Teach Me How to YouTube: The Basics (Pt. 1)

Teach Me How to YouTube How to Start a Channel

Let me start by saying my YouTube channels are not the most watched, most searched for, best channels out there. But I have been on the platform for a little over a year and quite simply: this is what I want to do with my life. This, as in teach brands and personalities how to effectively market their content, not this as in star in YouTube videos. On the other hand, I've gotten a lot of emails, a lot of comments, and a lot of tweets asking for advice on starting, maintaining, and growing a YouTube channel so in a nutshell, I'm starting this series for you and for me.

I'll be scratching the surface of everything I have to share, but look out for more info on a very exciting project I've been working on which will *hopefully* be completed by the end of this year. My lips are sealed, but you'll hear more soon!

Today I'm sharing the very basics of starting a channel. If you're advanced, you might know a lot of this, but it never hurts to learn another creator's tricks of the trade, now does it?

Why should I start a channel?

This is a very common question I get. Actually, it's more like, "Why do you do YouTube?" but you get the point. The truth is, everyone has a different reason but at the end of the day, you should be doing it because you love it too much not to. Personally, I realize my time could be spent in more productive (or fun) ways than slaving over a 3-minute video, but I love YouTube way too much to quit. A passionate person creates passionate, meaningful content, and that is what this is about.

Sometimes it's easier to answer a question with what not to do. You should not start a YouTube channel because you want to get rich, famous, or get a bunch of free stuff. Money, popularity, and product samples (along with VIP invites, trips, conventions, and new BFF's) do come, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there.

With that said, if you're a business or brand, my advice might be a little bit different. If that's the case, I recommend you drop me a line for some one-on-one consulting, but the long and the short of it is this: YouTube is one of the most powerful marketing tools I've seen in recent years and it's not something to ignore. It's the second largest search engine on the Internet after Google and increases brand visibility immensely. Depending on what you do, it may just work for you.

How exactly do I start a channel?

First: Think of a channel name. It should be representative of you, your brand, or your niche. A combination may work well, too. I go by "a journey east {dot com}" because -- you guessed it, that's my brand name. I used to go by a nickname plus "makeup" (my niche) but I wanted to branch out a bit. Luckily YouTube now allows you to change your display name, but your channel URL is set in stone. With that said, pick something you don't ever want to change, because your subscribers are more likely to stick with you and your content will likely stay optimized for search.

After creating a channel, you'll also want to find a nice profile picture to use, and also create (or purchase) some kind of channel art. These two things will draw people to your channel, and no one really likes making videos that no one watches. Then, you and YouTube have a date (not really, but you know...) and you will probably spend a good 6 hours figuring the whole channel set-up thing out. And when you do, it will be a glorious, glorious feeling.

What kind of equipment should I use?

Unless you're a business or a brand -- use what you have! I started on a point and shoot camera that didn't even shoot in HD. As my finances allowed (and my passion grew), I upgraded to a camcorder, then a DSLR. I still have upgrades I want to make, but I'm doing it gradually.

The most important thing to making quality videos is to find a good lighting source. I'd guess you have at least one decent window in your dwelling, so sit in front of it, put your camera in between yourself and the window, and see how the footage looks that way. If you still need some extra illumination (say it's a cloudy day or your window is small), those multi-head lights (think college dorm) work really well depending on the color bulb you pick up. I used one of those lamps with a natural daylight colored bulb for my first year on YouTube, and I'd say my lighting was just fine. It's all about experimentation. With that said... cheap umbrella lights will only run you about $40.

How do I choose my video topics?

You should be passionate about something if you're going to make videos. This doesn't mean you have to be an expert: I'm certainly no makeup artist but I sure love applying and reviewing it! From there, you'll discover other things you like talking about, whether its popular culture, home improvement, or something completely random. I really recommend starting with a passion though, as you're likely more knowledgable about the topic and will be more comfortable talking about something you love.

How exactly you plan your videos is up to you. I try very hard to stay away from "trendy" videos because although they sometimes do well in terms of views, you're unlikely to establish yourself as a leader in the vlogging community that way. Instead, you'll look like a follower who is desperate for views. Don't get me wrong. When in doubt, I'll throw in a tag video like "What's in My..." or a seasonal video (in fact I did a whole Back to School series), but for the most part, try to be as original as possible. In this era of content creation, people just can't be bothered by carbon copies of Bethany Mota or Zoella.

How do I get people to watch my videos?

The answer is easy but difficult at the same time. Obviously, you have to tell people about your channel if you want them to watch it. At the same time, your first channel is very much a trial run and you might not care to let everyone know about it just yet. I still don't share my videos with my personal networks because I just find it very intrusive and odd. But if you don't share it there, you have to share it somewhere.

You might join a message board. You might start a YouTube-focused Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram. Maybe you'll just comment on a bunch of other YouTube videos. Honestly, those are all tactics I've used at one point or another, and that last bit is not even an option. Immersing yourself in the YouTube community is essential, because it helps you meet people and also lets you learn from others. Please keep in mind that there is a very fine line between making friends and spamming, as there is between 'being inspired by' and 'stealing ideas from'. Please be conscious of this. I've severed ties with several YouTube 'friends' who blatantly stole my ideas, sold their soul for views, and generally acted like rude people. But we'll cover that next time.

How do you get paid?

In short, you get paid by the amount of people that watch (and/or click on) the ads in your videos. To begin running ads on your channel, you'll have to sign up to monetize through YouTube's partner program first. This is a fairly easy process which does require some legal information, as ads are served through Google's AdSense. From there, you can choose to stick with YouTube or look for a network. I'm partnered with a network, which means they help me with certain things and therefore take a percentage of my revenue, before then paying the money out to me. There are pro's and con's to each scenario, and ultimately it's your decision which route you want to take. That's up to you to research, and if there is enough demand, I might cover that in a future post.

You can also get paid through sponsorships, which essentially means a brand pays you to talk about their product in a video. If you're reading this post and haven't yet started a channel, I wouldn't worry too much about that part quite yet. Focus on getting your views up, first. Another way that surprisingly, a lot of people haven't caught onto yet, is affiliate marketing. I use affiliate links in nearly every video and blog post, and I find nothing wrong with that. Some people do. Again, you'll have to decide which route you want to take. In essence, using affiliate links gives me a small percentage (usually under 10%) of sales made by clicking on that link. The purchaser does not pay extra for the sale, I do not see or modify the transactions, and I don't even know who they come from. They are all served through a third-party (I use Skimlinks, and you can sign up here.) Using affiliate marketing has allowed me to turn my YouTube hobby into a legitimate business. Relying on ads alone will not pay the bills (unless you're averaging tons of views per month.)

Next week I'll cover...

Stay tuned for info on working with brands, maximizing your impact, and saving those receipts. I've got lots planned for this series so check back every week for more. Make sure to tweet me @ajourneyeast with any specific questions and I'll try to fit them in.