Small Business Owners: How To Shoot With Only Your Phone - And Why You Don't Need An Expensive Video


The SBA reports there are 23 million small businesses in America with only one person. That’s 23 million one-man-bands where the owner is the operator. If that’s you, you don’t need me or any other video producer. You do need, however, to bury the excuses and use that pocket-sized movie camera to shoot some videos of you and your business! In this post, I’m going to explain how you can use that nifty little phone to record decent videos and why you need to be doing this.

For those who need more, I’ve got a promotional video with your yours truly, shot with nothing more than my iPhone. You can study it, emulate it, and then shoot your own video. I’ll also send you a list of 20 different ideas for what to shoot because let’s face it – you may be rusty in front of a camera! Stick around ‘til the end for the bonuses!

1. Let’s start with WHY you need video

I talked a great deal about this here, but I’ll summarize right now:

  • Your buyers don’t read
  • Your buyers can’t read
  • Most of your buyers are visual learners
  • Your buyers want something disarming
  • Your buyers want to know who you are
  • Your buyers want to know if they can trust you
  • If it’s a product, your buyers want to see and learn about the product before they drive across town for it or wait for it to arrive in the mail
  • If it’s a service, your buyers want to see several video testimonials from your buyers
  • If it’s coaching/consulting, you better bet you need videos of you, and you better be espousing King Solomon levels of wisdom

With most internet traffic being video, you can’t afford to NOT do video.

2. Why you don’t need me or any other video producer

I want to do a video for you (as does any video producer worth her or his weight) – but only if you have the infrastructure for it. If you’re a digital ghost town, save your pennies and bootstrap your videos.

First, what do I mean by ghost town? Meaning, if your website is getting next to no traffic (you can check with Amazon’s Alexa tool), if you have zero SEO juice (can check with SpyFu), if you don’t have a YouTube (the 2nd largest search engine, and you’re not on it!?!), and if your Facebook is collecting cobwebs, then it’s a safe bet that you don’t know a thing about digital marketing.

It’s okay, I’m still learning too.

The fact of the matter is an ace video will not suddenly produce hundreds of leads for you. Chances are, like everything else you’ve haphazardly waded through online, your video will amass a few views (half of which are from you).

If you spend thousands of dollars on a quality video with no marketing strategy (if you’re the ghost town online), then chances are you’ll play the blame game, and if you’re not committed to being a quality leader, you’ll point the finger at the video producer as though it’s their fault. I talked a great deal about this need to own your mistakes before blaming others in my 2nd book, Nobody Told Me There Was Mustard On This Sandwich: Take Responsibility At All Levels Of Filmmaking. You need to look at the man (or woman) in the mirror and accept you’re at fault for breeding an online ghost town and then hoping a video producer will solve all your online traffic and lead generation problems.

Don’t shoot the messenger. A quality video (better yet, a GREAT story) is one tool in your toolkit to reach your people, your buyers, with your message. If you aren’t committed to a comprehensive online marketing strategy, you’re doomed to fail. Don’t pin it all on the producer.

Truthfully, I don’t want to do a video for you if you’re a one-man-band or one-woman-band. I have nothing against you – I’m for you, I want you to succeed, and that’s why I created this post. I want you to tear it up with video, but the reality is you can’t afford me and even if you could, without that infrastructure in place, you’ll likely blame me when the video fails to turn viewers toward your product or service.

I can be hired to consult and advise (filmmakers/video producers - consider this service instead), but I can't produce the video for you. I don’t want your nasty reviews online. I’d rather sacrifice the short-term gain of a few thousand bucks for the long-term gain of a sterling reputation. My business can fail tomorrow, but I’ve worked hard on my reputation.

So, you might as well fish out your iPhone, snap a video of you, and post the video on Facebook.

Then go shoot a YouTube live video answering another question. Rinse and repeat until you’re comfortable and actually seeing some results. (More on that in a second.)

But my brand…

You have no brand if you have no videos. I had a client do a few videos once and never use them - anywhere online. What were they waiting for? I don't know. But action is better than no action - figure out what didn't work later and improve or iterate.

What’s the expression about Rome and a single day? Get started muchacho.

3. Robert Rodriguez

He’s a brilliant, entrepreneurial director, and if you haven’t already (this is for my fellow filmmakers here), read his autobiography about his start in Hollywood. It’s inspiring, and if you finish it (yes, filmmakers, you need to read), you’ll find your courage meter going up.

