The past six months have been a heck of a journey. I went from having no experience with the format (and a negative feeling about it) to being fully committed to it after recording more than 270 short-form videos. To say that I’ve learned a few things along the way is an understatement.
This post could go much deeper than this list. But it summarizes the best it can the most important lessons I’ve learned so far.
If you haven’t started creating your own short-form videos yet, it’s not too late. I hope this will be a push in the right direction. You can do it.
Have questions about short-form videos? Ask my AI-powered bot!
1. Volume First
Your primary focus should be on volume. Create. Just keep hitting record. Every time you publish a new video, you are going to learn something.
If you are publishing a video once per week, it’s going to take you far longer to learn. It’s basic math.
I published 70 videos in the first month of my journey. It was pretty frustrating and exhausting. But it was necessary.
Set a goal for at least one video per day. Truthfully, you should do more than that in the beginning if you can.
I’ll say that focusing on volume is a good long-term strategy, too. You create more videos to give you more chances to strike a nerve with your audience.
2. Don’t Let Quality Concerns Impact Creation
Here’s something you need to understand: Your audience will be virtually invisible at first. Very few people will see your videos.
Does that sound like a downer? It shouldn’t. It should be freeing.
You are going to come up with every excuse in the beginning not to create a video. You’re going to lack confidence and you will be self-conscious. You’ll worry about everything.
Don’t. Embrace that you will create some bad videos. And you won’t create good ones until you get through that stage.
Here’s the first video I created once I committed to creating videos. I embraced that I was going to create bad videos, and it’s what helped carry me through.
Create stuff that sucks!
Your lighting is bad? Who cares. Bad mic? So what. Don’t know how to edit? Doesn’t matter. Bad haircut? It’s fine.
By worrying about this stuff, you’re only slowing down your growth. Your videos will get better and better with time. It will get easier. But it’s not easy at first, and you need to be okay with the results.
And maybe you need to remind yourself that virtually no one will see your video anyway. And if they do, they’re often encouraging (ignore the haters, of course!).
3. Create an Evolving Routine
The main thing, in the beginning, is this: Set aside time every day for recording, editing, and publishing.
How you do things will change. You’ll become more efficient. You’ll learn how you like to do things. Do you want to batch record one day and edit on another? Do you like to do everything at once? You’ll figure that out as you go.
Your routine won’t be perfect in the beginning, but you need one. It will evolve as you sort this out and find what works best for you.
4. Focus on a Single Thought or Point
In the beginning, my videos were far more complicated than they needed to be. I was too wordy, which probably isn’t a surprise. I needed to simplify.
If you focus on a single thought or point, you can exhaust that thought or point. It also opens up opportunities for creating more videos, rather than trying to squeeze everything into one.
It should be very easy to explain what your video is about in a few words. If it’s not, it’s too complicated.
Once you realize that, it’s okay! Break it up into thoughts. You now have multiple video ideas.
5. Keep it Short
This was a lesson I learned rather quickly. I wanted to treat short-form videos like long-form videos. That’s a mistake.
Long-form videos are different. They can be casual and have a relaxed pace. Short-form videos need to be quick.
Eliminate wasted time. Your video should open without a pause and immediately provide a hook or explanation of what is coming.
Your audience is impatient. Don’t drag out a thought. Edit out unnecessary pauses and mistakes.
If you can, limit the length of your videos to about a minute. There are benefits to this beyond it being easier to consume.
First, it will work on all platforms (TikTok, Facebook Reels, Instagram Reels, Pinterest, YouTube Shorts, and LinkedIn). Now that Facebook Reels changed their time limit to 90 seconds, only YouTube Shorts caps out at 60. But one video could work on every platform.
The second is workflow. If you’re creating longer videos, you’re likely missing opportunities to break up your thoughts into multiple videos. Combined with having to edit a longer video, you are creating more work for yourself.
I’ve found that the 60-second limit also forces me to be concise and prioritize what is most important during the editing process.
6. Learn to Edit!
You won’t know how to edit your first few videos. That’s fine. Do not let that keep you from recording.
But if you’re like me, you’ll quickly realize what separates many other videos from your own: Editing.
There are two keys to editing:
1. Tighten up the message.
Remove the dead space, cut out repetition and stuff that makes less sense when you hear it back, and prioritize what is most important.
2. Grab attention.
This could be done by adding zooms and animations. Something I’ve learned to do is change the zoom on video segments that follow one another. This is one way to edit and make it seem like multiple cameras. I also add video actions to zoom in and out during shots.
Start with #1 and progress eventually to #2.
7. Equipment and Software Upgrades Come Later
I’m often hesitant to tell anyone what software or equipment I use. Not because it’s a secret, but because that decision should be customized to your needs and setup.
