Making videos on YouTube sounds like the perfect gig. You get to make content on whatever you’re passionate about, and the potential earnings and exposure are alluring. Yet, it’s important to be realistic at the start of your YouTube journey. After all, only a small fraction of YouTubers make decent money from the platform, and you need over a million views per month to even start earning a living wage. Yet, with your expectations in check, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try if you’re passionate. The following 10 tips will set any beginner YouTuber on the right path.
Use Equipment to Your Advantage
Spend some time browsing popular YouTube channels and you’ll notice the sound and video quality looks virtually as good as any TV show. As a beginner testing the waters, there’s no need to splash out on thousand-dollar cameras, professional lighting, and other props, but you can use what you already have to your advantage. One of the most important aspects of still photography and video is lighting. So, even a fairly cheap spotlight lamp will make a difference to picture quality. A plug-in microphone will also sound a lot better than the built-in one on your phone or camera.
Speaking of cameras, if you have a dedicated digital camera (preferably a DSLR), that’s an awesome start. If you do have some funds to get going, you can buy a decent one for less than $200 as a starting point. If not, most modern smartphones actually offer excellent video quality, so with a plug-in mic and a clever lighting setup, you can boost the quality of your videos even with low-end equipment. Having a tripod or something else to steady your camera is ideal, but you can save the green screens and other fancy equipment until you’re sure it’s worth the investment.
Pick a Trending Topic You're Passionate About
There are two basic factors that are key to a good YouTube channel: a popular topic, and one that you’re interested in. Enthusiasm is great, but if your theme is too niche then you might never get many views. On the other hand, just chasing the hot new thing when your heart isn’t in it will make your videos feel flat. Some of the best topics to make videos on include food, video games, beauty, fashion, and technology.
To start with, browse trending topics and start making a list of the ones you find interesting. Alternatively, think of your favorite hobbies and do some research on whether they would make for a good YouTube channel. When you’ve decided on something, try to think of at least 15 possible video topics. If you struggle to come up with that many as a starting point, it may be that the topic is too niche, and you’ll end up finding it difficult to keep making videos on it. You don’t have to plan too far into the future but choosing a theme that has potential longevity is important.
Decide on Your Niche
Even if you do pick a fairly broad topic like women’s fashion or sports games, you’ll need to define what makes your channel unique. The best YouTubers are naturally charming and funny, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re naturally outgoing. In fact, many popular broadcasters say they’re actually quite shy, but getting in front of the camera and talking about their favourite topic somehow makes them feel more confident.
So, perhaps your YouTube channel will be punctuated by your dry wit, or you have a particular editing style that gets your personality across. If you’re making videos that involve reviews, you could decide on a scoring and evaluation format that’s different to other YouTubers. For fashion, maybe your tone is actually quite serious, but you do deep research on upcoming trends. These are just a few ideas to get your ideas flowing. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s always best to be yourself and not fake a persona just for clicks.
Follow the Basic YouTube Format
Great ideas and a shining personality are fantastic, but if you don’t follow the basic rules that make for successful YouTube videos, you might not get very far. There are specific ways to increase your marketability on the platform, which include using an aspect ratio of 16:9 and saving files in MP4 format. Full HD (1920×1080 px) is ideal if possible. If you eventually want to insert ads into your videos, they’ll need to be at least 10 minutes long, so keep that in mind too.
You may have also noticed the signature “shocked face” and text style in popular YouTubers’ thumbnails. While a lot of people find this style obnoxious, anecdotally it does help bring in views. If the idea of following the crowd like that is too cringy, you could tone it down somewhat and create thumbnails that show less extreme reactions, but still illustrate what the video is about. Ultimately, it’s your channel, so you’ll need to follow some basic rules, but in the end it’s your decision.
Use Clever Intros and Outros
Aside from the basics of formatting your videos, make sure you create enticing intros and outros to your videos in order to build a sense of brand and stamp your signature style on your videos. For example, a short introduction with a few graphics that illustrate your topic, along with a catchy jingle, will make your video look like a proper TV channel, rather than an amateur, low-effort channel. A snappy conclusion can also include details on your social media handles and/or website.
