It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
You keep hearing how quickly video is growing online, like how 80% of the world’s internet traffic will come from video by 2019, and how mobile video will grow 55% per year through 2020.
And you’ve decided you want to be a part of this party and make an explainer video — a short video that explains what your freelance business does — for the home page of your writer’s site.
But there’s so. Much. Information.
Where are you even supposed to start? Just googling the phrase “how to create an explainer video” pulls up over a million hits, and most of those are aimed at corporations that have thousands of dollars to spend on an explainer video.
You’d have to read through several of these articles to scrape out a few tips that apply to you specifically as a freelance blogger looking to make a simple, effective explainer video for your site.
Or you can just read this blog post and call it good. 😉
That’s right, this post will walk you step-by-step through creating your own explainer video so you don’t have to scour the internet to learn how to do it yourself. I’ve included the only information you’ll need to get your first writer’s site video up and running, all while keeping in mind the fact that you’re a freelancer and not some mega-business with a mega-budget.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Write the script
First thing’s first: don’t worry about anything like equipment or editing just yet. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is your script.
The success of your video catching the attention of your site visitors hinges a lot on the efficacy of its script. Without punchy, well-written text, you’re more likely to bore a potential client than get them excited about working with you. And then there’s really no point in having made a video, is there?
So forget about how you’re going to “pull off” making a video. Focus on your script first by following these three key points:
Scriptwriting tip 1: Keep the script short.
Your script should be no longer than a minute and a half, and I personally recommend 30-60 seconds max. VIdeo hosting site Wistia discovered that on its site, videos under one minute are watched at least 75% of the way through (and that number jumps to over 80% for videos 30 seconds or less). Other companies have also confirmed most internet users prefer explainer videos less than a minute long.
So don’t think you have to put your entire life story into your homepage video script. You want someone to view your video and be able to remember exactly what it was about. They need to get a few seconds into the video and immediately want to hire you, instead of wondering why you’re droning on and on.
Scriptwriting tip 2: Keep your script simple.
I know it’s a severely overused acronym, but KISS (“Keep it simple, stupid”) is the best thing to keep in mind when you’re writing your script. The point is to get right down to the heart of your client’s problems and how you can help fix them. Focus on the end result they’ll get, never the features you offer.
If you’re not sure you’re being clear enough, ask a freelance friend mentor, or your mastermind group to read your script. Even better: ask a relative or friend in real life who only knows you do freelancing to review your script. You know your script is concise and simple if your friend or relative can explain back to you exactly how you help your clients and what you offer in just a sentence or two.
Scriptwriting tip 3: Add some flair.
You’re different from other freelancers, right? Maybe you have more silly humor than your colleagues which attracts like-minded clients, or maybe you’re more a fan of the dry, British comedy (Sophie kind of has the corner on you here, though). You might even be an intellectual who uses language in clever and compelling ways to attract clients.
Whatever the reason, make sure your video has its own “tone” which matches your branding and voice. This may mean you have to re-write your script a few times until your personal style comes through. Short, concise scripts can easily show plenty of flair after some practice.
Need inspiration? As I mentioned in my last video-related post for BAFB, my friend and fellow freelancer Ayelet Weisz has pulled together a great video for her homepage. It could be cut a bit shorter as it’s over a minute long, but her on-screen text is to-the-point and explains what her clients’ problems are and how she solves them. The video also has plenty of flair because it has some cute penguins in it. Win!
Step 2: Prepare to film
Now that you have a script prepared, you can turn your attention back to the area I know most freelancers worry about: the equipment stuff. Fortunately, this part of making a homepage video isn’t nearly as difficult as seems. Follow these simple steps to get prepared for filming:
Prep tip 1: Figure out where you’re going to shoot.
Select an area with good lighting. You can be the most amateur video creator ever, but with the right lighting, you’ll look like a pro. Locations with natural lighting or the ability to add your own are perfect; if you need some cheap lighting ideas, try paper Chinese lanterns or even traditional, non-LED string lights. Position yourself and any lights so you eliminate shadows on your face, under your chin, or directly behind you.
Also, pick a backdrop that’s attractive, but not distracting. One of my favorite YouTubers, Zoella, films many of her videos from the edge of her bed with nothing but some string lights behind her.
Likewise, vlogger Ingrid Nilsen films with a white wall, some plants, and a small shelf behind her (and string lights… string lights are always good).
Prep tip 2: Select and test your camera.
It’s time to get a little technical. Don’t worry if you don’t have the latest, greatest piece of camera equipment; all you need is something which films in at least 720p resolution, though I recommend 1080p since video is just getting more high-def as time passes. So if you have a smartphone from the last 2-3 years, you should be set. If you want to use a webcam straight from your computer, I always recommend the Logitech C920 HD Pro because it has excellent video quality. And if you want a DSLR, most video makers agree Nikon and Canon make the best options (though you’ll be shelling out a lot more money for these).
