What makes your freelance blogging business stand out from the rest?
You all write blog posts. You all have websites. You all look pretty much identical to prospective clients — at least until they’ve taken some time to check out your portfolio pieces and testimonials.
But you don’t have to stay that way.
Do you have a smart phone? Are you willing to learn a new trick or two?
Then video content may be just what you need to get ahead of the crowd.
The internet is an increasingly visual medium.
- Sites like Buzzfeed use slideshows as articles, with a picture and a quote on each page.
- Vines, vlogs, and YouTube channels bring their creators both money and recognition.
- Popular bloggers like Derek Halpern or Gary Vaynerchuk make a new video for almost every post on their blogs.
- Businesses are all over Pinterest, Instagram, and even Snapchat, using images and videos to get attention.
So what’s a freelance blogger to do to capture and use this ever growing demand for visual content?
Learn the basic skills that let you take advantage of the increasing popularity (and decreasing production cost) of video content.
What’s in it for you
Why would you, as a freelance blogger, want to create video content or edit video for others?
- It’s another avenue of income. You can help clients create or edit videos for their business. You can offer to shoot short videos about a topic instead of writing a blog post. You can even monetise your YouTube channel.
- It’s a promotional medium. Create video commercials to promote your freelance services, and add the videos to your business site. Link from your YouTube channel back to your website, too.
- It’s a competitive advantage. Many freelance bloggers don’t know the first thing about video, so your new production and editing skills make you stand out to potential clients.
Have I piqued your interest yet?
Prepare the basics
This isn’t an extensive “how to” on creating and editing videos, but I will be covering the basics: how you can use your phone to shoot videos, edit them on the cheap, upload them to YouTube and add them to your blog posts or your business website.
Your phone is your camcorder
If you have a smartphone less than a couple of years old, it can probably record high definition (HD) video.
I have an HTC One that records video in 1920 × 1080 pixel HD, the same level of resolution you’d get from a $1,600 shoulder mounted camcorder.
My phone’s 32 GB of built-in memory is enough to store a decent amount of video, but if you want more you can put an extra memory card in your phone.
All this smartphone technology means you can record simple videos with minimal effort. If you need some visual proof of just how powerful of a tool your cell phone can be, look at these short films all shot with cell phones. One of them takes place in space, literally.
Choose your editing software
There are several free or inexpensive apps you can use to edit video on your phone, for example VidTrim, VideoMaker Pro for Android, or iMovie for iOS. I haven’t used these, as I prefer to do all my editing on the big screen.
You can also do minimal, simple edits in YouTube but their interface is not very intuitive and I don’t use it for anything more than adding two clips together or trimming the ends of a clip. For complicated edits, I use Corel Video Studio which you can buy for $50-80 depending on the version you want.
So, you have the camera and the software. Now what?
Shoot your first video
Decide if you’re more comfortable doing interviews of others, creating short videos of things that interest you, or both.
If you like interviewing others, start with your friends and their friends. Find people who do something creative or interesting that you’d like to talk about. Then, just like when you’re preparing a blog article, do your research and come up with some questions for them.
This was the third video of a little interview series I did. My lighting is a bit crappy as I just used the overhead fan lighting and a 7-year-old desktop webcam, then recorded the video via Skype. Once the recording was done I went to Corel Video Studio, added in the photos, recorded an intro and posted it.
Total time from start to finish: about 3 hours, including the 52 minute interview.
Set up a time with your friends and shoot!
Plan your lighting
Make sure you have a decent amount of soft light on you and your subject, and that everything is in focus. Natural daylight works well, especially early morning or evening light. Just make sure you’re not standing in any shadows.
You can also get a few directional floor lamps, put in some 40-60 watt bulbs, and position them to shine on you from the front and both sides to fill in any smaller shadows on your face. Many smart phones will help by auto-correcting your video lighting for you, too.
Make a short test recording and play it back to check for shadows or bright spots, then adjust your lighting if you need to.
This article shows you how easy it is to make a laptop webcam’s video look good. If you want to get a bit more complex (but still inexpensive), here’s a great 13 minute video that shows you how to set things up for shooting video with a phone camera.
Don’t fear the camera
To deal with on-camera nerves, start simple. Talk straight to the camera, or invite someone to join you so you can talk to them instead. Keep things natural and you’ll gradually build up your confidence.
Many popular YouTube channels are just people being themselves. With the rise of social media, video has become more about being yourself and having fun, not big-budget glamour or high production values. Think of it as a means to create a visual blog post instead of a written one.
And if you’re still nervous, watch this video Sophie made about first time video stage fright. [Warning: strong cursing about one minute in.]
Upload and share your video
You can upload videos from your phone straight to YouTube, but I prefer to view my videos on the big screen first, especially if they need editing. The power cord most phones come with has a USB connection so you can plug it into your computer, upload your video to your hard drive, and edit it before you put it on YouTube.
Here’s a tutorial that explains how to upload your video to your YouTube channel. The title, description and tags you give your video will help people find it in search engines, so give them some thought.
YouTube channels also allow you to gain subscribers, just like your blog. If you make interesting content, you will get followers, and some of them will visit and subscribe to your blog as well. Here’s the Word Nerds channel, which is basically several women doing short book reviews and discussing tips for authors. and they have over almost 700 subscribers. Watch a few of their videos — most are recorded on webcams and under five minutes in length.
After your video’s uploaded to YouTube, you can share the link to it, or embed your video on another web page such as your business site or one of your blog posts.
I hope this post gives you some ideas to expand your skills from the simple black and white of text to the full-on color of video.
Clients love them.
They’re fun to make and fun to share.
When will we see your videos online?