Getting Started on YouTube: Some Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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Stanley Orchard
June 15, 2023

Being a YouTube creator isn’t easy, but nor is working on an oil rig… and I know which one I prefer.

In 2016 I was a freshly promoted operations manager for a multi-million dollar drilling and wellhead company in the oil-rich Eagleford Shale of South Texas. In my work, I had suffered broken fingers, two blown discs in my back, a hernia, and a concussion. I was working 138 hour weeks and was disillusioned, seeing money getting thrown at safety problems and an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude to worker injuries. 

On Easter I sat down with my dad and brother who were also working in the oilfield. We had a fun chat about what we would do if we ever got away from these jobs. I wanted to fish… but I knew I didn’t want to run charters or a commercial vessel. I love being out on the water with family. I didn’t want to spoil that by turning my hobby into work.

That’s how my journey as a creator began. In 2016, I launched the Stanley Orchard YouTube channel

I decided I would go all-in on sharing my family fishing experiences with the world in the hopes that it would one day take me away from the oilfield, give me some purpose, and a livelihood that brought me joy. 

Everyone’s creator journey is different, and everyone is motivated by different things. However, there are some fundamental truths about becoming a content creator… and the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

Pick Something That You Want to Excel At

You don’t need to be the absolute best at the thing you want to start a channel about… but by the end of your journey you will be a master of that thing. Be prepared for the journey and be ready to spend a lot of time mastering this craft. 

If you are just learning, remember that these first videos on your channel are part of that learning process and they are also your channel’s backstory. There is value in being able to go back and see where you came from. 

There is no better example of this than by going to see the early videos that MrBeast was putting out versus the ones he’s making today.

In for the Long Haul

Creating content is a lot of work. Your first video will not be a viral hit. You probably won’t hit your stride until you’ve made over 100 videos. I’m not saying this to discourage you, but creators need to go in with their eyes open. You will need to be prolific. Even more so if you’re focusing on YouTube Shorts. Pick a subject for your channel you can see maintaining your interest and passion through 100 videos, 1,000 videos, and beyond.

What Do You Really Want?

It’d be nice if we could make a million dollars a year by just recording stuff with our phones, but that’s not how it works.

The motivation that starts most YouTube creators boils down to three basic things: fame, fortune, or passion. Only one of those things is in our control as creators. 

Whether you’re pursuing your YouTube creator dream as a hobby, or because you genuinely want to help people with your content, or because you feel you have something unique to share, that’s great. Choose your content niche based on what you’re passionate about. Don’t do what everyone else is already doing. For starters, forget about subscriber count. Getting subs is great but subscriber count won’t actually give you any lasting satisfaction.

Ultimately, the goal of your YouTube efforts is probably to make money. Understanding the economics of YouTube and how to make money as a content creator are important. Making great content in a niche where you have something unique to offer is the surest path to getting paid as a creator.

It’s fine to dream about making big bucks, or growing a massive subscriber base… but it’s better to focus on things that you, as a creator, can control.

Understanding CPM

CPM (cost per mille, or thousand) is what you’ll get paid for every 1,000 ad views. Not to be confused with video views. In order to get paid via Adsense on YouTube, a viewer must watch an ad before, during, or after your video. 

Advertisers bid on the audiences they want to target based on the demographics/viewing habits that YouTube has identified. You get paid a portion of that money if the ad gets put on your video. 

Think about the demographics of your content niche. The CPM for YouTube ads can vary from pennies to dollars, to hundreds of dollars in some cases. 

Make It A Business

Getting paid in the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) is not the only way to make money with your content. 

When starting a YouTube channel, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and only focus on said channel. What you really want is a business. Even as a small creator, you have options for making money with content

Offering your own product or service is another option and can help you focus your content too. 

Talk to Your Family and Friends

As much as you want to believe that you are doing this on your own you are not. You are going to need support from your friends and family.

Building your YouTube channel is going to take time away from other things. If you can include friends and family in your journey, it might even bring you close together. At the very least, their opinions and insights into your content may be valuable. 

Don’t discount the value of a supportive voice and a shoulder to cry on when things get tough… because things do get tough. Likewise, don’t underestimate the importance of sharing and celebrating your victories with another person who wishes you nothing but success.

Just Do It

You need an idea, you need a plan, and you need support. Beyond that, you just need to do it. 

Don’t wait. Go film your first video. Go film 10 Shorts videos and script a bunch of videos and maybe even livestream your decisions. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. 

The best ideas in the world amount to nothing if you don’t pull the trigger. What’s more, there is going to be a lot to learn on this journey and the only way you are going to learn it is by trial and error. Learn by doing. Go make your first 100 videos. You’ll learn a lot along the way. Every video you upload and every effort you make on your channel gets you closer to the polished, rewarding, and sustainable channel you envision. The secret to being a great creator, after all, is to create, create create!