Now, set your camera up in front of your filming location and start recording a test video, with you in the frame, saying whatever you please. Play back the video to make sure everything looks okay, and adjust as needed. Also, don’t set your camera on anything unstable; in college, my digital media professor once told my class the most important three words in filming are tripod, tripod, tripod. If you can’t stabilize your camera on your own, invest in a tripod, for the love of all that’s holy. No one wants to see a shaky image!
Prep tip 3: Test your microphone.
It doesn’t matter how great your video looks; if the sound sucks, it won’t be worth watching… at all. So it’s important to test your microphone and the sound it picks up. If your camera has a built-in microphone, you’ll want to make sure you record sound as well as video in your test runs. Once you listen to your recordings, you may find the mic picked up extra sound in the background you weren’t aware of, like air coming through the vents. Do what you can to eliminate these noises in your environment (even moving to a new room if you have to).
You can always use a different microphone to record your audio, if you find the problem is really with your built-in microphone and not environmental sounds. Many times, combining video with great picture quality with crystal-clear audio from a secondary source produces the best end results. Check out the Blue Yeti mics or the ATR2100-USB from Audio Technica; investing in one of these mics now means you’ll have great sound for years to come.
Need alternatives? If you don’t plan to film yourself on camera (like Ayelet did in her homepage video), consider using a video/movie maker program like Animoto, Picovico, or Magisto. Gather your royalty-free photos or video footage, and follow the instructions on your chosen program to develop a homepage video. The rules for video scripts, audio, and quality lighting in videos/photos still applies, though! Don’t skimp on these areas just because you’re not filming yourself.
Step 3: Practice… a lot
You know the drill. Practice makes perfect in many areas of life, and especially when you’re making a video which will be plastered on the front of your site for the world to see. While that may seem intimidating, practice will help you make an engaging, easy-to-understand video.
- First, go over your video script as many times as you need to feel comfortable with the cadence and flow of the words. Read it out loud to yourself over and over again, adding proper pauses and inflections to create a natural-sounding flow that isn’t forced and monotonous. Also, pay attention to the pace of your speech; most people talk too fast without realizing it.
- Next, go read your script as you stand in front of a mirror, so you can also see what you look like while speaking. Your speaking skills are important here, but so is the way you hold yourself, use gestures, and create facial expressions. Keep gestures to a minimum; resist the urge to keep tucking your hair behind your ears, for example, or “speaking” with your hands. As for your facial expressions, note that too few make you look bored/nervous/scared/take-your-pick; too many and you look like a weirdo. Work on finding a balance which makes you look like your normal self in conversation.
- Finally, practice speaking your script directly into your camera (but don’t record yet). Look into the lens, pretending it’s the eyes of your client. Act like you’re talking to this client (or a friend or family member) face-to-face. Start with your script in hand, and then eliminate the script as you memorize it and get more comfortable after more practice.
Need motivation? If all of this work starts to seem like a pain in the ass, just remember why you’re making a video. You want to set yourself apart from other freelancers and attract more clients. You might even be making a video just to say you know how to do it. Whatever the case, always remember your “why” when you get tired of the video-making process.
Step 4: Record
This is the simplest step when you’re creating a video, and usually takes the least amount of time, too, as long as you invested solid effort into all your prep work.
Before you hit “record,” make sure your video will capture at 25-30 frame rates per second (FPS) and in at least 720p resolution, though 1080p is now preferable. Look for these video options in your smartphone or webcam’s software settings and save them as default.
Then when you feel ready, start recording your video. Follow your script (which should be memorized by now… it’s only 60 seconds, people), using inflections, pauses, emphasis, etc. Maintain good posture, and keep gestures to a minimum. Remember to look directly in the camera, and speak to it as if you were speaking to a client.
It could take several tries to get your video just right, but that’s okay. The worst that can happen is you mess up, and have to do another take, as Sophie has experienced before (WARNING: Audio profanities at roughly 1 minute in!).
The world will not end, and no one will hunt you down if you make a mistake! Just keep trying until you’re happy with the results.
Need advice? Don’t feel pressured to start speaking the moment you hit record; the beauty of making videos is that you can always edit out unusable footage. If it takes you a few seconds to relax, catch your breath, and get “into character,” that’s 100% not-a-problem.
Step 5: Edit
Editing can be the most time-consuming portion of the entire video production process. It’s also probably one of the most daunting tasks for most freelancers, as I always hear them tell me they don’t know anything about computers or technical software. That’s okay! There are several tools to make video editing easy on even the most entry-level video creators.
