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YouTube – it can break you

On camera, it’s all smiles, but behind the lens it can be a different story!

YouTube
image courtesy of author

If it was easy…

I want this content creation lark to work – very badly. But, mentally, it can be a bloody tough gig.

Most of the concern for creators, centres around the hours of solitude, working alone, and the online trolls. But, I can tell you from experience, just the very act of putting yourself out there, and trying to make a new career on the platform work, is brutal.

When you click on a video, you are seeing the normally, smiling, positive, radiant show-face. Behind the lens though, behind that piece of glass, the truth can be a different story.

A year in – and for what?

In a sense, I came to YouTube with some experience of ‘entertaining’. After all, that is what videos on YouTube are – a source of entertainment, and some escape for viewers. I had, for some years, been a radio presenter. The idea of showing up, no matter how you are feeling, and turning it on was not new to me. Somehow, though, radio is an entirely different beast. I don’t know if it is because it’s a non-visual medium or not, but I never found radio mentally tough.

For me, it was a case of do your prep & research, put in the hours with the production, and the show will take care of itself. I thought some of that would transfer to video and YouTube, but in truth, it helped not one bit.

As much as I have no regrets with my decision to finish the radio shows, now over a year in to this new endeavour, and I am finding myself asking if it’s all worth it?

Ground zero

When starting out on creating a YouTube channel, you can plan and prepare all you want, but it will only get you so far. I thought I was ready, but looking back, honestly, I don’t think you can ever, truly, be ready.

I could sense early on, that running a channel, was a business, and that was one of the things that appealed. I have been self-employed and run my own companies all my life. Working for someone else, just never resonated with me. Being a creator on YouTube is, essentially, working for yourself. OK, at the end of the day, you do have a paymaster, or boss, that sets the rules, but not one you ever see, or report to. Nope, to be a successful ’Tuber, you will need to be motivated, organised and focused. That side of it came easily to me. That and the solitude – I have always enjoyed working alone, and have never been a team player.

But somehow, YouTube is brutal, and I am still trying to understand why. My plan was to put my creative energy in to something new and challenging, but equally, something that would pay. Radio never did, well, a pittance, and I’d had enough of that.

Not an ego thing

I clearly, cannot vouch for others, but the allure behind starting the channel on YouTube was not an ego thing. I was already used to hearing myself back, and plenty of interaction with an audience, thanks to radio. So, it was not a case of wanting to see myself on a video – geez, I am a bit long in the tooth for that. Nope, for me, it was very much a business. I needed to earn a little extra money, and the thought of still being creative, and earning a few quid, seemed a solid plan.

When I started out in September 2020, my plan was to earn about £500 a month from YouTube, earn a bit from writing and a bit from my design business. I don’t have a desperately expensive lifestyle, so that would easily see me through.

To monetise on YouTube, you have to hit two simple metrics – 1000 subscribers and 4000 view hours in a twelve-month period. Once you hit those magical numbers, you can apply for AdSense. That will mean that the ads that run on your videos will generate some income. Not all that much, but some. Of course, if the channel were to grow, then sponsorships and other deals would start to come your way too.

My plan was to give it six months – March of this year, and then I figured I would be earning some revenue. Well, here I am, six-months on from that deadline, and I still find myself nowhere near.

That makes you question yourself. It must be my fault. What am I doing wrong? It is visceral, real and, painful. You feel very naked and exposed.

Make more effort then

This summer, I was hit really badly with COVID. Actually, it turned out to be a good thing. Poorly as I was for a week, it gave me a chance to look at the channel and plan what to improve. Apart from everything, I decided on a few key points, and have worked my backside off on improving those.

I worked on telling a better story for one. I spent more time on scripting to ensure there was a start, middle, and an end. I became more creative with the b-roll footage and worked harder on my thumbnails. I bought an iPhone 14 Pro, to get a better camera, so the visual was improved. All-in-all, it was a belts and braces makeover for the channel.

