How to Become a YouTuber: The Ultimate Guide
by Sam Campbell
So, you want to join the YouTube ranks as a top influencer. Welcome to the party. The goal to become a YouTube star is fiercely competitive, but also very attainable if you do your research and follow best practices.
- What Is A YouTuber?
- The YouTube Community
- How Does A YouTube Channel Become Popular?
- How Does A YouTube Channel Choose A Niche?
- Video Creation Time!
- The Growth Game
- Final Thoughts
What Is A YouTuber?
Basically, a YouTuber is anyone who posts self-produced videos to their YouTube Channel. Often times they’ve branded their channel and videos with a unique name, subject matter, and style. However, some have taken YouTube to the next level.A pro YouTuber is someone who earns money by making videos so interesting, informative, or thrilling, that they are viewed and shared by thousands and even millions of people. And for some YouTubers, each view equals money in the bank.
So how does one go from a humble creator to a YouTube superstar? YouTube stardom may seem like a mysterious, invite-only secret society, but in reality, there are certain steps you can take to achieve success and it starts by understanding how to build a brand and by taking advantage of the entire YouTube platform.
If you are a YouTuber, you are a content creator. Think of the ideal content recipe as 60% salesperson (although nobody really likes to use that word), 60% videographer, 100% entertainer. Ok, so the percentages don’t add up, but the concept does when you better understand just how YouTube and its viewers work.
As a YouTuber, your goal is to create video content that is fascinating, unique, and educational for a specific audience. Keep in mind that you don’t simply want someone to just start watching one of your videos, you want them to watch the whole thing. And better yet when they’re done, start talking about it, share it with their friends, and heck, maybe even watch it again! As a result, you can accumulate a loyal following, lots of views, and with them, you can even earn money!.
At this point, you might be asking about the platform itself. Why do people choose YouTube? What does it have to offer me? What makes it better than the other platforms out there?
The YouTube Community
YouTube isn’t just a video hosting platform. What makes YouTube so outstanding is that it’s also a social network – It’s a community and quite a large one.
Everyone is Watching Videos
According to Facebook, over 500 million people are watching over 100 million hours of video on their platform every single day. This number includes the video ads that appear before or during regular Facebook videos. Those are a lot of eyes that could be looking at what your business has to offer.
Why Make Videos for YouTube?
YouTube is popular
YouTube is popular and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The total number of viewers, people who use YouTube, is 1,300,000,000 - that’s one billion, three hundred million people, just in case your brain couldn’t comprehend all those zeros. That means that one out of every six people ON THE PLANET is watching videos on YouTube. Needless to say, it is one of the most popular social channels on the planet. Almost five billion videos are watched each and every day by a staggering 30 million daily visitors. Because of this, it wouldn’t be wrong to call it a search engine itself. In fact, it’s the most heavily used search engine after Google. Yup, that means it’s more popular than Amazon, Facebook, and all your other favorite Internet surfing tools when it comes to search traffic.
YouTube is for everyone
With all that search power and all those people looking for just about everything under the sun, YouTube represents nearly every corner of the Internet, in vibrant video. Just about any subject that has an audience will have a place on the platform.
YouTube is more social than you might think
Watching videos can feel like a solitary action, especially when you’re by yourself and binging Netflix for an entire weekend. But think about how many people you talk to about your favorite shows and movies, what you loved and hated about recent releases, as well as favorite celebrities, soundtracks, and moving stories.
YouTube goes beyond Youtube.com
Zooming out just a bit more, YouTube videos can be utilized elsewhere in the digital sphere, too. Videos can be embedded and shared on your website. They can be shared to help with your social media plan. They can be emailed, downloaded, and even added to presentations and slideshows. It’s this broad versatility that makes YouTube uniquely social.
Searchable content designed for discoverability
Not only is YouTube the second largest search engine, but it’s also powered by Google. And Google loves to make sure your content can be found and matched to the right people - people who are looking for you.
Even though many people target the most popular niches because they have proven success with large, accessible audiences, there’s no doubt that targeting lesser-known niches means lower competition and a better likelihood of earning while moving your way up the ranks faster.
