This week my little software engineering YouTube channel reached the first big milestone of 1,000 subscribers.
This is pretty good growth for a YouTube channel that I only started posting consistently 5 months ago.
The journey to 1,000 subscribers is different for every channel but on average it takes 15.5 months of consistent uploading to reach this milestone (source: VidIQ).
Some might say I just got lucky but I have yet to have a viral hit and my success is mostly from trying to improve with each video I upload.
Having said that, there are a few tricks and tips I have learnt from getting my blog to 12,000 page views a month that has helped me grow my YouTube channel too which I want to share with you.
The chances of going viral as a small YouTuber are pretty small, especially if you are new to making videos.
There are a few channels that I have seen that have had rapid growth with relatively few uploads. Take the channel Internet Made Coder for example. He has managed to grow his channel to 219K subscribers in 1 year.
His channel actually managed to get 1,000 subscribers and monetised in just 2 weeks, which makes my 5 months and counting seem laughable.
The difference is, this wasn’t his first YouTube channel, his other channel in a different niche had already managed to reach 16k subscribers. Safe to say he had learnt a thing or two about how to make good videos.
For the rest of us the chances of gaining subscribers that fast is slim.
This is why it is better to focus on getting traffic from search instead of trying to create a viral video, or at least try and get a balance.
My first attempt at making a viral video did OK. The video “The Worst Thing About Being a Software Engineer” managed to get 10,000 views in the first week.
That was 4 months ago however and the video has received a total of 12,000 views.
In contrast, the first video that I made to target the search term “stack vs heap” got just 484 views in the first week.
3 months on and that video has received 6,100 views and is getting 150 views a day.
Since then, I have produced more videos based on keyword research and they all seem to be following this exponential curve.
No matter what people tell you, everyone judges a book by its cover.
The first impression someone gets is important and the same goes for someone watching your videos.
You could be giving out the best advice in the world but if you have poor sound quality or poor video quality then people are not going to watch your videos.
It took me quite a while to try and get the quality of my videos to a level I was happy with.
If you watch some of my first videos on my channel you will see the picture quality isn’t great, the camera angle was just what I used for my Zoom calls and the sound had a bit of an echo.
Compare that to my last few videos and they definitely have more of a professional vibe to them.
I didn’t think my sound quality was too bad until I got this comment on one of my videos:
This was the kick up the butt I needed to try and make my sound quality better.
The solution wasn’t to go out and buy new equipment. I already had a fairly good microphone but my room wasn’t set up for good sound.
Instead, I went to my local home store and bought curtains, cushions and a fluffy blanket. My room just had too many hard surfaces for sound to bounce off of and this was causing me to have bad audio.
They say people will sit through bad video quality but not bad audio so if you already have a fairly decent microphone then make sure your room is set up for good sound too.
The first 25 videos on my channel were recorded with my webcam.
To be fair I bought what I thought would be a decent camera for YouTube, a Logitech Brio 4K.
The main difference between good and bad video quality is the lighting. Quite early on I bought a cheap lighting kit on Amazon which I am still using to this day.
It is surprising how much light you need to get your video to look good, you pretty much need to blind yourself while recording.
The problem with the Logitech Brio 4K is that I couldn’t get a consistent look from it. The colours were always slightly off each time I recorded something and they were never the same. This is even after downloading LogiTune to set everything up manually.
In my last few videos, I have changed my camera and the videos are looking a lot better.
If you think this is the part where I tell you about the expensive camera I bought then you might be surprised, I am actually just using my iPhone.
I have an iPhone XR so it isn’t even one of the expensive models but the colours are spot on. I am using the OBS Camera app so that I can manually configure all the settings and hook it up as a camera in OBS.
The app costs £16 a year but is well worth the investment. I may get an expensive camera in the future but not until I have made enough from my channel to cover the cost.
As with all businesses (yes your YouTube channel is a business) you need to look professional. One way brands do this is by having a consistent colour scheme across all of their online profiles.
I really liked the colours I was getting while using my iPhone so I chose the same purple my lights (see last screenshot above) were giving off in my videos as my brand colour.
I then used ColorSpace to find a matching colour palette that I could use for all of my video thumbnails. I have also extended this colour scheme to my website as well.
For all my videos I follow the same process which I am trying to systemise so that I can get quicker at it as well as make it easier to outsource in the future.
I am a terrible public speaker. I can’t ad-lib or think on the spot. If I don’t know what I am going to say I just freeze like deer caught in headlights.
So for all my videos, I write a script. I write my script as a blog post first and then this becomes the basis of what I say in my videos.
It isn’t always word for word but if you watch one of my videos while reading the post you can see it is pretty close.
On record day I set up my camera and lighting and then record video from my script.
I haven’t got a teleprompter so I generally try and remember a few sentences at a time and record them.
I make a lot of mistakes so it can take about 30 - 40 minutes to get my video recorded. Some sentences I can repeat as many 10 times before I get it right.
The next step is to cut out all the mistakes, pauses and cursing under my breath.
I use Descript for this first pass. Descript transcribes your whole video which lets you just edit the words instead of listening to the video.
This generally takes about 15 minutes to cut out all of my mistakes and I use Descript tools to cut out any gaps longer than 1 second.
While I am in Descript I also look at their stock footage. They generally have some good clips that I can’t find elsewhere.
