DISCLAIMER: Links included in this post might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you! Thank you for supporting me so I can continue to provide you with free content each week on my blog and on my YouTube channel!
There’s no better time to start a YouTube channel than right now.
Whenever you’re reading this, it’s the PERFECT time for you to start because small YouTube channels are blowing up faster than ever when combining timeless strategies with new strategies.
In this post, we’re breaking it all down. How you can set yourself up for success, what to do when you can’t pick a niche, how to come up with viral video ideas, what a good strategy for Shorts is, how often to post and so much more.
As always, these are tips and strategies that helped me get to 250k subscribers in two years.
I’m sharing them in hopes that they help you too. Feel free to test for yourself and find what works for you, it’s not my way or the highway. Everyone’s journey is going to look a little different.
Let’s get into it.
Step 1: Setting Expectations
Congratulations. You’ve picked probably the hardest and most time-consuming platform to post and grow on.
Every step, from planning, scripting, filming, and editing to even posting videos to YouTube takes longer here than on any other platform.
Can you be consistent not just now? If your goal is to be a YouTuber, can you figure out a way to be consistent for a year? Two years? Five years?
If you want a platform that spits out instant gratification, where you post and instantly see results, YouTube is not that. You’re playing the long game here.
Start before you’re ready. Commit. Don’t stop.
And don’t get stuck focusing on your channel performance or analytics in the very beginning. Not that it’s not important because analytics are necessary. You just can’t rely on metrics as motivation to keep going when you’re just starting out.
The future you, 1-year-from-today you, is going to be so incredibly thankful you started doing instead of just wishing. Because you’ll find that even though it gets tough, if you just keep going, YouTube is the most rewarding platform out there.
Step 2: Setting up Your Channel for Success
Before you start posting, let’s set up your account for success. That way, when you start posting and people visit your channel, their immediate response is, “Ooooo yup…SUBSCRIBE!”, and not, “… huh?”
There are 3 things that go into setting up your channel:
- Picking your unique niche
- Setting up your pillar rotation
- Basic account setup (which, believe it or not, is part of your YouTube strategy)
Now, if you’ve seen any of the “How to grow on YouTube” videos, you’ve probably heard the whole” pick a niche” thing. You’ve maybe even heard of picking content pillars.
BUT before you roll your eyes and say, “I’ve heard this all before” (because I used to do that), we’re going to approach this a little differently than how everyone typically teaches.
Picking Your Unique Niche
I’m sure you have a bunch of questions about picking a niche, so let’s go over them one-by-one.
Do You Need to Pick a Niche?
Yes and no.
There’s a reason everyone says to “niche down”. There are a lot of benefits that come with having a niche!
You’re able to grow your channel faster because staying in a niche:
- Helps the algorithm understand what your channel is about so that it can push your videos to the right people.
- Makes your content easily binge-able for new people who come across your channel.
The reason you hear “pick a niche” a lot is simply because it works. It works for the algorithm, it works for your audience, it’s a win-win.
If you’re posting about fitness tips then amazon fashion and then flipping a house, it might be hard for YouTube to understand the overarching theme of your channel, therefore YouTube won’t know who to push your videos to or your videos will be pushed to the wrong people.
How Do You Pick a Niche?
Okay, so we know picking a niche is important. If that’s a strategy you want to implement, now how do you actually pick a niche?
First, let’s unpack the actual definition of this word:
Niche: “a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.”
Most people focus on the first half of this definition, “A specialized segment of the market…”
That’s when we hear people saying their niche is fashion, fitness, travel, coffee, etc. We’ve heard it all.
But most people neglect the second part of this definition, “… for a particular kind of product or service.”
That means it’s more than just saying your niche is fitness.
What unique approach can you create for your topic? What kind of fitness (replace the underlined topic with your niche)? Who is your content for? What problem are you solving? Why should someone subscribe to your channel?
For example, instead of “fitness”, your niche can be “at-home fitness for busy moms.” That answers what kind of fitness it is and who it’s for.
With that in mind, you’re able to create videos around the unique niche.
What if You Can’t Pick Just One Niche?
What if you don’t know what you’re niche is or you can’t pick just one single topic…what next?
I mean, where are all my multi-passionate people who want “lifestyle” to be your niche? Because same.
Instead of focusing on the topic, what you can do is focus on who you’re trying to reach or the unique approach you have.
For example, if you want to have an audience or a community of other stay-at-home moms, think about what sort of videos they might watch or look for on YouTube. Make that.
Think about the community you aspire to have in 5 years. What does that channel look like? Who is watching your videos? Think about them specifically and make videos catered directly to them.
If you DO want to make videos about fitness tips, amazon fashion and how you flipped a house, think about how you can create an overarching theme across all of those videos.
