A lot of Wipster customers ask us how they can make their review process more efficient, so they and their team can get more done each day. And this makes sense: the more time you spend sharing working files, organizing reviews and gathering feedback, the less time you have to get new work in the door and new projects off the ground. In this blog I’ll talk about layering reviews so clients don’t monopolize your entire team each time there is a review in progress; a client-focussed schedule to unlock untold efficiencies throughout your creative team; and lastly, closing the project and – of course – getting paid.
Before we begin, the biggest, most inefficient mistake a video team can make is sending work out for review without stipulating exactly what is up for review. We say this all the time: if you’re sending through, say, an animatic, make it super clear to your reviewers that you’re only looking for feedback on story and timing, lest you receive a detailed email listing all the color grading and graphics changes your client wants to make – a waste of everyone’s time. (And on the flipside, when what you’re wanting are those final tweaks, ensure your client understands there is no longer any room for major plot amendments).
Once the project is more advanced and your team is working on multiple elements (sound design, VFX, titles, color grading) you can start doing your reviews in layers, and really up your efficiency game. Some schools of thought argue for combining all your production elements into one complete version 1 to show your client, so that they can really see and appreciate everything working in harmony. However, I firmly believe that layering rounds of feedback for individual components is vastly more efficient. With layered reviews, you have each production element being shared with the relevant client-side people (and it won’t always be the same line-up – for example, their legal team will need to see the fine print of the graphics, but should have no say on your music choices) for several rounds, with feedback going to only the relevant person (or people) on your side.
When this is working at its best, you will be getting three to five distinct reviews happening at once, with little overlap within your team, so each person can focus on their specific task, and therefore get to work on their next version much sooner than if you were waiting for a complete round of client feedback to be broken down into areas of responsibility (I don’t need to tell you that any time your team spends waiting for work to do is money down the drain). A bonus of layered reviews is that your client can focus on a single element at a time, rather than separating them out in their mind (and you, in turn, don’t have to decipher whether their apparent issue with one aspect is really connected to another incomplete element.)
Then, once there’s a reasonable level of consensus on each production component, combine all the elements into one complete version to show your client, who – all going to plan – will discover no unpleasant surprises.
Quick tip: At the start of the project, make sure you outline not only exactly what will be presented at each review stage, but who from each side (client and agency) should be involved with each stage of feedback so there’s zero potential for double-ups or time wasting.
So now you have layered reviews with clear objectives, and the team is humming. But is everyone aware of exactly when these reviews are happening? Has the client allocated time to do these reviews in a thoughtful, considered manner, and equally, have you allowed time for your team to discuss the feedback and do the changes? This is where impeccable review scheduling comes in. Video teams are usually fantastic at managing the production of a job, but it all falls apart when each round of the review process is noted as a single event, sometimes over a single day (or worse, without a date attached). Imagine if you switched up the emphasis of your schedule from your work, to the collaborative review process: I think we can agree the client is (or should be) the most important element of any project – it’s their project, after all. And you spend the most amount of time with your client during the review and feedback phase. So not only does it make a lot of sense to create a schedule around when you will be delivering work-in-progress and gathering feedback (everything else has to fit into this schedule anyway), but it also gives you a great opportunity to show your client how focussed you are on them – when they see the project schedule, it's all about them!
But even the best-laid plans and schedules can come undone if no one sticks to them. So, make sure your review/feedback schedule allows for movement after you start the project. Ensure your client understands the lack of wiggle room, and that any delay on their part will put the delivery date in jeopardy, and come with extra costs (delays mean downtime for your staff, which effectively costs you money, so you should have no qualms about passing this expense on).
Quick tip: Make sure you have a comprehensive review schedule with times and dates approved before you start any project (no matter how big or small). And it’s not enough to just show it to your client, make sure they sign it off before you start any work!
To really maximise the revenue potential of a job, you need to have future work from that client and a stack of referrals in the bag – and this means charming your clients at the final delivery stage, just as you did when you first pitched for the business. So many video projects go out with a fizzle, not a bang, as one last person inevitably stays late to do the final render and deliver the files. A better alternative? Ensure your schedule (that is now complete with times, not just dates) allows for a midday finish, giving you the afternoon to deliver beautifully presented files complete with handwritten note from the director of your company and a bunch of flowers. Your review schedule was so on point that there is no possible room for last-minute changes that last into the night.
Quick tip: As well as a production schedule that is super precise about review rounds, ensure you state exactly what your final deliverables are, how they will be presented, and at what day and time. And as always – get this signed by both parties before you begin!
We all know that getting feedback on video projects, liaising with clients on changes and working with your team to make the revisions can be a drag. A necessary drag, but a drag nonetheless. It invariably takes longer than you were hoping for, and there are always periods of twiddling your thumbs while you wait for the next stage to kick off. But few of us – whether freelancers, in-house video makers, or production company heads – have calculated just how much that laissez-fare review schedule is hurting your business’s bottom line. Tightening up your review-and-approval process will not only dramatically improve your company’s overall efficiency (and therefore revenue), it’ll make your working life and client relationships infinitely more enjoyable. The only question is, why haven’t you started already?