Read on to find out how I got monetized in just 2 weeks, and what I've learned in less than 6 months on YouTube. I have included affiliate links for the products I mention and recommend.
I published my first YouTube video four months ago without a single clue as to what I was doing. The ONLY thing I knew was that I had a story to tell that people would be interested in, but I didn’t know anything about the YouTube algorithm or editing. I was especially uneasy and awkward on camera (I still am, but it’s getting better). Now, I’m finding my groove and my style with editing; and genuinely enjoying the process of growing a channel and my community.
Before we go any further, THE MOST important thing to discuss right off the bat (in my opinion) is taking inventory of your support system and mental health. This was especially important in my case because I was (and am) dealing with a very heavy trauma that I went through… I mean… it’s what my whole channel and this whole blog are about. Getting criticism, hate comments, and trolls are no fun and could easily derail you if you let it, BUT if you can learn to accept your flaws and be comfortable in your own skin, then starting a channel should be a lot of fun for you. If you are in a fragile mental state I would advise holding off for a little while and speaking to a counselor or therapist before you move forward. That may sound extreme, but the internet can be cruel and harsh, and you have to be able to forget about it and move on. If you dwell on the bad more than the good, then this isn’t for you… yet.
Fun fact: I spoke with my therapist as well as every member of my family before I started my channel. I wanted to make sure it wasn't my grief talking, and knowing I had their support and backing really gave me the confidence to push forward.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks of starting your channel.
1. Your ‘why’:
This may seem obvious at first, but your reasoning for starting can change with time. It’s important to ask yourself what you hope to gain by starting a YouTube channel, and this will vary depending on the creator. For me there were many reasons. For one, what happened to me is extremely rare (I survived an internal decapitation as well as an impending brain herniation from hydrocephalus) AND the recovery I’ve had has been remarkable for what my injuies were. Naturally, people are curious, and I found that I got asked the same quesitons over and over, and I started feeling awkward becuase it felt like I was talking about only myself all the time. By simply turning a camera on and telling my story, it satisfies viewer curiosity while also being theraputic for me to talk about. When I sit down to do a video, I allow the viewer into my life and home to watch me navigate completely starting my life over. I pretend like the camera is a friend sitting accross from me and just talk to it like I would a human sitting there. It’s almost like my own little reality show, but it’s very much unscripted and real.
What do you want to get out of your channel and what are you an ‘expert’ in? What’s something you are passionate about that you can talk about endlessly? Do you have any special skills to demonstrate? What are your hobbies and interests? Answers to these questions can help you determine a starting point and you can niche down from there if you need to. Your first video doesn’t have to be mind-blowing- just make sure you at least post a first video…. which leads me to another point: Don’t consume so much that you don’t create! Read that again. If you spend all of your time watching others and not starting yourself, you’re never going to put out any content. What’s the point of learning if you’re not going to put it to use? If you’re waiting until you feel comfortable or knowledgable enough, then you’re going to look like this:
This can be especially overwhelming if you're obsessive like me, but don't worry- I've got you! First, you're going to need your camera, duh! This can easily be your phone to get started. Is it the easiest solution...? I think that's going to depend on who you ask. I'll tell you what I did and what I've changed since.
I did not have a huge budget, and very little money to invest as I had lost my job when I had my accident. That was $40k/year just gone (and my medical insurance through that company. I had to get on a plan with my husband which raised our costs for coverage.) Prior to my accident, I sold my car and bought my MIL’s car from her for $5k since she was no longer able to drive and her car was just sitting there. This got rid of my car payment and I started putting back all of what I was spending on my car payment plus a little more. My plan was to quit my job and go back to nursing school and my savings was going to get me through that, BUT then I had my accident and we quickly blew through all I had saved up on medical expenses and bills. Before I ran completley dry, I went to best buy and bought a GoPro with 3 batteries (they don’t last very long), and a ton of GoPro accessories. This ran me about $900ish. I made my first real video on my channel using my GoPro and iphone. I didn’t have any special audio or lighting and at the time of this writing, that video is sitting at 526,000 views. It’s still BY FAR the best performing video on my channel, and what that tells me is that if you have good content, the views will come. The audio is atrocious, the background music is way too loud (as evidenced by the many comments telling me as such), and I had the editing skills of a 10 year old on TikTok.
This single video got my channel to the 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch time hours needed to be accepted into the YouTube Partner Program to start running ads on your videos and making you some money. Every penny I made, I turned around and invested it back into the channel. I was constantly watching editing tutorials and listening to podcasts on how to get started on youtube.
My next purcahse was a ring light: https://amzn.to/3ZhFVHy and a camera that didn’t shut off from overheating like the GoPro. I decided to go with the more budget-friendly Sony ZV-1: https://amzn.to/3Y3xkY2 after watching many reviews on youtube. Now, I use the GoPro for time lapses and B roll footage and the Sony ZV-1 for my A roll or ‘talking head’ shots since it does not overheat and the battery lasts much longer. You can mount it on a cheap tripod like this: https://amzn.to/3Y2H1pm or a handheld tripod like this: https://amzn.to/3Z0d8Yo. Also worth mentioning is the GorillaPod (https://amzn.to/3m5NIKa) which I can use with either my phone, GoPro, or Sony interchangably.
