6 Tips for Making the Perfect YouTube Video

Chris Doctor owns Delphi Construction, a deck builder in Encinitas, Calif., and, like many small-business owners in a competitive industry, he wants attention. How he gets it has evolved in recent years.

“I’ve had a website since 2005. I spend about $300 a week on paid search advertising, but nothing has been as successful at attracting customers as my YouTube videos,” says Doctor, who landed $14,000 in new contracts the first month he posted two videos. “I was really surprised that people were looking for services like mine on YouTube.”

Once the exclusive domain of break-dancing babies and bulldogs on skateboards, YouTube is now the second-largest search engine on the web. It can be a powerful means for small businesses to raise brand awareness and generate sales. To get started, check out how other businesses are using YouTube for messaging. (Simply go to YouTube and search for local operations like yours; for example, “pet groomers Atlanta” or “property management Seattle.”) Then plan your own production with these tips in mind:

  1. Learn from the competition. Make a list of what you like about other videos in your space. Does the thumbnail picture of the video make you want to click to see more? Are you persuaded by the sales pitch? Do the music and graphics help or hinder the production? Meanwhile, if there’s something you dislike, be sure to avoid that in your own video.
  2. Don’t do it yourself. Skilled videographers not only have the right camera, microphone, and editing equipment, but also know how to light the location, when to zoom in for a close up, and how to add images, graphics, and a soundtrack. They’ll wrap all these elements into a seamless package that represents you as a polished professional.
  3. Set a budget. Videographers typically charge about $75 an hour and up to $1,200 a day, depending on their experience, talent, and resume. The number of shooting days, video length, and level of post-production work contribute to the overall cost. Fees may be negotiable, or you may be able to barter (i.e., offer your product or service to cover all or part of the total fee).
  4. Prep your message. You have 1 to 2 minutes to make your pitch. What do you want to say? Imagine you are speaking to one person. This will help you feel more conversational in front of the camera. What action do you want that person to take: Call for a quote? Place a phone order? Be sure that your contact information is visible throughout the video.
  5. Deliver quality content. Offer helpful advice that highlights your expertise, or create a how-to video. Let’s say you are a florist; you might demonstrate how to make a simple bridal bouquet, sharing one (but not all) of your trade secrets. Prospective customers will get a feel for your personality and your passion for what you do — and be more likely to visit your shop than try to open their own. How-to videos are often shared, so you can benefit from getting added exposure with a wider audience.
  6. Be tech savvy. Make the first 15 seconds especially compelling and keep the video short (again, 1 to 2 minutes). Look for the most searched-for words in your category and select six to 12 keywords to use when writing the title, description, and tags for your video (you’ll be able to do this when you upload it). These are critically important because they help search engines find you — and bring your business that sought-after attention.


If you’re looking to expand your business’s customer base, you’ve probably heard the same advice a million times: create a Facebook page and open a Twitter account. While it is important to create and maintain a strong presence in social media, it is also important to find a way to stand out from the rest.

One way to do this is by creating a video and uploading it onto another social media site, like YouTube, or adding it to your blog to make things more interesting.

For someone who’s never held a camera, figuring out how to get started can be daunting. But, once you understand a few basics, you can produce a great-looking video on your own.

Here are five basic tips for beginners looking to make a professional-quality video:

1. Shoot with the right equipment

First, plan out what kind of video you want to make. If you’re going for the classic home-video look, something as simple as a Flip camera (which, given it’s size and price, the result should suffice) will work. If you want to upgrade your audience’s viewing experience, the person behind the camera should have steady hands, or you should use a tripod.

2. Pay attention to the audio!

Anyone who watched the World Cup certainly knows how annoying the vuvuzelas were as they buzzed through every match. Your video could sound like a World Cup broadcast, too, if you don’t pay attention to the audio. Whether it’s wind blowing into the microphone or too much background noise, bad audio can ruin a good video. If your camera has a headphone jack, plug in and do some sound checks. Make sure you can clearly hear what you want your audience to hear.

3. Watch what you’re filming

Beginner videographers should never shoot with a window in the background. The camera, other people and objects could reflect off the glass, making for an awkward video. Light may also come through the window causing your subject to be backlit – meaning that the object or person you’re shooting will look like they have a shadow cast over them. Lighting is important, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure your subject isn’t backlit or so bright that they’re reflecting light back to the camera.

4. Edit to your audience

There’s a reason why YouTube gets over 2 billion views a day. People want to watch videos, but they have short attention spans; so, they skip from video to video until they find something interesting. If you’re not shooting a one-take video, be ready to take some time out of your day to edit. Rarely will someone watch a 5-minute plus video all the way through if they don’t know what it’s about. Keep it short and find ways to engage your audience so they understand the message you’re trying to get across right away.

5. Upload and distribute through social networks

Once you’re satisfied with your piece, export the video and upload it onto YouTube. You can’t expect the world to fall in love with your video if you just let it sit there; so, tweet out the link to all your Twitter followers, post the video on your Facebook page, and email it out to anyone who you know would be interested (no spamming!).

Even if your video doesn’t sweep the nation and go “viral,” it’s almost a guarantee that through social media distribution, people outside your current customer base will hear about your business. Plus, your current customers will appreciate you switching things up (and, hopefully, entertaining them!)