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For a lot of video content creators, YouTube has become an essential part of their business model and for some, it’s even become the primary source of income.
But creating a successful YouTube-channel in any saturated niche is a lot of hard work. And there’s a lot to learn.
So I reached out to the owners of some of my favorite YouTube channels on video, animation, and film production and asked:
“What’s the one thing you wished you knew before starting a YouTube channel?“
Here’s what they answered:
Jordy from Cinecom.net
I never knew that YouTube could be a great value to a business, let alone it being my full-time job one day.
I created my YouTube channel in 2008, uploading new videos whenever I had nothing else to do. Slowly I was growing an audience without realizing how big even 5k subscribers could be (definitely back in the day).
It took me until 2014 to finally realize that YouTube could actually have a great value on my life. From that day on I started uploading more frequently and with a goal in mind. And by 2015, YouTube was already half of my job.
So if I would see the opportunities of YouTube much faster, I might have had the success that I have now, much earlier. I don’t see it as a missed opportunity, but if I could rewind time I would spend more time on YouTube much earlier.
Nikolas from Media Division
There is no ONE thing… I think we did the right thing according to our mission.
Of course, there are many things one would have done differently with more experience, but it is half of the fun to figure things like those out.
For our channel, the learning process was just as much on the side of the viewers as it was on our side. We just didn’t want to do a “me too” product, so the audience had to realize, that what we do is different and that one can’t apply the usual metrics.
If the production takes 200 hours, you can’t release every week… not even every month. “Quality over Quantity” is one of our mission statements. There is enough bad content on YouTube.
We are happy to ramp up our production if there is a financial incentive.
For those who start out, I would like to give a fair warning. While there is a hand full of people that made fame and money on YouTube… you will (most likely) not be one of those.
You will have to generate millions and millions of views every month to be able to live from YouTube… and you thought musicians are underpaid?!
Always approach YouTube with that in mind and do something you are passionate about – then, it can be a wonderfully rewarding experience.
Max from Max Novak | Media Monopoly
One thing I wish I would have known before starting a Youtube channel is how to create a professional-looking and sounding YouTube video.
I’ve seen many people who have years of experience in video production create a channel and make a killing in the first few months just based on their skill set and professionalism they acquired from working other jobs.
In my case, I started with just a webcam and by learning from online tutorials (go watch my old videos and look how bad I was at talking to the camera if you need proof haha).
Looking back though I think that starting from scratch and slowly improving the channel’s production and content over time was a huge advantage. I think my audience appreciates that I’m still learning and improving just like they are.
I feel like anyone in this day and age can grow a YouTube channel if they’re hungry to learn and have a strong passion for something.
Even if you’re starting from scratch don’t be intimidated… there’s a good chance your initial inexperience may form a stronger bond with your audience in the long run.
Caleb from Caleb Wojcik
I wish I knew that you don’t need hundreds of thousands of subscribers for YouTube to help you grow your business and earn money.
Even having hundreds or a few thousand focused subscribers that care about the very niche thing you do is enough to start making money from ads, sponsorships, or other income streams
Grant from Film Learning
I wished I knew how much work goes into to building a successful channel, I’m over 6 years and 300 videos into this and the workload has been…immense.
I think knowing that would have better prepared me on how I produced content and I definitely would have sought help and built a crew next time around.
It took me way too long to seek out collaboration and network building, which is crazy considering how collaborative the film making process is.
So my advice to my former self would be: this is going to be hard, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and ask for help.
The YouTube/filmmaking/VFX community is full of great people that love to work together on producing fun content, so take a chance and ask… they might just say yes.
I guess the one thing I wish I’d known before starting our YouTube channel is just how much time and effort it takes to do it right. It is practically all-consuming.
But I love it anyway!
Sven from This Guy Edits
The biggest lesson I learned way too late in my career is always to take action and not get paralyzed when I fail or get rejected.
I see overthinking and fear of failure as the biggest hurdles to success. Ironically both of these can be changed by you alone. So nothing is stopping you but yourself.
If I would have learned that lesson in my 20’s I’d be at a whole different level. But I have no regrets.
So specifically, when it comes to starting my youtube channel, I had already adopted a mindset of constant action, and I fully embraced rejection.
The one thing I would have changed is maybe being even more innovative early on and try a lot of different video formats to understand faster what content the audience engages with.