Next on the equipment list is audio. As I stated above, I didn’t have any special audio equipment on that first video and it shows. You can hear all kinds of background noise (many people think it’s leaves in the background of that video, but it was actually my goats walking all around us. I got lots of comments about how distracting it was.) I purchased a shotgun mic (https://amzn.to/3XYl1fr) and a lavalier mic with rechargable case (https://amzn.to/3SuvM86). The audio is so much better after I started using these! You don’t necessarily have to get these as soon as you’re starting, but be careful about the background noise your speaker on your device will ultimatley pick up.
When I started my channel, the weather was just starting to get cold in my area so I had to do my videos in my house, and my house has terrible lighting. I purchased some studio lights (https://amzn.to/3Iqyt66) for only $60 that I have to set up and break down every time I film, but I have been very pleased with the results! It definitley raised the bar visually in my content.
Once you get into video editing, you’re going to find out real fast that you’re going to need more storage. I strongly recommend these SanDisk hard drives: https://amzn.to/3ku3aPW.
If you’re going to be on YouTube, you’re going to have to learn how to edit videos. There’s just no way around this and this hurdle often keeps us older millenials and gen x’s from getting into it. It has been quite a learning curve for me. I have a MacBook pro, and all Macs come with imovie which is perfectly capable of creating engaging content for your viewers. I highly suggest checking out Michael Kinney on YouTube- he has so much great information for a beginner starting out on imovie!
It took some time, but once I felt like I reached the limits of imovie, then I forked over the $300 for Final Cut Pro. Final Cut builds on imovie, so all of the shortcuts and techniques your learn in imovie can also be used in Final Cut + a whole lot more! I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what all I can do in Final Cut, but I knew when my ideas were pushing what I could do in imovie that it was time to upgrade. You don’t have to rush this, though. Get proficient with imovie, and even when you start reaching the constraints of it, I did find some workarounds using Canva and imovie that I can maybe do a tutorial on in the future if anyone is interested.
Next, and I cannot recommend this enough, is Canva! I use Canva for all of my thumbnails, and a ton of my graphics. Canva even has some sound effects and stock video that I’ve used for B roll footage. The chart I made at the beginning of this post I made with Canva as well as the “it’s exhausing” picture above.
As you can see, I use it a lot. I did, however, upgrade to the paid version for $120/year, but it is worth it in my opinion. There’s really so so much you can do with Canva!
Engagement is so important when building a community on YouTube. For me, it developed very ogranically. Since my videos were so personal, all I have to do when interacting with my audience is be myself. I have a few OG’s that have stuck with me from that first video and with every video I post, they’re in my comment section cheering me on and it’s literally the best feeling in the world. I started receiving handwritten letters from people, emails, and even packages full of foreign goodies from the UK! We were able to incorporate the foreign food with another video idea I had and it was really fun to make, and the UK viewers seemed to like it to. That video is here: https://youtube.com/watch?v=sBMXi06jPyg&feature=shares
In one of my earlier videos, I was talking to my audience about how I sometimes feel guilty about not responding to all of my comments (there’s just not enough time!), and it was actually one of my subs that told me that most creators set aside a set amount of time when they first publish a video and then don’t respond after that. I really loved that bit of advice and that’s what I’ve loosely been doing since then. For a few hours after I post a video, I respond to most of the comments and engage, but after that it’s much more sporadic. Content creaion is extremely time consuming when you’re great at it, but can feel like an eternity when you’re learning like me, so I have to learn to prioritize my time. That on top of my ongoing recovery, having 2 teenagers, and a MIL I do a lot of caregiving for does not leave me with an endless amount of time to respond to every comment. I reply to all of my emails currently. I figure if they take the time to find my email address and send me an email, then the least I can do is thank them with a reply. My LTM YouTube family has been unexpectedly amazing. I feel like they’re an extension of my life, and I recognzie the familiar user names when they leave comments, and they’re just the best. They thank me for helping them through something, but they’ve given me so much more in return.
Lives are also a great way to engage with your community (once you have one), but until you have a following, I would focus as much as possible on your content and engaging with the comment section. I also really like utilizing the community section of my channel. It’s a great way to engage with your subscribers, show behind-the-scenes pictures, and keep your subs up to speed on what’s going on.
5. Consistency & Growth
Being consistent with posting is going to do several things for you. It’s going to allow you to learn how to produce content on a schedule which is something I really struggle with. If you’re able to stick to say, 1 video a week, then after a year, that’s 52 videos of ‘practice’ and 52 chances to grow and learn something. I’ve said from the beginning that my goal is to see improvement with every video I post, and so far, I’ve been able to do that. I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be, but the learning process has been enjoyable to me. I think to be successful, you have to really love creating and editing, because it’s A LOT of work, but there’s something special about watching your old videos and seeing your own growth. If that seems overwhelming, commit to 1 video every other week, or 1 every month. Whatever it takes that makes you happy and productive is what you should do.
I’ve been consuming so much content since I started YouTube, and I noticed that it definitley seems more favorable to those still in their 20’s who most likely have a better understanding of algorithms, SEO (search engine optimization), and the basic editing skills required to run a YouTube page. It made me want to put out my own guide geared towards those of us who didn’t grow up around all of this.
If you’ve found this guide helpful, please consider using my link to buy me a coffee. Although, I must confess that I don’t drink coffee, but do promise to be responsible with donations 😉