How to Create Your Own Promo Video for Under $100

In a recent KISSmetrics post entitled Can Product Videos Increase Conversion Rates?, Sherice Jacobs explains why video marketing has finally come of age, and why video is an essential selling tool for any business. One of the more popular video formats these days are explanatory videos, or explainer videos.

Explainer videos are typically 60-90 second videos explaining how your company works and what sets you apart from the competition (your unique selling proposition, or USP). Below is an explainer video for GoHoody:



But What If You’re Strapped For Cash?

If you’re like a lot of startups or small businesses, the typical price for creating a professional explainer video (anywhere from a few thousand dollars to ten thousand and above) just isn’t in the budget. But don’t let that get you down. I’m here to give you a few insider tips on how you can create your own explainer video in a few weeks on a budget of $100 or less.

Step One: Write a Script

A well-written script is the basis for a great video, so make sure to take your time and get this part right.

Like all sales-related copywriting, you want your script to:

  • Catch the viewer’s attention
  • Explain what your business does in an easy-to-understand way
  • Keep people engaged.

This means keeping things simple (i.e. short and concise sentences), speaking in a personal tone and always ending things with a call to action. It also means keeping the duration short. Most studies show that viewers tend to drop off after 30-60 seconds, so try to keep things to a minute or less (no more than 150 words).

I find that a simple problem-solution format is often the most effective way to format a script. Your outline might go something like this:

  1. Present a common problem or pain point that your typical customer is experiencing
  2. Explain how your company will fix their problem or soothe their pain
  3. Close things with your company name, tagline and an invitation for people to take the next step (e.g. sign-up, call-in)

Try writing your script in Google docs, and then sharing it with a select group of people that have your business’ best interests at heart. By asking them for input and ideas, you’ll have the advantage of a focus group—something many large companies pay thousands for.

Step Two: Record the Voiceover

Once you have a winning script in hand, it’s time to record a voiceover. The key to a professional sounding voiceover is:

  • A decent microphone
  • A quiet, echo-free space

If you have it in the budget, it might be worth investing in a quality USB microphone, like the Yeti from Blue Microphones for $100-150. You can usually record and mix the voiceover within your video editing software (see step four for software options). However, there are also a lot of free recording tools out there, including GarageBand from Apple, or Mixcraft (14-day trial) for Windows. But keep in mind, if you decide to use an audio-only tool, you will eventually need to import the audio file in to your video editing software.

If you don’t have a great speaking voice, try recruiting a friend or family member who you think might be able to pull it off. For those who would rather just use a pro, check out Voices.com. There you can select from thousands of voice artists who should be able to provide a professional quality voiceover for a few hundred dollars.

Step Three: Create the Visuals

Before you create a list of the visual assets you’re going to need to complete the video, it helps to brainstorm a written storyboard that coincides with the script. How will each scene play out? What visuals will most effectively convey the message?

GoHoddy Storyboard

Most visual assets for professional explainer videos are developed with digital or hand-drawn illustrations, usually in a program like Adobe Illustrator. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t proficient with Illustrator or gifted artistically. Fortunately, there are a few alternatives to consider.

  • Stock Photos and Video – Websites like iStockPhoto and Getty have thousands of royalty-free images and video clips to choose from. Each asset can run anywhere from $5 to $50, but you can find almost anything you need.
  • Doodles and a Scanner – If you or someone you know can draw (or even create a respectable doodle for that matter), have them draw each asset, scan them on to your computer and then cut them out (try using the lasso tool in Photoshop Elements; $100). Here is a finished video from a startup who used this technique with success.
  • Live Video - In some situations, using live video can be the most effective way to present yourself. If that’s the case, borrow a video camera or buy a Flip cam (currently $70 on Amazon) and start shooting. Just make sure you pay attention to the lighting, speak in a loud, clear voice and drink a few Red Bulls beforehand.
  • Screen Captures – If your product or service is software or web-based (or even mobile, using the iPhone or Android simulator), you can use screen capture tools like ScreenFlow for Mac and Camtasia or Jing (free) for PC. With these tools, you can create a video that shows your service in action.

