Becoming a YouTuber is a dream job – doing what you love, having a great audience, and earning a solid passive income. But how exactly do you get there?
How do you start a successful YouTube channel? Should you just start creating content? Or do you need an elaborate strategy to really make it?
A bit of both, as it turns out. Here’s our in-depth guide on how to start a YouTube channel and make sure it really takes off.
Outline Your Goals and Timeline
First things first, you need some kind of plan.
Back in the early days of YouTube, you could just create content on the fly and eventually amass an audience and monetize.
That’s how some of the most successful YouTubers started out – MrBeast back in 2012 and PewDiePie in 2010.
In 2023, YouTube is a different playing field. It’s firmly part of the creator economy, with many YouTubers aiming to make a living off the platform. It’s much more competitive, and the only way to success is to treat your channel like a business from the get-go.
At a basic level, that means outlining your goals and timeline.
Be clear about what you want to achieve with your channel. Want to make a full-time income as a video creator? Raise your business’ profile by creating highly visible content in your niche? Or simply share your passion with an engaged audience?
If you want to monetize your channel, the first major milestone is to have 500 subscribers and 3,000 public watch hours (or 3 million Shorts views). Once you’ve hit that threshold, you’ll be able to join YouTube’s Partner Program and use the fan funding features. Get over 1,000 subs and either 4,000 watch hours or 10 million Shorts views, and you also get a cut of the ad revenue.
Writing down measurable goals for channel subscribers, videos produced, and money earned lets you outline a solid roadmap. That’s important for how much work you’ll have to put in and over which period.
For example, the quicker you want to hit the 1,000 subscriber threshold for ad revenue sharing, the more videos you’ll have to produce in a shorter time. (Sure, a video can go viral and explode your channel overnight. That’s rare, though, and you shouldn’t bet on it when you outline your strategy.)
Pinpoint Your Niche and Audience
As a next step, you need to define your YouTube niche. And research your audience.
Most successful YouTube channels focus on creating content about one particular topic. No matter if it’s woodwork or makeup, yoga or cooking, personal finance or children’s toys.
Why though? Wouldn’t it be easier and faster to make diverse content that would interest as many different people as possible?
Picking one niche allows you to grow a loyal audience that’s interested in that particular topic. And that knows what to expect from you.
Say you want to start a YouTube channel about art. And someone wants to learn watercolor painting. If your channel is all about watercolors – how to choose the best brushes and paper, what exercises to begin with, where to start with landscape painting – they’ll stick around and watch all of your content. And like and subscribe.
On the other hand, if one of your videos is about watercolors, the next about oil painting, and the one after that about crocheting, our watercolor enthusiast will only watch one – then leave.
So how do you pick a YouTube niche?
So how do you pick a YouTube niche? There are three factors to consider: What you know, what interests people, and how profitable a niche is.
To start with the first, you should pick a topic that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. After all, you’ll have to spend hundreds of hours working on your channel in the coming months.
Already having a solid basis in the topic you’ve chosen (not to mention a passion for it) will make that significantly easier. Think about your professional skills and your hobbies to get some basic niche ideas.
Next, you need to consider whether there’s actually an audience for the niche you’ve chosen. Are enough people interested in a topic to grow your channel? To answer that question, prowling around internet forums and existing YouTube channels is a great start.
If you’re thinking about starting a tech channel, for example, you might begin with looking at exactly how successful the most successful tech YouTubers actually are.
Finally, you need to take into account how profitable different niches are. Advertisers will pay different rates depending on what kind of content you post. For instance, creators who focus on personal finance will earn about $12 per 1,000 views. In contrast, that figure is only $1.60 for fitness and bodybuilding. Check out this post for the full run-down.
Create Memorable Branding
As a next step, you actually need to set up your channel on YouTube. Log in with your Google account and then spend some time on creating memorable branding. Starting with channel icon, banner, and description.
However, your branding needs to go further than that – it ranges from the fonts and colors you use in your custom video thumbnails to assets such as intros and outros for your videos.
This early in your YouTube career, worrying about branding can feel like a waste of time. It’s not.
Kicking your channel off with a recognizable style pays off. When viewers see your videos, you want them to remember you. So that when your content pops up in recommendations or search results, they’ll actually click on it.
Solid branding supercharges your recognition value and helps you grow your channel from the start.
Find Awesome Content Ideas
Once you’ve settled on a niche and set up your channel, it’s time to start finding viral-worthy content ideas.
At this point, you’re probably bursting with inspiration and rearing to go. If not, there are a couple of great strategies you can use to find ideas that will resonate with your audience.
First, you can check out the trending page on YouTube as well as on other social media sites. That’ll give you a solid idea of the hottest topics in different niches. While you don’t want to straight-up copy existing content, you can riff off it or adapt it to your niche.
Second, you can leverage tools that give you insights into what people search for on YouTube and Google. Google Trends is a reliable (and free) place to start. Beyond that, there are subscription tools like keywordtool.io, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and VidiQ. Heads up: Most of them offer a free version or a 30-day trial to get you started.
