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Starting a YouTube channel is, hands down, the single best thing I've ever done in my life. I've met hundreds of incredible people, built an income-generating machine, and enjoyed every step of the way. So in this article I'm going to share my top 10 tips on how to get started on YouTube.
🤷♂️ 1. Don't worry about what other people will say
The number one fear about getting started on YouTube is always the same: "I'm worried about what my friends and family will think."
This certainly seems like the biggest deal in the world - and it's a common fear we all have - but the truth is no one actually cares. Everyone's just too worried about their own lives and you just need to get that into your heads. No one actually cares whether you're uploading videos to YouTube.
There's this thing in psychology called the 'Spotlight Effect', which is the phenomenon that we all walk through life thinking that everyone notices everything about us. And we forget that everyone else is absorbed in their own life and probably not thinking about us at all. So whenever you think it's going to be embarrassing/scary/awkward to start a YouTube channel, the chances are your friends and family won't even care.
You just need to record your video and hit publish. The fear will quickly disappear.
📹 2. Gear doesn't matter at the start
Although gear does matter in the long run, at the start it doesn't matter at all.
When I started my YouTube channel I filmed everything using my iPhone. I knew absolutely nothing about editing and just watched a bunch of free YouTube tutorials to help me out. It's like when you're learning to write, it doesn't matter what pen you use as long as you're writing something.
So if you want to get started on YouTube, screw the gear. Don't think, "I need to get this fancy camera before I begin". You can start with whatever and upgrade our gear later if you decide to take YouTube more seriously.
If you do want to upgrade, my recommendation is to upgrade your audio first. This is because people will happily sit through bad video quality, but nobody wants to sit through bad audio quality. If you want to learn more about exactly which gear to buy at different levels, feel free to check out my article on ‘YouTube Gear for Different Budgets’. Or, if you enter your email below I'll send you a free 7-day email course with even more tips on getting started on YouTube as a beginner:
🔢 3. Don't worry about the numbers
Once you've started your YouTube channel, the mistake everyone makes is to focus too much on the analytics. The only thing we really have to do is to just keep on producing video and not really worry about the fact that no one is watching them.
According to TubeBuddy, the average channel with 1k to 10k subscribers has made 152 videos. So until you've made 152 videos, you don't really have the right to complain that you're not growing on YouTube. Only once you've hit this milestone should you begin thinking about how to tweak things to improve your engagement and growth.
For me, it took 52 videos and 6 months to hit 1000 subscribers. I was making 2 videos/week while I was a full time medical student at Cambridge preparing for my final year exams. During this time I didn't even think about the analytics or subscriber count. I focused on creating consistent content and definitely didn't bother worrying about diving too deep into the stats. The ROI is just way too small when you're starting out.
🥞 4. Stack the deck in your favour
To succeed on YouTube you want to think in terms of stacking the deck. The extent to which you should stack the deck depends on how you're thinking about YouTube.
If you're thinking about YouTube purely as a hobby and don't really care about the numbers, then there's no point worrying about stacking the deck in your favour. Just have fun. But, if like a lot of students on my Part-Time YouTuber Academy course, you're thinking about YouTube more as a business opportunity, then stacking the deck in your favour is super important.
And there's broadly 2 ways of stacking the deck:
- Time - this involves putting in the time to learn how to get better at shooting videos and editing them. The more time you put into creating the videos, the better your videos will be. So we'll get more views, engagement, and subscribers. For example, James Jani grew from 0 to 500k+ subscribers on YouTube within like 10 videos by spending hundreds of hours writing, scripting, and editing every video. He has effectively stacked the deck in his favour by spending large amounts of time on his content.
- Money - this is more advanced. But the more you invest in gear or hiring people, the better your content will be. You can actually outsource video editing quite cheaply and it's well worth it if you value your time more than $10 an hour.
➕ 5. Use your unfair advantages
I've got a three-part formula for success on YouTube: Success = work x luck x unfair advantage
- Work - if you want to succeed, you need to actually put in the time and effort.
- Luck - the more videos you create, the higher the chances that one of your videos will go viral. In fact, for my channel only like 2 or 3 videos have gone viral in the last 4 years of creating content. So a large part of success is luck.
