How to start a YouTube channel: The ultimate guide (2024)

From initial concept planning to channel setup, from understanding video production to content creation, and from video optimization to monetization, this guides provides every detail you’ll need for a successful experience on YouTube.
January 26, 2024
Renee Teeley
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Matt D., Copywriter
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YouTube isn't just the most popular video-sharing platform in the world.

It's a business incubator, a space to voice your interests, showcase your skills, and share your passions. If all you’re after is a creative outlet and a like-minded community, your YouTube channel can help make that happen. But as your channel grows, you're not just building an audience, you're creating a business opportunity to parlay your online presence into brand deals, partnerships, and other income streams.

This detailed guide is designed to get you closer to your goals by walking you through how to start your own YouTube channel. From concept planning to channel setup, from video production to content creation, and from video optimization to monetization, you'll learn everything you need to know every step of the way.

Start your YouTube channel in 7 steps

  1. Plan your channel concept
  2. Set up your YouTube channel
  3. Choose your video production equipment
  4. Design your home studio
  5. Create your first YouTube video
  6. Optimize your YouTube videos to get more views
  7. Monetize your YouTube channel

Important caveat: While everything here is important to building a YouTube channel, there’s really one thing that will actually make it successful — good video content. Good can mean a lot of things, but mostly it means video that connects with an audience, that some set of viewers finds valuable. Because it’s insightful, entertaining, informative, or whatever. Without that, nothing else matters.

Now, let's dive into this exciting journey of creativity, connection, and possibly, your new career in the creator economy.

1. Plan your channel concept

So you're ready to make your first video. Before you leap into action and start recording, it's important to lay a solid foundation. Take some time to understand why you're creating videos and what you want to achieve for yourself and your viewers. It's like setting a compass for your YouTube journey so you have a clear direction and purpose. 

Setting your goals

Think about what you want to achieve with your YouTube channel. Are you an entrepreneur trying to increase product sales? Do you aspire to make a living as a creator and ditch the nine-to-five grind? Or maybe you're looking to build a community around a cause you care about. You might just be seeking a creative outlet to add a sprinkle of joy to your day-to-day life. There are no wrong answers. Just be sure to have goals — it’ll help set the stage for your content creation and overarching strategy.

Choosing your niche

Having a niche is crucial for standing out among the millions of YouTube channels. When picking one, try to find the intersection of your passion, your expertise, and an engaged audience.  The more specific, the better. For example, a fitness channel could stand out by focusing on at-home workouts for people over 50, or plant-based nutrition for athletes. 

To determine your niche, here are some tips:

  • Identify your interests: Start by listing the things you're passionate about and the topics you love discussing. They could span a spectrum from hobbies to professional interests, from culinary delights to the joy of gardening, from the allure of tech gadgets to the world of comic books.  Your passion will come through in your videos, which will make them more authentic and more likely to connect with like-minded folks.
  • Consider your expertise: What are you really good at? What are your skills or qualifications? Your unique skill set can be a great basis for your niche. For instance, if you're a professional makeup artist, a beauty tutorial channel could be perfect for you.
  • Research existing content: Spend some time on YouTube looking at channels that cover similar topics. It can give you an idea of what's already out there and help you identify gaps that you could fill. We’ll talk more about researching channels later in the article. 
  • Consider longevity: Can you imagine producing content about this topic for a long time? It's important to choose a niche that you won't lose interest in after a handful of videos.
  • Test your idea: Your initial concept isn’t set in stone. Try creating a few videos and see how it feels. You might discover that you enjoy the process more than you expected, or you might realize that it's not quite right for you.
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Identifying your target audience

Understanding your target audience helps tailor your content to their interests, making them more likely to click on your videos and stick around. To define your audience, consider their age, interests, geographical location, and especially their challenges or pain points. While it might seem easier to produce content for “everyone,”  in reality, the more specific you get about who your videos are for, the more successful your content will be.

Here are some tips on how to identify your target audience:

  • Define their demographics: Start by identifying the basic demographics of your potential audience, such as age, gender, location, and occupation. For instance, if your channel revolves around entrepreneurship, your target audience might be millennials eager to launch their own company.
  • Identify their interests: What hobbies, interests, and passions do your potential viewers have? If your channel is about gaming, for example, your target audience might be gamers interested in learning new strategies.
  • Understand their challenges: What problems or challenges does your potential audience face? Understanding these can help you create content that provides solutions or help. For example, if your channel focuses on home workouts, your target audience might be people who can’t go to the gym because they don’t have time or transportation.
  • Explore other channels: Analyze other YouTube channels that are similar to yours. What type of audience are they attracting? Understanding their audience can give you insights into who might be interested in your content.
  • Engage with your viewers: Once you have some videos up and viewers start engaging, pay attention to them to learn even more about your audience. Their comments and interactions will provide invaluable feedback that can help you better understand your viewers and make the stuff that they want to watch.

Remember, the goal is not to attract everyone, but to attract the right viewers who will become loyal fans of your channel.

Defining your content type, style, and format

The type, style, and format of your content are the building blocks of your YouTube channel. Are you interested in creating tutorial videos, vlogs, or reviews? Will your content be an observational comedy or a serious educational piece?

Content type

When deciding on the content type, refer back to your goals and target audience. For instance, if you're a VC investor trying to find promising startups, you might want to create educational videos on how to craft effective pitch presentations. But if you're aiming to sell coloring books to help people combat anxiety like Sarah Renae Clark, videos about creative challenges would be a better fit.

Content style

The style of your video includes everything from the editing and music style to the visuals you display on screen. Do you prefer animated videos, on-camera presentations, or story-driven content with multiple camera angles?

Your style should reflect your personality and the preferences of your target audience. For example, CGP Grey is a successful educational YouTube channel that uses animated explainer videos to discuss complex topics in a simple and engaging way for an audience of casual learners. On the other hand, Casey Neistat is known for his energetic vlogging style and fast-paced editing, which suits his adventurous audience.

Content format

The content landscape has evolved over the years and you now have a variety of formats to choose from — short vertical videos under 60 seconds, longer horizontal videos, or even livestreams. Your choice of format will shape your production process and the equipment you need. It's perfectly fine to experiment with various content formats, using each for different purposes. However, it's best to choose one as a starting point and branch out from there.

Researching existing channels

Studying successful channels in your niche can provide valuable insights. Pay attention to their content, audience engagement, and the way they package their videos with thumbnails, titles, and descriptions. This doesn't mean copying their style, but understanding why they're successful and how you can apply similar strategies to your channel.

For example, if you're starting a travel vlogging channel, you could study popular channels like FunForLouis or Hey Nadine. Notice the layout of their thumbnails, the pace of their videos, and how they interact with their audience in the comments section. This research can help you spot gaps in the market, understand your competition, and develop your own unique content strategy.

Crafting a brand that’s uniquely you

Your brand is what pulls your concept together — it’s the heart and soul of your YouTube presence. Branding goes beyond a logo and a color palette. It's your unique voice, your distinct message, and the emotional connection you establish with your audience.

Building a brand is a complex process, but here are a few basic elements you should consider when launching your channel:

  • Personalize your brand: Infuse your personality into your channel. Are you funny like Jenna Marbles or intense and neurotic like Hank Green? Find your own rhythm.
  • Establish a visual identity: Beyond a logo and color scheme, consider your thumbnails, channel art, and even the props you use in your videos. Make it consistently “you.” We’ll delve deeper into channel visuals later.
  • Develop a unique value proposition (UVP): Identify what sets you apart. It might be your unique expertise or a fresh approach to your content.
  • Set your tone of voice: Your tone should consistently reflect your brand personality, from the language you use to the cadence of your speech.
  • Evoke emotion: Try to leave your audience with a lasting feeling after they watch your videos using storytelling, visuals, and music.
  • Be authentic: Don't just put on a façade for your videos; let your uniqueness shine through in every interaction with your audience, on and off the platform.

Your brand is not just an identity; it's a commitment to your viewers. It's about delivering a consistent experience that meets their expectations and connects with them emotionally. Your brand is what transforms casual viewers into subscribers, and subscribers into dedicated fans.

2. Set up your YouTube channel

Now that you've brainstormed your concept, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start setting up your channel. I’ll walk you through the process, from creating your account to channel verification and customization.

Creating your YouTube account

Step 1: Sign in to YouTube with your Google account.

To set up your YouTube channel, you’ll need a Google account. If you already have a Google account that you use for Gmail and other Google services you can use that account. If not, don't worry —  you'll get the chance to create a new one during the YouTube sign-in process.

