How To Build A Successful YouTube Channel

Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links that I get a kickback from.

Building a successful YouTube channel is not easy.

Most new YouTubers upload, upload, upload but the 100-view milestone is still out of reach.

Why is that? Is it normal?

It took me 1 year, 109 videos, and 11 shorts to get monetized, but now, 1.5 years later, my channel has grown to 32,000 subscribers and has over 17,000,000 views.

That’s crazy, most of the growth came in such a short amount of time.

So today I want to go over some tips on how to build a successful YouTube channel starting from scratch.

I’ll share lessons I wish I knew before starting my channel.

Let’s go.

1. Analytics don't matter at the start

YouTube looks at viewers’ watch history & other data to determine which videos are they most likely to watch.

But at the start, YouTube doesn’t know what your videos are about and what types of viewers like to watch the types of videos you’re creating.

So it tries showing them to a lot of different people.

YouTube Video Impressions

Once your channel grows YouTube will use the data that it’s gathered to recommend your videos to the types of people that watch your other videos.

But at the start, YouTube doesn’t have that data.

That’s why, at the start, your channel analytics can be very misleading and sometimes disappointing to look at.

For instance, until the YouTube algorithm finds the right audience for your first few videos, your CTR (click-through rate) might be very small. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that your thumbnail is bad.

2. Don't "niche" down if it'll make you quit

The most common advice for new YouTubers is to niche down.

And yes, finding your niche at the start can be a faster way to grow because your audience will know exactly what to expect from you.

However, over the long term, even the biggest creators on YouTube have pivoted their niche to something else.

At the end of the day, the goal is for your audience to want to watch because of you, not because of the thing that the video is about. The goal is to build a personal brand.  Then, no matter what you talk about in your videos your core fans will stick around because they just want to hear from you.

Look at how many types of different videos Ryan Higa, PewDiePie, KSI, Ali Abdaal & others have made over the years. Some are in completely different and unrelated niches.

The key is not to make sharp 90-degree turns but gentle swings when changing your niche.

Pivot slowly.

If you started off in the finance niche don’t turn to Minecraft speedruns. Change your niche to something that is at least somewhat related to your old niche.

If you want to change your niche into a completely unrelated topic, then it’s better to just start a new channel entirely.

3. Expect it to take 10x longer

The secret to overnight success is that there are no overnight successes.

When I first started my channel I set a goal to upload 1 video every 3 days.

I thought it was reasonable for this to happen in the first 1-2 months:

YouTube Channel Growth

But this happened 1 year and 3 months later.

My expectations were off by a whole year.

There’s this Hofstadter’s law that says a project will always take longer than you expect, even when the law is taken into account.

For example, the Sydney Opera House was completed 10 years later than originally planned and cost almost $100 million more than its first estimate of only $7 million.

Growth on YouTube is exponential.

That means that you don’t really see a lot of results early on.

But things are slowly compounding as you work on your skills and upload more videos.

Until one day it all pays off.

“If you can publish at least 1 video per week for 2 years I guarantee your life will change.” 

– Ali Abdaal

4. Learn from people who have Done It

Learning from other big YouTubers will save you a lot of time.

Instead of having to go through trial and error yourself, you can just shortcut your way to success by looking at what others are doing.

Pick 5 creators that you would love to be like.

And then go through their videos and look at what they’re doing. How do they start the video? What clever words do they use to keep you watching? How do they title their videos?

Analyze everything.

Even though it might seem hard and annoying to look at what other creators are doing when you’ve got your own channel to worry about it’s still a lot faster to grow this way instead of trying and failing yourself.

It’s just going to take shorter for you to grow if you do what already works.

Normally YouTubers create videos based on feelings but you really want to make decisions based on data and what did well in the past. 

5. Yoink And Twist

Ideas are important. But you don’t have to come up with them yourself.

Thousands, hundreds of thousands of creators have already tested ideas for you. You just have to find the ones that work.

I learned this from Ludwig, a massively popular streamer and YouTuber with over 5M views.

He says yoink and twist.

Take an idea that worked for someone else and add your own twist to it.

Look at other YouTube channels, see what recent videos were top performers for their channels, and add your own twist to them. Maybe combine two killer video ideas into one.

This is the best advice, especially for new channels. Copy what works. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

It takes the guesswork out of the equation.

You know that the idea will work because it worked for someone in the past and you can focus on execution.

6. Focus on videos that compound

Evergreen Videos On YouTube

At the start, having a YouTube channel is like having a one-person online business.

You have to do everything yourself, all the marketing, the video editing, the writing, the speaking, etc.

And if you’re making videos that can’t be watched 3 months, 2 years, or even 10 years later you’re running on a treadmill.

As soon as you stop, your channel will turn grey and the growth will slowly decline.

So focus on evergreen videos.

Trending content is great for fast growth now. But sustainability on YouTube is also making things that can be watched now, 10 years back, or 20 years into the future. Make more of that type of content.

By focusing on videos that are relevant forever you’ll slowly but surely build up a library of content.

Your videos by themselves will not bring explosive growth to your channel but your overall library of content will. Focus on building that.

7. Forget the short term

Focus on the long-term.

Most YouTube channels don’t become successful overnight.

Most new channels focus on the short term trying to get the views & make the YouTube money quick.

Doing that will lead you to make lower-quality videos which will result in your audience losing their trust and hinder the growth of your channel long-term.

Focus on making the best videos possible instead.

Go the extra mile.

Don’t be afraid to sacrifice one more hour of editing to cut out that one mistake or to fix the pacing of the video.

In the long run, these things add up and compound.

