I’ve climbed Kilimanjaro via the Rongai Route. I’ve seen a pack of lions take down a wildebeest on safari in Tanzania. I’ve sailed on the Ionian Sea off the coast of Italy and enjoyed VIP treatment in a luxury resort on the mythical Greek Island of Ithaca. And I was paid to do it all.
As a travel videographer, you’ll journey to exotic locations, experience dream vacations, and stay in five-star hotels… free of charge…in fact, you’ll be paid handsomely to do it. It’s quite nice to come home from your vacations with more money in your pocket than you left with.
Getting set up is easy and more affordable today than it’s ever been. These days, most digital cameras, smartphones, and tablets have high-quality video capabilities, and you can buy a good handheld video camera for about $400. The Canon 60D is a good starter model as it’s lightweight and takes great pictures. For editing you can use can use iMovie on a Mac and Windows Movie Maker on a PC. Both programs are free to download.
I was able to start my travel videography business with basic equipment and used to charge about $400 per video. Over the years I’ve built up my reputation and gradually increased my prices. Today, I can charge up to $4,000 per video.
The challenge of pursuing this kind of work is that nobody will be lining up to give you jobs—you have to hunt them down yourself. So it takes courage to get on the phone or send an email to contact as many companies as possible.
It’s a pure numbers game. If you contact 10 companies, usually three will be interested in what you have to offer. But maybe only one will actually hire you to film a video for them. So if you contact 30 companies you may very well have three contracts for your next trip to Costa Rica or Hawaii.
So which companies should you contact? The short answer is: tour companies, hotels, and resorts. Search for companies that aren’t too big. Large conglomerates like Expedia or Thomas Cook will only hire professional videographers through agencies. But others will be small and local enough that you can get the owner or the marketing director on the phone.
How do you find them? Simply use Google. Type in the location and style of vacation that you would like to pursue, and you’ll find all the companies that offer this kind of trip.
So why would they hire you, a complete novice in the area of travel videography?
Simple. You offer a great product at a much lower price than a professional production company. By following a few simple rules you’ll be able to produce a more professional video than your average tourist.
For marketing purposes, you should learn a few statistics about online video consumption to dazzle your clients. This way, you can easily let your prospective clients know that having a video on their website will provide them with more bookings.
Once you’ve convinced a company that they need a video they’ll usually ask to see some of your previous work. For this reason, you should create a free video for a local business in your area to use as a demo tape.
This could be a restaurant, hotel, day-trip operator, or even a bakery or café. Creating a video for them free of charge will take the pressure off, and it will be great practice for a paid job.
What locations are ideal for this kind of work? Anywhere really. But the farther away you go, the more costs are involved in getting there.
So it’s easier to start a little closer to home. If you’re keen on traveling farther afield, then you should aim for two to three different contracts and price the flight into your services, so you don’t have to ask one company to pay for flights, accommodations, rental car, and so on.
If the total cost your trip is $1,000, and you charge $500 per video, you’ll have recovered your costs with two videos. Any commissions after that are all profit.
As your reputation and portfolio of work grow you can comfortably charge more for your services. You can also charge more for extras—like using a drone or doing voice overs—if you invest in the equipment needed.
I’m so glad I discovered travel videography when I did. I’ve seen some incredible places and met so many wonderful people. It’s such a fulfilling and enjoyable way to earn an income that it never feels like work.
5 Tips for Making Videos That Sell
Use a tripod to steady your digital camera, smartphone, or camcorder. Shaky images are the hallmark of a poor videographer. The easiest way to look more professional is to use a tripod and create stable images, with smooth pans and tilts.
Film intimate close-ups and portrait shots of people. Most videographers will take plenty of wide shots when they’re starting out but not many portrait and close-up shots. These add texture and detail to your video and create an emotional connection to your audience.
Make short, snappy videos that are no longer than two minutes. In the age of the internet, people are flooded with a constant stream of information. To compete in this space, you need to get your main message across as quickly as possible. Two minutes is the average length that people will stick with for a video on YouTube.
Use fast edits and dazzle with lots of beautiful shots. If you linger on images for too long, you’re in danger of putting your audience to sleep. Instead, you want to keep things moving and impress them with the multitude of things to see and do in your destination video. This will get people really excited about where they are going.
Reiterate the video’s central messages with captions. Reading text will help people identify and remember the main message of your video. This is particularly important in today’s over-saturated media environment.
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