There’s no such thing as a perfect YouTube video.
Take Casey Neistat, for instance. I’d argue that his storytelling and editing is damn close to perfect, but the rest of his movie making leaves a lot to be desired. Scenes are often so overexposed you can barely make out what’s going on. Audio is scratchy and inconsistent. His camera regularly falls over. He ends up adding numerous disclaimers and onscreen apologies when he realises he’s screwed something up.
But I love him. Neistat is, arguably, the greatest YouTuber to grace the platform (hit me with your alternatives in the comments!) and he’s achieved that feat by absolutely nailing what matters.
Today, I’m going to help you do just that.
Disclaimer: many of the stages below (ok, all of them) have been shortened to make this a digestible read. I’m not going into dive into the detail of how you do all of this stuff today; my role is to get you excited and inspired to simply get creating that first YouTube video!
Write a blog first
Pretty much every video I publish on YouTube starts life as a blog post. There’s two reasons for this:
- the written word is where I feel most comfortable; and
- it enables me to craft my story well in advance of pressing the ‘record’ button.
You don’t need to be a wizard with words, either. Most successful bloggers aren’t – they just know how to tell a story and which audience to put it in front of.
Put it this way – you’ve got to write your YouTube videos one way or another, and what better way than to kill two birds with stone and create another valuable piece of content in the process?
This is why I tell every aspiring YouTuber to start their journey with a blog. So, go for it – set one up and start writing before you go anywhere near a camera.
Turn the blog into bullet points
You’ll know when you’ve written a blog post that would make a brilliant video.
When that happens, it’s time to grab the digital scissors and cut up that blog post into readable chunks.
When I shoot my a-roll (the pieces where I’m talking to camera), I work from a bunch of bullet points which are, essentially, chopped up paragraphs from the original blog.
Often, I keep pretty much everything that was in the blog and simply break it up sentence-by-sentence as bullets, using the individual headings within the blog as chapters for my video.
Unless you want to stick to a script for your videos (I don’t for mine, simply because I’m not keen on the delivery that results), this is a brilliant way to guide you through the recording process. After a few videos, you’ll find yourself naturally working through those bullet points and ad-libbing where needed.
The brilliance of this approach is that you’ll have the blog fresh in your mind, therefore most of the ‘script’ should come naturally.
Point and shoot
No one needs a big, fancy studio or expensive camera gear to start a YouTube channel.
Providing you have a smartphone and a decent way of capturing your voice (it’s a good idea to spend a little bit of money on a smartphone-compatible lav mic like this one) you have everything you need to get filming.
You’ve done a lot of the hard work already by writing that original blog and turning it into something from which you can confidently read for your YouTube audience. The last thing you need is to be faffing around with ISO, aperture, and colour grading.
So, hit ‘record’ on your smartphone, and just go for it.
Edit for attention
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard recently for editing YouTube videos came from a podcast featuring Rene Ritchie. He was detailing how he’s constantly learning how to craft his videos for his audience and, crucially, the different platforms on which they appear.
One of those platforms (YouTube) ain’t for messing about on, he tells us. And he’s right; your audience on YouTube has no interest in what you had for dinner last night. They want to know what’s in it for them – immediately.
I’m still working on this approach for my videos, but getting to the point throughout the video is essential, and most of this will come during the edit.
Don’t give yourself a hard time during the a-roll shoot – just talk naturally and work methodically through those bullet points. As soon as you start editing that footage, you can begin the process of cutting and shaping it for attention. Specifically, you need to keep your audience’s attention.
So, edit out waffle, remove meandering descriptions, and boot out instances of repetition. Then, watch back your finished edit and cut again whenever you find yourself losing interest.
Trust me, you’re the best critic you have access to as a solo YouTuber.
Publish… and repeat
Once you’re happy with your final edit, it’s time to publish on YouTube.
Pay attention to the title, thumbnail, and description. But don’t get too hung up on anything else to begin with. A few tags never go amiss, and setting up playlists is a brilliant way to categorise your content, but those first three elements are the most vital.
It’ll take time and consistency for your YouTube videos to become brilliant, but don’t let any minor (or major) mishaps halt your progress. Publish, then repeat; go back to the beginning and start again on the next video applying everything you’ve just learned.
It works. Trust me.
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