“As you grow, you will forget what it once felt like.” So this is my antidote to that. A contemporaneous diary of my journey as it happens, to remember what it was like; as well as any key lessons in growing a YouTube channel or making life better/easier doing it.
I like the idea of building in public, and so this is what this article is. I think these lessons will be useful to anyone on the same journey.
Summary of recommendations
- Good recommendation: Invest in gear early. For me, lack of good videography equipment (a camera with a nice lens) did not mean I improvised like a genius and used my iPhone, but instead just wouldn't record at all. A significant psychological barrier was overcome when I bought lights, a camera, a lens, a pro microophone, and memory cards.
- Strong recommendation: Posting a genuinely useful YouTube to Reddit provides relatively significant growth for a tiny channel, equalling a 2,000 view video for me when most of my videos get less than 100 views. Will post to Reddit for every video done for faster growth by virtue of exposure; make it really useful. Low effort high yield activity. (13/12/2020)
- Strong recommendation: Part Time YouTuber Academy by Ali Abdaal is a truly amazing and comprehensive course for any YouTuber, and I recommend that without hesitation, despite the significant price tag. Surprisingly, the value of the community was one of the most significant draws for it.
- Good recommendation: Creating an extremely well produced "master video" allows you to copy-paste elements from that video into future videos later, saving production time whilst keeping vid quality high.
- Strong recommendation: When hiring editors, do NOT hire editors with a different editing software than you.
Significant optimisations not yet performed.
- Plan out who exactly my niche is and thereby create a content calendar that pertains to that specific niche, with a specific outcome
- Hire editor
- Try out timebolt.io
- Set up a system for repurposing content cross-platform
- Craft a proper intro to introduce myself
- Come up with cool branding symbols that persist across videos
- B roll library being built
Retrospective. My first YouTube video, 'Making study notes really fast as a doctor using Notion', was posted on 17 August 2020.
- Have always wanted to do it for a while and often joked with my sister about it. Tried streaming Super Mario Odyssey once but I kind of suck at constant commentary with gameplay and it was super time consuming.
- Got really inspired by the YouTuber Ali Abdaal, who talked heaps about his creative process and business side of YouTube.
- Really struggled with figuring out how to configure my iPhone in a way whereby I’d be able to do bokeh. Long story short, I couldn’t, so I decided to invest in a Sony A6100 camera.
- Also struggled with figuring out what lights to buy that weren’t $1000+. I ended up buying a white umbrella and a Neewer light which served me super well.
- How does one even edit videos? …fortunately, for switchaboo.com I’d done a few previous videos, but I still sucked at video editing software. So I took Ali Abdaal’s course on Final Cut Pro X (on Skillshare) and rectified that.
Things I struggle with: How do I use Final Cut Pro X properly? Hard drive space? Camera equipment? Monetisation strategy? How do I grow properly? What does YouTube use? What lens do I even use?
- I love that all my subscribers are just friends and girlfriend. Was really grateful to have them support me for my first videos. :)
- Having videos which got literally zero views was disheartening! LOL I mean, I’m happy with at least one viewer!
- Every single subscriber matters and means a lot. There is a small joy from each individual subscriber that joins. There is an even more special joy when people comment nice things: I’m fortunate to have good friends and a great girlfriend who commented just to support.
- I figured I’m going to focus just on impressions.
- Even with this small number of subscribers, I created some videographic principles. Fundamentally, I set the goal of YouTube as to be one of creative expression and to have fun.
- Internally of course, making money is still a reason, too — since that would give me a lot of career freedom.
- I feel like I have infinite room to experiment with.
- Initial inspirations include Nathaniel Drew, Ali Abdaal, MrBeast, and MKBHD. A bit of a weird combination I guess, but I like the common theme between all of them which is that they just take their videos to the next level.
- I’ve drafted a full flywheel strategy. Some combination of Twitter, YouTube, Email lists, Blog, with monetisation from Skillshare classes +- other courses.
- Got lucky with my Notion for Medical Students video.
- The only things I feel I need to do are: 1. Get better, 2. Be consistent. Ali’s post on the reason for his success being that he was so consistent in a time where consistency was “so vanishingly rare” was perhaps the single most useful piece of advice ever…I think. I guess I’ll see if it really works out.
- YouTube impressions still increase proportionally to the number of videos I put out. That’s fantastic. This is actually easier than previous businesses where I would put in a lot of effort and often see zero progress, so I feel like the feedback loop for uploading is virtuous enough that I’ll be motivated to keep going.
- Things I struggle with: How do I do lighting properly? What about framing and composition?
- My first dislike on any video was on my 12 hour Study With Me and BTS video. Haha! I guess people don’t like when I talk between breaks. Or maybe they don’t like studying for 12 hours. I’ll never know.
- I’ve let one of my best friends know that I try to stay more natural talking to my camera by pretending I’m talking to that particular friend.
- I figured out you can save heaps of space by unticking the ‘Optimised Media’ box.
