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1.5 Years, 2.8k Subs, 350k Views, 1k views/day, $450/month (Patreon) - Here's How I Did It & How You Can Do It Too!

Min/Max Munchking

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All right, I tend to write long walls of text, but I'll TRY to keep this as short as I can without omitting anything I deem important. I'll probably fail, so I'm sorry in advance.

I don't and won't claim to be successful on YouTube. In fact, my channel's growth rate has plateaued for quite a while, largely due to my own horribly inconsistent and chronically depressed, self-sabotaging a**. But, I've been bouncing between 20-30k monthly views and 150-200 new monthly subscribers for more than half a year at this point. Here are my Socialblade stats:

PRIOR RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
Freelance writing/copywriting; a mix of semi-relevant skills such as Wordpress, Photoshop, Sony Vegas, web design, coding/programming, server administration, SEO (Google), social media marketing etc.; several failed online side-hustles and mini-projects, including a few abandoned YT channels that never reached even 100 subscribers.
The most I ever made online in 1 month was around $2000 and it was back in 2011/2012 on Fiverr. So, I knew I had it in me to pull myself out of a bad spot, all I had to do was dig my heels in deep and keep grinding no matter what.

NICHE SELECTION
Super mega uber critically crucially important. This will make or break your YT journey from the getgo in my opinion.

If you pick a niche with 3 people in it and make good quality videos for them, you will get 3 subscribers and 3 views per video, guaranteed. If that's something you want, you can stop reading this wall of text right now, go make a few videos and send those 3 people emails with links to those videos. You've succeeded at capturing 100% of your target audience.

However, if you pick a too broad/general niche like "fitness" or "weight loss", your potential audience will be in the tens, hundreds of millions, but you'll compete with tens of thousands, heck, millions of channels out there.

Obviously, you need something in between those 2 ends of the spectrum. But what exactly?
Tough to pinpoint, but here's how I ultimately decided what mine will be.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons 5e roughly 3 years ago. Got super obsessed with it as I'm a chronic escapist addicted to video games, movies, TV shows etc. I spent days, weeks, months losing myself in rulebooks, creating my own characters and reading about lore of various fantasy worlds. I've discovered the hobby was and is still growing rapidly - more and more people are playing D&D every day.

I was subscribed to some D&D YT channels for a while and I watched their videos both because I was interested in their content as a consumer, but also because I already had the idea in my mind.

"I could do this too...", I thought.

After a while, I figured I have a good shot if I go for a mini-niche within my sub-niche. I decided to start making videos for a group of people interested in deep, detailed power-builds, character optimization & theory-crafting. Turns out, my hunch, prediction and ultimately a bet I placed on myself was correct for the most part.

Now, there were channels out there already doing it, so I knew I'll still have competition. However, it's easier to compete with a handful of channels instead of hundreds, thousands or even millions of others.
One more thing - nobody was doing it exactly how I envisioned my videos to be. I come up with these often convoluted imaginary scenarios and intro stories that involve these fantasy characters doing something, usually fighting monsters. A lot of people have commented they specifically come back and subscribe because they like those short intro stories and scenarios.

See, you need to come up with a twist, you need to differentiate yourself in some way. I can't tell you how exactly to do it for your channel, because every niche and every audience is different, but you absolutely HAVE TO figure this out before you begin.
Don't be too different though, be similar just enough that there is some form of familiarity and association, where you can attract some of the already established audience watching similar videos. But, make sure you clearly stand out from everybody else too - you'll get noticed easier and some people will flock to your videos and your style immediately. This will spark that initial growth and keep you moving forward.

Now, there's no guarantee and I'd never dare guarantee anything when it comes to YouTube, but if you do things this way, you will most likely experience slow, but steady growth, compared to little or no growth that you might be experiencing right now. And some growth, even slow one, is better than no growth, always.

In 2020 and beyond, I think this approach will give you the best odds of reaching 100, 500, 1000 or more subscribers and a consistent amount of new daily views. That's all you need to break away from the zero-crowd and, depending on your niche, make decent money in the process.

WHAT/WHO TRIGGERED ME?
Alex Becker's channel. I'm still subscribed to him, but he's on some weird, mental bend these days and I don't watch him any more. A year and a half ago he was releasing a series of useful videos with practical, actionable info about most of the stuff I'm sharing in this post. I'll leave a link to his channel because he IS the reason I started in the first place: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKQvGU-qtjEthINeViNbn6A

TOPICS
I still barely do any conventional market research for my videos. I'm an active participant in the hobby and I know most/all of the character concepts and combos by just talking with my friends and other people who play the game. I then take these concepts and cover them in my own way. I often introduce my own little twists to further differentiate myself from competitors covering those similar concepts.

