How to Make Some Summer Income With Video

So you’re a student or recent graduate and have some ambition, good production skills and some decent equipment. Few companies are without a “wish list” for some video production, but either haven’t got the time to look (or more likely they think it’s going to be far more expensive than you’ll charge). Most know that online-video is growing, and are unhappy with their presence, and you may be able to help them better than an agency or high-end production house.

Don't sell yourself short, bore or overwhelm a prospect. Keep it simple.

I spent a number of summers shooting weddings and parties to pay for my expensive video hobby and earn some spare bucks. Now I’d safely say it’s the worst possible way to make some summer income via video. Most people have video cameras now, and are less willing to hire someone to shoot and edit an event… and when they do, they usually want a full-time pro.

Instead here is how to make some cash on your own via small-to-medium businesses… and it simply requires you to be self sufficient with shooting, production and editing skills, own or have access to decent equipment, and possess some ability to write or interview people. Unlike my advice geared toward “webstars” with an online-video audience, these tips are for those who flock to Poptent and other intermediaries because they’ve got good production skills and are eager for resume builders and bucks.

Caution: it will also require your ability to sell your capabilities and outcome, so let’s start there:

  • Finding Clients. Avoid advertising, and focus on “word of mouth” among people you know. When I started, I wasted too much time making fancy fliers… time I could have been spending calling a few friends or relatives. Just let them know that you’ve got the ability to create near-pro quality video faster, better and less expensively (show they proof, but don’t spend all summer making a brag reel). Don’t sound desperate if you’ve got no experience or existing clients. You want to sound “in demand” but not arrogant, so you can use lines like, “I have large project I believe will start in 4 weeks, but some free time now.” You could send e-mails to local companies, but your hit rate is going to be far higher if you reach them “warmly” through someone who knows you and them.
  • What Type of Prospect: I’d stay away from tiny startups or mid-to-large companies, and instead focus on friends/family with businesses that employ maybe 10-150 people. Find the lead marketer and provide him/her with some examples of your work that showcase your ability to produce a semi-pro piece on what’s likely a modest budget relative to a full fledged production studio.
  • Sell Value not time/cost. This requires more than tenacity… you have to consider that people don’t want to be ripped off, but they’ll also be skeptical if you are too inexpensive or ambivalent about your fees.
  • Focus on benefits of video (especially as it relates to the bond between customers and their company), and not on features (your approach or production jargon). Once you’ve proven you’re more than a clown with a flip cam, stop talking about time, editing, equipment or process. Ask questions about their goals, and ask leading questions about how they believe can help them reach prospects, engage customers, distinguish their services/products, or convert website visitors to purchasers. Be consultative, and don’t sound like you see video as the answer to everything. Learn about Huthwaite’s selling questions “situation, problem, implication, need payoff” so you keep the prospect interested and unlikely to provide obstacles.
  • Chemistry Test: After an initial consult, where they should be doing most of the speaking, propose a list of ideas/options, but identify one specific project (ideally something they’ve indicated is important) as a way to test the relationship. This will help you ensure they’re serious, ready to provide whatever you need from them (access to people), and that they’re reasonable about iterations (as opposed to the client that might have you shooting and reshooting without allowing the scope/budget to grow). This also ensures they pay bills in a timely way, and don’t hesitate asking for half upfront (especially if you plan to pay others).
Now what are you delivering?
Typically companies want video for a specific reason, and it's usually to get customers.

You’re not just providing your own video expertise, but the result for the client. Ensure they know about the ability of video (especially when distributed on YouTube and other sites) to get discovered via search engines more easily than text. Confirm the client’s belief that video can more effectively communicate the company’s identity and offerings. If they doubt these realities, you may be wasting your time and theirs.

Here are some examples of “deliverables” you can offer:

  • Turn 3-4 of the most important pieces of content on a company’s website into short videos. This provides visitors (their prospects) with a quick way to access certain information. It’s “customer centric” to provide website visitors a choice on how they wish to receive information. You can ask the client what they see as important, or make some recommendations based on what you find on the homepage of their site.
  • Propose creating a video that showcases some of the people of the company. People buy from people, and video can bring their company to life and distinguish it from a “sea of sameness.” It will also help with morale as employees see themselves as part of the company’s public face.
  • Create a fun video for an event. These are often less valuable because they may involve a smaller audience or not have a residual value, but almost every large internal/external event could benefit from a video… it could be used to motivate attendees, showcase some “wins,” introduce a new offering, share best-practices, set a theme/vision for the future, or simply provide some levity to engage participants.
  • If a company doesn’t have a YouTube presence, offer to build one based on “best practices” from larger brands. This doesn’t take a lot of work, and has high perceived value. Then ask if they have any existing video you can load, or produce some content to “kick start” the presence. Ultimately they may want to be self sufficient. Be sure to be honest that “going viral” is extremely rare, but that if costs are kept low it doesn’t have to be seen millions of times. More importantly, their videos can be found on searches (organically or paid placement on YouTube), and lead prospects to their website. This would cost a lot of time/effort to do internally.
Read more of this blog or “Beyond Viral” to get some more ideas on how your prospects might be thinking about online video. The book was written mostly for them, and if you read it… you’ll be ahead of them.
Folks like Stuntman Lukeman, proven to engage audiences, can apply these talents to help small businesses in this new medium.

Parenthetically this post is partially in response to Ace77Man’s question in Chicago’s YouTube Partner gathering I attended this week. He asked about my thoughts on local businesses, and I quickly told him to avoid them. I thought he was considering a local sponsor, which is not advisable unless they can transact online (few popular web creators have an audience that justifies geographic targeting). He clarified that he was considering helping a local retailer create good content, and that’s a great marriage. I tend to prefer sponsors who approach me not just for my production (which is harder to differentiate) but my online presence and audience. But Ace77Man knows how to dazzle viewers with his stuntman Luke, and that’s the kind of things few businesses have… but certainly could use.

There was a time, perhaps, where websites and TV/web ads could simply sell. But now if they don’t entertain they’re unlikely to be watched even when they’re seen. Check Woot for a good example of how great copyrighting can distinguish a seller from what’s otherwise a very cluttered market (and see how Woot is using video, embedded via YouTube).



9 Replies to “How to Make Some Summer Income With Video”

  1. How are videos about dumb country lyrics going to help sell a robotic vacuum? I understand the companies desire to entertain in order to engage potential customers but if their videos are completely unrelated to the product or service they plan on selling, does that really make an impression on the potential consumer?

    Seems like they should be incorporating their special deals, services, or products into the entertainment in order to actually make an impression; because “An impression isn’t really an impression unless it makes one”. But what do I know? I’m just a guitar playing ape.

  2. HI Kevin,
    Great article and thanks for the mention. I had a great time in chicago and enjoyed your talk along with meeting up with some great YouTube partners.
    By the way, thanks for Barking your way out of that meeting, Security and the rest of the meet-up all looked back at me thinking I did it 🙂
    Good Times
    Peace, Ace77man

  3. Amazing post! I want to share this with everyone I know 🙂
    I especially like the examples of deliverables that you give. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. I have a question – what if you get video of an event like a tornado coming your way, some disaster or strange phenomenon, just one of those being at the right place at the right time deals – how do you sell the rights to what you caught on tape and for how much?

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