How to Start a YouTube Channel in 2024

Starting a YouTube channel can be an amazing way to share your passion, build a brand, or even earn money. However, it’s important to approach it strategically and with a plan, especially in 2024.

I’ve built two successful YouTube channels, one in the area of business and entrepreneurship, and the other related to my passion for collecting Pokémon cards. Over time, each has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

It didn’t happen overnight, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t started somewhere (learning a lot of lessons on the way!). 

And creating your own YouTube channel is definitely not just about the money. In addition to the income potential, a YouTube channel can help you:

If that has your interest piqued about how to start and grow a successful YouTube channel of your own, you’re in the right place!

What to expect in this guide to starting your own YouTube channel

I’m about to share a detailed, step-by-step approach to starting your YouTube channel in 2024—one that’s designed to help you reap all the benefits of a YouTube channel mentioned above.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have the info you need to start a channel from scratch in the right niche, one you can grow and eventually monetize.

The guide is structured into three parts:

Laying the Groundwork: Choose a niche and define your brand

1. Choose your YouTube channel’s niche
2. Research your YouTube niche’s competitors
3. Develop your brand on your YouTube channel

Setting Up Your YouTube Channel: Create your account and publish your first video

4. Create your YouTube account
5. Set up your YouTube channel
6. Verify your YouTube channel
7. Record your first YouTube video
8. Create a great title and thumbnail for your YouTube video
9. Publish your first YouTube video

Creating a System for YouTube Success: Measure, schedule, monetize, promote, engage, and collaborate

10. Pay attention to your YouTube channel’s analytics
11. Create a trailer for your YouTube channel
12. Come up with a list of video ideas
13. Create a content calendar for your YouTube channel
14. Promote your YouTube videos
15. Improve your YouTube channel’s SEO
16. Engage with your YouTube channel’s audience
17. Monetize your YouTube channel
18. Upgrade your equipment
19. Organize your videos into playlists and sections
20. Take advantage of other YouTube video formats
21. Collaborate with other YouTube creators
22. Stay up-to-date with YouTube trends and algorithm changes
23. More resources for starting your YouTube channel
24. Conclusion and FAQ

Let’s dive in!

Laying the Groundwork

Before you create a YouTube channel and start publishing videos, you’ll need to get clear on your channel’s purpose, as well as its look and feel.

1. Choose your YouTube channel’s niche

Choosing your niche is the first and most important step in starting a successful YouTube channel.

As I often say: the riches are in the niches.

Your niche is the topic or category that your channel will focus on.

You can build a YouTube channel that supports your existing business, or if you’re starting from scratch, choose a niche based on an interest, passion, or area of expertise.

It’s important to narrow your YouTube channel’s focus down. Going too broad at the start means more competition and a much harder time getting seen. In fact, this was a problem my initial YouTube channel had and why it didn’t grow for years. People were confused: was it for podcasters or for affiliate marketers? Was it for people learning video or learning how to speak on stage?

Once I got clear on who the channel was for, growth happened much faster. For more about the trial and error of finding a niche on YouTube, check out these episodes of the SPI Podcast:

2. Research your YouTube niche’s competitors

Once you’ve chosen your niche, it’s important to research your competitors. This means looking at other channels that create similar content. By analyzing competitors, you can see what’s working well and what you can do better. You can also use this information to create a unique value proposition for your channel that sets you apart (see #3 below)

Here are a few tips to help research your YouTube competition:

A simple competitive analysis trick: Not all videos on YouTube have this, but many have a graph located above the timeline. This is a retention graph and shows you what parts of a video were the most replayed. Paying attention to this retention graph is a great way to learn what a particular audience already likes and enjoys on other channels.

A screenshot of a video with a retention graph on the bottom of the screen.

3. Develop your brand on your YouTube channel

Your brand is what sets you apart from your competitors. It includes your channel name, logo, and overall style. Take some time to develop a brand that reflects your niche and personality. This will help you build a consistent image across all of your videos and make it easier for viewers to recognize your channel.

