How I Create My Video Reviews for YouTube
Let me cut to the chase: this week, my YouTube channel officially surpassed 10,000 subscribers. This is something I never really expected when I launched my channel a few years back and, while I’m not one to wrap my self-worth up in such metrics, I am incredibly proud of this milestone. So, to celebrate, I’ve decided to discuss in depth what my process is for creating the FinTech app/credit card/product reviews that make up the bulk of my channel’s content.
Truth be told, the thought of having a YouTube channel was born out of the idea that I could have a video component to the numerous reviews I was writing for Dyer News and for this site. Well, since then, the channel has continued to exceed my expectations, allowing me to monetize my content and build a revenue stream for myself. Plus, as cheesy as it may sound, I’ve really enjoyed getting to discover new financial tools and discuss them. But, while it has been fun, I do take the responsibility of reviewing something and sharing my honest opinions very seriously — which is why I wanted to share a closer look at that entire process.
How I Go About Making My YouTube Video Reviews
Finding apps and tools
Obviously, the first step in crafting an app review is to, uh, find an app to review. To my recurring surprise, Instagram has proven to be an extremely helpful tool for this part of the endeavor. Whether they pop up in post form or in between stories, I’ll often encounter ads for FinTech tools — some of which seem worthy of review. As an added bonus, since I’m discovering these apps through advertisements, it means others likely are as well, which in turn could lead them to my video.
I should note that many of the apps advertising on Instagram aren’t quite ready to launch. As a result, when I tap on the link to dive deeper, I’m often greeted with a “waitlist” form. In some cases, I’ll hear back from an app fairly quickly and can proceed with my review process. More often than not, however, I have to remind myself what an app is all about and reassess whether it’s worth trying since a sizeable amount of time has passed since I initially joined the list. Lastly, there are also plenty of examples where I go to check up on an app I added to my list years ago only to discover that they’re still “coming soon.” In these cases, I go ahead and scratch them off the list and continue looking for new candidates.
Signing up and testing them out
Once an app I’m interested in has launched and I’ve decided to check it out, I go through the process of signing up — while being sure to screenshot every step along the way. Why? Well, for one, it helps me to remember what the process entailed. But, on top of that, these shots often come in handy when I get to editing my eventual review.
Assuming all goes well and my account is created, my next step is to see what features the app offers and how I can best test them. For example, if I’m reviewing a neobank or savings app, I’ll transfer a bit of money over so that I can see these tools in action. Moreover, since I want to see how all of the aspects of an app work, it usually takes a few weeks — if not more — before I’m ready to write or film my review. Even still, there are some features I may not have a chance to try out for myself, such as direct deposit (unless there’s something super special about an app that’s tied to direct deposit, I’ll skip this feature). Then, once I feel I’ve spent enough time trying an app, it’s time for the next step.
Creating an outline and script
If you’ve never watched my video before, I’ll let you know that they usually consist of an intro, three to five bullet points highlighting some key features or “things to know” about an offering, and then a brief wrap-up and outro. While the first and last parts are fairly easy to write, it’s that middle part that can be a challenge from time to time. That’s because I essentially need to decide what I think are the most important, interesting, or notable aspects of an app and boil them down to a few points.
Incidentally, since most of my video reviews start off as written reviews, I already have a basic outline of what the app is about. Still, even this gets broken down further as I determine what main points I want to hit — while perhaps sneaking in a few other notables elsewhere.
Once that basic outline is done, I can then fill in the rest of the script fairly easily. On that note, I do write out complete scripts for the vast majority of my videos. As luck would have it, this practice comes in handy when it’s time to generate captions or flesh out my description box.
Filming and editing
With the script prepared, it’s time to shoot. When I’m home, this means heading to my living room where all of my video equipment is stored. These items include a microphone, mic arm, a pair of soft box lights, and of course a camera — in this case my recently-acquired Sony ZV-1. Funny enough, I’ve found that I like the way my frame looks at night so I’ve taken to shooting my videos after dark when possible.
Going back to the basic structure that my videos have had for years now, you’ll notice that I don’t spend a ton of time on camera. Admittedly, this is because I’m not very good about memorizing an entire script and delivering it to camera. So, with this shortcoming in mind, my videos are designed in such a way that I can deliver a single line or two for each bullet point and fill in the meat of the video with b-roll, stock footage, screenshots, and voice over.
For as much as this format really works for me, there are some challenges with it. Namely, I occasionally need to get creative with what I show on screen. Luckily, though, this is where that diligent screenshotting comes into play as it makes all too much sense to show examples from the app while discussing said app. Yet, despite my best efforts, I always find myself taking fresh screenshots while editing, Airdropping them to my computer, and dropping them directly into my timeline.
By the way, I do use Adobe Premiere to edit. Even though I am a Mac user and Final Cut may be a more compatible (and ultimately cheaper in the long run) option, I do use other tools that are part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, so it makes sense to use Premiere. Plus, given my limited editing skills, I’m happy to stick with the program I already know and have developed a format with.
If there’s a big downside to doing reviews on YouTube it’s this: there’s no way to update them. Yes, you can pin comments, add a note to your description box, or perhaps make clever use of the Cards feature on YouTube — but there’s not a way to update or replace your original review. And, despite the fact that the platform clearly displays the date a video was posted, make no mistake that viewers will still leave comments noting things you “got wrong.”
This can be incredibly frustrating but does offer at least one silver lining in that you can use this as inspiration to create a new piece of content. I’ve done this a few times, either creating all-new reviews or simply crafting a video pointing out the specific changes that have occurred. As for how to drive people to this updated video, I use some of the aforementioned methods, including posting a pinned comment with a link, adding it to the description box, and putting a Card early in the video alerting viewers that there’s a newer review for them to check out. I’ll also often make a new playlist with both videos.
Overview vs. review
Finally, another consideration I need to make looking for apps is whether I’ll actually be able to use them as intended. For example, while it’s fairly easy for me to open a neobanking account, build a budget in an app, or test out a rewards site, I can’t exactly go around opening several credit accounts, buying multiple life insurance policies, or purchasing services I won’t actually be able to benefit from. Yet, there are times when I feel as though a tool is worth covering even if I can’t do my full, hands-on review. In these instances, I’ve taken to using the term “overview” instead of “review” to denote that I’m merely delivering information based on research and not personal experience.
Do my viewers know offhand what I mean by overview? Likely not — which is why I usually try to make it clear that I haven’t fully tried a product when I do these overviews. Still, this small change in nomenclature helps me feel as though I’m staying true to what my full-fledged “reviews” are and entail, while also expanding the scope of what my channel can cover overall.
As I conclude many of my videos with, “Hopefully this [post] gives you a better idea about what [my review process] is all about…” but for much more on the topic, be sure to stay tuned to Money@30!
Also published on Medium.