Aug 25, 2021
Fedoras, baseball caps, berets — when we say that YouTubers wear many hats, we’re not talking about these. At least, not exclusively.
In all seriousness, YouTube is a highly competitive platform for creators (we’re talking 500 hours of video uploaded every minute).
Getting your content to stand out among the masses is a major accomplishment, especially since many YouTubers plan, create, and share content completely on their own.
This means that all of the responsibilities normally carried out by a lead writer, producer, director, content strategist, and editor now fall on your shoulders.
To offer a non-hat related analogy, it’s as if you’re the Greek figure Atlas — but instead of holding up the world, you’re holding up your entire YouTube channel.
One of the most important roles you take on during content creation is the writer role, and with good reason. Whatever else your content becomes, it all starts with the script you create in pre-production.
Writing a great YouTube video script is the first step in creating standout content, but neither happens by accident.
If you’ve never created or used scripts for your YouTube content, it’s only natural to have questions. So let’s unpack a couple of the most common ones:
Yes and no. Creating a YouTube video script gives your production process more structure, which can save you time in the long run and help you create engaging videos on a consistent basis.
Here’s what we mean.
Even if your version of a script is just a list of talking points, the script gives you direction when you’re speaking to the camera. It’s a more concrete way of knowing, not just thinking about, what you want to say and why it matters to your viewers.
Consequently, you avoid spending extra hours recording audio and sifting through excess files in post-production. You’re far less likely to forget any of the key points you set out to make.
It’s always an option to go off-the-cuff, and for some videos that might actually be the best and most organic approach to take (especially if you’re creating vlog-style, talking-head videos).
But once you press record, you don’t want to realize too late that you need a script you don’t have.
The last thing you want is to press pause and backtrack to write, especially when you’re on a tight deadline.
There’s a well-known concept in film screenwriting that one page of a script equals one minute of screentime. (As a general rule, a 90 page script typically turns into a 90-minute film.)
Unless you’re publishing short films, docu-style videos, and longer form content on YouTube, the formatting and stylistic rules of TV and film screenwriting might not apply to you.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re about to film a vlog that will be about 12 minutes long by the last edit. Since vlogging is more conversational and off-the-cuff by nature, you don’t really need a 12 page script to make a great final product.
When it comes to writing scripts for YouTube, the only hard and fast rule is to write the type of script that is most helpful to you.
So for vlogging or product review videos, you might write down the main topics to cover and leave it at that. For a travel video with a lot of b-roll, you might benefit from being more detailed and writing out a voiceover script.
The main difference between writing for YouTube versus film or TV is that you’re able to break a few screenwriting rules, like this one:
Never direct from the page.
Or, in other words, “Don’t tell the director how to do their job.”
As a YouTuber, you can break this rule because the writer, director, and talent are all you. If adding directorial notes and shot descriptions will make production go smoother for you, you can by all means do it.
YouTube is a hub for any type of video content imaginable — from vlogs and travel videos to short films and product reviews.
By simply existing, this platform has made it possible for new creators to produce and share content even if they don’t have expensive production gear, industry connections, etc.
When you break it down, all that you really need to create content for YouTube is a good camera, an editing software, and a script.
Whether you’re new to video production or a seasoned expert, the screenwriting decisions that you make when structuring your YouTube video scripts are informed by the type of content you’re creating.
For example, if you have a host-guest dynamic on your channel, your videos could come across as overly scripted and formal if you write the dialogue out word-for-word. In this case, it would be better to have a list of talking points and a guest bio that you can refer to every now and then.
Again, the goal when writing is to make production as easy and streamlined as possible, whether that means creating a thoroughly detailed or extremely minimal script.
As you prepare to write your video scripts, keep the following things in mind:
If your video’s intro doesn’t hook viewers within the first few seconds, nothing else you say after the intro will get a chance to. Before you know it, more and more viewers will bounce from your video to someone else’s.
A good hook is important — don’t get us wrong — but to write a good hook, you really have to start with the video’s concept.
Maybe you have a loose idea of sharing a compilation of vlog footage from your week. Or maybe you’re partnering with SONY to review five of their newest cameras.
Like we mentioned at the top of this post, there are many different directions you could take when creating YouTube videos. The initial video idea or concept — no matter how vague or concrete — is your jumping point. It’s what you build everything else from.
During the process of writing and structuring YouTube video scripts, one screenwriting tip from our Creative team to yours is this: Read everything that you write out loud and time yourself.
If a certain phrase sounds awkward or a transition seems too rushed, this is a good indicator that your script needs another round of edits before you press the record button.
By the time production starts, you should know your video’s concept and key points like the back of your hand — especially since the last thing you want is to come across as if you’re reading from a teleprompter or trying to remember each new point you want to make.
Keep it conversational and engaging. Your subscribed audience will respond more to that than an overly scripted video.
Creating a great intro and outro for your video matters, so naturally this is something that you invest a lot of thought into when writing your script.
While your focus should always be on creating engaging content, remember that each new video is also an opportunity to grow your YouTube channel — and a few strategically placed calls to action (CTAs) can help you do that.
In an ideal scenario, you don’t want a viewer to just watch one of your videos and move on to someone else’s. You want them to watch this video and then click-through to another one linked in your video’s end screen or their sidebar recommendations.
As you write your video’s script, leave room for CTAs and take the time to plan out how you will integrate them organically into your video.
Unfortunately, examples of real video scripts from other YouTubers are hard to come by. That is, unless you’re lucky and know someone who is willing to share their old scripts with you.
You can learn a lot about how a creator structures their videos just by watching, but this can only do so much in helping you visualize how the script itself came together.
To give you a better idea of how to structure your script, we’ve rounded up a few templates from trustworthy sources around the industry:
Here at Soundstripe, we have our own unique process for writing scripts for YouTube videos like the one above.
Because we create videos as a Creative team rather than as individual creators, the entire production process is very collaborative. Each production involves an assigned writer (or writers), director, producer, crew, and video editor.
From a writer’s perspective, here’s what the process looks like typically:
The script writer for a YouTube video will write up a first draft of the video script, and then the director and producer get involved.
Sometimes, the original script calls for something that doesn’t fit into the budget, so the writer will make revisions based on direction they receive from the producer. (For context, here’s more on what a producer does.)
The writer could go through several rounds of revisions like this, which is something that all YouTube creators and writers have in common.
What ultimately matters — and what all YouTubers work toward — is that the end result is an engaging final video.