5 honest tips for black content creators about breaking through on YouTube
Advice from a content creator.
YouTube is a difficult game to break into. Although many of us are familiar with some of the biggest names such as Pewdiepie, Jenna Marbles and Kingsley who have managed to cross over to other platforms, it’s easy to forget that hundreds of thousands haven’t had as much success. With that being said, it’s still certainly possible to have success on the platform, but as the niche market becomes bigger and bigger, you really want make sure this is something you want to invest much of your time and energy in.
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Don’t let YouTube become just a numbers game for you.
Photo: Chescaleigh / YouTube
I am certainly guilty of this! In fact, I have had to step away from the platform several time to refocus on my reasons for even making videos, because I got so weighed down on getting people to watch me. Yes, it is probably going to be important to you to get people to watch your hard work, but at the end of the day you have to center your content above the numbers if you want to have longevity. Always keep in mind, you don’t need to have millions of subscribers to cross over to other platforms. For example, Chescaleigh, a well known black feminist and activist in the YouTube sphere landed a full-time writing position on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore and an on-air spot at MTV News, with less than 500,000 subscribers. Also, don’t forget Issa Rae, the creator and star of Insecure. She started out on Youtube, and has had immeasurable success with well under a million subscribers.
Decide if you really have time for this.
Photo: Marques Brownlee / YouTube
In all seriousness, YouTube is a JOB. Even if you’re not getting paid, it feels like work sometimes. I spend 8-10 hours a week on average, putting together a single 5-minute video. That involves brainstorming, writing, filming, editing and promoting on social media, on top of my 9-5. Not to mention the fact that some of those videos ended up getting just 100 views. You have to ask yourself, “Is there another platform where I could release my content more effectively and efficiently?”
There’s trends, challenges, vlogs - you name it!
If you truly are starting think that YouTube is something you want to do consistently, start looking at it as a business, and yourself as a brand. I believe that many YouTube content creators would consider themselves to be creatives first and foremost (myself included). We’re used to looking at ordinary things through an artistic lens, which is great, but sometimes we do need to pay attention to trends going on around us, in order to build a larger audience. If you are starting to have success on YouTube, don’t be afraid to put your own spin on a Thanksgiving/Christmas makeup tutorial around the holidays, or share your opinion on a current event like the election, for example. This brings more eyes to your channel, and helps you challenge yourself.
Is this for you, or nah?
YouTube really isn’t for everyone. It’s time consuming, it’s niche, and it’s difficult to get noticed. But one of the best things you can for yourself as a content creator is to honestly think about the pros and cons of the platform, and decide it it’s worth your time and effort. There is no shame in moving past YouTube and focusing on a different medium to get your work out there, even if you've done it for months, or even years. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you how many breaks I’ve taken from YouTube when work or school became too hectic, and I think most Youtubers, even those with huge followings would tell you the same thing.
Honestly, truly - get started. Immediately!
Photo: MyLifeAsEva / YouTube
Anytime a friend tells me they are planning on starting a YouTube channel, I tell them to go ahead and get started right now. Put out videos once a week or every two weeks for a month, before making any final decisions on whether you want to commit to the platform. It doesn’t matter if you’re filming on a $1,000, a $100 camera, your webcam or a cell phone. If you are being genuine, and have something interesting to say, people will even stare at a picture of a potato, with your voice playing in the background, just to learn more about you. But if you don’t ever start, you’ll never even give yourself the chance to step out of your comfort zone and improve on your work as you learn. Not giving yourself a chance to try something new is the biggest disservice you could do to yourself as a creative.
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