How To Start a Viral YouTube Channel

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

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of things that go into becoming a YouTuber

A new YouTuber is a solopreneur – he has to do everything himself for his new online business.

That’s right – YouTube is a business. 

In order to succeed you have to learn the right script structure, get comfortable speaking in front of a mic or camera, get thumbnails right, film, edit, do SEO, and many more things all on your own.

And with so many things to learn and get right, there’s a high chance that a beginner will do a lot of them wrong.

That’s why in this article I want to go over how to start a viral YouTube channel from scratch so you can avoid the mistakes I made at the beginning of my YouTube journey

1. Pick a niche

There are many things to consider when trying to pick a niche for a new YouTube channel:

What do you enjoy? 

YouTube channel analytics

Since YouTube is a long-term game if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing you’ll always lose against the person who loves what he’s doing

In order to be successful you have to either be talented (which most of us are not) or do something for such an unreasonable amount of time that the competition simply disappears. 

“Being consistently good is better than being occasionally great”.

Is there already a demand for the topic?

How o check demand for a niche on YouTube

You can easily find if your niche has a lot of demand by entering your topic’s name into Google Trends.

Alternatively, you can you VidIQ which will show you how many people search a specific topic or keyword every single month and how much competition there is.

I recommend checking out this list of the best keyword research tools for YouTube.

They will help you assess the competition of each niche and keyword.

Long term consistency trumps short term intensity

What are your unfair advantages? 

Ali Abdaal unfair advantages thumbnail

What things make you stand out from the rest in your niche?

These don’t have to be extraordinary things

It could be having really good English skills, knowing how to play chess, having digital marketing skills, knowing how to code, how to paint, how to edit video, and many more little things. 

On their own, these skills are nothing special, but when they supplement each other is when you become so good that they can’t ignore you.

Once you know what your unfair advantages are, you can try to combine them and thus find your YouTube niche that way

“You have to lean into your unfair advantages” – Ali Abdaal

P.S. I also put together this Notion template which has everything I know about starting a YouTube channel from scratch:

Get a free Notion template with the tutorial for the game of YouTube

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⚙️ List of tools & gear for YouTubers

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💰 Detailed guide about finding your niche & making money

2. create Your channel

The next step after picking a niche is creating your YouTube channel:

Step 1:  on YouTube click on your Google account image and press create a channel

How to create a YouTube channel

Go to YouTube and then sign in with your Google account. 

Then, find your profile image at the top right of YouTube’s homepage and click on it. 

Then, press “Create a channel”.

Step 2: pick a channel name and upload a profile picture

Uploading a YouTube channel image and changing the channel's name

After the first step is complete, YouTube will ask you to come up with a channel name and upload your picture (you can skip this part if you like). 

Step 3: create a channel banner

YouTube banner

The next step is creating and uploading a simple YouTube banner and profile picture (if you haven’t done so already in the second step). 

This will make your channel seem more professional and appealing to new viewers.

Canva has many YouTube banner presets that you can for free use to create your first banner. 

Make sure that your YouTube banner is:

  • Easy to understand.
  • Clearly shows the viewer the niche that you’re in.

This is important because we don’t want to attract viewers that don’t actually belong to our niche because they will end up not watching our videos in the long run. 

This is bad because the YouTube algorithm will see this as a bad sign and stop recommending your content to those types of viewers anyway. 

And if your banner is misleading, then the viewers you actually want will not subscribe to your channel too.

That’s why the clarity of what your channel is about is very important in your YouTube banner.

3. Come up with a title & thumbnail that stands out


The most important things when trying to create a viral YouTube channel are your videos’ titles and thumbnails. 

With your thumbnail and title, you want to try to stand out amongst all the competition

Large channels have this part easy because their audience already knows what to expect from their videos.

So even if the title and thumbnail are not the best they will still click because they know that creator and what he delivers with his content. 

Here are 2 dedicated articles about everything you need to know about making viral YouTube thumbnails (just like Mr.Beast) and writing killer titles:

A new channel doesn’t have an audience so the thumbnail and title must be a “purple cow” and stand out amongst all the other YouTubers that are trying to stand out too.

Purple-cow thumbnail on YouTube

The best way to find out what other people have in their titles and thumbnails is to search for a topic through YouTube

YouTube will show you the best videos that are ranking for that keyword and you’ll be able to see what titles and thumbnails you’re trying to beat. 

In order not to struggle with video ideas every time you set out to make a new one, you can brainstorm 100 titles and safeguard them in a Google Doc or Apple Notes.

4. Write a script

MacBook's keyboard

First videos are never the best and usually end up not being seen by anyone.

To stand out with no skills you have to put in a lot of effort.

That’s why it’s best to script out your videos from the start. 

There are three levels of how scripted your video can be:

  1. No script. The no-script approach is usually very unlikely to work for most people, because if there’s no structure. If there is no structure, then it’s easy to go off on a tangent and talk for way too much about one point of the story. This makes the pacing of your YouTube video terrible. The viewer will find it hard to watch a video with bad pacing.
  2. Outline (bullet – points). The outline approach helps reduce the no-structure aspect of the script. But it still leaves the possibility of going off on a tangent on one of the points.  
  3. Full script. This approach lets you take your video into your own hands. If you write a full script for your video you can easily control the pacing, flow of information, humor, and everything else. This method is the best for new YouTubers who are trying to kick off their channels.

To a complete beginner, who has never made a video for YouTube I would recommend the full script approach.

Here’s a dedicated article about everything you need to know about writing a viral script for your YouTube video:

5. Record your video

iPhone 8 recording a video

You don’t need expensive YouTube gear to record your video. 