Go for topics you know are either evergreen or trendy in your niche and the ones you know will get searched on YT. How do you check whether people search for it on YT? Simple. For example, I have an idea in my mind and just start typing something relevant to my mini-niche like "druid barbarian optimized build 5e" into YT search bar to see if any suggestions pop up. If they do, I'm making the video on it.

Now, you can use Tubebuddy, VidIQ or other tools to really nail down the topics that will give you the most traffic. For me, I often enjoy making a video about something that I'm currently interested in/excited about instead of always chasing the most market-friendly topic.

As s result, some of my videos don't get as much traffic as others. But I also have more variety on my channel and people often watch, like and comment on those videos too when the videos that DO get more search/passive traffic lead them to my channel pages.

Moving forward, I will gradually start focusing on more market-friendly topics because I've already covered most of the topics I was interested in myself, as a player. I believe this will ultimately speed up my growth and allow me to break through the plateau. Time will certainly tell...

You will most certainly be arriving at these "crossroads" as well if you take action and start pumping out video after video. My advice? Just keep pumping out content - even low/no view videos will turn into medium/low view videos eventually. Keep cranking.

VIDEO & CONTENT QUALITY
Your first few videos will most likely be horrible. But if you make a right niche and topics choice and provide good, solid, quality content, the worst thing that will happen is that the bad quality of your videos (not the content, the videos themselves) will slow down your growth. It most definitely does not stop it.

My channel is the living proof. Seriously, just go and check out how badly, sloppily produced my videos are, even to this very day:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpScX_SSuGzqZxHUefh1GbA/videos - just check out the first video lol. It's so bad :giggle:

I made some improvements, but when faced with the choice of:
1) spending hours and hours meticulously and strenuously editing, perfecting, cutting out, recording again, mixing, matching etc.
2) just getting it done as painlessly and quickly as possible to save willpower, time and energy and start working on a new video

I always picked the second option from the very first video - new, bad-looking, but good quality content right now is better than new, "perfect" looking, same good quality content tomorrow. Keep the ball rolling.

Would my channel grow faster and have more views if I released 74 perfectly produced videos? Yes, no question about it. Would I realistically release 74 perfectly produced videos considering the turbulent mental, psychological, emotional and financial state I was in and still am dealing with? I know myself and my demons too well, so most likely no.

So I just decided to compromise and release badly produced videos. Editing, bitrate, formats, audio quality, even showing/not showing your face on camera (I only showed my face once in a livestream) and all the other stuff I care very little about? None of that mattered on my road to where I'm at right now. If your goal is to simply start making videos and move away from those dreaded zeros to get somewhere instead of going nowhere, don't spend too much time worrying about the production quality of your videos and all the other pointless little stuff. It's the good old Pareto principle. 20% of your work produces 80% of the results and the other 80% of your work produces only 20% of the results. Percentages vary, of course, but the principle stands.

The only thing that mattered and still matters is the fact that I have only 74 videos on my channel. If I had 74 more videos on my channel, I'd still need 74 more videos on my channel. More is better, especially when you're just starting out and nobody knows about your channel.

Now, don't get it twisted though - I spend days, weeks, heck, months thinking about, working on and preparing the actual content which I talk about in the videos. That's the part you can't really afford compromising on. You absolutely NEED content that will educate and/or entertain your audience. Without it, don't even bother. The more time you spend making sure the content you deliver is solid, the better your odds of turning those 1st-time visitors into subscribers and fans. However, don't overthink it too much. I'm the first one who gets stuck in analysis-paralysis and long periods of procrastination. Resist your temptations the best you can - I and my channel always regret and suffer when I take too long of a break in between new uploads.

Also, make sure you always invite the viewers to like, share, comment, subscribe and click the notification bell icon. I sometimes forget to do it, but I usually call for those actions early into the video and right at the end, sometimes even in the middle of the video. I don't have the stats to prove it works so I guess I'm just talking out of my bum-hole, but well, my videos are getting interacted with all the time, so it has to be a contributing factor, at least a little bit.

COMMUNITY
Try and participate in the YT community within your niche. At the very least, make it a priority to reply to every comment YOUR videos get. I don't personally go out and leave comments on other channels in my niche all that often to be honest, but maybe if I did, I'd get even more exposure, who knows.

However, even today, at 2.8k subs and 1k views/day, I make it a point to interact with my audience. Those are people that go out of their way to leave feedback, want some advice and/or ask questions. Not every one of your replies will convert into a visitor that constantly returns to your videos. However, I can tell you from personal experience, I've fostered a lot of connections just by responding to people's comments on my videos.

I don't reply to every comment these days, especially when you get those "First", "Nice video!" or other comments that don't particularly add to the discussion or that I just don't have anything clever/interesting to reply with. Still, I usually click that heart icon, which sends those commenters a notification that I "super liked" their comment or whatever YT calls that thing these days.