Step Four: Video Editing

Voiceover, check. Visuals, check. Now it’s time to put it all together. During the editing phase, you’re able to add life to your project by injecting motion in to your visuals, adding transitions and fine tuning the video for publishing. The pros typically use Adobe After Effects, but you have a few free or cheap options, including:

All four of these options are relatively easy to use, and most include video tutorials which can get you up and running in a day or less.

Once you feel comfortable, start by dropping in your voiceover file. With the voiceover in place, you can start adding in the visuals (it usually helps to have a nice background and a few standard things, like your logo) and timing the transitions. It may take some effort to get everything just right, but the software makes it pretty easy to add professional looking effects and create a highly polished promo.

Common Editing Techniques:

  • Cutting – Chances are you’ll be doing a bit of “cutting”. This means cutting video clips down to fit with your voice track. Look for a razor, scissor or knife icon in your tool bar. Remember, if you ever cut too much off a video clip, all programs allow you to easily “undo” your cut.
  • Transitions – You may want to add transitions in between your video clips or title clips. Common transitions include: dissolve and fade-to-black. Experiment with different transitions to see what you like best.
  • Adding Text – If you want to add text to your clips, look for the text tool (usually an icon with a big “T”), and simply click on your video editing work-screen to add text.

Tutorials for Various Video Editing Programs:

Step Five: Add Music and SFX

Once you’re happy with how the video looks, adding music and sound effects is a breeze. Because of legal issues, you can’t just pick your favorite song out of iTunes, but fortunately there are hundreds of stock music websites out there. Make sure any stock music you purchase is royalty free and comes with the proper license for unrestricted web use. I typically find music at Premium Beat, Audio Jungle and IB Audio. Royalty free music tracks range from $15-30 and you can often sort each library by style, tone, instrument and more.

Sound effects can be purchased in bulk, or downloaded one at a time. A decent free option is Freesound.org where you can download individual sound effects as needed from a library of thousands. After selecting a music track and sound effects, add them to your video file and adjust the timing to sync with the rest of the video.

  • Syncing the Music – Be sure to line up your music track so that it’s in time with the rest of your video. Usually this is as simple as dragging the music track to the right point on your time lime. You can always cut your music track down in size if need be.
  • Music Volume – You don’t want the music track to be blasting over your voice track. Be sure to lower the volume on your music track to be loud enough, but not too intrusive.
  • Fade In / Fade Out – To make your opening and ending smooth, it’s a nice touch to ramp the music volume up in the beginning of the video, and fade the music out at the end. All video editing programs have slightly different ways of doing this, but it’s worth the five minutes of research to learn how.

Step Six: Publish Your Video

Most video editing programs will allow you to adjust your video settings before exporting, giving you the opportunity to select a file type and adjust the size and quality. If you’re planning on hosting your video on YouTube, experts suggest exporting your video in MPEG-4 format, ideally in high definition (1280×720 or higher).

Once exported, watch your video all the way through at least once to make sure nothing was lost during the encoding process. When you’re ready to show it to the world, upload it to YouTube, or a paid service like Wistia and make sure to add:

  • A Good Title – Obviously your brand name should be in the title. You might want to include a value statement as well.
  • Description – Describe the value and benefit of your service, keeping your target audience in mind.
  • Tags – Think of tags as keywords for video hosting sites. What keywords will get people to find your video?

When the upload is complete (usually only takes a minute or two), navigate to your video and find the embed options. In Youtube, click on “Share” and then “Embed” to expose the embed code and sizing options.

youtube embed options

After adjusting the size of the video to fit your website, simply copy and paste the embed code (in most cases you can choose to use an iframe, HTML or javascript) on to your site.

As soon as the video is live, you can start tracking the results and making improvements as needed (both YouTube and Wistia have video analytics, which allow you to track things like view count, engagement statistics and more).

That’s it! All in all, I would expect you to spend close to $100 and several weeks on a project like this. That’s not bad considering the time and expense that can go in to a professional production!

Do you have bootstrappin’ video tips or tricks of your own? Let us know about them!