Audio quality and lightning are a lot more important than the camera you use.

The camera quality on most of the latest smartphones is more than enough for any YouTube video. 

It’s commonly said that audio is 50% of your video

If the person watching can’t hear what you’re saying clearly then your video will not do well. 

However, if the viewer sees bad visual quality but hears good audio, he’s likely to still keep watching.

A picture of a microphone

If the audio in your video sounds bad you can always record a voice-over.

Here are a few rules of thumb on how to talk to a microphone:

  • Keep the microphone roughly 15 centimeters away from your face (that’s the distance from your thumb to your pinky finger)
  •  Smile when talking – this makes your voice sound more consistent and high energy.
  •  Speak louder than you think is necessary – If you mumble your words and even you can’t hear what you’re saying then don’t think the microphone will.
  • Don’t rush and finish your sentences with the right intonation – The mistake of cutting off the ends of sentences usually happens when reading a script. Your eyes naturally wander toward the next sentence but forget to finish the last one with the right attention that it deserves
Window letting in light in a room

Good lighting is more important than your camera

When you record your video try facing the window.

That way your face will be lit up by natural light which looks good enough on camera if you don’t have expensive lighting equipment.

When recording your video position yourself in a way that your head is roughly 1/5 away from the top of the frame.

Your head shouldn’t be in the center of the frame. 

6. Edit the video

Here are a few editing tips to boost your video’s viewer retention:

1. Cut out silences in the audio

Leaving the silent parts of your audio will cause the viewers to skip forward or increase the playback speed of your video

Both of which are bad for the YouTube algorithm.

Removing sciences between words in voice-over

2. Use the Ken Burns effect

The Ken Burns effect is slowly zooming into a picture or a steady frame.

This creates the illusion of movement and entices the viewers to watch longer. 

Ken Burns video effect

3. Color code your footage

If you edit with Premiere Pro then you can color code the chapters of your video in the timeline. 

This works best with list-type videos like top 10’s.

Color coding your footage will allow you to see if any chapter is too long and if the pacing of your video is off

Premiere Pro timeline with B-roll

4. Take your time when editing

Don’t rush when you edit. Editing takes a long time and saving a few minutes by not making the video as good as possible might hurt you in the end

I think of every single video as an asset that can grow over time.

That’s why making it as good as possible in the start may pay bigger dividends later on.

I recommend checking out my guide on how to edit YouTube videos super fast here.

Woman stretching when editing

5. Cut out everything that doesn’t add to the story

We all have those favorite shots that took forever to film.

However, that shouldn’t cloud our judgment of whether to include them in the video or not.

If the footage doesn’t contribute to the overall flow and story of the video then there’s no reason to include it.

Cutting out footage in timeline in Premiere Pro

7. Publish your video with the right SEO

When you have a good thumbnail and your video recorded and edited you can upload it to YouTube. 

There are usually 2 types of videos that are uploaded to YouTube:

  1. Intended for search traffic – usually has searchable keywords in the title and the description. The title is straightforward and helps solve a viewer’s problem.
  2. Intended for browse traffic – usually have a catchy title and thumbnail that grab attention. Most people don’t search for this type of video through the search bar. 

Example of a searchable video:

YouTube search video

Example of a video for browse:

YouTube browse video

Some videos can be made for browse features at first but then changed to appear in search

For example, if you make a video about how to record a MacBook screen, at first it could be titled: “You won’t believe what I found a Mac can do”. 

But then as views die down the title could be reworded into “How to screen record on Mac”.

It’s more likely that more people search for “How to screen record on Mac” compared to the previous title that was intended for the YouTube Home page. 

VidIQ keyword competition score

There are many tools out there like Tubebuddy or VidIQ that let you find searchable keywords to put in your title or description.

Here’s a guide on how to do that:

8. Repeat Repeat Repeat

Consistency and patience are key success factors on YouTube.

Most famous creators today like MKBHD, Mrwhosetheboss, or Mr.Beast have uploaded their first 100 videos without getting anything in return

What they did is they made an incremental 1% improvement with every video that they published.

If you make a 1% improvement every day you’ll be 37,78 times better at the end of the year.

Knowledge compounds and growth is exponential, not linear.

That’s why it’s a good idea to expand your time horizon and play the long-term game with YouTube

You have to repeat the same process of making YouTube videos and make tiny adjustments with every video to make it as good as possible.

And if you stick with it for long enough, it’s unreasonable for you not to become a successful creator

9. Analyze other viral YouTube videos

The best way to improve on YouTube is to become an active viewer.

Make it an experiment to analyze yourself when you watch youtube as a content consumer:

Think about:

  • Why did you click on this video?
  • Why did you not click on a video?
  • Why did you quit mid-way through watching a video?
  • Why did you watch all the way to the end?
  • How did the YouTuber begin and end his video?
  • What clever words did he use in the title to hook you in?
  •  Which thumbnail stood out on the home screen?

You can ask these questions in your head as you use YouTube as a content consumer. 

Over time you’ll learn to transfer this knowledge to your own videos and make them better.

Was this guide on starting a YouTube channel useful?

The success of your videos on YouTube depends on only 2 factors – CTR and watch time

CTR (click-through rate) is based on your thumbnail and title and watch time is based on how good your content is. 

That’s why in order to make the best videos possible I encourage you to check out the following resources:

How To Get More Views On YouTube Shorts

How To Get 1000 Subscribers On YouTube

9 Best AI Tools For YouTubers (Make Videos 67.1% Faster With AI)

Thanks for reading 👋!

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