You will not know what equipment and software you need before you get started. Sure, you may know that you need lights, an external mic, and editing software. But what exactly you should get is not a decision you should make right away.
As time goes on, you will start to realize not just what you need but why you need it and how you plan to use it. In some cases, you may actually have all the equipment or software that you need and you didn’t even realize it.
First, you don’t need a special camera. Your phone should be fine (it’s what I use).
Second, an example of not needing to get something new while not worrying about what other people use is editing software. There are so many different applications out there for editing videos. The vast majority of their features are the same.
I use Screenflow. Truthfully, it would probably be easier if I used either Descript or CapCut for video editing. But, you know what? I’ve used Screenflow for more than a decade. I am super comfortable with it. Because of that, I know I’d be more efficient using Screenflow than another application.
You’ll find what works for you, but be patient.
8. Do Not Sell (Focus on VALUE)
If you’re a typical marketer, your first impulse will be to use short-form videos to sell your product or service. While this may make sense for limited situations, it often is the opposite.
If you are posting organically, the goal of your video should be to provide some sort of value — usually educate or entertain. Promotional organic “ads” do not work in this format.
I have to admit that once I started hearing people I follow and respect say this, it took a lot of pressure off. We’ll talk later about why it’s so hard to measure success anyway, so focusing on value is a much easier approach.
You need to grab attention within the first few seconds. If you don’t, the user will flip to the next video. Do you think a promotional video will keep their attention? Usually not.
If you’re in the teaching space like I am, this is rather easy. I use these videos to teach and inform. I build my brand, reputation, and expertise by helping others and proving that I know what I’m talking about.
Barring a few exceptions, let go of the need to sell. Your content will be much more engaging as a result.
9. Let Go of Measurement Concerns
Measurement was one of the primary stumbling blocks for me. It was one of the many things that kept me from getting into short-form video.
Links are easy. You know someone clicked your link and went to your website. Use some UTM parameters, and you can even know what someone did on your website.
Video is different. Especially if you don’t sell with your videos, measurement is largely a black hole.
You’ll know which videos were most popular (most views, longest view time, and most engagement). But that’s really it. All surface-level information.
It’s not that you should ignore these things. They are, after all, the only way you can truly track what is and isn’t doing well. But, don’t allow it to shield you from what’s most important.
I became a believer in short-form videos a couple of months into my commitment to the format. I started hearing from people who signed up for a membership or booked a one-on-one. Over and over, they’d tell me that the primary reason was my videos.
It’s not that my videos sold anything or even mentioned these products. It’s that they helped me make a personal connection with these people and reminded them on a daily basis of the value that I can provide.
This is something that can’t truly be measured. Instead, you have to believe in it and trust in it.
Measure what you can. But embrace that much of your impact won’t be measurable while still being worthwhile.
10. Do Not Be Deterred by Slow Growth
This is the hardest part. Unless you are in the extreme minority, you will not make an immediate impact.
Growth will be slow. It will be easy to get down because of it.
Resist. Remind yourself that this is part of the process.
I’ve found pretty good success in six months. I built a TikTok audience from nothing to 10,000 people. I brought my Facebook audience back to life. And I have truly tapped into my Instagram audience for the first time.
But, it’s not all a glowing success story. I’ve yet to solve the YouTube Shorts riddle. Some of my videos there have 15-20 views. And even where I’ve found success, it’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs.
Celebrate the growth, but do not let the tough times keep you down.
11. This is a Long-Term Commitment
This truly is most important. Most people will quit. They expect results within the first month or six months. It’s not easy to keep going.
You need to accept and embrace going in that this is going to be hard. You cannot look at this as something that you’ll continue only if you get early results. If that’s the case, plan to quit.
Realistically, it’s going to take you a year to see decent progress. And it might take more.
But it’s worth it. So commit to at least a year of being all-in on short-form video before you make any rash decisions.
Summary: Be Stubbornly Consistent
I talk about this in the video below, too. You must avoid the ups and downs and stay laser-focused on your goal. You must be stubbornly consistent.
No matter what your results, create and keep creating.
If everyone could do this, they would. But often what separates those who do from those who don’t has nothing to do with talent. Instead, it’s patience.
Do you have the patience to persist? Or will you quit when it gets hard? Most people will quit.
I often use the example of how I wrote about 600 blog posts the first two years of my website. It’s a similar concept. You need to be so focused on the goal of creation that nothing else matters.
Build it into your routine. Make sure it’s your priority. And keep pushing.
Have you gotten started yet with short-form video? What’s holding you back?
Let me know in the comments below!