Nail down your idea
What do you want your show to be about? Whether it’s a weekly vlog, an interview series, or a monthly livestream of your latest Dungeons & Dragons campaign, you need to take the time to really hone your video idea. With so many channels out there, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. What makes your idea and channel stand out?
There are a few basic steps you should probably take, like writing down as many episode ideas as you can, to make sure you have something repeatable. And running your idea and episode concepts by a friend or colleague who will give you honest feedback.
After that, the best way to test a video idea is simply to start making the videos.
The creators behind “Do Stuff,” Leigh Cooper and Soo Zee Kim were YouTube veterans when they decided to start making videos together after they met in Seoul in 2013. Their channel is a mix of videos with a narrator who comments on their Wes Anderson-esque adventures and vlogs where they talk about their lives abroad.
“We made our first few Do Stuff videos without a plan for starting a channel,” Leigh says. “We just made them to make them, and when we were done, we stepped back and said, ‘Hey, I think we've got something here.’”
There’s no need to spend a bunch of money on equipment for your trials — in fact, don’t.Treat it like you’re a musician making a demo tape — write a script, grab your phone, shoot some video, and make some rough edits. Then step back and see what you’ve got. Maybe show it to the friend you trusted to be honest about your ideas. Maybe even publish it and see what happens (which could be nothing; don’t expect a strong signal here).
The trial-and-error approach is the best way — arguably the only way — to find out if your idea truly works. It will save you from putting a ton of effort into a flawed idea. And if it’s your first attempt at starting a video channel, a trial run will also give you a realistic understanding of the actual work involved.
Find a POV
Unless you have an idea nobody’s ever had before — which, with 945 ka-jillion videos uploaded to YouTube every second, is unlikely — you’re going to need something more to break through all the noise. You need a point of view.
We’re not talking about an editorial point of view necessarily — that’s one kind of POV, but in this case we’re using the phrase more broadly, to mean the distinctive outlook or approach you bring to your topic. It’s where you draw on your unique experience or perspective to give an audience something fresh. It’s an authenticity that can’t be duplicated, one that only you can deliver.
So ask yourself: What can I show or share that nobody else can? What makes my POV unique? How can I bring my authenticity to this idea?
Watching a Do Stuff video is to look at the world through Leigh and Soo Zee’s eyes. The format of each video doesn’t matter so much as the point of view that’s become the hallmark of their storytelling. It’s a slightly bemused, highly curious take on the world, with honest observations about everyday norms like the luxuriousness of Korean movie theaters, or the difficulty of apartment-hunting in Germany.
That POV has allowed the channel to evolve over time. It began in South Korea and grew as the hosts moved to Berlin, Germany. And while their videos often have a narrator –– a voiceover artist who makes observations on the hosts’ behalf — many of their newer videos are more like vlogs about their life abroad, with the same bemused observations you get from their scripted content.
“We were both surprised by how clearly a singular voice came through on this project,” Leigh says. “It was a certain kind of storytelling that we both wanted to keep exploring. We turned that into a channel, and that's how Do Stuff was born.”
Set a standard
You’ve probably heard or read that you need to pick a publishing schedule and stick to it. For most creators, publishing cadence is dictated largely by the realities of their workflow, and their lives — they publish new videos as frequently as possible. Makes sense — YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram Reels all reward creators who upload often.
But the primary factor in setting a publishing schedule shouldn’t be logistics, or your platform’s diabolical algorithm. It should be quality. You need to set a standard for yourself, and then determine how often you can produce something that meets the standard.
Your quality standard can also dictate how long your videos will be. Do Stuff started by consistently posting three-minute videos, twice a month. “It was enough time to make something that was good enough, but also not so much time that we over-thought what we were making,” says Leigh.
But when the duo began making videos with longer run times, they struggled to keep pace with a biweekly schedule. So they switched to uploading once a month, and even that was a bit too tight. Now new videos appear on Do Stuff when they meet the creators’ standard, period.
“Quality is the guideline for us,” Leigh says. “Even if we finish a video and it's ready to go, sometimes we don't push the publish button in the end if we feel it isn't good enough. So the ideal frequency is one that pushes us to keep moving but also gives us enough time to step back and properly evaluate quality.”
We’re not counseling you to forget about scheduling and just upload when you feel like it. The fact remains that YouTube and the social platforms reward consistent, high-volume publishing. We’re just saying that quality should dictate quantity.
Rather than deciding you want to publish monthly and then just making the best videos you can in that timeframe, see how long it takes you to make something you feel good about, then let that dictate your schedule.
Let your audience know what to expect
And while you do not want to compromise your standards to meet a schedule, you do need to let your viewers know when they’ll see new content. This can mean different things to different creators.
Alison Roman’s popular cooking series Home Movies posts every other Tuesday at 1pm EST. Hamimommy, a popular lifestyle and cooking vlog, uploads every weekend with YouTube announcements and Instagram posts leading up to each upload, along with a message in case uploads are delayed. Safiya Nygaard, a popular content creator who used to work at Buzzfeed, promises “new videos every other week” in her YouTube image banner.
On the other hand, the popular Jonna Jinton channel that details her life in the Arctic Circle of Sweden seems to follow this same philosophy, only uploading when she feels satisfied by each video, often apologizing to viewers for delays in the name of quality. Simple Living Alaska, which documents one family’s life in an off-the-grid cabin in Alaska, seems to upload at random, often with one or two videos coming out each week, and some weeks with none at all. Their 613K+ subscribers don’t seem to mind.
Again, none of these choices are right or wrong, but it’s vital to pick a philosophy and stick to it. And to be clear with your followers about when they can expect new videos. If your upload schedule is more along the lines of, whenever we can! that’s fine, just be open about it.
Photo by Kelly Huang on Unsplash