Step 2: Click on your profile icon and select "Create a channel." 

Step 3: Set your profile picture, channel name, and unique handle.

Profile Picture: The profile picture is displayed in search results, on your channel homepage, on your video watch pages, and next to your comments. You should use something that makes it easy for people to recognize your channel, like a company logo or an image of you.

Requirements: JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG file. No animated GIFs. Recommended size is 800 x 800 px. Can be square or round.

Channel Name: Your channel name is displayed alongside your profile picture to help viewers identify your channel. Try to make it memorable and relevant to you and your content. 

Handle: Your handle is a unique identifier for your channel. It starts with an "@", just like on other social media platforms. It's part of your channel's URL. For example: youtube.com/@descript

Requirements: It must be unique, between 3–30 characters, and use alphanumeric characters (A–Z, a–z, 0–9). You can also use underscores (_), hyphens (-), and periods (.).

Step 4: Click "Create channel" on the bottom right.

Step 5: Take a moment to celebrate the start of your new YouTube channel!

Verifying your channel for access to special features

Verifying your YouTube channel grants access to additional features and benefits, like custom thumbnails, live streaming, and the ability to upload videos longer than 15 minutes. Here's how to unlock these goodies:

Step 1: Navigate to “Settings” on the bottom left of the YouTube Studio.

Step 2: Select “Channel” and then "Feature eligibility.”

Step 3: Choose "Intermediate features" and click on "verify phone number."

Step 4: Follow the on-screen phone verification instructions.

And that's it, you're verified!

Customizing and branding your YouTube channel

With your channel created and verified, it's time to customize it so it stands out from the crowd. Branding is about making your channel unique and memorable. There are a lot of customization options, but we’re just going to cover the basics to get you started: YouTube channel banners, channel trailers, and channel descriptions.

Head to the "Customization" tab in the YouTube Studio to access the branding options. This is where you can change the layout, add branded channel art, and provide basic information about your channel. Spend some time exploring the tabs to get familiar with the features available. 

Channel trailer

A channel trailer is your introduction video to new viewers. It should be short, engaging, and clearly communicate what makes your channel special. Tell your viewers what they can expect from your channel and give them a reason to subscribe. 

For branding inspiration, take a look at the channel "Gone to the Snow Dogs." Their channel branding all works together to inform and entertain their audience. The trailer is simple, fun, and clearly explains what viewers can expect from the channel.

YouTube banner

Your banner is your channel's billboard. It's the large image at the top of your channel page that should visually represent your unique brand.

For banner inspiration, let's go back to "Gone to the Snow Dogs." Their banner showcases their furry friends in a playful way, complete with a tagline so viewers know what to expect.

Your banner needs to be at least 2560 x 1440 px and might appear differently on various devices. It’s a good idea to check what it looks like on a computer, tablet, smartphone, and even a TV. 

If you need some help creating your banner, there are plenty of online templates to help you out. 

Channel description

Your channel description is your opportunity to tell your audience who you are, what you're all about, and what type of content they can expect. If you have a regular posting schedule, include that too, so your viewers know when to tune in for new content.

“Gone to the Snow Dogs" does a great job at this. Their description includes their mission, the type of content they create, and even the specific days they post new videos. Here's what they say:

"If you love the Siberian Husky breed, you've come to the right channel! Our mission here at Gone to the Snow Dogs is to show you what life with your dogs can be like! From traveling with your dogs, camping with your dogs, making DIY dog treats, dog training tips and advice, and other dog adventures and dog videos, to help you share a better life with your dog!”

Other YouTube platform features to know

After setting up your channel, take some time to explore YouTube and familiarize yourself with the platform. Get to know the YouTube Studio, which allows you to manage your channel, upload videos, and access analytics. 

Let's break down the main areas of the YouTube Studio:

  • Dashboard: Think of this as your control center. You'll see a snapshot of your channel's performance, updates from YouTube, and if there are any issues you need to address.
  • Content: This is your video library. Here, you can tweak the details of your videos, manage monetization, and add your content to playlists.
  • Analytics: Your secret weapon for success. The analytics section shows you important data about your channel and videos, including views, watch time, subscriber count, and estimated revenue. Use these insights to shape your content strategy.
  • Comments: Stay connected with your community by managing and responding to comments here. You can approve, hide, report, or reply to comments to moderate your channel's discussions.
  • Earn: This tab becomes your best friend once you meet the YouTube Partner Program criteria. It allows you to manage how you make money from your content, whether that's through ads, channel memberships, products, or Super Chat.
  • Customization: Make your channel uniquely yours. You can personalize your channel's layout, branding, and basic info to make it resonate with your audience.
  • Settings: Here, you can manage your channel's settings, including default settings for uploads, permissions, and community guidelines.

Additional YouTube resources

YouTube is always evolving, so it's important to stay informed about new features and developments. Here are a few resources that can help:

  • Creator Insider: This channel is run by YouTube's very own team and gives you the inside scoop on tests, new products, and updates. 
  • YouTube Creators: This is the official channel for YouTube creators, providing news, tips, and educational content. 
  • The Creator Feed: I co-host this weekly podcast with Jim Louderback. We cover the latest trends in the creator economy and discuss what they mean for creators like you. 

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3. Choose your video production equipment

I know it's tempting to dive into the world of high-end video production gear right off the bat. But I want to remind you that content is king. A fancy camera or microphone alone won't guarantee success. Instead, starting with what you have, like your smartphone, can allow you to focus more on creating engaging content and developing your unique voice. As your channel grows, you can then decide what equipment upgrades will genuinely enhance your production quality. 

Read more: How to set up a YouTube studio

Starting with your smartphone

Nowadays many smartphones come equipped with powerful cameras capable of shooting high-definition, and even 4K videos, making them an excellent starting point for new YouTubers. Plus, a few basic accessories like a microphone, light, and tripod can considerably improve the audio and video output of your smartphone and raise the overall production quality of your videos.

Image Source: Renee Teeley

Microphone

Poor audio quality can ruin viewer engagement. If you've ever struggled through a video with wind noise or an echo, you'll understand. While the built-in mic might work when you're close to your camera, for most situations, an external microphone is better. Wireless lavalier and on-camera mics are two popular options.

  • Wireless lavalier: This mic is great if you need to move around while filming. Just plug a transmitter into your smartphone,  connect the receiver, and clip on the lav mic. The DJI Mic ($330), compatible with both Android and iPhones, is an excellent choice.
  • On-camera mic: For a simple and effective audio upgrade, an on-camera mic is perfect. It's easy to use, with no setup process or charging required. The Rode VideoMic ($150) works well for both Android and iOS.

Gimbal or tripod

Unsteady videos can be distracting. A gimbal or tripod can help you create smooth, professional-looking footage. My personal recommendation for a smartphone gimbal is the DJI OM 6 ($160). It’s compact, user-friendly, and comes with various smart shooting modes. It even doubles as a tripod with the included attachment.

Lighting

Good lighting can do wonders for your video quality. The easiest and most cost-effective way is to use natural light. But if that's not possible, consider the Elgato Ring Light ($150) or Key Light Mini ($100) for a soft, flattering light. If you're using the DJI gimbal, the DJI Fill Light ($60) is a handy attachment.

Read more: Lighting techniques every video creator should know

Beginner-friendly equipment upgrades

Ready to take your video quality to the next level? When upgrading, you don’t need to spend a fortune on gear with all of the most advanced features. Instead, look for equipment that helps you achieve the best quality for your budget, skill level, and video style.

Image Source: Renee Teeley
  • Camera: The Sony ZV-E10 ($700) is designed with content creators in mind and offers beginner-friendly features. For more advanced features, the Sony ZV-E1 ($2,500) is a full-frame camera with higher resolution, advanced AI features, and in-camera stabilization.
  • Lights: At this stage, the Elgato Ring Light remains a solid choice for lighting. For more control over lighting from different angles, the Elgato Key Lights ($200) are worth a look.
  • Tripod: Your choice of tripod will depend on your filming style. If you have an Elgato Ring Light, you can mount your camera in the center. The SwitchPod ($100) works well for handheld videos like a vlog or as a tabletop tripod. For those on the move, Manfrotto's befree collection offers several variations designed to be rugged yet lightweight.

Keep in mind, your equipment is just a tool to help you share your message and connect with your audience. Focus on your content, and upgrade your gear as you grow.

