There are billions of users on YouTube with hundreds of millions who are primarily dedicated to automotive content. Despite the vast number of content creators, only a few thousand channels are actually recognized as Bronze level or higher, meaning they have more than 10,000 subscribers. But what does it take to become one of these “successful” automotive YouTubers?
Back in 2005, I created a YouTube channel so that I could begin subscribing to my favorite content creators and uploading my own videos. Like most people at the time, I had dreams of making a stupid video that would go viral and acquire a fan following that would allow me to retire at an early age.
As that dream faded, my attention was drawn towards the automotive forums where I enjoyed writing how-to guides. There was very little Do-It-Yourself information available for P1 Volvos back in 2009; the cars were still considered new. Many of my instructional forum posts were based on original methods and discoveries. It was at this time that I realized a simple how-to video could save me from re-explaining processes to people who failed to comprehend the write ups and pictures.
In early December of 2011, I blew the dust off of my inactive YouTube channel and grabbed my digital camera. I distinctly remember the date, because I should have been studying for finals… In one day, I uploaded 16 basic videos that showed how to remove various parts on my Volvo S40. Each video was quick and simple. Using Windows Movie Maker, I edited these down to cut out the wasted time and focus on the main task at hand. No video was longer than 60 seconds.
Surprisingly, these videos received hundreds of views within the first few weeks. My subscriber count quickly escalated from a few dozen school friends to over a thousand S40 and V50 owners. YouTube enabled my ability to monetize my videos and make a profit. In that first year, my videos provided enough money to pay for an entire tank of gas! Mind you, 93 octane was only $2 a gallon.
Realizing this success, I continued adding basic how-to videos and exhaust recordings over the next five years. Then I made a bold decision to put my face in front of the camera.
For years I had remained mostly hidden. People knew my voice and username, but they did not know who I was. This sense of privacy was nice, especially since I am a very shy and introverted person.
Making this decision was a significant turning point in my life as a YouTuber. Watch my first video in front of the lens and it is clear that I am acting; I am portraying myself, but I am not being myself.
Over the last ten years, I have learned a lot and my channel has continued to grow to a modest 10,000+ subscribers. While not the astronomical success that would encourage me to quit my day job, it is enough to justify my invested time. I enjoy making videos, I enjoy all things automotive, and YouTube has allowed me to make a profit off of this hobby. The following are my ten tips for those just starting off in their YouTube careers, be it in automotive or any genre.
- Only film content that interests you. Do not choose a subject matter that you will become tired of or bored with.
- YouTube 101 suggests that you invest in good equipment, but you can start off by filming with your phone. Most modern phones have surprisingly good video quality and audio pickup; I still use my iphone for quick b-roll footage. Once you start to grow, then consider upgrading your gear. Good quality audio is especially important, as a cinematic masterpiece is a failure if you can only hear wind noise.
3. If at first it isn’t right, try again. Having bloopers and mistakes included in your final cut of a video is fun, makes you seem human, and adds an entertainment value to your video. But if the image is blurred, if the audio quality is bad, or if some other variable messed up your video, do not hesitate to rerecord it. While this is time consuming, you should take pride in what you upload.
4. Make your videos worth watching. Give them an intro, give them subject matter, and give them a conclusion. Cliffhanger endings are fun and encourage viewers to return, but make sure your video still delivers content that makes it worth the viewer’s time. It is also important to capture multiple angles and some miscellaneous clips to keep the viewing experience interesting, as a stationary camera will quickly lose the viewer’s attention.
5. Find your niche. I upload many videos purely because they were fun for me to make, they are entertaining to the viewers, and it documents my automotive journey. While I now cringe when watching my old videos, they represent who I was years ago. That being said, my niche is definitely the concise how-to videos for P1 Volvos. These consistently get the most views and are what I am known for, so I try to post a new how-to video on a monthly basis.
6. Make your own schedule. While viewers love a schedule, do not force yourself to meet deadlines that may sacrifice your quality. The YouTube algorithms are constantly changing and currently, quality ranks much higher than quantity.
7. Be prepared to spend a LOT of time in post production. For one of my simple 5 minute videos, this usually consists of 1 hour of footage and 3+ hours of editing… And my quality is far from professional. The more editing time that I invest, the more I learn and improve. Depending on your success, you may find it is worth hiring professional editors so that you can primarily focus on content creation.
8. Know that filming yourself working on cars will more than double your work time. An oil change usually takes me 10 minutes to complete. Filming an oil change will take me an hour with setting up the camera, adjusting lights, and capturing relevant b-roll footage to mix into the final edit. When I completed my AWD swap, a task that took months of on and off work, I intentionally refused to make a video of this process because of how much more work it would require.
9. Do not feel obligated to film everything. Enjoy the world through your eyes and not through a lens. For me, I enjoy attending car shows and events without filming. It is a chance for me to socialize with friends and meet fans without the burden of filming everything.
10. Do not be discouraged by slow growth. Make your videos for yourself and as a way of documenting your history. Do not be a YouTuber for the fame. It took me ten years to reach ten thousand subscribers.
Always remember that the internet is a place of haters. There will be negative comments, there will be hate speech, there will be personal remarks made about you. Have thick skin and know that these cowards behind the keyboard might be hating on your video, but they at least watched your video. If you are monetized, their views are putting money into your pocket.
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