I did it. 20,000 subscribers.
Although I’m not sure why I just said “I did it” like 20k was some big magical end goal.
Realistically it’s just one milestone on a journey that doesn’t really have an end.
But it’s an exciting milestone nonetheless!
It took me 8 years to hit 10k subscribers, and just over a year to go from 10-20.
Honestly, the YouTube journey has been an interesting one for me.
I’ve stopped and started a dozen times over the years, evolved the type of videos I’ve shot just as many times, and all the while constantly asked myself “is this worth it?”
For me, the answer is yes. It absolutely has been worth it, but I’m not sure it is the perfect fit for everyone.
Today I’m going to share with you 20 things I’ve learned about YouTube through the process of hitting 20k subscribers.
And you know, since this is all about video, obviously there needs to be a video to go along with it. So if you’d rather hear me talk about these lessons?
Here you go:
1) Shooting the video is only a quarter of the battle.
It can be easy to think “oh I’ll just go shoot a quick YouTube video and be done.”
But unlike a blog post that I can pump out quickly, video takes time.
Shooting is only a quarter of the battle.
You have all the prep work to contend with (the idea, the outline, the lighting, setting up audio, setting up the camera, and so on).
Then you shoot it.
Then you have to edit it, which is usually the most time consuming part.
Followed by actually publishing and promoting on YouTube.
That last part alone usually takes me 1-2 hours depending on how long the video is.
So if you decide you want to get serious about video, make sure it really is the best use of your time.
2) YouTube is where conversations are happening, not blogs.
Discussions are happening far more on social media than they are on blogs these days. While blog comments have been stagnant for years, it’s encouraging to see that real conversations are taking place in the YouTube comments.
Sure YouTube can be a bit troll-y at times, but if you spend a few minutes a day moderating, you can avoid the worst of it.
3) You don’t need a ton of views to have a real business.
This is one of the biggest surprises for me. I get a tiny fraction of the views many people in my space do, but my business is bigger than many of them.
If you already have a business, YouTube can be an extremely powerful way to grow it. Here are a few businesses you can start today.
It’s much harder to build a business around being a YouTuber.
4) Ad revenue isn’t a realistic business model for most people.
I make around $300 per month on YouTube ads, certainly not enough to live on.
But by directing people to my email list and marketing funnel, YouTube has helped me grow my email list by thousands and helped me create tens of thousands (if not into six figures) of additional revenue I might not have had otherwise.
But this only works if…
5) Every video should have a call to action.
If you don’t have a call to action, then most people won’t take action.
Do you want them to watch another video? Make that abundantly clear.
Make it incredibly clear what you want people to do during or after watching your video. That’s how you not only grow your channel but grow your business.
My landing pages convert at around 50% when I use that as a call to action in my videos – which is one of the most successful things I do not just in YouTube, but in all of my business.
6) It’s easy to get burnt out.
I feel like I get burnt out every few months.
I have no idea how daily vloggers do it long term, even doing two videos a week can be a challenge at times.
While consistency is important, don’t be afraid to step away for a few weeks to think, recharge, and get excited about what you’re creating.
You’ll be better off long term, than if you keep trying to push, lower your quality, and eventually quit altogether.
7) You shouldn’t always make the videos you want to make.
For a long time, I just made whatever videos I wanted to make, or whatever came to mind.
Honestly? This only works for a very small subset of YouTube personalities.
For most people, they’ll find you via search.
And in order to position yourself to where you’re found via search? You have to create videos around what people are searching for.
I try and go by the 4 to 1 rule.
4 videos for them, 1 video for me.
That allows me to build traction with growth, while also still leaving room to do something a little different, or fun. Like a travel video for instance.
8) Sound quality is more important than video quality.
This should be the golden rule of YouTube. It is ALWAYS more important to have good sound than good video. People will still watch if something isn’t in perfect HD, is slightly out of focus, or isn’t color corrected.
If a whole video is full of wind noise, static, or anything else that is hard on the ears? It doesn’t matter how good the content is, the masses will change the channel.
I bought this microphone for The Desk video way back when, and it’s been an absolute game-changer in terms of sound quality and flexibility.
9) YouTube is the ultimate way to build trust.
I’ve talked a bit lately about building trust and the fact people have to buy into you before they buy from you.
Reading someone’s blog can be a good way to build trust, but it’s still lacking.
Seeing someone on video? You can get a much better sense of someone when you can actual hear and see them.
If they say a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures.
10) There is no one right way to build a channel.
I’ve heard so much advice from different experts over the years, but you know what? If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is no one right way.
There are certainly best practices.
You should do some keyword research for your videos…
Thumbnails do matter…
And how long people watch your videos is actually important…
But what worked for one person does not necessarily mean that’s what will work for you.