If you’re a Mac user, you can use iMovie to edit your video footage. If you’re a Windows fan, stick to Windows Movie Maker. These may seem incredibly basic, but they’re both included (or free downloads) with your operating system. Why not use them? I currently edit my videos in Windows Movie Maker because it’s simple to understand. In fact, you can google tutorials on how to use each of these video editing software tools. Here are a few good picks:
- Movie Maker video tutorial:
- Movie Maker text tutorial: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/how-to-use-windows-movie-maker/
- iMovie video tutoral:
- iMovie video + text course: http://www.izzyvideo.com/imovie-tutorial/
If you’d like some more intermediate options, you have plenty of tools to choose from here. However, most mid-grade video editing software isn’t free, and also requires a higher learning curve. If you feel like a challenge, consider Pinnacle Studio 19, Adobe Premiere, CyberLink PowerDirector, and Lightworks (free). All of these software choices will give you more editing control and options for your content than Movie Maker or iMovie.
In terms of editing itself, follow these general guidelines:
- Cut out unnecessary pauses or empty portions of the video where nothing is happening.
- Keep the pacing/timing of the video consistent and steady, but not too fast or slow — a good rule of thumb is to make sure it sounds like regular speech or conversation when played back.
- Use transitions, text overlays, or graphics sparingly or your video will come across as cheesy and amateur (good for family videos, not so much for professional freelance reels). Sticking with simple cut-jumps from scene to scene is your safest bet.
- Add an end screen to your video with nothing else but the URL of your website, so viewers who may be watching the clip on a site like YouTube will no where to go for more information on your freelance services.
Once you’ve hammered out a final version of your video, it’s time to get really technical. Depending on where you plan to upload your video (more on this in the next point), you’ll need to make sure your audio and video is properly encoded, and the video file is saved in such a way that you’ll get optimal playback on the hosting site. For example, YouTube likes videos saved in MP4 format, with AAC-LC audio encoding and H.264 video encoding (Vimeo has similar preferences).
You should be able to find all these codec/encoding options in your editing software’s settings. It’s also likely your software will bring up a window with these options when you select “export.” As soon as you’ve chosen the correct codec/encoding preferences, you’ll want to go grab some coffee or do laundry as you export; your computer can take a long time to render the video!
Need clarity? Here’s an excellent, to-the-point article about what codecs and encoding are and why they’re important for your video. You can also search Google for the compression/uploading guidelines for each video site you plan to host your video on to verify you’re exporting your video with acceptable playback formats.
Step 6: Upload, embed, and market the shit out of that video!
You’re almost done! Just a few steps to go.
- To get your video online, first choose where you want to upload it. Video hosting sites all have their own advantages. YouTube, of course, dominates in search because it’s owned by Google. Some people prefer using Vimeo or Wistia, however, to host and embed videos on their sites because those platforms’ players are clean and elegant. And on Facebook, videos have a good chance of reaching a larger audience simply because of the social networking and sharing structure of the site.I suggest at least putting your video on YouTube, because you can get more SEO benefits that way. You can choose to add your video to other platforms, too (Vimeo, Facebook, etc.) but why not take advantage of the little SEO boost from YouTube?
- As previously discussed, remember each site you plan to upload your video to could have its own codec/encoding requirements. This may mean you have to export multiple versions of your video if you’re choosing to upload to multiple sites. If you’re that dedicated to putting your video everywhere, kudos to you. Just make sure to allot a big chunk of time for every exported video, as well as for the uploading time to each site.
- Take advantage of SEO. Even if you’re uploading to more sites than just YouTube, make sure you optimize your video for keywords you’d like to rank for to the title and description (i.e. “Freelance Writer and Video Marketing Consultant Bree Brouwer”). Add social links in your description, as well, and feel free to fill out your description with a few paragraphs of text about your business. The more text search engines can crawl, the better; those robots can’t “read” video, so you need to provide them with text in as many places as possible to help you rank.
- Once you’ve uploaded your video and selected which platform you want to embed from, find the embed code for your video. Copy and paste this code into your page’s text editor in the location you want the video to appear on your page; I suggest putting your video front and center of your homepage, with any text saved for under the video (so people naturally want to watch the clip instead of read). Check out this quick tutorial on how to add YouTube videos specifically to your WordPress pages.
- Finally, don’t forget to tell people about your new video! Alert your email list (if you have one, which you should), send it out on social, and tell your current clients.
Need celebration? Reward yourself with champagne, a video game session, a happy dance… you know, whatever makes you feel awesome about yourself for just finishing your first video.
There you have it! Making an explainer video for your homepage doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you ignore the plethora of articles online and focus only on the steps that matter to a freelance blogger. Plus, you get the benefit of knowing how to make an explainer video, which means you’ve learned a new skill you can now offer clients as a service. Money = awesome!
So get out there, start recording, and show the world (and your clients) what you’ve got.
When do you plan to get your explainer video up on your site? 🙂 Give yourself a deadline in the comments below.