The Ultimate Guide to YouTube

YouTube is an incredible platform and the top search engine after Google. Getting started can be intimidating, though, so we write this guide to help you take your channel to the next level. If you haven't yet started a channel, I'd recommend READING THIS BLOG POST FIRST to get a general idea of how to start. Then come back here to learn more about the tools that grow your channel. Let's dig in.

01. Channel Basics

My guess is that most of you reading this already have a channel set up. (If not, read this first). So, I'm not going to talk about all the little links and tips you need to get your channel set up. Instead, we're going to look at some of the basic tools that will help you go from a few subscribers, to a couple thousand that will keep your channel afloat.

First step, is to get familiar with your channel and your dashboard. So much of channel success depends on the design and layout of your channel. If you only have a few videos, make sure the cover art is well-designed, easy to read and tempting to click on. If you have a few hundred, like I do, just focus on updating the cover art on your most popular content. 

Use playlists to your advantage. Think of a playlist as a "mini-channel" for your viewers. Most likely you won't have a channel all about Squarespace, or one all about how to Podcast. But, if you have 2-5 videos on those topics, they will fit perfectly into a playlist. This way, if someone is watching your "Beginner's Tips for Evernote" video, you can add an end screen to that video with a link to your Evernote Playlist. This is a great way to start to turn one-time views into long-term subscribers.

Your dashboard is important too. This is where you will track your latest stats, comments, and tips from the YouTube community. Play around with the widget options and use your dashboard regularly. This is a great way to check your progess and make sure your channel is worth the time you're investing into it.

Before we get into the next section, I want to recommend a tool that will help you grow your channel and make sure your optimizing engagement for each video. I discovered vidIQ just a few weeks back and it has seriously upped my game on my channel. Although I'm still not entirely familiar with all the features, I am going to talk about some of the big ones. (BTW this tool is free and amazing). Get a free account here.

02. Public Speaking

Before we dig into the tech side of YouTube, I quickly want to touch on the video content itself. You DO NOT have to be good at public speaking to have a successful YouTube channel - but I am going to be honest with you - it doesn't hurt to have great speaking skills. The good news is that anyone can learn to be a half-decent speaker. The great part of YouTube is that you can edit, cut, and do as many retakes as you need to get things right. You're not under pressure the way you are when speaking live. 

If you are a not a great speaker, I'd recommend practicing. Improving your speaking skills is one of the best things you can do to improve your channel content. If you're serious about it, Coursera offers a free course from the University of Washington on public speaking. It's a 5 week program that follows a college-level schedule. It's a great course and a great way to work on your skills. 

If you're looking for a more flexible option. You can listen to the audio of The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie for free. This is a great book and I highly recommend it, even if you feel like you're pretty good in front of the camera. If you want a course that's more in-depth and has a certification at the end, you can purchase Talk the Talk here. Whatever you end up trying, just remember that most of the fear around speaking are in your head and can be overcome with proper training and dedicated practice. Commit some time to developing your speech (it's well worth the investment).

03. SEO & Descriptions

You can have amazing content but if no one clicks on your videos, they'll never know. This is where search engine optimization comes in. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world next to Google. And SEO works in a very similar way within YouTube. This is where that vidIQ account is going to save you hours of work.

04. Branding

One of the most painful things to see on YouTube is a fantastic content creator with crap graphics. Without good cover art or decent channel art, it's going to be very hard to stand out and get viewers to click on your videos. Making cover art for your YouTube account is SO easy, but so many people skip this step. One option is to use the chrome vidIQ plugin to create simple cover photos for your videos. However I prefer to use Canva. Below is a quick video on how to make the art for your own YouTube content.

05. Get Paid

Most people assume that YouTubers make their money from google ads or by joining an MCN (Multi-Channel Network also known as a network). While you can make a decent paycheck from ads, most revenue will come from sponsored content and affiliate links. Typical RPM is only around $2- that means you'd need 1000 viewers to make $2. That's not a lot, and unless your channel is getting a couple million views per video, it's not an income you can live off of. Even if you got half a million views on average, you'd still only make around $1,000. If you join a network, they might be able to bump your RPM up between $3-$7 which can start to make a difference, but it's TOUGH to get that many views.

Most of your money is going to come from affiliates and sponsorships. Affiliate marketing can be used in the same way that you use it in your blog. Signing up for programs like Commission Junction and Amazon Affiliates.

The idea is that you would do a video, for example, about how to start a YouTube channel. In the video you might mention what camera you're using, and provide an amazon affiliate link in the description box. If someone clicks through your link, whatever they purchase on Amazon during that time (even if it's not that specific program) you get a percentage of the sale.

You do not need to have 100,000 subscribers to earn a living from YouTube. If you're good at selling and you use affiliate links wisely, you can make a couple thousand dollars a month with just 5000 subscribers. The key is to diversify your income. Use a combination of YouTube ad monitization, sponsorships and affiliate marketing to 

06. Equipment worth the investment

I want to make it super clear right now. YOU DO NOT NEED FANCY EQUIPMENT TO MAKE YOUR CHANNEL WORK. A channel with quality content, good cover art and well-thought SEO will and can be successful. With a smart phone, Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, Canva and vidIQ, you can create beautiful videos that grow your channel. However, I do believe in re-investing your profits back into your business. There are tools that will give you a better quality of video. Below are some of the tools I invested in and can say with absolute certainty that they were well worth the investment.

Filmora, Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier Pro ($20-300)

If you're already using Adobe's Creative Cloud, take advantage of Premier Pro. It's a fantastic video editor and if you're willing to learn how to use it, your final video production can look professionally done. (Disclaimer: I use iMovie for all my videos, it's just quick and simple and I love using it). When I was first starting out on a PC, I needed something a little more robust than movie maker, so I purchased a lifetime license for Filmora for $40. It was perfect for what I needed and it's super simple to learn. If you want to go big, Final Cut Pro is industry standard but it comes with an investment of $300, so don't drop that money on it until you know it'll be useful for you.

Blue Yeti Mic ($80-120)

You've probably seen this guy before because it seems like every small business owner has one. That's because they're one of the best microphones you can get without dropping a couple hundred dollars. You can plug it in and go without installing software and programs. The sound quality is amazing and they look nice too. You can grab one here. If you need a cheaper option but still want some decent quality, the Yeti Snowball is only $49 or this Logitech Head Set works amazing and is only $30.

These lapel mics are great for iphone videos and this pop filter is a cheap way to up your sound quality.

iPhone Camera Stand ($7-$20)

If you do plan to use your phone for your camera, a good stand is key. I use two different types. I have a basic tripod with an iPhone attachment and I have a Flexible arm holder that I use to film my overhead bible study videos and videos that are tight on space. Whatever you end up using will work, just make sure it's sturdy and holds your correct phone size.

Umbrella Lights or Studio Lights ($50-500)

There are about 10 million options for lighting. I'm not going to act like I know my studio equipment so, I'll just share what I know. Natural lighting is the best and cheapest way to brighten your videos. If you have to film in a darker setting, though, or if you just want some more balanced lighting - this studio lighting kit is only $55 and has lasted me two years. The light bulbs haven't burnt out, the equipments packs away small (perfect for an apartment) and it's all well made materials.

Of course, you can up your game and buy kits for thousands of dollars, but just consider what you need and upgrade over time when you want to make some more investments. Start small ;)

Nora Conrad