YouTube has celebrities, stories, punchlines, and soundtracks. More people go down YouTube rabbit holes than they would like to admit. And YouTube is personal. When you spend time watching YouTube videos, you’re not just watching a movie or TV show because you like the actor or genre. You’re curating a watchlist of videos that are completely specific to you and your life. It’s made up of your hobbies, likes and dislikes, interests, projects, and more.
On top of YouTube providing a more personalized experience than Hollywood can ever dream of achieving, there are always conversations happening. People leave comments and have discussions on threads for each video. They vote for the best videos with thumbs up and down options. And they can express their support by subscribing to entire channels.
Unlike Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and other social media platforms, YouTube is designed to make your videos searchable. That’s why most YouTubers treat their YouTube as their home. Their YouTube is their website. Other social platforms can only serve to find and market to others on the same platform.
How Does A YouTube Channel Become Popular?
Good question. Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty. There are some universal ways people and businesses can acquire the attention of their audience to grow their business. These are fundamental best practices that end up in every business plan.
There are also specific ways each social platform has designed its user-experience to create best practices for gaining popularity. And there are some creative strategies people use to give themselves a boost and reach the coveted YouTube stardom status.
Let’s first take a look at the essentials that will give you a strong foundation on which to grow, along with giving you a bit of an edge so you can gain momentum more quickly and stay ahead of the pack.
Being relevant means finding a topic people are interested in as well as discovering the specific questions people have within that topic. Knowing who you serve and what they want to know about will inform your content plan, which also helps you laser focus your resources. Scattershot attempts at reaching everyone or keeping your audience broad doesn’t work. It limits your ability to really address the specific questions your audience have because you’re trying to please everyone.
An example is trying to make content about travel. An effort to reach this broad of an audience would mean tackling every single travel challenge and interest under the sun.
However, there are backpackers, people who travel on a budget, and people who love luxury travel. There are people who love dining on local cuisine and shopping local tourist areas for a taste of culture. And there are people who want experiences that are out of the norm for tourists. They want to get as close to living local life as possible.
Knowing who you are speaking to and answering their specific questions about where to go and what to see will keep them interested and coming back for more content. Creating a plan that will speak to all those audiences means when people view your channel, they’ll see a bunch of topics that aren’t relevant to them and they’ll move on to search other channels with content that quickly gets to the meat of their interests.
Pro Tip: Identify your niche and audience. Then find out about their burning questions and biggest pain points.
One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to think you can create high-quality content on your own without any technical understanding or knowledge. Good video quality means having the technical expertise, from you or someone who supports you, to produce quality videos. This means lighting, sound, and having the right equipment.
This quality requirement also means editing quality and having the tools you need to create engaging, interesting videos that involve more than talking heads and holding up products.
Luckily there are some amazing video and photo editing software companies designed to give you an advantage without a degree in making videos. They have tools, templates, and effects that will set you apart and make you the person everyone wants to emulate.
Of course, don’t forget that content quality also matters. Not only answering relevant questions for your audience, but giving them the best possible available answer will build their trust in you, your authority, and the reliability of your content so they keep coming back for more.
Pro Tip: Find the right video editing software that will not only keep you competitive but launch you into stardom with impressive video features at your fingertips. Learn about some of the best video editors for YouTube.
Ah, yes. We’ve come to the place in the conversation where we have to have “the algorithm” talk. Nothing causes more angst, confusion, and general hostility than misunderstanding the algorithm.
First, to understand the YouTube algorithm, you must be the YouTube algorithm. Just kidding. It’s not like that. And you don’t need a quantum computer or a team of NASA scientists to run calculations for you.
The algorithm is just a means of getting found and staying competitive. It’s a lot like understanding your credit. It seems confusing if you go to the wrong source. If you do your research, you find out that in its simplest terms, it’s really about a few key elements: consistently pay your bills on time, never let your debt go over 30-40% of your available credit, and never let your debts get higher than your income.
The YouTube algorithm is based on simple concepts as well.
