ice bucket challenge, the lutefisk challenge. These are easy to do with your smart phone (Just remember to turn it sideways! Vertical video is evil! Do you suffer from vertical video syndrome?)

4. Media moments. Is your boss being interviewed? Take a quick video before, during or after the interview, to post to your website and/or social media accounts to get some extra PR out of the deal. Build buzz.

When should you hire a professional?

1. For everything else. (ok, just kidding...)

2. Videos starring people who have never been on camera before. Seasoned directors know what it takes to get new talent to feel at ease, and deliver in an authentic/non-salesy manner.

3. Content with staying power. Do you have a great video idea that will resonate with your audience and share for a long time due to the timeless content? Or, something that will live on your website/be sent to potential clients or partners, for a good chunk of time? Remember, if people are seeing something from your brand for the first time, you want that initial impression to be a good one.

4. B2B Content. Research shows that 65% of executives will visit the website of a vendor, after viewing a video from them. Boom.

5. When your other content is no longer helping you achieve the goals you set out to tackle. Are things stagnant? Nobody watching? A professional can step in with an objective/honest opinion. Some are only comfortable on the production end of things, but folks like Puke Rainbows (shameless plug, yes!) also handle strategy, and look at market research to help figure out where things could be goin' South.

6. When you want to take a creative risk. Video professionals live for this stuff. We want to help you stand out, and push our creative chops as well. With so much content out there, taking a risk...really isn't as risky as it once was. Want to cut through the clutter? Ask a professional for help.

7. Training videos. If you are going to make staff sit through these things...the worst thing is watching something that has horrible audio, or questionable craftsmanship. In fact, it detracts from the idea of training the employee.

8. When the expense makes sense. Many companies think that DIY video in house "saves money"...this is not always the truth. Just like any profession, video professionals are much more efficient at what they do, than the average bear. This is the same reason why I hire an accountant to do my taxes. Because it's just not worth it for me to try to do takes me days, it takes him 45 minutes. Back in my TV days I'd write/shoot/edit more than six videos per day. I've held the hands of teams of 3-4 inexperienced folks attempting DIY video, and it takes them 2 full weeks, 80 hours/per person to put together a 2 minute video. That's more than $6,000 for employees making $25/hour. I'm willing to bet, their time would have been more valuable to said company, spent actually putting together a distribution/PR plan for the video, instead of producing/shooting/editing it. Weigh the cost of your employee's time, before you scoff at giving them a budget for video.

I know these are just a few examples, but it's a good start! Let me know if you have any questions or comments. This is just a simple conversation starter. :) Keep puking rainbows, my friends...and thanks for reading!



4 Tools to Increase Productivity in 2018

I'm a procrastinator. There, I admitted it! I love the rush of a deadline. But, the past year - it's caused more stress, than a rush...and with a new diagnosis of ADHD, things are all starting to make sense. Making lists is usually how I get things done, but even then - I used to find myself doing the things I enjoyed before the most important task. Until I walked into a little store on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul and found two simple tools to change that. 

Erica Hanna of Puke Rainbows in Minnesota shares 4 tools that are helping her get things done faster, instead of waiting until the last minute. Hear how her productivity has gone up in the last week and a half of 2017, with her video production and speaking business.


1. The Productivity Planner
    I was a skeptic at looked like a glorified list. But, what I didn't take into account is that the tasks were also prioritized from most important to least important. And, here is the kicker - you have to give yourself a productivity score at the end of each day. Boom. That was one of the keys. I don't like to "lose", even if it's against myself. So, the more and more I use it - the more I see my score improving. This has helped me accomplish more in the past few weeks, than I could even imagine. While others were taking well-deserved time off, I cranked out edits for 10+ videos, two strategies, multiple contracts, a couple of blog posts, started meditating more, messing around on the internet less, and really am leaving behind this feeling of, "I could be doing so much more with my time to help my business...." 

