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December 13, 2016
Digital Marketing  |  10 min read

Common Mistakes that Small Business Owners Make With Their First Video

By Nina Froriep

Video marketing touches on many areas of expertise, way beyond marketing and communications, ranging from creative disciplines (like writing and visual design); to the technical, digital, and analytical aspects (like shooting, animation, and search engine optimization); to logistical skills (like shoot planning, and distribution). And, with that, the list of mistakes that can be made is quite impressive.

However, when it comes to creating a video for your small business, things can be kept simple without sacrificing impact.

As small business owners, we always try to find a balance between quality, price, and reasonable turnaround. We’re told that we can only have two out of three, but I think we can “beat the system” if we pay attention to detail and manage (mostly our own) expectations. 

Video marketing for small business is about paying attention to the right details at the right time.

So, what are the most common mistakes small business owners make with their first video? Here a list of the 10 most common mistakes I come across time and again. 

1. Setting unrealistic expectations

Video marketing is a learning process, even if you outsource it. Get guidance from a producer, or video marketer to help you set benchmarks, budget, and expectations. The most common places I see small business fail in video marketing are:

  • Not being realistic about your resources, especially you and your team’s time commitment
  • Underestimating the editing process (more on that later)
  • Focusing on the wrong aspects of video marketing (see #2)

2. Focusing on equipment

Here’s a story: A few months ago I produced a video to rave reviews from an agency and clients. My cameraperson’s work was especially lauded. An agency producer wanted to know which camera we had used. We dutifully answered the question, but we both had the same reaction:

It’s not about WHAT you shoot with, but about HOW you use the equipment.

So, to the question, “What camera should I use?”, I can only say, “It really doesn’t matter.” If you’re going for a first-time, DIY approach, your smartphone will most likely be just fine. 

3. Not contextualizing your video

The most beautiful video footage and amazing graphics mean nothing if your message isn’t on target, so make sure you spend time upfront to figure out your overall video marketing concept. 


  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your objective with the video?
  • Where and how are you sharing your video?

These questions will prompt you to think about where you will distribute the video, how you will introduce yourself, and what your call-to-action will be.

4. Not preparing your script and not keeping it simple

Don’t just lift your web copy or brochure text for your video. Think of how you would pitch yourself or your business at a networking event: Be personable, be concise, and be you.

Keep your video to one objective, one customer touch-point, and make it no longer than 30 seconds if you want to use it for social media.  

5. Not paying close attention to your eye line when shooting

You can create a powerful connection with your viewers if you talk directly into the lens, but if your eye line is “off”, you might come across in unintended (negative) ways.

  • Don’t use a cheat sheet that’s hanging next to the camera. Shifting your eyes to look at it will make you look “shifty”. Shoot section by section if you can’t memorize your script (note: this will require more extensive editing).
  • Keep the lens at eye level: If it’s too high, it makes you look meek. If it’s too low, it gives you a double chin and makes you look intimidating.
  • When you’re done with your shoot, smile and look into the lens for a few seconds. You need a bit of ‘extra’ at the end to give the editor a chance for a clean cut to make you look good.

Here a quick eye line tutorial: 

6. Not shooting in horizontal format

Video is (for now) a horizontal medium, so shoot horizontal!

Tip: If you hold your smart phone in a vertical position, start recording, and then turn it horizontal, the phone will continue shooting in vertical mode. Always start and stay in horizontal mode. Here a visual sample:


7. Not paying attention to your shooting location

Follow these simple rules:

  • Shoot in a quiet location
  • Shoot with your natural light source (window, lamp, etc.) such that it hits your face from the front or slightly off to the side (45 degree angle is perfect)


  • Don’t have a window behind you. The daylight will overpower everything else and your face will be dark.


  • Shoot in front of a neutral background. You want the viewer to pay attention to you, not what’s going on behind you. The picture below might look cool, but while Samir was talking viewers got distracted by the lively ongoing traffic behind him.


8. Not set realistic editing expectations

I have seen time and again do-it-yourselfers give up on the video marketing process because they get stranded during editing.

  • Either keep your video short enough so that you can get away with trimming the beginning and the end only, or
  • Be prepared to make a time commitment and learn how to edit yourself, or
  • Hire an editor

Here’s a “before” and “after” of the same video we created for Thanksgiving:

9. Not using music correctly

Music is a powerful tool to set the mood and make a good video great, but not all videos need music. A short talking-head video most likely does not.

If you must have music, make sure your viewers can actually hear what you have to say and aren’t struggling against the music. Here the same video we used to demonstrate shooting vertical vs. horizontal, but this time with some mellow music to demonstrate my point: 


10. Using online DIY animation platforms

Ok, I’m slightly biased here, as I focus on live shoots with my small business clients. Animation done right is amazing, but getting it right does not (or rarely will) involve an online based animation platform. If you need animation, I would suggest you find a professional animator. They are worth the money.

In Summary

One can always learn from other people’s mistakes, but the fastest learning process is learning from your own! Shoot some tests, see how they turn out, and take it from there.  

If you don’t have the time, or the inclination for a DIY approach, hire a professional video marketer or a small agency (such as ours Clock Wise Productions) with a solid track record.

For hiring video freelancers, I’d look at the upper range of offerings on Upwork and on film industry resource websites such as NY411, NYPG, and Mandy.com.

Happy Shooting!


Nina Froriep is a content producer, director, media strategist, and a small business owner. With her company, Clock Wise Productions, she has been servicing an international clientele with video marketing and media production for 20 years.

As of 2015, Nina has been focusing on developing services to help small business owners get affordable and professional video content. For more information visit her website.

Nina is a Swiss native, lives in Harlem, and is an avid biker and skier.

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