Drew from CRFTSHO
I’ve been reflecting a lot on the idea of what I might do differently since starting a YouTube channel. I’m in the process of developing a new channel and we are definitely conscious of the decision-making matrix made last time. So there are some of the “rules” we are going with for now:
1. 90% of the time your viewers will be there for ONE thing. Whatever content you create that pulls them in is why they will be there. Its why they will sub. Not 100% of your audience will be this way but that 10% variance will be the ones who actually take interest in your ideas OUTSIDE of the norm. Here’s the thing – people sub a channel for a specific type of info (could be delivery, could be content, could be a specific item). Just know most only want you to feed the reason they are there.
2. We made a fatal flaw in producing so many videos revolving around a single camera line. Our audience is primarily made up of videographers and content creators who have an interest in a Panasonic GH5. The reality is we just want to share info that helps them make more money or better content or just get inspired.
3. You will be frustrated by more than just YouTube and Google and algorithms. We have tons of videos where I put in quite a bit of hour working out details, doing drawings and really sharing our honest business numbers – its exactly the kind of stuff I wish I had access to 3 years ago – those videos did nothing in comparison to our cam vs cam stuff that literally was piggybacked on the end of a shoot.
4. Spend the time to prep affiliate links and merch. Ain’t no shame in asking people to help pay for content. YouTube pays NOTHING and anyone with any sense of self-worth will immediately realize that the time you put in is worth about .04 cents per hour. If you need to offset your time for money – just ask for it.
5. Have fun. The moment it stops being fun evaluate 2 things: Am I making enough money off of this to continue doing it? What would make this fun again?
6. Love the trolls as much as you love your fans. For me, it was pretty easy to realize that they were most likely hurting for some reason or another.
Rob from Science Filmmaking Tips | StoneAgeMan | Untaimedscience.com
Honestly, I think the one thing I wished I knew was how important it was to have a singular voice on your channel.
I was originally doing it as a collaborative effort with a bunch of like-mined friends.
The lack of a singular voice on the channel made it so my followers never really knew who was going to host an episode and didn’t know who to trust.
Now I’ve made my channel more about my own storytelling.
Mathias from MamoWorld.com
It is not just about creating good content. Spreading the news is at least as much work as creating the content itself.
Colin from VideoRevealed
I wish I had known who my biggest audience would be because I would have created content that was less for high-end professionals and more for new users.
Mark from Flannel Ninja
I distinctly remember starting my YouTube channel in 2016 and thinking that it would just be a place to post some fun cosplay music videos.
I didn’t expect it to grow very much and for the first couple of years it had very few subscribers.
It wasn’t until I started making videos about camera equipment that people became interested in my channel and I started to take it more seriously.
In other words, even if you think people won’t be interested in your channel, you will never know unless you try.
You are unique and therefore your content is unique. Make the best content you can and see what happens.
Rene from JRVisuals
Have no expectations!
We started our YouTube with expectations, excitement and fears.
We expected certain videos to drive a lot of views but we were totally wrong. 🙂
You just never know what people will love, easy.
Sometimes it’s hard not to overthink, but you should be relaxed go with the flow create, upload your video and have fun.
Kelsey from PremiereGal
Before starting a YouTube channel, I wish I would have known how important the relationship between the title and the video tags is to the YouTube Algorithm.
Having proper SEO for each video makes a world of difference!
I use VidIQ to optimize my videos and it helps me boost my video’s performance and give suggested high volume ranking keywords to include.
Justin from JustinOdisho.com
I wished I could’ve known earlier that this hobby could also be something serious and just get to work straight away and what I wanted.
Christian from Film Jams
The one thing I wish I knew before starting my YouTube channel would have to be that I shouldn’t be scared to ask people to collaborate.
I think one of the best things about YouTube and digital media is being able to work with other like-minded people and get creative together.
And without the collaborations, we’ve had (not only our awesome crew and editors) but also the people and influencers we’ve met along the way, have ultimately helped us grow.
We’re not a huge channel but we’re definitely growing in our small niche of filmmaking tutorials and reviews.
So my advice would be to reach out to collaborators and start building an awesome team to grow your channel. You can’t go it alone.
You can subscribe to Film Jams by clicking HERE
Luke from Lukes Aps – Geek Gaming Scenics
How to use a camera and editing software.
I feel I was well behind the time I was using my phone and windows movie maker for almost 3years before I got my self a DSLR.
But I built the channel no knowing or caring about video quality to 65k followers.
