Why Every Screencaster Needs a Reel 

(yes, even if you’re NOT a freelancer)

I’ve been consulting as a pro screencaster for 17 years now. Through dozens of clients and hundreds of projects, I can count on one hand the number of times anyone’s ever asked me for a résumé.

Specifically, three times. That’s it.

So how did all those other clients know that I was competent and able to produce what they needed?

In a couple of ways, as it happens. First, in the content creation biz, social proof is a key factor. Direct positive word-of-mouth is a resource that gets you hired more than any other. Someone that the prospective client knows and trusts tells them that…

  • I not only know my stuff, but also that…
  • I play nicely with others, and that…
  • I’m highly unlikely to take that sizable deposit check and fly off to Tahiti with it, never to be heard from again.

These pro-Daniel whisperings are money in the bank. But they can also be hard to come by, particularly since you don’t want to have to go constantly pestering your current client roster to go making calls on your behalf.

A slightly less effective form of social proof is a set of testimonials. It’s always a good thing to swap recommendations (provided they’re honest) with those in your professional orbit on LinkedIn, as you never know who might be browsing your profile. As a freelancer, I find it preferable to keep a dedicated testimonial page, which I regularly update. 

But even the most glowing and eloquent referral can really only get your toe in the door. What seals the deal? Your body of work, of course. If you want to convince someone that you can do what they want, just show them that you’ve done it before.

For many years, I’ve hosted a portfolio of past work on my web site. And I thought that was enough. Until, one day, I got a rather enlightening comment from a prospective client:

“I’ve glanced at your portfolio, but there’s just so much stuff there. I don’t even know where to begin.”

I finally clued into the fact that I needed a show reel. Something varied and upbeat, and most importantly, SHORT. Sixty seconds that shows off your very best work.

You can check out my own reel here…

Mine is a bit longer than average because it’s pulling double-duty. It has both screencast content as well as some motion-graphics work. Based on this, I would need to be careful about whom I sent it to. This reel is perfect for corporate training and marketing departments who might have a broader needs, but an animation studio would scoff and immediately click away.

And just as your audience plays a vital role in what you put on your reel, so do your career aspirations? A career counselor once told me to, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” So it also goes for your reel content. Make sure it’s heavy on the kind of work you want to do MORE of. Because that’s precisely what your colleagues and clients will order up after glancing over your video.

And speaking of colleagues, note that you don’t have to be a freelancer or consultant in order to make good use of a reel. In corporate environments, it can serve as a powerful means of getting approval on video projects that you’ve a hankerin’ to take on. If you’re tired of explaining certain procedures for the umpteenth time, and you think you’re department (and your sanity) would benefit from a series of tutorials, having something to show to management and other decision-makers ahead of time could make all the difference.