Hint: You provide the uniqueness. You are the theme.
Let’s say you’re a college student. Maybe those videos look like:
- “How to stay in shape for busy college students”
- “Amazon Fashion Under $20 for broke college students”
- “How I was able to flip my first house while being a full-time student”
Picking a niche can and will help you grow faster, that’s what I did and that’s how I was able to grow so fast in a small amount of time.
But that niche and your journey of figuring it out are going to look different for everyone.
If you haven’t started your channel because you feel stuck at this step, just say “Screw it!” and post. The more you post, the more you’ll find what feels natural and authentic to you! And yes, that’s advice that comes directly from experience.
Setting up Your Pillar Rotation
Now that you have your niche defined, you’re going to set up your pillar rotation.
Your pillar rotation is the topics or types of videos you rotate between. Most people refer to these as content pillars or the subtopics you talk about on your channel.
I’ll give you three examples of this.
Example 1: For Those Who Have a Defined Niche
My niche is social media tips for Content Creators. That’s the overarching theme of my channel.
My subtopics or content pillars: Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, how to make money, and my story (my journey, successes and failures on social media).
All these subtopics fit under “social media tips for Content Creators.” When you look at my channel, you’ll see the videos I post rotate talking about these subtopics.
I suggest sticking between 3-5 content pillars because it keeps your content concise and easy to follow.
Example 2: For Those Who Have a General Niche
This is for those of you who have a general niche defined as “fitness”, but can’t think of more specific topics or subtopics.
Instead of trying to figure out what subtopics you want to rotate between, figure out what type of videos you want to make.
Maybe your topics will be:
- Educational fitness content (i.e. Form for certain exercises)
- Gym workouts (i.e. Gym workouts for leg day)
- Workout with me
- Transformation (i.e. How I reached a new PR for my deadlifts)
So, here you’re not rotating between topics. You’re rotating between the TYPES of videos: educational, entertaining, relatable, inspirational.
Example 3: If Your Niche Is “Lifestyle” or You Don’t Have a Niche
If this is you, your strategy is actually going to be focused around step 3 of this post, which is Content Creation and SEO Strategy.
So just keep on reading. We’re almost there!
Basic Account Setup
Before going into step 3, the last thing you want to do is set up the actual basics of your account:
- Profile photo
- Banner image
- Channel description
- And more
All of these small steps in completing your profile are important strategically!
With YouTube, or any social media platform for that matter, everything you do is intentional and with strategy.
Now, this can be a whole post in and of itself, so for a step-by-step breakdown of how to set up your YouTube channel, I created the Ultimate YouTube Starter Workbook. In this workbook, you’ll get a checklist for how to set up your account, an interactive worksheet for doing content research, the 5 steps for growing your channel and more.
Yes, it’s free, so download it now and start setting up your channel. Then head back over here because we’re not done. We still have step 3 to go over!
Step 3: Creating Content (Your SEO Strategy)
This is where things start getting juicy.
What do you post? What type of content should you make? How do you come up with video ideas?
The foundation of your YouTube strategy will revolve around SEO. But don’t freak out, because SEO isn’t scary. If you’re like me and the term SEO is intimidating, let’s call it something else. Let’s call it the “Strategy To Help People Find You Faster” or STHPFYF for short.
You want people to find your channel and your videos, right? So what actions are you taking, intentional actions, that are going to actually help people find you?
Did you know that 70% of people use YouTube to help them solve a problem or answer a question? It’s the biggest search engine right next to Google!
So, what sort of videos can you make to help people find you faster?
In the beginning, these are the types of videos I focused on creating:
- Search-Based Content
- Trending Content
- Pocket Content
- Nurture Content
- “Selfish” Content
I’m thinking about my audience here. What do they want? Not “what do I want?” or “what do I think they want?” What do they ACTUALLY search for and want answers on?
To find this out, you need to do a little bit of research. Being successful on YouTube involves strategy, not just posting for fun (which can be part of your strategy because YouTube is fun!)
To do your research, you’re going to use current, relevant Search Engines to tell you what your audience is currently looking for.
My favorite Search Engines for this are:
- Answer the Public
- Google (as a backup or last resort or since it’s so large)
This is where having a niche and content pillars will come in handy.
Let’s say you want to make coffee videos. Typing in “coffee” might be a bit too vague, so let’s type in “coffee recipe” or “coffee for” and see what’s suggested.
Looking at the graphics above for YouTube and Pinterest, you can see some commonalities in what people are searching that you can make content for:
- “Coffee Recipes at Home”
- “Coffee Recipes Starbucks” (your version of popular Starbucks drinks for people to make at home! I know I’d watch those!)
