The Beginner’s Guide on How to Become a YouTuber
The world spends more than three billion hours each month enjoying YouTube. No other website makes reaching content you’re actually interested in so easy. Whether you love to learn more about particle physics or the latest fashion trends, there’s a YouTuber or three dedicated to sharing fun and engaging videos on your topics of choice.
Watching and commenting is one thing, but it’s almost as easy to become a creator. This guide outlines how to become a YouTuber. It goes over what mindset you should have before going in, what equipment you’ll need, and what challenges you can expect. Keep reading and give your YouTube career a running start.
While it sounds fun, a YouTube career requires dedication and forethought. Here’s what you should think about before taking the plunge.
Figure out why you want to become a YouTuber in the first place
The single most important thing you need to ask yourself before embarking on the YouTube journey is “Why”? The biggest names on the platform are outliers, and the life of an ordinary YouTuber is usually far from glamorous. Aiming for stardom and wealth is fine, but chances are you won’t make it far in the industry if these are the only things on your mind.
Becoming a YouTuber is a process. Expect to spend hundreds of hours researching, planning, and recording videos without seeing a single dime in return. The market is oversaturated as it is. You should expect nothing but disappointment and frustration if the only things you bring are a cookie-cutter approach and a get rich quick mentality.
The word passion gets thrown around a lot, but that’s precisely what you need in spades if you hope to persevere. Doing something because you enjoy the experience is a reward in and of itself, plus it can lead to more tangible compensation in the future. YouTubers who make it big based on a single viral video are a rarity. It can take dozens if not hundreds of videos to get noticed, let alone paid. Can you stomach the thought of making your 37th paleo diet or home improvement video for the sheer joy of it? If so, you’re on the right track.
Choose a niche
All of us find some things more interesting than others. You may be a walking hockey encyclopedia or an expert on feudal China. While people around you might not appreciate these talents, at least some of YouTube’s 1.3 billion users are bound to find what you have to say fascinating.
The trick is to find a niche you are interested in and knowledgeable about, and then provide content that stands out from the crowd. Take your time and research the niche you’re going to enter. Draw inspiration from its most popular creators, but also try to notice what their content lacks and how you could improve upon it. Remember, viewers are looking to get value from the time they invest in watching your videos. Targeting a specific audience and providing unique content ensures that they’ll keep coming back for more.
Brush up on your knowledge and presentation skills, and see how you stack up against the competition. Could you explain something better? Do you feel that your tips would be more useful? Could you cover a seemingly dull topic with more enthusiasm? If your answer to any of these is positive after getting to know the niche, there’s a good chance you’ll carve out your own space in it.
Brainstorm ideas and flesh them out
Once you’ve settled on the channel’s general theme and tone, it’s time to start thinking about content. Established YouTubers can serve as a source of ideas, but don’t copy their topics or delivery. Focus on your style and experiences and how you can translate these into an entertaining video.
You can start by writing the ideas that come to mind on a piece of paper and eliminate ones that aren’t good enough. Show a shortlist to supportive friends or family and get their input. Do some preliminary research on prospective topics to see if there’s enough material for a useful video. Most importantly, do that for at least a few topics. Who knows, your first video might garner an audience that will eagerly await more. It’s good to have many ideas in the pipeline to keep content production going.
The gear checklist
It’s great that a computer and smartphone from the 2010s are everything you need to start your YouTube career. As any experienced videomaker will tell you, they aren’t enough for quality production, especially if you someday hope to compete with the biggest names on the site. You don’t need to spend a fortune when starting, but there are a few essentials you seriously need to consider. We’ve outlined these briefly in this article. For a more thorough take on the subject, check out the dedicated YouTube equipment guide.
Unless you plan on making a channel exclusively about funny cat video compilations, you need a dedicated microphone. Having clean audio is essential for tutorial channels, educators, musicians, and reviewers. Sound in original videos is ubiquitous, so everyone should take advantage of the clarity a good microphone brings.
Your niche dictates your choice of microphone. The majority of YouTubers make content in a controlled environment and would benefit from a studio microphone the most. Vloggers, travelers, and creators who cover live events rely on shotgun mics since these can focus on the speaker to the exclusion of distracting background noises. Do you often feature guests? In that case, you should either invest in a separate lavalier microphone or a studio mic that can change between cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns.
YouTube is a visual medium first and foremost, and the audience is accustomed to a level of quality you have to uphold. Unless you’re a streamer, any recorded video should be shot in 1080p. YouTube supports 4K as well, so feel free to up the resolution if your hardware and internet connection are up to it. Fans will appreciate the bump in quality, while ones with slower internet speeds can always go with lower settings.
