Great overview of all the different mediums. Really enjoyed the article.
The Packaged Freelance Writer: 6 Non-Text Forms of Content to Offer Clients
Imagine for a second how much more marketable you would be if your freelance services covered more than just what you’re doing now – be that writing, design, coding, or what have you.
Are you thinking about it? I’m not talking about trying to be/do everything, just extending your offering to include images, audio and video content. This is especially targeted at freelance writers, though there’s no reason other freelancers cannot do it too.
You already know the benefits of promoting your freelance services with a podcast/ vodcast. Now consider what you can do for your clients, and not just with “casts“. Here are a few services you might consider developing skills for and adding to your freelance offering.
1. Images, Diagrams, Screen Snaps.
A vaguely related image with a post is nice to look at, but a good diagram explaining a concept is worth looking at. So is a suitable screen snap. Be your own art editor and offer these to your client. At a premium, of course.
- Diagramming: Gliffy (browser), Smartdraw (Windows; free trial available), MS Visio.
- Screenshots: Wink (Windows, Linux), TechSmith SnagIt (Windows), Screengrab! and Fireshot (both Firefox browser extensions). For Mac, there’s Copernicus for capturing snapshots and even screencasts (no audio).
If you’re running Windows and don’t mind a little bit of work, you can also use the PrtScn (Print Screen) button and a graphics editor. The PrtScn button takes a snap of the entire screen and copies it into the Clipboard. You can then use an graphics editor such as Fireworks, Photoshop or Gimp.
For example, here are two different diagrams that represent the information in this article:
Podcasting isn’t like radio. That is, the intent should not necessarily be to gain a giant, broad audience but rather a targeted one. (Combine a podcast with article content, to draw in people using text search engines.) If you can learn to use your voice effectively, you can add podcasts to your offerings. Or you can script podcasts and hire a Voiceover freelancer.
You can also conduct interviews using VoIP software (such as Skype) on your computer and use one of a variety of audio recording programs to capture both sides of the conversation.
Software: Audacity is a free cross-platform (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) audio recording/ editing program that packs far more features than is immediately visible. There are many other programs, depending on your OS, but Audacity is a good starting point. AudioFlash is another, for Windows, from the guy who created the CamStudio screencasting software (see below). To record Skype calls, there’s PowerGramo, HotRecorder, Skype Recorder and many more audio apps both Windows and Mac.
3. Slideshows, Stillcasts.
For lack of a better name, I call the videos that people make out of still images and audio tracks “stillcasts“. This adds visual elements to an audio podcast, leaving room for visual branding for your client. Stillcasts are a bit more sophisticated than the PowerPoint slideshow presentations that people sell in packages and sometimes call “screencasts” or even “video“.
Software: I prefer SplashcastMedia for putting together “rich” slideshows and stillcasts. Also see Animotoas an example of another way to make stillcasts. Some “web slideshow” applications will suffice as well. Native video editing software such as iMovie (Mac) and Windows Moviemaker allows you integrate still images and frame transitions with audio. There’s also a 30-day fully-functioning free trial of Sony Vegas Pro video editing software (Windows).
Screencasts are video recording of a software app in use. They’re an ideal way to demonstrate a new website or application, and to produce how-to tutorials. With the rapidly growing number of available computer applications, there’s always room for good how-to videos. What’s more, the fact that people are paying for PowerPoint slideshow “videos” suggests there’s a market for real how-to screencasts.
- Windows: CamStudio (free), Camtasia Studio ($, 30-day free trial), FreeScreencast, Webinaria.
- Mac OS X: Snapz Pro, Screenflick, iShowU, Screenium, and ScreenFlow.
- Linux: There are several Linux-based screencast apps, including recordMyDesktop, Xvidcap, Istanbul, and Pyvnc2swf. (Softpedia covers Linux screencasting using all four of these programs, and offers downloads.) However, Kevin Kubasik found some of these lacking . Ubuntu Blog talks about how to use ffmpeg for screencasting in Ubuntu Linux. See Linux.com for a review of various apps, and how to use ImageMagick and !/bin/sh to produce a screencast. Also see FreeCharity and LinuxHaxor for additional articles about Linux screencasting.
The above list is not comprehensive, but as you can see, there’s now a proliferation of screencasting software – mostly for the Windows and Mac platforms. (Sort of suggests a market for screencasts, no?)
5. Vodcasts, Web Video.
Most people like watching video, but not everyone is comfortable with being in video. Just keep in mind that a vodcast can simply combine some live footage.
