Learning how to start a Youtube channel can be a worthwhile venture for anyone. From writing to biking to legal analysis of classic movie courtroom scenes, there is no shortage of knowledge in the world, and you might be a person with something specific to share. Whether you want to make money or just have fun, you want your first foray into Youtube a satisfying endeavor.

The big secret of how to start a Youtube channel is this: It’s not that hard. Anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a whiz kid or a computer programmer. So instead of starting with the how, let’s start with the why.

Purpose

Before you start a Youtube channel, think about why you want to. After all, you don’t want a dead site that no one visits because you haven’t posted in the last six months. Burnout or fadeout usually stems from a lack of planning. Here are some questions to get you started before you even think of hitting that “publish” button:

What do I want to get out of this?

This question helps manage your expectations for your Youtube channel. People tell this story every day, but no one was “just tinkering” with their Youtube channel when it suddenly blew up and got millions of views, followers, and ad revenue. It’s not going to happen to you, either.

Almost every single successful YouTuber was the product of a combination of hard work or access to resources and connections — sometimes solely either-or, most often both, and almost never neither. Asking yourself this question forces you to be honest. If you’ll be ok not having a channel that eventually gets you on Ellen, then that’s ok. And if that is what you want, it’s best to be clear so that you can prepare to do the work.

What resources do I have to dedicate to this?

Sometimes inspiration can strike suddenly, but inspiration is not enough to keep a YouTube channel going. The only thing that keeps your channel running is you. Before you start it, it’s important to ask what resources you already have to dedicate to the task.

Do you have the time? Do you have the materials you need? (If you were baking, for instance, costs for ingredients could add up.) What kinds of lighting equipment do you have? What kind of camera? Do you have a microphone? Do you have editing software? How much do you already know about video editing, lighting, and sound design?

The steeper the learning curve for you, the more time it will take to get it right. Think about how often you would like to upload, and exactly how much work that’s going to take you.

What Market Am I Trying to Engage?

Who is going to be interested in what you’re producing? “Everyone” is a bad answer. Here, you’ll want to be as specific as possible in determining exactly who you’re making this for. For example, SuperCarlinBrothers have a channel about movies, but it’s primarily pop culture movies, including Harry Potter, Disney, and Pixar. You’d never expect them to make a video with sober reflections on Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan — that’s not their brand, and that’s what we have ScreenPrism for.

The word YouTube written on an arrow shaped street sign.

Image CC by 3.0, by Nick Youngson, via Creative Commons Images

Being specific helps you create unique content that your viewers will enjoy once they find it. I, personally, am not a huge fan of your “Bacon Yoga” Youtube channel, but if I’m not interested, then I’m not your audience. Forget about me and find the people that want your content. Appealing to everyone is appealing to no one, so it’s truly in your best interest to nail down who’s going to want the specific product you’re offering.

These questions are not designed to overwhelm you. In fact, they’re designed to help you, because no matter how difficult they may be to answer right now, it’s much harder to figure out you’ve been doing the wrong thing for six months and change course. The clearer your answers now, the smoother your YouTube journey will be.

YouTube Creators

If you really want to do yourself a favor before learning how to start a YouTube Channel, head over to the YouTube Creators page. No one knows better how to create a successful channel than the company itself, and their in-depth classes can give you a wealth of knowledge.

Once there, you can watch courses specifically for your content. You can study with other creators and get advice from the most successful people in the game to get your brand headed in the direction you want to go. For instance, many readers will be keen to know how they can use Youtube to make money, and that course is right here. I will, however, tell you the same thing YouTube will: You must honor content over money. If you’re just learning how to start a YouTube channel for money, you’re going to have a bad time.

Building a Community

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not a popular movie. It’s not Saving Private Ryan or The Dark Knight. It’s easy to find people who haven’t seen it. But it stays alive in culture because the people who have seen it are c-r-a-z-y about it.

Similarly, before and during your YouTube reign, you should be making genuine connections with a like-minded community. If you’re a writer, talk to other writers. If you’re a knitter, find the knitters. And if you’re niche is so specific that no one else is doing it, talk to everyone and say, “Every week, I slide bare-chested across an ice rink while eating pizza and talking about campaign finance reform, wanna see?” More often than you think, they do.

A quick warning: Don’t be predatory. If people can sense that you don’t really care about them and just want their clicks or a leg up the ladder, you won’t make any friends. The keyword here is “genuine.” Maybe even compliment a specific part of their work, so they know you actually watch it and like it. Once you make those friendships, you’ll start learning, being critiqued, being included, and improving. And just like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you will create deep roots to secure your place, before focusing on broad (and often much more fragile) acclaim.

How to Start a YouTube Channel

Well, the moment of truth is here. If you’ve followed most or all of the steps above, you’re ready to learn how to start a YouTube channel. Here are a couple of things you should be thinking about:

Your welcome video

Your welcome video should be the clearest, most succinct distillation of what your channel is about. The shorter, the better. Err on the side of caution, and don’t extend beyond one minute. Your welcome video is for unsure customers, so it’s best to keep it short.

Your thumbnail

One of the most important things you can do is check out your thumbnail on different devices, such as phones, tablets, and computers. Make sure it looks good on all three because your thumbnail is your face. If your welcome video is for people who are only “kinda sorta” interested, the people who see your thumbnail are even less so. So it’s important to have a compelling picture that translates well across devices (no weird stretches or anything that might make you look unprofessional) and makes someone think, “Hey, what’s that? Looks kinda cool.”

Your name

Your trick here is to make your show memorable. Make your name something that people can easily tell their friends about, like, “Have you ever seen the YouTube channel _____? It’s so good.” Viewers should not pause at the end of that sentence because you chose something difficult to remember or difficult to pronounce. Go simple, but not boring. (Most can’t get away with calling their show the Philip DeFranco Show.)

A laptop with YouTube open and the words YouTube written across the screen.

Image CC0, by TymonOziemblewski, via Pixabay

Lastly, do not change your name. Random name changes are the sign of an unstable identity for a YouTube channel. Be intentional about what you want it to say, and stick with it. It will make sure you hold onto the fans you have and create new ones who can find you through word of mouth.

Enjoy Yourself

Last, but not least: Have fun. Learning how to start a YouTube channel is going to be challenging, sometimes frustrating, but many creators view it as one of the most worthwhile endeavors of their lives. Whether you set out to use your expertise to inform or educate others, react to their favorite movies, or use your channel as an excuse to do things outside your comfort zone, you will be able to find it. Love your content, find your tribe, and learn as much as you can. If you do these before and during your YouTube experience, you’ll not only learn how to start a YouTube channel — you’ll learn something much more valuable.

 

Featured image: CC0, by mohamed_hassan, via Public Domain Pictures

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