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How I Got Half a Million Subscribers on YouTube (And What I Learned From That)

I remember it like it was yesterday: celebrating 100 subscribers on YouTube. At the time, it was a big deal. Today I have more than 500,000 subscribers over four YouTube channels. They are two gaming channels (mxdeegan237, thedeegan), one music channel (MxDsound) and one educational channel (inteligência irracional). When I started making videos for YouTube, there was no established community around the platform. People would mostly use YouTube as an upload platform so they could embed their videos on websites or blogs. Most people didn’t even know you could subscribe to channels. Obviously, a lot has changed since then, and I was privileged enough to learn how to make a channel work as the platform evolved. I’m here to share with you what I learned from that experience, and to advise on how to increase your subscribers on YouTube.

Now, there are more complex business operations running YouTube channels that involve staff such as editors, strategists, designers etc. Though some of the same points are shared, we’ll be looking at a simpler and more common model, the lone YouTuber.

How Did I Grow From 0 Subscribers?

One of the most common questions I get through social media is: “How do I grow my channel from 0 subscribers?” I notice that people want me to give them a simple magical answer as if they’ll achieve success with the flip of a switch. I don’t even have to tell you doesn’t work like that, right? But I can give you advice on how to grow a small YouTube channel from the beginning.

Back when I started making videos, it was even harder to grow from 0 subscribers, because as I mentioned, people were not used to subscribing to channels. Creators didn’t have anyone managing their channels like they do today. I started by posting every one of my videos on Xbox forums, and that got me my first 50 subscribers. I was pumped! That was awesome for me, to know that 50 people wanted to watch my videos, wanted to hear what I have to say. After that, I sent my videos to a specialized blog and they were published. That alone got me to around 300 subscribers and from that point on, everything started growing organically.

Here is how you can grow your channel from scratch:

  • Be active in the community
  • Comment on other people’s videos
  • Subscribe to other channels
  • Share people’s videos
  • Collaborate with other YouTubers, with a similar mindset
  • Learn how to be good at a range of tasks, from editing to social media

YouTube works like a social network: people see your activity and want to engage with you. These tips are especially effective for smaller channels, making creators/other viewers more likely to notice you.

 

Collaboration Is Key

As I was developing the video for the blog I mentioned above, a fellow YouTuber (who had a similar subscriber count) reached out to me and asked for a collab video. This was huge for my channel: not only was I establishing my first real colleague relationship on YouTube, but we were also making each other known to our subscribers. It meant more subs for both of us.

I hear a lot of complaints from YouTube creators about how their channels won’t take off because no one will give them a shout-out. But a shout-out is not a magic bullet. There are countless examples of channels that gained a lot of publicity that way and generated major growth in views, but a couple of months later the channel would be dead.

A shout-out works, but only if you keep putting in a lot of effort into your channel. You must consistently present the quality content that your new viewers expect. A very good strategy is to make regular collab videos with channels around your size and with the same goals and establish a long-term partnership.

 

YouTube Is Not Easy

Today it’s understood that you can have a successful career as a content creator on YouTube. But back when I started, when I told people what I did for living they looked at me like I was some kind of bon vivant living at the expense of someone else. Little did they know, I was already making more money than all my classmates from my economics degree.  Now, thinking about it, that only made me want to succeed more.

Having a job as a YouTuber has very specific qualities that differ from most other jobs. You have to be good at everything. If you work as a mergers and acquisitions analyst (which was my previous job), you get all the macroeconomics data from another department, the model used in evaluations was developed by someone else, and the final word about closing a deal or not belongs to the management. On YouTube, you are responsible for every part of your business. You need to know everything about the platform, how to edit video, audio, images for thumbnails, how to manage social media, close deals with advertisers, be creative, and on top of that, be a good communicator.

Not only that, but you have to know how to do all of these tasks well. You can be the best video editor in the world, but if you are a poor communicator no one is going to watch your video. Similarly, you can be the best communicator out there but if your audio is horrible and people can’t understand you, no one is going to watch your video or subscribe to your channel.

Working on YouTube is not easy (contrary to what many people think) and can be stressful.  It takes a lot of effort and dedication but it’s worth it and once you get the hang of it, there isn’t anything like it.

Eric Hamers is Head of Brazil for Brazucas, a Bent Pixels Community, and Bent Pixels Select (Brazil).

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