2. The FocusKeeper App
    The Productivity Planner uses the pomodoro technique: breaking down work into 25 minute sprints, with a 5 minute break to breathe, get a snack, etc...I like using the app on my phone, because then I'm not checking my clock every two seconds to see how much time I have until I can cuddle my cat for 5 mins. (Cat cuddles are important, people - don't mock me)

3. The Self Control App
    Self Control is an app I've used on and off for a few years now. But, partnered with my productivity planner, and the focuskeeper app - I feel like it's sooooooo much more impactful. Basically, what it does is shuts down access to sites that distract you. You create this list yourself - so be honest! I set my timer in 25 minute sprints along with Focuskeeper, so I can still check twitter and facebook every half hour for a minute or two - in case new clients have contacted me there, or I want to send my boyfriend some mushy message or inside joke GIF. (barf, right?) 

4. 5 Minute Journal
     So, how do you keep all of this productivity "in check" and keep your life in balance? For me, that's important, because when I get on a productivity kick, I do tend to zone out every other thing in life, hold my breath while I edit or work, and find myself so wound up, I'm close to panicking. But, the same day I picked up the Productivity Planner, I also grabbed a 5 Minute Journal. Get this: you really don't have to even have to be a writer for this journal to work. You simply fill in the blanks when it asks you questions about the good parts of your day, and how you'll improve it tomorrow. Voila! Self reflection, and you get to start the day on the positive note, and end the day on a positive note before bed. I've been sleeping better, have been able to "let things go" easier, and have overall, been happier. 

As I mentioned in the video - not every method works the same way for every personality type. But, for this ENFP business owner, it's been pretty damn rad. I'm SO ready for 2018, with this simple new plan - and I hope it helped you, too. 


ps. This is not a paid post. I just like this stuff :) 



Sticker Shock After an Estimate? Stop Taking it Personally.

The videos I create have a lot of moving parts. Pre-production, crew, post-production. And with so many businesses getting on board with video, it means a lot of "first timers" are coming to the space. Which, is awesome - right? More people experiencing the power of video marketing! It's so fun to hold their hand as they step into this new world. 

On a shoot for Mayo/University of MN - Rochester

On a shoot for Mayo/University of MN - Rochester

But, when it's your first time at anything, there are typically growing pains. And usually, that means a bit of sticker shock when they receive their first estimate. This used to bum me out, I took it personally, telling myself, "They don't think you're worth it. This sucks!" When, in reality - that has nothing to do with it.

Here is the thing: being offended gets you nowhere.

It simply means their budget is not allocated for that much money, and they're probably scrambling and not sure what to do - because nobody wants to tell their boss they need more money, right?

I instruct a lot of "how to" video workshops. And, recently, a fellow video producer said to me,

"It just drives me crazy when people like you talk about video for social media and digital marketing it's all "this is great" "you need to do this" and how to promote it. Yet, when I get clients who ask me for video, and I explain the workflow and prices involved they get sticker shock." 

Speaking at Social Media Breakfast - photo: Teresa Boardman

Speaking at Social Media Breakfast - photo: Teresa Boardman

On a "how to" video panel. Photo: Teresa Boardman

On a "how to" video panel. Photo: Teresa Boardman

Here is the thing...many of the workshops I give, are honestly a direct result OF sticker shock, and I'm completely OK with that. Sometimes it's because a client and I have really explored what goals they're looking to accomplish, and how often they should be producing videos - and we realize, they just don't have the budget capacity to keep up high/professional level of production all year. But, if they're looking to do simple things like video blog, or learn how to do a timelapse with their phone to capture and event...why wouldn't I just teach them how to do it? I'd rather lose a big video project, and gain the trust of a new collaborator via a workshop, then alienating them to the process overall because they didn't get results with their grand idea that was mis-targeted. Because, honestly - I LOVE video, and think it's a beautiful way to communicate with your target audience. I want you to love it. And if you don't love it, I at least want you to understand it. 

