The video industry is massively oversubscribed – let’s cut to the chase immediately.
Video continues to dominate online marketing when it comes to engagement rates and the undeniably impressive ability it has to capture the interest of audiences no matter the subject, industry or – sometimes, unfortunately – the production value.
We now live in a world where most people carry devices in their pockets that are capable of recording stunning 4K video and running powerful apps for editing and distributing the finished product.
But, you know what? That’s what makes this industry worth it! It’s what makes getting out of bed in the morning and heading to your job in video marketing one of the best career choices available. It’s challenging, you’ll have to fight to be noticed and the technology you use will evolve almost daily.
That’s why I love it, and it’s what inspired me to write this guide to getting into the industry. If you want to make a mark in the video field and have the tenacity to carry yourself through what is – and I really cannot stress this enough – an incredibly challenging path, you’ll never dread going to work; you’ll love it.
How to use this guide
If you carry out the suggestions and follow the advice contained in this guide, you’ll increase your chances of launching a career and making yourself appealing to potential employers.
This guide is aimed at the UK market, but most of the principles can be applied the world over, and many will cross over into other forms of marketing. I’ll be presenting it in the form of bite-sized tips and lists which you can consume in any order you see fit.
Video production has something of a glamorous image, but as you’re about to find out, it’s all about hard work, the ability to organise yourself and unwavering commitment.
You’ll hit setbacks along the way, but be persistent. There’s an element of luck involved, of course, but it’s also about timing. By equipping yourself with the tips in this guide and continually learning about the landscape of the industry, you’ll make it – I’m sure of that.
It’s my opinion, but it’s worth following…
This guide has been written following many years of experience in the industry, and is based on my opinion. It isn’t a reflection of Slinky Productions and is simply my advice which you can choose to take wholesomely or pick and choose the bits you most agree with.
I’ll be updating the guide periodically, so remember to check back!
This guide is divided into a number of sections, each designed to help you take those important, tentative steps into the industry.
I’ll be listing some of the most important trade news sites, resources, podcasts and publications you need to add to your bookmarks and check in with regularly. This industry is all about continually learning, and I’ve done the hard work for you in sourcing the best sources of expertise.
Traditional networking isn’t dead – no matter how much the LinkedIn brigade try and convince us otherwise.
That ethereal thing that doesn’t exist until… well, until you manage to find it. But how do you get it? Where does it come from? How do you get people to listen to you when you don’t have any work experience? There’s a way – I promise!
Clubs and organisations
Trade unions and organisations play a big role in the video marketing industry – I’ll introduce you to the most important.
If it’s been suggested to you that the humble CV is dead – think again. It still plays a vital role in this industry, and when combined with more modern forms of self-promotion is still capable of putting you ahead of the pack.
If there’s one industry where you simply can’t do it alone, it’s the video industry, and I know exactly how you can get in amongst it and work alongside some of the best people in the business (who, incidentally, usually make brilliant friends, too!).
Online news and resources
The web is absolutely full of brilliant resources for video marketing. Every single aspect can be dug into and continually learned about – usually without paying a penny.
Here are my favourite sources for doing just that:
Media Guardian Online
Whether you’re a Guardian reader or not, their media section should be right at the top of your bookmark list. It’s aimed at the masses, but it’s probably the best source of news and opinion on all things media-based. A daily must-read.
Media Guardian Podcasts
If you have less time on your hands to read but plenty where you’re driving, walking the dog or working out at the gym, the Guardian’s podcast output will keep you busy and informed about everything related to the media industry. Brilliantly produced and a must for industry wannabes.
Endlessly quoted and nearly always first to the big news in the world of media, Digital Spy is almost too brilliant – make sure it doesn’t completely take over your spare time…
There are a huge number of disciplines to learn in video production, and Lynda remains the best source of expert tuition. It’s a chargeable service, but the quality of the tuition and the sheer range of lessons on offer is staggeringly good.
