So you want to be a content creator on YouTube? Many people choose to consider alternate paths for their careers, such as becoming a YouTuber. However, as with any career, being successful on YouTube takes work, and an understanding of content creation. Below, we explain the academic steps to follow if you want to make a living as a YouTuber.
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What is a YouTuber?
Before you can become a YouTuber, let’s explain what a YouTuber is. Many of us have YouTube accounts but the difference between a casual YouTube user and a capital “Y” YouTuber is that YouTubers pursue content creation through the platform as a full time job and career. YouTubers like MrBeast, has amassed a huge following, monetized his channels, secured sponsorship deals with all kinds of major brands and developed various independent businesses through his platform. While MrBeast is an example of one of the top YouTubers in the world, he is a great visualization of what you can aspire to with a YouTube channel of your own.
To become a successful YouTuber, there are certain skills that are important to have. Regardless of what your channel’s focus is, YouTubers typically need to have excellent storytelling, communication and visual editing skills in addition to and understanding of marketing and business management. Being able to withstand criticism is another important skill given the nature of the job. These skills are important if you want to produce quality content that attracts subscribers and brand partnerships for your channel.
One of the greatest benefits of choosing to become a YouTuber is that for most people, gaining real-life experience in their chosen career path can be difficult, but as a YouTuber, you can get a feel for what the job might be like by simply creating a channel and posting videos to see if this type of career is something you are good at and enjoy doing.
How much money can I make as a YouTuber?
There is no fixed rate that YouTubers earn around the world. Payment varies significantly between professionals and depends on a wide range of factors. These factors include the number of views that a specific video receives and the number of subscribers that a person has. The types of monetization strategies you choose to use for your channel can also impact how much you make. For instance, while some YouTubers focus on making money by selling branded merchandise, others may get most of their earnings from affiliate sales or the YouTube Partner Program.
A step-by-step guide to building a career on YouTube
Now that you know a little bit more about what a YouTuber is, let’s dive into how you can become one – and make money doing so.
1. Enrol in a post secondary program that complements your goal of becoming a YouTuber
There are all types of post secondary programs out there that will help you achieve your goal of becoming a YouTuber. Earning a post secondary education, whether at a university or college, is a smart choice, as not only will it help you succeed as a YouTuber, but it can also expose you to different or similar career paths that may also be of interest to you. Post secondary school also gives you a chance to develop your network and and skills by learn from professors, teaching assistants, and even other students.
While some content creators are completely self-taught, a large portion have educational backgrounds in media and communications. Having a related degree under your belt can help you understand the professional landscape, which can give you a head start and set you apart from other creators.
A few of the types of programs that may interest you as someone who wants to become a YouTuber include media studies, communication studies, film studies, business school (with a focus on marketing or PR) and even photography courses. Do some research to find out what programs are offered at the institutions near you.
2. Identify your niche and target demographic
Once you’ve completed your post secondary degree or diploma, it’s time to start thinking more seriously about what you want your content creation career to look like. To do this, you will first need to think about what you want your niche to be.
Although you may not be selling a product (at least initially), you will still need to consider what style of video or service you will be providing your audience. From there, you should also think about who your target demographic is. When deciding what type of YouTube channel you want to build, ask yourself questions, such as:
- What other brands or channels exist to serve the same market that you want to serve?
- Who are the most popular YouTubers in your chosen niche?
- What types of products or services does your target audience engage with and purchase the most?
Keep in mind that the more you can narrow down the scope of your channel, the better. The way that YouTube’s algorithm works, you’ll have higher odds of success the less generalized that your channel is.
3. Start a YouTube channel
The second step to becoming a YouTuber is perhaps the most basic one of all: start a YouTube channel. You need to create an account and channel if you want to have a platform to share your content. The good news is that signing up for YouTube is free of charge. To create a channel of your own, create and log into your YouTube account (you might even be able to do this using an existing Google account if you already have one). From there, click on your profile icon and click the “create a channel” button. Follow the steps to create your channel and take the time to customize it so that it suits your brand with a banner and channel trailer, which will introduce potential subscribers to your channel and let them know what you’re all about. Then put your production skills to work and film an engaging intro video.
4. Create a content schedule
Once you’ve got your YouTube channel going, it’s time to start sharing content with your subscribers. After all, the only way to grow your following is to produce and publish content on a regular basis to your channel.
To keep organized, it’s best to create a content schedule. While you want to make your presence known by posting regularly, you don’t want to post so frequently that your videos get lost in YouTube’s algorithm or your number of views is negatively affected. Most YouTubers choose to post a new video either once a week or once a month. Whatever frequency you choose, try to stick to it, as your subscribers will get used to this schedule and be expecting a video from you on this basis. Creating a schedule can also prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content being produced. One video a week might be a smart choice when first starting out as the main way that you will increase your following is through your video posts.
The frequency that you decide to post is not the only component of your content schedule. You must also consider what you want the content of your videos to be. Think about the niche that you nailed down in step one. Browse fellow YouTubers in this space for trends that your target demographic has been engaging with on YouTube or other social media channels. This can used to decide what you want the subject of your first few videos to be. If you have any existing content, such as a podcast, vlog, or short-form video, you may be able to repurposing that content for your first video.