One of the biggest mistakes I see video producers making, is huffing and puffing about clients who don't understand budget. If they don't understand's actually your fault. My business advisor pointed this out to me, early on. He noticed that I was waiting until we were knee deep in creative, and 3 meetings in, before mentioning price at all. Therefore, I'd feel very sad about the fact that I was giving creative away "for free" only to not have a conversion. Now, I bring up a rough price range upon first meeting, every time. It saves a lot of headache. And, I also offer to sit down and itemize the quote with the clients, so they can understand why the price is higher than expected. 


Speaking at the American Marketing Association "MN Ad Bowl" about Superbowl ads. 

Speaking at the American Marketing Association "MN Ad Bowl" about Superbowl ads. 

Not all companies "need" pro level video.  Gasp. Yes, it's true. Depending on their industry, something along the amateur lines may even be more effective. It's up to me as a producer, to help them figure out how to best reach their audience. Example: a non-profit approached me last summer about doing a grand "about us" video. But, when we drilled down and looked at goals - we realized their biggest goal was to prove to donors on a monthly basis that their money was doing good. One video wouldn't have accomplished that goal. So, providing a workshop about how to capture events on a mobile phone was the best option. This way, they could interview people who are impacted by this service (in this case, a food shelf), and send out little clips via email - bringing donors monthly story snippets. Instead of giving them one amazing "We Are Awesome" video, that probably would have left donors wondering, "Did my money go towards making that video, instead of directly to the people who were hungry?" 

Often times when I sit down with a client to explain the process, they immediately get on board and realize professional grade production is a lot more time and work than an iphone and an actor. In fact, I had two clients last year that, after going through this process - came back to me, and offered to pay above the budget I had proposed, because they felt I was underbidding for what I'd be doing. 

On a shoot for Brenda Knowles Golbus.

On a shoot for Brenda Knowles Golbus.

So, to the bitter folks who rant and rave about clients not "getting it" I encourage you to look in the mirror. Because if they don't get it, chances are you might not be explaining it in a clear fashion. Or, there is the slim chance that they're just a d-bag...and in that case, aren't you lucky that you are missing that "opportunity" to work with someone who's close minded about your craft? ha! Taking it personally doesn't help anyone. You have a budget for your business, in the same way that they have a budget for theirs. Help them learn more about the process, and who knows - maybe next year they'll fight for a bigger bucket for video, and come back with a request for a really cool project. 

Clients refusing to pay a certain amount of MONEY...does in no way hurt or lower, your actual VALUE. 

Thanks for reading, 

Erica Hanna
6 time Emmy Winner
Video Director/Producer
Minneapolis, Minnesota



Why is Video So Expensive?

With iPhone stepping up their video "game" and other fun cameras making visual content more and more accessible these days, how are folks in the video industry still able to justify charging what they do? Honestly, I don't blame you for wondering...the shoots can get spendy. But, we're not just pulling numbers out of the air, we promise (ah-hem....full disclosure: I own a video strategy/production company). But, like most specialities, video can be a bit tough to understand. So, here is an attempt to break things down. 

1. Gear: when you hire a professional, you are also (depending on the shooter) renting their gear for the day. I've directed shoots in the past where gear alone (without someone to operate it) will total well over $20,000 to rent (yes, for a day), so when I bring my heavy-hitting pals like Scott Hoffman to a shoot, you're honestly getting a deal when it comes to gear, since he includes a bunch of that uber fancy stuff in his "day rate." 
"What is tough to explain, is that when you hire someone with 20 years of day rate isn't just an hourly rate for my time. It's taking into consideration that I own $250,000 in gear, as well. And not only do I own it, but I've researched it, tested it, and have backup gear to make sure we maximize every second of the shoot." -Scott Hoffman

Scott brings up a good point, backup gear. Let's talk about that a bit.

