Starting a YouTube Channel as a Software Developer

In this article, I want to highlight my experience in creating a YouTube channel from absolutely zero as a software developer about software development in 2019.
If you were always wondering how it is like to start your own channel or if you want to know what people are doing and feeling behind the scenes, or if you need a kick in the butt to stop procrastinating and set up your own channel – this is for you.

Please understand this article as an overview of the various things going on and to get a glimpse of the big picture. This article does not dive deep into how exactly things are done on a process level.
I might write something deeper about topics you want me to write more. Please leave a comment below this article.

The Channel Launch

Let’s begin with the obvious things first. I started my YouTube channel in December 2018, and I committed to uploading a video every 14 days on Fridays. Since I started on December 14th, I have released seven videos according to the schedule. I never missed a deadline.
I started with absolutely zero subscribers, zero watch minutes and every other YouTube related metric was a mere zero. I started with absolutely nothing.

Current Statistics

At the time of publication of this article, it’s been a few days more than three months since the journey began and my first video was uploaded. Let’s take a look at the current stats from March 17th, 2019.

I currently have 72 subscribers on my channel and my seven videos generated about 1670 views which resulted in around 5500 minutes of watch time. I have also had my video thumbnails shown 6560 times with a click-through rate average of 7.5%.

My Interpretation of These Numbers

To people less familiar with YouTube it means that my videos got watched more than 90 hours if all of the views were in a row on a single computer. It is a pretty impressive number if you have never created something like that and if you have just started your channel.
On the other hand, 72 subscribers do not look like much. Especially, compared to massively successful channels with thousands, or even millions of subscribers.
But first of all, I don’t have an entertainment channel which would attract a broader audience and second, I don’t have that many videos out there yet. More content attracts more viewers which will result in more subscribers.

The Goal

Why do I create videos? What motivates me and what is the goal? To be completely honest here: I like the idea of sharing knowledge on the Internet. When I was starting with software development, the free content on the Internet was much less, and the quality was not as good as it is today.
I like taking part in sharing knowledge which can other people help in their career, to find a job or to entertain them, if they like to watch me whatever I do in my videos.
In the long run, I want to build something on the side. I am working as a Software Engineer, and I like my job. I want to do this for a few more years for sure.
On the other hand, I always wanted to become more independent of a single source of income. My income also does not scale any further. I am in a lucky position where I have reached numbers which will not significantly increase further.
Creating something on my own allows me to go through the process of building up momentum and do what I like when I like, and how I want it to be done. I’m completely independent of any other opinion, and I have the opportunity to care about what’s important to me.
It also means that I can do as many failures as I want and I can change directions as much as I want them to change. The overall goal is to feel happy. I want to enjoy whatever my work is.

How to Gain Viewers?

As I outlined above, I start at 0. I do not have any mailing list or some other audience that is waiting for my content. I need to build everything from the ground up.
I have a blog where I write articles like this. I committed to writing an article every week in November 2018, and I still did not miss a deadline. If I upload a video, I try to write a related article on my blog so that I can link from my blog to my video.
Google likes videos that are linked to, and my content will not only be listed in the video search, but they also appear in the web search. Because my blog already has some credibility (after ten years of blogging). I sometimes rank for articles on Google within the first few pages.
I also have a Twitter account where I have about 500 followers. Not all of them are active, I doubt that all of them are real humans anyway – but it is the platform where I share my content. I try to use the appropriate hashtags, and sometimes I get lucky and get a few retweets on my shared content.
A bigger Twitter following would not hurt for sure – I’m working on it. If you want to stay up to date with my content, but also with content from the (.NET) developer community you should follow me.
The good news is: YouTube has a big audience. They’re not waiting for me, but at least there is an audience I can attract with my videos.

But What about the Money?