Descript is good for cutting out the mistakes but it hasn’t got enough features yet to work as a full editor.
From Descript I export my video as a Final Cut Pro timeline and then I import it into Davinci Resolve.
I am still using the free version of Davinci Resolve which is more than enough for what I need. I may pay out for the full version in the near future as there are some cool features that I can see myself using.
I then go through the video again and cut out any pauses and make sure the audio is in sync with the video.
Once the A-Roll is done I then find any stock footage I need.
At some point, I would like to record my own B-Roll footage to use in my videos however there is only so much I can do in my small home office space.
All of my stock footage either comes from Pexels or from the selection they have in Descript.
After the stock footage, I go through my whole video and add markers and write down places where I can include an animation or a screen recording.
I am no animation wizard. I tried using Adobe After Effects but I found it too confusing even for simple animations.
Instead, I am using Apple Keynote (Apple’s version of Powerpoint) for all of my animations.
Keynote has animations for move-in, move-out and also manual actions. It is enough for me to animate text and move things on the screen.
Once I have produced all my slides I then export them as a movie.
I set the timings (next slide, next build) to 1 second and export it with the following settings:
That last point is a game-changer.
I don’t think Powerpoint lets you create videos with transparency. Before I realised I could do that I used a green background and tried to edit it out in the video editor afterwards. This is probably your only option if you aren’t on a Mac.
Once the movie is exported I cut it up and all it to the places I put markers in before.
If I want to include any transitions, such as the slide moving onto the screen, I do this using Davinci Resolve.
Animations always seem a bit hollow if they haven’t got sound effects with them. YouTube Studio has a good library of sound effects you can use and I have saved the best ones so I can use them over and over again.
I go through my video and find places to add sound effects such as a cash register for money or typing on a keyboard.
Using the YouTube Studio audio library I find some music that I think goes with the video. I make sure to pick ones that don’t require attribution just so I don’t get penalised if I forget.
I then add the music so that it can be heard but is low enough that it doesn’t detract from my speaking.
Now that I am using my iPhone for the video I don’t need to edit the colours too much. Generally, I just fiddle about with the brightness and contrast until I think it looks better.
In some cases, the stock footage is too bright or doesn’t have the right colours and I will edit them here as well.
I use the equaliser on my vocals to make sure they sound good as well as increase the volume so that it is similar to other YouTube videos.
I do this last as I find that the computer struggles a bit to process the audio in real-time while playing the video.
Lastly, the video is rendered and uploaded to YouTube.
I then add the title, description, end screen, tags and create the thumbnail and then schedule it ready to go out on Friday.
I really should create my thumbnail before recording my video but I usually have a good idea about what I want the thumbnail to be before I create it.
As I am going for Seach over Sensational I just need to make sure my thumbnail stands out more than the competition for the same search term.
I have been putting off making YouTube shorts as I didn’t see much benefit in the time invested. With recording and editing, it still took the best part of 3 hours to get a 1 minute short created.
The first short I created got 669 views in the first few days and gained me 6 subscribers.
Then this happened:
It is not just the length of the video that is short it is also the lifespan of the video. On top of that, the time watched doesn’t count towards YouTube monetisation.
YouTube has a weird algorithm for shorts.
When you hit publish your short will be shown to a selection of shorts viewers for about 3 hours. Then it will go silent for about a day and then it will be shown again. If you are lucky it may even get a third round.
After that, I assume YouTube has decided that your short isn’t worth viewing and therefore isn’t shown anymore.
That didn’t solve the fact that it still took 3 hours to make one short video.
However, now that I have quite a few long-form videos I decided to try and make some shorts out of them.
Thanks to Descript, I can now make a YouTube Short in around 30 minutes. It is just a case of picking a paragraph that makes sense by itself and cropping it into a vertical video.
Add some captions that Descript does automatically and you have a professional-looking short video.
After posting a short per day for the past week I have definitely seen the number of subscribers increase.
That isn’t even the interesting part.
I have been publishing the same videos on TikTok each day and my TikTok account has gone from 5 followers to over 400 followers in just over a week. One of my shorts has even had over 14k views.
Publishing shorts certainly helped with the final push to 1,000 subscribers.
Despite getting to 1,000 subscribers my channel still isn’t monetised.
You also need 4,000 watch hours to qualify for the YouTube Partner program. I am currently at 1,815 watch hours so a little under halfway.
With around 375 watch hours a month at the current rate, it is going to take another 5 months before I am monetised. However, YouTube isn’t linear and with views growing every month I should be monetised a lot sooner than that 🤞.
There are more ways to monetise a channel than just adverts. I also have affiliate links in all my posts although so far I have only earned $10 from them.
My ultimate goal is to be able to make a living by helping people learn to code and get jobs as software developers. Being able to code has helped me tremendously over the years and I want to be able to give that gift to other people.
This year I am focused on growth. Once the YouTube channel is earning some money I can start outsourcing some of the video editing, so I have more time to focus on other aspects of the business such as course creation.
For context, a 5-minute video will currently take me:
That doesn’t leave much time for writing posts like this, creating shorts and doing all the other things you need to do to succeed as a creator.
If you are looking to start a YouTube channel or you are trying to grow yours then I hope this post has been helpful.
If you have your own YouTube channel then please add it in the comments so I can follow it. If you want to follow along with my journey you can subscribe to my channel too.