2. Your Butt is Covered: ever wonder why most photography packages for weddings come with 2 photographers instead of just one? Or, why professional photographers at sporting events have an extra camera on their hip? Well, usually they have two different lenses with different focal lengths (read: zoomed in or zoomed out) ready to rock, but also...backup. Yup, even these spendy pieces of equipment break. At the WORST TIMES POSSIBLE, haha. And, it's an unwritten rule in professional production land that it doesn't matter if we're getting paid 3k or 30k for a shoot...we always want to make sure we have backup gear, because we understand that getting everyone needed in place on a different day, would be a nightmare. So, if it ever looks like we're packin' way more gear than we need, it's because we are. In order to make sure that we won't have to reschedule the shoot, due to a gear situation. Because we'd rather front the cost up front to have backup gear, instead of risking a shoot reschedule - because that means more work for our clients, producers, talent, and everyone. Boo hiss. Backups are important! This also saves you money in the end, because coordinating another shoot day can be...well...hell. And it happens more often than you think. We're always (well, most of the time) just really cool about it, ha!

3. Efficiency: for 8 years it was my job at WCCO-TV to write, shoot, edit, direct, and make the magic happen for 6 promos (little commercials about the news) per day. While training in professionals for this job, it would take them twice as long. Yes, professionals. A person who is a novice? It would take them probably 2-5 days to do what I/my fellow specialists can do in 2 hours. Many production folks are used to wearing multiple hats, and changing direction quickly. This is why it's (shameless plug) possible to hire someone like me, who will put together a team of 5 people that can do the job of 10 people. Yay, half the cost for you. More fun for us. Another item in the efficiency category is storage and file transfer options. Harddrives aren't cheap, friends. To the cloud! But, still-we need to make sure all of our media solutions are reliable, so most of us spend well over what is "necessary", to make sure we're not in a pinch in the future.

4. No Distractions: poor production quality isn't *always* such a horrible thing. I mean, look at Blair Witch Project. But, think about what the filmmakers were trying to do there. Distract you. The last thing you want is something detracting from your message. With the average digital attention span of only 7 seconds, most viewers don't have time for things like: flickering video, horrible audio, hums in the background, shaky cameras that make you sea sick, or graphic design that is so tough to read it looks like your uncle Larry scrawled something across the screen with a sharpie. We'll help you cut through the clutter and relay what you're trying to say.

5. Outside Perspective: we've all heard the stats...8 gajillion seconds of video (OK, I'm slightly exaggerating) uploaded to the internet each millisecond. How the heck are you going to get someone to give you the time of day? Well, depending on how seasoned the professional is...we've seen most of the tricks out there. Visual storytelling is what we love and live for, so allowing us to give you outside input from a creative and prospective viewer position, holds value. Heck, I had professionals give me feedback for my own launch video, and they were honest, "Try that line again. But less, weird." Cool. Done. That was easy. Of course, it's more than just changing a line here or there. We just want to make sure that your objectives are driving the ship, and it's easy for us to tell you if, as humble, normal, video viewing/making professionals...we think you're hitting the mark or not.

photo: Jonn Robinet

photo: Jonn Robinet

6. Resources and Time: today I spoke with an awesome gentleman from an agency in town who was looking for a certain type of photographer. I knew right off the bat, that my style didn't match. But, sent him the names of two people I knew were a good fit. Researching things like that takes a lot of time, and is a lot of guesswork if you don't know the professional personally. That 20 minute phone call could have saved someone a full day or two of research, and when it comes down to billable hours, we all know time is money. Good content producers know other good content producers, even if we have different styles, prices, or skill sets. It's the same reason why I would go to my accountant to ask for a bookkeeper, instead of calling around in the yellow pages (do those still exist?). Trust. The nice thing about the folks I work with, is that most of them are my friends as well, so we trust each other, and do favors for each other. Little things like discounted gear rental, location scouts, and quick idea-bouncing sessions. To make sure things on shoot day are as fun and effective as possible for the client. Man, that sounded gross and "sales-y" right? Meh, it's the truth. We like you guys.