4. Design your home studio

A thoughtfully crafted home studio not only makes your videos look professional but also shapes your personal brand. Let's dive into some guidelines and inspiring examples from well-known YouTube creators.

  • Choose your space wisely: The first step is selecting the right location for your home studio.  It should be a quiet space, free from interruptions, with enough room for you and your equipment to move freely.
  • Acoustics: Be aware of how sound bounces around your chosen space. Hard surfaces can cause echo and affect sound quality. Soften the sound by using materials like foam panels, rugs, or even a bookshelf full of books.
  • Lighting: If you prefer natural light, position your studio near a window and use sheer curtains or blinds to manage the light. For artificial light, you can use a ring light for soft flattering light on your face or use a basic three-point setup: a key light (the main source), a fill light (softens shadows), and a backlight (positioned behind you to separate you from the background).
  • Background: Your backdrop should be interesting but not distracting. It could be a wall with a color that contrasts with your clothing, a shelf with neatly arranged books, or a plant for a touch of green. Consider what might fit your channel's theme and your personal brand.
  • Organization: Keep your space tidy and organized. Not only will it look better on camera, but it will also make your production process smoother.
  • Comfort: Don't ignore your comfort. An ergonomic chair and desk, a monitor at eye level, and good temperature control will make those long editing sessions a lot more bearable.

Studio styles and inspiration

Looking for some home studio inspiration? Here are some popular studio setups from successful YouTube creators:

Minimalist setup: Matt D’Avella is known for his clean and minimalistic style. He often films against a plain white wall, spruced up with a few well-chosen items like a lamp or a plant.

Crafting setup: Craft YouTuber Sarah Renae Clark films with a background filled with her art supplies.

Gaming setup: Gaming channels like Senpai Gaming often use colorful lights, display streaming gear in the background, and show their gaming chair.

Tech office setup: Tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee films in a space resembling a modern, tech-infused home office, often featuring the gadgets he's reviewing.

Kitchen setup: Cooking channels like Rosanna Pansino’s often use their actual kitchen as a backdrop, adding an authentic touch to their content.

Outdoor setup: Jon Olsson often films with nature as his backdrop, which adds a unique dimension to his content.

Music Studio Setup: Music YouTubers like Andrew Huang often use their recording studio, complete with instruments and recording gear, as a backdrop.

Your studio should reflect your unique style and brand. Don't be afraid to experiment and adjust until you find the setup that works for you.

5. Create your first YouTube video

Welcome to the next exciting phase of your YouTube journey: creating your first video! This is where all the planning, brainstorming, and preparations you've made finally take shape into a tangible piece of content. The goal shouldn’t be to create the perfect video, but instead to create something that provides value for your audience. Seek to learn and improve with each video, but don’t let perfectionism hold you back. Here’s how to produce your first video, step-by-step.  

Scripting best practices

Having a script or talking points can help you organize your thoughts, structure your content, and deliver your message effectively. Here are some best practices:

  • Start with a bang: The initial few seconds of your video are crucial. This is your chance to hook viewers and entice them to stick around. Start with a compelling statement, an intriguing question, or a quick overview of what they can expect from the video.
  • Structure your content: Break your script into sections or key points. This will structure your video and make it easier for viewers to follow along.
  • Keep it conversational: Script your video as if you're chatting directly with your viewers. This creates a more personal and engaging experience. Avoid technical jargon unless your audience is familiar with it.
  • Tell a story: If possible, weave your content into a story. Stories are engaging, memorable, and can often make complex or dry topics more relatable. Consider using anecdotes, examples, or metaphors to make your content more compelling.
  • Include calls to action (CTAs): Remind viewers to like, comment, share, or subscribe to your channel. Strategically place these CTAs in your video, maybe in the middle or towards the end, without being overly intrusive.
  • Practice: Read your script out loud several times before recording. This helps you identify any awkward phrases and get comfortable with the material.

Recording your video

Ready to hit the record button? Here are some helpful tips for recording your first video:

  • Set up your equipment: Ensure your camera, microphone, and lighting are set up correctly. Check your backdrop to ensure it's visually appealing and free from distractions.
  • Do a test run: Record a few seconds of video and play it back to check your audio and video quality.
  • Relax and be yourself: It's natural to feel nervous, especially when you're just starting. Don't worry about making mistakes — you can always edit them out later.  Try to be natural and enjoy the process!
  • Follow your script: Use your script as a guide, but don't worry about sticking to it word for word. It's okay to ad lib and let your personality shine through.
  • Record in segments: Break your video into manageable chunks or scenes. This can make the recording process less overwhelming and allows for easier editing later.
Read more: How to overcome your fear of being on camera

Video editing best practices

Video editing is the magical step where your content truly springs to life. It's an integral part of crafting your YouTube video. Let's explore some best practices:

  • Edit for clarity: Eliminate unnecessary sections, errors, or awkward pauses. This is not just about your verbal content, but your visuals, too. If something doesn't enrich your story or message, it's probably best to leave it on the cutting room floor.
  • Tell a story with your edit: Your editing should help tell your story, not just tidy up your footage. Consider the pacing and progression of your narrative. You might want to build up to a key point, or intercut between different scenes for variety and interest. Use the editing process to control the flow of information and keep your viewers engaged.
  • Use B-roll footage: B-roll footage is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot. This can make your video more engaging and helps to illustrate your points. For example, if you're talking about a particular location, showing some B-roll of that place can make your video more immersive. It can also be useful for covering up cuts in your main footage, making your edit smoother.
  • Add text and graphics: Text and graphics can emphasize points, add context, or serve as visual aids. They can also add a layer of professionalism to your videos. For example, you might use text to introduce a new section of your video, labels to identify people or things, or animated graphics to illustrate a complex point.
  • Include transitions: Transitions can help your video flow seamlessly from one point to the next. Just remember to, use them sparingly and only when they serve a purpose. A simple cut is often the best choice, but other transitions like crossfades or wipes can be used to signify a change in location or time.
  • Set the tone with music: Music is a powerful tool in video editing. It can set the mood, pace, and overall feel of your video. Choose music that fits with your brand and the message of your video. Be conscious of the volume levels — your music should complement, not overpower, your dialogue or main audio. Only use music that you have the rights to use to avoid copyright issues.
  • Consider color grading: Color grading is the process of adjusting the colors and visual tone of your footage. It can give your video a certain look or mood, help match footage from different sources, or correct issues with the original footage. Most editing software comes with basic color grading tools.
  • Review and refine: After you've made your initial edits, review your video from start to finish. Look for any areas that might need improvement or fine-tuning. Pay attention to the pacing and timing, clarity of your message, and overall viewer experience. It's often helpful to get feedback from others at this stage too.

Tips for streamlined editing with Descript

There are many editing platforms to choose from and it can be overwhelming when you’re first getting started. As you might expect from this blog, I’m going to recommend you try Descript. It’s an AI-powered audio and video editor that’s designed to make the process less daunting for those just starting out and more streamlined for the seasoned pros.

With Descript, you can edit your video like editing a text document, and it also has powerful AI tools that make the editing process easier and more efficient. Here are some helpful features to get you started: 

  • Auto-transcription: Descript transcribes your video content automatically, meaning you can edit your video like you're simply working on a Word document — you can cut, copy, and paste text from the transcript, and the footage will be edited to match.
  • Studio Sound: With a single click, Descript's Studio Sound enhances your audio quality and eliminates distracting background noise. This keeps your audience focused on your message, not your humming air conditioner.
  • Overdub: Descript’s Overdub feature lets you train a synthetic model of your own voice so that you can add words to the video without a new recording.
  • Music library: Descript has a library of music and  sound effects to help you set the right mood and make your videos more dynamic.
  • Filler word removal: Trim away “ums,” “uhs,” and other filler words with just one click so you can sound more professional and engaging. 
  • Stock video: Find the perfect B-roll or background video from Descript's extensive stock video library. It's a great way to complement your content and enhance your visuals.
  • Screen recording: Need to create tutorials or explainer videos? Descript’s screen recording feature will let you record your screen with the option of including picture-in-picture footage of you explaining your process to the camera.
  • Publishing: Once you're satisfied with your video, you can export it directly to YouTube from Descript, making your workflow even more efficient.

Good editing takes practice. Don't be discouraged if your first few videos aren't perfect. As you gain more experience and familiarity with your editing software, your skills will improve. Keep experimenting, learning, and refining your craft.

