YouTube is easy to learn and near impossible to master. Equal parts accessible and puzzling. Either way, finding success is an exercise in stamina, accepting failure, and holding on long enough to see any glimmer of success. But, as YouTube creator Jeven Dovey pointed out, we need creators to succeed with original content now more than ever:
“I think a lot of people are scared that there are too many YouTubers now and I think it’s the complete opposite,” he told us. “I think that there are more people consuming YouTube now more than ever. So that means that there’s more demand for new, original channels.”
So, that’s the good news: it’s a great time to be a YouTuber creator. The bad news: it’s still hard to be successful on YouTube. Cutting through the noise and connecting with an audience is complicated. Luckily for all of us, Jeven was willing to share his tips for building a channel the right way, from the ground up.
Through travel videos and filmmaking tutorials, he’s amassed a following of nearly 250,000 subscribers, so he’s got a great perspective on what to do and what not to do when starting a channel.
We all have unique talents and experiences, so why commit to an entirely new endeavor when you could lean on what you already know? Think of a YouTube channel as a new aspect of your already existing expertise in a certain area. For Jeven, it started as travel vlogs because that’s what he was already doing:
“Whenever I’d travel with my wife, we’d shoot a bunch of videos and we weren’t sure what to do with all of it. So, I started putting them together and uploading them to my production company’s website. Eventually, I decided to start a YouTube channel.”
Are you a great cook? Try shooting cooking tutorials. Know fashion? Shoot some fashion reviews. You get the idea. YouTube needs authentic content and that starts with creators making videos about things they’re passionate about — not only what they think will get subscribers.
Jeven eventually found the right subject matter in filmmaking tutorials, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The point is, he found specific subject matter to create content about.
"You’ve really got to find your niche. It’s about finding that specific topic to center yourself around. For me, it’s filmmaking tutorials and product reviews. I think one of the hardest things is finding your niche right off the bat as a beginner unless you really know what you want to shoot. You just need to try a bunch of different things and figure out what you’re creating instead of trying to pigeonhole yourself right away. You’ll eventually get attention on your channel."
Think of it as a career. Sure, it’s nice to want to be successful off of your name only, but unless your name is Kardashian, it’s probably not going to work. Even the most legendary YouTube creators (Casey Neistat, Simone Giertz, etc.) started by focusing on what they did best and on making original content. So, spend time finding your own niche first.
The advantage of learning from someone like Jeven Dovey is that you don’t have to learn things the hard way. Here’s a great example:
“On YouTube, people want to connect with a personal brand. Big YouTubers are individuals, not a specific brand. When we started our name was WonderWorks and it was like a travel brand. I think it was stunting our growth because people saw it as more of a brand. So we decided to rethink the channel under my personal name and as soon as I did that I saw a massive spike.”
There it is. Unless you’re an actual brand looking to build your business with YouTube, Jeven’s advice is to keep it personal, allowing people to connect with you as a person and build a relationship through your channel.
Success doesn’t only need to be measured in the number of subscribers you have — because if that’s your only metric, it’s going to be rough going at the start. Spoiler alert: nobody starts out to instant success on YouTube:
“So, for my first year on YouTube, I probably created about 200 videos and they were all daily vlog style. They got no views whatsoever, which is just part of starting out. No one is successful right off the bat; it actually takes a long time.”
Not to worry! Those 200 videos Jeven made were little lessons, each and every one of them. Each video is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, capitalize on your successes, and build skills as a creator.
Here’s the companion piece for those 200 videos Jeven created in his first year — and this is important. Beyond lessons in filmmaking, each of those videos was a little testpiece for making his channel stronger. He gathered data and feedback with each one.
“It’s tough at first to find out what connects and what doesn’t. You’re kind of throwing a ball against a wall until you figure out what works and what doesn’t. I did a year of content and it wasn’t working. Some of them took off when we went to Thailand and we had a few hundred thousand views, but it was more tied to a location. I found out that doing filmmaking tutorials and tapping into that knowledge is where people really started to respond. You’re basically looking for videos that spike, find out what’s working in that video, and start to hone in on that style.”