7. All That Legal Stuff: Insurance for your gear? Check. Insurance for on-set liability? Check. Insurance for everything else under the sun? Check. Oh, don't forget health insurance, dental, and all the things. We've got it covered. With great gear, lights, and shiny things...comes great responsibility. Which, means shelling out extra moola every year to make sure everyone is safe on set...or anywhere near us, for that matter. (And yes, this is one of the expenses that caught me a bit off guard when I jumped recently. You guys, being responsible for the lives of people is stressful. Yikes.)
Oh, and taxes! I remember cutting checks for contractors back in the day when I worked 9a-5p, and thinking, "Whaaaaa? They get how much!?" But, I didn't think about the fact that they had to take taxes out themselves. Sometimes those who are hiring us see the initial "check", and assume that's how much money we're taking home. (haha, so funny. No.) :)

8. Unaccounted for Time: us production/creative folks are silly. Half the time we only bill a "day rate" for the time it took to actually shoot your content. What you don't see on the backend, is the time we spend sitting at our computers, uploading, compressing, and re-uploading footage so you can actually watch it on your 1997 Dell Computer without crashing it. This can take hours. Depending on the codec and footage type, even longer in some cases. We don't tell you about this, because we are a proud, proud, bunch. We want you to think we are magicians and that we can upload video with our wands and fancy spells. Another thing we do a lot of? Analyze. Video professionals working at a top level analyze everything. I've already spent nearly 10 hours going over in meticulous detail with my two crew-mates, a shoot that is only going to take 5 hours total to shoot. Why? Because (can't say it enough) we LOVE the dance. We love putting things together, and we want to know that when we get there, we can unload and unleash our creativity. No details to hash out as we are setting up, that is all done by the time we get there. We're on the same page as far as style, tone, direction, positioning, etc... Did I bill those 10 hours to my client? Nope. Did the two subcontractors I hired? Nope. Not, technically. But, I guess you could say it's one of the reasons why our day rates are what they are.

9. Good Chemistry: a good producer (head honcho of the shoot) knows how to assemble a crew, and this takes a lot of time when it comes to getting to know the individual subcontractors in town. A certain videographer or sound engineer would be perfect for one project, but perhaps not another - just based on personality types. Voila! Producer = On-set Matchmaker! And ya know what that means? Your talent will be more relaxed, instead of being creeped out. Well, we might creep them out a little. But, sometimes that's fun, right? No? *jazz hands*

In conclusion, we're basically looking to make visual experiences enjoyable and easy to navigate in the production process. Because, the easier we make things when we're working with cool folks, the better the chance that we'll get an opportunity to make more magic with them again down the road. I mean, we LOVE doing this. But, we're in it for the long haul. After all, one-night-stand clients are everywhere, but most of us are looking for that super cool long-term relationship when it comes to storytelling (shout out to @Garyvee for the metaphor). D' romance is in the air. Thanks for reading.


ps. Not sure if you should hire a crew or not? It's not always the best decision (shhhhhh...don't tell the other production folks I said that!) Here is a post about when it makes the most sense shoot things in-house.



Specialize, or Learn All The Things?

The dorky kid who liked school. That was, and has always When college came around, I still didn't "really" know what I wanted to do. A little radio here, video production there, directing, drinking, and dating. Tah-dah. My first job was at a tiny TV station in Iowa, where I quickly learned...I had to be as self reliant as possible. 

That? Sucked. 

But, the lessons were priceless. Did I become a pro at troubleshooting for computer problems, and beta tape issues? Not exactly, but the process forced me to be resourceful and to seek out hotlines for help (this is before you could find *everything* on the internet...yes, I'm that old). 

So, enter the move to the big city 9 years ago. It was the first time someone offered to cut video and audio for a promo for me. I almost didn't know what to do with myself. I felt...lazy. But, also free to do things I had a stronger skill set in, like writing headlines and positioning promos to entice viewers to watch. The nice thing was that the editors appreciated having someone who understood how long it took to cut video. The need to give them specific timecode. It created a bond over shared knowledge. 