Trade Unions and Organisations
You don’t have to be a member of these organisations, but I highly recommend checking them out if you want the best support the industry has to offer.
BECTU is the UK’s most important trade union for the media industry. Become a member, and you benefit from access to events, training and one-to-one support.
They also offer public liability insurance, which is vital if you’re about to enter this sector.
Institute of Videography
Less known to industry outsiders than BECTU, the IoV is a not-for-profit company that actively promotes professionalism in videography, and those in the know will spot advocates a mile off. Membership is definitely recommended if you’re serious about this as a career.
Below is what I believe to be the most important trade publications you’ll want to get your hands on whenever a fresh issue hits the shelves.
TV news, jobs, industry data and brilliant analysis, all at your fingertips.
This one digs deep into the techy side of the industry, but for that reason, it’s one to keep a close eye on.
If you thought TVB was techy, wait until you get a load of TV Bay. This is geek central for video buffs, but absolutely essential reading if that’s your main area of interest.
Media Guardian Supplement (on a Monday)
It arrives every morning in the Guardian and is worth buying the paper for alone. In my opinion, the best analysis and insight into the media industry, bar none.
Podcasts have exploded in popularity in recent years, and it’s easy to see why.
Their production values have increased dramatically, and there’s a colossal library to choose from. If you’re looking to get into video production, there are two in particular you need to subscribe to:
The Media Show
Presented by Olly Mann, this podcast dubs itself the ‘Essential Guide to Radio, Television and the Press’ – and I couldn’t put it better myself!
BBC Media Show
The Beeb knows its stuff, let’s be honest, and I think this is the pick of the bunch from their huge range of podcasts.
You can’t really be a shrinking violet in the video industry, but that doesn’t mean you need to be an irritating extrovert, either. You just need to work on some key things and have the right material to hand.
These aren’t old-fashioned. Make sure you have plenty with you, wherever you go.
Get yourself a domain name, and if you have the cash available, ask someone who knows what they’re doing to build you a website. Alternatively, use something like WordPress to create your own. This will become the home for your showreel and digital business card.
Signing your emails off with “Sent via my iPhone” or “Cheers, Garry” isn’t doing much for your personal brand. Take some time to design a proper email signature that includes all of your contact details and a link to your website.
If you’re not already active on social media, now is the time to be so. This is your opportunity to develop your public profile and do so in a way that makes you attractive to potential employers. Be yourself, enter debate but don’t be defamatory or get into unnecessary arguments.
I mentioned this at the start of the guide: a CV is needed – it’s that simple. Take plenty of time creating yours, and remember to run it past a few people before sharing with potential employers. Here are some quick tips:
– use up to two sides of A4;
– use good quality paper when printing;
– always send a cover letter with the CV;
– spell and grammar check – always!;
– email in PDF format – not Word;
– set the file name as your own name;
– put your most recent experience and qualifications right at the top;
– include non-media jobs, but give them less airtime;
– include your hobbies, but don’t waffle on about them (unless industry-related); and
put your education details at the bottom, below work experience – the latter is far more important.
Applying for a job
The time has come. You’ve got your CV, you’ve done some groundwork and you’re continuing to learn about the industry. Now, you’re ready to apply for a job.
You’ll be glad to hear that applying for a job in this industry is actually quite straightforward – providing you abide by the following rules:
– get the company name right when applying (you’d be surprised by how many people mix this up when applying for multiple jobs);
– respect the company’s procedure for applying – if it says email only, don’t pick up the phone, because that might go against you;
– when writing your cover letter, write down how other people would describe you (be truthful!).
Gulp. Interview time!
Don’t worry – this is the exciting bit, and the old adage ‘you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you’ is so true.