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6. Optimize your video to get more views on YouTube

After you've put in the hard work to script, film, and edit your video, it's time to package it for YouTube. This step is all about making your video as attractive and discoverable as possible to your potential audience. Remember, your video is competing with millions of other videos on YouTube, so making sure you package and optimize your video is a critical part of getting views and growing your channel.

Creating engaging thumbnails

Your thumbnail is like a mini movie poster for your video. It's the first thing potential viewers see when they come across your video, and it has a big influence on whether they decide to click and watch. A high-quality, engaging thumbnail can increase your video’s click-through-rate (CTR), leading to more views.

What makes a great thumbnail? An image that represents your video content, catches the attention of your target audience, and gives them a reason to click. Make it visually appealing, with bright colors and clear, bold text. Using close-up images of faces can also be effective, as we naturally connect with human faces. But remember, it's essential that your thumbnail aligns with your video content. Misleading thumbnails may get you initial clicks, but they can also lead to viewer drop-off and can potentially harm your channel in the long run. 

Crafting click-worthy video titles

Your video title is just as important as your thumbnail. Together, they form the first impression of your video. Your title should be concise, engaging, and give viewers a clear idea of what your video is about.

Your title should spark curiosity and make viewers want to click to find out more. When crafting your title, think about what would make you click on a video. Incorporating numbers (like "Top 5...") or emotive words (like "Unbelievable") can help make your title more intriguing. YouTube titles cut off after 60 characters, so keep your titles concise to ensure that viewers can read them in their entirety.

Optimizing YouTube video titles and descriptions

YouTube is the second largest search engine, so optimizing your titles and descriptions is key for discoverability. Include relevant keywords into your title and description naturally, without keyword stuffing.

Your description should provide additional information about your video and entice viewers to watch. You can also include links to your website or social media accounts, and any resources mentioned in the video. The first couple of lines in your description are visible in search results and on your video page, so make those lines count!

Conducting keyword research

Keywords are the terms that people use to search for content on YouTube. By identifying and using the right keywords, you can increase the chances of your video showing up in relevant search results.

Start your keyword research by brainstorming words and phrases related to your video topic. YouTube's search suggest feature (start typing your topic into the search bar and see what phrases pop up) can give you additional ideas. Tools like Google Trends, Keywords Everywhere, and VidIQ can also offer valuable keyword insights.

After you've compiled a list of potential keywords, add them organically into your title, description, and tags. Keywords are important as they give your audience and YouTube information about your content, but they're not everything. Creating quality content that engages your audience is the most critical part of YouTube success. 

Analyzing video performance in YouTube Analytics

Understanding your video's performance goes beyond just looking at the number of views or subscribers. While these metrics are important, they aren’t the ultimate gauge of your success. YouTube Analytics is your secret weapon to success on the platform. It provides a wealth of data and insights about your channel and your videos, helping you understand what's working and what needs tweaking.

To access YouTube Analytics, navigate to your YouTube Studio dashboard, then select "Analytics" on the left side menu. Here you'll find several tabs: Overview, Content, Audience, and Research, each packed with insightful metrics about your channel's performance.

  • Overview: This tab provides a high-level snapshot of your channel’s performance, including views, watch time, and subscriber change.
  • Content: This tab gives insights into how viewers are discovering your videos and how they’re interacting with your content. It includes the percentage of  views from YouTube search, YouTube Shorts feed, Channel pages, and other sources. 
  • Audience: This tab provides information about who's watching your videos, with metrics like unique viewers, returning viewers, and audience demographics.
  • Research: This tab allows you to explore what viewers are searching for on YouTube. You can do a general search or more specific to your viewers search terms. 

While views and subscribers are valuable metrics, they don't tell the whole story. For instance, high view counts with low engagement (like likes, shares, or comments) may indicate that people click on your video but don't find it engaging enough to interact with. Similarly, a large number of subscribers with low views might suggest that your content isn't resonating with your audience anymore.

The art of testing and iteration

Data from YouTube Analytics isn't just for viewing; it's for action. Adopt a mindset of testing and iteration: making changes based on what the data tells you, then monitoring the results. For instance, if your data indicates a low click-through rate on your video thumbnails, try experimenting with different thumbnail designs. Or if your average view duration is on the shorter side, consider adjusting your content strategy or video structure.

Success is about incremental changes and continuous improvement. Don't overhaul everything at once. Pick one thing to improve, make a change, and then watch what happens. Also, give your experiments time to yield results. YouTube's algorithm can take a few weeks to adjust to changes, so be patient. Keep a record of the changes you've made and when, so you can match them up with changes in your analytics data later.

In the world of YouTube, patience, consistency, and a willingness to learn from your data are key. While success might not come overnight, these tools and strategies will help you build a thriving YouTube channel.

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7. Monetize your YouTube channel

So you've been pouring your heart and soul into your YouTube channel, and now you're ready to transform your passion into a profitable venture. Let's talk about how you can start earning money from your YouTube channel.

Joining the YouTube Partner Program

YouTube offers creators direct monetization opportunities through the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). To be eligible for the YouTube Partner Program, you will need 1,000 subscribers and either 4,000 hours of public watch hours or 10M valid public Shorts views within 90 days. Once you become a member of the YPP, you can start earning money from ads on your videos, channel memberships, YouTube Premium revenue, and more.

Making money directly from your YouTube channel

The YouTube Partner Program is only one way to monetize your content. There are plenty of other ways to earn money, even if you're just starting out and have a smaller channel. Here are some of the other options: 

  • Brand partnerships: Teaming up with brands can open up opportunities for sponsored content or reviewing free products on your channel.
  • Offering courses or services: If you have a specific skill or expertise, you might consider offering online courses or consulting services. This is particularly effective if your YouTube content aligns with the course or service you're offering.
  • Merch: You can design and sell custom merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, or posters related to your channel's theme. Your dedicated viewers might love to own a piece of merchandise that connects them to your channel.
  • Physical products: Your YouTube channel can serve as a platform to sell your products. From handmade jewelry to tech gadgets, the possibilities are endless.
  • Digital products: Digital products such as eBooks, templates, or downloadable artwork are a great way to monetize your skills and knowledge.
  • Affiliate marketing: You can earn commission by promoting products from other companies. By placing affiliate links in your video descriptions, you earn a percentage of the sales made through these links.

By exploring different revenue streams, you can maximize your earning potential while building a loyal fanbase. And remember, the most successful YouTube channels all started from the ground up. With persistence and passion, you can turn your YouTube channel into a profitable business.

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Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we'll tackle some common questions to help you navigate your way to YouTube success.

What is the best way to start a YouTube channel?

Starting a YouTube channel is like planting a tree: It requires nurturing, patience, and a clear understanding of what you want to grow. The best approach is to begin with a solid plan. Understand your goals, choose a niche that aligns with your passions, and define your target audience. Next, create a unique value proposition to set you apart from other channels, and decide on your content type, style, and format. Remember, your first video doesn't have to be perfect. Learning and growing are part of the process.

What is the best YouTube channel idea for beginners?

There are endless ideas for a YouTube channel, but the best one for you depends on your interests, skills, and target audience. Some popular options include tutorial channels, vlogs, product reviews, and fitness videos. You could also consider gaming, cooking, or lifestyle content. Remember, the goal is to choose a concept that you're passionate about and aligns with your unique value proposition.

How much does it cost to start a YouTube channel?

Starting a YouTube channel can be as budget-friendly or as costly as you make it. The minimum requirement is a device to record videos — a smartphone can be a good starting point. As your channel grows, you may consider investing in better audio equipment, a higher-quality camera, and lighting equipment. Additionally, editing software can range from free to subscription-based. You may also need to account for costs related to your content, such as cooking ingredients for a cooking channel or art supplies for a crafting channel.

How many YouTube subscribers do you need to get paid?

To qualify for the YouTube Partner Program and start monetizing your channel through ads, you need to meet certain requirements: you must have at least 1,000 subscribers and either 4,000 hours of public watch hours or 10M valid public Shorts views within the past 90 days. However, you can make money outside of the YouTube Partner Program. 

How much money can you make from YouTube?

The earnings potential on YouTube varies greatly depending on factors such as your content, audience size, and monetization strategies. While it's possible to earn substantial income, it's important to keep in mind that building a profitable YouTube channel typically takes time. Diversifying your revenue streams can boost your earnings. This includes ad revenue, brand partnerships, selling merchandise, physical products, digital products, and affiliate marketing.