Finally, when it comes to a content schedule, we recommend using a third party app to keep you on track. Asana and Trello are just a couple of examples of platforms that can help you stay organized, making sure you publish your posts on time.
5. Buy the required equipment – and only the required equipment
A lot of content creators who are just starting out are able to do so with just a phone camera, mini mic and some good lighting. There are, however, certain pieces of equipment that you may need to invest in if you want to improve the quality of YouTube content you produce. That said, too many aspiring YouTubers pour thousands of dollars into all kinds of expensive equipment, even going so far as to create at-home recording studios. This generally isn’t the wisest idea, especially before you’ve amassed a following or started earning money from your channel. Initially, we recommend purchasing the basics: a camera, a microphone, a tripod, a lighting source, and quality video editing software. Remember to cut costs wherever you can in the beginning. If you have a relatively new smartphone, you likely won’t need to buy a new camera.
6. Produce your first few videos
Becoming a successful YouTuber largely depends on the videos and content you produce. The standard for video content on the internet is extremely high. Thus, you must think carefully when creating your first few videos. Filming you content is only half the job – typically the easier part. Editing the content you produce can be a tedious time consuming task. As with any skill, video editing takes practice, which is a great reason to explore video editing and production in post-secondary if this is your desired path. Your first YouTube video probably wont be perfect but as you get to know your audience and the content they enjoy you can hone your techniques and edit engaging moments into your videos.
7. Create an SEO-based title and video description
SEO (search engine optimization) is crucial on YouTube. After all, YouTube essentially functions as a search engine, which means that if you want your videos to have the best odds of appearing in someone’s feed, you must make your video as optimized as possible. The main way to do this is through keywords. Including descriptive keywords or phrases in the names and descriptions of your videos can help increase your ranking, as can using relevant hashtags or assigning a category to your video. If you aren’t sure what keywords to use, there are a number of free SEO tools online that can help you generate keywords.
8. Consider your video title and thumbnail carefully
As you now know, growing your subscriber base is largely done by increasing the number of views that your videos get. In turn, the more views and subscribers you have, the more likely you are to successfully monetize your channel. Two of the most important factors that may lead a new subscriber to click on your video are the video title and the thumbnail image. As mentioned in step number 8, your video title should be SEO optimized, meaning that it includes at least one if not multiple important keywords. Another way to pique the interest of a potential subscriber is to choose a title that creates a sense of intrigue. Next, create an eye-catching thumbnail image that attracts subscribers. Review your favourite or popular related videos to get a sense of the standard your thumbnail design should meet.
9. Communicate with your audience – engagement is everything!
When you hope to become a YouTuber and grow your channel, connecting with your audience is a must. Engaging and communicating directly with your subscribers can strengthen your relationship with them, making it more likely that they will watch your videos again in the future. Plus, the way that YouTube’s algorithm works is that the longer that a subscriber watches a video, the higher it will rank. To interact with your audience and promote viewer retention, experts recommend asking questions in your video that will drive viewers to respond in the comments, hosting giveaways or competitions on your channel, and creating playlists so that your other videos will automatically start playing after one ends.
10. Market your content
Marketing your content is another way to up your views and subscriber base. However, it’s a good idea to look outside of the YouTube world when it comes to marketing. For example, consider marketing your YouTube videos on other social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok. Content platforms like Descript can help you create shortened or teasers of your longer YouTube videos to suit these types of platforms. Alternatively, if your Youtube channel centers around a podcast, you might want to think about creating an audio version of your videos and sharing them on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
11. Pay close attention to the analytics
The data doesn’t lie. If you want to check the progress of your YouTube channel, you will need to check the stats. YouTube has a built-in analytics platform called YouTube Analytics where you can gain all sorts of information about how your videos are performing and how your audience interacts with them. Some of the metrics that you will likely find useful when evaluating your growth include the top (most-viewed) videos on your channel, the click-through rate of your video (i.e. the number of viewers who saw your video’s thumbnail and clicked on it), the average view length (i.e. how long a user watched your video before exiting the page), the most popular sources of traffic for your videos (i.e. how people came across your videos, whether through searching a certain keyword or watching a specific playlist), and the top search terms that were used to find your video (i.e. the phrases users search that led them to your videos). Regularly checking your analytics is important if you want to figure out what is and is not working with your audience. By reviewing the data, you can quickly uncover all sorts of key information that can help you fine-tune your content and grow your audience. You might discover that the average viewer watches your video for three minutes. In that case, you may want to work on shortening your videos to be closer to this duration. Please note that while YouTube’s built-in analytics tool, YouTube Analytics, is useful, it’s not the only one out there. There are a wide range of third party social media analytics tools, and even YouTube-specific analytics tools, that can be just as useful if not more for your needs.
