Starting a YouTube channel — Learnings from zero to 600 followers

In April of 2020, I did one very important thing. This thing I did made my dream of running a YouTube channel a reality. So what was that one important thing? A solid content strategy? Purchasing a fabulous camera? Snagging an endorsement deal!?

I started making videos. I. Just. Started. No more thinking, dreaming, planning. No more insecure thoughts and what if’s. No time off work to pursue my dream. I just started doing it. And just like that, I had started making YouTube videos about a subject I’m passionate about. This is the first learning of this article. At some point, you just gotta do that thing you’re dreaming of. Do it! Start small, make it easy for yourself to do get going. For me, that was talking about a subject that I knew well (UX & Product Design). And off I went.

Ever since I started doing YouTube I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how it’s done. So let me share what I’ve learned so far.

Equipment

Camera 📲

This is the first question everyone asks. If you’re asking this you might be using YouTube as an excuse to buy a new gadget, you’re not gonna like my answer. I use my phone. There is no upper limit on how much you can spend on a camera. And when you’re a beginner at something, like I am at filming, I wouldn’t even know what I like in a camera. So the easiest way to just get going is to start with what you have. My iPhone 11 Pro is fabulous, and good at correcting any mistakes I make with my lighting set up. I’ve changed the default quality of my videos to 4k instead of HD. That gives me a quality that works for me.

I found an old camera tripod and built a holder for my phone out of lego and duct tape. Cost so far: 0. McGyver Points: 2.

Microphone 🎙

Good sound is way more important than perfect video quality. I have definitely turned off YouTube videos because the audio was crappy. So your first investment should be a decent USB microphone you can plug into your computer. I have a Blue Yeti, it’s alright. Which is good enough for me right now.

Place your microphone between yourself and your camera, so that you’re talking towards the microphone and not away from it. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Audio 👂

I plug my microphone into my computer and record the sound with QuickTime Player. In most videos, I also do a screen recording with QuickTime so it’s convenient that those two are in the same file. Make sure to select your good microphone in the audio settings for your recording.

When I’ve recorded a video I will have (at least) two files that I edit together in my video editing tool.

Editing ✂️

I use Final Cut Pro, the professional video editing tool designed by Apple. The main reason for this is that my YouTube mentors use it. So they could answer all my weird editing related questions at the beginning. But I’m sure the free editing tool iMovie would have done the trick. The great thing about video editing is that there are soo many tutorials on YouTube, since litterally everyone who has made a career out of YouTube does video editing on a weekly basis.

Before making my first video the only editing I had done was cropping out a few highlight from user testing recording to share with my team. So this was a challenge. In the beginning I spent a ridiculous amount of time on each video. I think I spent at least 30 hours making my first 30 minute video. Most of that time was spent in post production learning how to use Final Cut Pro as I went. Now I’ve grown to really enjoy editing!

Lighting

Good light is for sure the bestest way to improve the quality of your videos. Buying some home studio lights will for sure be my next YouTube related investment. But what have I been doing until now? Here are my free tips for getting Good Light™️.

Natural Lighting 🌤

Sitting right in front of a window is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get flattering light. The downside of working with natural light is that you need to record when the sun is out. Unfortuantely December in Sweden gives you a tiny window of time to record your content.

DIY Studio Lighting 💡

This is how I set up my “studio” each time I record a video.

  1. Find a room with bright lighting. Then add more lights! Besides turning the cieling lights up to max I point two desklamps at my face.
  2. I set up my computer as far away as possible from my microphone. The computers fan will for sure go off in the middle of recording. Especially if I’m running design software and recording my screen. Noone wants the hum of a laptop fan in their ears as their listening to your tutorial. That’s why I use a monitor with a bluetooth keyboard and trackpad. Increasing the distance between my MacBook’s fan and the microphone improves sound quality.
  3. Make the background look nice. I usually collect a few plants and place them on either side of me to make the shot more appealing.

Getting Viewers

Honestly, I still need advice here. As I am writing this I have 631 followers on YouTube. That figure may sound small, but it’s the first couple of hundred subscribers (400–600) that are the hardest to attract. That’s when you run out of friends and need to find an audience who doesn’t know you (yet!). I don’t know the inner workings of YouTube’s algorithms. But here’s what I’ve gathered so far about attracting your audience.

  • YouTube favours those who publish regularly. So find your publishing routine ans stick to it! I publish videos every two weeks.
  • Use your social media account to share your work. This advice might be a bit obvious, but if you don’t tell your friends and followers that your making videos, how will they know?
  • Find new places to share. Find Facebook groups who share your interests. The members might like your videos
  • Try it and tweak it. Try different formats until you find something that gets traction. Are people responding posetively to it? Keep tweaking and exploring what you can improve. Never stop learning!
  • Have fun! You can tell when a content creator is having fun in their videos. Joy is contagious and we all crave it. If you’re having fun and trying new ideas, YouTube will be a fun adventure and not a super time consuming second job.

Bonus tips

Your comments matter 🥰

Please be nice to YouTube content creators. It takes a lot of time and effort to make videos that you get to watch, for free. So be generous with the likes and comments. It’s so so rewarding when people tell me that they’ve learned something new from my channel. You have the power to encourage people, use it!

Get a mentor 🦸🏻‍♂️

Whenever you’re a beginner at something it’s always good to have someone you look up to who you can ask questions. I have the privilege of having Mattias Petter Johansson (FunFunFunction) and David Jurelius (DevTips) as my mentors. Thank you so much for your amazing support!

I know this tip is a bit harder to act on. Not everyone has a buddy with a YouTube following equal to a smallish country. That’s why I’m writing this article, to share the tips I’ve gotten so far.

Do your thing!

I’m not sure where I found this comic, but I have it saved in the folder where I keep everything YouTube related. I look at it whenever I doubt myself. When making YouTube videos you are going to doubt yourself at some point. Everyone who challenges themselves creatively has moments when they want to quit. Don’t! When doubt comes creeping in we need to see the big picture. I need you to do your thing! Make your art, expand your creativity. You have a unique point of view, refine and share it. I can’t wait to see all the lovely things your going to make.

UX Designer at Doberman. Speaker, Meetup organizer. A talkative Swedish vagabond currently based in Stockholm. IT Woman of the Year 2015.