YouTube is an incredibly competitive and crowded landscape. Standing out from other content creators can be a real challenge, and finding success can be an elusive goal. Becoming successful on YouTube will take a combination of hard work, persistence, and luck. All the luck in the world will not matter if your content is weak. Content is king.
In this article, we will be breaking down how to create great YouTube content into seven easy-to-follow steps. If you follow this content creation roadmap, you will be well on your way to producing high-quality videos.
Step 1: Pick Your Niche
There exists an incredible range of content available on YouTube. Every successful YouTube channels fit into a broad category, and the vast majority of them also fit snugly within a particular niche inside of that broader category, though some content creators have proven adept at jumping between different niches or pivoting from one niche to another.
Chances are, if you want to become a successful YouTube content creator, then you probably already have some idea as to the type of content you want to make. It might be a matter of paring down your content ideas. Viewers tend to like consistency in the type of content they receive. Your viewers will want to be sure that they are getting what they subscribed for rather than a smattering of videos on a wide range of topics delivered in varying styles.
The types of content that are able to flourish on YouTube are near limitless, but let’s take a look at a few successful YouTube creators and the niches they fit into:
- Casey Neistat — 12.2 million subscribers — Niche: vlogging
- H3H3 — 6.55 million subscribers — Niche: reaction videos
- Markiplier — 26.9 million subscribers — Niche: “let’s play” videos
- MKBHD — 12 million subscribers — Niche: tech reviews
- Danny Gonzalez — 4.02 million subscribers — Niche: commentary videos
- Watch Mojo — 22.9 million subscribers — Niche: top 10 lists
These examples are only scratching the surface of the number of different video niches that can find success on YouTube. Categories can range from extremely broad to hyper-specific. One of the most important things to keep in mind about niches is consistency.
Viewers want to know what type of content they can expect whenever you upload, so be sure that all of your content fits into, or at least relates to, your chosen niche – at least in the beginning. Once a channel becomes successful, it becomes easier to cover a wider range of topics and to pivot between niches or do away with categorization by and large.
If you have fresh new ideas for content that has never been created before, then do not be afraid to be a trendsetter. You can create and hone your own niche and stand out from the pack through originality and innovation.
Step 2: Do Your Research – Analyze the Trends
Conducting solid research can often serve as the foundation for high-quality video content. You will want to research both the subjects of your video and the videos made by others on the same subjects.
Watch videos covering similar ground to your intended topic and analyze what works and what doesn’t. Compare the stats between similar videos and note the differences in execution between each. Be sure to note the number of views and the level of positive and negative engagement each video received. Social Blade is a valuable tool for conducting this sort of research as it offers detailed analytics for others’ YouTube channels.
What is popular on YouTube tends to be cyclical in nature and to change over time. By closely analyzing trends, you can attempt to stay on top of what’s “in” at the moment and avoid sticking with trends that are on the way out.
Step 3: Plan Your Video – Pre-Production
In professional film and video making, there are three main stages of production, though this process can less commonly be divided into five steps or even seven steps. Regardless of the division, the general workflow remains the same. The three primary stages are 1.) pre-production, 2.) production, and 3.) post-production. We’ll discuss each of these stages, beginning with pre-production.
Technically speaking, the pre-production process began as soon as you began researching. This process will differ according to the type of video you plan on making. For example, If you plan to make “let’s play” videos, your pre-production process will involve sourcing the necessary game-capturing device or screen-recording software, an editing program, a high-quality microphone, a camera, a simple lighting setup, and whatever decorations are necessary to style your “set” the way you want it to look on camera.
The pre-production process will look very different if you plan to make something with a heavy production workflow such as comedy sketches. When prepping, you will need to cast actors, find and secure locations, source props, acquire an editing program or find/hire an editor, and, of course, write the sketches. If working with a production team, you will need to coordinate and schedule with each cast and crew member, and you may want to set up contracts and release forms for everyone involved for liability purposes.
You will also need to acquire all the necessary film equipment. This can include but is not limited to a camera (or multiples of the same model of camera if you plan to shoot multi-cam), a tripod, a microphone (boom microphone and/or lavalier microphone), a field recorder, a microphone stand or alligator clip, a C-stand, sandbags, a lighting kit, and any additional camera accessories or rigs.
You can simplify the workflow for comedy sketches and other production-heavy video types in a number of ways. You can avoid the need to cast, schedule, and pay actors by playing all of the parts yourself. You can also avoid having to scout and secure locations by writing and setting your content in locations that are readily available to you.
Video production can be scaled back to a minimum of a camera and microphone. You can even shoot videos with the camera built right into your smartphone. Regardless of the type of camera you end up using, do NOT skimp on audio quality. Poor audio quality is one of the most common and significant issues with setting up YouTube channels. Studies and polls have shown that audio quality is much more important than video quality for the vast majority of media consumers.
