One Year On YouTube - What I Learned
It’s been one year. This week is the anniversary for when I kicked off releasing weekly videos on my channel. I wanted to take a look back at where things have gone, where things are going, as well as to talk about some of the amazing people I’ve been able to meet and opportunities the channel has opened up to me. And with YouTube being so jam packed with creators, I know some of you want to start your own channel, and might be wondering: is it too late to create a YouTube channel in 2019? And make sure to stay tuned to the end if you’d like to see some outtakes .... oh, the outtakes …
So when I posted my first video July 4th week of 2018, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the channel yet and just wanted to put something up to see if anyone would even watch it. Even though I had some serious doubts, I figured what’s the worst that could happen? I talked about the Luna Display, which was a Kickstarter project that I had backed that allowed you to use an iPad as a second screen for your computer. I’m a UI designer and artist and use programs like Photoshop every day with Wacom tablets. An iPad with an Apple Pencil attached to a Mac? Sign me up. Even though it was just a simple and horribly made unboxing video, it got a bunch of people that watched it, commented, and asked questions. My second video, which was my review on the Sonos One smart speaker got even more views, which is when I knew I might be on to something. From that point on it’s been an experiment every week to see what content works and what doesn’t, and to zero in on the ultimate direction of the channel.
YouTube has more than 500 hours of new content uploaded every minute. Let that sink in ... 500 hours of things you could watch are uploaded every minute. That’s 30,000 hours of new content per hour or 720,000 hours every day.1 I know some people don’t like it when I say this, like my wife, but that’s just bananas. There are a lot of people out there that would love to start publishing videos, but talk themselves out of it because of numbers like those. In 2019, it may feel like it’s too late to start a channel and get attention and views on the content you produce. And don’t get me wrong, it is difficult to get attention on the videos you produce. Every video I put out is like a roll of the dice. There are videos that I thought a lot of people would be interested in watching, but don’t. Others that I thought would be mildly interesting to a niche audience, turned out to be some of my biggest performing videos of all time.
A good example of that for me is my video on the solar panels I had installed on my house. I thought there would be a small number of people out there that would find it interesting to see some details on the process, the technology, and someone else's experience with going solar. Turns out it wasn’t a small number. That video that I published in February is nearing 450,000 views and almost 3,000,000 minutes watched.
Another is my video on the Tesla and Maxwell Technologies deal that I published in June. I originally wasn’t planning on doing a deep dive on the topic because several other channels, like Sean Mitchell’s Everything EVs and Galileo Russell at Hyperchange, had already created some great content on the subject. I didn't want to make a video if it wouldn't add something new to the conversation. But, I had several subscribers asking me my take, and then some new information came out to help paint a fuller picture, so I ultimately decided to jump in and publish my take on it. I had no idea my video would strike such a chord, even though I was late to the party. Again, I’m still figuring this out.
And please don’t think this is me bragging. Far from it. I’m my own worst critic and have a lot to learn on producing YouTube videos, but the point I’m raising is that it’s never too late and you can’t predict what’s going to happen. If you have an idea that you're not seeing talked about; or if you have an angle or take that adds to the conversation -- something that’s unique to you and your perspective and communication style -- then it’s never too late to share that idea and put something out there. YouTube is super crowded, but you can absolutely still publish a video and get people to tune in and watch. There are 1.3 Billion ... with a B ... people that watch YouTube.2 You can find an audience. It doesn’t matter if you’ve publish 1 video or 1,000.
One of the things that’s really surprised me with my YouTube channel is the opportunities it’s opened up for me. I never thought I’d get an invitation to a Tesla reveal event or to a Space X rocket launch. I never thought I’d be able to reach out to a company for details on a product or service and actually get a response. I never thought I’d be able to meet YouTubers I respect and admire ... and actually have some of them know who I was before I even say a word. That one still freaks me out a little bit. Between the Model Y and Space X launch events I met so many great people from the Tesla community like Ben Sullins of the Teslanomics YouTube channel, Brian from i1Tesla, Matt Pressman from EV Annex, Steve Sasman from Tesla Renter, and Joe Scott from Answers with Joe. And that’s just a few of them. There’s so many amazing people in the Tesla and YouTube communities, and it’s been amazing to connect with even just a few of them. And to be extremely fair, I could have connected with more at those events, but my shyness and not wanting to “bother” some of them has held me back.