Do that and I guarantee you there will be people who return back to your newest videos just because you took a bit of your own time to respond to their comment.
If you don't believe me, just check out my latest videos and you'll see the same names repeating over and over again throughout the comment sections

Connect with people, foster your community.

VIEWS & TRAFFIC
I've done zero manual promotion. Practically all my views and growth have been through YouTube and only a fraction comes from Google search and people sharing my videos with their friends or private online communities. Most of the traffic still comes from YT search engine. Doing YT SEO isn't that hard when you're operating in a mini/micro-niche with only a handful of competitors. There are guides here and even on YT going in detail about how to do it. Heck, just go watch some of the older Alex Becker's videos and you'll know everything you need to start growing your channel in this way. That's how I started after all.

Look, to be perfectly honest with you, I don't even have to compete sometimes. Every now and then I make a video about a topic nobody else has covered. And even if that video generates 1 view/day on its own, it's honestly worth the effort. The compound effect gets the snowball rolling slowly, but steadily and then it just keeps going on its own. I've had an almost 3-month break this year - not a single video uploaded during that time. The channel's traffic dropped. I expected it to. But, check my socialblade stats. You'll see a slight dip, but not nearly as much as I feared it might happen. I've heard somewhere that search traffic is only roughly 30% of total traffic on YT, but in a sub-niche like mine that constantly has new people coming in, it just never stops trickling in.

What matters? Content. What does good content provide? Good stats. Here's a screenshot of my stats:

Titles, descriptions & tags always mattered and will always matter. Include keywords you want to rank for in search results in all 3 of those, but try to make it clickbaity/enticing to actual human beings. It's often a struggle to do it right, but it's doable in most cases.

Click-through rate or CTR keeps you ranking high. If your videos aren't getting clicked on in search results, you'll get kicked out of top 3-5 spots. My ugly thumbnails and long titles are getting average CTR, but average is good if you ask me.

Average view duration matters too. If your videos are getting watched for only 3 seconds, that signals YT that it's not interesting to people and that will cause you to lose positions in SERPS. Heck, YT might even think you're botting. That number is never too high, you can always make it bigger and that will be better for your channel's growth.

Audience retention has been something that I've personally struggled with since the very beginning. It might just be because my production quality is trash but you can't get everything right at the same time.
My average view duration of 5 minutes 44 seconds would be awesome if my videos lasted 6 minutes. But my videos are usually 1-2 hours long. That means people watch only around 10% of the entirety of my videos. That's bad. Really bad. You need to try and increase that all the way up to 100%. I know, impossible, but you have to keep trying.

How exactly? Well, I can't tell you for sure because I'm clearly failing at that particular statistic, but my last 2 videos got to 25% instead of the usual 10%.They cover the currently hot/trending topic in the wider D&D 5e sub-niche. For the first time, I included an overlay text at the very beginning of the video instructing my viewers to skip the intro stuff that I usually spend a few minutes on at the beginning of each video (patron shoutouts, quick announcements etc). Not sure how much these 2 factors affected my retention and view time, but I suspect it might have increased both numbers. I'll keep experimenting, modifying, trying new things.
Heck, I might just radically cut the video lengths in the future to try and artificially increase this number. You have to make videos for the algorithm as much as you have to make them for people. It's a sad reality, but it's the reality, and I'm giving you large doses of it, with all the good and bad.

Channel page & playlists might seem like a waste of time, but if you check my stats screenshot, you will see that a considerable chunk of my views comes from people who just browse my channel page, Videos tab and queue my playlists and leave them running. I don't know for sure, but I feel like some people watching my playlists probably fall asleep half-way through all those hour-long videos lol. :giggle:

Don't hope and rely on viral effects. Those CAN happen, not gonna lie. I've recently, for the first time ever on this channel and in my life, had the video go mini-viral as YT kept recommending it on Homepage, getting more than 4.5k views in just 10 days. That was nice and cool, as most of my videos lately get stuck around 1k views after 3-4 days and then just trickle in 3-5 views/day.
However, guess what, my last 2 videos didn't get that same random blessing from the YT algorithm. And then guess what else? That mini-viral video is now clearly dying down as YT is recommending it to less and less people and I suspect that it won't even surpass 5k views by the end of this month (about 10 more days). So, what now, huh?

Back to my first and only plan. I bet and bank on the compound effect of each video bringing in 5-10 views from search and then those videos bringing the viewers into my other videos on the channel. Even if every one of my videos were to pull just 5 views from YT search, that's still 370 views a day at the moment of writing this "guide" or whatever it is you want to call, and then those views basically get doubled in my case, because every person watches roughly 2 videos every time they click on any of my videos in search results.

