8 reasons you’re not making money from your videos and how to correct them

If you’re a filmmaker, we know times are tough and budgets are at an all-time low. As composers, we understand that making money from your passion is tough, but making money from your films is possible, you just need to think about the process from a business-perspective as well as an artistic one.

1. Give away freebies

You’re probably wondering what that’s all about right? Why would you give away your hard work for free when you’re trying to earn money!? Well, by giving away stuff for free, you extend your reach to new audiences, feed into your online marketing efforts by building ‘brand awareness’ and can establish yourself as an authority in a type of filmmaking.

What can you do with this targeted traffic? Earn through advertising or selling directly to your fans. And while this approach is possibly not the easiest way to make money (how much you earn depends on heavy traffic or the willingness of your fans to support you), it is essential as part of a longer-term strategy to engage your audience.

If you haven’t noticed already, we give away a freebie if you sign up to our newsletter here.

2. Become a YouTube partner

When you buy our music, you get a license to clear the third-party match claim on YouTube and monetise your videos. With multiple videos and increasing traffic you can earn decent amounts through advertising revenue, but more importantly, you will ‘build your tribe’ as Internet Marketing guru Seth Godin would say, which is where the real money is. It’s also where a sustainable income can come from – loyal fans of your work are interested in more than just buying a product, they’re in it for the experience.

3. Sell merchandise

If you’re not selling things related to your films, then you’re missing out on revenue! Feeding back into the idea of building a loyal fan base, you should be offering merchandise to fans who want to see your next production and support your development as a filmmaker. There is a reason why crowd-funding has kicked off in such a big way, it has demonstrated that people want to be part of something, especially if that something is something they enjoy (something something something). Personalise your merchandise with your personality, and you’ll stand out even more.

4. Crowd-fund your next film

Pitching your ideas to a boardroom of high-paid executives who are only interested in Return on Investment (ROI) will probably ruin your life as well as your soul. If you focus too much on the business side of things, it’s likely your films will lose its interest as it won’t have the passion that (I believe) films need to be truly successful. One of the beautiful things about places like Kickstarter, Indie-Go Go and Go Fund Me is that you can directly fund your film from your fans on a global basis.

Check them out, loads of films are financed by these types of sites every month and they give filmmakers a chance to earn from their work at the same time. And of course, a shameless plug at this point – you can get some quality background music here for the promo film you upload to sites like Kickstarter! Imagine how a track like this would jump-start your chances of getting your animation or a playful film funded 🙂

Buy this track

5. Get some sponsors

You know, getting sponsored isn’t only for rich football teams, blockbuster filmmakers who carefully edit in Pepsi placements and double-decker buses in London. If you have a steady flow of traffic to your YouTube channel, for example, you can profit on that by approaching brands looking for an audience like yours to make money and incorporate them into something like a video blog (vlog) entry.

This approach works particularly well for YouTube vloggers, but it can work for filmmakers who are creating other types of films too, such as placing their logo on your DVDs or adding the company name to credits along with their logo. Like anything in life, if you push the boundaries of your comfort zone a bit, you are often pleasantly surprised with how things work out in the end. Cold-call a few local companies (or larger ones if you’re confident!) and see if they’re willing to sponsor your next film.

6. Sell and rent your films!

There are a number of companies now offering ways for you to make money from your films. Websites like Distrify say that they can ‘turn the entire internet into a movie marketplace’ for you by making your film available to buy as soon as your audience sees the trailer. There are the usual online suspects like iTunes and Amazon Createspace, but bear in mind they often have significant hoops you have to jump through to get accepted and take a big chunk of the sale in exchange for exposure to a huge number of potential customers (see how traffic is important!).

Other places worth checking out are Pivotshare, Vimeo and of course the online aggregator service Distribber for getting involved in lots of online video-on-demand (VOD) marketplaces at once.

7. Offer an affiliate deal

We originally used to sell our music via Digital Goods Store who are excellent and offer a great way for you to sell your digital products (like a film) online. They also have an affiliate scheme baked in whereby you can entice other people to promote your films in exchange for a percentage of the sale. This type of affiliate scheme is available through other services as well like Clickbank (a very popular place for selling deals to affiliates) and, as you can imagine, can significantly increase your earnings as a filmmaker if done well!

10. Maybe your videos aren’t up to scratch yet?

Sometimes you need to face some harsh realities. Although there is often a market for anything out there (look at the top five strangest things sold on eBay for example where Britney Spear’s hair sold for $1,000,000!), sometimes, you need to accept that you need to improve your craft before people will take you seriously. I’ve had to do this many times (and continue to do so!), but it’s only ever helped me create better music and increase my value to the world. Identify where the weak points are in your films, is it due to:

  • Production values like poor lighting, shaky shots or bad sound?
  • A weak storyline / narrative?
  • Your film being the wrong type of film for your intended audience?
  • Disjointed editing that leaves people confused?
  • Needing more ‘hands on the deck’? Sometimes, to get that shot right, you need more than just one person. Same with recording good audio, lighting and getting good actors for example.

And as Edoardo Nolfo says in his article 10 Lessons I Learned in 10 Years as a Filmmaker, if you still love your first film, it’s a bad sign! Its about constantly practicing by making new films that you improve your craft, editing, directing skills. A really good point Nolfo makes is that you should research into how filmmakers / directors are chosen in the area you’re interested in working in. By understanding the process, you give yourself a good advantage of getting a foot in the door and getting paid for your films!

The BBC also have a good guide on making a good short film.

Anything else?

If you have more suggestions for how you can make money from your videos, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Thanks to marco antonio torres for the Creative Commons image.

Please note, some blog posts may contain affiliate links to products. If you click on them and decide to buy the product, we earn a small commission which helps us support our work creating posts like this and videos etc. Thank you for your support!

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Pricing & Licenses overview

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License Type Standard Premium Pro
Web / streaming Use on social media sites like YouTube, Vimeo etc., podcasts, company website videos, online adverts & e-learning etc. Excludes crowdfunding. Up to 1 million views Up to 10 million views Unlimited views
Crowdfunding Video promoting a brand, product, service, promotion or company / organization incl. events. Goal of $1 - $20k Goal of $20k - $200k Goal of $200k +
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Television / Radio / Film Background music in TV & radio, theme music, film projects & film festivals. Cue sheet required Budget up to $50k, distribution in 1 territory in 1 project * Budget up to $1 million, distribution in 1 territory in 1 project * Budget of $1+ million, multiple territories, 1 project *
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