Andrew Follett is the Founder at Demo Duck where he creates handcrafted explainer videos using animation, live video and screencasting. He is also launching a new video venture in the Spring called Video Brewery

  1. Wow, you guys sure wrapped a lot of information in this one! This will come in very handy – thanks for all the hard work you put into it.

  2. OK! I guess I have no excuses left. Thanks for this, although I am still quite nervous about making our first video… Off to work, I can’t imagine that there is anything you left out! Thank you for this, it was the “poke” I needed.
    ~*~

  3. Thank you. was just going to compile info like this for a client. You saved me so much time!!!
    I love the folks at Wistia here in Boston as a good go-to for video creation inspiration and resources. They have a wonderfully helpful video production directory that includes examples by each production company with a description: “a video like this costs…”
    http://50grove.wistia.com/

  4. Be sure to start your description with your URL (starting with the http). Many video sites, You Tube included, will turn it into a hyperlink.

    • Good call Sandra. When uploading your video to YouTube, make sure to start your video description with your URL – it provides a quick way for viewers to navigate to your website without clicking through your profile, etc.

  5. thanks a ton for this guys really helpfull! A quick question best free service to convert presentation to video, other than windows movie maker! ALL ur help is really appreciated!

  6. This is excellent and very timely! Thanks much!

  7. Some additional tips on audio:
    Most mics are really sensitive to background noise. So the fan in the computer can cause problmes, even if the mic is awesome.

    I simply use the voice memo recorder in my iPhone.

    In order to create the “noise free enviroment” I bring the script to my living room, cuddle up in the couch, and put a blanket over my head. (You might need a headlamp so that your can read the script!)

    When you’re done you simply share/email the voice memo to yourself.

    Simple as that.

    Finally – So great with REAL hands-on advice rather than strategic yadayada. Thanks KISSmetrics.

  8. Thanks for such an informative post, and timely for me. We just went thru doing some how-to videos on our new release in-house – wish I had this post before that. I found that time was the most expensive part of the project; my time, my co-founder as producers and the interns doing the actual recording, etc. Also point 1 (script/message) is so important (and not easy) it can be the foundation of your entire marketing strategy if you get that right.

    So after a stint at doing it ourselves I’m looking at professionally created options and first quote I had was $5000 for one video which is pretty expensive for a startup.

    Comments: Thanks for note on 50Grove, looks like a good selection and we’ll be checking it out. Also the tip about using the iphone voice recorder.

    Keep up the good work.

    • You are spot on. In-house videos can be a time suck, but for most startups it’s the only option. Fortunately, they usually payoff in the end. And you’re absolutely right – a solid script is the foundation for a great video. Get that right and you’re more than halfway there.

      $5K is not uncommon for professional videos. If you’re just looking for a screencast, it’s usually around $500-1,000, but animation and live video usually run in the $5-10K+ range for a 1-2 minute video.

  9. A great online video creation service you may want to try is Animoto.com. everyone can create professional looking videos backed by music or a voice over very quickly. Their white label option is just $39/month. Much less expensive than video editing software.

    • Thanks Jane, I forgot to mention them. They have a very slick service! It also looks like they also offer a free 30-second video using their Lite plan.

      • Problem with Animoto is that if you are a business user then you are only allowed to use the video if you remain a subscriber – so the entry cost is cheap but you will have to pull the video down when you cancel subscription.

  10. Thanks for the great post and all the info. A friend of mine made a funny video called super poker donk. Very funny. This is a cool demonstartion, just get creative and have some fun too. Great post and again thanks a lot.

  11. Great post Andrew. Very informative, a lot of great tips. Another tip I would add if you’re really on a budget is to have a look at http://fiverr.com It’s a website that lets people sell their services for $5. You’ll find voice-over artists, copy-writers, proof-readers, illustrators, etc… so for $5 you can find someone to make the voice-over for you with a professional microphone or someone that would read-poof and improve your script. Don’t expect Hollywood quality productions/services of course, but for the price -$5 -, you can find surprisingly descent quality resources.

