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How to Hire A Video Editor — Five Questions You Need to Answer

If you’re a busy producer or director, especially in the freelance, small to mid-sized production company world, there will be seasons when it makes sense to farm part of the workload to another person. If you’re a faster shooter than you are an editor, it makes sense in these situations to work with an experienced video editor to help you get through the hustle. However, there is a risk doing this. The last thing you need is to farm work out, only to have to redo it yourself. How can you protect your time, creative vision, and client expectations without having to manage another person? Is it possible to work with another person, even if they’re halfway across the country?

I believe the answer is yes, but in this day and age when anybody can slap together a reel from Pond5 and build a website, you have to do some vetting. To find the right person who will fit your needs best, you need to answer these five questions:

1). What exactly do I need this editor to do for my project?

Before you hire for help, you need to know what you need from that person. Sometimes you need an editor to take a pile of footage to an organized archive, sometimes you need someone to cut rough selects so you can finish them yourself, and sometimes you need the whole project cut from start to finish.

When you answer what you need, you go beyond looking for a live body who can push buttons and you start to define what your expectations for a solid working relationship should look like.

2). How much editor can you afford?

How much you can afford can dictate what caliber of editor you can hire. And when you’re trying to dig yourself out of a bunch of production deadlines, the last thing you want to do is pay all of your profits on the projects. The idea is to cashflow: doing your part of the project, pay your editor and still come up with some profit after the fact.

Despite your deadlines, not every project is one where hiring an editor will make the most financial sense. When you know what you can afford to still make the profit you want, you can then hire at the right price point.

In addition, when you know you what you can afford–and you find out that it’s not that much–it forces you to get creative. Maybe instead of hiring an editor to take the project from start to finish, they just cut the rough version for you. Maybe you ask them to polish your piece instead. Often there are smaller chunks your production budget can afford and still ease up your time constraints.

3). Is your project NLE specific?

If you’re asking an editor to take a project from start to finish for you, this one might not be a deal-breaker. But if you’re asking an editor to come alongside and do rough cuts, polish your rough edit, or do any other work where you’ll be sharing NLE files, you have to answer this question and you want to do it as early in the vetting process as possible.

With XML, it is possible to shuttle a project between NLE formats, but it’s not a perfect system and some things aren’t possible to pull over. Even if you’re willing to go the extra mile to convert XML back and forth, make sure that what you’re asking your editor to do will fit within the limits of the XML format.

4). Does this editor specialize in the kind of storytelling and format my project needs?

There are hundreds of different kinds of videos out there. Some editors are best at the top-levels of cinematic storytelling. Some are superb at cranking out YouTube series fast. Not every editor has the same set of skills and experience. When you’re looking at an editor’s offerings, pay attention to what kinds of videos for the bulk of their work. What they’re good at they’ll do a lot of.

When you partner with an editor who does a lot of work on the kind of video format you need, you ensure that you’re working with someone who won’t waste time trying to figure and who can get the job done.

5). Do I like this editor’s personality and “vibe”?

Answering this question will ultimately come down to your gut. When you’re reviewing the editor’s work, their website copy, and eventually, when you get them on the phone, do they jive with you? Are they easy to communicate with? Do they understand your needs? Do they sound confident? Are they concerned with getting you what will work best for you? Do they have a great sense of humor?

If in the vetting process you discover that your personality types don’t mesh, it’s best to bow out before any project footage and cash have been exchanged. You save yourself communication headaches and issues later. And if you find an editor who get’s you and your project and has a communication style that works with yours, the rest of the process is smoother sailing.

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Finding an editor who best matches your answers to these questions will go a long way to ensuring you work with an editor who has your back, who is an asset to your production team, and who can get the job done right the first time.

What are your experiences in hiring an editor to work with? Do you have any tips for others to share?

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