Tips on Producing a “How To” Video

A few years ago, I decided to film a “How to Make a Soy Candle Video” entitled “The Art of Soy Container Candle Making.” It was a tremendous learning experience, especially for my first product to be sold over the Internet. Here are some valuable tips that I would love to share with you.

Research. In order to be clear about what you want to present in a “How To” video – check out the competition! See what others are doing. With the Internet, it’s so easy now. Search “YouTube” videos, Amazon, Google searches for videos, books and e-books. When you see what others are doing, then you’ll find your “niche” where you fit into the market. Remember, no one is going to be exactly like you!

Become a Guru in your field. If you’re making a video, then you’re putting yourself out there as a “guru”. Study, learn, and practice. The more you know, the more confident you become in presenting the material. Practice different methods and stretch your knowledge. Then, break the material down into segments that over-deliver. With lots of free videos out there, people expect more of a “how to” video that they have to pay for. Make it a priority to keep your customers happy with great content.

Style. Watch other “How To” shows on TV including cooking shows, craft shows, and other creative endeavors. A lot of these “style” shows have overhead cameras looking down on the set, or other angles and close-ups. Check and look for “style’ and search for things you like about others. Then, you can incorporate all of these techniques in your presentation with your personality. The more you understand the process – before you begin filming, the better.

Pre-Production. Have a vision and take action on your vision. The more work you do in preparing for the film production, the better. You’ll end up saving a lot of time, money and frustration. Write a script, edit the script, and practice the script. Write in “segments” – that way it won’t be overwhelming. Put yourself in the place of a student watching this. Think of what the audience will want to see. Even if you hire a videographer, make sure you have a clear vision that you can communicate to others. Remember – it’s your video!

Organization. Make lists of all supplies, equipment and tools. In making a “How To” video, you have to introduce all of your supplies and equipment. For each segment of your script, make a side list of everything you need. It’s so easy to get flustered when you’re filming, so organization is key.

Practice your presentation in front of a mirror. If you’re currently teaching, break the information down to a clear, concise presentation. Practice “speaking” clearly. Watch out for bad habits, such as playing with your hair or repeating the same phrases. Practice presenting the information looking directly into the camera as if you were talking to your best friend.

Set a Budget. Most people start with a budget as funds allow. To produce a great video, you need to budget what the project requires. As with any project, it’s very easy to go overboard. Put together a realistic budget that includes supplies, equipment, videographer (or equipment if you’re filming yourself), music, editing, reproduction, royalty-free photos or graphics, professional fees, etc. Make sure to include any marketing expenses such as press releases. Also, in setting the budget for expenses, set the budget for sales – and price your video competitively with others in your genre. Amazon is a great tool to search prices.

Copyright Laws. Since you are creating a commercial piece of work – you need to respect copyright laws as far as music, photos, or any other copyright material that you will be using in your video. Make sure that you have the proper authorization or use material where the copyrights have expired. Don’t second guess anything, because it will come back to haunt you. There are royalty-free music sites and public domain sites. If you’re inserting pictures – take your own HD pictures and use them. Register your DVD Online with the U.S. Copyright Office to protect your product at

Hiring a videographer/filming yourself You can have a professional quality video either by hiring a qualified videographer, or by filming yourself. Determine which method fits your budget, taste and style. Write down the Pros/Cons on filming a video yourself vs. hiring an experienced videographer. If you want your video to be of the highest quality, then you’re looking at filming in High Definition. If you currently have a high definition camera, then you’ll need to purchase or have access to top video editing software such as Final Cut Pro, etc. If you don’t have access to this equipment or skill to edit yourself, then get bids from videographers in your home town.

You can post an ad on Craig’s List to obtain bids in your area. Ask for experience with instructional videos and also ask for examples of their work. Most videographers photograph weddings or music videos. A “How To” video is more involved – especially in the editing process where you can have close-ups, and titles, or inserts of graphics or pictures.

Discuss fees, scheduling, editing, music, equipment, lights, sound, location and assistants. Find out what you are getting for your money, otherwise, there might be surprises. The more organized and prepared you are, the better you’ll be at giving direction over the project. Don’t make the mistake of relying on someone else’s vision or control. It’s great to find out what creative skills that they can add to enhance the quality of your video, but make sure it fits with your vision. You want to make sure the whole production process goes as smoothly as it possible can. Remember -you’re not only preparing everything and writing the script, etc, you’re also going to be on camera too. You want filming to be fun!

Hair/Makeup/Outfit Even though you may be filming over a period of months, you have to make it look like you’ve filmed it one day. Therefore, pick a hairstyle, jewelry, make-up and outfit, and stick with it during the whole filming process. If you change styles for each “segment”, then the video doesn’t look consistent, and the audience can get confused. You want a seamless flow to the video.

Show your “personality” on camera People want to learn from people they like and trust. Show off some of your unique traits on camera and get people to laugh, react, and get involved with what you’re doing. Smile a lot on camera and be enthusiastic. Think of not only teaching, informing, but entertaining the audience as well. Keep the energy upbeat at all times.

Bonus Materials: Yes, people do expect bonus materials. In Online marketing – there are always free e-books, digital products, and even in the real world – lots of free samples. What information can you give the audience that no one else has done, or done right? Think about some fun interviews, bloopers, extra segments, or even interview another “guru.” Find something really special to give your customers and they will be bragging about your product and helping to sell it for you!

Marketing – In making a “How to” video, you need to not only make a quality product, but have a marketing plan in mind in order to sell the DVD. Who is your ideal customer? Where you do think you’ll be selling the DVD: Online; craft shows; learning centers; website; retailers; Amazon? Think about what is going to differentiate you from the rest of the competition, and capitalize on that in the marketing. If you’re expecting to recover your costs and make a profit, have a marketing plan, and include it in the budget.

Reproduction – There are two ways you can go on reproduction: (1) Find a reproduction house in your town. Rates are very competitive and service is great. They will send you a template to design for your DVD cover insert, etc., but can specialize more in providing service. (2) Use Kunaki. They have a “publish-at-no-cost-to you-service. They will manufacture, fulfill your orders (via internet) and ship to your customers/retailers – and you only pay at the time of sale. They charge a very low manufacturing fee, which includes: manufacturing the DVD, case, disc, inserts, cover art, shrink-wrap, etc. You design and configure your product, and they’ll do the rest. They’ll even drop ship to Amazon. Since this is a digitalized low-cost service, there isn’t any personal service. So, decide which one is best for you.