    Also if anyone is looking for inspiration, check out http://startup-videos.com a site that gathers the best “promo video” around the internet. You’ll find good ideas, examples and best practices (even though most of the videos their have been produced with a budget closer to $5000-$15000).

    Last thing, and only because I want to play the devil’s advocate… the title “…under $100″ might be slightly mis-leading. See, you also have to take into account the time you’re willing to spend to create your video. If it takes you 25 hours of learning + scripting + recording + editing, etc… and if you value your time at say $50/hour, it’s actually a budget closer to 25 x 50 + 100 = $1350. People tend to forget to value their time but it’s important be able to know when you’re better off doing it on your own, or outsourcing it.

    Great post Andrew. Thanks

  12. I actually use Keynote to record the animation and effects, and as you mentioned screenflow to edit it all out.

    Keynote is quite awesome because of the ease of use.

    Here is the video I made recently using just Keynote, Screenflow and Garageband

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiY_MocPLuU

    • Hey Achal… That is how I started producing videos 5 years ago. I produced one video using Keynote and with a really bad voice over I did myself. Since then things have changed a bit and my company has focused only on producing explanatory videos. We have produced more then 250 since then!

      Your video is WAY better then the first 10 I did!

  13. Nice video Achal, and thanks for mentioning Keynote! Great sample of how something like this can be done on the cheap.

    • Hey Andrew

      Thanks. This was actually my first try to make a video like this. Came out to be nice after a few tries. It takes some time to get used to the setup, but now I am pretty comfortable with Keynote and Screenflow.

  14. Nice post Mike, especially the script tips. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Of all my years doing video editing, I would have to say iMovie is pretty damn awesome. It almost makes me want to buy a mac again :) However, Camtasia is brilliant. It’s really easy to use and really good for showing off apps and software. Just make sure you zoom in a lot so people can see what you’re trying to expose…

  16. Talk about great timing – thanks so much – getting ready to put my “what I do video” together – thanks for all the great tips (as well as all the great comments and responses).

    I was going to use this editing service – http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/ – any thoughts? Camtasia is a goal but it’s also not cheap.

    Thanks!

    Dave

  17. Why not, let’s trying making a video.

  18. A fairly standard approach to script writing is:
    - What problem you solve
    - How you solve it (what you do)
    - Why you’re different
    - Introduce product features
    - Clear CTA

    It’s also important to think about the opportunity cost of doing a video yourself. Lots of entrepreneurs we’ve worked with try to create a video themselves, but don’t realize that the opportunity cost of the time it takes is easily $3-4k.

    Look at:
    1. The opportunity cost of your time
    2. The cost of materials/software
    3. The value of the difference in quality between doing it yourself and outsourcing to a pro

    Versus:
    4. The cost of outsourcing

    Truth be told, it’s almost impossible to create a video at the same quality as companies that do it for a living, hence #3. But in the end, if 1+2+3 < 4, then it makes sense to do it yourself. If not, it makes sense to give it to a pro.

  19. Great post Andrew!

    Thanks for taking the time to put that together. I wanted to jump in a share some of the reason why it is that these videos are so effective because I think it helps the development process.

    Dual Coding Theory:

    People generally believe that video is a more effective way to communicate online but what does the brain science say. We did some research and learned that if you stimulate both the auditory and the visual sense you increase retention. The research shows an increase in retention of 58%! This is dual coding theory was developed by Allan Paivio at the University of Western Ontario.

    Keep it Simple:

    Don’t worry about trying to come up with the most incredible animations. The simple animations can actually be more effective. Our brains only have so much working memory so it you fill that up with fancy images rather then a tight script and effective message then people’s brains overflow! (Overflowing brains are not what you want!)

    Know your Audience:

    When people build knowledge they connect it to things they already know. If you are talking about fashion and your audience is scientists then you have to use different metaphors to connect with their prior knowledge.

    For your video that means that you should use visual metaphor, you should keep it simple and you should connect to things your audience already knows.