There are some tried-and-tested interview tricks and pieces of common sense that will serve you well and reduce those nerves. Here are my favourites:
– always turn up on time. First impressions really do count;
– research the company thoroughly several times before you walk into that room;
– focus on selling the skills you have that are directly compatible with the job you’re applying for;
– be humble – even if you’re being interviewed by someone who appears to be more junior than you;
– take notes – as an interviewer, there’s nothing more disheartening than an applicant who walks in empty-handed;
– talk more than the employer; if they approach the interview correctly, they’ll expect you to do 80% of the talking; and
– never suggest that the role you’re applying for is a stepping stone for a bigger goal – even if that’s the case.
One of the best things about this industry is that it’s a great idea to create your own showreel as an addition to your CV. A bit like they do in Big Brother, only nowhere near as irritating.
When planning yours, remember not to mislead and be clear and honest about your experience and goals. Use captions and examples of the techniques you’re saying you specialise in.
In terms of length, stick to less than two minutes, or challenge yourself to create a one-minute eye-grabber. Remember – it’s ok to have multiple show reels if you’re multi-disciplined, so don’t try and cram everything into one video.
Traditional networking remains a brilliant way to promote yourself and find potential employers. They just require courage and the ability to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and meet complete strangers.
The first one is always the hardest, but they become enjoyable after that – I promise. Here are a few that are definitely worth attending:
Creative Networks (TiC Birmingham)
Regularly held in Birmingham, this is a great networking event for aspiring and experienced media professionals.
Funding and commissioning roadshows
Although sometimes harder to find, these are great events if you’re looking to get funding for your own start-up or a commission for work.
Union meetings, talks and seminars
Again, you’ll need to do some digging, but if you make networking your starting point, the more experienced members of the industry will point you in the direction of the best gatherings elsewhere.
Getting work experience
This is one of the hardest things to do when you’re just starting out, but it’s entirely possible – you just need to know where to look.
BBC Regional Radio & TV
Speak to your local BBC station. The worst they can say is “no” and take your details, but they might just have a position waiting to be filled.
Youthcomm Radio, Worcester
This is a brilliant youth community station and has a superb ethos about developing young talent. Definitely worth a call.
If the BBC turn you down, why not try their biggest rival?
Collaboration is an important skill to develop in the media industry, too, and there are some great resources for putting yourself out there and sitting alongside some very useful friends:
– creative community of actors, film and TV crew
– membership: £39.95 per year
– offer discounts for graduates and industry partner
Can I work at Slinky?
We’re a small video production company with a relatively small team, but we love bringing in bright, fresh new talent when we need it. Opportunities to work at Slinky are limited, but they do crop up occasionally. Follow us on Twitter and keep an eye out for posts advertising new roles – then put the advice in this guide into practice!
I hope you’ve found this guide useful and that it’ll be a handy companion as you make your way into this brilliant industry.
Before I leave, I’d like to offer some quick-fire bonus tips that have “Post-It Note me” written all over them, if you’ll excuse the pun:
– attend industry trade fairs – they’re fun and you might just find a potential employer!;
– watch loads of TV and films (best tip of the lot, right?);
– register for free TV recordings at studios and immerse yourself in this world;
– think widely beyond the job role you’ve always hankered for (you might have missed something);
– get a driving license if you don’t have one – it can make the difference between getting a job and missing out to someone else;
– accept you won’t make it straight into the director or producer’s chair – real-world, ground-level experience is a must;
– watch directors’ commentaries and making-of features;
– watch plenty of programmes that focus on the technical production of TV such as Galapagos and BBC Natural History shows;
– look for b-roll clips on YouTube;
– keep up-to-date with tech and buy what you can to play with;
– follow industry influencers on social media;
– produce your own content regularly (it costs virtually nothing to do so these days);
– get involved with student radio, hospital radio and student TV;
– when writing your CV, avoid the common buzz phrases ‘team player’, ‘enthusiastic’, etc;
– save EVERYTHING creative you produce at college or in your spare time;
– get to know the many roles in the industry from exec producer to focus puller.