Show up, put in the effort and results will follow is what you are told. Sounds reasonable, but I am here to tell you, that ‘ain’t necessarily the case. I cut down to making one video per week so that I knew I was giving it all my creative energy.

I also decided to feature on my strength of interviewing – something I did transfer from my radio days. I am good at it (I think), and enjoy it. That all takes time, over and above the videos. Finding the guests, researching, editing etc, but the results are worth it. I’d be more than happy if the channel was purely an interview channel, but that plan has a weakness. That weakness, is guests agreeing to come on.

But even regarding the interviews, I decided to make some changes. This weekend, you’ll be able to see & hear a podcast I recorded with Mark Ellis. Rather than the normal way I record interviews online, from my studio, I ventured 100 miles from home, to go and sit with Mark. Next week, I am flying to Brussels to record another interview that you’ll be able to hear soon.

The videos I make, must take about 10 or so hours, at least, I’d say. I am always planning in my head. For instance, last weekend, I drove to Heathrow to stand under the flight path to test AirPods Pro 2 noise-cancelling. It nearly got me arrested in the process, but the footage should look good.

Giving it my all

In short, I have nothing else to give. YouTube is getting 100% of me. And yet, the views and subs are not coming.

Last night, I seriously began to think, “is it time to quit”? After all, if I have given it all I have, and the results are still not coming, it makes no sense to carry on, right? I could save on all the costs, and win back loads of spare time. With my business hat on, it is making no sense right now…and yet…

I tend not to be a quitter, but this one is pushing me.

After one year, to only have 500 subs, makes me think it is me – there really is no other way of looking at it, right? Some creators get 500 subs from ONE video, yet I only have that number after a year.

I have had some minor wins with videos getting close to 10,000 views, and my view hours are around the magical 4000 mark, but, may be, me and YouTube just don’t mix. That is what I meant, that this YT lark, leaves you very exposed.

This last week has been a prime example of that. Meeting with Mark left me buzzing – being with another creator, and talking shop, was cool. I came back scrapped the video I had recorded for that week, and re-recorded it, with a new-found verve. For me, it did well…over 2000 views in one week. I had loads of interaction and even Twitter & Vero were kind to me. I was on a creative high. Then this week, with all the same energy and attention, the next video doesn’t even get 200 views! It’s tough!!

The wrap

Quitting is still very much on my mind, but not just yet.

I hope this story has not come over as a woe-is-me kind of yarn. It really is not meant to be that sort of post. I thought writing all this down may resonate with you if you find yourself in a similar position.

Do I regret the last year? Not at all. I have improved, immeasurably in every respect, but, it seems, that is still not enough. I have added graphics and music to the videos, to add polish, moved sets, and found new locations. They say, as long as you are improving, you are moving forward.

I know I have not stood still. That would kill me. I have made loads of mistakes, but who wouldn’t. But equally, I have learned from every one of those, so, they all had their part in my journey so far.

If I were to cut myself any slack, I’d say it would be that I have only been at it for a year. I know some buck the trend and have meteoric success, almost overnight. But most have been crafting away for years before success comes their way.

So, I find myself at a crossroads of confusion – to continue or just chalk it up to experience? What to do? For now, I will plug on, but this is no vanity project. I will give myself until the end of March 2023 to have made some meaningful progress.

I will continue to watch, learn, interview, and give it my everything. But, come next March, if the numbers are not starting to stack up, then the Talking Tech & Audio lights will dim for one last time.

Sad as that would be, the truth never lies. For now though, I need to go out on the high street and record myself as I have just had a creative idea that, I think, will add a nuance to this week’s video. Will anyone watch it, is another question…

It leaves you with the feeling “is it worth it”, but if you’re gonna do it…do it well right?

YouTube – you are fun, but a tough mistress.

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Get in the vibe and listen along to today’s chosen soundtrack. I wrote this whilst listening to get in the vibe and listen along to today’s chosen soundtrack. I wrote this whilst listening tohttps://music.apple.com/gb/album/con-funk-shun-7/1452839853

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