So you want to start a YouTube channel. With over 30 million visitors a day and 46,000 years worth of content being watched every year (that’s right, years), it’s not hard to see what all the fuss is about.
It can all be a bit daunting at first – not knowing what videos to create, how to reach potential subscribers, what the hell the YouTube ‘algorithm’ is. We know a thing or two about how to start a successful YouTube channel, so here are our top tips on getting started!
Find your niche
The most important thing is to provide value. There are three main reasons people go to YouTube: advice, entertainment, or to learn something new. Ask yourself what you have to offer? Is there something unique you can do to make your videos stand out? Will it be entertaining? Play to your strengths, stay original and keep topics from getting too broad or your viewers will lose interest.
Understand your audience
Before you start creating your content, it’s important to understand who will be watching your videos. You want them to relate to your content as much as possible, and ultimately have them coming back for more. If you’re starting a gaming channel, it’s probably a good idea to do some research about what the average gamer is into (other than gaming, obviously). One way to do this is to look at other popular channels in your niche and figure out what makes their subscribers tick.
Keep them happy
It’s one thing to know your audience, it’s another to keep them coming back for more. An easy way to do this is to look at the videos you’ve made in the past. What are people saying in the comments? Which ones have had the most engagement (views, comments, likes, shares and watchtime)? Which ones are generating the most subscribers? Figure out the common theme about the best performing videos, and seek to replicate it (whilst still keeping your content fresh). Don’t be afraid to mix it up with something new, but pay attention to how your subscribers respond. If they’re not interested, cut your losses and move on.
What do you need to start a YouTube channel?
Get some free video editing software
You’ll need something to edit your videos. Don’t worry if you don’t have a couple hundred dollars lying around to spend on pro software. HitFilm Express is used by over 4 million content creators, totally free, easy to learn and has pretty much all the features you need to start editing your YouTube videos. If you need some help getting started, there’s plenty of tutorials on the FXhome YouTube channel.
You’ll also need some image software to create video thumbnails and channel art. If you have access to some already, great! If not, GIMP is completely free, and perfect for beginners.
If you’re starting a PC gaming channel or need to record your PC screen for your videos we recommend OBS Studio, which is a free, open-source streaming/recording program that’s easy to use and easy to set up.
What equipment do I need?
If you have any money to spend, you should place priority on choosing the right camera. If not, you can probably get away with filming videos on a smartphone. We would recommend getting your hands on a decent microphone regardless (no-one likes watching a video where you can barely hear what is being said).
You’ll also need some sort of tripod. You can get one of these from any camera store, or you might be able to pick one up second-hand. If you’re filming on your phone, there are smartphone tripods made exactly for that.
Lighting is also important. LED or fluorescent lighting is usually relatively inexpensive and easy-to-find, but you can get away without it when you’re first starting out (so long as you’re not filming your videos in a cave).
Learn the algorithm
You’ve probably heard of it. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s some kind of mysterious dark magic. In reality, YouTube’s algorithm is just their way of deciding when and where to show content to their users. It’s there to keep things relevant, and help you find what you’re looking for easier.
So how does it work? There’s a number of things at play, and we suggest doing your own research as you go along, but some of the easiest ways to keep it happy include:
- Providing genuine value to your viewers
- Publishing regular, consistent and relevant content
- Keeping your viewers engaged
But above all, YouTube just wants to make sure it’s providing as much value as possible to its users. So aligning yourself with that is the best way to make sure your channel performs well (after all, this is why they have the algorithm in the first place).
Create a good intro
20% of the people who start your video will leave after the first 10 seconds. That’s why it’s important to captivate them from the get-go. Make an exciting intro that peaks their interest whilst also giving them an idea of what to expect.
Spread the word
Your channel won’t go anywhere if you don’t generate some momentum straight away. Tell your friends as soon as you post your first video, and make sure you’re sharing your videos on social media as soon as you upload them. It also can’t hurt to hit up some of your favourite forums and let them know when you post a video that you think they’ll find relevant (just make sure it doesn’t come across as spam. Remember, it’s all about providing value.)
How to start a YouTube channel and make money
If you’re looking to make money from your YouTube channel, there are a few different ways to go about it. We do recommend, however, establishing your channel and a strong following before trying to capitalize on it. The most successful channels are those that are created because they’re doing what they love. The money comes afterwards.
YouTube ad revenue
If you sign up to YouTube’s partner program (see the requirements), you can turn on monetization from the settings panel on your video and advertisers will be allowed to bid on it to display their adverts. If your videos get a lot of views, this can be a reliable way to get consistent income without any extra leg-work, although the payouts aren’t usually that big.
Another way to make money on YouTube is by promoting products or services in your videos. Businesses often reach out to channels with decent followings to market their products. You can also reach out to businesses directly (just make sure their products are relevant to your audience). They’ll provide you with a link to lead customers to, and for every purchase made through that link you’ll get a percentage of the sales value. In some cases, you’ll also get free stuff to promote (pretty neat, right?)
Lots of loyal viewers are willing to offer donations to their favorite channels to support them in creating more content. In some cases, this can be enough to make a full-time living. This is why it’s always important to foster a sense of value and community amongst your subscribers.
Websites like Patreon.com allow you to set up a profile to fund your content, and reward supporters with exclusive perks or content. Ask your subscribers to donate in your videos. Just make sure you’re giving them value for their money or they won’t want to.
These are just the three main ways YouTubers monetize their channels, but they certainly aren’t the only ways. Some creators have started websites where they sell products, merchandise or services which they can promote via their YouTube channel. Others might offer one-to-one tutoring via video-chat. It all depends on your niche, your audience and what you have to offer.
How to start a successful YouTube channel
- Find your niche
- Understand your audience
- Keep your viewers happy by taking notice of what content they respond to best
- Make sure you listen to their feedback and suggestions too
- Get some free video editing software
- Get a decent camera if you can afford it (or film on your smartphone)
- Make sure you have a decent microphone
- Make sure you’re lit well enough
- Understand how to keep YouTube’s algorithm happy
- Create a good intro
- Spread the word
- Above all, provide value to your viewers
Here’s where we leave you to start your own journey into the big and beautiful world of YouTube. Don’t forget to download your free copy of HitFilm Express to edit your videos. Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there, create an account and start making some killer content!