- “Coffee for Weight Loss”
- “Coffee for Hair/Skin”
And that’s just to name a few. There are plenty more ideas and plenty more you can search to find even more. But you get the idea.
Try this out with your niche and subtopics!
Pro-tip: Remember that 70% of people use YouTube to solve a problem, so I suggest your first videos be educational in some way, shape or form.
Do Research Before Filming
A mistake I notice often (and have been guilty of) is when people film their videos, then decide to do their research to come up with the perfect video title.
You’ll see better results if you do your keyword research before you script and film. The research will help give you relevant topics you can discuss in your video. And yes, even if you create vlogs.
You can still drop those good nuggets in your vlogs you got from doing your research and know that you’re providing value to your audience. As opposed to the backward approach where you film a video and then ask yourself, “Where’s the value in this?”
If that’s what you’ve been doing, I’ve totally been there. But now is the time to start doing your research first and know the value you’re adding before you start filming.
To help supplement your keyword research, there are 3 tools I recommend using to strategize and see how well your video might perform:
If you want more information on utilizing these tools in your strategy, read my post on how to get content ideas for YouTube. They’re great tools you’ll want to know how to use.
Adapting to trends, as we all know, is important on social media.
The difficult thing about this is trends are different for each person and each niche.
For example, trends that I can follow as a Social Media Coach are Instagram updates. Instagram updates their app and algorithm every two seconds, so content on those updates will always be trending.
Another great example of someone who successfully hopped on a trend is Emma Chamberlain. The video that skyrocketed her channel was her “YouTuber Conspiracy Theories” video.
At the time, conspiracy theory videos were popping off left and right and were dominated by Shane Dawson’s conspiracy content.
So, Emma hopped on the bandwagon, added her own twist by making the conspiracies about other YouTubers, and made it unique and entertaining with her humor and personality.
But if you’re a Fitness Coach, you likely wouldn’t make Instagram update or conspiracy theory videos. So you need to find trends in your niche and be on the lookout for what is constantly changing in your industry. And then, how can you adapt those with your unique perspective and personality?
Creating content on trends is definitely more time-sensitive. You have to be on at all times to find trends and have the ability to create content with a quick turnaround. So, Trending Content might not be the best form of content to rely on, but necessary to add to your overall strategy.
Pocket Content is a term I created for content that no one else is creating… so, you create it.
You are filling in the gaps within your niche that nobody is talking about. When someone lands on those videos, they’ll think, “Wow, this is awesome. No one else is talking about this. Subscribe!”
An example of one of my Pocket Content videos that went viral was my “Instagram Theme” video. How did I come up with that idea?
At the time, I was doing a lot of research on how to edit my Instagram photos. I saw that everyone had cool, aesthetic feeds with great photos, so I wanted to know how to do that! But all the videos out there were about how people edit their photos to match their aesthetic.
I wanted to know how to edit my photos and come up with my aesthetic. I didn’t want to copy someone else! But nobody had a video like that. So, I went all in, found out how to create an Instagram feed no matter who you are and made a video on it.
Then the video went viral.
Those were the types of videos I focused on in the beginning to reach as many people as possible.
Then, as I grew, I started to tie in more types of videos.
Nurture Content is videos I create for my current subscribers who already like me.
These videos don’t have to rank in search results. I don’t expect these videos to go viral. I don’t have to convince the viewers of these videos to follow me… because they already are.
The sole purpose of Nurture Content is to nurture my relationship with my current subscribers to keep them engaged.
Selfish Content is just videos I make for myself.
These are videos I’ve always wanted to make or I’m just simply in the mood to film. It might not be relevant to my niche, but I create it because I enjoy it.
This type of content is my favorite and works best once your channel has started to pick up.
AGAIN, if you feel stuck at these beginning stages of your YouTube channel, you need to just say, “Screw it!” and make whatever the heck you want! So many people self-sabotage their own success by holding themselves back because they think they have to have it all figured out before they post.
“The strategy must be perfect, the equipment must be perfect, I need to know how to write the perfect YouTube title!”
NO! Just no. Start before you’re ready. Be willing to take messy action and learn from it. THAT’S when you’ll start seeing the results you want to see.
Speaking of messy action. Let’s talk about Shorts
Step 4: Posting Your Videos
You’ve done your research, you’ve filmed and you’ve edited.
So, how often should you post? How long should your video be? What consistency should you have? What about scheduling?
First things first, get rid of the shoulds, haves and needs in those questions you have. Why? There’s nothing you have to do, should do or need to do to see success. There is no magical number for how many videos you have to post or for how long your videos need to be.
Replace those words with could or can. How often can you post? How long could your videos be?
With those questions more appropriately framed, let’s go over a good strategy. Your posting strategy will generally revolve around:
Creating Thumbnails for YouTube
Thumbnails are probably the most important part of your content and posting strategies. And to be totally honest, I still struggle to this day.