- I figured out that rather than mess with Final Cut Pro’s audio, just post-process your audio in BounceCast and then Open Clip >> (add it back to the clip in Final Cut Pro).
- This is a non-retrospective entry.
- I’ve joined the ‘Part Time YouTuber Academy’ course by Ali Abdaal, an inspiration, because I wanted to learn more. I got to meet a lot of aspiring YouTubers and even some more established ones. The atmosphere is incredible; everyone wants to create.
- Man, there’s a lot of people who are into
- Joined a bunch of WhatsApp groups with other aspiring YouTubers from APAC.
- I feel reasonably comfortable talking on camera now, though I always struggle with the intro! That still takes about 10 takes or so.
- The thought is that everything is in process and consistency, and that’s it.
- Ironically, still creating at 2am to 3am at night though.
- I still don’t really know how to add animations to my videos properly. LOL.
- I’ve floated the idea of using anime only for my B roll. I wonder if this will breach any copyright issues, but it seems like a really fun idea.
- I have roughly 150 video ideas in my Notion document, and 11 videos posted.
- My thought is: it would be so cool to have 1 million subscribers. Is that something that’s even possible within 3 years? …I think if within the next two years I have 100K subscribers, I feel like that would be incredible.
- But I’d hate to become famous. A cloak of anonymity protects people from seeing when I buy too much chocolate at the supermarket. 😂
- I feel proud of the idea of being a “YouTuber”. On the Trash Taste podcast, they mention that YouTube is actually like a “friendship simulator”. I think that’s a really interesting concept to keep in mind.
- I showed my Mum the channel. She really liked it and seemed genuinely interested in watching my videos. She said that she thought I thought more than she thought I thought. Hahahaha!
- My retention times hover around 3 minutes roughly. I’ll aim for 50% retention (I’ve heard MrBeast gets 70% retention by the end of his videos but I don’t know the origin of that theory).
- I feel like I can say whatever on my channel. It’s low risk. I still feel a bit awkward asking people to subscribe, and my latest video doesn’t even have a proper intro!
- I’m really excited to be able to grow my channel, between my exam work (i.e. the work I actually should be doing).
- Things I struggle with: I wonder how I’ll grow consistency over time? What thumbnails are the best? Is there a way I can increase retention of my videos? Should I stick to just one topic of content for better growth? When should I start to monetise with other courses etc.? Does keeping ads on my channel increase impressions? How do I get more impressions/search terms?
- Been part of Ali Abdaal's Part Time YouTuber Academy course. I think being surrounded by motivated people in the same places, makes me feel inspired to create more.
- 95% of people who subscribe to my channel are people that I've met or had a conversation of some sort with. Isn't that a really high proportion?! ...I'm grateful for everyone following. Each subscriber feels like a small win, as well as each view.
- None of my videos have broken 1k views yet. The closest is a niche one on Notion for Medical Students. "Something for someone" seems like a good formula.
- Due to time contraints I've actually gotten even less perfectionistic than an already non-perfectionist self, about what I can upload.
- I have 180+ unsorted ideas in my video idea database, many of them generated from restless nights. I suppose you could call it boundless optimism?
- Phew, been a while since I updated this because of a hectic life with GP exams.
- PTYA course still amazing, learnt a lot about content/repurposing/branding/outsourcing which I'd love to implement properly when I can afford the time to – after exams.
- To summarise how I'm feeling: this is the stage where I still feel like each individual subscriber is subscribing because something has been particularly helpful. However, I'm now already past the stage where it's just a whole bunch of people I've bumped into personally, because on 5th Dec I was on 88 subs and then posted a Reddit post and then grew to 124 subs in two days. That's a 29.03% jump in subs from a single Reddit post, and I doubt I'll ever see that sort of % jump again (by virtue of bigger numbers = lower %s).
Strong Recommendation: Posting to Reddit provides relatively significant growth for a tiny channel.
I posted this video about Notion2Anki here on r/Notion as "This is how I use Notion to make Anki flashcards as a doctor, automatically/fast!" and evidently the feedback was extremely positive. Reddit is notorious for being against self-promotion and indeed, I was expecting backlash. However, the response was overwhelmingly positive, and the single biggest reason why I gained 36 subs in two days (compared to a baseline rate of about 2-3 subs per day typically).
- This also provided a significant number of views relatively speaking...
- ...and also led to a significant jump in impressions, which in my eyes is a metric that best represents discoverability/growth (the last video published here was that one).
Good recommendation: I spent some time crafting what I thought was a relatively "perfect" video in terms of editing/typography/transitions, so that I could go absolutely crazy with the amount of time spent on it so I could reuse elements I liked from the video in Final Cut Pro X, into other projects.
- I'm personally signing up for Part Time YouTuber Academy's "Inner Cirlc"E membership, so that I can keep keyed into the whole community and knowledge base.