Renee Teeley
Renee Teeley is the host of The Creator Feed podcast and a creator economy advisor.
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How to start a YouTube channel: The ultimate guide (2024)

Giant red button with the YouTube logo, attached to cables with tiny computer monitors on each end

YouTube isn't just the most popular video-sharing platform in the world.

It's a business incubator, a space to voice your interests, showcase your skills, and share your passions. If all you’re after is a creative outlet and a like-minded community, your YouTube channel can help make that happen. But as your channel grows, you're not just building an audience, you're creating a business opportunity to parlay your online presence into brand deals, partnerships, and other income streams.

This detailed guide is designed to get you closer to your goals by walking you through how to start your own YouTube channel. From concept planning to channel setup, from video production to content creation, and from video optimization to monetization, you'll learn everything you need to know every step of the way.

Start your YouTube channel in 7 steps

  1. Plan your channel concept
  2. Set up your YouTube channel
  3. Choose your video production equipment
  4. Design your home studio
  5. Create your first YouTube video
  6. Optimize your YouTube videos to get more views
  7. Monetize your YouTube channel

Important caveat: While everything here is important to building a YouTube channel, there’s really one thing that will actually make it successful — good video content. Good can mean a lot of things, but mostly it means video that connects with an audience, that some set of viewers finds valuable. Because it’s insightful, entertaining, informative, or whatever. Without that, nothing else matters.

Now, let's dive into this exciting journey of creativity, connection, and possibly, your new career in the creator economy.

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1. Plan your channel concept

So you're ready to make your first video. Before you leap into action and start recording, it's important to lay a solid foundation. Take some time to understand why you're creating videos and what you want to achieve for yourself and your viewers. It's like setting a compass for your YouTube journey so you have a clear direction and purpose. 

Setting your goals

Think about what you want to achieve with your YouTube channel. Are you an entrepreneur trying to increase product sales? Do you aspire to make a living as a creator and ditch the nine-to-five grind? Or maybe you're looking to build a community around a cause you care about. You might just be seeking a creative outlet to add a sprinkle of joy to your day-to-day life. There are no wrong answers. Just be sure to have goals — it’ll help set the stage for your content creation and overarching strategy.

Choosing your niche

Having a niche is crucial for standing out among the millions of YouTube channels. When picking one, try to find the intersection of your passion, your expertise, and an engaged audience.  The more specific, the better. For example, a fitness channel could stand out by focusing on at-home workouts for people over 50, or plant-based nutrition for athletes. 

To determine your niche, here are some tips:

  • Identify your interests: Start by listing the things you're passionate about and the topics you love discussing. They could span a spectrum from hobbies to professional interests, from culinary delights to the joy of gardening, from the allure of tech gadgets to the world of comic books.  Your passion will come through in your videos, which will make them more authentic and more likely to connect with like-minded folks.
  • Consider your expertise: What are you really good at? What are your skills or qualifications? Your unique skill set can be a great basis for your niche. For instance, if you're a professional makeup artist, a beauty tutorial channel could be perfect for you.
  • Research existing content: Spend some time on YouTube looking at channels that cover similar topics. It can give you an idea of what's already out there and help you identify gaps that you could fill. We’ll talk more about researching channels later in the article. 
  • Consider longevity: Can you imagine producing content about this topic for a long time? It's important to choose a niche that you won't lose interest in after a handful of videos.
  • Test your idea: Your initial concept isn’t set in stone. Try creating a few videos and see how it feels. You might discover that you enjoy the process more than you expected, or you might realize that it's not quite right for you.
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Identifying your target audience

Understanding your target audience helps tailor your content to their interests, making them more likely to click on your videos and stick around. To define your audience, consider their age, interests, geographical location, and especially their challenges or pain points. While it might seem easier to produce content for “everyone,”  in reality, the more specific you get about who your videos are for, the more successful your content will be.

Here are some tips on how to identify your target audience:

  • Define their demographics: Start by identifying the basic demographics of your potential audience, such as age, gender, location, and occupation. For instance, if your channel revolves around entrepreneurship, your target audience might be millennials eager to launch their own company.
  • Identify their interests: What hobbies, interests, and passions do your potential viewers have? If your channel is about gaming, for example, your target audience might be gamers interested in learning new strategies.
  • Understand their challenges: What problems or challenges does your potential audience face? Understanding these can help you create content that provides solutions or help. For example, if your channel focuses on home workouts, your target audience might be people who can’t go to the gym because they don’t have time or transportation.
  • Explore other channels: Analyze other YouTube channels that are similar to yours. What type of audience are they attracting? Understanding their audience can give you insights into who might be interested in your content.
  • Engage with your viewers: Once you have some videos up and viewers start engaging, pay attention to them to learn even more about your audience. Their comments and interactions will provide invaluable feedback that can help you better understand your viewers and make the stuff that they want to watch.

Remember, the goal is not to attract everyone, but to attract the right viewers who will become loyal fans of your channel.

Defining your content type, style, and format

The type, style, and format of your content are the building blocks of your YouTube channel. Are you interested in creating tutorial videos, vlogs, or reviews? Will your content be an observational comedy or a serious educational piece?

Content type

When deciding on the content type, refer back to your goals and target audience. For instance, if you're a VC investor trying to find promising startups, you might want to create educational videos on how to craft effective pitch presentations. But if you're aiming to sell coloring books to help people combat anxiety like Sarah Renae Clark, videos about creative challenges would be a better fit.

Content style

The style of your video includes everything from the editing and music style to the visuals you display on screen. Do you prefer animated videos, on-camera presentations, or story-driven content with multiple camera angles?

Your style should reflect your personality and the preferences of your target audience. For example, CGP Grey is a successful educational YouTube channel that uses animated explainer videos to discuss complex topics in a simple and engaging way for an audience of casual learners. On the other hand, Casey Neistat is known for his energetic vlogging style and fast-paced editing, which suits his adventurous audience.

Content format

The content landscape has evolved over the years and you now have a variety of formats to choose from — short vertical videos under 60 seconds, longer horizontal videos, or even livestreams. Your choice of format will shape your production process and the equipment you need. It's perfectly fine to experiment with various content formats, using each for different purposes. However, it's best to choose one as a starting point and branch out from there.

Researching existing channels

Studying successful channels in your niche can provide valuable insights. Pay attention to their content, audience engagement, and the way they package their videos with thumbnails, titles, and descriptions. This doesn't mean copying their style, but understanding why they're successful and how you can apply similar strategies to your channel.

For example, if you're starting a travel vlogging channel, you could study popular channels like FunForLouis or Hey Nadine. Notice the layout of their thumbnails, the pace of their videos, and how they interact with their audience in the comments section. This research can help you spot gaps in the market, understand your competition, and develop your own unique content strategy.

Crafting a brand that’s uniquely you

Your brand is what pulls your concept together — it’s the heart and soul of your YouTube presence. Branding goes beyond a logo and a color palette. It's your unique voice, your distinct message, and the emotional connection you establish with your audience.

Building a brand is a complex process, but here are a few basic elements you should consider when launching your channel:

  • Personalize your brand: Infuse your personality into your channel. Are you funny like Jenna Marbles or intense and neurotic like Hank Green? Find your own rhythm.
  • Establish a visual identity: Beyond a logo and color scheme, consider your thumbnails, channel art, and even the props you use in your videos. Make it consistently “you.” We’ll delve deeper into channel visuals later.
  • Develop a unique value proposition (UVP): Identify what sets you apart. It might be your unique expertise or a fresh approach to your content.
  • Set your tone of voice: Your tone should consistently reflect your brand personality, from the language you use to the cadence of your speech.
  • Evoke emotion: Try to leave your audience with a lasting feeling after they watch your videos using storytelling, visuals, and music.
  • Be authentic: Don't just put on a façade for your videos; let your uniqueness shine through in every interaction with your audience, on and off the platform.

Your brand is not just an identity; it's a commitment to your viewers. It's about delivering a consistent experience that meets their expectations and connects with them emotionally. Your brand is what transforms casual viewers into subscribers, and subscribers into dedicated fans.

2. Set up your YouTube channel

Now that you've brainstormed your concept, it's time to roll up your sleeves and start setting up your channel. I’ll walk you through the process, from creating your account to channel verification and customization.

Creating your YouTube account

Step 1: Sign in to YouTube with your Google account.

To set up your YouTube channel, you’ll need a Google account. If you already have a Google account that you use for Gmail and other Google services you can use that account. If not, don't worry —  you'll get the chance to create a new one during the YouTube sign-in process.