The name and appearance of your channel encompass your brand, and in the beginning, you’ll have to make some choices (that are not permanent and can be changed later). Over time, your brand also becomes your voice, and the types of videos you create for your specific audience.

Speaking of the look of your brand, your brand styling may include things like fonts or the colors you use. Check out the Charli Marie logo in the below example and the purple motif that repeats throughout her channel and videos:

Screenshot of Charli Marie YouTube channel. The banner logo at the top is purple and all of the video thumbnails use the same purple as the text background. Her hair is also purple in the banner image.

Your brand can be based on your theme, and your channel artwork can be based on the advice that you know you’ll be offering, like the  Dad, How Do I? channel.

Screenshot of "Dad, how do I?" YouTube channel. The logo for the channel says "Dad, how do I?"

You’re also going to want to come up with a slogan for your channel. You can think of this as your channel’s value proposition — a concise statement of the benefits people will get from your content. The slogan for my YouTube channel is “Make more money. Save more time. Help more people.” It’s what all of my content on that channel is geared around.

Similar to step #2, research other channels (not just those in your own niche) to get inspiration for how brands look and feel on YouTube.

Here are a few more resources on branding:

Setting Up Your YouTube Channel

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to create your YouTube account and publish your first video!

4. Create your YouTube account

To create a YouTube channel, you’ll first need a Google account. If you don’t have one already, create one now by going to the Google Account sign-in page at Accounts.Google.com/signin.

Click Create account, and you’ll be prompted to enter your name and create a username and password for the account. 

Once you have a Google account, go to YouTube and sign in with your new account credentials.

It’s as simple as that!

Screenshot with red arrow directing where to sign into the YouTube account.

5. Set up your YouTube channel

Setting up your channel is also easy. Here are instructions for creating your channel on the YouTube website; the steps are similar on the YouTube mobile app.

Once you’re logged in, click on your profile icon in the top right of the page and select Create a channel.Add your name and handle, then click Create channel.

Create a channel link and sidebar view in YouTube

Follow the prompts to set up your channel name, description, and profile picture. Be sure to fill out all of this information accurately and completely. This will help your channel appear more professional and attract more viewers.

The "How you'll appear" menu when creating a YouTube account

Want to customize your channel branding? Go to Channel customization and click on the Branding tab, where you can:

6. Verify your YouTube channel

This step is quick but very important if you want to upload videos that are more than 15 minutes long, add custom thumbnails, or use live streams on YouTube!To verify your channel, go to Youtube.com/verify. You’ll be asked to enter a phone number, and YouTube will send you a verification code via text or phone call. Note that your phone number can be linked to no more than two YouTube channels per year.

7. Record your first YouTube video

Now it’s time to create your first video. You don’t need expensive equipment to get started. Your smartphone camera or laptop camera will do just fine.

Choose a topic that you’re passionate about and start recording. Don’t worry too much about making it perfect — your first video is just a starting point.

It’s going to take time to see results. When YouTube megastar MKBHD was on the SPI Podcast, he said that his first 100 videos were for less than 100 subscribers. Today, he has over 18.9 million subscribers and counting.

Filming and editing videos can often derail the excited first-timer, but I definitely recommend you push through and learn as you go. If you’d like some direct help and to join a community while building a YouTube channel with others, I recommend checking out the SPI All-Access Pass, which gives you access to all of our courses (including YouTube from Scratch) as well as access to a community and my team to guide you along the way! For even more support, membership in our SPI Pro community gives you access to Experts in Residence like video wiz Caleb Wojcik.

8. Create a great title and thumbnail for your YouTube video

Titles and thumbnails are incredibly important: they’re the first things people see before they watch any part of your video!

Choose a title that captures attention, but don’t get over-the-top and clickbaity. Some “bait” is important, but whatever you choose for both your title and thumbnail, make sure you deliver on the promise. 

There are a lot of resources for creating great thumbnails. I recommend checking out Nate from Channel Makers and his video about thumbnails here as a starting point. 

The thumbnail for Pat Flynn's "The Newbie's Guide to Get Followers FAST" YouTube video
This thumbnail does a great job (if i may say so myself) of quickly showing the viewer what the video’s about. And it was easy to make!