For the record, my 2nd and 3rd video on the channel pull around ~150 views from YT search every day. I literally made multiple glaring factual mistakes in my first video, forcing me to immediately make a fixed version of the build the day after. So, even the content quality itself is questionable at best in those 2 videos, lol. I did make quite a bit an effort in both cases and made sure to clear any confusion in the comment section, so I guess that counts for something.
Both of those videos get clicked on in the search all the time, they get watched by real people, commented on, I get subscribers from them all the time and people even told me they pledged on my Patreon to download the files and notes for that specific character concept.

MONETIZATION
Back in December 2018, I finally decided to start monetizing. I didn't want to do ads because I hate having to skip them myself (especially those midrolls - screw midrolls!) when I'm watching YT and I guess a lot of other people do. So I thought, "Heck, if somebody is willing to pay for the convenience of downloading the materials I show for free in my videos instead of listening to me reading and rambling about them on and on until forever, here, it's $10/month" and it kind of paid off.

Now, I'm still questioning whether starting Patreon before I had even 1,000 subscribers was a good idea growth-wise. However, back then, I was in a terrible financial situation. I'd still be if I stop taking in new Patreon pledges. This is why I just had to pull the trigger, start pushing Patreon and hope for the best. It fluctuates a lot and there's a bit of a downtrend atm. Old patrons started leaving faster than the new ones are coming in. However, I'll have 2 discount promotions for Black Friday and Chrismas/New Year, so I hope it might finally break the $500/month mark.

I also finally monetized my channel with ads 3 days ago. I was triggered by the change to YT ToS claiming they reserve the right to stop providing their Service to you for not being "commercially viable". While I suspect this to be double-speak covering the real reasons for deleting channels - "ideologically incompatible with our radically left view of the world" - the literal meaning of the phrase "commercially viable" means "bringing in enough dough". That's the way I see it. In the end, better safe than sorry, I guess.
So, in the last 4 days, I made $12 and some change from ads. Let's say that's $3/day to keep it simple. That's another ~$100/month in my pocket. Not much, but certainly brings me one more step closer to complete financial stability.

I have an idea of starting Fiverr again. Even though they take 20% cut, the interface is nice, sleek and easy and I don't have to worry about setting up my own website with payment gateways, membership systems, carts and all that nonsense. I'll probably offer my viewers the option of paying me $5 or more to make them custom characters for their games. Want a level 3 Barbarian for your new campaign? No problem, I'll do it for you, but it ain't free - it ain't expensive either!

Affiliate marketing is another thing I haven't yet even begun to try and implement into my channel - I can sell polyhedral dice, rulebooks through Amazon, miniatures, all sorts of accessories that offer affiliate comissions.

There are ways to monetize outside of just YT ads. See what other channels in your niche do and figure out what works best for you based on that data.

And let me tell you one last thing, money can't buy happiness, but it can certainly bring the stress levels down and put you in a position where you don't have to worry about paying your god damn bills on time every month. And that makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to crank out new YT videos.

CONCLUSION
And that's where I am at the moment. The channel is growing on its own, I'm releasing new videos as often as possible. There are many areas I know I can and have to improve. Both myself as a person and then the channel as a result. Some of those areas I still don't have a clear idea in terms of how to tackle and modify in a way to get better results than I'm getting so far. But, I started experimenting, changing, modifying and adapting and I feel like I'll figure it out eventually. One problem, one issue at a time.

And that's something you as small YouTuber will just have to deal with as well. This journey is never really done. You get to a point you so desperately desire and dream of only to ask yourself "Heck, now what?". That's legit what happened to me when Patreon income finally put me in a semi-sustainable, albeit still a bit stressful financial position. Now I'm thinking that this current state clearly is not enough and this is not the end. I want to grow more and I want to expand into other areas, potentially capturing a wider subset of the main sub-niche.

Heck, I want to make my own tabletop fantasy/sci-fi roleplaying game one day. I dreamed of making some type of game for almost 2 decades - video, tabletop, board, whatever. And if my channel grows to a point where I can say "this is enough now", I can go ahead and leverage its size and audience to maybe get some Kickstarter campaign going or who knows what might pop up in a few years. I have hopes, I feel like this is still only the beginning of something else, something bigger, better.

Unless this COPPA/FTC mess screws us all. Let's pray it doesn't.

Anyway, I hope this info dump helped you at least a little bit.
May your hopes and dreams all come true - good luck on your journey!
 
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John Frazer

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Brilliant guide, thanks for sharing, and congratulations on your channel's success so far.

Great takeaway about niches, and interesting that your average videos are 1-2 hours long!
 
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All right, I tend to write long walls of text, but I'll TRY to keep this as short as I can without omitting anything I deem important. I'll probably fail, so I'm sorry in advance.