Any marketer will tell you that data is gold when it comes to creating quality content. So, listen to your numbers. Every view and subscriber you get does more than just build your following. Each serves as a pool of information you can use to improve your craft.
This is less of a tip and more of an encouraging note. The nature of YouTube is that success can compound on itself, creating a snowball effect for any kind of channel. Once you start learning from your data and adjusting accordingly, you can take advantage of your success to create more success.
“When you’re starting out, it’s really hard to get to 1,000 subscribers. Then it’s a little bit easier to get the next 1,000 and a little bit easier to get 10,000 and so on. So, as your channel grows, it’s not as hard to reach those milestones. When you really niche down into a specific category people are going to be passionate about the same things you’re passionate about. As your channel gets bigger, you’ll have more freedom to step outside your boundaries and create new content.”
So, stick to what you know for a while. As you gain subscribers, you’ll have the opportunity to experiment and evolve your channel into something bigger and better. But, as you build a foundation for your snowball, figure out what you do best and do that — over and over again.
So, you’re doing all of this experimentation and changing the content on your channel — won’t this confuse your following? Well, yes. But, according to Jeven, it doesn’t matter so much as long as you treat your community with respect and communicate openly:
“My channel started out as one thing and then I moved it to another, so of course there’s going to be a period of confusion. A big thing is just having that communication with your channel and let them know what’s going on. For me, I did an entire video called ‘What’s happening with WonderWorks?’ That’s the beauty of YouTube. You can create a video that’s just talking your audience.”
People are going to subscribe and unsubscribe for a lot of reasons. But, just like any other aspect of life, they’ll have a lot more grace and understanding if you just tell them what’s going on and communicate honestly.
This is a bit of a side note, but important regardless. A big part of Jeven’s success, according to him, is that his YouTube channel had a symbiotic relationship with his existing business. He doesn’t create on YouTube full-time; he uses it to supplement and enrich his main hustle. So, while you’re planning to launch a channel, maybe keep in mind other parts of your career/life that can work alongside it:
“I think there’s a massive advantage to doing more than YouTube. My production company is my business and then YouTube is another thing that doesn’t create this pressure because I have to make money. I think there is something to being a YouTuber and having a profession as well — I don’t think people should shy away from it.”
If being a full-time YouTube creator is your dream, then, by all means, go for it. But, there are tons of advantages (financially, emotionally, creatively) to building a channel alongside something else.
"Start creating content right now. Don’t wait around. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. It comes down to trying things and failing, seeing what works and what doesn’t."
Jeven didn’t have much to say about gear and that’s for a good reason. Essentially, it doesn’t really matter, at least not as much as the actual content you’re producing. And it definitely shouldn’t stop you from starting a channel:
“If you have a camera you have enough to start a channel. People worry too much about gear when in reality it’s the content that’s more important. Having better gear is going to help you, sure, but if all you have is a phone then use your phone. If you only have a GoPro then use a GoPro.”
As you grow, you’ll have opportunities to upgrade gear, but gear will never be the reason people are subscribing to your channel — that begins and ends with the content you’re creating.
We’ll close with this note from Jeven.
“In general, if people want to build a channel on YouTube, they just need to start creating content. Start creating content right now. Don’t wait around. Don’t wait for the perfect moment. It comes down to trying things and failing, seeing what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t start, you’ll never know what works or if you even want to do this. So, just start right now. Nothing’s perfect. Nothing’s going to be handed to you. You’ll just have to figure it out as you go.”
You heard the man. Go for it. No one is stopping you and no one is going to do it for you either. But, there are a few resources at your disposal to make the process simpler and easier:
First, Jeven’s built an entire playlist for getting started on YouTube. It’s full of tips and advice for building your channel and finding success. Check out his playlist here.
Second, sign up for a free 30-day trial on Musicbed to get unlimited songs from hundreds of our artists and composers. Music is such an important part of your brand on YouTube and there’s no easier way to jumpstart the process than with our free trial.