How to create a startup video for under £50

Here’s what normally happens when something needs to be done on our startup that I’ve never done before and don’t know how to do. (By the way, that’s usually everything, always).

I read the whole of the internet on the topic, hoping that it will somehow make me an expert by osmosis. I then get into a “too many tabs open” situation and have a mini meltdown.

I hunt down companies that could do it for me, then remember I can’t afford to pay them and feed myself. And that I’m quite partial to food. So I let that idea go.

I try to get out of doing the thing, cause a fight with Nick and buy myself a few more days of time whilst we get over our fight.

Then I accept defeat and cobble something together using a couple of toilet roll tubes and some sticky-backed plastic.

So, in true Blue Peter style, here is how to put together a startuup video for under £50.

  1. Create a video narrative (the story)

You need a narrative for your video. You really do. And you need to make this step 1. Do not pass go until you have a narrative. In fact, stop reading now and don’t come back till you’ve got one.

Basically, your choices are:

A. Standard explainer video

  • Present the problem –  “isn’t it awful how you can never remember how much milk you have left in the house?
  • Present the solution – “now with Milk Monitor, you need never worry about running out of milk again”
  • Demonstrate the product – “Milk Monitor is a tracking device that fits around your milk carton and accurately measures how much milk you have left.”
  • Talk about the features/benefits – “set the minimum amount of milk that you always want to have in the house and Milk Monitor will alert you if you get within 100 ml of this limit, so you can restock.”
  • Wrap up with your call-to-action – “to order your Milk Monitor today, visit”

B.  Something funny/more abstract

Sometimes you might just want to present the problem in a more general way, to get across a particular message, or to appeal to a particular audience.

Think of it as the difference between advertising and marketing. Marketing (like the above explainer video) tends to sell you on product features/benefits. Advertising sells you on concept.

This format is best if you’re trying to establish a brand voice or identity. Or if your product isn’t quite ready to demo!

There’s no standard blueprint for these types of videos, so take a look at some examples to help you come up with your own concepts.

Our concept was “Every Life has a Story…”

2. Create a storyboard

Get a whiteboard or some plain paper and write key phrases or draw stick pictures to show the story you’re telling.

Don’t skip this step, otherwise what you create will be a pile of crap. I  learnt this the hard way. Now, I draw scenes on a stack of paper and lay them all out in order. Then I get other people to see if they can follow the story.

This helps me figure out what type and quantity of images/ product demo clips and narration I’ll need. It also helps to weed out any unnecessary scenes.

Once you’re happy with the story, then you can move on to…

3. Create a script

Three words. Keep it tight. You basically want as few words as possible. So write out your script. Then time yourself saying it out loud.

If it’s longer than 60 seconds, you need to edit it. Look back at your storyboard and try to work out which sentences fit which scenes. Be ruthless in getting rid of unnecessary words. Viewers respond far more to images than words, so keep your script short, clear and simple. You don’t need to fill every second of time with narration, so build in some pauses and get the rhythm right.

Ok, so you’ve got your narrative, your storyboards and your script. Time to make your masterpiece.

5. Use free video editing software

I just about got away with using Windows Movie Maker for our video. It’s pretty basic, but it does the job. Things it can’t do are cropping, zooming in for close-ups (it can do basic zoom and pan, but that’s all), adding multiple captions (so creating any sort of text effects is a challenge).

It can also only cope with layering one audio track at a time. So, if you’re using music and narration, then you will need to save a version of the video with either music or narration, and then add the other file to that version.

Other free editing software is reviewed here.

6. Use free / cheap stock video footage

There are tons of sites for free/cheap video footage. My faves are and You can search clips by keyword and then filter by cost. Dissolve also has 3 free clips that it gives away every month and some of these are really great quality. VideoBlocks gives you a free 7 day trial of their website where you can download 20 clips a day for free (just don’t forget to cancel your subscription before the end of the trial period).

Put your video clips together first, before you add any narration or music. You need to get a sense of how the video flows and the timing you’ll need for audio.

Use the trim function on your video editor to cut your clips, so you get exactly the scenes you want. Spend time on screen transitions – fading through white or black is usually the most professional look.

7. Record your product demo

If you want to include clips where you demo your product, then the best free software I found is Apowersoft Screen Recorder. You can either use the online version (as I did) or download a desktop version. It captures your screen, so you can do a walk-through showing how to use your product.

If you’re using Windows 8, then be aware that you might need to download a Java applet in order to use the recorder, but that’s easily signposted from the website.

When you come to add your product demo to your video, you’ll probably want to speed it up by 1.5x or 2x.