For business owners, non-profit founders, or church leaders (or any decision maker toying with videos), here’s a morsel of Robert’s wisdom:

Your first 40 films will be crappy, so go ahead and shoot them to get them out of the way.

Sub “films” for “videos” - you don’t need Malcom Gladwell levels of practice or mastery, but you do need to commit to videos.

When your first 12 videos fail to gain traction, do you quit like the average bear, or do you lean in? We’ve established videos are a vital component to your online messaging, and video consumption will not slow down. Gone are the days of 1845 and the newest Charles Dickens’ classic hitting the book shelves. Your video messaging has to either entertain or inform your buyers within the first few seconds, and if you walk into this world half-heartedly, you will fail.

When you’ve shot your first 100 videos (why be average, why shuffle your way through any of this?), answer below in the comments section the answer to this question: what worked well?

4. Why you don’t need a fancy video camera or tons of lights – do this instead

I cringe every time I see this post on


Every week it seems, the same hopeful filmmaker hedges her or his career on the camera they’ll be using for their next video. Shucks, I still get asked about this:


Tsk, tsk, tsk. My response is always the same: use the camera you already have.

UK-based Simon Cade still shoots on his Rebel T2i, and that camera is about 7 years old in 2017, if not older.

I still shoot on a Blackmagic Pocket Camera (5 years old or older in 2017) and a Rebel T4i (ditto).

It’s like the old question given to Stephen King: “what kind of pencil do you use?” As though it was the pencil he used that pioneered his storied writing career… egad! It’s you – not the hardware so much. Sure, a Red Camera’s footage looks better than an iPhone’s, but go shot-for-shot with a talented cinematographer, and you’re going to get pleasing results with both.

If you have to bootstrap your way to doing videos, don’t shell out tons of bucks for gear you don’t need right now (if ever). Start small, and try this on for size:

A window.


Your phone.

Something to keep your phone upright.

YouTube app or even iMovie to trim and add some basic edits.

That’s it. 5 ingredients. Start with those.

Step 0: know what you’re trying to accomplish and how you’re going to entertain or inform the viewer. It’s the same when you cold prospect or follow up with a warm lead – you need to know what you’re doing. Don’t improvise like Michael Scott when he “filled in” for Dwight at the “best salesman” award ceremony.

Step 1: set up your camera on something that won’t move. Heck, books work here. You just need something sturdy your gato can’t knock over.

Step 2: make sure you have plenty of daylight coming through the window. Position yourself so the window is pouring light in on your side. This will create a soft, natural contrast to your face. If the light however comes in straight on you, then you’ll have a flatter look. Don’t – turn your shoulder to the window, and presto!

Step 3: put a few objects in the background to give some sense of depth (nothing is worse than a boring white wall, but if that’s all you have, then here’s what you can do to dress it up).

Step 4: turn off as many mechanical noises as you can (fridge, heating, air, etc.). Shoot your video when it’s quiet. You don’t want kids screaming in the background or your neighbor firing up the leaf blower outside the window.

Step 5: hit the record button. Speak your mind. Finish the recording. Until you’re comfortable with editing and capturing (or procuring b-roll), don’t sweat the fact it’s just you the whole time.

Step 6: trim using the free YouTube app or another app (like MPEG Streamclip if you’re on a desktop). Publish!

Step 7: (Bonus step) download Filmic Pro for your phone to control exposure, focus, etc. for your next video – when you’re comfortable with the basics and you want greater control over your image.

Step 8: embed that video in a blog post. Use that video’s description to write related content. It’s a perfect marriage between text and video that SEO will love, especially if you’re making people all learned and what-not. If you’re just staring at the camera and mumbling, you need to get pumped up first and start over at step 1. Better yet, if you’re a bore (unless you’re Steven Wright), find someone who’s energetic and pay them.

Step 9: this is the most important step, regardless of whether you paid someone to create your video or you did it yourself – promote the snot out of your video. So many rank-and-file social media users make this mistake. They post their content once and hope it’ll find its way home to its audience. Wrong! Post, re-post, and re-purpose. One-and-done is never one-and-done!

