Film School: How to Create Your Own Self-Promo Videos

When it comes to showcasing your talent, seeing is often believing – and stills don’t always do the trick. Bring a little movie magic to your self-promotion strategy with these tips. This article is in the September 2014 issue of HOW magazine, the Self-Promotion & Marketing issue.


Illustration by Elly Walton;

Video is all the rage right now, and rightfully so: More and more designers are using it as an effective self-promotional tool to advance their careers, whether they’re freelancing, looking for a job or running their own design firms.

It’s one of the many mediums that falls under the “content marketing” trend, and it’s being used strategically in a wide variety of ways. Designers are creating videos to achieve all of the following:

Bring their portfolios to life. If a screenshot or photo of your work doesn’t do it justice, video may be more effective at demonstrating your capabilities (especially when it comes to interactive work). For example, without video, the “cool factor” would have been missing in Boston-based Cleveland Design’s portfolio piece documenting a trade-show game for Thomson Reuters that utilizes motion detection. The video made this new and complex technology clearer, plus showcased how fun and tactile it is. Though the video still gets weekly traffic almost a year later, the real prize came when a different department at Thomson Reuters saw it in action and hired the firm to create a game for another event.

Demonstrate a process. Instead of a static self-promo case study, New York City–based firm MSLK uses a three-minute video with very high production values to showcase its in-house “360° Branding” process, while simultaneously exhibiting its work for big-name clients such as Ralph Lauren and L’Oréal. The video positions MSLK as a strategic partner by detailing their processes in a voiceover. In one section, MSLK even breaks down what didn’t work about their client’s previous logo, what they improved and why, as well as the awards the work won.

Educate prospects and clients. The essence of content marketing is the development of educational material that conveys your expertise and positions you as a leader to your target market—which in turn markets you as a brand. It’s thought to be a much more effective self-promo strategy for creatives than, say, making a straightforward commercial for your business. Self-promotion via content marketing was exactly the goal for solopreneur Amy Caracappa-Qubeck, who in 2014 produced her own 25-part talking-head–style video series, “You Know Your Website Is
Dominating When …” (aka YKYWIDW). Caracappa-Qubeck’s work brings to life the true promo power of content marketing through video—which we’ll take a closer look at below.



The substance of her series, how to use the web to market a business, is rooted in her positioning statement— “Helping introverts dominate online (one website at a time)”—and includes humorously titled topics such as YKYWIDW #8: “It Doesn’t Choose Its Color Scheme Like George Costanza Chooses His Outfits.”

Her target market is small- and medium-sized B2B business owners who tend to be introverted but care about their online presence, need marketing help and need a push. These are people who would (and do) say to her, “I have a website that works, but I want one that generates leads—a site that takes my brand to the next level and does the selling for me when I can’t.”

With that market in mind, Caracappa-Qubeck produced 20 main episodes plus five bonus episodes of three to six minutes in length. Each video can also stand alone—all the better for repurposing as self-promotion tools and email capture incentives later on.

Sounds like a tall order, right? Not so much.

Caracappa-Qubeck says it was relatively easy. She did it as part of a 30-day “vlogging” (video + blogging) challenge with members of her creativity group. The “challenge” was to produce 30 days of videos with the goal of getting used to the format and pulling together material on a theme.

Here are some of the key ways she created her self-promo content marketing videos, from topics and technology to production and distribution—and how you can, too.

1. Determine topics relevant to your target market. Brainstorming on her theme, Caracappa-Qubeck came up with a long list of topics, then used old-fashioned index cards to order them, which made mixing and matching easy. Topics included everything from SEO, branding and form versus function to social media, goal setting and metrics. Channel your expertise, because that’s exactly what will promote you as a brand.

2. Use the technology at hand. One of the best parts about creating your own content marketing videos: You probably already have all the tools to do it. If approached correctly, there’s no need for costly professional equipment or services. Caracappa-Qubeck used her iPhone 5 with the video setting on the native camera app, front-facing and in a horizontal position. That’s because TVs, computer monitors, iPad and iPhone all display video best horizontally, and YouTube always uses the 16:9 aspect ratio. All Caracappa-Qubeck had to buy was a tripod and an adapter to hold the phone steady while she talked in front of the camera.

3. Choose a convenient location. Caracappa-Qubeck selected a spot in her home office with ambient sunlight (a little tricky to regulate, but not only does it avoid costly light rigs, it also makes you look good). The background was simple and she changed outfits and other elements to add personality and interest for viewers.

4. Batch the production. This was the easiest part for Caracappa-Qubeck. She recorded multiple videos at once, doing up to five or six in a day, once a week, over the course of a month. It allowed her to pull off the series while not falling behind on everything else in her career.

5. Be yourself. In the videos, Caracappa-Qubeck’s manner is relaxed and friendly. She speaks slowly and articulates clearly, without reading but sometimes referring to her notes on an index card taped to the tripod. “I wanted it to be free-flowing and conversational,” she says. Remember: You’re conveying your expertise, but moreover, promoting yourself as a brand, so show clients who you really are.

6. Allow plenty of time for post-production. This is where the time investment can get out of control. Caracappa-Qubeck had to upload the videos to iMovie, do minimal editing and cropping, add titles, and then pop each one onto her YouTube channel—a great way to give them much wider exposure than is possible through one’s own site.

Depending on how you do it, producing video may require more effort than most traditional marketing tools, like sending an email newsletter or mailing a printed brochure. But as Caracappa-Qubeck notes, “It’s a way for people to get to know me before we even talk. That’s important because market research shows that people buy because they have a personal connection.”

In other words, it’s worth the time because it’s an incredibly effective way to achieve two of the essential marketing goals: to showcase what you know, and to connect on a human level with prospects.

This article is from the September 2014 issue of HOW magazine, our Self-Promotion & Marketing issue. This issue is all about self-promotion, from learning how to court clients to the winners of the Promotion and Marketing Design Awards winners. Also in this issue, get the 5 reasons designers should love selling their ideas.