8. Use free music

Vimeo has the best selection of free music clips. It has a great search function and you can then filter by commercial use to find those that are free to use on a creative commons licence for businesses. You will need to credit the author.

Choose your music once you’ve put the bare bones of your video together. You’ll roughly know the final length of your video, plus the sections where you want to add some audio impact.

9. Narrate it yourself or pay a professional

If you have a nice voice, then download RecForge II Pro (Android – £2.59) or Recorder Plus (iPhone – free) and use your phone as the recording device. You do not have to hold it really near your mouth! You’ll sound like Darth Vadar. Keep it about 30cm away and speak at a normal volume.

For the first few goes, record your narration whilst watching your video on playback. If you can match the narration to the scenes, it saves you editing it afterwards.

Get rid of background noise and make it sound more professional by using Audacity. Don’t freak out about how difficult it looks to use – it’s dead simple. Just do what this guy says and that should be enough to get your audio up to scratch.

If you have a horrible voice, then pay a professional. Fiverr has a big selection of voiceover artists. Red Horrocks is great, charges $5 for up to 125 words, can do both a British and an American accent and will usually deliver within 2 days.

10. (Optional) Add After Effects

If, after all that, you still feel that your video needs a little more pimpin’ (and you know how to use photoshop) then take a free 30 day trial of Adobe After Effects. There are tons of YouTube video tutorials that can show you how to create animations and animated typography, like the ones in this lovely video.

You can see our finished video for LIFETISE here. The total cost was $59 for the video clips and £2.59 for the voice recorder, so around £45.

Good luck with your creations and please feel free to share your videos in the comments section.

what’s the tweeting point?

I’ve noticed a trend recently.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in various pubs.  Ahhh, I hear you think.  No job.  Slippery slope.  I saw this coming. Tragic waste.

Um, that’s not the trend I’m talking about, but thanks for your concern.

That said, I do now understand where Cheers was coming from. When your only company most days is the real housewives of [insert place with readily available plastic surgery], you find solace where you can.  And now that cafes are called “coffee shops” and are overrun with speccy beardie types brooding oh so creatively over their macbook airs, it’s no wonder I need something stronger…

But I digress.

So what I’ve noticed is how many pubs (and cafés and bars and local shops and hairdressers and and and…) now have their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Firstly, what I love is how there’s still no other way to advertise your adoption of that most modern of marketing media than by putting up crappy posters around the place.  Delicious irony.

Secondly, I love that the language of Facebook and Twitter makes insecure schoolgirls of us all. Like me. Follow me. Why don’t you like me? Why won’t you follow me? You like Zara but you don’t like me? Am I not pretty enough?  **sob**  Terribly damaging stuff.  I’m sure there’s a PhD thesis in there somewhere.

But mainly I’m wondering what the tweeting point of it is?

Sure, I can see merit in having a Facebook page instead of a website. It’s cheap, quick and you can get your minimum-wage student bar staff to update it, since they’re probably spending most of their working time on Facebook anyway.  I get that it provides a way to let punters know about the Wednesday pub quiz or Friday night’s covers band.  I get that you can offer discounts and exclusives for Likers.

But I find it bizarre that loads of little businesses now seem to think that they need to have an all-singing-all-dancing fully integrated social media marketing campaign.   Why oh why oh why??

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Facebook and Twitter are a humungous waste of time for most small businesses.

I mean, what on earth are you going to tweet about?  That you’ve just changed the barrel on the Erdinger?  That most of your female clients are going Hollywood over Brazilian this season, so you’d better get strimming?  I have visions of pub landlords and artisan bakers having sleepless nights as they desperately try to think of enticing status updates and witty tweets about buns and baps.

I’d hazard a guess that most of us are happy just to turn up to the pub and see what’s occurring.  And most of us stick to local pubs, so we already know what’s going on. Because we go there. And they have it written down on boards with brightly coloured chalk.

The truth about Twitter (as in life) is that the followed are few and the followers are many.  So unless you already have a loyal bunch of customers who just happen to also be very widely followed on Twitter, you’re unlikely to pick up any new business that way.  It’s like the old philosophical conundrum:  if a business tweets in a forest but no-one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound??

Facebook and Twitter can work well for big businesses.  That’s because they have lots of money to create marketing content that they can then spread via social media.  For those companies, it’s not radically different from the advertising model of the 80s.  They spend money and they get customer eyeballs.  We’ve just swapped TV for Facebook.  Same audience, same spiel.  No-one’s doing anything particularly cool or innovative.  There’s a formula to it, just like with any other type of marketing.  And those which are most successful at it are those who already have a strong brand presence and have the money to do it properly.