But that’s not counting some of the coolest people I’ve been able to connect with, most of the time virtually, which is all the people that have reached out to me through the comments, Twitter, Instagram, and email. It’s been incredible to hear from all of you, hear your ideas for videos, thoughts on when you agree or disagree with my take on things, and just general thoughts and feedback. I’ve really enjoyed talking about things like the Jan Brady of Tesla Model 3 cars, which is the AWD Model 3 by the way. There’s one person in particular out there that I know will get that reference. That one is for you, Adam. Or being able to hear some amazing music and talk audio with some incredibly talented musicians, like Philippe Saisse.
So has the roller coaster ride of being a YouTuber been all sunshine and rainbows? Not so much. The way I write and produce my videos is a lot of work, so it’s really been a labor of love. And what YouTube giveth, YouTube can taketh away. I’ve seen my view and subscriber numbers go through crazy growth, as well as times that look like YouTube has just turned off all recommendations to every one of my videos all at once. If you’re thinking of starting publishing videos on YouTube, one of my big recommendations would be to not live and breath the YouTube analytics too much. If you lose yourself in the numbers, which I have tendency to do, you’re only going to give yourself a coronary when your numbers inevitably stagnate and plummet at seemingly random times.
What about the money? And am I living that YouTube lifestyle? If you’re going into YouTube to get rich ... think again. You’re not going to make a lot of money off of YouTube, at least not anytime soon, and not anything you can count on consistently. I get a nice little check from YouTube ads every month, but there’s no way I could live off that money. Not even close. The amount varies wildly month to month. Between ads, Patreon, and affiliate programs, the channel is earning enough right now to help pay for the costs of running the channel, but not including the time and effort I’m putting into it. And that’s fine. As much as I’d love for this to be my main thing, I’m a freelance UI designer by day and earning my living that way.
But that leads me to being an “influencer.” The larger the channel gets, the more views the channel gets. The more views the channel gets, the more chances to earn money through things like sponsorships. Or ... to make money from being an “influencer.” I hate that word, by the way. It’s like a four letter word to me. The last thing I want to be considered is an influencer. I’m a creator. I want to provide interesting content. I want to provide a viewpoint you may not have heard or considered. And if I’m reviewing a product, I want to provide information that can help you in making your own decision. Informing and educating might have an influence on someone, but that's just a by-product. Am I in denial on that? You tell me.
So ... one year in ... nearly 50,000 subscribers, which ... is crazy. I never thought I’d be at nearly 50,000 subscribers after one year. I still have a hard time grasping that. As an artist I’m my own worst critic, always have been and always will be. I don’t take compliments well, and I’m usually waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s kind of funny considering how optimistic a person I am when it comes to tech like renewable energy, battery storage, Tesla, smart homes, you name it. But when it comes to me personally and things I create? I’m extremely harsh on myself and always have that little voice in the back of my head seeding doubt. I suffer from a massive case of imposter syndrome. Always have and always will.
If you’re like me, and you also have that little voice chirping away doubts in your ear, and it’s been keeping you from jumping into something like YouTube. Put a muzzle on that little voice and jump in. I muzzled mine and the worst that happened was I found myself with 50,000 subscribers, some of which have become friends, and opportunities that have opened up a chapter in my life that I never expected.
This has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride for me and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes this experiment. I have so much planned for the next year with more deep dives into Tesla and other technology, as well as product reviews and how-to’s for apps and smart home tech.
Thank you so much to all of you. None of this ... and I mean none of it ... would be possible without all of you that have watched, subscribed, commented and been part of this journey with me. Cheers to one year.