8. Learn to edit well

Editing is so important yet sometimes overlooked by beginner YouTubers.

Editing a video well can turn an average-performing video into a 1 out of 10.

But there’s a lot to it. Pacing, music, sound effects, your voice-over, b-roll…

I’ve put together a few beginner-friendly resources to help you learn the art of video editing:

  1. Top 5 Best Video Editing Courses Online
  2. How To Edit Videos FAST For YouTube – The Ultimate Guide
  3. How To Record & Edit A Voice-Over For YouTube Videos
I also have my YouTube Video Course where I’ve put everything I know about how to edit videos in Premiere Pro and grow a YouTube channel completely from scratch.

9. Shorts are easy views but...

YouTube Viral Shorts Views

I’ve been able to get a lot of views from Shorts.

Even made a free Skillshare course about how I did it.

However, they’re not so great at growing your channel overall.

Sure the subscriber count increases but viewers from Shorts rarely transfer over to your long-form content.

Even though on the surface it might feel that your channel is growing, the growth only comes as numbers on your subscriber count and doesn’t translate to views that are important long-term.

Shorts are a great way to get initial traction for your channel, maybe to get your first 1000 subscribers, but they’re like junk food. Tasty now but bad for you in the long term.

10. Thumbnails and titles are more important than you think

I knew the importance of having an intriguing thumbnail and a title that hooks viewers in when I was starting out.

But I still underestimated it.

“If people don’t click, they don’t watch”

– Mr.Beast

It sounds so simple but it’s true.

Coming back to my 5th point about yoinking and twisting video ideas to create your own, it also works with titles and thumbnails.

A few more things that you can do:

  1. Come up with a title and the thumbnail before making the video.
  2. If a video is underperforming, try changing up the title or the thumbnail (change only one of them at first to make sure that you know which one was the culprit).
  3. Make sure your title and thumbnail can be understood by people who are outside of your niche – simplify it.
  4. Make sure your title and thumbnail appeal to the largest possible audience (your grandma should be able to understand what the video is about).
  5. Deliver on the promise in the title and thumbnail immediately in your intro. The viewer is always looking for a reason to quit watching. Don’t give him that reason.

11. Mere exposure effect

The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.

That’s part of the reason why creators like MoistCr1TiKaL are able to get 3 million views on each video by uploading low-effort videos daily.

They’ve just been doing it so long enough that the mere exposure effect took over.

So sometimes the answer to success on YouTube is just to show up often and for a long time.

12. The hardest part on YouTube is letting people know that you even exist

I first heard about this from Veritasium who has a science education channel with more than 14 million subscribers.

While making videos for your existing audience is great, think about how could you make videos that your core audience enjoys but that can also attract more people like them.

This usually involves:

  • Covering broader topics
  • Making your thumbnails and titles easier to understand for people outside your niche
  • And most importantly just making better videos

12. Search traffic and SEO can only get you so far

Search traffic is generally good and brings in consistent views over time.

However, it’s only going to get you so far.

Most popular search terms like “how to make money online” or “how to take a screenshot” are so competitive that even big creators struggle to rank their videos for them.

Moreover, you will probably have to make hundreds of search-targeted videos for only a few to rank number 1 in YouTube Search results.

What’s a lot more powerful for channel growth are algorithm views – views from the YouTube homepage.

These grow your channel the most.

YouTube Algorithm Views

Viewers who search for something usually want to find a quick answer to their search query and that’s it. They don’t tend to stick around and see what other videos you have on your channel.

It’s nice to sprinkle some search-targeted videos and optimize them for SEO from time to time but other than that you’re better off focusing on optimizing your videos for the YouTube homepage. 

13. Viewers want to care about you, not the thing you're making the video about

This took me way too long to realize.

People are social creatures. They care about other people, they want to get to know you.

Make videos that show your personality. Be yourself, and you’ll attract people like you.

By trying to appeal to everyone you appeal to no one.

Showing no emotion, or personality, or not taking a stance in your videos is going to make them bland and just not interesting.

The more of you you put in your videos the more you’ll connect with your audience and the more your channel will grow.

14. Good audio is 80% of the video

Editing a YouTube video in Premiere Pro

People will sit through bad video quality but not bad audio quality.

Good audio is 80% of the video.

Learning how to make a clean voice-over, how to balance the sound of background music and sound effects, and which music to put in your videos is probably the most important skill to master at the start. 

This skill will singlehandedly take your video quality through the roof.

If you want to learn how to do this I have a 37-minute course about that on Skillshare. It’ll teach you how to make any amateur voice-over (even recorded on your phone) sound professional.

15. Give more than you promise


If you underdeliver your audience will lose trust in you and your viewership will slowly decline.

If not that, then it’ll severely hinder the growth of your channel.

Would you be more likely to be satisfied with a video that gave you more than it promised or that disappointed you and gave you less?


Put as much value in your video as possible, even if you don’t mention that value in the title or the thumbnail.

16. Quantity over quality at the start, then quality over quantity

When learning to make videos for YouTube it’s more than likely that you will be terrible at it in the beginning.

Just like everyone else. You have to pay your ignorance debt.

It’s not enough to be as good as everyone else. You have to be better in order to outgrow them.

And learning to make good videos, that your audience enjoys takes a lot of trial and error.

That’s why at the start it’s best to upload as many videos as you can.

Once you learn the ropes of YouTube you can release the quantity pedal and press down the quality pedal.

First, you learn with quantity, then you apply what you learned by obsessing over quality.

I also made a Notion template with everything I know about starting and growing a YouTube channel from scratch. You can grab it for yourself here.

Thanks for reading 👋.

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