Whether you’re a startup or an established multinational, explainer videos can be a wonderfully effective way to promote your product or services and capture the attention of your customers. Without a healthy budget to play with though, is it actually possible to make your own explainer video to a high standard? And how much does a DIY explainer video cost compared to an agency commissioned video? Let’s find out.

By doing it yourself, you can exercise a certain amount of control over the look, feel and content of your DIY explainer video – within the constraints of your animation skills and the graphics at your disposal, of course. However, unless you’re a professional animator, it’s often the specialised skills of a dedicated video agency that can truly help you to transcend any limitations and bring your vision to life in full HD perfection.

Pictures speak a thousand words, so if you want to sell your brand in the most evocative way then an explainer video could be the perfect route for you. The essence of a great explainer video is that it allows you to break down otherwise complicated and, dare we say it, dry information into short and shareable takeaways.

We humans are inherently visual creatures. We’ve produced an infographic about the power of visual communication that illustrates this point, quite literally! For example, did you know that 93% of all communication is non-verbal? That’s according to psychologist Albert Mehrabian. While visuals are processed an incredible 60,000 times faster than text.

Let’s take a look at the pros, cons and costs of going it alone compared to commissioning an agency. You might be surprised at what’s possible and where a DIY explainer video can take you.

Balancing the ROI

Getting that all-important bang for your buck is essential and, let’s face it, is one of the primary drivers of any DIY project. To stay on track and avoid spiralling costs, it’s solid planning and following a well-thought out schedule that are the bedrock of any DIY explainer video. Not only can this save you money, but it also gives you the freedom to experiment with the ideal medium of video for your business.

If you’ve got a camera and a dream to stream, then a potential shop window to millions is only a recording session away. As such, the growth of online video content has been nothing short of stratospheric in recent years. You only need look at The State of Video Marketing 2018 survey that we commissioned to find that 85% of businesses now regard video as an important part of their marketing strategy (up from 82% in 2017). As many as 82% of businesses told us they plan to spend more on video marketing in 2018 and 78% of marketers say video gives them a good ROI. It’s a growth industry for sure.

How Crazy Egg cracked it

In 2014, Crazy Egg created an animated explainer video that boosted their monthly income by $21,000. What’s more interesting than the admittedly massive (and measurable!) boost to their bottom line though is that they’re still using that very same video, three years on from its inception, to generate new revenue. Talk about an impressive ROI!

Great explainer videos, convert viewers into customers, plain and simple. However, the best explainer videos convert viewers into customers for years to come. A high quality video is an investment in your company and your future success. Like any good investment, you tend to get what you pay for. As we’ll explain in more detail as we go along.

What type of explainer video do you need?

There are several options to choose from when it comes to explainer videos. The main ones being live action, animations, whiteboard and screencast videos. You might opt for one specific type or a combination of several. Before you can make that decision, let’s find out a bit more about each option. We’ll give you an idea of how to DIY each format and how much that could cost.

Live action

Live action is precisely what you’d expect it to be. Real people talking through an idea, product or service. Of course, a live action video doesn’t just happen. To make it both convincing and professional you’ll need to make sure you have an excellent script, actors and good quality cameras and lighting.

Top tip:

Make sure you have a good script and that the people you cast in the video are confident and clear about your creative direction. If you have some experience, and are secure in your script writing abilities, then try using speechinminutes.com, which converts your word count into minutes. This can give you a good estimate of how long your script will be when it’s filmed or animated.

If not, then it might be worth employing a freelancer to write it either for your or with you. A solid script is the foundation of any great explainer video. Without that foundation, your video will crumble. Just remember that freelancers charge by the hour, which can make budgeting more difficult than paying for a package from an agency.

Most explainer videos use a problem-solution format where the problem is presented first and then the rest of the video explains how your idea solves the problem. Bear this in mind when you’re commissioning your script writer. A great script writer should be able to fully understand any product or service, regardless of how complex it is. Communicating your business in a simple and easy to understand way is crucial to the success of your video.

How much should that cost?

Hiring a freelance writer to develop your script is likely to cost from £50 to £250. A studio might charge more in the region of £200 to £2,000. Of course, if you’re really keen to go fully DIY, then you can pick up a full HD camcorder for as little as £29.99 these days and a decent enough tripod for a similar price. Most smart phones can hold their own with decent video quality nowadays too and we found compatible tripods for as little as £12.

Top tip:

If you’ve got an exciting product to sell then it’s always useful to show how the product works. Check out this live action video from Unroll.me, a company whose product we could all probably benefit from. Basically, Unroll.me’s IOS app scans your email inbox for those annoying subscription emails that you forgot you’d ever signed up for, and clutter up your inbox, before giving you the option to unsubscribe with minimal fuss. Watching a mix of users happily swiping their phone screens to unsubscribe from junk mail tyranny really hammers home the message that ‘email doesn’t have to suck’!

Animation

Big name brands like Dropbox and Venmo, and even the smaller startups like Crazy Egg, have become the stuff of explainer video legend after achieving global success with little more than a 60-second video to their names. It sounds easy and yet the path to explainer video stardom isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

A great animated explainer video doesn’t just happen by itself. You need to think about your objectives, budget, target audience/customer base, and how you’re going to get your video out there to the masses before you even think about making your first explainer video. And then there’s the small matter of 2D over 3D animation.

