Growing on YouTube: Investing, Monetizing, Learning, and More
Just about nine months ago, I started my so-called “YouTube career” by purchasing my first vlogging camera and launching the Money@30 channel. Since then, there have been a number of ups and down, wins and defeats, and windfalls and expenses. Through it all, though, my channel has continued to grow and I’ve learned a lot in the process.
With that in mind, I thought it was time to dive into some of the items I’ve added to my arsenal, a few of the resources that have helped and inspired me, and how I’ve even managed to start monetizing my channel despite YouTube’s policy changes.
Investing in Production Tools
When I made my first video, I was using my Sony RX 100 M2 (which we bought used), a Purple Panda lavalier mic, and a version of Adobe Premiere that was still in its trial period at the time. While all of those have served me well — note: I now subscribe to the full Adobe Creative Suite with Premiere, InDesign, Photoshop, Audition, and more — I have added a few other items to my set up. The most notable of these additions are the softbox lights we purchased on Amazon.
These Fovitec softbox lights were actually ones recommended by YouTuber Sean Cannell, who we’ll talk more about later. At a price around $75, these weren’t a huge expense but have made a big difference in our production value. Of course, finding the best lighting set up and making the most of these lights has also been a learning process, but they’ve certainly been helpful nonetheless.
Another toy I recently spent a few birthday dollars on is an Imorden camera stabilizer. Incidentally, it took me a while to land on this particular model as I came across many others that were extremely similar, leaving me to wonder which was best. Ultimately my decision came down to the Imorden having more reviews and being priced about the same as other versions I was looking at (between $50 to $60). Admittedly I have yet to actually employ my new stabilizer in my videos, although that’s set to change next month when my wife and I head to Florida where we plan on creating content for some other projects.
Before I even purchased the stabilizer, I watched a number of videos on how to set them up and properly balance them. These clips made it seem easy enough, but all made it clear that it required a lot of patience and practice. After trying for myself, they couldn’t be more right. Unfortunately, since my camera is so light, the problem I’m contending with is actually adding weight to the top of the stabilizer. Thanks to a couple of coins and some tape, we’re getting very close but are still in the process of perfecting it. Therefore, if this is something you’re considering investing in, you’ll definitely want to do your own research first.
Lastly, another piece of equipment we’ve recently invested in is actually a new laptop. With my wife now working from home, we realized we would need a computer that we could edit video on while we were traveling. We splurged and got a new MacBook Pro that’s proven plenty fast for editing in Premiere, even beating our desktop in terms of export time. Obviously this one was a hefty purchase but, then again, it’s also used for everyday work and not just the YouTube channel, so I think it was worth it.
Leaning into What Works
One of the things I liked about the idea of starting a channel that revolved around personal finance was that it would give me the opportunity to make a variety of different videos that ranged in subject matter. For example, we’ve made videos showing how to make pizza at home, vlogs from the D23 Expo and my flight on budget airline Allegiant, and talked about how we managed to only spend a couple grand on our wedding. However, looking at the channel’s most-viewed videos, it’s clear to see what videos perform the best for us: reviews.
From day one, I knew that app reviews would be a big part of the Money@30 channel. However, I didn’t exactly expect them to take off like they have. Currently, my review of the cashback app Dosh is easily my most-watched video while reviews of Quickbooks Self-Employed, the Uber Visa card, and most recently the VITAL card have all found an audience as well. This isn’t to say that none of the others have caught one, but it seems that putting “review” in the title gives the video a leg up (notably, that vlog about Allegiant also got a bump presumably because I billed it as a review).
This discovery has changed the way I do a few things with my channel. First, I’ve made a playlist of all of my reviews that I’ll link to in other videos via end screens. Additionally, since I often end up referring to other products I’ve reviewed while discussing new ones, I’ve taken to utilizing YouTube’s cards to have links to these videos appear whenever they’re mentioned. These cards can also be altered with custom messages — so if, for example, I mentioned dining out, I can have a YouTube card say “Earn 4% cash back at restaurants” with a link to my Uber Visa card video.
Beyond that, I’ve also been looking to do more review videos, including follow up videos comparing two similar apps or products I’ve previously covered. Not only does this help take advantage of momentum but is also a good opportunity to give updates on any features that may have changed (with most of my reviews being apps, this happens often). Naturally, I don’t want to make all of my videos reviews as I have other topics I want to share, but it’s important to know where your bread is buttered and give the people what they want, as it were.
YouTube Changes and Monetization
Speaking of reviews, the nature of these videos has also allowed me to begin monetizing my videos in a fairly significant way. This is even more notable since YouTube rudely threw a bit of a wrench into my plans just a few months ago.
In case you weren’t aware, earlier this year YouTube announced that it was making changes to its YouTube Partner program. Instead of becoming eligible to run ads on your videos once your channel reached 10,000 lifetime views, the new thresholds required you to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year. This announcement really hurt as I was excited to pass that 10,00 milestone (currently just passed 60k views!) and was in the process of waiting for my channel review when word came down. That said, I feel far worse for channel’s that had already been approved and were retroactively shut out due to the changes.
Of course, I realize that, at my level, running ads on my videos was unlikely to net me much money. However, even with my modest (at best) video views today, referral links have allowed me to somewhat subsidize my channel’s operation costs. Namely, my review of Dosh has resulted in multiple bonuses in the app I was then able to transfer to PayPal. To be fair, much of this money was gained when the app was running a $15 per signup promotion, while the normal amount is $5. Still, these are far better rates than most YouTube ads payout even if you did qualify to run them.
My experience with my Dosh video also taught me an important lesson about presenting these referral and affiliate links. At first, when a couple of comments from people sharing their referral links on my video came in, I didn’t think much of it and mostly deleted them. Soon enough, though, that was no longer an option as they kept pouring in. Although I could have disabled comments for that video altogether, I figured that comments of any kind were likely to be looked upon favorably by YouTube’s algorithm, which would, in turn, help the video be recommended to others. Instead what I did was, in addition to having my Dosh link in the description box, I put my link in a comment and pinned it to the top. Now my link is the first one users see, giving me a better chance of being the one that viewers click if they want to sign up. Hey — it is my video, after all!
My Favorite Resources for Learning More
Finally, I wanted to highlight a couple of creators that I’ve learned a lot from as I’ve started to grow my channel. At the top of that list without a doubt is Sean Cannell. Not only was his channel Think Media instrumental in helping me choose the camera, microphone, and lights we ended up buying, but his frequent videos and live streams are always helpful and inspirational. Sean also has an online course called “Video Product Review Profits” (clearly my finding proves his point) that I found enlightening — and a steal at only $7.
Additionally, as I mentioned in my last YouTube update video, I’ve steadily been making strides in learning Premiere and becoming a better/faster video editor. For that, I first need to credit my brother-in-law, but I also owe a shout out to Peter McKinnon. Now, I should note that McKinnon’s channel is not just tutorials (he actually shoots plenty of amazing-looking videos and vlogs), however the tips he has shared have been mind-blowingly helpful. Some of these tricks already saved my life while in the process of editing a video while others I’ve filed away for when a project demands them. In any case, I definitely recommend checking out both Peter and Sean if you’re looking to learn more about video production and YouTube or just want to be entertained and inspired.
Three-quarters of a year after picking up a camera and making my first YouTube video, I’m incredibly happy with where my Money@30 channel has gone. Obviously, I still have tons to learn, but every week has proven to be a new opportunity for growth as I produce another video to share with the world. With that, I look forward to investing in new equipment, exploring what works, being inspired by others, and, yes, maybe even making a little money. As always, thanks for joining me on this side hustle journey!