You might imagine well-known channels with more than a million subscribers when you consider how to succeed as a full-time YouTuber.
And if that’s your definition of success, we won’t lie—it’ll be a long road getting there.
But that objective is more reachable than you might believe if your definition of success is to earn a living that is commensurate with the amount of time you spend each week on your YouTube channel.
Particularly when you take into account all the ways you may profit from a video platform that has over 2.4 billion viewers (or a fourth of the global population).
We’ll lead you through the process of becoming a successful and (more significantly) long-lasting YouTuber, step by step. We also have you covered if you’d prefer to watch a YouTube video to learn more about it.
How to become a YouTuber at your own pace
- Define your goal—for you and your audience
- Set up your production process
- Publish, promote, analyze—embrace the creator’s loop
- Monetize your YouTube channel
- Smash that subscribe button on your YouTube career
1. Define your goal—for you and your audience
When you take into account everything required, such as scripting, recording, editing, designing thumbnails, and more, YouTubers can spend anywhere from a single afternoon to over 20 hours each week on their YouTube channel, according to self-reported estimations in the r/YouTubers subreddit.
Your goals must be in line from the start if you’re producing new videos at least once a week to keep your followers interested, as many YouTube creators do. Otherwise, you risk losing motivation.
You can come up with a clearly defined goal by breaking it down into three considerations.
Who is your audience?
If you are for everyone, then you are for no one, as the saying goes. Select a target audience for whom you have a strong sense of connection and for whom you are convinced that you can produce engaging material.
Resist the urge to go broad simply to have a bigger audience.
Through a more focused niche audience, you can still gain a sizable following and find it easier to promote your work and establish your own personality.
You don’t trust me? There are YouTube channels dedicated to the sandbox survival game Minecraft that have thousands of subscribers.
Though there are several ways to monetise your YouTube channel that it shouldn’t be the deciding factor, keep in mind that the audience you select will influence this process in some way.
Having issues? Make a list of the broad identities, interests, and ways of living you identify with, and then consider how you may get more specific:
- Cooking > Air fryer owners, vegans, bakers
- Gaming > Nintendo Switch, Super Smash Bros., PC builds
- Remote working professionals > Digital nomads, home office workers, freelancers
- University students > Test takers, biochemistry students, graduate students
What are you going to promise your viewers?
One thing that all successful YouTube channels have in common is that they offer an implicit promise to the audience that motivates viewers to choose to subscribe and subscribers to keep watching.
The spectator is being promised value, which may be in the form of education, information, inspiration, or entertainment. It might be to impart new knowledge, provide frank product critiques, or simply to make them smile.
Matty Benedetto of Unnecessary Inventions makes that promise explicit in his header, including his posting frequency:
“I design and build unnecessary inventions. (*New inventions every week.)”
His audience? People like him who find it hilarious to go to great lengths for absurd ideas.
What do you want to gain from your channel?
While every professional YouTuber should provide value to their viewers, you should also specify what you hope to achieve with your channel.
Some people would advise against thinking about money early, but you should at the very least prepare your YouTube channel’s premise and direction by thinking about your monetization choices in before.
Do you want to:
- Make an extra $2,000 a month?
- Leave your full-time job and go all in on YouTube?
- Establish yourself as an expert on a topic?
- Generate passive income?
- Spread a message you care about?
- Achieve many goals through this channel?
Jessica McCabe, for example, started her YouTube channel How to ADHD to “keep all the methods she’s learned about having and living with ADHD.” Although she may not have started out with the goal of becoming wealthy, she has amassed a devoted following nonetheless.
If you ever find yourself lacking motivation or inspiration for your next video, think about your own motivation for starting the channel and let that be your guiding principle.
Now, put it all together and give your channel a name:
Every [cadence], I will [provide value] for [specific audience] so that I can [value gained]. My channel is called [YouTube channel name].
I’ll discuss work-from-home strategies and remote worker home offices every Sunday in an effort to increase productivity and bring in an extra $1,000 each month. The name of my channel is “WFHomies.”
