Bootstrapping Case Study: Screencasting on the Cheap

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

Screencasting is building into a hot niche, and tutorial videos have a great deal of potential for generating revenue. You could build a business around it. There are millions of people searching every day for information on “how to” do something, possibly on a topic you can “teach” through a video screencast. I previous wrote about bootstrapping an online information business. This post is supplementary to that one, and there is a bit of overlap here.

To clarify, screencasts are videos where you’ve “captured” your activity while running a piece of software. Camstudio is a free piece of software that lets you do that, but it has a limited feature set, if you want professional quality production, callouts, swipes, narration, etc. For that, you need something like TechSmith‘s Camtasia Studio, which runs about US$300.

I splurged earlier this year and bought a copy, and it’s worth every cent because it paid for itself in video tutorials I produced for other websites. But you don’t actually have to pay for it up front. If you follow my instructions, you can bootstrap your way. All it requires is a bit of planning, and you could generate enough income to pay for a copy.

Strategy
Here’s one way that you can spend nothing upfront on Camtasia Studio and get the benefits of the full version.

  1. Brainstorm a plan for video screencasts that you can sell online, along with how you’ll promote.
  2. Set up a Paypal account.
  3. Set up the infrastructure for a website where you’ll sell your videos.
  4. Integrate the PayPal purchase button.
  5. Download the 21-day free trial.
  6. Produce a round of videos and post them on your site for sale.
  7. Promote your videos by releasing teasers on YouTube and other sharing sites, and SplashCast. Blog about your videos, too, to drum up interest.
  8. Sell either downloadable copies of your videos or a flat or monthly membership access.
  9. Pay for a full copy of Camtasia Studio.


Variations
There are at least three variations to the process above:

  1. Start with the free Camstudio for prelimary work.
  2. Promote your for-sale screencasts by offering an excerpted tutorial to some select blogs, in return for a promotional link.
  3. Instead of selling screencasts yourself, sell them to blog owners, along with a tutorial article. If you’re using either the free Camstudio or the free trial of Camtasia Studio, you can start selling articles with videos right away. No setup, no PayPal integration.

    You could sell such blog articles for between $50-$200 each, depending on how much work they are. My own tutorials over at Tubetorial, SearchEngineJournal and Performancing took between 4-6 hours of total work each, including scripting, screencasting, production, video upload to SplashCast, article writing, editing.

    While this freelancing, which is not entrepreneuring, it could turn into a startup business.


Promotion
Ideally, you will want to have some “presence” online, maybe with a blog, before you try to sell a brand new video series. Or a very powerful copywritten sales page. This gives you a better chance of converting viewers of your teaser videos into buyers.

Summary
If you’re covering a hot topic and have screencasts that really teach something useful (such as how to use such and such software or web application) and are targeted to the right people, then there’s a good chance you could sell your series. Or you could get a promise from various bloggers that you’ll write an article and have a screencast video with it. With a bit of savvy and willingness to do the necessary work, you could turn screencasting into a business.

Obviously, you are ultimately paying for the Camtasia Studio software. However, you’ve made it work for you, without an initial cash outlay. That’s bootstrapping in action.


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1 Comment »

  1. The big problem with selling screencasts is that you have an uphill struggle finding an audience who are prepared to pay.

    First you have to find interested people and then you have to establish your credibility before someone will pay. You’re doing this whilst competing with bloggers who create textual tutorials (surrounded by Ads) at a faster rate than you.

    Unless you invest in a good site you’ll also lack useful features like a comment system (for public testimonials), voting and an active userbase who like to discuss and promote your work.

    Based on these problems we created http://ShowMeDo.com two years ago – we have an active, recurring visitorship of users who like to learn via screencasts. We also sell our own content and we invite our authors to sell their own videos.

    Much of our content is free, it is all highly educational, we have prestigious folk like members of the Python Software Foundation as a part of our site (creating free Python tutorials).

    CamStudio is a great piece of sw but note that there are free/open-source tools which are very powerful (I use HyperCam and CamStudio by preference). I have some notes here that will give you options:
    http://showmedo.com/submissionsForm
    (this is our submissions page – it also details which tools to use and that’s the bit you should concentrate on)

    You are welcome to use us as a promotional vehicle for free material and also to sell through us to our audience.

    Note that *all* material that comes to the site is checked for quality – we only publish good, useful material that is beneficial to our users. We are *not* YouTube.

    If you’d like to meet us and our authors then do come and join us in our active Google Group (http://groups.google.com/group/showmedo)

    Regards,
    Ian Ozsvald, co-founder of ShowMeDo
    ps. we boot-strapped ShowMeDo – background information on our journey and on the other entrepreneurial events that I run in the UK is available on my personal blog (http://ianozsvald.com).

    Comment by Ian Ozsvald — November 14, 2007 @ 9:59 pm

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