By Fern Paulussen
Advice from an Amateur YouTuber
I call myself an amateur because I’m not rich, I’m not famous, and my most watched uploads are literally just videos of me cleaning my house. However, I have been vlogging for over a year now, and in that time I have learned a lot (mostly by making mistakes). Today I decided it was time to share my top tips for those who are just starting out in the world of YouTube.
1. There’s more to YouTube than holding a camera in front of your face
I know, I know, your favourite YouTuber makes vlogging look so easy. And in many ways it is. But the truth is it takes practice, determination, and skill to create good content.
Before you start your channel, take some time to sit down and really watch the YouTube stars who made you want to give it a go yourself. What is it that attracted you to their channel? What keeps you watching? How do they act, speak, and present themselves? I’m not going to tell you to take notes, because I know I wouldn’t do that myself, but do pay attention to what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Their lives really aren’t that interesting; they’re just good at making it look and sound like it is.
2. Try before you buy
I’m the sort of person who tends to get swept up in the excitement of things, which often leads to me spending money on items I think I’ll need, before I’ve even tested the waters.
Don’t do what I do. Don’t decide you want to be a YouTuber and then rush out to the shops for a fancy camera, a full lighting set-up, and the most advanced video editing software on the market. It’s cool to get excited, it really is, but until you’ve given the whole YouTube thing a proper go, you’re better off making do with what you’ve got.
Phones are pretty amazing these days, so chances are you’ve already got the means to capture decent footage (just remember to film in landscape – never portrait). If you film using natural light there’s no need for expensive lighting (thanks, Mother Nature), and if you don’t have a video editing app already, you can make use of YouTube’s in-built software.
Good quality is good, of course, but good content is way more important. And besides, why would you want to spend a fortune on a hobby that you might discover you don’t actually enjoy?
3. Don’t do it for the money
Unless you’re completely original or absolutely extraordinary, you should not go into this expecting to make a living wage. Just look at how many people there are on YouTube already. Then look at how many of them are actually earning money.
I’m not trying to say that you don’t stand a chance, because there’s always a chance, but if your goal is to get rich quick then you’re probably better off inventing something. Or going into business. Or buying a Lotto ticket… I think you get my drift.
Truth is, with money on your mind you’re likely to burn out before you’ve even built up a decent subscriber count.
4. So, um, yeah
There’s no denying that it can be incredibly awkward to film yourself chatting away, but the beauty of vlogging is that you are in control of what does and doesn’t make it into your uploads.
If you’ve filmed a clip and you find that all you’re doing is saying So, um, yeah over and over, then it’s probably a good idea to leave that bit out of your vlog.
It feels weird at first, but try to remain mindful while you are vlogging. Concentrate on what you’re saying, avoid using too many filler words, and don’t ever pick up your camera without knowing exactly what you were planning on documenting.
If you can do all that while smiling, oozing enthusiasm, and radiating energy then you’ll be a star in no time (if you’re lucky).
6. Inspiration vs. imitation
I was recently told that there’s no such thing as an original idea, because everything we think, say, and do, has been inspired by something else. And unfortunately, I can’t argue with that sentiment. What I can argue with is the idea that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
No. Just, no.
If someone you admire has done something amazing, then you are well within your rights to take inspiration from them. In fact, most people would be stoked to hear that their idea helped spark a fresh idea in one of their viewers.
What people won’t be stoked to hear is that their original ideas are being ripped off, and someone else is receiving credit for their hard work.
If you feel like you’re imitating someone else then you need to stop. Be yourself. You do you. And always, always, always, give credit where credit is due.
7. Watch yourself
This one’s important. Really. You’ll probably cringe at the sound of your own voice at first, but I truly believe that watching my own videos over and over again is what has helped me the most as a content creator.
Don’t just quickly run some clips together and chuck some music over the top – take your time to edit your videos thoughtfully and carefully, and use that time to critique yourself.
Are you repeating things? Making a lot of mouth noises? Watching yourself in the view finder instead of looking straight into the camera lens? No one’s going to tell you if you’re doing any of these things, so you’re just going to have to look and listen out for any bad habits on your own. The more you notice them, the less likely you are to keep doing them. Sure, you might hate yourself at first, but you’ll get a lot better a lot faster this way. Trust me.
8. Take advantage of YouTube
I’m going to tell you a secret. It’s not really a secret, but it kind of is, because they’re not going around saying it…
YouTube wants you to succeed.
It makes sense, really. If you do well, they do well. If you get paid, they get paid. If you pull in views, they pull in views. YouTube wants you to be the best damn YouTuber you can be.
Because they want you to do well, they have put a lot of free tools in place to help you. You should use them. Like I said, they are free. And they will help you. You will learn so much, without even trying!
Keep an eye out for the “Channel Tips” tab that will appear when you log in to your channel. Watch their tutorials, sign up for their free online courses, read their instructional blog posts… It’s great that you’re here reading my advice right now, but you could be getting your information straight from the horse’s mouth, just so you know.
9. Reconsider your decision
I’ve already admitted that I tend to rush into things, but before I launched my channel I took a step back to evaluate what I was doing and why.
I checked in with my husband to make sure he was comfortable with my vlogging (That’s fine, but I don’t want to be a part of it), and made the decision to give myself a month to figure out whether or not YouTube was something I wanted to do.
That trial period flew by; I’ve now been uploading regularly for 16 months.
Before you commit to sharing your life with the whole entire world (potentially), have a think about whether or not YouTube feels right for you. Are you comfortable with the fact that you have no control over who can and can’t see your videos?
If you’re too embarrassed to tell family and friends about your new online venture, then you may want to think of another way to express yourself. Once you’ve put your content out there, there’s no going back.
10. Just do it
If you’re still reading then congratulations! I am impressed by your dedication and tenacity. Does that mean you have what it takes to be a YouTuber? Well, I don’t really know. But you’ve come this far, so I reckon you should do it. Like actually, just jump straight in and get started. Stop thinking about the what ifs. Stop questioning where to start. Grab a camera, turn it on, and share what’s on your mind. If it’s crap, delete it and try again. If it’s not, put it on the internet. It’ll be fun! Probably.
Fern Paulussen is a lifestyle blogger, vlogger, mother of four, and the director of PLAY NZ. Based in the Bay of Plenty, Fern loves Netflix, coffee, and chickens. You can learn more about Fern by visiting her website, or subscribing to her YouTube channel.