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Making Quality Content on a Budget
The necessary hacks to rival your overspending competition...
By Fraser Johnson
Jan 15th, 2021
MITP's Creative Director provides insight and resources to get the job done well, and on budget.
After years of producing our own content in-house and on a budget, we’ve picked up some tips that can add a level of polish to your projects without breaking the bank.
As marketing budgets transition from traditional to digital, and the barrier to entry that kept most SMEs from engaging in any meaningful marketing softens, it’s becoming easier (and more important) to be able to create quality content on a budget.
In the current landscape, brands and businesses need to be reactive. This means high volumes of content need to be produced, and as such, big budgets are rare.
But before getting into the resources that will help your content thrive, I feel like it’s important to state that, no matter how much polish you throw at turd, it’s still a turd. With this in mind, here are some tips to avoid a shitshow:
- Before you begin production, make sure the IDEA is solid and well thought out. Start with a solid base and the rest is easy.
- A good videographer is worth their weight in gold - if there is somewhere to skimp, it’s not here. That being said, there is a thriving freelancer market out there, and high-grade cameras are becoming more accessible. You don't need to break the bank - just do a little homework (and pay talent appropriately) for best results.
- Give videographers a solid brief with references, and be sure to ask for their input. Good videographers will have the technical knowledge or foresight to know what will work, and what won’t, which takes me to my next point.
- Be realistic with your brief and ideas. If you're new to production, it can be hard to know what something should cost (and easy to get carried away dreaming up the next big Nike ad for your local florist). Again, always ask for input from the professionals.
- Content is only as good as the strategy behind it, and vice versa. There’s no point blowing your whole budget on making something amazing if you don’t have the ad spend and strategy to get it out there. By the same token, the best strategy in the world means nothing without quality content. If you get both right you can hit more of the right people with the right message for a higher return on ad spend.
Okay, so now we’ve covered that, let’s go through some specific resources (all of which we use) to create slick content on a budget.
Royalty-free audio platforms
Although there’s plenty of evidence to say that most social media users play video without sound, a good track that fits the brief and visuals is key to connecting with your target audience.
Both the amount of providers and the general quality of available tracks in this space has risen over the last few years, so you don’t need to spend thousands licensing a track if you’re willing to trade off having something unique.
Artlist is one of our favs, and the first to adopt a subscription model for royalty-free music. For a relatively small monthly subscription fee ($16.50/month), you have access to their ENTIRE library with unlimited downloads, and there is some gold in there.
Their search function is really great for narrowing in on the right track, allowing you to filter by Mood (uplifting, groovy, tense, etc), Video Theme (corporate, travel, food, etc), Genre (acoustic, cinematic, hip hop, etc) and Instrument (electric guitar, keys, piano, etc). You can even add multiple tags to get very specific results.
There is a decent pool of tracks to choose from, and while it does receive semi-regular updates, it's worth noting that since this platform is becoming more popular you may notice other videos using the same tracks.
If you’re after something more unique and have the budget for it, Music Bed has some outstanding tracks by serious composers, but you’ll pay for it (about $350 per track). They’ve also added a subscription service but it’s much more expensive than Artlist at $99/ month.
There are a HEAP more options and providers out there, but these are 2 of our go-to’s.
Platforms like Shutterstock have been around for a while now, and I usually shudder at the idea of using stock footage unless absolutely necessary because everything looks, well... stock-y. However, they can be valuable for assets like stock graphics, icons, images etc., especially in a pinch. We use another subscription service called Envato Elements for the sake of convenience, ease and cost ($200/ year, or the cost of one clip from Shutterstock). While it isn’t the full Envato library, I’d highly recommend signing up for it.
They have some footage (again, avoid if possible), but they have some really great graphic templates, icon suites, illustrations, sound effects, and even video project templates pre-built for Instagram Stories. We tend to offer a more custom solution rather than using project templates, but for anyone who is looking to save some coin, there are some great options and a wide pool of resources.
Finding the right voice over can add a huge level of polish to any video, and Fiverr has a reasonable amount of talent to choose from. Whilst Fiverr's platform offers to connect you with a range of freelance skill sets (animators, graphic designers etc), we typically only use it for voice over talent, so I can’t speak to the quality outside of this.
The search function is pretty good, allowing you to filter by age and accent, and the actors will usually have samples of their work on the platform to help you make the right decision for your voice over talent.
One thing to note is that while the starting prices are cheap as chips, the add-ons will start to add up. If you’re promoting the video externally, you’ll need to add commercial licensing (which can make extra VO revisions more expensive) but everything is pretty reasonable in my opinion, just be clear with your brief to avoid unnecessary costs.
As I mentioned earlier, many social media users watch videos with sound disabled - with 85% of Facebook videos and 40% of IG stories watched on silent this year. Anyone who’s had their phone accidentally blast a video at full volume on the bus knows why this is; it’s bloody embarrassing.
People skipping videos due to poor sound choice is really commonplace, as is people watching videos on silent and missing the marketing message entirely. In the end, these hurt your bottom line - engagement becomes more expensive and avg view times plummet. Thankfully, video subtitles can be an easy fix for these problems.
Subtitles are becoming more and more necessary, not only for the above reasons but also from an accessibility standpoint. Hearing loss affects approximately one in seven people in Australia, so this should really be common practice.
Rev provides super low-cost, fast, and easy to use audio to text transcription. They’re quick and usually pretty accurate but can struggle with spelling of proper nouns, so it’s always good practice to give it a once over before downloading.
You can edit the transcription via the platform and download .srt files to embed in the video or upload to the social media platform as an opt-in/out option. Easy.
This can be a bit more tricky…
One of our oldest tricks is bribing friends & family with beer, merch or tickets to use them as talent in shoots. In saying that, there’s no substitute for professional, reliable talent. We build this cost into our quotes whenever we want to create high-quality content - but when you’re low on time and budget, you may be able to get by with some eager friends in front of the lens.
We’ve also had discussions with relevant clients around being more inclusive and diverse with talent to better represent a wider audience, so when there’s budget there, we’ll go to platforms like Star Now to list jobs and find talent. There’s usually a pretty wide range of talent (and associated costs), so you’ll be able to find someone to suit your budget and brief.
While cinema-grade cameras are getting cheaper and the quality across the board has come a long way, lighting still plays a MASSIVE part in how a shot looks. This won’t apply to every project, but for a hundred or so bucks, you can really add some production value and visual complexity with a couple of lights. You’ll need some idea of lighting principals (or watch a youtube tutorial), but this is content we’re talking about - not a high-budget TV commercial - so close enough is good enough.
It's time to create some content!
Now that you’re armed with the hints and hacks we use to create content, you have the power to create your next masterpiece/meme - use it wisely.