When you’re ready to level up, go to the school of Google University and YouTube University for loads of free education. Heck, even iMovie will allow you to make basic edits and overlays, and you can learn more about that tool at the aforementioned schools.

But Jake the film guy, I just bought this nifty light and I dropped big bucks on a camcorder!

I don’t care. I’m telling you need to focus on your delivery as you would in public speaking. What are you going to say in front of the camera? Figure that out first, then learn how to “work the crowd, keep eye contact, and minimize the shuffling of your feet as you speak.” Know what I mean Uncle Bob? Your mechanics as a speaker can be great (your video dressing can be phenomenal), but if your message is flat, you’ve failed. Go back to step 0.

Your first video is going to be bad. It’s going to be awkward. Unless you have a rich background in talking in front of a camera, accept that you’ll be awful in front of the camera. That’s why I mentioned the third point about Robert Rodriguez. Commit first and get some grit!

In time, you’ll get creative. You’ll find ways to broaden your videos. Your production value will grow. Heck, look at my humble beginnings versus now:



If you want an instructional (non-narrative) before-and-after, it’s the same story:

Early 2017:

Late 2017:

I’m still finding my voice and style for instructional videos. I’m okay with my learning curve because I’m committed, and I’ll be a part of what the Almighty’s doing through film and video ‘til I’m 6’ under. I hope and pray you’ll do the same if you’re a filmmaker. Or, if you’re a decision-maker in your organization, commit to videos as a part of your online messaging. When your first 100 cold prospects chewed you out, cursed you, or hung up on you, did you quit? If you’re still in business, clearly you didn’t throw in the towel!

5. Okay, so when do I need a big, bad expensive video? And why?

→ First, you might be sick of janky-looking iPhone videos. Or embarrassed by your current stable of videos – either way, if you can afford a quality producer, this might be a sound reason.

→ Second, you might want an animated video. If you can’t find a joe in your backyard, you can consider finding a freelancer on Upwork.

→ Third, if you have more than one employee, you’re already in the groove of delegating and recognizing your time is more valuable elsewhere (like growing the top line of your business and finding quality people who can do the same).

→ Fourth, you might want quality sound in your videos as well. Or graphics. Or a hybrid of animation and live-action. Maybe you need stop-motion-animation. Or drone shots. Or special-fx. Or underwater videos. Or maybe it’s a live event altogether with too many moving parts for the one-man-band. At that point (or any of these points), find a team.

My team and I are the best video producers this side of the Mississippi (we’re also the most humble), and we the best price and the best value. Call us at 702-907-0220 if you’re in a pinch, if you’re tired of failing to reach your buyers, or if you’re growing, and let’s see if we’re a good fit for one another. But! Before you consider Jake the film guy and his gang, you need to brush up on all the odds and ends that make up a video, its price, and so on so forth. I put together a 21-item checklist of what you NEED to hear when you talk to a video producer. If they (or even me) fail to address these items, proceed with caution – if you’re tired of getting burned by wannabes, get the list below in the bonus bundle.

Bonus Time

As promised, I’ve got a video of this exact same, simple setup that you can emulate. I want you to be successful with your videos. It takes time, and it takes patience, but I know you can get there. After you’ve shot your first hundred videos, comment below.

I’ve also got a list of 20 video ideas you can steal. A lot of the one-woman or one-man businesses have no idea what to do in front of a camera. This list will give you a dose of inspiration to get started. If you’re the best at what you do in your field, then share your expertise a la Bob Ross and his insanely fast paintings.

Lastly, I’ll give you direct access to the 21-item checklist of time-saving, headache-sparing pro tips you’ll need before you ever have a conversation with a video producer, whether my team or someone else.

Just hit the blue button below to join the newsletter. I won’t spam you with junk. I won’t sell your information. This tribe of microbudget filmmakers is a niche tribe, and I promise to be a good steward of your email. Uncle Ben always drilled it into my head, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”



Jake the film guy

I want to encourage others and bring honor to the Almighty in everything that I do with film and video. My goal is to take the first 11 minutes of my tv pilot and seek out decision-makers who can further the conversation about developing it into a show. If my team and I can do that, then we can teach 100,000 other microbudget filmmakers how to do the same thing so that we might tell stories of hope to millions. In the meantime, I'm a son of the King, a family man, a lifelong student of film, and the author of two microbudget filmmaking books.