The clock is ticking. Every day you’re hustling to move up and earn more. And you’re wondering if you need to carve out some time to learn a new writing skill, too.
There’s always a new writing skill you can learn or improve on. And it can pay off in a big way.
Believe me, I know. I’ve been a copywriter for more than 30 years. You know, like before the Internet, social media, blogging, and digital marketing.
And I’ve had to learn a lot of writing skills over the years to make a living as a freelancer. Consider it part of the job.
Now think about this. What’s your hourly rate? You probably use it to quote a project for a client. But have you ever thought about your rate per minute?
There’s a writing skill every serious freelancer should learn that pays $200 to $300 per minute or more. And it’s in demand by thousands of businesses and organizations.
Got a minute? Here’s a tutorial to learn this lucrative writing skill:
Video scripts: Learn this writing skill
One of my earliest video script writing assignments went down like this.
A technician with a heating company went to install an oil burner in a new house. But when he unpacked it, the instructions were virtually undecipherable. So he returned the unit and bought a competitor’s model.
When that made it back to the manufacturer, they hired me to write a video script to show a technician how to assemble, install, and calibrate the oil burner. It’s a writing skill that pays well. And the demand for demo videos, explainer videos, and tutorials has never been greater.
So how do you write a video script?
You might not organize quotes and paragraphs for a video script the same way you would for a magazine article. But it’s a writing skill you can learn.
Here’s what you need to know, along with some tips on how to land video script writing jobs.
Use a template format
I use the Microsoft Word table template. Three columns. Left column to number the scenes, the middle column for the narration or audio and the right column for the suggested images, photographs, graphics, etc. This format makes the script more of a project management tool for the narrator, photographer and editor.
Here’s a sample from part of a script I wrote for Florida Gulf Coast University:
Write narration or dialogue content first
Video script writing requires a lot of planning, visual thinking, and frame-by-frame ideas. But the narration component of a video is really where you put your writing skills to work.
It’s the talking points or dialogue in a commercial, demo, or explainer video. Expect to spend most of your effort here, to get the dialogue to fit the timing parameters (which I’ll cover in a bit). I recommending writing this part of a video script first, and then filling in the details to produce the video.
Before you get started, you’ll need important information from your client like:
- Who is the target audience?
- What’s the video about (usually a product or service)?
- What’s the goal of the video?
- What action do you want the viewer to take after watching the video?
- How long with the video be (hours, minutes, seconds)?
- What’s your client’s voice and style like?
Describe visual imagery for each frame
By now you’ve probably seen millions of commercials, demo videos, and how-to videos on TV or the Internet. Take a closer look the next time you see one, and watch what flashes across the screen frame by frame. A writer described that visual imagery in a script long before it became a 30-second spot. Some things to think about:
- What visual images will help draw the viewer or customer in?
- What visual images will help tell a story?
- What visual images will help elicit the desired emotional response?
- What visual images will support branding and marketing for your client?
Besides giving you a mind’s-eye picture of how the finished piece will look, a script also helps the photographer plan the shots and allow for shooting scenes out of sequence to save time (and money). Then edit them in post-production.
Describe camera angles and sequences
Remember the movie The Blair Witch Project? It practically pioneered the found-footage technique using raw, close-up shots of the actors. It’s kind of an over-the-top example to point out the impact camera angles and shot sequences can have on the viewer experience. In a video script, you could do something like this:
- Open with an establishing or long shot (LS) with a titles over it
- Move to a medium shot (MS)
- Go to a a close shot (CS)
Here’s an example: In the oil burner video, it opens with the front of the manufacturer’s plant, then pans in and segue to the factory with the narrator dressed as an engineer at a table with an oil burner. The video ends with similar scenes in reverse. Check it out:
Pay attention to timing
For most writing assignments, an editor gives you a specific word count to shoot for. And it’s critical that you stick to it for a lot of different reasons. In a video script, you typically don’t have a specified word count to follow, but you do have a time limit.
- How long should a video be? It depends. But for most videos that are used for public relations or marketing, no more than three minutes is standard. If you absolutely have more that needs saying, make two videos, a part one and a part two. Don’t try to cram Godfather IV (it’s 539 minutes long) into three minutes.
5 steps to land video script writing jobs
If script writing is new to you, you don’t need to be a tech genius or take years to learn this writing skill. Create one demo video, and you’re ready to start pitching script writing services to clients. Here’s what I recommend:
- Find a short demo or explainer video on YouTube.
- Use it as a model to write your own script on a topic of your choice.
- Record the video with narration, stock photos and music. And Use Windows Movie Maker (here’s a tutorial) to produce it.
- Post your completed video on YouTube with links to your website and social platforms.
- Send the video to people in your network via LOI, and ask: Do you know anyone who needs a video to promote their business?
If you’ve already scored some video script writing jobs, your portfolio and marketing efforts will help you land even more. If you haven’t done this type of work before, but you’ve got freelance clients, find out if you can upsell a video script with your new writing skill.
How much does this writing skill pay?
The typical fee for an online video script can range from $200-$300 per scripted minute of video. Would you like to earn $1,000 to $1,500 for a 5-minute video script? You can. And for super-niche industries, you can charge even more. If you’re hired to write a video script that’s only 30 seconds to a minute long, charge a minimum like $500 minimum.
If you want to move up and earn more as a freelance writer, keep this in mind. Every minute counts.
Bob McCarthy has more than 30 years experience as a copywriter. His work includes video scripts, online content, articles in regional, national and international magazines, and marketing content for clients.