In a study of picture quality vs. audio quality, these results were found: “Even if the video component has some flaws and turns out much less than perfect (pixelated, grainy, out of focus, under-exposed, etc) but the audio is clear, at the right volume and free of distractions then the project can still be an overall success and can get positive results.
On the contrary, several studies have shown that if the audio quality of the video is of just medium to marginal quality, that no matter how good the picture turns out viewers are more likely to reactive negatively to the video content as a whole.” (VTREP.com)
So, if you can only afford a high-quality camera OR a high-quality microphone, choose the microphone. Of course, it would be ideal to have both.
Step 4: Shoot Your Video – Production
Shooting your video can often be the most straightforward step in the entire production process. The more work you can get done in pre-production, the less for you to do in production and post-production. Good prep is key to high-quality video content.
The vast majority of successful YouTube channels are personality-driven, with the exception being the occasional more corporate-driven YouTube channels such as the aforementioned WatchMojo.
Audiences can connect to YouTube creators in a way that is more direct and personal than with film or television. When a viewer subscribes to your channel, they are subscribing for your content but they are also subscribing for you. This is why it is important to imbue the videos you make with your personal style and sensibilities.
Injecting your personality into your content is something that can be done at each step of the production process. Include your personality in the writing and video conceptualization, and allow it to show through your editing style. Most importantly, be sure to let your personality show while recording. An on-screen persona does NOT have to correlate to your off-screen personality on a one-to-one basis.
Crafting and honing your on-screen personality can be a challenge and a learning process. It may take practice or trial and error to figure out the best ways to present yourself and your creative voice. It is perfectly okay to refine your on-screen persona over time.
One thing you should be sure to avoid is replicating another creator’s style too closely. It is both okay and encouraged to pull inspiration from other creators – everyone does it. As Tarkovsky said, “The artist doesn’t live in a vacuum.” The art we create is a product of the art we experience in the world around us.
So, drawing inspiration from successful creators is good, but there is a point where inspiration can become copying and where homage can become theft. Never cross that line. Not only is it morally questionable to copy someone else’s content to an extreme, but audiences will likely notice sooner or later if they are familiar with both channels. You want your channel to be personal and unique, not the cheap knockoff of a superior product.
Step 5: Edit Your Video – Post-Production
The post-production stage is when you edit your video. At the end of this step, you will have a finished video, ready to release. Take care to finalize everything and make sure you are happy with the results. If the video doesn’t turn out the way you wanted by the end of the edit, you can always go back to the previous steps and try again with the added knowledge from this trial run.
Post-production solidifies the form and content of your video. An old adage within filmmaking is that you actually write a film three times: once when you write it, again when you shoot it, and for the third time when you do the edit (Creative Screenwriting). You can change the story being told during the editing process.
Editing a video can be tedious and time-consuming but it can also be highly creative and experimental. The editing stage can be fun and exciting if you approach it with open eyes and flexibility. Allow your personality to shine through in the edits you make, and double down on your on-screen persona by complementing it with the edit.
For the technical side of editing, there are a few things you will need. Editing apps do exist for iPhone and Android, so if you choose to shoot your videos on a smartphone camera, then the phone itself is technically the bare minimum you need to get a simple edit. However, the results will be far weaker than with a proper editing set-up.
A standard editing set-up requires a computer (a desktop or a relatively powerful laptop) and an editing program, which is a software application that enables you to do the actual edit. There are a number of free editing programs available for download, but the quality of these varies greatly on a case-by-case basis. If your budget is tight, you may be able to get by with a free editing program such as one of the options in this list.
There are also several video editing programs that sometimes come pre-installed on laptops and desktop computers. Before looking into purchasing an editing program, check to see if your personal computer has one installed already.
The two most popular video editing programs for YouTube Creators are Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. Final Cut Pro is a Mac OS program, meaning it will only operate on Apple products, whereas Adobe Premiere will work on both Mac and Windows computers. Many editing programs offer discounts for student users, so be sure to check for price cuts if you are still in school.
The industry-standard editing program for film and television is the Avid Media Composer, and has been for many years. Avid does not find as much use in the post-production of YouTube content but it is another strong option for cutting together high quality video content at a professional level. Adobe Premiere Pro has also been used in many professional film productions and is slowly becoming standard in the world of professional post-production.
If editing on a laptop, you may want to use a mouse when editing as the touchpad can be tricky to use for some of the more nuanced and tactile aspects of video editing. You can get the job done with just a touchpad if need be, however.
Many editors prefer to have a multi-screen setup when editing. It’s common to use two or three external monitors in professional editing. Using multiple monitors allows more information to be displayed concurrently and increases workflow by allowing a simple tilt of the head to do what would otherwise require completely changing tabs or switching pages, putting more pressure on your CPU and lowering overall efficiency.