As a reminder, it’s not going to be perfect, and you can always change your title and thumbnail later. Do your best, then move on to the next step.

Tip: a great tool for creating thumbnails is Canva! Canva has a lot of templates specific to YouTube thumbnails that you can choose from.

9. Publish your first YouTube video

Hitting publish can be scary, but it’s the only way to learn what works and what doesn’t. Hit publish and be proud of the fact that you created something and shared it with the world! It’s like planting a seed: it’s now where it needs to be to have a chance to grow and thrive.

In most cases, you’re not going to get a flood of views right away, and sometimes YouTube needs time to find the right audience for your videos. That’s why the next phase is important—creating a system that helps you consistently create great video content your audience will enjoy and takes the guesswork out of growing your channel.

Creating a System for YouTube Success

If you want to grow your YouTube channel, you’re going to need to create a system. The steps below will help take the guesswork out of what to create and when to publish it, monetizing your channel, engaging with your audience, and the other keys to sustainable success on YouTube.

10. Pay attention to your YouTube channel’s analytics

Paying attention to your analytics helps you improve over time and understand exactly what’s happening with your videos, good and bad. You can find this info by going to the Engagement tab and clicking on Analytics

Here are the two most important metrics you want to pay attention to:

Average view duration: This is how long a person watches an individual video. The longer you can keep people watching, the more likely YouTube will serve your videos to more people. Pay attention to your retention graph, which can show you how sticky your video is. This can be found in the engagement tab in your analytics.

An image of a chart graph showing video view metrics. In this chart, about 25% of viewers drop off in the first 30 seconds. The rest stick around, with the number very slowly declining to about 40% at the end of the video.

Holding the attention of your audience is a huge factor in the success of your videos and your channel.

Your analytics will also tell you what days and times people are most engaged with your videos. You can use this data to determine the best times to publish new content. 

11. Create a trailer for your YouTube channel

A trailer is a short (usually less than two minutes) video that gives people a taste of your channel before they dive into your content.

Your trailer doesn’t have to be fancy—it can simply be you introducing yourself and your channel, explaining what your channel is about, what kinds of content you create, and why viewers should subscribe. (Remember your value proposition!)

Once the trailer is ready, upload it to your channel as an unlisted video. Here’s how to specify it as your trailer:

12. Come up with a list of video ideas

To maintain consistency with your new YouTube channel, you’re going to need a pipeline of great content. Here are some tips to help you come up with ideas for new videos so you never run out of inspiration.

13. Create a content calendar for your YouTube channel

Consistency is important on YouTube. As best as possible, you’ll want to publish videos on a regular schedule. 

Create a content calendar to plan out your videos in advance. This can help you stay organized and ensure that you’re uploading new content on a regular basis. Your content calendar can include the topics of upcoming videos, the date you plan to upload and publish them, and any other relevant information. Pay attention to your analytics (see #10) to determine the best days and times to publish new content.

Choose a frequency that works for you and the time you have available to create and upload videos. If you have the ability to create more, especially early on, that will help you more quickly refine your workflow and what works and what doesn’t for your particular audience. But be careful about overextending yourself and burning out to the point where you no longer come out with videos on a regular basis. It happens more often than not.

14. Promote your YouTube videos

Promoting your videos is an important part of growing your YouTube channel. Share your videos on social media, embed them on your website or blog, and collaborate with other creators to reach a wider audience. You can also use YouTube’s built-in promotion tools, like paid ads and featured videos.

The YouTube Community tab is a useful tool (previously only available to creators with large followers, but now open to all) that lets you engage with your subscribers outside of video uploads. You can post updates, polls, and other content directly to help foster a closer community, build brand awareness, and promote your YouTube content.

And of course, don’t forget to encourage viewers to like your videos and subscribe to the channel!

15. Improve your YouTube channel’s SEO

Did you know that YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine? If you want to grow your channel, making sure your content shows up in search results is going to pay dividends.

Here are the biggest keys to improving your videos’ search rankings—many of which are covered in this guide!:

Consistently publishing high-quality video content that’s targeted to your niche is crucial for YouTube SEO success.

