With more than 2.5 billion users, YouTube is one of the most popular platforms in the world and the second most visited website after Google. Top creators make millions of dollars directly from YouTube ads, and many millions more use their platform to sell products and build communities. Even smaller creators are able to build lucrative channels this way.
If you want a piece of the action, here’s how to start a YouTube channel, whether you want to build a personal brand or promote your business.
Table of Contents:
- How to set up a YouTube channel
- How to upload your first video
- How to make money on YouTube
How to set up a YouTube channel
It’s really easy to start a YouTube channel. You can get one up and running in under an hour with just a few steps, so long as you have resources like a profile picture and cover photo ready. Here’s how to get started.
Sign up on YouTube
While you can start a channel on your smartphone, it’s easier using a computer.
Head to YouTube, sign into your account, then click your profile picture in the top-right corner and click Create a Channel.
Name your channel, upload a profile picture, and then click Create Channel.
Fill in all the Channel information
You now have a channel, though it will look very blank and basic. To make it yours, click Customize Channel. This will open YouTube Studio, which is YouTube’s channel management app. (You can access it at any time at Studio.YouTube.com.)
There are a few different customization options. Layout only matters when you have a few videos uploaded and want to organize them, so for now, go to Branding and Basic Info.
In Branding, you can add a profile picture (if you didn’t already do so), a banner image that appears at the top of your channel page, and a video watermark that appears on all your videos.
In Basic Info, you can add a description of your channel, add links to your other sites, and add an email address so potential business partners and fans can contact you.
Fill in all the information you can and then click Publish. Now your channel will look a lot more professional and polished.
Set up everything else
With your channel live on YouTube, it’s now time to set up the rest of its internet presence.
Unless you plan only to promote your channel through your personal accounts, set up a Facebook Page, Instagram account, and Twitter account for your channel. Customize them with the same profile and cover photos you used earlier, and add a link back to your channel. If you really want to build a successful YouTube channel, it’s important that you are also active on other social media platforms.
Similarly, it may be a good idea to create a simple website for your channel. This is especially important if you intend to monetize it by selling products or building a membership community. You won’t be able to do that directly through YouTube, so you’ll need a website or other platform.
While it might feel early to do this kind of setup, if you are serious about making money on YouTube, it helps to look professional, even if you don’t have that many views yet.
How to upload your first video
A YouTube channel is nothing without videos. If you’ve got this far, you presumably have a few ideas for content and a theme for your channel. Let’s get one of them live.
Filming your first video
Before you upload your first YouTube video, you need to film it. While you can record great videos with a smartphone, getting great sound is a little bit trickier. You will likely need a microphone, like this Blue Yeti or Rode VideoMic GO II.
If you’ve never shot a professional video before, it’s a good idea to watch a course like this one on video production from Skillshare. It goes through all the basics and will give you enough information to pull off a great first video.
After that, it’s just a matter of getting everything ready and actually recording the video. Be warned: It will take more time than you think, so set aside at least a few hours more than you estimate you will need.
Editing your first video
Once you’ve shot your raw footage and audio, it’s time to edit everything together into a compelling and professional video. Again, if you’re new to this, you might be surprised at how long it takes. It’s worth it, though.
The best video editing app — DaVinci Resolve — is free but has a steep learning curve. (You could, of course, check out another Skillshare course.) Alternatively, you can edit great videos with cheap or free apps on your smartphone.
Whatever method you go with, you just have to make sure your final video is in a format YouTube can handle. A 1080p video at 24, 25, or 30 frames per second saved as a .MP4 file will work perfectly and get you the best possible playback results on YouTube.
Uploading your first video
With your video file ready to go, it’s time to upload it.
Head to YouTube Studio and click Upload Videos. Click Select Files and find your edited video on your computer.
While the video uploads, fill in the Title, Description, Tags, and other options. You can either select a thumbnail from the video or upload your own custom one. Once you’ve everything filled in correctly, click Next.
In Video Elements, you can add popover links (called cards) to different sections of your video or just to the end credits. It’s a great way to promote related videos, especially as you upload more videos. When you’re done, click Next again.
The Checks screen will flag any issues YouTube detects with copyrighted material. If you have used a popular song, for example, this will get detected here, and you will have the opportunity to fix any issues.
Finally, the Visibility options allow you to schedule your video and otherwise control who can see it. Presumably, you will want to keep it public, but if you build a private community, you can use Unlisted and Private videos to share additional content with them that isn’t viewable to everyone on YouTube.
Keep making videos
Now that you’ve got one video uploaded to your YouTube channel, it’s time to promote it on your social media accounts—and start planning the next one.
How to make money on YouTube
There are lots of ways to make money on YouTube, depending on the popularity of your channel or how valuable the niche audience you develop is to brands. There are also ways to make money by building your own loyal community.
Monetizing your channel through YouTube ads
The most obvious way to make money on YouTube is through ads. Although they are all over YouTube, your channel needs to hit a few milestones to be able to join the YouTube Partner Program.
To qualify for ad monetization on YouTube, you need 1,000 subscribers and a total of 4,000 watch hours in the past year. For example, if you have 12 ten-minute videos on your channel, each will need an average of 2,000 views.
While that may not sound like a lot, it’s enough of a barrier that, unless you have an existing audience, it will likely take you a few months to grow your channel to the point you can run ads on your videos.
Once you have that, go to YouTube Studio and click Monetization. You can then sign up for the YouTube Partner Program.
How much money you can make from ads depends a lot on the kind of videos you make and where your audience is based. Finance videos, for example, are particularly valuable to advertisers, whereas popular categories like gaming are less valuable. Similarly, a US-based audience is more profitable than an Eastern European one.
With that said, a revenue-per-mille (RPM)—the amount of money you make for every 1,000 views—of between $2 and $8 would be relatively typical. This means that if you’re videos get 100,000 views on average, you stand to make between $200 and $800 per video from ads alone.
It’s worth noting that the YouTube Partner Program is only available to active channels. If you don’t post a video for six months, your account may be deactivated.
If your videos are popular with particular segments, sponsorships from brands looking to reach them can be a great way to make money. They allow the brands to get priority placement in your videos with you doing the actual ad read in return for more money than you would likely make from YouTube’s partner program. (Of course, your sponsored videos can also be monetized through ads so that you can make even more money.)
What brands would work well for you will totally depend on the kind of videos you make. A good way to start is to reach out to the companies that make the products you use in your videos to see if they’d be interested in working with you.
As well as selling products for other companies through sponsorships and ads, you can develop and sell your own products. Many popular YouTubers sell merchandise and even have their own clothing lines, while some cooking content creators sell things like knives.
If you have developed the kind of YouTube channel that has catchphrases and in-jokes, then a line of T-shirts can be a great way to make a bit of cash. Alternatively, if you can develop something useful for your audience, your YouTube channel can be a great platform to promote it.
Another option is to use a tool like MemberSpace to provide additional videos, resources, and behind-the-scenes content to your fans. You can easily create a paid members-only section on almost any website platform, so your most loyal subscribers can access it.
Building a community
Communities often spring up naturally around YouTube creators. The same handful of loyal fans often comment below their videos—and get to know each other. One of the best ways to make money from a YouTube channel is to lean into this and create a real community for your fans.
While you can use tools like Reddit or Discord, something like MemberSpace allows you to create a private members community with a directory and forum exclusively for your biggest fans. It can even be used to offer additional videos and resources.
YouTube is incredibly popular for a reason. It’s the best place to build a platform that allows you to monetize your audience. Now that you know how to get started go out and build your channel.