Note, however, that keeping these short is key. If you have a minute-long introduction to every video, your audience will get bored quickly. If you’re serious about your channel, it could be worth paying a professional videographer, graphic designer, and/or editor to create your intro and outro. However, when you’re just starting out this isn’t necessary, but it’s something to keep in mind if you manage to make a successful channel.
Set Up a Realistic Schedule
Like bloggers, YouTubers who post regularly tend to have the most success. It can be difficult at first when you’re putting in all the effort and only getting a few views, but if you stick at it then you’ll have a chance at getting some success. A lot of popular YouTubers post almost every day, but that can be overwhelming when it’s not your full-time job. However, telling your viewers that you post regularly will give them an incentive to check back soon. You could decide on two days a week that you always post, such as Mondays and Fridays, and see how that suits you.
Remember, you can always adapt your schedule later on, so try not to overwhelm yourself, but do keep up a regular posting schedule to keep the momentum going. If you’re just starting out and getting your head around how to shoot and edit videos, you could post less regularly, like once or twice a month, to avoid burning out quickly. Whatever you decide, keep it regular.
Don't Think About Ads Too Soon
As you may know, a lot of YouTubers make the majority of their money from advertising revenue and sponsored posts. However, you’ll need to get at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 total viewed hours in the last 12 months before you can join the YouTube Partner Program. It’s also important to read up on YouTube’s guidelines. Your channel will need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the Partner Program, which ensures your videos aren’t deceptive or otherwise rule-breaking in any way.
Of course, you can also insert your own ads and create sponsored posts outside of the Partner Program. This involves convincing companies that your channel has the power to drive revenue for their brands. Of course, you’ll need a substantial following and a good number of videos under your belt to start doing so, but bear in mind there are several ways to bring in revenue down the line. To start with, just focus on making great content that drives views, and later on you might be able to monetize your channel.
Be Aware of YouTube's General Guidelines
Outside of rules on minimum views and followers for advertising, YouTube has a number of basic rules you’ll need to follow to make sure your content isn’t flagged and removed. It’s well worth your time to read through all of these on the YouTube website, as some of the rules aren’t necessarily obvious.
As an example, it’s fairly clear to most people that creating a false impression of engagement with the use of bots for fake views is against the rules. However, you’ll walk a very fine line if you’re discussing topics such as self-harm and mental health, or more general themes such as politics and crime. It’s perfectly fine in theory to talk about these topics, and in fact they could potentially make for very interesting content, but you must make sure you don’t accidentally break rules on making safe content while doing so.
Watch Other Videos on Your Topic
Being part of the YouTube community means watching videos as well as creating them. Like a writer who never reads books, you won’t make very good videos if you never watch any. Specifically target videos on your chosen theme and think about what you like and don’t like about them. Is there a certain presenting style or visual aesthetic in common? Do they do anything to annoy you? Make notes on what you can emulate and avoid.
Of course, it’s important to avoid just copying other YouTubers, as your viewers will accuse you of such. So, it makes sense to watch a broad range of YouTubers and not just the five most popular, to make sure you’re drawing inspiration from many sources rather than just following the top-trending creators.
Have Fun with Your YouTube Journey
Even if you never succeed at gaining lots of followers and making money from your channel, the opportunity to share content on a subject you’re passionate about is a wonderful opportunity. Engaging with your viewers, collaborating with other YouTubers, and having fun playing games, talking about fashion or sports, and generally just throwing yourself into the experience will ensure you have a good time.
Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself. You should set realistic goals for how often you post and how much time to spend on researching and creating videos, but if you make it too punishing then you’ll quickly get overwhelmed. Have fun with it and see what you can create.
Ultimately, becoming successful on YouTube is increasingly hard these days, so you should never bank on becoming a hugely popular channel. Yet, it’s possible to still have a lot of fun and engage with a community that shares your interests. Do your homework and then dive into creating videos to see where your YouTube journey takes you.