When I got my first camera it was a learning curve and at almost 12 months in I’m now using a Canon C100 and loving it.
My views have shot up and retention has tripled.
Peter from Peter Lindgren
I wish I was more prepared for the amount of hard work that you have to put into making your channel grow.
And when I say work I don’t only mean your videos but also yourself and all the ideas, planning, engagement, and all those things that come with it.
Basically, no matter what genre you decide to jump in to on YouTube you need to have some editing skills to make your videos stand out from the masses.
It might look easy to post a video every now and then but it takes way more effort than I thought before I started.
Curtis from Curtis Judd
The one thing I wish I knew before starting a YouTube channel is that its focus would change, radically.
You can watch the full story in the video above if you’d like.
Danny from Danny Gevirtz
There’s a whole bunch of things I wish I knew when I was first starting the channel. It’s an experience I think everyone can grow from.
If I had to choose one thing that I really wish I had known was how supportive others in my personal life would have been.
There’s so much anxiety that comes with putting yourself out there in such a vulnerable way. The thought of someone you know deeply seeing your content and making judgments can so easily stop you from posting.
I’ve learned that even if these people closest to us don’t understand or outwardly support the content we share on YouTube…. they don’t actually care all that much.
While that seems negative, it’s so refreshing to know that no one cares enough to talk behind your back and or dwell on what it is you are doing because everyone is just worried about what they have going on in their own lives.
If they really do judge you negatively then maybe they aren’t your friends in the first place. In most cases, your friends and family will think your work is awesome!
So don’t let that fear of judgment from the people you love the most stop you from sharing on YouTube. It’s an awkward thing to put yourself out there like that, but you get used to it.
Matt from Matt WhoIsMatt Johnson
I wish I knew that I my YouTube channel needed to have a focus.
When I started it was all about variety, featuring anything that caught my attention even briefly.
I’ve since learned that if you want to build an audience you need to create content about one focused thing, and keep doing that for a long time.
Antonio Chavez from Memology 101
“What’s the one thing you wished you knew before starting a YouTube channel?”
How to navigate the algorithm.
The things that you can do, and the things that you can’t. Which topics are allowed to be discussed and which aren’t. I am talking about clear, concise, and straightforward information.
The current YouTube TOS is too vague, leaves too much room for interpretation and everyone is walking on thin ice unless you are a household name on the platform.
I would love to know the exact things that you have to avoid to prevent from getting demonetized.
Every day I learn new things and how to avoid it but it is becoming harder to do that than creating the content itself.
It takes a toll on you and your creativity. Feels like having a gun to your head that could go off any second if you so much as say the wrong thing, express the ”wrong” opinion.
That’s what I would love to know before starting a channel.
James and Thomas from Epic Light Media
As full time commercial filmmakers, we started on Youtube because we realized it was important to have an online presence…something more than just a website with our demo reel on it.
Before we started posting, we didn’t know our videos would get any attention.
The one difficult thing for us (that we didn’t anticipate) was how much creative brain power it takes to think of the video ideas.
For us, the actual filming of our youtube videos is no problem… planning details like the thumbnail, the title, the CONTENT before we start filming… that’s the tricky part.
It’s not something we can just do on autopilot.
Everytime we post a video it feels like we are starting on square one again. “Now, what can we possibly cobble together that will be of some value for our audience?”
Sunny from Jaaks Film
Lack of knowing/understanding that you need to put a lot of effort into making fresh content on a regular basis to have and keep an audience on Youtube.
I’d suggest to anyone thinking of starting to forget the ‘glamorous’ side that’s possible and to concentrate on building a solid platform using the best possible gear (camera, audio etc.) available as I believe that matters to viewers.
Christian from Academy of Photography
I wish I knew how volatile the YouTube environment is and how the rules change over time.
Any change in the search algorithm will affect every video’s traffic each time.
I would have avoided putting thousands of hours of work into something that can disappear overnight.
Youtube is one of the worst employers I ever had. No control on my side.
Kevin from The Basic Filmmaker
That given persistence (playing the long game – YEARS), patience (lose ANY deserved or entitlement attitude), and hard work (work should be FUN!, or don’t bother), you CAN make YouTube work for you and you CAN make it a career.
That’s a treasure trove of knowledge right there. I hope you find it useful for your own channel or if you’re thinking about starting a YouTube channel for the first time.
Got any comments or advice that you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comment section below.
About the author:
Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He’s the owner of filmdaft.com and of the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.