Streamers focus more on showcasing their skills than their appearance, which is why they can get away with a webcam and a window that takes up a small part of the screen. Vloggers need compact cameras whose LCD can flip out and help them frame a shot. Stationary DSLR and mirrorless cameras are best-suited for Tutorial, DIY, and tech channels since their superior optics allow for greater detail.
Lighting is an essential but often neglected piece of a YouTuber’s presentation puzzle. Poor lighting makes videos shot with other top-tier gear appear amateurish. Master lighting, and you’ll be able to present yourself favorably or add atmosphere to otherwise drab topics.
Portable lights are a great all-around solution for first-timers. They’re cheap, easy to travel with, and can improve the shot whether you’re in a studio or on location. YouTubers who plan on filming most content in the same room should consider investing in a three-light setup instead. A ring light is a must if your channel is make-up or beauty oriented. If you’re strapped for cash, the least you should do is get a light reflector.
Producing shaky videos is a surefire way of losing an audience. Some cameras have sophisticated optical and electronic image stabilization properties, but even they benefit from the stability a tripod or gimbal brings.
Tripods are excellent for studio environments and when shooting from a fixed position in general. They can handle weighty cameras, have adjustable height, and won’t slip in uneven terrain. Smaller tripods with spider-like legs are gaining in popularity too. They’re especially useful when you’re filming from an unusual angle or have to secure the camera to fences or trees. Gimbals provide stability when shooting on the move and let you capture steady footage whether you’re riding a rollercoaster or hiking up a steep trail.
You can’t shoot a clip, upload it to YouTube, and hope for the best. Successful YouTubers spend a great deal of time and effort to edit raw footage into presentable, coherent, and attractive videos.
Video editing software like iMovie or the Windows Movie Maker is free and covers the basics. You can use such programs to trim unappealing parts of a video, create intros, add music, and export the finished product to YouTube hassle-free. More sophisticated audio-visual effects call for more expensive programs. Streamers will also need screen capture software.
Once your channel gets going, you should look into analytics and marketing software. These tools will help with search engine optimization, make posting to other social media easier, and offer valuable data on growth.
With the gear assembled and ideas ready to be realized, it’s time to start your YouTube journey in earnest.
Create a Google account and YouTube channel
It might seem obvious, but you can’t do anything other than watch videos if you don’t associate YouTube with a Google account. Creating one is straightforward and comes with benefits that impact your YouTube career in various ways. You get a Gmail address as well as access to Google Drive, a cloud storage service you can use to keep backups of video files, scripts, etc.
Another benefit of having a Google account is that you can associate multiple YouTube channels with it. This is useful for having a private channel alongside your public one or when you want to supplement your main channel with one that focuses on unrelated topics.
Your channel needs a name, and taking the time to figure a proper one out now will save you from future headaches. The name should be catchy, easy to remember, and make sense given the theme. Ideally, it should be short and not contain symbols other than letters and numbers.
Shoot your first video
This is a big step often met with a mix of excitement and dread. Pressing that REC button for the first time can be intimidating, but doing it is the only way you’ll start to gain experience and improve.
You can make things easier by writing a script and a storyboard first. The script is a general outline of the video. It covers the video’s contents from start to finish, which topics you should include, what finer points you need to remember, and so on. A script will help you structure the video and get through it with a smaller chance of mistakes.
A storyboard isn’t necessary, but it will help with planning from a more technical standpoint. The storyboard contains drawings of scenes along with short comments. Making one allows you to bring a scene envisioned in your mind into reality. You can then get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. The video will look better and flow more naturally because of it.
Your first video likely won’t be a masterpiece. However, it will start teaching you how to behave in front of a camera and edit clips into a coherent whole. Publish the video and see what others think. Take criticism with grace and use subsequent videos to work on mistakes or polish your on-camera personality.
Make a schedule and stick to it
Running a YouTube channel is stressful when things run smoothly but can become downright impossible under unforeseen circumstances. It’s only a matter of time before you hit a snag, so make sure that business runs as usual while you address them. Planning and maintaining a schedule is vital in that respect.
A schedule should encompass both the production and publishing of new videos. The goal is to get into a groove where you’re putting out videos at a steady pace while always having more ready at a moment’s notice. Being consistent will teach your audience to look forward to videos at regular intervals. Moreover, it will force you to develop a healthy work ethic.
Create an inviting profile page
Viewers who see value in one of your videos will want to find out more about you and the channel in general. Clicking on your name will take them to the profile page. That’s your chance to introduce them to the channel’s brand identity and mission.
