The easy way to get into video…

As you’re out and about surfing the web you’ll probably have noticed that an increasing number of websites… and email messages for that matter… have videos attached to them. It’s not just to look pretty. Advertisers are discovering that adding even a simple video to a website can improve both their website hit and sales rates dramatically.

Big businesses use swish (and expensive) video production companies to produce these website videos for them. But small businesses usually don’t have the money to do the same thing. Nor the know-how to produce these videos themselves. So, how about setting up a small business that produces simple promotional website videos for them?

It could be a lot easier than you think to get started: You don’t need any expensive equipment, nor any video production know-how. You certainly don’t need any Steven Spielberg-esque movie production skills. Basic, homespun videos are perfectly adequate for small business websites.

So how could you get started in your own Internet video production business?

* First of all try sounding out local businesses to see what interest there is in your area. Start by approaching small businesses and one-man-band type operations who already have a website, but which don’t use video. Send them a sales letter, or give them a call.

I’m thinking about local businesses like… plumbers, electricians, builders, kitchen replacement firms, conservatory companies, estate agents, solicitors, motor garages, tyre centres, children’s nurseries, boarding kennels, insurance brokers and so on. All the business that advertise in your local paper in fact. Can you imagine how much more effective their websites would be if they contained a video? And what a massive advantage it would give them over their competitors?

* Next equipment. You don’t actually need much equipment to produce basic Internet videos. You can pick up a very good quality used digital camcorder on eBay for less then £40. And of course a lot of mobile phones can film video too.

* You don’t need a lot of expensive software either. Window’s Movie Maker, which comes pre-installed on a lot of PCs and laptops, can be used to produce perfectly adequate website videos. There’s a lot of free or cheap video editing software out there on the Internet too. Although it costs a couple of hundred pounds, a software package called Camtasia Studio allows you to produce really swish, professional quality video productions.

* Don’t get carried away! Even basic promotional videos can make a massive difference to a website. Some people even think that slightly rough-around-the-edges videos work better, because they look more personal and more genuine than slick ads.

* What you DO need is a good idea. Surf the net and see what other companies are producing. Then just do something similar, but with an original twist, for your customers. Try coming up with ideas for videos which have the potential to go viral.

Here are a few ideas to get you started: How about a short video of the company boss talking about their product or service? Three minutes or so would be quite long enough for this sort of thing, so it wouldn’t be difficult to do. Or a video where each member of staff explains their role in the business in question in a short 20 second snippet? Or a tour of the company premises… perhaps showing how the product is made, and what skill and expertise goes into it? Better still, record some short video testimonials with satisfied customers. Imagine what a difference that would make to any company’s website.

* Write a simple script first. Ask the person speaking in the video to practice it thoroughly beforehand. Then do a ‘dress rehearsal’ before you start filming.

* Ensure the background is neat and tidy and well lit. Take a lot more footage than you actually need so you can pick out the best bits. Once you get home play around with it, maybe add some music and titles, until you’ve got a decent finished version.

* Once your video is finished publishing it onto your customer’s website couldn’t be any easier. Thanks to that marvellous Internet-age phenomenon that is YouTube. All you need to do is open an account with YouTube, upload the video and then give the customer a hyperlink to paste onto their website.

So then, what do I think you could charge for this sort of service?

I’d suggest you keep your charges very reasonable initially. This way you can pitch your service mainly to small, local businesses. Plus they won’t be too concerned if the quality of your videos is fairly modest initially. But I don’t think £200-£300 a time for planning and producing a simple video is unreasonable at all. Depending on what they sell your customer could get that back and much more if your video brings just one new buyer to their website. One or two video productions a week would be perfectly possible in a part time business.

And, of course, this kind of service has great scope for lucrative repeat business. Most of your customers will need a new video every couple of months or so to keep things fresh. Some of them will want to add a whole library of videos to their website. As you gain experience, and perhaps invest in professional-quality equipment or hire staff, you could work for bigger companies… perhaps charging thousands of pounds for a single promotional video!

Whether you’ve got something much bigger in mind, or just want to keep your business as a small sideline, you can be pretty much sure that digital media is going to become even bigger in future. I think this is a chance to get in on the ground floor now in a very simple, low capital way.