Step 2: Click on your profile icon and select "Create a channel." 

Step 3: Set your profile picture, channel name, and unique handle.

Profile Picture: The profile picture is displayed in search results, on your channel homepage, on your video watch pages, and next to your comments. You should use something that makes it easy for people to recognize your channel, like a company logo or an image of you.

Requirements: JPG, GIF, BMP, or PNG file. No animated GIFs. Recommended size is 800 x 800 px. Can be square or round.

Channel Name: Your channel name is displayed alongside your profile picture to help viewers identify your channel. Try to make it memorable and relevant to you and your content. 

Handle: Your handle is a unique identifier for your channel. It starts with an "@", just like on other social media platforms. It's part of your channel's URL. For example: youtube.com/@descript

Requirements: It must be unique, between 3–30 characters, and use alphanumeric characters (A–Z, a–z, 0–9). You can also use underscores (_), hyphens (-), and periods (.).

Step 4: Click "Create channel" on the bottom right.

Step 5: Take a moment to celebrate the start of your new YouTube channel!

Verifying your channel for access to special features

Verifying your YouTube channel grants access to additional features and benefits, like custom thumbnails, live streaming, and the ability to upload videos longer than 15 minutes. Here's how to unlock these goodies:

Step 1: Navigate to “Settings” on the bottom left of the YouTube Studio.

Step 2: Select “Channel” and then "Feature eligibility.”

Step 3: Choose "Intermediate features" and click on "verify phone number."

Step 4: Follow the on-screen phone verification instructions.

And that's it, you're verified!

Customizing and branding your YouTube channel

With your channel created and verified, it's time to customize it so it stands out from the crowd. Branding is about making your channel unique and memorable. There are a lot of customization options, but we’re just going to cover the basics to get you started: YouTube channel banners, channel trailers, and channel descriptions.

Head to the "Customization" tab in the YouTube Studio to access the branding options. This is where you can change the layout, add branded channel art, and provide basic information about your channel. Spend some time exploring the tabs to get familiar with the features available. 

Channel trailer

A channel trailer is your introduction video to new viewers. It should be short, engaging, and clearly communicate what makes your channel special. Tell your viewers what they can expect from your channel and give them a reason to subscribe. 

For branding inspiration, take a look at the channel "Gone to the Snow Dogs." Their channel branding all works together to inform and entertain their audience. The trailer is simple, fun, and clearly explains what viewers can expect from the channel.

YouTube banner

Your banner is your channel's billboard. It's the large image at the top of your channel page that should visually represent your unique brand.

For banner inspiration, let's go back to "Gone to the Snow Dogs." Their banner showcases their furry friends in a playful way, complete with a tagline so viewers know what to expect.

Your banner needs to be at least 2560 x 1440 px and might appear differently on various devices. It’s a good idea to check what it looks like on a computer, tablet, smartphone, and even a TV. 

If you need some help creating your banner, there are plenty of online templates to help you out. 

Channel description

Your channel description is your opportunity to tell your audience who you are, what you're all about, and what type of content they can expect. If you have a regular posting schedule, include that too, so your viewers know when to tune in for new content.

“Gone to the Snow Dogs" does a great job at this. Their description includes their mission, the type of content they create, and even the specific days they post new videos. Here's what they say:

"If you love the Siberian Husky breed, you've come to the right channel! Our mission here at Gone to the Snow Dogs is to show you what life with your dogs can be like! From traveling with your dogs, camping with your dogs, making DIY dog treats, dog training tips and advice, and other dog adventures and dog videos, to help you share a better life with your dog!”

Other YouTube platform features to know

After setting up your channel, take some time to explore YouTube and familiarize yourself with the platform. Get to know the YouTube Studio, which allows you to manage your channel, upload videos, and access analytics. 

Let's break down the main areas of the YouTube Studio:

  • Dashboard: Think of this as your control center. You'll see a snapshot of your channel's performance, updates from YouTube, and if there are any issues you need to address.
  • Content: This is your video library. Here, you can tweak the details of your videos, manage monetization, and add your content to playlists.
  • Analytics: Your secret weapon for success. The analytics section shows you important data about your channel and videos, including views, watch time, subscriber count, and estimated revenue. Use these insights to shape your content strategy.
  • Comments: Stay connected with your community by managing and responding to comments here. You can approve, hide, report, or reply to comments to moderate your channel's discussions.
  • Earn: This tab becomes your best friend once you meet the YouTube Partner Program criteria. It allows you to manage how you make money from your content, whether that's through ads, channel memberships, products, or Super Chat.
  • Customization: Make your channel uniquely yours. You can personalize your channel's layout, branding, and basic info to make it resonate with your audience.
  • Settings: Here, you can manage your channel's settings, including default settings for uploads, permissions, and community guidelines.

Additional YouTube resources

YouTube is always evolving, so it's important to stay informed about new features and developments. Here are a few resources that can help:

  • Creator Insider: This channel is run by YouTube's very own team and gives you the inside scoop on tests, new products, and updates. 
  • YouTube Creators: This is the official channel for YouTube creators, providing news, tips, and educational content. 
  • The Creator Feed: I co-host this weekly podcast with Jim Louderback. We cover the latest trends in the creator economy and discuss what they mean for creators like you. 

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3. Choose your video production equipment

I know it's tempting to dive into the world of high-end video production gear right off the bat. But I want to remind you that content is king. A fancy camera or microphone alone won't guarantee success. Instead, starting with what you have, like your smartphone, can allow you to focus more on creating engaging content and developing your unique voice. As your channel grows, you can then decide what equipment upgrades will genuinely enhance your production quality. 

Read more: How to set up a YouTube studio

Starting with your smartphone

Nowadays many smartphones come equipped with powerful cameras capable of shooting high-definition, and even 4K videos, making them an excellent starting point for new YouTubers. Plus, a few basic accessories like a microphone, light, and tripod can considerably improve the audio and video output of your smartphone and raise the overall production quality of your videos.

Image Source: Renee Teeley

Microphone

Poor audio quality can ruin viewer engagement. If you've ever struggled through a video with wind noise or an echo, you'll understand. While the built-in mic might work when you're close to your camera, for most situations, an external microphone is better. Wireless lavalier and on-camera mics are two popular options.

  • Wireless lavalier: This mic is great if you need to move around while filming. Just plug a transmitter into your smartphone,  connect the receiver, and clip on the lav mic. The DJI Mic ($330), compatible with both Android and iPhones, is an excellent choice.
  • On-camera mic: For a simple and effective audio upgrade, an on-camera mic is perfect. It's easy to use, with no setup process or charging required. The Rode VideoMic ($150) works well for both Android and iOS.

Gimbal or tripod

Unsteady videos can be distracting. A gimbal or tripod can help you create smooth, professional-looking footage. My personal recommendation for a smartphone gimbal is the DJI OM 6 ($160). It’s compact, user-friendly, and comes with various smart shooting modes. It even doubles as a tripod with the included attachment.

Lighting

Good lighting can do wonders for your video quality. The easiest and most cost-effective way is to use natural light. But if that's not possible, consider the Elgato Ring Light ($150) or Key Light Mini ($100) for a soft, flattering light. If you're using the DJI gimbal, the DJI Fill Light ($60) is a handy attachment.

Read more: Lighting techniques every video creator should know

Beginner-friendly equipment upgrades

Ready to take your video quality to the next level? When upgrading, you don’t need to spend a fortune on gear with all of the most advanced features. Instead, look for equipment that helps you achieve the best quality for your budget, skill level, and video style.

Image Source: Renee Teeley
  • Camera: The Sony ZV-E10 ($700) is designed with content creators in mind and offers beginner-friendly features. For more advanced features, the Sony ZV-E1 ($2,500) is a full-frame camera with higher resolution, advanced AI features, and in-camera stabilization.
  • Lights: At this stage, the Elgato Ring Light remains a solid choice for lighting. For more control over lighting from different angles, the Elgato Key Lights ($200) are worth a look.
  • Tripod: Your choice of tripod will depend on your filming style. If you have an Elgato Ring Light, you can mount your camera in the center. The SwitchPod ($100) works well for handheld videos like a vlog or as a tabletop tripod. For those on the move, Manfrotto's befree collection offers several variations designed to be rugged yet lightweight.

Keep in mind, your equipment is just a tool to help you share your message and connect with your audience. Focus on your content, and upgrade your gear as you grow.