Having a multi-screen setup is far from mandatory however – a single screen will also get the job done. Making use of external monitors can increase your productivity and comfort but it is more of a convenience than a necessity.
Step 6: QC and Set Your Schedule
When your edit is finished and you are happy with the results, be sure to watch through the video at least once if not a couple of times. You can call this watch-through process the QC (quality check or quality control). Watch the whole of your video to make sure there are no mistakes present that could have been missed in the edit.
Sometimes, glitches or other errors can arise during the rendering process, creating problems in your video that were not present while editing. Going through a simple QC before uploading will ensure that you do not release content that is full of errors.
Once your video has been rendered and you have ensured that it is free of errors, you can now upload it to YouTube. It would be best practice to upload your video as either private or unlisted, rather than releasing it publicly right away. There are a couple of different reasons for doing this.
First, just as with the rendering process, it is possible for errors and glitches to occur while uploading your video to YouTube, especially if your internet connection is shaky or goes out entirely and interrupts the upload. Some of the more common upload issues that may arise are a desynchronization of the audio and video, a slight discoloration of the video’s color grading, or artifacting within the image, which can arise as a result of the compression undertaken by YouTube. Check your video again for errors after the upload to YouTube has been completed.
Second, YouTube’s content ID system is notoriously flawed, and inaccurate copyright claims are constantly being made on videos. If your video is struck by a copyright claim, the claimant can decide to block your video (in certain territories or worldwide), to run ads on your video and collect all of the AdSense, to split the ad revenue, or they can choose to simply label their content in your description without imposing any other restrictions.
Fraudulent copyright claims can be disputed but this can be an extremely lengthy process, sometimes taking entire months if the initial dispute is rejected and an appeal proves necessary. By uploading your videos ahead of when you plan to release them, you can begin the dispute process without your release schedule being affected.
And speaking of the release schedule, scheduling out your content is important. There is no one correct schedule that everyone should follow. What is important is having a schedule and sticking to it.
Your upload schedule can be once a month, once a week, or every single day. The important thing is to remain consistent. Most successful YouTube channels upload frequently but there are exceptions to this rule who take longer breaks between uploads without seeing a decrease in user engagement.
Step 7: Release, Promote, and Analyze
When it finally comes time to release your first video, be sure to promote it – and do the same with all subsequent videos. Do not be discouraged if your first video does not receive much engagement or very many views. It will take time to build up a fan base.
The best way to promote your content is through other social media platforms. If you already have something of a following on a platform like Instagram or Twitter, that will make building up a YouTube following much easier.
Other ways to promote yourself and your content include avenues such as buying ads or collabing with other creators and sharing/combining audiences. Look at what other creators are doing in your niche and always be on the lookout for ways to improve your content. In general, better content means a larger audience.
Once your video has been released to the world, it is time to analyze the results. When just starting out, read comments and gauge how viewers feel about your content. You can make adjustments to your content on a video-by-video basis, and always strive for improvement.
Repeat this process for each subsequent video. You can skip the “pick a niche” step in the future since you will have already done that, and when making videos in close proximity, your research may be current enough that you don’t need to undertake full research every time you go to make a video.
Let’s quickly recap the steps for creating high-quality YouTube content. Step 1: pick your niche; step 2: do your research; step 3: pre-production; step 4: production; step 5: post-production; step 6: schedule; and step 7: promote and analyze.
Remember to always be on the lookout for ways to improve and innovate. Researching ahead of time and analyzing the results are great ways to stay at the top of your game and avoid falling behind the times as new trends take off while old ones fade away.
Those were the seven steps for creating high-quality YouTube content. Feel free to return to this article in the future when making subsequent videos to follow along with the steps. Now that you know how to make great content, get out there and do it!
- Harrell, L. Scott. “Audio Is More Important Than Video Picture Quality.” VTREP, 22 June 2017, vtrep.com/audio-is-more-important-than-video-picture-quality/.
- “YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, & Instagram Statistics.” YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, & Instagram Statistics – SocialBlade.com, socialblade.com.
- Neistat, Casey. “CaseyNeistat.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/user/caseyneistat.
- Gonzalez, Danny. “Danny Gonzalez.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/user/ActualDannyGonzalez.
- markiplier. “Markiplier.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/user/markiplierGAME.
- Klein, Ethan. “h3h3Productions.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/user/h3h3Productions.
- Brownlee, Marques. “MKBHD.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/user/marquesbrownlee.
- WatchMojo. “WatchMojo.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/user/WatchMojo/videos.
- Tarkovsky, Andrei. “Andrei Tarkovsky Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/andrei_tarkovsky_628454.
- Swinson, Brock. “Brett Haley on Writing A Film Three Times.” Creative Screenwriting, 8 June 2017, creativescreenwriting.com/brett-haley-on-writing-a-film-three-times/.
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