Identity is reinforced by paying attention to channel icon and profile banner design. People will see the channel icon every time they watch your content, so making it memorable is crucial. How you’ll go about this depends on the channel’s content. Vloggers often use photos of themselves in flattering poses. This works for other channel types, too, as long as you incorporate its theme. Many channels are run by people who wish to remain anonymous or are collaborative projects. It’s best to use a logo in that case.
Replacing the lame white banner with an inspiring photo or artistic graphic will make profile page visitors want to explore further. You have full creative freedom in designing the banner. However, make sure that its dimensions are to YouTube’s specifications and incorporate colors or other elements people will associate with your brand. Don’t hesitate to hire a pro to make one for you if your artistic skills aren’t up to snuff.
The Home and About tabs play an important role in attracting new subscribers. Home is where you can showcase featured videos and display playlists. This makes it easier for visitors to find multi-part series or videos dedicated to a specific theme within your niche. About gives you room to write a dedicated channel description and outline its goals. The description should be short, to the point, and broken up into smaller segments for easier reading.
Growing the channel
With the initial hurdles out of the way, it’s time to expand and reach a broader audience. Here’s how you can grow a dedicated following and turn YouTube from a hobby into a business opportunity
On content consistency
The most reliable way of amassing a loyal audience is to create recognizable content. That doesn’t mean you have to follow the same stale formula for each video. Still, the audience expects that you retain a level of familiarity and uniqueness even if the channel starts getting attention outside of its niche.
Small creators should stick to what they know, but there is a way of testing the waters without upsetting your fanbase. Remember how one Google account lets you create more channels? Use that ability to try your hand at different content. For example, you might want to branch out from tech reviews into cooking tips or pet care videos. A second channel gives you a leg up while not alienating the part of your core audience that isn’t interested in its content.
There will come a time when you’ll feel that the main channel needs to branch out too. That’s fine, as long as you do it organically. Start slowly by covering closely-related topics and incorporating them as a fixed part of the schedule. For example, a channel devoted to exercising could expand by offering dieting tips or reviewing bodybuilding supplements. The audience will quickly adapt to such changes, and new subscribers you’ll inevitably gain won’t find the broader scope problematic.
While bringing something unique to the table is a must, don’t be afraid to go with the flow from time to time. A new game came out and everyone is clamoring to review it? Is a controversy shaking up the fashion world? As someone who aspires to recognition in your field, it’s your job to stay current. Dozens of people might talk about the same news, but there’s nothing stopping you from covering the same topic in your recognizable style.
Learn how SEO works
People find relevant videos by typing search terms into YouTube and browsing top results. No one’s going to click on your video if they have to scroll too far down, which is why its title and tags need to be optimized. Search engine optimization or SEO ensures that you’re leveraging keywords for maximum exposure.
The competition is an excellent place to start. Type in a search query you want to know more about and see which results pop up. You can then experiment by modifying the search terms and seeing how the results change. Google Analytics is an invaluable tool for SEO as it shows what keywords are currently trending. More importantly, it tells you which ones people look up frequently, but few creators use. Incorporating such keywords naturally into titles, tags, and descriptions will get your videos discovered quicker.
Build a community
One of the reasons YouTube is so popular is that users aren’t limited to being passive observers. Fans love to engage with content creators in the comments section and greatly appreciate thoughtful responses. Interacting with your audience is necessary for channel growth, and it can be a positive experience in its own right.
The basic thing you can do is read people’s comments and reply when appropriate. Keeping a tab on the comments section will also tell you a lot about viewers’ dispositions towards the channel and offer insight on improving it. Your most dedicated fans won’t mind sitting through ads or even supporting the channel through off-site donation platforms, so treat them with respect.
You might also want to consider accounts on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. Posting on multiple sites lets more people discover your channel and is a great way of notifying existing followers about upcoming videos. Plus, site-specific formats like Twitter’s short messages help complement your YouTube content while showing off a side of you fans didn’t know before.
Enjoy the success
The road to success is winding and uncertain, but you may reach it one day. Channels with thousands of subscribers can monetize their content and receive ad revenue. Viewers are increasingly aware of YouTube’s capricious towards content creators. They’ll be happy to support your efforts through sites like Patreon or Subscribe Star, so the more fans you have, the stronger your income will be.
A large following opens up even more lucrative opportunities like affiliate marketing or sponsorship deals. The most successful YouTubers also leverage their fame and brand to create custom merchandise fans love owning.
Whether or not you’ll make it big on YouTube depends on many factors, not all of which are under your control. Even if you don’t earn a penny, the skills you’ll develop and friends you’ll discover along the way make becoming a YouTuber worth it.