16. Engage with your YouTube channel’s audience

Engaging with your audience is crucial for building a community around your channel. Respond to comments, ask for feedback, and create videos based on your audience’s interests and requests. This can help you build a loyal fanbase and keep them coming back for more.

A question lots of first-time YouTubers face is whether to leave comments on or off on their videos. The benefit of turning them off is that you’ll save time not having to moderate or respond, as well as avoid potential spam comments. But in my opinion, you’re missing out on a lot of potential benefits if you do this! By allowing viewers to comment on videos, you’ll have a chance to learn from your audience about what they’re looking for, as well as establish a direct rapport with them. It’s a little more work for you, but it’s definitely worth it!

17. Monetize your YouTube channel

Once your channel has grown, you may be eligible to monetize your videos. This can include earning money from ads, sponsorships, and merchandise sales. To monetize your channel, you’ll need to meet YouTube’s Partner Program requirements. This includes having at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past 12 months. Once you meet these requirements, you can apply to join the Partner Program and start earning money from your videos!

There are a few more things to keep in mind as you dive into monetizing your YouTube channel:

18. Upgrade your equipment

Although you can definitely get started with just your smartphone or computer camera, once your channel starts to take off and generate some income, consider upping the ante on your video tech.

19. Organize your videos into playlists and sections

As your channel grows and you start producing more videos, you’re going to want to organize your content so your visitors can easily navigate your channel and find what they’re looking for.YouTube’s Featured sections allow you to categorize videos into different buckets that show up on your channel’s home page. On my Deep Pocket Monster channel, I’ve helpfully sorted my videos into categories.

The featured sections view on Pat Flynn's Deep Pocket Monster YouTube channel.

Here’s how to sort your videos in YouTube Studio:

The add section menu on YouTube.

Speaking of playlists, they’re an especially useful way to group your video content according to different criteria. Here’s how to create one:

  1. Go to the watch page of a video that you want in the playlist.
  2. Click More, then Save, then Create new playlist. Enter a name for the playlist.
  3. Select your playlist’s privacy setting (if it’s private, only you can view it).
  4. Click Create.

Do this for each category of video you’d like to create. You can then add each playlist to a section on your channel’s home page so viewers can see your videos, neatly sorted for their convenience!

20. Take advantage of other YouTube video formats (live streaming, Shorts)

In addition to the regular “bread and butter” videos YouTube is known for, you can also create live streams and Shorts. I definitely recommend you acquaint yourself with these formats and consider incorporating them into your workflow.

21. Collaborate with other YouTube creators

Collaborating with other creators can be a great way to reach new audiences and create high-quality content. Reach out to other creators in your niche and propose collaboration ideas. This can help you build relationships and grow your channel. You can also participate in YouTube collaborations like tags and challenges to reach a wider audience.

22. Stay up-to-date with YouTube trends and algorithm changes

YouTube’s algorithm is constantly changing, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and updates. Follow industry blogs, attend conferences, and engage with other creators to stay informed. This can help you stay ahead of the curve and create content that performs well on the platform.

My favorite channel for this is YouTube Creators, which is run by the YouTube team itself. I also enjoy Sean Cannell, Roberto Blake, and ChannelMakers for updates, too!

23. More resources for starting your YouTube channel

Before we sign off, I wanted to share a few more resources to help you in your YouTube journey:

Ready to find join your people and level up?

Like you, we’re online entrepreneurs who crave connection, direction, and support from people like us.

24. Conclusion and FAQ

Starting a YouTube channel can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these steps, you can create a successful channel that reflects your passion and personality. Remember to stay consistent, engage with your audience, and always strive to improve. Happy YouTubing!

FAQs:

  1. Do I need expensive equipment to start a YouTube channel?
  1. Can I monetize my channel right away?
  1. How often should I upload new videos?
  1. Can I collaborate with other creators outside of my niche?
  1. How long does it take to grow a successful YouTube channel?

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  • Pat Flynn

    Hi, I’m Pat, founder of SPI and host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Let’s continue the conversation over in our communities.

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