Sure, if it is possible to earn some money on the side to compensate for the hours I put into the project every week, I would not say no. But the reality is that it is hard to earn money with a YouTube channel. Let me explain a few things here.
First of all, YouTube does only monetize channels which go through a screening process. The goal is to monetize channels with high-quality videos, and YouTube wants to make sure that a channel fits their strategy in regards to their advertisement partners.
Long story short, you have to reach at least 1000 subscribers and at least 4000 hours watch time (240’000 minutes) during the last 12 months.
1000 subscribers is a big number, but you get there over time. The 4000 hours watch time within the last 365 days is a lot harder to reach. It means that your content has been watched close to 11 hours a day on average – every single day for more than a year.
Comparing my stats with the monetization guidelines, it means that I have 6.8% of the subscriptions required and about 2.25% of the necessary watch time. It took me three months to get those numbers which means that I’ll reach about 10% of the monetization requirements if my growth is linear until the end of 2019.
And if I reach the target numbers, it all just begins. There are no exact numbers, but it’s about 2-8$ per 1000 ad impressions which means that we talk about a few dollars <5$ per day. In short: You have to be very successful on YouTube and attract many more than “just” 1000 subscribers to accumulate a massive amount of view time if you want to make a substantial amount from a YouTube channel. Sponsorship Deals In my opinion, the most effective method to earn money for creating video content is through sponsorships. I believe it is not only the best option for creators but also for the partner. As a company willing to give money to get some exposure for a product, I want to get the right people to see my advertisements. There are Facebook ads or Google ads that can target a specific group of people. It’s one option to consider. Depending on the industry, cost varies. If you want to connect deeper with an existing audience and if you want to showcase more of your products than a video advertisement running for a few seconds which is clearly marked as an ad – and we all know that nobody loves to see ads when he/she wants to watch a specific video – there must be another option. And there is. By partnering with a YouTube channel, you gain access to a community of targeted people loving the content created by a person or a group of people. If you manage to use this relationship to showcase your product and if they care about the content created about the tool or platform you want to get exposure – you have a much better chance to get new customers than through ads. I don’t think that I need to mention it – but I do it anyway – my channel is too small to be attractive to potential sponsorships right now. But maybe this will change it the future? I’m working on it! The Preparation for the Launch Creating and publishing the first video was a lot more work than the 7 minutes 25-second long video lets you guess. I had to create a unique style of my thumbnails and slides; I had to install and get used to software such as screen recorder, voice recorder, video editing, audio editing, and image editing. I currently use the following software: Image editing: Adobe Photoshop CS6* Video editing: Adobe Premiere Pro CS6* Audio recording & editing: Audacity Screen recording: Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) *I have only old licensed of those products; I’d love to use newer versions of those applications. I spent about 40 hours on my first video from the idea to production, post-production, upload and set up the channel. It included creating channel art and a unique visual style. Luckily I can reuse a lot of these resources in my future videos. The Video Creation Process For every video, I choose a topic which involves creating an outline and doing some research. I want to create helpful, unique content that is being watched. Therefore, I need to make sure that there is an audience for a video I want to create and that I can deliver value to the viewer. I script every single video. It helps me to create an outline and structure for the video as well as guiding me through the screen recording as well as the audio recording. I do those things separately so that I can focus on what’s important. I am also not able to move my mouse, work with the computer, think about what’s coming next and explaining things in my second language. It all requires me to focus. After I recorded everything, I need to make sure that the quality is legitimate and I need to cut everything to make it a pleasure to view the video. I also want to make sure the audio fits the video. All of those steps require me going through the footage more than once. I think with gaining experience I can get this process done faster, but it still is a lot of work. When the video is cut, and the voiceover matches the video, I need to add some music, the intro, the outro and insert zoom or overlays where applicable. It also requires me to go through the entire video one more time. When the editing is finished, and the final single video file is rendered and exported, I upload it to YouTube. I create a compelling video description which includes all the important information including various links. I need to tag my video, add it to a playlist or create a new one and finally push the button to release it to the public. Creating a 10 minutes video requires me about 8 hours of work. Background Music Music is an integral part of a video. I need to be careful that I only use Music that I have a license or that I am allowed to use. I am currently using free music from Bensound. If I start to earn some money, I will be looking into paid music as well, but right now, I cannot afford it. I attribute the music correctly in the video description which works for me right now. Coming up with Video Ideas Another critical part of starting a YouTube channel is thinking about the content you want to produce. For me, my videos need to be somewhat related and connected to create an audience. It also helps in reducing the time spent on research. If I jump around and create videos about non-related topics, it is not only hard for me to produce quality content, it’s also unlikely that my audience will subscribe to the channel. Why should a JavaScript developer subscribe to my channel when only 10% of the videos are about JavaScript, and there are so many channels out there who focus solely on JavaScript and have many more videos. So between creating, editing, uploading and doing everything else, I need to come up with good video ideas. I try always to have at least 2-3 ideas ready. Creating Video Series a.k.a Playlists Playlists are an important part of YouTube. It helps to tell YouTube that a series of videos belong together. People watching videos from a playlist will automatically be forwarded to the next video in a playlist. It also helps YouTube to suggest your videos if YouTube knows that people who watch your first video are also interested in watching your second video. From time to time I create solo videos, but overall I always think about my videos as a series of videos which I can put together in a playlist. Specific vs. General Videos Sometimes it is hard to think about what type of video I want to make about a specific topic. Do I want to create a general video which will be relevant for a few years or do I create a video about a library with an exact version number in mind? Both of those video types can work. But the lifetime of those types is different. I do not expect anyone to watch my video about the new features in Visual Studio 2019 in 3-4 years. But I hope that my Introduction about Dependency Injection will still be helpful for people in 2024. How Can You Help Me? I’m glad you asked! First of all, thank you for taking part in my journey and thank you for reading until the end. Please hit me up on Twitter and let me know about it! I’d love to get some feedback! Second, if you like, you can watch my videos and give me some feedback on what I can improve and how you think things would look or sound better. I’m keen on improving with every new video I create. You can also share my content with your audience if you think it is valuable to them. It would mean the world to me and help me out more than you can imagine. You can create your own posts, or you can retweet the content I share on Twitter or share it on LinkedIn. If the content is useful to yourself, consider subscribing and supporting me by watching and engaging with my future content – I’d love it! If you are a content producer yourself (not limited to YouTube, but preferably video) and you want to share your knowledge with me – awesome! Hit me up on Twitter or write a comment below this article. I am looking for the opportunity to interact with like-minded people. It’s always great to be part of a group with similar goals. Hit me up! Conclusion Do I call myself a YouTuber? Yes, I do. You can read it in my Twitter bio. Do I think I am a successful YouTuber? In terms of raw numbers – certainly not yet. In terms of experience, I gained as part of the process of creating and uploading videos – definitely yes! Do I make money? No, I don’t earn anything. But I like the process, and I want to build something, and I know that it takes time. Patience is key. Everyone started with 0 subscribers. I’ve learned so much about video editing, improved my Photoshop skills, learn about design, process optimization, researching online, creating video descriptions, and so much more. I gained a lot of experience in other fields than programming which I would not have gained if I did not start my YouTube channel. Would I recommend you to create your own channel? If you like video, if you want to create something helpful, unique and if you want to put in the work? If you care about your long-term success – go for it! If you are looking for fast money, this is not for you. It takes a lot of work and commitment and a long time until it makes you money. This article was originally published on on March 20th, 2019.