- Unfair advantage - you want to think about the qualities you have that other people can't compete with and can use to propel your channel. My unfair advantage, for example, was that I was a medical student at Cambridge university. And if you're thinking "I don't have an unfair advantage", you should check out my video on the fantastic book The Unfair Advantage, which will help you to figure out this question.
☝️ 6. Focus on quantity rather than quality
It is far more important when you're starting out on YouTube to make 100 really bad videos than to try and make 10 really good videos.
The caveat - you're going down the James Jani route of spending hundreds of hours editing our videos. But for most people reading this, I'd imagine that the aim is to become a YouTuber where you sit in front of the camera and share your experiences, rather than to craft Netflix level documentaries.
Quantity > Quality
The reason why you should focus on quantity is nicely captured by the parable of the pottery class. The story goes as follows: there's a pottery class and the teacher divides the class into two groups. One group has to make a pot every day for 30 days and the other group has to focus on making a single pot for the whole 30 days. And then at the end, the teacher judged the quality of the pots and gave a prize to the best potter. Ultimately, every single pot that won a prize came from the quantity group, rather than the quality group.
In other words, when you're starting out with YouTube there's so much to learn: improving your ability to talk to the camera, improving your editing skills, improving your storytelling, etc. All of these things happen by putting in the reps and making hundreds of videos. By creating lots of content you're naturally going to improve the quality of your videos without even really thinking about them.
🎯 7. Don't really worry about what your niche is
People get very hung up on this and say things like "I don't know what to make videos about". But this thought process is like an artist saying "I don't know what my masterpiece is going to be, therefore I'm not going to bother painting". It's not going to get you anywhere.
Sure, you can take a very calculating route and plot out your content in advance. But, what I would recommend is to just start making videos about whatever you enjoy - like your favourite pen or some close-up magic - and let your niche emerge over time.
I never thought I would be a productivity YouTuber, but I seem to have become a productivity YouTuber because that niche just sort of emerged over time. It wasn’t planned out in advance. So don't overthink it. Just make the videos you enjoy and work this out later.
🤓 8. Be patient and be consistent
Patience and consistency are really the only two things that you need for success on YouTube. You need the consistency to publish at least one video a week and the patience to realise that you're not going to get any traction for a while.
Success on YouTube is absolutely not an overnight thing. For the first 50-100 videos we're going to make no money. But if you stick with it for 2-3 years, and get that flywheel to turn, you'll start to see some compounding returns. It's that consistency that gives you the results.For example, it's like my goal to get six pack abs. If I were to do some crunches right now and not see my abs straight after, it would be silly for me to say "why are my abs not coming out?". Because you have to do it every day for several results before you see any results.
⚙️ 9. Try and think about it in terms of systems
If YouTube success is largely about being consistent for a very long time, it's important to build systems that help you to put out one or two videos a week for the next five years. This is something that we teach in our Part-Time YouTuber Academy course, but it's mainly about answering the following questions:
- How can I generate as many ideas for content as possible?
- How can I refine these ideas and turn them into titles/thumbnails/hooks?
- How can I create these videos in parallel?
- How can I find pockets of time throughout the day to plan out my videos?
- How should I plan my week so I can film several videos at the same time?
You should also check out The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. This is a book I've been recommending to all the students in our course, and everyone who's read it says it's absolutely amazing. It really helped me to begin thinking in systems. And this is the one thing that's made publishing on YouTube so much easier for me.
✔️ 10. Just do it
If you're thinking of getting started on YouTube, just do it. Stop reading this article, get out your phone, start speaking, and upload it using the YouTube app. It's really that simple.
We all overthink this way too much. We think "oh my god, my first video has to be perfect otherwise nobody is going to watch". But nobody actually cares. Nobody will watch our first few videos anyway. As I said before, until you've published like 100+ videos just create and upload anything.
What matters is you actually get started.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
There's honestly nothing else you need to do if we want to get started on YouTube. It's as simple as getting out your phone and committing to the journey.
If you're pretty serious about this YouTube thing, feel free to join me on my live 6-week course, where I teach a few hundred people how to do all this stuff and much more. You don't need a course to succeed on YouTube, but the accountability/community/etc. is something that many of our previous students have found incredibly useful.