    I’d be happy to talk with you and share what we have learned. You can connect with me on Clarity if you want to talk further.
    https://clarity.fm/#/andrewangus

  20. Great post Andrew. Very informative, a lot of great tips. Another tip I would add if you’re really on a budget is to have a look at http://fiverr.com It’s a website that lets people sell their services for $5. You’ll find voice-over artists, copy-writers, proof-readers, illustrators, etc… so for $5 you can find someone to make the voice-over for you with a professional microphone or someone that would read-poof and improve your script. Don’t expect Hollywood quality productions/services of course, but for the price -$5 -, you can find surprisingly descent quality resources.

    Also if anyone is looking for inspiration, check out http://startup-videos.com a site that gathers the best “promo video” around the internet. You’ll find good ideas, examples and best practices (even though most of the videos their have been produced with a budget closer to $5000-$15000).

    Last thing, and only because I want to play the devil’s advocate… the title “…under $100″ might be slightly mis-leading. See, you also have to take into account the time you’re willing to spend to create your video. If it takes you 25 hours of learning + scripting + recording + editing, etc… and if you value your time at say $50/hour, it’s actually a budget closer to 25 x 50 + 100 = $1350. People tend to forget to value their time but it’s important be able to know when you’re better off doing it on your own, or outsourcing it.

    Great post Andrew. Thanks

  21. Great info IF I could actually SEE it!! Right now even while writing this comment there is a 3″ square black box covering up the left side of this screen that says “Like this? Share it!” I can’t get rid of the box and had to keep scrolling your information above the box to read it…which meant I could only see about 1″ of text at a time. Really frustrating!

  22. Your tips about uploading video files were invaluable and greatly appreciated. Thanks for the great post!

  23. I like that writing the script is #1 — it is very important to have a competent, cohesive script when going into producing your own explanatory video. One important aspect to pay attention to is your opening (you may even have to write this last). The first line is what is going to hook your viewer. Introductions may bore the audience, so perhaps start out with stating a problem (hint: you are the solution). Just remember, you want people to want to watch your video, so what is interesting to you, might not be the average person.

  24. Online video is nice, but is outdated. But, hey, don’t take my word for it – go ahead and try our product – WalkMe.com – and see for yourself how we are increasing conversion rates and giving website guidance a new beginning.

    • But you have an explanatory video in the home page of your site to explain what walkme is.

      So… you shouldn’t say videos are outdated!

  25. Andrew, just checked out Demo Duck… awesome explainer videos! Being such a pro guy, it´s very kind of you to take the time and give us -amateurs- light on how to produce a decent video below 100 bucks :)

    Here´s my take: One cheap digital cam, a tripod, my laptop screen, some editing common sense and iMovie (Gosh, how painful was understanding how it works!).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rFfsuSA_wk

    So far it has helped us to explain what we do in a very simple manner, but hopefully one day we will be able to give you a call and get a quote from you guys ;)

  26. This article is very informative, the one I’m looking for. Thank you Andrew. I hope a lot of inspirations will come from here and I wish you luck always.

  27. Another way to go about it is to hire us. :)
    Bt really, if you are considering (very wisely, at that) the use of explanation videos for your company or startup, you should definitely check us out :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF0XFGz6MNI

  28. Cool wrap up. For the music: Try http://rightclearing.com/ You find free and inexpensive sound and can easily get the rights to use it.

  29. Awesome post Andrew. It’s fantastic to see an emerging focus on story-telling over flash and bang. It’s also very nice to see such a well-received push towards low-budget/low-cost video production.

  30. very inspiring video, the animation looks great! Is this made from after effects?
    check out mine made from after effects: http://www.aeronstudios.com
    I also make quality but affordable explanation videos.

  31. Great tips for the budget conscious beginner. I’d also suggest you get a quick quote from a local video production house before you invest too much in making your own video, it’s almost always free to get a quote and surprisingly a lot cheaper than most people think to get a quality little video – in Tasmania, Australia you could be looking at as little as $250 for full HD video (most videos cost a fair bit more than that, but you can get away with it if you have a rocking creative idea without too much need for production!) If you’re local video provider comes back above your budget, then check out our free little training videos that show you how to get a professional look to your home made video: http://solidorange.com.au (we originally made these training video for a client working with film making teenagers, but the skills explained are the same as what you’ll need to make your own little promo video!) good luck! Sandi

  32. Hey guys, thanks so much for this article! We’re a really young startup and definitely strapped for cash, so I used this method to create a very simple explainer video. Very raw, but I think it gets the point across.