- Subscribers. How many subscribers do you have and how fast are you getting new ones over time?
- Views: How many views does a single video have as well as all videos on your channel?
- Growth. How fast is your channel gaining new subscribers and views - this also refers to getting consistent growth over time?
- Engagement. How many comments and likes do you have on a video or all videos?
When you take the mystery out of it, your business plan becomes much clearer. Sure, the algorithm changes over time. That’s because it’s built to react to the ever-evolving changes in user behavior. However, the four touch points mentioned are foundational and don’t change.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye on how the algorithm affects your channel as well as what competitors and up-and-comers are doing the same versus what they do differently. Make the algorithm work for you!
Benefits and Opportunities
Not everyone starts their YouTube channel with sponsors, unless they are already a celebrity in the real-world, somewhere else on the Internet, or in their niche. That means most people build a YouTube channel with the intention of gaining an audience that a sponsoring company will want to access.
Video ads for Facebook are more than just a way to make customers aware of your existence. It is a way to express the values and culture of your company. So get creative and express yourself! You are more likely to find your target audience if you show them what you and your brand are all about.
Building a YouTube audience goes beyond simply making high-quality, engaging videos for a specific audience. You have opportunities to invite collaborations with other, like-minded YouTube studios. You can host large content events. And you can tap into that global community YouTube boasts, to help you get seen on YouTube.
Pro Tip: Don’t simply post videos, engage with your audience on YouTube. This not only helps with building a more loyal and passionate following but also makes the algorithm favor your videos more by creating high engagement. By engaging with your YouTube community, you not only build your audience, but you also exert a bit of control over your visibility, rather than leaving it all to the algorithm.
We’re finally addressing the core question of any business plan, including becoming a star on YouTube. Sure, your desire to share your gifts with the world may not be about money, but if you’re going to invest time and resources into creating and growing a channel, why not set it up for monetization? It doesn't make you greedy. It makes you smart and gives you options.
There are two ways people make money on YouTube: advertisements and sponsorships.
Advertisements. Pre-roll ads, also called in-stream advertising, are those ads you see just before the video begins playing. You watch the ad for a few seconds and then you have the option of continuing to watch the ad or clicking “skip ad” to get the actual YouTube video.
The YouTube channel gets paid for the number of times the ad plays, meaning you want to have a high view count on your video. For those who watch the entire ad, the channel that hosts the ad gets paid a bit more.
Bumper ads are short ads that only play for a few seconds during longer videos. These are ads the viewer can’t skip. They interrupt the video, so the content creator needs to make sure the choice to allow these ads is warranted. If your content is valuable and engaging, people will wait around while the ad plays because they want to see what else you have to say.
Sponsorships. Connecting with companies that are within your niche as well as outside your niche can be useful and adds variety to your content. For example, if you are representing a specific brand of glazes for your pottery channel, you’ll do a number of videos on glaze techniques, using that brand and their glaze colors.
A YouTube channel might also get sponsors in complementary fields, such as large art studios that carry pottery as well as a variety of art, who want to be mentioned on your video to broaden their reach.
Additional complementary sponsors in that niche might include artists who have created an album of music you like to listen to when working in your studio, air purifiers that help reduce harmful pottery dust in your studio, and juried art competitions hoping to earn more submissions from potters.
How Does A YouTube Channel Choose A Niche?
A niche choice is a combination of what you love to talk about, what areas you have some authority or experience, and what will draw an audience. Many gravitate to large, proven niches, however, these also have a great deal of competition, making it harder to grow quickly, if at all.
Make Strategic Decisions
Here are a few of the most popular niches on YouTube right now:
- Unboxing videos
- Technology and gadget reviews
- Life hacks, fail compilations, cat videos
- Health and fitness, beauty, and fashion
- World, national, and local news
- Food and restaurant reviews, instructional cooking videos
While those may be the most profitable niches, let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known niches you’ll find on YouTube, just to drive home the point that you really can attract an audience for just about any topic. In fact, going with a more unusual or less popular topic will mean less competition, which is useful for beginners:
- Travel and migration - what to expect when traveling or moving to a new country.