With your goal and premise defined, you’re ready to think about creating content.
Everything from here on out will depend on the goal you’ve laid out for your channel.
To encourage others to do the same, the YouTube channel Yes Theory, for instance, posts footage of members doing things completely outside of their comfort zones (such letting a coin flip run their lives for a day).
Because they want to be able to release several videos per week, their production process is far more intensive, with pre-production planning, filming, and editing taking place months in advance.
But like you, they also started small by filming one simple spontaneous act every day.
I chatted with Matt Dajer from Yes Theory a while back about the progression of the YouTube channel from a few hundred to 300,000 subscribers. Since then, the channel has gained more than seven million subscribers. That was in 2017.
Even the biggest YouTubers started small. But rest assured, you don’t need to be this big to go full-time.
2. Set up your production process
While you may have a strong foundation upon which to build your YouTuber career, delivering videos consistently as your audience grows will require a strong production process.
Here’s what you’ll need to consider.
Yes Theory started filming with a high-end Canon EOS 70D.
However, Dajer claims that if they didn’t know the story they wanted to tell, a nice camera wouldn’t have been of much service. Unless you can tell them the tale, people won’t care, according to Dajer. However, if the tale you want to convey necessitates high-quality equipment, you can search online for reasonably priced cameras and mics.
Many smartphones these days have what you need to start shooting YouTube videos in 4K.
So, if you don’t need a top-of-the-line camera to realise your vision (and chances are, you don’t), you can skip it or come back to it later. Instead, invest part of that money in a quality microphone, which will significantly raise the level of professionalism in your videos.
Some options that offer a nice balance between quality and cost include:
- Blue Yeti: A popular microphone among YouTubers and podcasters, especially if you’ll be filming from your desk.
- Rode smartLav+: A discrete portable and travel-friendly mic you can plug into your smartphone and clip onto your shirt.
- Rode VideoMic: A shotgun mic for mounting on a camera for more professional and complex video shoots.
Even for straightforward themes, trying to create a whole YouTube video from beginning to end in a single day is a challenging task.
Instead, to avoid the switching costs of switching contexts, many YouTubers set aside one day for each step.
A typical production schedule for a weekly YouTube channel might look like this:
- Day 1: Research and outline
- Day 2: Write script
- Day 3: Record video
- Day 4: Edit video
- Day 5: Polish, upload, schedule
However, if you want to release several videos in a row, you can work on several scripts at once, record several videos, edit several movies at once, etc., and get a few weeks ahead of your video schedule.
As you watch each video, you’ll eventually locate tools, create templates, automate or outsource activities, and learn time-saving tips.
To monitor your production process and maintain a backlog of video ideas, we advise setting up a project management platform. Popular free options include Trello and Notion.
For many YouTubers, the enjoyable part is actually filming. The following advice can help you maintain your videos looking professional, regardless of whether you’re a travel vlogger documenting your cross-country excursions, a comedian doing skits for YouTube, or a traditional YouTuber who records videos while sitting at their desk:
- Write a script for each video.Even if you believe that you are skilled at speaking spontaneously, following a script will greatly increase your productivity. For every 550 words in your script, you can calculate that there will be about 3 minutes of video.
- Position the camera at eye level and look directly into it. When speaking to a camera, it’s simple to turn your head in your own direction or to one side. However, you might appear more assured and engaging by simulating direct eye contact with the camera.
- Keep your lighting in front of you.Keep your light source in front of you to prevent shadows, whether you’re utilising a ring light or natural light to highlight your films.
- Enunciate and mind your pace.If you speak quickly, calm down, speak clearly, and take deliberate breaks to allow for simpler editing. There is no moving the camera at all! Additionally, a smile might increase your appeal on video.
- Shoot more than you need.For each segment of your video, record many takes because you are not working with film. If you believe a new perspective might provide a little diversity, change the angles as well. B-roll is extra film you shoot during the production process to offer yourself more editing alternatives. For a review video, it might involve panning over a product, numerous viewpoints, or even blooper footage that turns up as a comedy in the finished product.
