In this time of global economy and accelerated-pace commerce there is but one product that is of appallingly short supply. People are willing to pay a premium for this product when they find it, specifically because it is so hard to come by. As a producer of the product, you are in an ideal situation. It is possible for one or two people to create the product in a short amount of time, it is difficult for competitors to legally duplicate, cheap to ship, can be manufactured for only a few dollars, and can be sold for many multiples of the cost to make each unit.
This ideal product is tightly focused, high quality, accurate and accessible information.
You may roll your eyes at the sentence above. After all, information is all around us. The internet is nothing but information for the taking. How can anyone think for a moment that information is in short supply when we have an electronic highway crammed to the gills with the stuff?
It’s true, we are inundated by information-laden messages nearly every minute of every day. In some cities it can seem that every conceivable surface has been plastered with some sort of advertising message. Our televisions are crammed with dozens of channels with thousands of commercials blathering away day and night. On the internet you can Google nearly any subject imaginable and expect from twenty to twenty-million results to fly to your fingertips. Information surrounds us today like an ever-present tornado.
But, notice that I said there is a serious shortage of high-quality, focused, accurate, and accessible information. The vast majority of that putrid tornado of information we all have surrounding us is nothing more than noise. Getting any real meaning from the poorly researched, opinion-laden, marketing oriented cacophony of messages can be a frustrating and infuriating task.
“Spending an hour on the internet is like making a meal of cheese puffs. I am no longer hungry, but I am not exactly satisfied either.”
If you can provide useful, accurate, hard to find information in a form that is easily accessible and on the right topics, then you will be in ever-increasing demand. And you will stand out from the crowd.
Video is the perfect format to fill these needs.
DVDs can be quick to create, cheap to mail, durable, have a high level of perceived value, and inexpensive to manufacture. And the rewards can be big.
The Profit Potential of the How-To and Special Interest Video Business
Let’s look at the economics of the business. A DVD with full color art on the face and a shrink-wrapped Amaray case with a full-color label can be manufactured for less than $2.00. It will cost you less than $3.00 for a padded shipping envelope and postage to any address in the United States. If you sell your video for $45.00 a copy, then you are making $40.00 per unit. If you sell just 350 units per year (that’s less than one sale per day) you will see $14,000 in sales. Subtract the cost of advertising, credit card fees, and other incidentals and you can easily see a profit of $12,000 per year.
A $12,000 profit is not bad, but it’s not retirement time. Things get interesting when you start adding titles to your business.
That $12,000 is for just one title. If you have ten DVDs, each selling an average of about one unit per day, then you have $120,000 in profit.
If you make a number of videos for the same market, then economies of scale play in your favor for marketing costs and your profits increase even more. Then, some videos packaged into multi-disc sets for highly niche markets can sell for $100, $300, $500, or even more. Even better, some of your projects are apt to strike a cord and sell far greater quantities, creating even higher profits.
There is a great deal of money in producing videos that you own the rights to. Still, do not for one second believe that How-To and Special Interest Video production is a get-rich-quick business. Researching, writing, shooting, and editing any good video is a lot of work and not all DVDs will sell well. On the upside, while video production is always hard work, it can also be a great deal of fun. As for the risk of creating an unsuccessful video, the chances of success can be greatly improved through careful planning, market research, product testing, and by learning from the mistakes of others.
Over the years, a common theme in successful, profitable Special Interest Video Productions. The ingredients for successful productions may not be what you expect–more on that in a moment.
Common Ingredients for How-To and Special Interest Video Success:
*The market for the production is a tight, relatively small niche.
*The market for the information is easily reachable (they have their own magazines or newsletters, web hangouts, clubs, etc.)
*The information presented is specialized and not easily attainable through other media.
*The video would NOT be right for the shelves of a major retailer. Think small, niche or sub-niche markets.
*The producer is active in promoting the video after it is made.
*The seller offers a money-back guarantee if the buyer is not satisfied with the production.
*The production is well-researched and highly informative.
*The production has a good quality, secure website that instills potential buyers’ confidence.
*The production is packaged well and instills high perceived value (good cover art, good face art, a professional appearance).
*The price of the product is right for the information presented and for the market (not too high OR too low).
*The producers did not spend too much making the video.
You might notice that at no point in the list do I mention that successful productions are shot with professional cameras, posted with professional editing equipment, or incorporate great special effects. You do not need to be a Hollywood mogul to be successful. A professional appearance for your video is now attainable with basic consumer-level of “pro-sumer” video equipment and post-production software. It is possible to get really crazy with crews, lights, rented gear, studios, location shoots, professional presenters, or even live audiences. This can make it very difficult to earn a profit.
Most successful projects are made by one or two people and shot in a spare bedroom or small office.
But, what if I am not an expert at anything?
