My ten top tips for new YouTubers
Over the past year, I’ve been inundated with emails, tweets, messages and comments from prospective YouTube creators who want to emulate some of my successes. This is all very flattering, but every time I’ve given my advice out, I’ve always had the nagging thought that I ought to sit down one day and think hard about the subject. That day is today.
A few years ago I wouldn’t ever have thought of putting my face or voice on a video. I’m not a natural YouTuber and I’ve had to work hard at what I do to be successful and turn my hobby into a full time job. So, I hope the following ten pieces of advice will be helpful.
1) Gear - don’t worry about it, honestly. I’m long overdue investing in a gimbal and it hasn’t hurt the channel. I managed to accrue 25,000 subscribers using an iPhone as my only way of capturing video. Your gear does not matter too much and should never be a barrier to actually getting off your backside and doing something.
2) Get off your backside. Content doesn’t make itself and you should be prepared to put in the hours to stand a chance of reaping the rewards.
3) Rewards on Youtube…are decided by you. What do you actually want to achieve? Are you looking to make a hobby into a side hustle and then maybe into a job? Are you in it just for the view count, and the warm feeling that comes with it? Or are you there to pour your heart and soul into making videos you love, and don’t really care too much about what other people think? Try to decide what you’re posting FOR, but understand that unless you get very lucky, overnight success is not something that happens on YouTube. Don’t compare yourself to others.
4) Compare yourself to others. Ha. But only so you know what NOT to be like. My success is down to my personal brand (yuck) - that is, how people perceive me and relate to me. I can sometimes release filler content that I don’t think is particularly compelling, but I know some of my viewers actually like me, understand my back story, my biases and enjoy my presentation style, and this can carry an okay video into tens of thousands of views. People may copy my style - and I have seen some of this before - but they won’t be ME, only a poor imitation. They’d be better off being themselves and cultivating their own brand. I’ve thought about expanding my channel to cover some other subjects, but there are some very successful people doing just what I planned, and I won’t move into this area until I’m sure I have a unique style which will stand out and which I’d want to watch myself.
5) Make only content you want to watch. Enjoy yourself. Never be obliged to the audience. YouTube - and your channel - is not a democracy.
6) Listen to your audience, but be wise, and realistic. Read your comments and “take the temperature” regularly. Be aware if a video hasn’t hit the mark and listen to legitimate criticism. But, remember, YouTube commenters may not actually be representative of your entire audience. On my channel, my most common feedback is “don’t speed up the takeoff” which is repeated ad nauseam. Trouble is, the analytics tool shows me that when I do that, I lose a good 10% of my audience straight away, because they go to the sidebar and watch someone else’s video. This hurts my watch time stats, and by extension ensures YouTube will recommend the video to fewer non-subscribers. Unedited, raw takeoff footage is boring to most of my audience, even if it is valued by a small minority. I like to keep a certain pace and consistency to my videos, and I think most people like that, even if they don’t leave me comments saying so.
7) Don’t listen to trolls, but be aware that not everyone on the internet will like you. That’s life - we come across people we don’t like all the time. People who leave comments on free-to-watch videos saying they don’t like the creator, the way they look, or speak, or even worse - are small people. The feedback they give is valueless and only serves to highlight the gulf in class between themselves and you. Do not amplify abuse by replying if you can help it, and do not allow or promote hatred or anger in the comments section.
8) Promote yourself. Gently. Do not spam other YouTubers’ video comment sections with “Hey guys sub to me and I’ll sub back? Here’s my video [LINK]”. This is annoying spam to see in the comments section and it’s frustrating to see people do this on my videos - and it also doesn’t work anyway. First, make content good and relevant enough to appear in other viewers’ recommendations, so YouTube will actually recommend people to watch it. That’s a challenge - but one we all have to meet in order to be successful. Second, be on other social media and try to use it for more than just spitting out updates about new videos. I’m most active on Twitter, where I share snippets of everything, including my opinions on various travel subjects, host occasional QnAs, share my passion on railway heritage, and generally offer a little added value while using it as a place to be a bit more myself - think of it as offering an extra dimension. I don’t get paid to be on Twitter, but gradually I’ve built a niche there and my activities there support the rest of my work and let people know I’m maybe a little more than just some dude who gets on a lot of planes.
9) Don’t trash talk other creators. It’s sometimes lonely being one, and we are all ploughing our own furrow. Just don’t do it.
10) Ask for help. I’m really busy these days, but I’ll always try to help people who want to succeed, and I’m sure that some of my fellow creators enjoy helping just as much. If you want to ask a specific question, email me at email@example.com. I have a lot of things to balance these days, so I might not reply straight away - but I do value helping others where I can, so don’t be shy to get in touch.
YouTube changed my life. It might change yours too.