Editing is the unsung hero of video and where a lot of time and effort is spent for YouTubers.
To get you started, YouTube provides its own editor, but there are several more free and paid applications for editing videos that are well worth looking into:
- Da Vinci Resolve: contains all of the same tools that Hollywood studios use to handle everything from colour correction to visual effects to post-production audio. Furthermore, it’s free.
- Descript (Freemium): Editing the transcription allows you to alter movies just as simple as editing text. It is suggested for YouTubers that value effective workflows due to the ability to export and edit video directly to YouTube and other social media platforms.
- iMovie:Today, the in-house video editor from Apple is a more potent choice for video editing, particularly if you’re filming in Cinematic mode on a more recent iPhone or iPad.
Your needs will determine the editing program you use. For instance, Descript is excellent for video podcasts since it creates a transcript from your video.
Since editing takes time, many YouTubers outsource it as their first step to free up some of their time.
If your strong suit isn’t editing and it’s just filming and being an entertainer, then find somebody who can edit and don’t waste eight hours of your day or more just learning how to edit. Unless you really, really want to learn how to edit.
Matt Dajer, Yes Theory
TIP: To prevent black bars on either side, make sure to edit and export your YouTube videos in a 16:9 aspect ratio, or a 9:16 ratio if you’re publishing for YouTube Shorts.
Branding and thumbnails
Every YouTuber has a brand, whether they’ve meticulously designed it or came into it naturally.
Making sure your brand is represented consistently across your channel is part of your responsibility.
Not an artist? Canva has many starter templates that you can use to build the branding for your YouTube channel.
Here’s a checklist of basic assets to consider:
- Brand guidelines that include your typography and colours
- Channel header (2560 x 1440)
- Logo or profile picture (800 x 800)
- Video thumbnail templates (1280 x 720)
- Write your channel’s About section to pitch your channel
- Optional: Intro animation and music (depending on the style you’re going for)
- Optional: Channel trailer to introduce your channel to new visitors (you don’t need one right away though!)
You can see how Yolanda Gampp’s branding for How to Cake It connects all visual elements from the header to the thumbnails.
3. Publish, promote, analyse—embrace the creator’s feedback loop
There is more to being a creator than merely making things. Immersing yourself in the following phases is equally crucial if you want your audience to devour your material.
Iteration is key; pay attention to analytics and your audience to include their suggestions into the next video you produce. But first, you’ll need to publish your video and attract viewers.
Before you can make your movie accessible, you must fill out a number of fields and options. Once your video is online, several of these have a major impact on its audience.
Here’s a quick checklist of what to pay special attention to:
- Create a compelling headline with words that your target audience would use to find your video (70 characters max or the full title may not display on some screens).
- Write a description that includes keywords viewers may search in the first two lines (5,000 characters max).
- Enable chapter sections for longer videos to help viewers skim through.
- Select the relevant category and include two or three tags (cramming too many tags will hurt instead of help).
- Upload a unique, attention-grabbing thumbnail (many thumbnails feature one to four words of text to communicate at a glance).
- Add subtitles to increase your reach. (YouTube generates captions but you can upload an SRT file to ensure they’re error-free.)
There are many methods you may take matters into your own hands to increase the number of views and subscribers to your video in addition to crossing your fingers and depending on the YouTube algorithm:
- Share your video in niche subcommunities that may be interested in it.
- Engage with other YouTubers in their comment section in an authentic non-spammy way.
- Share your video where you have a social media audience.
- Optimise your title and description to show up in YouTube and Google search results.
- Build an email list you can send new YouTube videos to.
- Embed your video on your blog if you have one.
Create a playbook for advertising your YouTube videos after you launch them so you can start working on the next one right away.
Feedback is essential for getting better at anything over time, and YouTube is no exception.
Analytics for a YouTuber are the equivalent of applause for any stage performer.