I don’t know with 100% certainty what’s going to get me the most clicks, and I’m not convinced I ever will. Or anyone else for that matter.
But here’s what I do know.
Thumbnails that are relatable and evoke emotions work really well. As do thumbnails that show a result. These resonate with the average person scrolling through their YouTube feed.
And that can be accomplished without using clickbait.
For example, you can see below the thumbnail for my video, “IF I HAD TO START FROM 0, THIS IS WHAT I WOULD DO | DO THIS to Hit 10k Followers On Instagram”.
The title for this video doesn’t have a strong SEO score, so it’s not likely this video will rank purely off of search. People aren’t searching, “If I had to start from 0 on Instagram, what should I do?”
But, as you can see, the thumbnail is great (shoutout to my thumbnail editor!). It evokes emotion, the emotions conveyed are relatable and it shows transformation and the result of that transformation.
So, yes, your thumbnails and titles are very important. Using those factors of emotion, relatability, transformation and result as a guideline will help you figure out how to make optimized thumbnails and titles.
Click-Through-Rate and Average View Duration
Two metrics that play a big role in how YouTube shows your videos to other users are Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and Average View Duration.
The better those metrics are, the more YouTube will push out your video.
Your CTR shows you how many people clicked on your video out of everyone who saw your thumbnail (reason #427 why thumbnails and titles are important).
Now, what’s Average View Duration?
YouTube defines Average View Duration as the “Estimated average minutes watched per view for the selected content.”
So, the more minutes someone spends on your video, the better the video is, according to YouTube. Because YouTube’s job is to make sure you stay on their platform. What better way to do that than to push out videos they know people are watching longer?
That doesn’t necessarily mean your videos should be long. My videos range in duration anywhere from 8 minutes to 45 minutes.
What this means is your videos have to be packed with engaging, valuable content, regardless of the video length.
Everyone’s #1 tip to grow on YouTube is always, “Be consistent!”
But what does that mean? What does consistency look like?
Consistency doesn’t mean every day or every other day. It doesn’t mean posting every week or twice a week.
Consistency is a realistic cadence that you can keep up with and that fits your lifestyle.
If you were to post to YouTube consistently for one year, what does that look like for you? When combining both short and long-form content, what consistency can you do?
Maybe you have a 9-5 and multiple kids to take care of. Every week may not be realistic if that’s the case, but twice a month could be a goal to shoot for.
If you don’t have a 9-5 or kids, you can create both Shorts and long-form videos more often. So, twice a week with daily Shorts content is more realistic.
Pick your cadence and stick to it for 3-6 months. Whatever that is, YouTube will see that as consistency.
Step 5: Know the Platform
If you want to dominate any platform, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of that platform.
What makes it breathe? What makes it come to life?
Study that platform and gain as much knowledge as you can so that you can work with its algorithm instead of against it.
Part of understanding a platform is also understanding the users of that platform. Here are some stats about YouTube to get you started:
- YouTube had over 2.3 billion monthly active users in 2022 and is projected to have 2.85 billion users by 2025.
- YouTube is the #2 website by traffic in the U.S., right under Google
- 51% of YouTube viewers say they rely on YouTube videos to learn to do something new.
- People and Blogs are the most popular YouTube video category, making up 32% of the videos posted on the site. (This includes vlogging or commentary channels.)
- YouTube is most popular with those aged 15-25 and 26-35, with 77% of each demographic using the platform
- But YouTube is still popular, regardless of age
TL;DR: YouTube isn’t going anywhere and it’s not too late to get started on YouTube.
The more you study a platform and know the stats of its users, the more ideas you’ll get of what content you can create.
On top of that, study other successful channels in your niche.
Success leaves clues.
Go to the accounts of people who have success in your niche and study them! What are their best videos? What do their thumbnails look like? Their titles? What topics do they rotate between?
Study their channels, learn from their success and apply that to your strategy. And notice I said “apply” and not copy. We’re not in the game of stealing content. We create unique content that can be inspired by others.
BONUS STEP: Invest in Yourself
Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and your dreams.
You can learn by spending time trying to figure it out on your own and learning through making mistakes. Or you can learn from other people’s mistakes to save time.
This goes back to studying the platform and other successful creators. But it also includes reading books, taking courses, and so much more.
My favorite resources:
So what’s next? What’s the next step you take from here?
First, download the Ultimate YouTube Starter Workbook. There’s pages of free knowledge and interactive activities so you can take action today.
And if you’re wondering, “What does all of this looks like in action? What’s it REALLY like posting every week and how can I be consistent?”, read this post for a behind-the-scenes look at my entire YouTube process.
Follow your joy!