It’s been a just over a year since I joined YouTube and as December is usually the time to reflect/plot/panic, I thought I’d blog about what I’ve learnt in my 12 months or so as a vlogger. (That’s vlogger, not v-logger…as I spent the first six months trying to point out to relatives).
A lovely thumbnail from my first ever vlog.
When I first started out, I wrote this post on the 16 things I’d learnt in my first six weeks of vlogging. I stand by a lot of what I said back then but there’s a world of difference between tinkering with video for six weeks and a full year, so here’s where I’m currently at it with it all…
1) I have enjoyed making videos and been happy with what I’ve published. I think this is really important as when you’re starting out and getting ridiculously low viewing figures you want to know that at least YOU are pleased with what you’ve cobbled together. And my parents seem to enjoy watching them too. If anyone needs two extremely loyal subscribers for guaranteed thumbs up duties, holler and I’ll send them your way.
2) It’s incredibly hard to film if you’re not in the mood. You can fake your way through a blog post – I’m writing this in a towel and my back feels like it might break in half at any moment – but it’s nigh on impossible to film a video and be smiley and happy if you’re not 100% feeling it. The main reason my video output decreased as the year went on was that I had stuff going on personally which distracted me from wanting to go into YouTube mode. The YouTubers who make multiple videos a week EVERY WEEK without fail are either much shinier/happier people than the rest of us or they’re just damn good professionals who can suck it up and get on with it. I suspect it’s the latter, given that they are of course human beings.
3) My respect for professional YouTubers has skyrocketed. I said this in my “learnings from six weeks of YT” post as well but I’ll say it again: YouTube is not easy. Creators with big followings can have bizarrely demanding viewers (I read the comments some people get, the entitlement can be staggering!) and to create consistently engaging videos on a wide range of themes with slick production values whilst still being relatable and seemingly available 24/7 on all other social platforms is not as easy as it looks. There’s a reason that only a handful of people make big bucks from YouTube and that’s because it’s not as simple as it appears. If it was, everyone would do it.
4) You get better with practice. I feel like I’ve found my groove with editing now: I know the type of music I like to use, I know the overall vibe I like my videos to have, I know what I do and don’t want to include. It all gets easier.
5) It’s hard not to get despondent about low viewing figures. My videos never do anywhere near as well my blog posts, but my videos take usually at LEAST three times longer to put together than a blog post. I’ve made 66 public videos and none have surpassed the views of my first one. Some of my best videos (in my humble opinion!) have less than 500 views. I don’t know what to do about that. What do I do about that?!
6) Instagram Stories has changed things. I don’t use Instagram Stories a lot, but my Stories always get at least 1200 views which is impressive given my relatively low follower count (6.5k). Given how exceptionally easy it is to use, it can be hard to find the motivation to carry a proper camera around and spend hours editing when I know that I’ll often get less views for my YouTube efforts than I do on Stories.
7) Haul videos are *a big thing*, but not for me. I watch the numbers people get on haul videos and do wonder if I should haul myself onto the haul express straight to The Great Hall of Hauling. The only problem is that I shop for myself very rarely, I don’t want to buy stuff/borrow stuff just for haul videos and I don’t actually feel all that comfortable with the whole concept of “LOOK AT ALL MY STUFF” as a popular video genre.
8) I really like food videos. I stopped making my monthly Food Favourite videos but I want to bring them back. They were fun to make and people liked them and I ruddy LOVED getting tweets and Insta DMs from people who had just tried – and subsequently fallen in love with – the profiteroles/teabags/cheeses that I’d recommended. I’d like to try some recipe type videos and “what I eat in a day” type videos next year too. I also have some ideas for product-led taste challenges and restaurant review type videos, but we’ll see!
9) Editing always takes longer than you think. ALWAYS.
10) Holding back content helps. If I am going to vlog something like a trip then I try to hold back on Instagramming/tweeting while I’m away because I’m aware people will then think there’s no reason to actually watch the video if they’ve seen it all over Insta/Twitter/FB already. Holding back is hard if you’re used to spamming all your social feeds but it’s for the best.
11) Private videos are great. Getting into YouTube and learning basic editing has meant that I’ve been able to make some BRILLIANT family videos. I have a whole secret stash of family-only vlogs from holidays and parties and they’re really lovely to have for the future.
12) Sponsored videos are much harder to put together than sponsored blog posts. I’ve only done two sponsored videos, but they were a learning curve. I’ve been in hundreds of branded videos over the years so I think I just assumed it would be easy to make my own, but it’s the approvals and re-editing that takes up so much time and I clearly hadn’t ever considered how much the agencies I used to work for were doing behind the scenes. “Can you just change this? And this? And this?” is easy when you’re talking about written words, but for video it’s a lot harder. (And I’ve learnt it’s important to factor this in when quoting fees, too!).
13) It’s easier if you know people who are happy to appear on camera. 99% of people I know IRL would rather chew bees than appear on YouTube, but at the same time I don’t want to befriend YouTubers just for views. So you’re pretty much stuck with me on my channel I’m afraid. Sorry!
14) I’m still not entirely sure how much I want to share. Sharing on camera always feels a lot more personal – to me, anyway – and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t amazed by just how personal some people get on their channels. I love the honest conversations that YouTube can foster, but I’m not sure I want to be the one with the camera in my face for certain topics of conversation.
15) I’m very aware of “showing off”. Maybe it’s because my friendship group are generally older and a lot of my IRL mates don’t *ever* watch YouTube, but I know that there’s a stereotype that all YouTubers are insufferable show-offs. You may be reading this right now thinking “EXACTLY POPPY! That’s why you joined YouTube, you ARE an insufferable show off” (ahem) but I really don’t think all YouTubers are like that and I watch so many channels from relatable, wonderful, funny women that couldn’t be less like the stereotype. I know I shouldn’t worry about what people who don’t watch YouTube think about YouTube but hey, it seems I do.
16) Once you’ve done a full year of vlogging, it can be hard to know whether to film the same types of videos again. This is my second Christmas on YouTube but I haven’t made any Christmassy vids this time around. I could have vlogged getting the tree and doing Christmas at Kew and all that, but I vlogged these things last year and I worry that it’s essentially refilming the same thing. I get like that with blog content too (lord knows I had to stop writing festival content each summer or risk my soul shredding like the inappropriate denim hot pants I was writing about) but with video it seems even more like covering the same ground sometimes. Maybe I just don’t do enough interesting things. Maybe I should buy new baubles every year.
17) I’m very tempted to toy with other ideas. Part of me really wants to set up a channel for children. I’m aware that if you don’t know me in real life then that may seem like a COMPLETELY bonkers out of the blue thing to suggest, but if you do know me “offline” it probably wouldn’t come as a surprise. I’d also like to experiment with fiction (as in scripted videos, not videos that don’t really exist) and maybe even some “funny videos”. I don’t know though, funny seems scary.
And that’s basically where my head is at with regards to all things YouTube!
Everyone’s experience on the platform is different of course and I can only speak for myself, but it’s been an interesting year of getting to know the ins and outs a bit better.
If you have ever watched one of my videos or subscribed to my channel, THANK YOU. Genuinely. Every view feels like a little hug when you’re a small time YouTuber and I really do appreciate it 🙂
Let’s see what 2017 brings eh?!