I don't and won't claim to be successful on YouTube. In fact, my channel's growth rate has plateaued for quite a while, largely due to my own horribly inconsistent and chronically depressed, self-sabotaging a**. But, I've been bouncing between 20-30k monthly views and 150-200 new monthly subscribers for more than half a year at this point. Here are my Socialblade stats:

PRIOR RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
Freelance writing/copywriting; a mix of semi-relevant skills such as Wordpress, Photoshop, Sony Vegas, web design, coding/programming, server administration, SEO (Google), social media marketing etc.; several failed online side-hustles and mini-projects, including a few abandoned YT channels that never reached even 100 subscribers.
The most I ever made online in 1 month was around $2000 and it was back in 2011/2012 on Fiverr. So, I knew I had it in me to pull myself out of a bad spot, all I had to do was dig my heels in deep and keep grinding no matter what.

NICHE SELECTION
Super mega uber critically crucially important. This will make or break your YT journey from the getgo in my opinion.

If you pick a niche with 3 people in it and make good quality videos for them, you will get 3 subscribers and 3 views per video, guaranteed. If that's something you want, you can stop reading this wall of text right now, go make a few videos and send those 3 people emails with links to those videos. You've succeeded at capturing 100% of your target audience.

However, if you pick a too broad/general niche like "fitness" or "weight loss", your potential audience will be in the tens, hundreds of millions, but you'll compete with tens of thousands, heck, millions of channels out there.

Obviously, you need something in between those 2 ends of the spectrum. But what exactly?
Tough to pinpoint, but here's how I ultimately decided what mine will be.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons 5e roughly 3 years ago. Got super obsessed with it as I'm a chronic escapist addicted to video games, movies, TV shows etc. I spent days, weeks, months losing myself in rulebooks, creating my own characters and reading about lore of various fantasy worlds. I've discovered the hobby was and is still growing rapidly - more and more people are playing D&D every day.

I was subscribed to some D&D YT channels for a while and I watched their videos both because I was interested in their content as a consumer, but also because I already had the idea in my mind.

"I could do this too...", I thought.

After a while, I figured I have a good shot if I go for a mini-niche within my sub-niche. I decided to start making videos for a group of people interested in deep, detailed power-builds, character optimization & theory-crafting. Turns out, my hunch, prediction and ultimately a bet I placed on myself was correct for the most part.

Now, there were channels out there already doing it, so I knew I'll still have competition. However, it's easier to compete with a handful of channels instead of hundreds, thousands or even millions of others.
One more thing - nobody was doing it exactly how I envisioned my videos to be. I come up with these often convoluted imaginary scenarios and intro stories that involve these fantasy characters doing something, usually fighting monsters. A lot of people have commented they specifically come back and subscribe because they like those short intro stories and scenarios.

See, you need to come up with a twist, you need to differentiate yourself in some way. I can't tell you how exactly to do it for your channel, because every niche and every audience is different, but you absolutely HAVE TO figure this out before you begin.
Don't be too different though, be similar just enough that there is some form of familiarity and association, where you can attract some of the already established audience watching similar videos. But, make sure you clearly stand out from everybody else too - you'll get noticed easier and some people will flock to your videos and your style immediately. This will spark that initial growth and keep you moving forward.

Now, there's no guarantee and I'd never dare guarantee anything when it comes to YouTube, but if you do things this way, you will most likely experience slow, but steady growth, compared to little or no growth that you might be experiencing right now. And some growth, even slow one, is better than no growth, always.

In 2020 and beyond, I think this approach will give you the best odds of reaching 100, 500, 1000 or more subscribers and a consistent amount of new daily views. That's all you need to break away from the zero-crowd and, depending on your niche, make decent money in the process.

WHAT/WHO TRIGGERED ME?
Alex Becker's channel. I'm still subscribed to him, but he's on some weird, mental bend these days and I don't watch him any more. A year and a half ago he was releasing a series of useful videos with practical, actionable info about most of the stuff I'm sharing in this post. I'll leave a link to his channel because he IS the reason I started in the first place: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKQvGU-qtjEthINeViNbn6A

TOPICS
I still barely do any conventional market research for my videos. I'm an active participant in the hobby and I know most/all of the character concepts and combos by just talking with my friends and other people who play the game. I then take these concepts and cover them in my own way. I often introduce my own little twists to further differentiate myself from competitors covering those similar concepts.

Go for topics you know are either evergreen or trendy in your niche and the ones you know will get searched on YT. How do you check whether people search for it on YT? Simple. For example, I have an idea in my mind and just start typing something relevant to my mini-niche like "druid barbarian optimized build 5e" into YT search bar to see if any suggestions pop up. If they do, I'm making the video on it.

Now, you can use Tubebuddy, VidIQ or other tools to really nail down the topics that will give you the most traffic. For me, I often enjoy making a video about something that I'm currently interested in/excited about instead of always chasing the most market-friendly topic.