- Funny or odd products - people love novelty and unusual products.
- Home Security - everything from the latest cybersecurity to proptech advancements.
- Art performance - your personal performances as demonstrations or online courses
- Preparedness - the pandemic has made every niche within this topic explode, from general preparedness to doomsday prepping.
- Spirituality and mental wellness - an increasingly powerful set of niches born out of the collective upward trend in anxiety, depression, and more.
- Anything you can collect - buttons, cards, dolls, license plates, antiques - it doesn’t have to be valuable, just something people collect.
Whatever you choose, make it something you enjoy, to minimize the possibility of burnout. Make it something you have a unique angle on, so you remain unique. Make it something that can attract an audience who can learn about the topic with video content.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve selected a topic, get to know the audience of that topic. Really get to know them. You can’t serve an audience you don’t deeply understand.
Know Your Audience
Figure out what they love about that topic and why it’s of interest to them. Is it because it brings people together or because it’s something they can do on their own? Is it because of the way it makes them feel (e.g., accomplishment, feeling heard, being a part of something)? Or is it because they enjoy something else, such as the end result it brings them (e.g., a destination, a house they built themselves, an upgraded living room aesthetic)?
Find out their pain points, Meaning what do they dislike about the niche? Are there common complaints about things that are difficult to understand? Is it something with expensive professionals and they want a DIY approach. Perhaps you are offering pie recipes for people who are allergic to fruit - it’s a real thing. Or maybe you can offer advice on the latest and hottest antique searches because people often don’t know how to stay ahead of repopularized or retro antique hunts. Any which way, find out about what your audience cares about, the questions they’re asking, and what’s missing from their lives and deliver it!
Know Your Competition
There’s a common misconception among even the most experienced business people that competition doesn’t matter or that they have no competition. Here’s the real answer that will set your business approach apart from everyone else.
You do have competition. They may not be anybody talking about a topic in exactly the same way you do, but there are people who talk about related or similar topics.
When you learn about your competition, you better understand what they are doing well that seems to really work. Add those concepts or approaches to your channel. It’s okay to emulate competition. Just don’t copy them.
When you learn about your competition, you get a better understanding of what they aren’t doing well. Where are the gaps in their coverage of a topic? What common audience questions did they not answer or answer poorly? By understanding their gaps and weaknesses, you better understand what you can do better so you can outperform the competition.
Be Uniquely You
Some people refer to this as your brand. Others just call it what sets you apart. By establishing your voice, tone, and general aesthetic, you are creating content that is accessible and attractive to your audience, while keeping the scope of your work manageable.
Use the right tools. use video editing software that will make you stand out. Think about templates, lighting, effects, and more that will give your channel a recognizable aesthetic.
Be consistent. If you are naturally funny, that should come across in your videos. If you are good at explaining difficult to understand concepts, make it obvious, and really highlight that strength. Consistency shows your personality, which builds rapport, makes you relatable and will build your channel with like-minded people who love your unique approach to your niche.
Be well-branded. You don’t have to choose a color palette with a video wardrobe, and business cards - unless you want to or it makes sense for your niche. You do have to show up as a legitimate personality or brand presence.
Showing up means the name of your YouTube channel needs to be something specific to your niche, not the old Hotmail handle you set up when you got your first email as a kid. That name should show up in the custom URL of your channel, and either the name or the icon that represents your channel should show up in all your videos as well as in the channel profile image. And your profile or channel description should clearly indicate what the channel is about and what people can expect to get out of watching your videos.
Video Creation Time!
Alright, you’ve done all this research and strategizing. It’s time to actually create that content! There are three, high-level steps to content creation. Pre-production, production, and post-production.
Pre-production - planning a YouTube video
This is the planning phase. It goes fast but is absolutely necessary. Here are a few best practices that will keep you focused and keep your audience engaged.
- Tell a story. Plan on a beginning, middle, and an end. Make sure you give the viewer an introduction and conclusion with something of real value as the middle section. If you have a niche that will allow you to integrate an actual story, such as the success story of someone you’ve interviewed, you’ll have even more ‘story’ to boast about.
