Why Every Video Project Planning is Important For Every Project (Even Small ones)

Good people working hard can cause bad outcomes.  I call it the Phantom Menace Effect.  Do you think that the folks working on that movie didn’t care?  Do you think the people didn’t have talent?  They had both. But for a number of reasons things went awry.

We recently had a project that was way harder than it needed to be because we treated (and priced it) it as a simple “order fulfillment.”  Except we misunderstood the scope and worked hard on something that the client didn’t want.

Time, energy, talent, and effort were spent moving in a direction that we didn’t want to go.  And it could have been prevented with project planning.

We thought it was a simple, straightforward change order.  So did our client.  However, we both had different understandings of what “change order” meant.  So the delivery wasn’t what they had had in mind.  And it’s not as if we didn’t put effort and work into it.

What Video Project Planning Is:

Planning is the process where the client and creative partner reconcile all the differences that they have, and come to a shared understanding.

This will include:

  • Production Values
  • Scope of work (Statement of Work)
  • Limitations on The Work (ie. Revisions)

Every project needs it.  And, as a general rule, planning comes early.  It can come either pre-agreement or post agreement, but no later.

Project planning should be roughly 10-25% of the total time estimated to have in a project.


  1. If the budget won’t cover (hey, it happens) we learn that after only 10% of the money is spent, not more.  That’s much easier to untangle and refund than 65%.
  2. You can educate your client on what it takes.
  3. You can also offer other services that would enhance and defend the project you’re delivering.

At our company, we’ve mostly gotten away with “winging” change orders in the past. We wanted to prevent ourselves from being bureaucratic and so we kept the SOW or Change Orders to a simple budget document, and then we dived in.

This worked, but we are now realizing that we were _fortunate_. We were able to get by with an immature process because we have amazing clients and they are generally great human beings.

How To Implement Lightweight Project Planning

First, ask what _result_ you’re going to look for _from your client_. They can talk about what they want to happen in an honest and earnest way.

Then list the things that will need to happen – we do this informally in a Google Doc or other sharable doc.

Then, estimate the time needed for each step.

Finally, pad the estimates so if you’re wrong then your client still doesn’t suffer much.

Look at the project.  If it’s something you can live with, do it.  If not, don’t.

Finally, Productize

90% of what we do is ordered from the menu.  We’ve developed video services that are exact and specific and that are profitable to us and valuable to our clients.  The 10% that are off menu have been change orders, edits of our competitor’s work, and unusual projects that we did to support existing clients.

The importance of productizing is that you work subjectivity out, and the SOW becomes the same on every project, and less energy is spent correcting misunderstandings.

Other Articles:

A couple of articles informed our perspective on this:

Creative Bloq:  http://www.creativebloq.com/netmag/project-discovery-and-design-professional-6126273

Chris Lema: http://chrislema.com/stop-preventing-scope-creep/ .  <–one of my favorite articles by the great Chris Lema on this stuff.