4. Design your home studio

A thoughtfully crafted home studio not only makes your videos look professional but also shapes your personal brand. Let's dive into some guidelines and inspiring examples from well-known YouTube creators.

  • Choose your space wisely: The first step is selecting the right location for your home studio.  It should be a quiet space, free from interruptions, with enough room for you and your equipment to move freely.
  • Acoustics: Be aware of how sound bounces around your chosen space. Hard surfaces can cause echo and affect sound quality. Soften the sound by using materials like foam panels, rugs, or even a bookshelf full of books.
  • Lighting: If you prefer natural light, position your studio near a window and use sheer curtains or blinds to manage the light. For artificial light, you can use a ring light for soft flattering light on your face or use a basic three-point setup: a key light (the main source), a fill light (softens shadows), and a backlight (positioned behind you to separate you from the background).
  • Background: Your backdrop should be interesting but not distracting. It could be a wall with a color that contrasts with your clothing, a shelf with neatly arranged books, or a plant for a touch of green. Consider what might fit your channel's theme and your personal brand.
  • Organization: Keep your space tidy and organized. Not only will it look better on camera, but it will also make your production process smoother.
  • Comfort: Don't ignore your comfort. An ergonomic chair and desk, a monitor at eye level, and good temperature control will make those long editing sessions a lot more bearable.

Studio styles and inspiration

Looking for some home studio inspiration? Here are some popular studio setups from successful YouTube creators:

Minimalist setup: Matt D’Avella is known for his clean and minimalistic style. He often films against a plain white wall, spruced up with a few well-chosen items like a lamp or a plant.

Crafting setup: Craft YouTuber Sarah Renae Clark films with a background filled with her art supplies.

Gaming setup: Gaming channels like Senpai Gaming often use colorful lights, display streaming gear in the background, and show their gaming chair.

Tech office setup: Tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee films in a space resembling a modern, tech-infused home office, often featuring the gadgets he's reviewing.

Kitchen setup: Cooking channels like Rosanna Pansino’s often use their actual kitchen as a backdrop, adding an authentic touch to their content.

Outdoor setup: Jon Olsson often films with nature as his backdrop, which adds a unique dimension to his content.

Music Studio Setup: Music YouTubers like Andrew Huang often use their recording studio, complete with instruments and recording gear, as a backdrop.

Your studio should reflect your unique style and brand. Don't be afraid to experiment and adjust until you find the setup that works for you.

5. Create your first YouTube video

Welcome to the next exciting phase of your YouTube journey: creating your first video! This is where all the planning, brainstorming, and preparations you've made finally take shape into a tangible piece of content. The goal shouldn’t be to create the perfect video, but instead to create something that provides value for your audience. Seek to learn and improve with each video, but don’t let perfectionism hold you back. Here’s how to produce your first video, step-by-step.  

Scripting best practices

Having a script or talking points can help you organize your thoughts, structure your content, and deliver your message effectively. Here are some best practices:

  • Start with a bang: The initial few seconds of your video are crucial. This is your chance to hook viewers and entice them to stick around. Start with a compelling statement, an intriguing question, or a quick overview of what they can expect from the video.
  • Structure your content: Break your script into sections or key points. This will structure your video and make it easier for viewers to follow along.
  • Keep it conversational: Script your video as if you're chatting directly with your viewers. This creates a more personal and engaging experience. Avoid technical jargon unless your audience is familiar with it.
  • Tell a story: If possible, weave your content into a story. Stories are engaging, memorable, and can often make complex or dry topics more relatable. Consider using anecdotes, examples, or metaphors to make your content more compelling.
  • Include calls to action (CTAs): Remind viewers to like, comment, share, or subscribe to your channel. Strategically place these CTAs in your video, maybe in the middle or towards the end, without being overly intrusive.
  • Practice: Read your script out loud several times before recording. This helps you identify any awkward phrases and get comfortable with the material.

Recording your video

Ready to hit the record button? Here are some helpful tips for recording your first video:

  • Set up your equipment: Ensure your camera, microphone, and lighting are set up correctly. Check your backdrop to ensure it's visually appealing and free from distractions.
  • Do a test run: Record a few seconds of video and play it back to check your audio and video quality.
  • Relax and be yourself: It's natural to feel nervous, especially when you're just starting. Don't worry about making mistakes — you can always edit them out later.  Try to be natural and enjoy the process!
  • Follow your script: Use your script as a guide, but don't worry about sticking to it word for word. It's okay to ad lib and let your personality shine through.
  • Record in segments: Break your video into manageable chunks or scenes. This can make the recording process less overwhelming and allows for easier editing later.
Read more: How to overcome your fear of being on camera

Video editing best practices

Video editing is the magical step where your content truly springs to life. It's an integral part of crafting your YouTube video. Let's explore some best practices:

  • Edit for clarity: Eliminate unnecessary sections, errors, or awkward pauses. This is not just about your verbal content, but your visuals, too. If something doesn't enrich your story or message, it's probably best to leave it on the cutting room floor.
  • Tell a story with your edit: Your editing should help tell your story, not just tidy up your footage. Consider the pacing and progression of your narrative. You might want to build up to a key point, or intercut between different scenes for variety and interest. Use the editing process to control the flow of information and keep your viewers engaged.
  • Use B-roll footage: B-roll footage is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot. This can make your video more engaging and helps to illustrate your points. For example, if you're talking about a particular location, showing some B-roll of that place can make your video more immersive. It can also be useful for covering up cuts in your main footage, making your edit smoother.
  • Add text and graphics: Text and graphics can emphasize points, add context, or serve as visual aids. They can also add a layer of professionalism to your videos. For example, you might use text to introduce a new section of your video, labels to identify people or things, or animated graphics to illustrate a complex point.
  • Include transitions: Transitions can help your video flow seamlessly from one point to the next. Just remember to, use them sparingly and only when they serve a purpose. A simple cut is often the best choice, but other transitions like crossfades or wipes can be used to signify a change in location or time.
  • Set the tone with music: Music is a powerful tool in video editing. It can set the mood, pace, and overall feel of your video. Choose music that fits with your brand and the message of your video. Be conscious of the volume levels — your music should complement, not overpower, your dialogue or main audio. Only use music that you have the rights to use to avoid copyright issues.
  • Consider color grading: Color grading is the process of adjusting the colors and visual tone of your footage. It can give your video a certain look or mood, help match footage from different sources, or correct issues with the original footage. Most editing software comes with basic color grading tools.
  • Review and refine: After you've made your initial edits, review your video from start to finish. Look for any areas that might need improvement or fine-tuning. Pay attention to the pacing and timing, clarity of your message, and overall viewer experience. It's often helpful to get feedback from others at this stage too.

Tips for streamlined editing with Descript

There are many editing platforms to choose from and it can be overwhelming when you’re first getting started. As you might expect from this blog, I’m going to recommend you try Descript. It’s an AI-powered audio and video editor that’s designed to make the process less daunting for those just starting out and more streamlined for the seasoned pros.

With Descript, you can edit your video like editing a text document, and it also has powerful AI tools that make the editing process easier and more efficient. Here are some helpful features to get you started: 

  • Auto-transcription: Descript transcribes your video content automatically, meaning you can edit your video like you're simply working on a Word document — you can cut, copy, and paste text from the transcript, and the footage will be edited to match.
  • Studio Sound: With a single click, Descript's Studio Sound enhances your audio quality and eliminates distracting background noise. This keeps your audience focused on your message, not your humming air conditioner.
  • Overdub: Descript’s Overdub feature lets you train a synthetic model of your own voice so that you can add words to the video without a new recording.
  • Music library: Descript has a library of music and  sound effects to help you set the right mood and make your videos more dynamic.
  • Filler word removal: Trim away “ums,” “uhs,” and other filler words with just one click so you can sound more professional and engaging. 
  • Stock video: Find the perfect B-roll or background video from Descript's extensive stock video library. It's a great way to complement your content and enhance your visuals.
  • Screen recording: Need to create tutorials or explainer videos? Descript’s screen recording feature will let you record your screen with the option of including picture-in-picture footage of you explaining your process to the camera.
  • Publishing: Once you're satisfied with your video, you can export it directly to YouTube from Descript, making your workflow even more efficient.

Good editing takes practice. Don't be discouraged if your first few videos aren't perfect. As you gain more experience and familiarity with your editing software, your skills will improve. Keep experimenting, learning, and refining your craft.