- Write an outline. Writing it down will help you plan what will actually fit in the video sequence and timing you want. It will also help ensure you don’t confuse your audience with tangents. Some prefer to write a script. That can work too - just know your topic well enough, having done your research, to come across as candid in front of the camera.
- Choose your video elements. Are you just creating a talking-head video? Or are you creating visual interest that will keep the viewer engaged and interested? You can add footage of something you are talking about. Some choose to blend stock footage into their videos. Will you have a voiceover or clips. Are motion graphics a good choice for your aesthetic? Whatever you choose, it should make sense for your brand, the topic, and your viewers.
- Be consistent. Whatever choices you make, be consistent. Not every video needs to be exactly the same. In fact, make room for some variation where it serves the content. Be flexible so you can allow the look and feel of your content delivery to evolve over time. And choose a timeline. People love to return to a channel over and over. Provide reliably consistent video releases.
- Check out this article for more on what to do before you shoot.
Production is often the most exciting part of the process for many newer YouTubers. It’s the piece of the process that they imagined the most when they first considered making YouTube videos. Well, that and maybe sitting back while their videos earn them stardom, sponsorships, and enough money that they can quit their day jobs.
If you’re more of an introvert, this can also be one of the most stressful parts of the process. Practice getting a feel for this work. Do the work required to lead into this step. You’ll be more comfortable than you think when your director, or bestie, shouts, “Action!”
- Equipment. Make sure you’ve got the right equipment. Are you using a camera or your phone? Make sure you’ve got lighting and a great background. And keep the right support equipment close, such as tripods, your microphone, and WD40 for the accidental choice of the squeaky chair that makes a bunch of noise every time you lean into the camera while talking about an important point. Find the best gear for YouTube.
- Photography and Videography. You don’t have to get a degree, but if this is a serious endeavor, you might at least take a few basic classes. Go with a few YouTube classes! They can tell you what you need to know about how to use your equipment, how to capture the right angles, and how to avoid common pitfalls. Start your studies today.
- Audio. Remember that audio is just as important as the visual production. You don’t have to be an expert on microphones, but you do need something that will suit the purpose of your video. For example, a wearable microphone will be best if you need to walk around while the camera follows you. An omnidirectional microphone will be best if you are interviewing someone and the microphone needs to pick up both your voices. And a shotgun mic may be best if you want the mic to offer focused listening. Learn more about audio.
Every environment should make sense for the video. Make it interesting so you aren't shooting with a boring white wall behind you. But don’t make it so interesting that viewers will get distracted. If possible, make it relevant to whatever you are talking about. Ensure the setting is quiet enough that the video will feature your voice and not background noise. And make sure you have consistency in the video and audio quality all the way through the video.
Editing and optimizing your video can be difficult, boring, and even maddening. However, with the right team or the right tools, it can be a fun way to express your creativity.
There are free YouTube video editing options that try to give you just enough options that you can produce something decent. There are paid editing platforms that offer an abundance of tools and education to make sure you are competitive and noteworthy. And, of course, there are options that span everything in between.
- Software. Be sure to choose software that will work with your system. Some are better or only available on Windows versus Mac. If you’re shooting on your phone or tablet, you’ll probably want to consider a mobile editing app, rather than transferring everything to your computer for editing. Here's everything you need to know to start editing videos on your phone.
- Audio. The best editing software will not only help you edit and create a great video, it will also ensure you can master your audio. Choose something that will allow you to clean up your audio, add effects, make voiceover easy, and even give our access to royalty-free music. Nothing is worse than choosing music that gets you into hot water with a big brand and their copyrights. YouTube’s strict copyright protection and compliance policies mean your video will be removed if you use audio that isn’t licensed for you to use. Think Disney soundtracks and Beatles albums. Don't stress it though, we're here to help.
- Effects and graphics. Your introduction and summary are important elements when you are presenting material, but every video also needs an intro and an outro. This is typically something you’ll choose early on and will consistently use on every video to help keep your videos consistent and recognizable. You also want to add your title, maybe graphics, and even screen captures, depending on the topic and your presentation style. Never edited before? Start here.