Want to learn more about how to find content ideas? Check out our full guide here.
Assemble Your Equipment
Before you start producing videos, you need to make sure that you have everything you need to produce high-quality visuals. Blurry videos and tinny audio won’t earn you a loyal audience. Just annoyed viewers who click away before they get a headache.
As a basis, you need a camera that can film in HD or better. 4K is pretty much the standard for professional YouTubers nowadays, because it gives you much more to work with at the editing stage.
If you’re planning on shooting outside footage, you should consider a professional action cam with solid image stabilization, like a GoPro.
Conversely, if most of your footage will be filmed indoors, you need to make sure the lighting is right. An LED light panel or a ring-light can make all the difference when it comes to the visual appeal of your content.
Plus, investing in equipment will help you save time on video editing. Usually, it takes roughly 1 hour to edit 1 minute of finished video. If the raw footage is poor, it’ll take longer – and you might even have to reshoot some.
Ready? Set? Action!
Once you’ve checked all the boxes above, it’s time to start filming your content, editing your clips, and uploading them to YouTube.
The first couple of videos will take you ages to make. But after a few weeks, you’ll hit your content production stride.
Especially at the start, it’s important to keep going despite initial frustration. You’ll put your heart and soul into your videos, and they’ll earn only a handful of views. That makes it easy to lose your motivation.
Push through. A steady flow of content is key to YouTube success. It’s a well-known fact that YouTube’s algorithm favors channels that upload frequently, which is why many professional video creators post multiple times per week.
After some weeks of crickets, you’ll see your numbers pick up. Both in terms of views and subscribers.
If that’s not the case after a month or two, you should review your content. Are you uploading your videos right, with all important information filled out and keywords in strategic positions? Are they showing up in search results, or has YouTube’s algorithm not indexed them yet? Were any flagged for community guideline violations?
Throughout your YouTube career, you’ll need to circle back and analyze your content’s performance. YouTube Studio, with its various analytics, is a great place to do so – more about the key metrics here.
By fine-tuning your content based on these insights, you’ll be able to consistently elevate your channel.
One essential part of content creation that you need to factor in from the very start are breaks.
It can be tempting to spend all available time on your YouTube career. And you will have to put in a lot of work at the very beginning.
Nevertheless, you need to schedule time to rest and recharge. Call it self-care, or system maintenance, or whatever you like. The fact is, we aren’t made to be productive around the clock, not even when producing content we love.
Thousands of creators have given their channel their all – and then hit a creative wall. At that point, they’re drained. And find it impossible to summon any inspiration or energy to carry on.
To avoid that, make sure you have regular breaks – time offline, spent on your other interests, away from your channel.
Self-care is more than a buzzword – it’s a crucial habit for creators.
Hire Help to Scale Your Channel
At some point in your YouTube journey, you’ll need to start outsourcing parts of the video creation process.
Creating multiple pieces of content per week is a major time commitment. You need to find ideas, do research, film the footage, edit it, upload your videos, analyze their performance, reply to comments, handle monetization – to start with.
Later on, you’ll probably also work on negotiating brand deals, creating merchandise, and marketing your brand via other channels.
To keep up or improve your content quality and quantity, you’ll need help. Hiring a video editor, a channel manager, a graphic designer, or a digital marketing specialist is an excellent way to free up your time. And concentrate on what you do best – create amazing content to engage your audience.
Building a team is an investment in your channel’s long-term success. And in your own mental health and wellbeing as a professional creator.
Interested in learning more? Check out our master post on how to outsource different elements of video creation.
Final Thoughts on How to Start a YouTube Channel
To make it on YouTube, you need a solid roadmap.
Strategize your goals, your niche, and your audience. Spend time on lining up your branding, your content ideas, and your equipment. Find your content creation rhythm, make time to recharge, and eventually hire help to keep growing your channel.
These are all the basic steps to launching a successful channel. It’s not always an easy journey, but it’s a rewarding one. With YouTube success waiting at the end of the day!
Need more info to hit the ground running? Check out our free YouTube Starter’s Guide E-Book. It has all the worksheets you need to figure out your niche, draw up a monetization strategy, and fill your first content calendar.
To start a YouTube channel, you should have a clear idea of your content niche and target audience, as well as your short- and long-term goals.
To start a lucrative YouTube channel, you need to pick a profitable YouTube niche and regularly create high-quality content. This means lots of initial research to pinpoint who your audience is and what sort of content will resonate with them.
Yes, because having a specific niche helps your YouTube channel grow. It will let your audience know what they can expect of you and give them an incentive to subscribe if they like the content you’ve produced so far.
When choosing a niche, there are three factors to consider: what you know, what interests people, and how profitable a niche is. You should pick a topic that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. Plus, you also need to consider whether there’s actually a big enough audience for that niche. Also, different niches pay different rates in terms of ad revenue.