So, experiment. Try different things. See what works for you, while taking everything the experts say with a grain of salt.
11) Just because the barrier to entry is low, doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you.
I’m just going to come right out and say this: there’s a good chance YouTube isn’t for you.
It takes a certain type of person to be successful making videos.
For one, there’s a lot more that can go wrong when compared to writing a blog post.
You need to think about your set, lighting, audio quality, your shots, and so forth.
You also need to be ok being in front of a camera. If you’re painfully shy, it will take a lot of practice to get to the point where you’re comfortable enough being on camera to make your channel a success.
I truly believe there is a proper medium for everyone, whether that’s a blog, YouTube, podcast, Instagram – whatever.
So be honest with yourself about if YouTube is the right one for you. Because it’s probably the one that takes the most effort to create a piece of good content.
12) …But the only way to get better is to do it.
With that said, there’s only one way to get better at it, and that’s to do it.
And if you choose to give it a shot? Don’t worry about success! Don’t worry about being perfect. Just worry about creating the most entertaining and useful piece of content you can.
Do this over a long enough period of time? Success becomes more inevitable.
13) All it takes is one video to build momentum.
All it takes is one video to hit, and you can be off to the races.
And be aware that sometimes it won’t hit until months after you first publish it.
For instance, my video about How to Start Freelance Writing didn’t start getting search traffic until 3 months after publishing. Now it gets hundreds of views a day and is responsible for about 20% of all the subscribers on my channel.
14) You can leverage one video in a lot of places.
One piece of content can go a long way.
For instance, I usually start a video as an outline. I’ll then shoot the video:
And then Liz will turn into a blog post:
After publishing on YouTube, I’ll add the video to Instagram later on.
I can use a quote from it for Twitter and Facebook content.
If I had a podcast, I could leverage it there as well.
Don’t be afraid to take an idea, and use the same idea amongst different platforms.
15) The virtual journal aspect is more powerful than I expected it to be.
I now have YouTube videos that date back to 2009.
To living in Bali for 2 months…
To all of the ridiculous L180 Digs videos I shot from places like rural China, the Maldives, Philippines, Shanghai, Mexico, and more.
Being able to look back at all of the different adventures and travels in my life is something I recount on a surprisingly regular basis.
I’m happy I shot the videos if for no other reason than to be able to look back years later and say “I did that.”
16) Stat checking is inevitable but dangerous.
Whether you blog, Youtube, gram – wherever you share stuff online, checking stats becomes compulsive.
A good video? A good mood.
Bad video? Bad mood.
You need to learn how to separate stats from your overall well-being.
17) Need ideas? Look at what your competitors are doing.
First off, if you need video ideas, then just watch this.
But I’ve found any time I need video ideas I simply need to turn to my competitors.
For instance, I might search “freelance writing” on YouTube and find 2 or 3 of the channels that come up most often.
From there, I’ll search their channel by most popular videos:
A bunch of video ideas that I know people are interested in.
18) Watch others for motivation…then stop.
This is huge.
When I’m lacking motivation or creativity, I watch the people who inspire me.
Often all it takes is a video or two to get re-engaged and inspired to create again.
But here’s the key, once you’ve found that spark, that idea, or that motivation?
Stop watching videos.
If you watch too many videos from the same people, you’ll find yourself unconsciously taking their ideas for your own.
The last thing you want to do is lose your own style. People watch for what you bring to the table, not for you trying to do your best impression of someone else.
19) It teaches one of the most important skills you can learn: storytelling.
You can’t be successful on YouTube without knowing how to tell a good story.
How do you get people interested?
Keep them hooked?
And leave them with a payoff that makes them glad they watched.
If you master the craft of storytelling? There’s no telling how far you’ll be able to take not just a YouTube career, but any creative endeavor your pursue.
20) YouTube Subscribers don’t matter.
Sure 20,000 subscribers is a nice milestone to hit, and a good impetus to write a post like this.
But honestly, it doesn’t mean much outside of vanity.
I’ve seen people with 500k subscribers who barely get 1,000 views a video.
And I’ve seen people with 10k subscribers who get thousands.
Most of my views still come from people searching for things, or from when I send an email to my list.
While subscribers help I haven’t noticed a huge jump in views of new videos from 10k to 20k.
So don’t get caught up in the metrics.
I make far more money than people who have channels far bigger than mine.
So don’t forget that for most people YouTube is a tool, not the business itself.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t sincerely appreciate it when you do subscribe. It means a lot, and seeing those numbers (even if they don’t mean much) is encouragement to keep going, keep producing, and keep making videos.
So I appreciate you for tuning in.
I can’t wait to see what happens over the next 20,000.