As s result, some of my videos don't get as much traffic as others. But I also have more variety on my channel and people often watch, like and comment on those videos too when the videos that DO get more search/passive traffic lead them to my channel pages.

Moving forward, I will gradually start focusing on more market-friendly topics because I've already covered most of the topics I was interested in myself, as a player. I believe this will ultimately speed up my growth and allow me to break through the plateau. Time will certainly tell...

You will most certainly be arriving at these "crossroads" as well if you take action and start pumping out video after video. My advice? Just keep pumping out content - even low/no view videos will turn into medium/low view videos eventually. Keep cranking.

VIDEO & CONTENT QUALITY
Your first few videos will most likely be horrible. But if you make a right niche and topics choice and provide good, solid, quality content, the worst thing that will happen is that the bad quality of your videos (not the content, the videos themselves) will slow down your growth. It most definitely does not stop it.

My channel is the living proof. Seriously, just go and check out how badly, sloppily produced my videos are, even to this very day:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpScX_SSuGzqZxHUefh1GbA/videos - just check out the first video lol. It's so bad :giggle:

I made some improvements, but when faced with the choice of:
1) spending hours and hours meticulously and strenuously editing, perfecting, cutting out, recording again, mixing, matching etc.
2) just getting it done as painlessly and quickly as possible to save willpower, time and energy and start working on a new video

I always picked the second option from the very first video - new, bad-looking, but good quality content right now is better than new, "perfect" looking, same good quality content tomorrow. Keep the ball rolling.

Would my channel grow faster and have more views if I released 74 perfectly produced videos? Yes, no question about it. Would I realistically release 74 perfectly produced videos considering the turbulent mental, psychological, emotional and financial state I was in and still am dealing with? I know myself and my demons too well, so most likely no.

So I just decided to compromise and release badly produced videos. Editing, bitrate, formats, audio quality, even showing/not showing your face on camera (I only showed my face once in a livestream) and all the other stuff I care very little about? None of that mattered on my road to where I'm at right now. If your goal is to simply start making videos and move away from those dreaded zeros to get somewhere instead of going nowhere, don't spend too much time worrying about the production quality of your videos and all the other pointless little stuff. It's the good old Pareto principle. 20% of your work produces 80% of the results and the other 80% of your work produces only 20% of the results. Percentages vary, of course, but the principle stands.

The only thing that mattered and still matters is the fact that I have only 74 videos on my channel. If I had 74 more videos on my channel, I'd still need 74 more videos on my channel. More is better, especially when you're just starting out and nobody knows about your channel.

Now, don't get it twisted though - I spend days, weeks, heck, months thinking about, working on and preparing the actual content which I talk about in the videos. That's the part you can't really afford compromising on. You absolutely NEED content that will educate and/or entertain your audience. Without it, don't even bother. The more time you spend making sure the content you deliver is solid, the better your odds of turning those 1st-time visitors into subscribers and fans. However, don't overthink it too much. I'm the first one who gets stuck in analysis-paralysis and long periods of procrastination. Resist your temptations the best you can - I and my channel always regret and suffer when I take too long of a break in between new uploads.

Also, make sure you always invite the viewers to like, share, comment, subscribe and click the notification bell icon. I sometimes forget to do it, but I usually call for those actions early into the video and right at the end, sometimes even in the middle of the video. I don't have the stats to prove it works so I guess I'm just talking out of my bum-hole, but well, my videos are getting interacted with all the time, so it has to be a contributing factor, at least a little bit.

COMMUNITY
Try and participate in the YT community within your niche. At the very least, make it a priority to reply to every comment YOUR videos get. I don't personally go out and leave comments on other channels in my niche all that often to be honest, but maybe if I did, I'd get even more exposure, who knows.

However, even today, at 2.8k subs and 1k views/day, I make it a point to interact with my audience. Those are people that go out of their way to leave feedback, want some advice and/or ask questions. Not every one of your replies will convert into a visitor that constantly returns to your videos. However, I can tell you from personal experience, I've fostered a lot of connections just by responding to people's comments on my videos.

I don't reply to every comment these days, especially when you get those "First", "Nice video!" or other comments that don't particularly add to the discussion or that I just don't have anything clever/interesting to reply with. Still, I usually click that heart icon, which sends those commenters a notification that I "super liked" their comment or whatever YT calls that thing these days.

Do that and I guarantee you there will be people who return back to your newest videos just because you took a bit of your own time to respond to their comment.
If you don't believe me, just check out my latest videos and you'll see the same names repeating over and over again throughout the comment sections

Connect with people, foster your community.

VIEWS & TRAFFIC
I've done zero manual promotion. Practically all my views and growth have been through YouTube and only a fraction comes from Google search and people sharing my videos with their friends or private online communities. Most of the traffic still comes from YT search engine. Doing YT SEO isn't that hard when you're operating in a mini/micro-niche with only a handful of competitors. There are guides here and even on YT going in detail about how to do it. Heck, just go watch some of the older Alex Becker's videos and you'll know everything you need to start growing your channel in this way. That's how I started after all.