There is no doubt, having a passion for a topic can make it quite a bit easier to create a video about that topic. Still, expert status on your subject is far from a requirement for creating a good quality, informative, and successful video production.
Think of it this way…
Have you ever watched a television news magazine such as 20/20 or 60Minutes? Or have you ever read an in-depth magazine article about a specific activity, place, or business? Do you think that the producers of those television shows or the writers of those articles were experts before they took on these projects? The answer is that the vast majority of journalists are not experts in any one topic. These professionals know how to do research and know how to find people who are experts to help them tell the story. Then, they assemble all the parts, based on the knowledge of others, into a compelling package. You can do the same.
How-To and Special Interest Video topics that have historically done well…
*New, extreme, fringe, or trendy sports activities
*New or unusual hobbies
*Anything that is considered collectible
*Types of cars, boats, trucks, airplanes, or motorcycles which have passionate followers or collectors.
*Turning a hobby interest into a paying business
*How-to use any new computer software tool
*How-to use powerful new gadgets (camcorders, gadgets, setting up a home theater room, etc.)
*How to get unusual and highly attractive jobs or how to launch dream careers
*Marketing methods for specific types of small businesses
*Successful alternative retirement strategies, unusual locations, retirement methods (An example might be “How to Retire to Micronesia and Live Like Royalty.”)
*Fear-based topics (Remember the Y2K scare and media frenzy?)
The Technical Aspect–What It Takes To Make Good How-To Videos:
Maybe you are already a seasoned video producer. Or perhaps you are a dedicated video hobbyist. Either way you probably are keenly aware that the last decade has dramatically changed the way video is produced, shot, edited and distributed. Digital technology has made the process of making high quality, professional looking video productions accessible like never before.
In “the old days” when I started in the video business, professional video cameras weighed forty pounds, and cost $50,000 or more for body, recorder, lenses, mounts, and viewfinder assembly. The complex operation of the cameras meant that only truly dedicated pros could get an image out of them that was even close to viewable. Even the pros tended to blow shoots pretty often back then. Today, a consumer-level camera capable of producing better quality images than my old Betacam behemoth will set you back less than $600 and can weigh as little as a couple of pounds. As for ease of use, my seven year-old son can consistently get good video from one of these cameras. On the post-production and editing side of the equation, it used to require a multi-room suite filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of video gear, a dedicated air conditioning system to keep all that expensive equipment from overheating, and two skilled operators. The videos we created with all those man-hours and hardware would look absurd compared to what can be produced today by an editor with a week of experience using an $1,100 off-the-shelf Apple computer.
Can you really make professional looking How-To and Special Interest video productions with basic equipment?
Yes! With a little dedication to study the language of conveying your message visually and some time to learn the easy but powerful editing software now widely available, you can create great looking video! And it won’t cost you a fortune to do it.
Here is a list of the basic How-To Video production package that you will need to get started:
*Mini-DV video camera with an external mic input
*Basic lights (three or four hardware store clip-on lights can do the job adequately)
*Clip-on lapel microphone
*Multimedia capable computer with a Firewire port and a DVD burner
*80GB or larger external disc drive with a Firewire (not USB) interface port
*Video editing software appropriate for your computer and operating system
*DVD authoring software (many current video editing packages include this capability)
*Third-party “quick start” instructional books on your chosen editing and DVD authoring programs
That’s it! There will always additional doodads, nice-to-haves, gizmos, and gadgets that you may want. Some of the products may make the process of making your DVDs easier or the final products more polished, but the list above is everything that you must have to produce your fully marketable How-To or Special Interest Videos.
“If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it!”
What It All Means
Making videos that you can sell over and over is a great business. In the ‘Old Days’ I finished a video for a client, turned the tapes over, cashed the check, and started looking for the next paying gig. My efforts only paid me once–the work I did last year, paid me last year and that was all. In my How-To Video Business, the work I am doing now will pay me in a few weeks, but the work I did three months ago is paying me now, and the work that I did last year is still paying me too!
In about two or three weeks, you can write, shoot, edit, and create an on-line sales presence for a How to or Special Interest Video project that will pay you over and over for, years.
Being a How-To Video Producer is the perfect business to feed an active mind.
For me, this is the ideal business. I am interested in a lot of things. Researching different topics, trying new activities, building new and progressive business ventures–I love it all. It keeps me young, engaged, energized. Being a How-To Video Pro makes all of these activities part of my “job.”
There is an old saying that if you do what you truly love, then you’ll never work a day in your life. In my case, it’s true. My work feels a great deal like play. When I finish a DVD project and get it on the market, I can’t wait to start the next. It’s a great situation to be in. I honestly pity anyone who dreads work. I do what I am passionate about and I pay myself well for doing it. My work is a blast.