What I’ve Learned Making YouTube Videos

Many lessons are learned the hard way: You stumble, fumble, recover, take a few more steps, and eat dirt all over again. I wanted YouTube to accomplish two goals for me, which were to reach more people and to practice my video-making prowess. While doing both, I’ve learned a lot about the platform, viewing habits, and the struggle many small creators face on such an over-crowded platform.

Two Second Street - www.twosecondstreet.com

My Goals

The first goal was to improve the reach of my travel experiences. This blog is great, don’t get me wrong, but, fair reader, you are one of maybe 5 people who will click to see this post. I can’t speak to how many actually read it (I assume this is much, much lower) but when you share things on Facebook, people don’t click. If you share things on Twitter, people don’t click. This could be bad engagement on my part, but I’ll get 20-30 likes on Facebook per post I share but I’ll only get a handful of people clicking to read the article.

The second goal was to improve my video editing abilities. I think in the eight months or so I’ve been tinkering with Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC, I’ve come a long way. I’m still not the greatest, nor do I want to be, but if you start with the first few videos I made and look at the ones I have up now, I think the quality has started to rise. Still much more to learn and improve upon, that’s for sure, but one thing I like about YouTube is that you can go through and see your progress as an editor/filmmaker/videographer and that’s really nifty and encouraging.

Analytics, or, How to Get Really Demotivated

YouTube gives you tons of fancy tools to track your watch time, the coveted currency that determines your channel’s success. What I’ve learned is that nobody watches a video from start to finish. That, or very few actually do that. If you’re lucky, you’ll get around a 40%-50% retention rate on your video. People will skip around, lose interest, and close the window early and often. A seven-minute video will net you maybe three minutes of view time per view. It’s difficult to see something you’ve spent hours making only get a fraction of view time from your friends and family, who are more likely than not your main audience.

The first week it only got six views. . . It is now my most-viewed video.

A lot of people still think that view count is king and will click your video and immediately close out after 5-10 seconds. Creators can see all of that. It’s an interesting dilemma: How do you keep people engaged when they literally have millions of videos, articles, and apps fighting for their attention in the palm of their hand?

It’s also hard to predict what will be a success or even when it will be a success. For example, I made a video on traditional tie dying in Japan, Shibori, and a town near Nagoya that is famous for it. I loved making it and thought it would do well. The first week it only got six views, one of the lowest first week records for any of my videos. I was discouraged, but not surprised: My Next Stop videos tend to always have lower viewership than Snack Attack or the other videos.

But here’s the kicker: It was a bit of a sleeper. Something about the tags, the niche nature of the video, or one of a million other variables aligned with YouTube’s AI algorithms and soon, I started getting about 10 views per week on the video. It is now my most-viewed video, with several hours of watch time and over 200 views at time of writing. My wife always said the Next Stop videos would be sleepers, as people looking for information would stumble on them at random times, and I think she may be on to something there.

“Making Videos Isn’t Hard”

So, filming and editing videos is a lengthy process. I suppose it also depends on the style of video you are making as well, but overall, it takes a bit of time to do. At the start, it took me a very long time to get a video made. I had no idea about workflow, shortcuts, or even where my basic tools were. It was a slough, but it’s a necessary one. The tools I chose to use are very powerful, and as such, you need time and patience to familiarize yourself with the interface.

Taking time to cut up clips also takes an alarming amount of time. Cutting out pauses, mistakes, and reshoots eats up your time. A lot of the time I spent on videos was dedicated to removing what I didn’t need or what didn’t work with what I was shooting for. This still takes a long amount of time to do, and I don’t think it every will be a shorter process. Or maybe it can? Scrubbing through the clips and chopping them up can be one of the most tedious parts of editing. Most people thinking of editing want to get to the stitching of clips, sequencing, and putting together their transitions and effects. Those are my favorite parts, but you have to eat your vegetables before you get your dessert, right?

I’ve discovered that I, in fact, cannot do it all.

Learning how to do all the tricks was hard. I used YouTube tutorials to teach myself new techniques and practice key basics (like using keyframes!). Doing everything step by step with the video was agonizing, as sometimes it would take me over an hour to make a simple 10-second animation. Learning new things can be very discouraging sometimes, but once you see the finished product and show it to someone, it’s highly rewarding! It also helps to generate your own ideas for how you can use the tools to create some new transition or animation in your video. It’s an awesome ecosystem where teaching and learning begets awesome projects and more learning. I’m really excited about that part of the process, in spite of how challenging and frustrating it can be sometimes.

What’s the Future?

Well, here’s the thing: Doing a weekly video is exhausting while also working a full-time job and a weekend job. I’m only one man and I’ve discovered that I, in fact, cannot do it all. I want to improve my skills, but with the last few videos I made in September, I felt as though I was editing to push something out, not to make something meaningful or something that would let me try something new to improve my video-making or editing.

With that in mind, the Mrs. and I have decided to switch our update schedule to a seasonal schedule. We’re also thinking about not keeping a regular schedule, but releasing them when we finish them. We tossed around the idea of doing seasons, but small batches of when we get them done will fit best with our busy schedules. That’s might be the most important now for the size of our channel and our goals. We’ll still make the majority Snack Attacks, as those by and far get the most views, but I’ll still make Next Stops and other shows yet to debut to test my skills and give me a creative outlet for trying something new.

I think this will be great for me and anyone who likes our videos. I’m hoping that this won’t kill our searchability and YouTube pushing our videos in your recommended feeds. Everyone says you should be consistent with the uploads, and I’ve seen many YouTubers stress over their upload schedules and refuse to miss a week or a day, and that’s not I want. I’m not looking to be YouTube famous (although, I must admit, I’ve fantasized about that “what ifs…?” a few times before). I’m just looking to share some cool stuff with friends and family while working on a shared project with my wife.

So, there we are! If this was interesting, I’ll do another update after our second season. There’s a lot of cool stuff to learn with this and I’d love to share it if you want to read! If you’re still reading this, thanks for all the support.


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