From a DIY perspective, 2D animations are more cost-effective. They’re more accessible, both from a production and audience perspective. But, if 3D is your goal then don’t let us stop you from exploring this avenue. Just remember that it won’t come cheap and you may end up spending far more money for relatively little return than you would get from a 2D explainer.

Top tip:

With all the ‘free’ animation software out there, you may be forgiven for thinking that all you need to do is press a few buttons and hey presto you’ve got yourself a free explainer video. Of course, there are ‘free’ options available but, as the old saying goes, you don’t get something for nothing. There are restrictions on all the free software options, so make sure you weigh up the pros and cons before committing.

Animation software packages, like Powtoon and Biteable, may claim that you’ll be able to ‘make your first video in 5 minutes’ but read the small print before signing up. You may well be tied in to watermarks and restrictions on video downloads. You can find out more about subscription packages – from the ‘free’ through to the pro options – in our best DIY animation software downloadable PDF guide.

When software aficionados, HubSpot, set out to explain Artificial Intelligence (AI), they turned to animation to make machine learning a more palatable human learning experience! AI has inspired some of the most iconic, and downright terrifying, movies of all time. The use of cute cartoon action is a world away from an Uzi wielding cyborg – helpful, when you’re aiming to demystify a much maligned area of scientific research don’t you think?!

How much should that cost?

Hiring a freelance illustrator for your storyboarding could cost you in the region of £200 and £750. Whereas, a studio could set you back around £750 to £10,000. A freelance animator could weigh in at around £450 to £1,250 for a 2D keyframe animation. A similar animation by a professional studio could set you back more in the region of between £1,000 and £20,000. For diehard DIY-ers, unless you’re happy to embrace the limitations of the various free software packages available, Powtoon’s PRO package starts at around £13.80 per month (billed yearly) and Biteable’s premium offer weighs in at around £6 per month (billed at £72 yearly).

Whiteboard

If you’re creating something that needs to be explained in a more detailed way, then this Whiteboard animation pack from RenderForest could be a good investment. The super simple preset templates include character animations, a range of icons, backgrounds, environments and many other scenes that you can use to stand out from the crowd.

Here’s a great example of a whiteboard explainer video by Ginger Video, which walks you through the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in a clear and illustrative way. Ginger have managed to break down a really complex subject area, one that every marketer is (or should be!) scrambling to understand, into a digestible format.

 

How much should that cost:

We found packages from agencies ranging from £650 to £1,050 per minute without a script. If you want to DIY your own whiteboard explainer video then you’ll need to budget for a copywriter and a freelance artist. You may be able to find a freelancer more within your price range on People per Hour. Remember though, you won’t know their style or ability to interpret your brief. So, an all-inclusive agency package might still be a better bet. Powtoon gives you the option to generate your own whiteboard effect videos. So does GoAnimate, with a starting package priced at around £28 per month (albeit with a GoAnimate logo) or roughly £65 a month (without the logo).

Screencast

Screencast explainer videos incorporate imagery from a screen while a website, software or application is already in use. They’re a great way to show users how to interact with a new app or features without having to read through a whole bunch of instructional text.

Screencast explainer videos are usually less expensive to produce than live action, animated or whiteboard videos. Creating a simple, low-resolution screencast video is well within the reach of anyone with a computer and the ability to upload to YouTube. This doesn’t mean to say that they’ll be any good of course!

If you decide to go down the screencast route then remember not to scrimp on the quality, you’ll still need a video that your audience will connect with. This makes it even more important to invest in quality when creating a video that represents your brand.

Top tip:

Screencasts aren’t quick to put together. They need planning, and the whole process can take several hours even for a short video. Set aside at least 1–2 hours for each minute of a screencast. Make sure you’ve got the right equipment in place too.

You’ll need a computer, some decent screencast software, for example Camtasia or Telestream. You’ll also need to invest in a quality microphone. You may also want to use audio script software, which sets up a rolling script that is similar to reading from an autocue.

How much should that cost:

Taking your computer as a given, screencasting software is around £65 with a good quality USB microphone checking in at around £100. You may still want to factor in a freelance writer if you’re not going to write the script yourself. By comparison, a screencasting agency will set you back anything between £800 to £1500.

This video from TechSmith breaks down some of the things to consider when putting together a screencast. Ironically using a live action format, these guys hammer home the need for top class preparation. Knowing your audience and tailoring the length of your video to your audience’s needs are essential.

So, you’ve had the theory but what about putting it all into practice? After taking all this information into consideration, will you take the plunge and follow the DIY route or reach the conclusion that working with an agency is a safer and more efficient option? Whatever your decision, we want you to be as informed and empowered as possible before you make any attempt to join the explainer video revolution.

To read more about the options and prices available to you, be sure to check out our new research, which collects pricing data from 70 different explainer video companies. Happy explaining – whichever video path you decide to take! You can also download our ebook ‘How much does an explainer video cost’ for a more detailed breakdown of the different costs associated with creating an explainer video.