How to create branded content on a budget

May 25, 2023
Shannon Darby-Jones

Creating content on a budget can be a challenge, but it doesn't have to be impossible. I was studying Fashion Photography whilst working at ASDA to fund my student lifestyle so getting the most out of my money has always been important to me. Especially post-graduation portfolio building, funding my own shoots and considering myself the super-saver of making things work for a small price!

Going back to this post-university era, I wanted to submit a fashion editorial to a magazine after graduating but being me, I wanted it to be a full on studio shoot. However, I had a budget of £150, shared between me and an aspiring stylist friend. So, I hopped on a Facebook group with a mood board, a theme and a dream! I called out for hair stylists, make-up artists and designers and discovered some great options who were similar age/level and wanted to fill out their portfolio too. I then reached out to new faces model agencies to find an inexperienced model that suited my style, as well as friends who were performers that fitted the look. After research, I found a tiny studio that came with all lighting and booked it in for a discounted rate after negotiating £100 for half a day! I shot, directed and produced the editorial myself as well as the post production. After submitting it to a few magazines, voila - my tiny budget goal was a published reality!

Here are some strategies that can help you create branded content on a budget from a producer who has always been savvy with budgets!

1. Use stock images

It's easy to get caught up in the idea of creating your own images and videos when you're trying to produce content on a budget, but stock images are often much less expensive than custom photography or videos. You can find them on sites like Shutterstock and iStockPhoto, and even use Google Image Search to find photos that aren't copyrighted or have been sourced from other sites.

2. Hiring talent? Use model agencies or word of mouth!

Depending on the usage rights for your content, try reaching out to new faces talent at model agencies. These people are getting used to being on camera and also, tend to be local so they don't require travel expenses or accommodation.

Alternatively, you could try reaching out to micro-influencers but remember that these people aren't guaranteed to work with anyone who asks them for free! You'll need some sort of compensation for their time and effort.

Or, stick with who you know! Ask aspiring friends and family and through word of mouth not only for your talent to feature but for your crew too. Some of my friends want to be actors, models and more so use your confident pals to your advantage if it matches the demographic required for the content!

3. Set realistic expectations 

If you want to create high-quality branded content, it’s important that you set realistic expectations for what your shoot will look like. You don’t need professional lighting or expensive equipment; all you need is a good location, a few props and some creativity. The key is to keep costs low while still maintaining quality – if this means purchasing inexpensive props instead of renting or building them yourself, then do it!

4. Social Media & Networking!

Start using social media for its original purpose, networking and building relationships!

LinkedIn is a great place to start because it allows you to find people who share similar interests as well as job titles. Take advantage of LinkedIn groups in order to connect with industry leaders who might be able to help promote your project — there are hundreds of thousands of groups available at any given time on LinkedIn, so there's no shortage of opportunities to find like-minded individuals who are interested in what you have to offer! I recently posted a list of freelancers I was seeking and got so many shares & successful introductions, so don’t underestimate posting and be brave enough to just do a shout out!

Similarly, don’t underestimate Facebook groups and Instagram accounts!

5. Negotiation

Negotiating the price of freelance work can be a challenge. You want to get the best deal possible, but you also don't want to insult the freelancer.

The good news is that there are plenty of people who are willing to work on a budget. The bad news is that they probably won't work for free. But with some negotiation, you can get great results at a fraction of the price.

Know what others charge. If you're looking for freelance writers, designers or developers, check out sites like Upwork and Fiverr to see what kinds of rates freelancers charge for their services. If everyone else is charging £100 per hour and you want a writer for less than £20 per hour, then you'll have to offer them something else (or someone else).

Be clear about your goals and what you expect from them upfront. Before you start talking money, make sure that both parties are on the same page about what kind of project this will be and what needs to happen next — including how often they'll need to provide updates or deliverables.

6. Keep it simple

The less equipment you have available, the less complicated you should make things. You don't need multiple cameras or fancy lighting setups; just use what's available to you! This might mean using natural light where possible or doing without certain effects until later in the editing process (or not at all).

If you’re looking for inspiration, Paranormal Activity (2009) was shot on a $15,000 camera budget but went on to make $193 million worldwide at the box office!

When it comes to creating compelling low-budget content, you have a wide spectrum of options available if you put the work in. It just depends on your budget and the time you have available. It's not hard to create a powerful, eye-catching portfolio piece even if you don't have unlimited resources; all it takes is some clever thinking and networking!

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