You’ve probably watched a million how-to tutorials, explainer videos, and commercials to promote a product or service. But did you know you can make money doing video script writing?
If you’re a quick thinker who loves coming up with new ideas, video script writing might be perfect for you.
From TV commercials to training videos to Internet marketing spots, opportunities are growing in this diverse, well-paying niche.
But if you haven’t done this type of writing before, you probably have a bunch of questions, like:
- What kind of clients need video script writing?
- How do you find them?
- And how do you write a video script your grandma could understand, and still motivate, persuade, and educate a client’s target audience?
We caught up with two creatives and video script writing pros to get the answers. Here’s what you need to know:
Learn from these video script writing pros
In a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast, we talked with key players at two video production companies.
• Erica Schmidt Jabali is a creative director at YDraw. She’s worked with famous brands like Disney, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble and others.
• Andrew Follett is the founder of DemoDuck, a Chicago-based company that builds handcrafted video content for businesses. He has written hundreds of video scripts for companies small and large, including clients like Lowes, Netflix, DropBox and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Want to learn more about video script writing? Find out how to get started in this Q&A:
Q: What steps do you go through in creating a video for a client?
A: Follett: We start with a creative brief to determine what they’re looking for, who the audience is, the problem they’re addressing, the solution, and the call to action. Then we have a kickoff call to make sure we’re all on the same page. From there we go into a concept phase to determine the creative direction. We create an outline, and then we jump into scripting.
Q: Do the writers come up with the visual concepts?
A: Jabali: Yes, our writers are completely responsible for the artistic vision of the video and they work with the client to finalize it. Then it goes to artists who actually create the visual component.
The scene plan often takes longer than the script itself. Having a little bit of an artistic background or a creative ability to envision something is critical to a successful script.
Q: What are rates for writing video scripts?
A: Follett: That’s a tough question. For freelancers, we usually pay a flat rate. It can vary depending on the writer, their experience level, the type of video, and the length of the script. For a basic two-minute explainer video, the rate might be between $250 and $700. But it depends on the client and the complexity of the project.
Q: What types of videos do you create?
A: Jabali: They cover the gamut. We do marketing videos for clients’ web pages or social media channels. We write a lot of product releases and explainer videos that companies will send to potential clients. Companies also contract with us to do internal videos, trainings, and tutorials.
We have all different types of video offerings that might meet those needs—everything from traditional white board animation all the way to 2D, 3D, and interactive videos. Interactive videos are incredibly fun. It’s like the pick-your-own-ending books we used to read as kids—you get to actually interact with the video.
Q: How long do the scripts need to be?
A: Follett: 150 words is equal to about a minute. A lot of clients are shocked at how short 60 seconds is.
Q: How do you hook your audience quickly and get them to stick around?
A: Jabali: There are several strategies. Say something unique or funny, do a play on words, or start with a powerful visual. Or start with a problem the viewer might be having.
The opening line for one of our videos was, “Do you ever look at your desk chair and it screams scoliosis?” That was a hilarious way to start a video on desk chairs. Being dramatic is always effective.
My best videos are the ones where I sell myself the product. You have to write what would entertain you. That’s where you start.
It comes down the writer listening to the client and getting to know their ideal customer. There isn’t one perfect way to begin.
Q: How do you set the right tone for each video?
A: Follett: Most people don’t want something that sounds like a hard sell. Pretty much every single client wants the same thing—fun, but professional. We try to write as conversationally as possible. We’ll read the script out loud and make sure it’s not coming off stiff or awkward.
We use short lines and make everything concise. No jargon. We try to make it simple enough for your grandma to understand.
Q: What sort of background do you look for in writers?
A: Jabali: Our writers come from all over. I’m a teacher by trade and I welcome former teachers. But we have people from all different industries. One of our best writers comes from a technical background.
There’s no specific background we look for. It comes down to who we already have on our team, what kind of clients we’re attracting, and what holes we need to fill.
Narrative alone is only half the video. So writers have to be constantly thinking in creative images and understand the art component as well.
Q: Do writers need to learn video editing software?
A: Follett: Not at all. Very few of our writers have tangible video experience. As Erica said, our writers come from all different types of backgrounds. But the writer does need the ability to think visually. They have to understand the budget and the capabilities of the creative team.
Q: What other qualities do writers need to succeed in this niche?
A: Follett: It can be a difficult niche-service to hack. Not every writer is suited. A lot of people start the process and realize, “This isn’t for me.”
It can be very time consuming for the wrong writer. Typically, a good writer can bust out a first draft in just a couple of hours once they get the knack for it.
Writers need to have a good handle on mechanics and be incredibly creative, willing to create brand-new concepts for every client. You need to think very quickly and have lots of ideas.
Anywhere you go, anything you do can be a source of inspiration for videos. You have to be a person who looks at your whole life as a potential inspiration.
The secret to video script writing: Explain it to your grandma
Video script writing doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. In just about any niche, most video content works best when it’s easy enough for your grandma to understand. Keep it simple. Be creative, and you can add this to your writing skills and services to move up and earn more.
Maria Veres is a freelance writer based in the Oklahoma City area. She contributes regular Q&A blog posts to Make A Living Writing