- Things I struggle with: time to actually record the videos (because exams), time and money to find an editor, distinct lack of planned content instead just doing it haphazardly whenever I can figure it into my hectic schedule (which likely means taking a break for two months whilst I concentrate on GP exams).
201 subscribers 🎉
- Yay! Somehow hitting 200 subscribers gave me more of a dopamine rush than hitting 100!
- Still part of PTYA Inner Circle. There's so many people that are putting out amazing videos from that group that it's quite inspiring. I really think being part of a community of people also doing YouTube gives you a certain kind of pressure to make videos that is really motivating. Psychologically speaking, I'd probably progress a bit slower.
- A bunch of people from Reddit came over for this video about the YouTube Algorithm, which I published to: Reddit, PTYA group, and Asian Creative Network (pending). The most popular version of this post was here with 262 upvotes (https://www.reddit.com/r/NewTubers/comments/kgs179/youtubes_algorithm_explained_based_off_youtubes/). For probably good reasons, their subreddits don't allow video links or embeds - so I literally just used that big post and asked for people to search my channel by the name Dabido if they wanted to see a video version of it. I'm surprised people actually made a concerted effort to, and I'm really glad that they found it useful enough to do so. Lesson learnt: Share genuinely valuable information and you will be rewarded.
- Hired an editor from Upwork! Strong recommendation: When hiring editors, do NOT hire editors with a different editing software than you. I'd worked a little with a promising editor but the catch was that he only had Premiere Pro. We tried to make it work, but in the end there was so much friction in the process that it negated the benefit of having an editor in the first place. So we parted ways, I got a new editor who knows Final Cut Pro X, and he did a really good job.
- I gave a shot of trying to include an optional lead magnet where people could sign up if they wanted to for a Notion version of my YouTube Algorithm summary. Newsflash – no one signed up optionally for my newsletter. :( but then, only like 8 or so people actually visited the website (out of 220 views-ish). As much as I'd love to keep emails to people that legitimately want to hear what I'm saying, maybe doing things in this way is a bit weird. Still, the idea of using YouTube as a TOFU lead magnet is a compelling one, and I'll probably attempt some variant of this soon in other videos maybe. I'm writing a video about a Notion Zettelkasten, so I'll maybe hide it behind an email-wall for template download or something.
- Got my first hate comment! They pointed out that I'm not really able to talk about the YouTube algorithm since I don't myself have that many subscribers. I didn't feel as much as a sting as I thought I would have, since I'd been thinking that if I say even the most helpful or meaningful thing, for free, then someone out there is probably still gonna be angry at their own world and spit that negativity in my direction. I remember someone from Trash Taste podcast - composed of The Anime Man, CDawgVA, and Gigguk - once saying that you never really get over hate comments, you just get used to them. I think I've had enough experience in both real-life haters and Reddit haters that I can probably say - this video isn't made for them, but for the people that are helped by it, and therefore I'm not too worried if someone dislikes it. Another smart person, can't remember who, once said something like: if you're not inciting any controversy whatsoever, then it probably means that you're saying something so bland it doesn't mean anything.
- 300, wow, sweet!
- There's a fascinating guy by the name of Daniel Barnett who posted 70 videos in two months and therefore amassed about 1.5K subs. I find that really interesting.
- My Dad tells me I need to "stop saying basically" and that if I exercise I'll look better for my channel.
- I still get much support from those around me who I love. "I believe in you." Those words mean a lot to me.
- I believe that YouTube will really work, for a few reasons. It has a near instant feedback loop. I can always consume information, which means I can always create new useful information/value, since creativity is combinatorial. And I know I can create systems to make it succeed. I also know that so long as you can direct high intent traffic, you can make money, and so YouTube allows for that to happen. Lastly, the work of making videos and talking to people about topics is something I really enjoy a lot/am good at (I think). So I've gone so far as to say to my Mum and girlfriend, I have 0% doubt that this will work.
- ...and the other reason is that I have to make this work. It represents more than a hobby, but a ticket to achieving my most ambitious dreams, so that I can create more cool things that help people and make people's lives better. I also want to eventually create an anime studio.
- It's 2021. The 2nd of Jan to be precise. I think this year will let me grow in a way I've never been able to grow before, and a huge portion of that starts with this channel. At a deeper level..."my life flashing before my eyes, is called living". So in the narrative of my life, here's an actually uncertain adventure, and I have faith in my ability to work hard and figure it out, but success is anything but guaranteed.
- After all, I'm reminded of how few YouTubers actually make it past the 100K mark. Probably 0.3%. But those are odds I've beat before, so I'm confident only in a strong ability to try, rather than any innate skill.
- All of this could be hubris. It's certainly not the diplomatic musing of modesty! ...but I'd rather get my true thoughts here to paper (or rather the internet), so that I can remind myself at the very least that at 300 subscribers, I genuinely and wholeheartedly believe things will work - with perseverance, creativity, and a strong ambition to help others at scale.
…(will be updated)