Look, to be perfectly honest with you, I don't even have to compete sometimes. Every now and then I make a video about a topic nobody else has covered. And even if that video generates 1 view/day on its own, it's honestly worth the effort. The compound effect gets the snowball rolling slowly, but steadily and then it just keeps going on its own. I've had an almost 3-month break this year - not a single video uploaded during that time. The channel's traffic dropped. I expected it to. But, check my socialblade stats. You'll see a slight dip, but not nearly as much as I feared it might happen. I've heard somewhere that search traffic is only roughly 30% of total traffic on YT, but in a sub-niche like mine that constantly has new people coming in, it just never stops trickling in.

What matters? Content. What does good content provide? Good stats. Here's a screenshot of my stats:

Titles, descriptions & tags always mattered and will always matter. Include keywords you want to rank for in search results in all 3 of those, but try to make it clickbaity/enticing to actual human beings. It's often a struggle to do it right, but it's doable in most cases.

Click-through rate or CTR keeps you ranking high. If your videos aren't getting clicked on in search results, you'll get kicked out of top 3-5 spots. My ugly thumbnails and long titles are getting average CTR, but average is good if you ask me.

Average view duration matters too. If your videos are getting watched for only 3 seconds, that signals YT that it's not interesting to people and that will cause you to lose positions in SERPS. Heck, YT might even think you're botting. That number is never too high, you can always make it bigger and that will be better for your channel's growth.

Audience retention has been something that I've personally struggled with since the very beginning. It might just be because my production quality is trash but you can't get everything right at the same time.
My average view duration of 5 minutes 44 seconds would be awesome if my videos lasted 6 minutes. But my videos are usually 1-2 hours long. That means people watch only around 10% of the entirety of my videos. That's bad. Really bad. You need to try and increase that all the way up to 100%. I know, impossible, but you have to keep trying.

How exactly? Well, I can't tell you for sure because I'm clearly failing at that particular statistic, but my last 2 videos got to 25% instead of the usual 10%.They cover the currently hot/trending topic in the wider D&D 5e sub-niche. For the first time, I included an overlay text at the very beginning of the video instructing my viewers to skip the intro stuff that I usually spend a few minutes on at the beginning of each video (patron shoutouts, quick announcements etc). Not sure how much these 2 factors affected my retention and view time, but I suspect it might have increased both numbers. I'll keep experimenting, modifying, trying new things.
Heck, I might just radically cut the video lengths in the future to try and artificially increase this number. You have to make videos for the algorithm as much as you have to make them for people. It's a sad reality, but it's the reality, and I'm giving you large doses of it, with all the good and bad.

Channel page & playlists might seem like a waste of time, but if you check my stats screenshot, you will see that a considerable chunk of my views comes from people who just browse my channel page, Videos tab and queue my playlists and leave them running. I don't know for sure, but I feel like some people watching my playlists probably fall asleep half-way through all those hour-long videos lol. :giggle:

Don't hope and rely on viral effects. Those CAN happen, not gonna lie. I've recently, for the first time ever on this channel and in my life, had the video go mini-viral as YT kept recommending it on Homepage, getting more than 4.5k views in just 10 days. That was nice and cool, as most of my videos lately get stuck around 1k views after 3-4 days and then just trickle in 3-5 views/day.
However, guess what, my last 2 videos didn't get that same random blessing from the YT algorithm. And then guess what else? That mini-viral video is now clearly dying down as YT is recommending it to less and less people and I suspect that it won't even surpass 5k views by the end of this month (about 10 more days). So, what now, huh?

Back to my first and only plan. I bet and bank on the compound effect of each video bringing in 5-10 views from search and then those videos bringing the viewers into my other videos on the channel. Even if every one of my videos were to pull just 5 views from YT search, that's still 370 views a day at the moment of writing this "guide" or whatever it is you want to call, and then those views basically get doubled in my case, because every person watches roughly 2 videos every time they click on any of my videos in search results.

For the record, my 2nd and 3rd video on the channel pull around ~150 views from YT search every day. I literally made multiple glaring factual mistakes in my first video, forcing me to immediately make a fixed version of the build the day after. So, even the content quality itself is questionable at best in those 2 videos, lol. I did make quite a bit an effort in both cases and made sure to clear any confusion in the comment section, so I guess that counts for something.
Both of those videos get clicked on in the search all the time, they get watched by real people, commented on, I get subscribers from them all the time and people even told me they pledged on my Patreon to download the files and notes for that specific character concept.