Pro tip: There’s a dangerous rabbit hole you can end up falling into if you spend too much time on effects and graphics, so plan a little time into your post-production schedule in the early development of your channel.
Wowza. Here you are. You’ve come so far and now you’re ready to hit the publish button. Your hand may hover over the mouse for a moment, deciding whether you’re really ready. That’s normal. But here is a checklist to run through before hitting that button that will help make you more confident that you have your ducks in a row.
- Optimize your content for the robots. YouTube will ask you a bunch of questions about your video so it knows how to categorize your video and how to help people find you. Some people get caught up in SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. It’s important the algorithmic robot side of the Internet knows what your channel and videos are about so you get in front of the right people. This happens when you use relevant keywords that are common to your niche and the specific topics you are addressing in the video.
- Optimize your content for the viewers. If you haven’t gotten completely caught up in helping the robots understand what you’re about, you’ll also provide helpful video descriptions and titles that are honest. That means, your choices really do tell people what to expect when they view your video. It not only builds trust in your viewers, it also helps the robots attract more of the right people to your channel.
Don’t forget to add a compelling thumbnail image. It’s part of anticipating the user experience and understanding what will draw people to our videos over others that will come up in a search on the same topic as you. Need more help? Check out this article all about uploading your videos to YouTube.
The Growth Game
Once you’ve loaded the video to YouTube (congratulations on hitting the button, by the way), there’s still some maintenance work you need to do to ensure the growth of your channel.
Here are some best practices you may want to calendar or turn into habits.
- Comment. Go back to published videos with some regularity, especially new ones and popular videos, to check on the responses and comments. Those channels with YouTubers who ask compelling questions in the comments, get answers, which increases their engagement. Replying to videos can also increase engagement because people can see that you are a real person who cares about their questions.
- Share. Implement a marketing campaign with each video. You might share the video to other social media sites. You can add the video or clips of the video to your emails. If you are working in collaboration with a fellow YouTuber, you might send your video to them to cross-promote. YouTube has the unique ability to be added to your website, if you have a page or blog where you announce and share your latest videos. The opportunities are vast, Just make sure you have ‘sharing the video’ as a growth strategy in your business plan and that you carry it out.
- Ask for what you want. Since subscribes, views, and likes are valued by the YouTube algorithm, ask viewers to participate in supporting your channel. With all the distractions people face and the likelihood that they’ll immediately go on to another video, telling them what to do before they leave your video or channel is vital. Ask them to subscribe, like the video, and even check out another video of yours that you know they’ll find fascinating.
- Monitor analytics. The only way to learn and grow is to use the feedback you get. This means ignoring the negative comments (because they are negativity, not feedback) while embracing suggestions and ideas. It also means utilizing the incredibly valuable analytics dashboard YouTube provides. They give you insights into how your videos perform so you can adjust and pivot your plans for future videos. Being adaptive and responding favorably to the information you have is an essential element only the best YouTube stars leverage well.
The fact that you are using this guide means you not only have the interest and passion to create a popular YouTube channel. You also have the tools and understanding you need to take the next step in crafting your YouTube channel and YouTube star persona.
You now know why the platform is so popular, making it a powerful way to create and join communities around your interests. You understand the importance of crafting a unique voice in your niche and reaching the right people. You have clarity in what goes into the planning as well as the maintenance of your channel. And you have the high-level knowledge about creative, relevant content and why it matters.
You also know more about the equipment you’ll need and other considerations. The editing software you choose is the backbone of your success because best practices revolve so completely around the look and feel of your content. How to monetize and grow your channel through engagement, participation, and sharing your content.
If nothing else, it’s probably clear by now that growing a YouTube channel and becoming a YouTube sensation means being willing to grow, adapt, and evolve to the needs of your community while staying true to coveted YouTube best practices for discoverability.
In the end, make sure you get started and keep going. And remember to tag us when you’re up and running, so we can join your community and offer support.