Should you sell recordings of your online training?

You’ve agreed to deliver an online training session, for a fee, to a client. Then they ask if they can also have a recording of the session. It sounds like a simple enough request, but should you do it, and if so how do you actually deliver it?

There’s a lot more to consider here than simply hitting the record button and sending the video. How do I know? A few years ago I used to record software training videos and sell them in packs to small business owners, such as web designers (story here). It sounded simple at first – make some videos and PDFs, find a way of selling them online, then promote them. This is a slightly different situation to recording an online workshop you were delivering for a client, but it means I have fallen into some of the hidden traps myself, including not charging enough.

So, here are some of the things you need to think about when selling recorded training.

What are they planning to do with the video?

There’s a big difference between having a recording so attendees can review the content after the session ends, and your client using that video for staff training for an indefinite period of time. They may also want to sell it (or at least the knowledge and ideas within it) at some point in the future. It’s possible the client may not even know what they intend to do with it themselves at this stage, they just want to keep a copy in case they ever need it. Make sure you define this before you agree to record the video and write it into your terms and conditions.

A video is not just a video

A workshop recording will include your intellectual property, which is the sum of your experience and study. You aren’t just selling the hour it took to deliver or the time it took to prepare the content. Make sure you include this in your price if you decide to go ahead.

A weird example of this arose recently, when a student in a US university tried to contact their lecturer and found he’d died several years previously (more here). He’d recorded his lectures several years before and the university were still using the recordings in their classes. This isn’t illegal, and the university hadn’t lead the students to believe the lecturer was alive - well, other than the way you’d normally expect your lecturer to be alive, anyway! -  but it does show how tricky the IP of recorded educational material can be. Plus it raises awkward questions like should the lecturer’s family should be entitled to royalties? Are living lecturers not getting work these days because dead ones work for free?

IP issues aside, workshops and training videos entirely different things. The value of a training session is usually higher than a pre-recorded educational video, because with a training session you're adapting it to the people 'in the room', answering questions and allowing them to individually tap into your expertise. An educational video is just a one-way delivery of information (unless it’s backed up by, say, online quizzes to embed what has been learned and to test understanding).

The problem is it's easy for this distinction to be lost by a client who is trying to get the knowledge out as efficiently as possible to their employees, and might take an 'ask them to do it once, record it, then get it out to everyone else ASAP' approach. Not only could you be giving away your expertise on the cheap, they might not bother to hire you again when they otherwise would because they already have you on video.

The production expectations for an online workshop recording can be quite different from an educational video, too. People expect Zoom recordings to be a bit rough around the edges, but they might expect professional videography, graphic design and sound from an educational video, which increases the cost (a lot). If you're selling your expertise in video format to be distributed by others you might want to have a higher video, audio and design quality than a Zoom recording and if so there will be a cost to this, which you will need to pass on to the client.

What’s the value to the client?

The client organisation will get a different value from a recording than from a live session. As I mentioned above, the live training will probably be of higher value to those individuals attending in person because it’s tailored to them and they can ask questions, but lower value to individuals watching the video because they can’t interact with the trainer in real time. However, the video may be of higher value than the training to the organisation as a whole because they can train an unlimited number of people for as long as the video is up-to-date. And potentially higher again if they can package it up and sell it on. It’s tricky to put a price on this, but important to consider it all.

How long can your video can be used for?

Many organisations don’t have an effective process for reviewing and removing old content, so your video could be in use for many years. Not only are you not getting paid for this extended use, it’s not great for your reputation if your old material is still being used in training years later. The content could be out of date, but also our language is changing so fast at the moment that even light-hearted comments from 10 years ago might sound ‘off’ now. State that the video must not be used after a specific period of time, or include updates in your quote – and charge for them.

Check the content of your video won’t get you into trouble

Do you have the rights to use the images in your slides, or did you just download them randomly from the internet? You shouldn’t use images in any training unless you have permission to do so of course, but you’re much more likely to get caught if you record it and share it with others.

If you’re asking training session attendees to answer questions, do you have their permission to be in a video that may be seen by many more people, perhaps for years? Are they aware of how widely their questions and comments might be shared, for example if you allow your client to add the video to another training course or sell it?

Make sure you have terms and conditions

By now, you won’t be surprised to hear me say you must have terms and conditions!

If you decide not to go ahead

You can use the above to justify your decision, and all the of the following are perfectly valid ways of saying no, too:

  • The quality of the video/audio wouldn’t be up to my professional standards if I record a Zoom meeting
  • I’m afraid I only offer PDFs to support my training
  • I can’t deliver my full service in a recording. You need my entire package including mentoring, coaching, a follow-up session after four weeks, strategy planning…
  • The true value is in the discussion, and you can’t get that unless you’re there on the day

And finally…the tech stuff

So you decide to go ahead with selling your recording. What’s the best way to do it? Here are some ideas:

  1. Record your presentation on Zoom or Teams, then send it to the client either by uploading to the could (Dropbox, Office 365, Google Drive) and sending a link, or using We Transfer.

  2. Host it yourself, which gives you more control over whether the video is online or not, and some control over who sees it.

    - Don’t use a YouTube private video because it’s against YouTube’s terms to sell access to content

    - You can use Vimeo’s Pro Plan to host private videos, set up password protected videos and control which sites your videos can be embedded in. This is not free, so remember to include this in your pricing

    - If you’ve got several videos and/or resources like PDFs, I recommend setting up an online course using New Zenler’s free plan. Then you have complete control over who sees the content, you can charge for access or you can give it away for free to people who register.

  3. If the quality of the audio and video is important and it’s a training video rather than a workshop recording, consider hiring a videographer.
  4. If you want better quality than a recorded workshop on Zoom/Teams, but don’t want to hire a videographer, you can try setting up a backdrop with some good lighting and recording yourself speaking into a smartphone camera. Warning – this can be time-consuming and you will either need to find a video editor or learn to do it yourself.

I hope I've been able to cover both 'should you do it?' and 'how to do it if you want to go ahead.' Good luck and let me know how you get on!

(Contains an affiliate link to New Zenler, which I recommend and use myself. This is free, but should you decide to upgrade to the paid account I get a small commission at no cost to you.)