    Let me know what you guys think. Real live example of this method put into action! Thanks again :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WuM7tNX3qd0

  33. When we were making a promo video, we found a very cool and cheap way to get voice-over. There is a website http://fiverr.com. On this website we managed to find more than 5 guys who do professional voice-overs in their studios for just…. 5$. That was awesome. We picked up 5 contractors and got 10 professional voice-overs to choose from (one guy made 5 different versions), all was ready within 2 days!!!

  34. Why not use Audacity!?

    Free and awesome.

  35. Imran ul Haque Nov 14, 2012 at 2:37 am

    Thanks for putting together all the useful information!!!

  36. Do you have people to do these videos???

  37. I am very pleased with the information you provide in your article. We are a bookkeeping company in the Netherlands, and having plans to make this kind of videos. We are going to follow your advices and keep you informed when it’s done. Thanks again.

  38. http://www.cheapvideocreation.com – create video only 9 $. Quality and Professional

  39. Although I agree with the article that you can produced a nice explainer video at a cheap price, still nothing beats a professionally done explainer video. This is important especially if the explainer video is for your business that is about to introduce a new product or service. I’m sure you don’t your prospective clients and audiences watch a cheaply produced video.

  40. For professionally done Animated Explainer Videos at competitive price, check us out at http://animationoutsourced.com to see and experience the difference.

  41. Don’t forget that it probably costs you thousands of dollars in lost time to figure all of this out on your own. And what you wind up with is probably crud. So get the money and hire some affordable pros: mintyfreshdigital.com.

  42. What a bunch of Bull#$%&. If anyone reading this thinks you can make a Video for $100 for your $100,000 start up good luck. This posting above with the 6 simple steps is actually helpful to explain the Arduous task of doing a Video. The article diminishes the value of all of the 6 highly skilled steps it requires to complete a viewable video. Do yourself a favor. Follow the steps. Become completely frustrated and hopeless. Then contact us at thevideosearchagency.com and get a real idea of how to make a video without spending too much $$$$.

  43. You guys should check out Kera’s Definitive List of Top 50 Best Product Tour Videos:

    http://blog.kera.io/post/41798499218/kera-definitive-list-top-50-product-tour-videos-and-prod

  44. You guys make it sound so easy :-)

    Thanks for sharing this great information, there is definitely on getting around video as a marketing tool.

  45. Let’s face it, you can’t start from knowing nothing about video editing and do a good video with the goal of increasing conversions. Sure… you might actually finish an explainer in 2 days but will it really increase conversions?

    I am willing to slave myself for $249/min because I am just starting out in this environment although I do video for over 2 years and I still ain’t satisfied about the level i’m at. Do you think 2 years can be learned in 1 day?

  46. But I am still confused with that how can I make my own custom animation for official videos…

  47. I’m a total noob to video editing and motion graphics, this is the first article I’ve read that actually makes it seem possible. Thank you.

  48. Don’t forget to browse video marketplaces, some app/startup video promotion tempaltes are available

  49. For some reason my previous post is not here, so I am sending similar again:

    Check out mine work, which I’ve finished recently: http://youtu.be/IxBLpjAQfk8
    It took me 2 and half months to create this video, so the several weeks comment in the article is very correct.

    I’ve never done video before so I didn’t know what tools to use. After some search I’ve chosen the following:
    1) Inkscape – for drawing the images
    2) Blender – for creating the animation, editing the video, adding sound effects and exporting to mp4
    3) I found a guy on Fiverr who recorded the voiceover for me. A professional who did it for $10.
    4) I bought a royalty free music for $40 which I didn’t use in the and as it seemed to me rather disruptive, than enhancing.

    And that’s all.

    The most difficult part was creating the script and fitting into a minute. Still I am ~3 seconds over.

  50. It’s important to pay special attention to the lighting and background when you shooting a video footage. Of course I think that an animated video would be better to explain a concept.

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