Then, came a conversation I will never forget. Chatting with a buddy who was in advertising. I shared that my heart told me I would be a better fit in an agency, than at my current job in TV. I'll never forget his response, 

"I'm sorry, but...that just won't happen. You're not specialized enough. People in advertising won't know what to 'do' with you. Video, writing, producing,'s too much. Also, most advertising folks classify TV people as lacking in creativity. So yeah...good luck." 

I was, to put it lightly, absolutely heartbroken. Grieving the loss of a dream I had held onto for years. The tears flowed freely, and doubt settled in. But then, a big change. I became...pissed. 

Since when was it a bad thing, to understand how multiple jobs fit together? It didn't mean I wanted to "DO" all of the things. Just that knowing how the cogs, gears, and wheels fit together...made sense. Why not have respect for what the other person on your team does, by at least learning the general idea about what they look to accomplish? And creativity? Creativity, is about believing you can create. Knowing that you are an artist. Trusting your intuition, and backing it up with data and belief. 

"Screw this," I's time to BE creative, and to CREATE things for one reason only: 

Because I can't NOT create, any longer. 

Eyes open, I embarked on a lovely project that opened many doors. Directing a my first music video for a young lad named Dan Rodriguez. When Dan and I first met, his content was getting roughly 50 hits on youtube, with each post. His Red Flags video we made, has 188,000 views now. And, last month? An amazing song of his was featured in a Budweiser PSA that has now racked up almost 20 MILLION (yes, million!) hits. He is a star. Is it because of our video together? No. But, it was really fun to be a part of his growing career. I look back now at that video we made, and think: oh jeeeeesh, why didn't I do "this, this, this, and this" differently? But, that's the beauty of learning. Using old work as a benchmark for growth. If you can look back at something from 5 years ago and say, "Yup, that was the peak. I'm done." Then why continue to create? 

Anyway,  to the point. On Dan's shoot, we didn't "specialize." Carry gear? Yup. Pick up coffee? Yup. Direct, edit, produce? Sure, those are my favorite things! Lighting? Shooting? I observed. Because Joe Berglove was the pro. But, knowing ins and outs of what he was doing made it easy to help adjust a light, grab a battery, etc... knowing the basics, made it easier to not be an asshole to my hard-working crew. The rest of the team? Did the same, and more. Our director of photography took on prop/set building. Our graphic artist helped with concept. We had a blast. 

So, here I am today. Ready to make things. A lot of folks in production think it's weird that I spent a year at Director level jobs in the social media/content space. A lot of social media folks give me strange looks when I talk passionately about production. I think it's weird, to pretend to fully understand one thing without the other. When you're coming up with an idea, it's nice to understand who will be watching it, how it will be made, and how in the heck you'll be able to get it to people. Does that mean EVERYONE in the business should have a baseline knowledge for all of those things? No way. In the same way that I try to maintain a baseline level of knowledge when it comes to marketing/digital, production folks maintain the highest level of knowledge when it comes to their specialized skill. Lighting? Audio? I shouldn't touch it. But, I do need to know enough to be able to communicate what I'd like the end result to be, to make sure the creative vision a client signs off on, is fulfilled. 

Back to the question: specialize, or learn all the things? I guess it's not that cut and dry. Either way, just choose the side you feel most comfortable on, and hustle like crazy to be the best in that position. I love being a creative interpreter, of sorts. Others love being the top expert in one thing. Neither is right or wrong. But the beauty is seeing folks on both sides of the fence, attempt to step out of the box. I've had a few high level Directors of Photography ask about digital strategy lately. Why? Because they want people to see the beautiful things they make. Walking them through those things? So fun. In trade? They geek out with me over gear, offering a "cliff notes" version of what is up and coming, and how certain cameras will give my projects different looks. Man, those dudes are smart. 

So, keep learning. Whether it's specializing with awareness of what is around you...or, immersing yourself in all of the things, but taking time to drill down deep enough periodically, to know what will give you the best result. People fear things they don't understand, so let's reach out to each other to help bridge that gap, and make new things fun again. 

Thanks for reading, rainbow pukers.