MONETIZATION
Back in December 2018, I finally decided to start monetizing. I didn't want to do ads because I hate having to skip them myself (especially those midrolls - screw midrolls!) when I'm watching YT and I guess a lot of other people do. So I thought, "Heck, if somebody is willing to pay for the convenience of downloading the materials I show for free in my videos instead of listening to me reading and rambling about them on and on until forever, here, it's $10/month" and it kind of paid off.

Now, I'm still questioning whether starting Patreon before I had even 1,000 subscribers was a good idea growth-wise. However, back then, I was in a terrible financial situation. I'd still be if I stop taking in new Patreon pledges. This is why I just had to pull the trigger, start pushing Patreon and hope for the best. Here's the link: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=15605477 - it fluctuates a lot and there's a bit of a downtrend atm. Old patrons started leaving faster than the new ones are coming in. However, I'll have 2 discount promotions for Black Friday and Chrismas/New Year, so I hope it might finally break the $500/month mark.

I also finally monetized my channel with ads 3 days ago. I was triggered by the change to YT ToS claiming they reserve the right to stop providing their Service to you for not being "commercially viable". While I suspect this to be double-speak covering the real reasons for deleting channels - "ideologically incompatible with our radically left view of the world" - the literal meaning of the phrase "commercially viable" means "bringing in enough dough". That's the way I see it. In the end, better safe than sorry, I guess.
So, in the last 4 days, I made $12 and some change from ads. Let's say that's $3/day to keep it simple. That's another ~$100/month in my pocket. Not much, but certainly brings me one more step closer to complete financial stability.

I have an idea of starting Fiverr again. Even though they take 20% cut, the interface is nice, sleek and easy and I don't have to worry about setting up my own website with payment gateways, membership systems, carts and all that nonsense. I'll probably offer my viewers the option of paying me $5 or more to make them custom characters for their games. Want a level 3 Barbarian for your new campaign? No problem, I'll do it for you, but it ain't free - it ain't expensive either!

Affiliate marketing is another thing I haven't yet even begun to try and implement into my channel - I can sell polyhedral dice, rulebooks through Amazon, miniatures, all sorts of accessories that offer affiliate comissions.

There are ways to monetize outside of just YT ads. See what other channels in your niche do and figure out what works best for you based on that data.

And let me tell you one last thing, money can't buy happiness, but it can certainly bring the stress levels down and put you in a position where you don't have to worry about paying your god damn bills on time every month. And that makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to crank out new YT videos.

CONCLUSION
And that's where I am at the moment. The channel is growing on its own, I'm releasing new videos as often as possible. There are many areas I know I can and have to improve. Both myself as a person and then the channel as a result. Some of those areas I still don't have a clear idea in terms of how to tackle and modify in a way to get better results than I'm getting so far. But, I started experimenting, changing, modifying and adapting and I feel like I'll figure it out eventually. One problem, one issue at a time.

And that's something you as small YouTuber will just have to deal with as well. This journey is never really done. You get to a point you so desperately desire and dream of only to ask yourself "Heck, now what?". That's legit what happened to me when Patreon income finally put me in a semi-sustainable, albeit still a bit stressful financial position. Now I'm thinking that this current state clearly is not enough and this is not the end. I want to grow more and I want to expand into other areas, potentially capturing a wider subset of the main sub-niche.

Heck, I want to make my own tabletop fantasy/sci-fi roleplaying game one day. I dreamed of making some type of game for almost 2 decades - video, tabletop, board, whatever. And if my channel grows to a point where I can say "this is enough now", I can go ahead and leverage its size and audience to maybe get some Kickstarter campaign going or who knows what might pop up in a few years. I have hopes, I feel like this is still only the beginning of something else, something bigger, better.

Unless this COPPA/FTC mess screws us all. Let's pray it doesn't.

Anyway, I hope this info dump helped you at least a little bit.
May your hopes and dreams all come true - good luck on your journey!
In deep dark forest, no one will find you, even if it one, even if he want. You can't get through this, 'cause it deep dark forest.-)
 
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Min/Max Munchking

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Brilliant guide, thanks for sharing, and congratulations on your channel's success so far.

Great takeaway about niches, and interesting that your average videos are 1-2 hours long!
The length of the videos is contentious for sure and I think in the long run it probably hurts the channel growth more than it helps, despite some people commenting how they love the fact I go way too deep into the nitty-gritty of my character concepts.

I can't know for sure because there are many factors in play here. The fact my 2nd and 3rd video get the most views from search might just be because those search terms get the most traffic. But it also might be because those 2 videos are much shorter than most of the other ones on my channel. YouTube algorithm certainly takes all those parameters into account.

On the other hand, I know for damn sure some of my really, really long videos resulted in new pledges on Patreon, so it all boils down to that fickle balance between making videos for the YT algorithm and making videos for humans.

That's something every YouTuber has to figure out for him/herself because I don't believe there is the "best way" to do it that works for every single channel.
 
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