Created with Midjourney

6. Optimize your video to get more views on YouTube

After you've put in the hard work to script, film, and edit your video, it's time to package it for YouTube. This step is all about making your video as attractive and discoverable as possible to your potential audience. Remember, your video is competing with millions of other videos on YouTube, so making sure you package and optimize your video is a critical part of getting views and growing your channel.

Creating engaging thumbnails

Your thumbnail is like a mini movie poster for your video. It's the first thing potential viewers see when they come across your video, and it has a big influence on whether they decide to click and watch. A high-quality, engaging thumbnail can increase your video’s click-through-rate (CTR), leading to more views.

What makes a great thumbnail? An image that represents your video content, catches the attention of your target audience, and gives them a reason to click. Make it visually appealing, with bright colors and clear, bold text. Using close-up images of faces can also be effective, as we naturally connect with human faces. But remember, it's essential that your thumbnail aligns with your video content. Misleading thumbnails may get you initial clicks, but they can also lead to viewer drop-off and can potentially harm your channel in the long run. 

Crafting click-worthy video titles

Your video title is just as important as your thumbnail. Together, they form the first impression of your video. Your title should be concise, engaging, and give viewers a clear idea of what your video is about.

Your title should spark curiosity and make viewers want to click to find out more. When crafting your title, think about what would make you click on a video. Incorporating numbers (like "Top 5...") or emotive words (like "Unbelievable") can help make your title more intriguing. YouTube titles cut off after 60 characters, so keep your titles concise to ensure that viewers can read them in their entirety.

Optimizing YouTube video titles and descriptions

YouTube is the second largest search engine, so optimizing your titles and descriptions is key for discoverability. Include relevant keywords into your title and description naturally, without keyword stuffing.

Your description should provide additional information about your video and entice viewers to watch. You can also include links to your website or social media accounts, and any resources mentioned in the video. The first couple of lines in your description are visible in search results and on your video page, so make those lines count!

Conducting keyword research

Keywords are the terms that people use to search for content on YouTube. By identifying and using the right keywords, you can increase the chances of your video showing up in relevant search results.

Start your keyword research by brainstorming words and phrases related to your video topic. YouTube's search suggest feature (start typing your topic into the search bar and see what phrases pop up) can give you additional ideas. Tools like Google Trends, Keywords Everywhere, and VidIQ can also offer valuable keyword insights.

After you've compiled a list of potential keywords, add them organically into your title, description, and tags. Keywords are important as they give your audience and YouTube information about your content, but they're not everything. Creating quality content that engages your audience is the most critical part of YouTube success. 

Analyzing video performance in YouTube Analytics

Understanding your video's performance goes beyond just looking at the number of views or subscribers. While these metrics are important, they aren’t the ultimate gauge of your success. YouTube Analytics is your secret weapon to success on the platform. It provides a wealth of data and insights about your channel and your videos, helping you understand what's working and what needs tweaking.

To access YouTube Analytics, navigate to your YouTube Studio dashboard, then select "Analytics" on the left side menu. Here you'll find several tabs: Overview, Content, Audience, and Research, each packed with insightful metrics about your channel's performance.

  • Overview: This tab provides a high-level snapshot of your channel’s performance, including views, watch time, and subscriber change.
  • Content: This tab gives insights into how viewers are discovering your videos and how they’re interacting with your content. It includes the percentage of  views from YouTube search, YouTube Shorts feed, Channel pages, and other sources. 
  • Audience: This tab provides information about who's watching your videos, with metrics like unique viewers, returning viewers, and audience demographics.
  • Research: This tab allows you to explore what viewers are searching for on YouTube. You can do a general search or more specific to your viewers search terms. 

While views and subscribers are valuable metrics, they don't tell the whole story. For instance, high view counts with low engagement (like likes, shares, or comments) may indicate that people click on your video but don't find it engaging enough to interact with. Similarly, a large number of subscribers with low views might suggest that your content isn't resonating with your audience anymore.

The art of testing and iteration

Data from YouTube Analytics isn't just for viewing; it's for action. Adopt a mindset of testing and iteration: making changes based on what the data tells you, then monitoring the results. For instance, if your data indicates a low click-through rate on your video thumbnails, try experimenting with different thumbnail designs. Or if your average view duration is on the shorter side, consider adjusting your content strategy or video structure.

Success is about incremental changes and continuous improvement. Don't overhaul everything at once. Pick one thing to improve, make a change, and then watch what happens. Also, give your experiments time to yield results. YouTube's algorithm can take a few weeks to adjust to changes, so be patient. Keep a record of the changes you've made and when, so you can match them up with changes in your analytics data later.

In the world of YouTube, patience, consistency, and a willingness to learn from your data are key. While success might not come overnight, these tools and strategies will help you build a thriving YouTube channel.

Created with Midjourney

7. Monetize your YouTube channel

So you've been pouring your heart and soul into your YouTube channel, and now you're ready to transform your passion into a profitable venture. Let's talk about how you can start earning money from your YouTube channel.

Joining the YouTube Partner Program

YouTube offers creators direct monetization opportunities through the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). To be eligible for the YouTube Partner Program, you will need 1,000 subscribers and either 4,000 hours of public watch hours or 10M valid public Shorts views within 90 days. Once you become a member of the YPP, you can start earning money from ads on your videos, channel memberships, YouTube Premium revenue, and more.

Making money directly from your YouTube channel

The YouTube Partner Program is only one way to monetize your content. There are plenty of other ways to earn money, even if you're just starting out and have a smaller channel. Here are some of the other options: 

  • Brand partnerships: Teaming up with brands can open up opportunities for sponsored content or reviewing free products on your channel.
  • Offering courses or services: If you have a specific skill or expertise, you might consider offering online courses or consulting services. This is particularly effective if your YouTube content aligns with the course or service you're offering.
  • Merch: You can design and sell custom merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, or posters related to your channel's theme. Your dedicated viewers might love to own a piece of merchandise that connects them to your channel.
  • Physical products: Your YouTube channel can serve as a platform to sell your products. From handmade jewelry to tech gadgets, the possibilities are endless.
  • Digital products: Digital products such as eBooks, templates, or downloadable artwork are a great way to monetize your skills and knowledge.
  • Affiliate marketing: You can earn commission by promoting products from other companies. By placing affiliate links in your video descriptions, you earn a percentage of the sales made through these links.

By exploring different revenue streams, you can maximize your earning potential while building a loyal fanbase. And remember, the most successful YouTube channels all started from the ground up. With persistence and passion, you can turn your YouTube channel into a profitable business.

Created with Midjourney

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we'll tackle some common questions to help you navigate your way to YouTube success.

What is the best way to start a YouTube channel?

Starting a YouTube channel is like planting a tree: It requires nurturing, patience, and a clear understanding of what you want to grow. The best approach is to begin with a solid plan. Understand your goals, choose a niche that aligns with your passions, and define your target audience. Next, create a unique value proposition to set you apart from other channels, and decide on your content type, style, and format. Remember, your first video doesn't have to be perfect. Learning and growing are part of the process.

What is the best YouTube channel idea for beginners?

There are endless ideas for a YouTube channel, but the best one for you depends on your interests, skills, and target audience. Some popular options include tutorial channels, vlogs, product reviews, and fitness videos. You could also consider gaming, cooking, or lifestyle content. Remember, the goal is to choose a concept that you're passionate about and aligns with your unique value proposition.

How much does it cost to start a YouTube channel?

Starting a YouTube channel can be as budget-friendly or as costly as you make it. The minimum requirement is a device to record videos — a smartphone can be a good starting point. As your channel grows, you may consider investing in better audio equipment, a higher-quality camera, and lighting equipment. Additionally, editing software can range from free to subscription-based. You may also need to account for costs related to your content, such as cooking ingredients for a cooking channel or art supplies for a crafting channel.

How many YouTube subscribers do you need to get paid?

To qualify for the YouTube Partner Program and start monetizing your channel through ads, you need to meet certain requirements: you must have at least 1,000 subscribers and either 4,000 hours of public watch hours or 10M valid public Shorts views within the past 90 days. However, you can make money outside of the YouTube Partner Program. 

How much money can you make from YouTube?

The earnings potential on YouTube varies greatly depending on factors such as your content, audience size, and monetization strategies. While it's possible to earn substantial income, it's important to keep in mind that building a profitable YouTube channel typically takes time. Diversifying your revenue streams can boost your earnings. This includes ad revenue, brand partnerships, selling merchandise, physical products, digital products, and affiliate marketing.

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