Software: Since vodcasts have some live footage, you’ll need video editing software. Start with some of the freebies or free trials mentioned above (iMovie, Windows MovieMaker, Vegas Pro). Once you’re comfortable with the general workflow of video editing, and if client quality demands require it, you could move up to higher end video editing software – or hire out.
When working with a DV camcorder, I use PinnacleSys‘ MovieBox Plus external capture device, which includes the Pinnacle Studio software. The MovieBox Plus and MovieBox Ultimate versions include a sheet of green screen fabric – ideal for doing video effects.
If you’re planning on livecasts and have a Mac, check out VaraSoftware’s Wirecast.
The likelihood of the average freelancer being asked to produce animation for a client is probably fairly low – unless you’re already an animator. Still, you can generate simple animations using the principles of Stop-motion Animation. Since stop-motion animation is based on stringing together a sequence of still images, screenshots or diagrams, you don’t have to use Gumby and Pokey-like clay figures. I’ve used “stop-motion” to give diagrams a bit of life as a short animation.
Software: As with Stillcasts (above), you can use iMovie and Windows MovieMaker to string together a sequence of still images/ diagrams and generate video content. There are also numerous 3D software packages – many free or with trial versions – that generate animations. In the past, I’ve used Bryce, POV-Ray, Terragen/ Terranim, and Blender, though these were for personal projects. (I’ve also used higher-end packages such as Maya 3D and Lightwave, though unless you’re an animator, this might be overkill.)
A successful freelancer thinks like an advertising agency executive. The client doesn’t always know what they want. If you have the skills to offer the non-text content above, then don’t be afraid to let clients know, when appropriate. Make sure that you have samples available on your professional website (and that you have clearance from past clients, if necessary). Ultimately, your client will have to decide on what they want, but many will be impressed that you considered offering them an “enhanced” package of content.
Since many of the options above require doing voiceover work, I recommend reading Dustin Wax’s 10 Tips for Would-be Podcasters at Lifehack. Following these tips is especially important if you’re doing “casting” work for clients.
About The Author: Raj Kumar Dash is a long-time freelancer/ web consultant, an experienced and published writer, a published author, former print magazine publisher, retired programmer, hobby composer and short story writer, and aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter.
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June 18th, 2008 at 10:58 am
June 18th, 2008 at 12:02 pm
Great overview of the types of mediums freelancers can exploit. Personally i have been thinking about screencasting for a while and am currently using ScreenFlow to really get into it.
June 18th, 2008 at 2:04 pm
This isn’t a daily article – this is going to take me all WEEK to digest ! Fantastic advice and links to everything I’ll ever need…
Oh Mac users, don’t forget you can SHIFT- CMD 3 for screenshots and (making Windows users jealous …) SHIFT-CMD $ for a selective screenshot – just drag across the area to be grabbed.
About billing – when it comes to the newer things, like where you said to be your own art director and suggest new ideas : how do you bill for “Let me find out how” ?
June 18th, 2008 at 3:51 pm
This is especially important for bloggers to remember. We tend to think we always need text and more text when in fact there are many great alternatives.
June 18th, 2008 at 9:26 pm
This article is going in my reference notes! A lot of useful information packaged within a few words. Thanks. Now, I can go beyond the simple diagrams I offer with my writing. Thanks a lot for your valuable article.
June 19th, 2008 at 1:08 am
Good stuff (as usual).
One glaring omission on the screenshot apps – Paparazzi for the Mac. It is awesome.
Another one getting some attention and is friendly for non-techie types is Skitch.
Thanks for the info!
June 20th, 2008 at 9:19 pm
Great article! I want to get into screencasting. It’s a great medium for software (design) tutorials. Thanks.
June 23rd, 2008 at 6:55 pm
@Joe, Anuradha: Thanks!
@Grace: There’s really a lot options these days for capturing screencasts. I’m not sure I can cover it here at FF, but I will be doing “how-tos” at my NewMediaJones.com site soon, once I change the theme and plan both a podcasting and screencasting how-to series.
@Nicholas: Good luck :)
@Laura: It’s a shame, isn’t it?
@trif3cta: Thanks for the heads up on Paparazzi. I left out Skitch b/c I couldn’t quit figure out how to describe it.
@Sean: Let me know if you need any suggestions. Don’t know much about Mac screencasting s/w, but I’ll be covering PC apps at NewMediaJones.com.
July 11th, 2008 at 3:56 pm
Thanks for including us on your list of recommendations for visually representing ideas. We’ve added some great new symbols in the last few months that would enhance using Gliffy by Freelancers. Also, our addition of our multi-user accounts offer opportunities to permit your clients to use Gliffy Online with you as the account administrator. Let us know what you’d like to see next,
debik at gliffy dot com
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