But if you’re a small business, I’d say don’t bother.  The pickings are slim and the maintenance is tedious.  I would do a leaflet-drop over a twitter campaign any day – it’s targeted, relevant and proactive.  Leave the F-ing and T-ing to the big boys.  They’ve convinced themselves that it’s an essential part of their marketing strategy.  And maybe it is, just like TV advertising was in the 80s….

business planning 101

Business plans have a bad rep these days.  I’m not sure what happened.  Maybe they let themselves go, piled on a few pounds and stopped returning calls…

I suspect that the issue lies with the idea of what a business plan should be (dense and serious) and what it should contain (lots of dry facts and figures, a liberal sprinkling of pie charts).

Whatever the reason, whenever I talk to someone about their fledgling business, nothing gets me stonewalled quicker than asking them how they put their business plan together.  Particularly in the tech or creative sectors.  Business plans are seen as old-school, flabby and a waste of time that could be spent creating an amazing viral campaign.

Well, call me old-fashioned and pour me a sherry, but I’m pretty certain that they still have their place.  I’ve yet to be in an investor meeting where the money guys have said “we’re not interested in your business plan, just show us that cool remote-controlled egg timer app again”.  (If you do know money guys like that, please send them my way.  Especially if they want to invest in egg timer apps.  I sense a real opportunity in emerging markets).

I actually think that if you were to ask most people running a business what’s the one thing they wished they’d done better at the beginning – the response would be: planning how to manage their business and make money from it.

So in the immortal words of Tag Team – Whoomp There It Is… I’m takin’ it back to the old school…’Cause I’m an old fool who’s so cool (they said it, not me)… and below are some suggested questions to help you generate your very first business plan.



  • What products / services are you planning to offer to customers?  Describe in detail.
  • What differentiates your products / services from similar products / services in the market?
  • Who are your competitors? List categories and specific businesses.
  • What does your business stand for (e.g. value-for-money, quality, craftsmanship, innovation, philanthropy)?
  • What testing have you done to ensure that there is a market for your product / services?


  • Who are your target customers? Describe demographic and customer characteristics.
  • What are your customers’ needs and expectations and how will you service these?
  • How will you attract new customers? (e.g. word of mouth, advertising, discount marketing – groupon, wowcher etc.)
  • How will you encourage customer retention / repeat custom? (e.g. loyalty programmes, refer-a-friend discounts, package deals)


  • What existing marketing tools/materials do you have? (e.g. current customers who can give testimonials)
  • What are the best marketing tools to reach your target customer audience? (e.g. website, flyers, word of mouth, social media)
  • What experience do you have in marketing and / or what budget have you allocated for marketing?


  • How many hours per week can you devote to your business? If part-time, draw up a realistic schedule of available hours.
  • How / where will you provide the services/products (e.g. online, via a shop, at home, mail-order) and what type of costs are associated with your delivery method (e.g. travel, heating, lighting, electricity etc)?
  • Do you foresee any problems with your delivery method:
    • for you?
    • for your customers?
  • Do you have everything in place to begin providing the services or products?  If not, what preparation, money and time is required on your part to get you to this point?
  • What is your capacity (the maximum number of customers you can service)?  What would enable you to increase that capacity?
  • Do you need anyone else to help you deliver your product / service to your customers?  If so, how do you intend to work with that person / service provider (e.g. employee, contractor etc.)?
  • Do you have all the necessary licenses and business permits you need to operate your business?


  • What is your current monthly income?
  • How many hours do you currently work to generate that income?
  • How much of that income are you looking to replace with the income from your new business?
  • Is there any deadline for replacing some / all of that income (e.g. because your job is being made redundant, your company has cut back on your hours etc.)?
  • What is your proposed pricing schedule for your product / service? Make sure you list out any one-off fees, discounts, bulk-pricing etc.  How does this compare against your competitors’ prices?
  • What are your monthly costs of providing the services? For each cost on your list above, try to get as accurate an estimate of amounts as possible.
  • What capital expenditure (if any) will you need to spend in order to provide the services (e.g. on equipment, premises etc.) and when will you need to spend this?
  • How long will it be before you start to break even?  How long before you generate enough money to pay yourself a salary?
  • Who will manage your accounts for you?


  • Why do you want to start this business?  What are your drivers and goals?
  • What obstacles do you see to making this business a success?  How might you overcome these obstacles?
  • What help is available to your type of business (e.g. government grants, local enterprise schemes, mentor assistance, crowd funding)?
  • What are your current plans / timetable for expanding the business?  What capital would you need in order to achieve this?  Where will you obtain this investment?
  • If you had unlimited capital investment, what would you do with it to expand the business?


*DISCLAIMER: the above is not intended for you if you are pitching for capital investment.  You’re gonna need some pie charts for that…