Starting a YouTube Channel in 2021: Brave or Bonkers?

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Let’s begin with some mind-numbing YouTube stats, to give this question some context (sources are linked below the post):
  • YouTube has over 2 billion monthly active users // Every day, people watch over a billion hours of video that generate billions of views // More than 500 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute. (Source: YouTube for Press)
  • As of 2020, there were more than 37 million YouTube channels. This number grew by 7 million (a growth of 23%) compared to 2019. (Source: Tubics)
  • As of November 2020, there were around: 700 channels with over 10 million subscribers // 22,000 channels with over 1 million subscribers // 230,000 channels with over 100,000 subscribers (an increase of 40% in channels of this size in 2020) // 12 million channels with between 100 to 1,000 subs // 20 million channels with between 10 to 100 subs // 96.6% of accounts with fewer than 10,000 subs // 84.2% of channels with fewer than 1,000 subs (Source: Tubics)
  • Channels with less than 10 subscribers are most often run by people hosting private videos. “Only YouTube knows how many of these channels exist…” but Tubics Co-founder Matthias Funk estimates there are at least 20 million channels with less than 10 subscribers (“Probably much more…”)
  • In an article first published in 2018, German researcher Mathias Bärtl managed to prove that “the vast majority (on average 85%) of all views goes to a small minority of 3% of all channels. The analytical results give evidence that older channels have a significantly higher probability to garner a large viewership, but also show that there has always been a small chance for young channels to become successful quickly, depending on whether they choose their genre wisely.” (Source: Mathias Bärtl)
  • The number of businesses using video as a marketing tool, overall, has increased from 61% to 86% since 2016 // 69% of non-video marketers say they expect to start using video as a marketing tool in 2021. (Source: Wyzowl)
If you read these stats, one thing is obvious: Competition for views on YouTube is as fierce as it gets, especially for beginners who have yet to qualify for monetization, because YouTube’s algorithm favours channels that have already achieved proven momentum and a lucrative following.

I have read about a million (so to speak) articles and watched a ton of videos on how to grow your YouTube channel from scratch and how to optimize and promote your videos and channel to fast-track that growth. But even if you follow all of the best advice out there, creating high-quality videos and getting them in front of as many eyeballs as possible is a time-consuming, slow-going and often-demoralizing task that’s not for the faint-hearted.
Sure, there’s always a chance that one (or more) of your first few videos might go viral and give your channel a serious boost, but you can’t predict or manufacture virality. All you can do is wish upon a star that the YouTube Fairy Godmother will sprinkle digital fairy dust on each new video you publish and turn it from a views-dud into the belle of the YouTube ball. But as most budding YouTube creators will attest, 99.9% of the time starting out on this monster of a platform is far from a fairy-tale.
YouTube’s Partner Program eligibility requirements for monetizing your channel are especially daunting (accumulating 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 valid public hours of watch time in a single year) and are enough to make many content creators reconsider the effort before they even start. These numbers may seem paltry to YouTubers who have already reached those milestones long ago, but if you’ve got zero subscribers and only a handful of videos in your channel, the thought of reaching those numbers can be debilitating. So much so, that when I first contemplated starting my own channel, I found myself paralyzed with fear, and employed stalling tactics that would put even the laziest sloth to shame.

But in the end, I took the leap and finally launched my channel just a few weeks ago. It’s 2021, after all, and video is king, having overtaken all other content formats.

According to Wyzowl, people are twice as likely to share video content with their friends than any other type of content, including social media posts, blog posts/articles and product pages. And, 85% of people would like to see more video from brands in 2021.

I’m a strong believer in being able to practice what you preach, so even in the face of an uphill battle that I’m sure will require a mammoth effort, I figured that as a marketer who’s already proficient in several content creation disciplines, I owe it to myself to see how I fare with video as well.

I have no idea what’s in store for my channel but I’m hopeful (as most YouTube newbies are) that it will eventually pick up steam, and that people who watch my videos will find them useful, because that’s the whole point.
As I contemplate the gargantuan challenges ahead, I wanted to write this post because it occurred to me that many of my industry colleagues may be at a similarly early stage of their YouTube journey, wondering if they’re completely bonkers for embarking on it at a time where there is already so much competition, and knowing what type of investment will be required for it to succeed, mostly in terms of energy and time. For me, there is a certain comfort in knowing there are others in the same boat as me, so in the spirit of camaraderie (yes we’re competitors, but with over 2 billion monthly users there’s plenty of viewers for all of us), I want to offer some encouragement to like-minded “nut jobs” with a fire in their belly.
Just be You
I’ve been following certain content creators on YouTube for as long as three (or more) years now. I remember when they ‘only’ had a few thousand subscribers, which was already impressive to me back then. I found their content consistently useful and their personality and delivery style resonated with me (as opposed to others I couldn’t stand watching) so I continued to watch them and they now have thriving businesses with hundreds of thousands of loyal YouTube followers. Their progress and achievements are inspiring, and a reminder that although everyone starts small, there is potential to grow if you stick with it and remain committed to delivering the best content you possibly can for your audience.
I have also observed that for many content creators on YouTube, growing ‘huge’ isn’t a prerequisite to achieving ‘success’ because even channels with a relatively small but super-engaged audience can be turned into stunningly profitable businesses. As it turns out, depending on what sort of content you produce and who your target audience is, you needn’t necessarily aim for hundreds and thousands of subscribers to become successful.
So, on that hopeful note, if you’ve been ‘on the fence’ about starting a YouTube channel because you’re not sure you’re up to the task, why not give it ago? Maybe you’ll suck at it, and maybe you’ll surprise yourself and discover you actually enjoy it. Either way, at least you’ll know for sure!

Wishing all my fellow ‘brave and bonkers’ content creators out there success on their YouTube journey 🙂
Sources:
Photo credit: Photo (of Noya Lizor) by Sharon Levin. All Rights Reserved.
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Noya Lizor - I'm all about creating standout content that helps businesses grow

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