12. It’s time to monetize!
You’ve followed the steps above. You’ve started a YouTube channel, created a content schedule, started posting videos, optimized your content, and are checking your analytics regularly. If you’re off to a successful start, then it might finally be time to monetize. Remember, monetization is the difference between a professional YouTuber and any other YouTube user. If you ultimately want to turn your time on YouTube into a long-term career, generating revenue is the next step. A few of the most common ways to generate revenue include acquiring brand sponsorships, affiliate marketing, selling branded products or services, showing ads in your videos, and asking for tips or pledges.
Brand sponsorships are extremely common given that YouTube is a popular space for influencers. Influencers tend to have strong relationships with their followers or subscribers, which is why brands are eager to partner with them. When considering brand sponsorships, don’t wait for a brand to approach you – at least initially. Instead, do your research to determine what brands your target audience are into and try reaching out to these brands first, whether they’re big or small. From there, brand partnerships often require you to feature certain products or services in the videos you post or even filming an unboxing or shopping haul.
Next, affiliate marketing is the act of promoting a brand’s products on your YouTube channel. However, unlike a brand partnership where you are paid in advance for agreeing to mention a certain product or service, you only get paid when your subscribers purchase the product or service you are affiliated with. In other words, you receive a commission on sales earned through the affiliation. Commission ranges between 5% and 30%. As you might suspect, the newer you are to the YouTube space and the fewer subscribers you have, the lower your commission is likely to be.
To monetize their channels, some YouTubers go the route of creating and selling branded products or services. For example, if it suits your brand, you could sell physical products, such as clothing, accessories, or other merchandise. You could even offer services, such as copywriting, social media marketing guides, or even an online course or eBook that your subscribers must pay to access.
Another way to monetize your YouTube channel and earn revenue is by agreeing to show advertisements in your videos. The YouTube Partner Program is the platform’s built-in program that allows YouTubers to get paid in exchange for showing ads throughout their videos. However, not just anyone can take advantage of this. Channels need to have at least 1,000 subscribers to be eligible, along with no less than 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months. If you qualify, you can earn roughly $18 in revenue per 1,000 views.
Finally, YouTubers may choose to monetize their channels through tips or pledges. While tips and pledges are unlikely to amount to a full-time revenue stream, they can still help you earn some extra money. Some of the most popular platforms that YouTubers can accept tips through are Patreon and Buy Me A Coffee. Such platforms incentivize users to leave a tip after watching quality content (that is often exclusive to these platforms).
Tips for starting a YouTube channel
If you’ve decided that becoming a YouTuber is the right choice for you, then follow the list of tips below to ease your transition into this exciting and lucrative career path.
Pursue post secondary education
The first tip to becoming a YouTube is to pursue post secondary education. Many YouTubers think that they can skip post secondary altogether, and do. However, pursuing relevant and related collage or university programs is a great way to get training under your belt that you would otherwise have to learn independently or not have access to at all. Another huge benefit is that within a college or university setting you can learn elective skills that will be essential to growing your platform and business, including marketing and communication skills and practical or technical skills relating to the production of videos or films. Don’t underestimate the impact having these abilities can have in jumpstarting the success of your channel.
Select your channel name carefully
One of the first steps to becoming a YouTuber is to create a YouTube channel, and part of that process involves selecting your channel name. There are a few options when it comes to choosing a name. First, you could use your name if your channel’s brand centers around you as a creator. Many successful YouTubers have done just that – take Peter McKinnon and Michelle Phan as two examples. If you don’t want to use your name, you could also go with a keyword or phrase that speaks to the type of content you produce. Just do some research to determine what similar channel names already exist and what the highest-ranking keywords relating to the scope of your videos are.
Treat your YouTube channel like a job – from the beginning
If you want to be a professional YouTuber, then you need to act like one, and that means treating your YouTube channel as a job. We discussed the importance of creating and sticking to a content schedule above, and this is extremely important. Consistency is crucial, so be realistic about how often you will be able to post new videos. Although you might want to post once a week, if you’re just starting out in the YouTube world, then you may still be working another job. Thus, producing a new video each week may not be feasible. In that case, consider a bi-weekly or monthly content schedule. Ultimately, when it comes to YouTube, consistency matters more than frequency, especially as you start to develop your subscriber base.
Improve upon each video you create
In any job, you should constantly be striving to improve, but this is especially true for YouTubers who are just starting out. The reality is that your first YouTube video is likely going to be your worst on all fronts. From the production quality to how awkward it feels to be in front of the camera, a YouTuber’s first video is generally not their best – not even close to it. Don’t get discouraged. Instead, take it as an opportunity to grow. Learn from your mistakes, keep up to date with your analytics, and make small improvements and adjustments to each video. If a certain type of editing software isn’t working for you, try a new type of software. If you need better lighting or audio, invest in new or better equipment. Ultimately, even small changes will add up and make a big difference down the line and creating a measurable growth plan can give you a motivating goal to reach and a tangible way to gauge your overall success.
Learning more about different career paths, like YouTubers, is extremely important, especially if you are in the midst of figuring out what you want to do with your life. With so many different jobs out there today, taking the time to consider your interests, goals, and ideal lifestyle can help you land on a career path that suits your needs, whether that be a YouTuber, doctor, accountant, or something in between.
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