Why Do Some Change Orders Cost So Much?

A couple of years ago, we had to put together a simple change order for a client that added a tagline to their brand name. They needed the key words in the script twice. Seems fairly straightforward as far as jobs go.

And of course we wanted to help! So, we charged what voice talent needed plus a fee for our time. It looked like a couple of hours of simple work. The client agreed our fee was fair and we swiped.

Except it wasn’t. It wound up taking over 40 hours work on our end for a number of reasons that all “went wrong” at once. We had to retime the entire audio, we had to find a new voice talent because the initial voice left the industry. The audio mix then had to be redone. All of that after we’d agreed on a fee.

What Goes Into a Change Order…

Here’s what goes into a “regular” change order.

  1. We have to understand: The change order has to be understood. This isn’t a small part of the process and it takes time to do. Something like “Just make the logo stand out more,” could mean a number of things. Are we isolating it and zooming in? Are we adding a drop shadow to it? Are we making sure that the logo stays in motion the whole time?
  2. Calendar Risk:  The work has to be assigned and scheduled. This isn’t the hard part, usually.
  3. Original Assets: The original file and assets have to be found. We archive everything and have a thorough process where we keep things for 3 years, but sometimes files get corrupt (thanks, Dropbox).
  4. Computer/Software: A computer with the same environment has to be procured. If we started in After Effects, we have to finish in After Effects. Or Maya or C4d or Final Cut or Premiere. Sometimes some projects may have multiple programs in different scenes. After Effects versions change fast to keep up with the times, and sometimes they leave behind old ways of doing things so that scenes have to be rebuilt.
  5. Audio: The audio has to be edited and music redone. We don’t just slap a track on at the end of a project, good companies sync the visuals with the rhythm. A small change can push the timing off throughout.
  6. Learning The Project: Someone must become familiar with the project again: looking at old work, old writing and old code takes a minute to “get back into” the project. This takes time, and has to be factored in.
  7. Pricing: Change Orders must be priced in a way that’s fair to Simplifilm and fair to our client. Clients don’t understand that if an entire video costs $10-12,000, then why does a 5 second change order cost $2,000 or more?

The above is just what happens on an ordinary change order with no special issues.

Other things that may happen:

  • Domino Effect: Good craft means scenes are built with the whole of the piece in mind. Changing one early part creates work later because there is a ton of interdependency in any good piece of work.
  • Profit Risk: When we build an entire Simplifilm we make some money. When we do a change order we make less. We have to be good to the company in order to be around to continue to do change orders in the future.
  • Licensing Risk: Sometimes stock media is picky about how many times it’s licensed to show up. When we do a change order we have to relicense it, and sometimes we’re simply not aware of what had happened.

That’s what goes into a change order, and while we ALWAYS want to help our clients we have to make sure that we’re fair to Simplifilm, too.

So, we’ve taken a path of charging a little more to do change orders. We’re happy to do them, we just have to make sure that it’s fair to our company. Within about 60 days, the change order fees are less because a lot of the risks don’t exist. After 60 days, our fees are increased.

This was made just so people could understand that it’s not just “a quick drop in.” We want to be able to help all of our customers and support the folks that support us. It just needs to be fair to everyone!