“Why is finding a good scriptwriter so dang hard?”
It’s a question I get asked constantly.
After all, I could recommend 5-6 editors off the top of my head.
But I’ve consistently struggled to vouch for good writers (until recently).
This is a problem, both for scriptwriters looking to prove themselves and for YouTubers who need writers.
So, after 2+ years as a writer in this industry, I’m going to offer my (admittedly subjective) thoughts on the situation, and what needs to change on both sides to reach a solution.
The Problem For YouTubers
Finding the right person to outsource a part of your content to can feel like a scary, deeply personal task.
But creators have successfully done this for the best part of the last decade with editing.
The same is not true for writing… but why?
I’ve heard some creators argue that hiring a writer just isn’t as useful as hiring an editor. That they’ve been burned in the past. That they can’t find anyone good.
But why is this? Plenty of people can write well, so I don’t think it’s a theoretical lack of potential talent.
And I’ve just gone back through my DMs and emails to find I’ve received almost 100 inbound enquiries this year… so the demand is only increasing.
At its core, I believe there’s a fundamental difference between how it feels for a creator to relinquish control of an edit vs the words coming out of their mouth.
There’s just more at stake with the latter.
Yes, the way shots are cut together and edited can vastly affect how a creator comes across to their audience…
But the words they say are baked into the video and forever associated with that creator.
And trusting someone else with that is scary.
If you’re a YouTuber in this position, it might seem just as likely that you’ll have to re-write everything to make sure it definitely sounds like “something you would say”.
But, before we discuss how to get past this…
Need a schmancy screen recorder?
I’ve been using Tella since August.
I’ve tried a couple of different software options over the last two years, and this has ended up being my favourite because of how flipping good the recordings look.
Get a load of that 👀
I just found out their affiliate program is now offering new users 30% off forever when you sign up through one of their affiliate links (such as mine!)
Highly recommend trying it out if you do a lot of screen recording 👇
|Try Tella (1 week trial, then 30% off forever)
Signing up through this link will result in a small kickback for me at no extra cost to you 🙂
So, solving the “writer problem” begins with something simple…
Both writers and YouTubers must approach their relationship with excessive communication.
Have a long conversation before every video, if you can.
Make sure you both understand what you want this video to be before you put pen to paper.
Check in with each other after the structure has been drafted, and ideally once more before the end.
Get on the same page.
The result is almost always better when both parties assume nothing and make everything explicit.
The problem we see with scriptwriters getting offered abysmal rates stems from skipping valuable steps like this.
When you offer $50 per script, of course the writer is desperate to finish ASAP.
They’ll need to write another 4 this week to make this a viable part of their income.
Ergo, they won’t feel inclined to spend extra time aligning expectations, taking great care over every word, or going the extra mile for your content… because they’re rushed.
So what happens?
- The result doesn’t improve.
- The YouTuber remains convinced the service is barely worth it.
- They continue to offer $50 per script.
The rate you set implies the level of detail and care the writer should employ.
The Problem For Writers
Now, the responsibility to improve the situation lies with writers, too.
Just as we saw the proliferation of the “I’m also a YouTube strategist” Twitter bios…
The same thing is starting to happen with YouTube Scriptwriters.
This part of the industry is on the cusp of becoming much bigger, and people can sense the opportunity.
But there’s a huge misconception here.
Making the transition to YouTube scriptwriter is not as simple as porting your writing skills from college.
It’s actually requires the destruction of half the writing principles you’ve spent two decades being taught.
You’ll need to unlearn defunct skills as much as learning new ones.
Because writing a YouTube video like an English essay is usually a recipe for disaster.
It results in bland, bloated, boring paragraphs like this:
And I hope you won’t mind me roasting the writing, because it’s mine.
And I don’t blame younger me for being crap – my instinct was simply to write like I did at school, as it is for most people.
It speaks to a wider problem:
This part of the YouTube industry is incredibly young, and there’s very little education surrounding it.
For most, getting better at scriptwriting involves years of trial and error.
It involves being up-front and honest with clients about what you can offer.
At first, you might simply position yourself as someone who can help with their scriptwriting bottleneck.
6 months later, with more experience under your belt, you might start to offer scriptwriting and strategic advice.
Then help with ideation, packaging, etc.
With all this in mind… I can understand why many creators feel disenfranchised by the idea of hiring writers.
It’s a nuanced problem, and I don’t have a perfect solution.
But, in a word, what both writers and YouTubers need is time.
90% of what I’ve learned as a writer has come in the last year, because the skills and knowledge have started to compound.
I allowed myself time to work with as many creators as possible, stared at retention graphs until my eyes dried out, and spent time thinking about and systemizing this extremely particular style of writing.
But, by the same token, the clients who have seen the best results from my writing are those who have given me time to adjust to their style and have paid me fairly so that I might give their scripts more care and attention.
Remember… we’re all on the same team here!
We all just want to make the best videos possible while earning a living in this amazing industry.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, whether you’re a scriptwriter or a YouTuber. Did anything ring a bell or touch a nerve?
I’m always interested in discussions like this about the meta of the YouTube industry, so any and all opinions are welcome!