YouTube has come a long way since its inception in 2005. A lot has changed over the years, especially when it comes to finding success on the platform. You can no longer upload videos about whatever you want and expect to have both monetization and an audience. However, a lot of people are still turning their channels into lucrative careers.
Here’s what it really takes to make your channel successful in 2020.
Get as specific as you can with your niche.
When “YouTuber” first became a viable career, the majority of successful creators ran lifestyle channels, which served as an umbrella term for whatever content they wanted to create about their daily lives. They’d have vlogs, DIYs, makeup tutorials, food videos, and music videos all on the same channel, and their content would be devoured by millions of subscribers.
Now, however, with so many creators on the platform, it’s hard to reach a wide audience with such a wide variety of content. You can grow a substantial, engaged audience by focusing within a specific content niche. The more specific you can get, the better. You might even combine two of your favorite niches. Viewers will flock to your channel because they won’t be able to find anything else like it.
For example, there are a lot of costuming YouTubers, and there are a lot of thrifting YouTubers. There are even quite a few YouTubers who vlog about living in RVs or vans. Micarah Tewers combines all of those niches in her videos. She sews costumes out of thrifted materials. Her videos are vlog-syle, peppered with snippets of her life in an RV park. Her unique niche helped her gain a million subscribers.
Focus on watch time.
With the latest updates to the platform’s policies, your channel must have four thousand hours of public watch time as well as a thousand subscribers in order to be eligible for monetization. This means that, even if one of your early videos goes viral and you gain a hundred thousand new subscribers overnight, you might not be able to monetize it immediately.
Therefore, you need to focus on increasing your watch time, especially in your channel’s early days. Create videos that are at least ten minutes long. Keep a strict upload schedule so viewers know when to expect new content, and upload multiple times a week if you can.
You should also continue promoting your older videos. Playlists really help push previous uploads. Organize your content into playlists, then promote those playlists in your new video end screens and information cards.
Find the sweet spot between “Made for Kids” and following the Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines.
Whenever you upload a new video, you must voluntarily identify your intended audience by labeling it as either “Made for Kids” or “Not Made for Kids.” Because of COPPA, YouTube cannot monetize videos that are labeled “Made for Kids,” so focusing on a younger audience could unintentionally hurt your chances of success.
However, YouTube is also strict about monetizing videos that don’t comply with its Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines. In order to be monetized, a video cannot contain inappropriate language, adult content, violence, dangerous acts, etc. If a video breaks one of these rules or comes close to breaking it, then it might be marked with a yellow monetization sign, meaning that its monetization has been set to limited or no ads.
As a creator, you’ll need to find the “sweet spot” between content that’s “Made for Kids” and content that follows the Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines. Plenty of YouTubers have found success with channels somewhere between the extremes of Ryan’s World and Trisha Paytas. For example, Good Mythical Morning boasts a lot of viewers of all ages, including a lot of families who watch together. They’ve found a way to make interesting videos without resorting to shock value.
Be as engaged with your audience as possible.
A lot of viewers enjoy YouTube because the content feels more personal than a movie or TV show. Unlike anything they’d watch on Netflix, a YouTube video gives them a space to connect with the creator directly. The relationship you form with your subscribers can turn your channel into a strong and supportive community.
In this day and age, a lot of creators’ success depends on their very involved audiences. Even creators with objectively small channels are able to pursue YouTube full-time because their fans support them by watching every video, buying all their merch, and promoting their projects. Therefore, you should engage with your audience as much as possible.
You can take viewer engagement further than replying to comments or following them back on social media. To really up your game, get your viewers involved with making your videos. For example, gamer Clare Siobhan uses her fans’ creations in her Sims videos. She uses their creations so often, in fact, that the hashtag she created to identify their creations is often trending in the game’s gallery.
Use your channel to launch other sources of revenue.
The hard truth about starting a successful channel in 2020 is that the ever-changing YouTube policies can make both monetization and views unpredictable. A lot of creators have to contest their videos that have been demonetized unfairly or pushed down by the algorithm. However, the same creators have found stability with other streams of revenue.
When your channel starts to grow, you should begin working on a secondary stream of revenue. It could be a podcast or a Patreon. As your channel gets a little bigger, you might consider starting a business, whether you’re selling channel merch or a product of your own design,
The Try Guys run their channel as a production company. They also have an online merch store and a podcast. On top of those streams of revenue, however, they’ve also begun launching smaller businesses under the umbrella of their production company. Most recently, one of the guys decided to launch his own tea company.
In order to be successful in 2020, a YouTube channel needs niche content, lots of watch time, an engaged audience, and an additional stream of revenue. By working hard and staying focused, you can still turn content creation into a career.
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Kristen Harris enjoys listening to a wide range of music, from Taylor Swift to, on occasion, Celtic instrumental. She also spends her time writing, reading, and baking.