Your first year on YouTube is a time to set yourself up for long-term success as a creator by learning the ins and outs of using the platform effectively. How do you make the most of this critical opportunity?
Welcome to YouTube 101: Our do’s and don’ts for your first 12 months as a YouTube creator. We’ll share tactics for everything from conducting thoughtful audience research to better understand your viewers, to proactively managing a content calendar, and using analytics to optimize your videos.
Listen up: Class is now in session.
Do: Think about channel sustainability
Achieving YouTube success requires playing the long game. Few, if any, creators see quick results when they first begin posting. It takes time—and commitment—to create a substantial number of videos, gain traction in recommendations and searches, and earn subscribers.
On average, creators with 1,000 to 10,000 subscribers have 152 videos on their profiles. To reach these numbers in about a year and a half, a creator has to post at least twice a week. Sound like a lot? It is.
But channel success depends on the sustainability of your content and channel topic. As you think about a year’s worth of content, make sure you have plenty of ideas and enthusiasm banked. Otherwise, it’ll be tough to hit the volume of posts required to make it big. And it’s not just about volume. Variety, novelty, and genuine passion matter, too.
“Viewers are smart, they can sense inauthenticity,” fashion vlogger Bestdressed told Forbes. Pick a topic that actually lights your fire.
- Quick tip: Some creators have to pivot a few times before they find the right niche. Don’t be afraid to change it up.
Don’t: Forget your audience interests
You’re excited about your topic. Great! But will others share the same enthusiasm? For the fastest growth on YouTube, you’ll need to get inside your audience’s head.
José Cayasso, who runs a business channel on YouTube, told Time that it’s smart to orient your channel around topics that don’t have much content yet. “Find questions people are trying to answer, and answer them better than anyone else,” said Cayasso.
To do this, use tools like Keyword Explorer and Search Explorer to analyze trends in keywords and searches over time. When you know what’s in demand, it’s easier to tailor your videos to those opportunities, which will lead to better performance.
- Quick tip: Keep an eye out for ideas during your audience research. Historical data from these tools can point you to in-demand searches or smart concepts for seasonal videos.
Do: Create a calendar
The biggest piece of advice more creators get? Nate Black, the creator of Channel Makers—a YouTube channel about finding success on the platform—said it’s important to post consistently. But it’s one thing to set a goal of posting every Tuesday at noon, and another to accomplish it.
When you plan your videos out in advance, create a schedule that is realistic based on the amount of time it will take you to plan, film, edit, and post. Be mindful that your schedule can always change—adjust your posting cadence if it isn’t working for you.
A thoughtful content calendar also requires you to think strategically about sequence.
Let’s say you’re making how-tos. You might be tempted to jump right into the most challenging topics: After all, you’re giving advice because you’re an expert. But if you think ahead about creating several videos, you’ll realize that it’s smarter to start with the basics first. As your channel grows, new viewers can go back and watch your older videos, gaining you views and subscribers.
- Quick tip: High-performing new videos will drive traffic to your old videos as viewers look for more of your content. Retroactively editing some of your titles, thumbnails, and other information can help gain you views weeks or months later. Ed Lawrence, a video production expert who runs the channel Film Booth, took the time to create new thumbnails for older, underperforming videos on his channel—resulting in faster growth in views and subscribers than he had gained from posting new videos.
Don’t: Overdo it
While making videos can be a fun and easy job, it can also be demanding. In a recent survey, 78% of creators reported experiencing burnout. Remember playing the long game? You can’t do that if you burn out!
Take care to set boundaries between your content creation and free time. For instance, you might set aside a couple days each week where you don’t work on your channel, or even look at YouTube at all.
Still feeling fried? Check out TubeBuddy’s video on creator burnout for more helpful strategies.
- Quick tip: Try getting creative with your filming schedule to find what works for you. Kee Taylor, a beauty creator, told Time that she films all her footage in the first week of each month and spends the rest of the month editing. Taylor noted that filming can be tiring and it’s important to take breaks.
Do: Pay attention to analytics and algorithms
By looking at your video analytics, you can create a strategic plan for improving performance.
Once you have all that info, use it! Test out new keywords and examine your videos’ search rankings next to your peers’. Tools like Opportunity Finder will automatically suggest any key opportunities for you based on analytics information. Or try A/B testing your titles, descriptions, and thumbnails.
- Quick tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment. The right combination of strategies will depend on your channel’s unique content, so keep track of what works, and pursue those strategies further.
Don’t: Get discouraged
Seasoned YouTube creators emphasize the importance of sticking with it. Emma McAdam, who runs the mental health-focused channel Therapy in a Nutshell, said that she almost quit her YouTube channel the month she went viral. Once she gained real traction, “all of a sudden, the work seemed worth it”—but she wouldn’t have gone on to gain more than a million subscribers if she had thrown in the towel.
One more nugget of wisdom? Jump in. Your YouTube channel will only grow if you start posting. It’s easier to ideate video topics than to actually make and post them, and “a lot of people never make it past that step,” said YouTube expert Shelly Nathan.