Having a lot of views is excellent, but there are two feedback indicators that are even more crucial for aligning with YouTube’s own objective of keeping users on the platform as long as possible:
- Watch time: The total number of minutes and hours your audience spent watching your video.
- Audience retention: The percentage of your total video that people watched to identify where viewers were most engaged and where they dropped off.
Finding out how to create videos that boost these metrics will raise the likelihood that YouTube’s recommendation system will show more people your films.
That doesn’t imply you should disregard the opinions of your current audience. They are your best source of useful input, as seen by comments like the one from the Learn with Shopify channel that served as the basis for some of the discussion in this manual.
It’s a fine balance between serving up what your audience wants in order to grow and accommodating your own creative expression in order to keep from getting bored.
When asked how Yes Theory decides what to produce next, Matt Dajer answers, “I think it’s like any business, where if you have a strong product and people like it, you want to keep putting out more of that product.” “You can see that it works in the Abandoned and Asking Billionaires For Things series. Naturally, you don’t want to overdo it to the point where your channel only becomes that, but in order to maintain doing what you want, you have to frequently offer the viewers what they want.
4. Monetize your YouTube channel
Finally, we arrive back at where we started: Making money as a YouTuber.
We talked about money at the outset of defining your goals because it will depend on your niche and personal objectives which of these YouTube income streams you prioritise.
Join the YouTube Partner Program
You’ve probably heard that you can monetize your videos on YouTube by running adverts prior to, during, and surrounding them. However, you cannot immediately opt in to this.
You’ll need to satisfy some criteria first:
- 1,000 subscribers
- 4,000 hours of total watch time
- 0 active Community Guidelines strikes
Once accepted, this can be a passive source of income, but it is in no way sufficient to be relied upon. Fortunately, the following solutions can assist you in beginning to monetize before you reach the 1,000-subscriber threshold.
Start an online store
Making items that you can sell to your audience uses the same ingenuity that you use to create content.
You can sell:
- Digital products (courses, templates, creative licences)
- Merch (t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, books)
- Services (consulting, coaching, designing)
- Print-on-demand products (design and sell products without holding or shipping inventory)
For instance, if you run a sketch comedy program, you could design t-shirts based on local inside jokes. You can sell courses or templates if you serve as a resource for your readers’ education.
Yes Theory chose to sell merch with a sub-brand called Seek Discomfort to promote its core message and help its community find each other in the world.
One of our followers came to us about how their trip got cancelled and the next flight was hours and hours away, says Zack Honarvar, who runs Yes Theory and works on the business side. They noticed a gate-goer sporting a Seek Discomfort sweatshirt. Due to the fact that they both shared a love of the channel, they ended up becoming pretty good friends throughout the numerous hours they spent stuck at the airport together.
Make deals with brands
Working with businesses on sponsored commercials, affiliate marketing, or even content collaborations may either delight you or make you queasy depending on your creative principles.
Brand deals are one of the most well-liked methods to make money on YouTube, whether you get “paid” in free things or several thousand dollars for a whole video. As the creator, you ultimately have control.
Yes Theory occasionally produces sponsored videos, however they are careful and inventive in their partner selection to avoid “selling out” or bombarding their audience with advertisements. They are aware that they simply cannot escape it, yet they nevertheless want to tackle it in a way that respects their audience.
I totally understand selling out in terms of we’re not going to have ExxonMobile sponsor us. It’s going to be a brand we like and we know the people from.
Matt Dajer, Yes Theory
Over the years, Shopify has collaborated with several YouTubers, including the projects below featuring Yes Theory and Unnecessary Inventions.
When you’re prepared to take this path and start searching for brands to collaborate with, take a look at these influencer marketing sites or our guide to YouTube affiliate marketing.
Smash that Subscribe button on your YouTube career
People used to give you one of these looks when you said that you wanted to quit your job and focus solely on being a YouTuber:
Now, more people take YouTubers and creators seriously, with no shortage of success stories, big and small.
You can “click subscribe” on your YouTube channel right now to start your path, no matter what success means to you.