starting a youtube channel

Creating a YouTube channel is relatively easy and only takes a few minutes. However, getting started on YouTube takes a lot more time and effort - especially if you want to be successful.

In this article I want to guide you through the process of getting started step by step. There’s a lot to do and it’s unlikely you’ll be done in one afternoon. So, better save this page as a bookmark so you can come back later and do the rest. 😉

I’ve started a total of 4 YouTube channels in my life and the one where I’ve done ALL the steps in the list and kept working on all of them is also the one that is the most successful.

But before you jump to step 1 and start to take action, it’s good to take a moment to clarify your goals:


How do you define success on YouTube?

When we think of YouTube success, we often think of stars like PewDiePie, Zoella or Markiplier. We think of someone with a massively big, kinda mainstream audience and videos that get 5 million views.

However, that might not be the best way to think about your new YouTube channel. Why? Because it makes you lose sight of what YouTube is really about.

YouTube isn’t all about fame, millions of views, viral videos, hype and high subscriber numbers. It is really about people who are creating videos and people who are looking for videos. If you want to be a successful creator, your job will be to deliver videos that other people are looking for

Why does the difference matter? Because one way of thinking will lead you to copy stars, look for the big viral hit and hope for overnight fame, while the other way will lead you to create your own brand and build a sustainable audience that likes you for who you are.

And here’s the thing: While YouTube fame happens once in a while, it is really, really rare.

And fame isn’t even necessarily what you need to succeed. An audience of 10,000 who will buy from you or your affiliate partners can be many times more valuable than an audience of 1,000,000 people who are not interested in buying and have ad-blockers installed.

So when you’re thinking about your own goals when it comes to YouTube, keep in mind that building a loyal and interested subscriber base can be more valuable than achieving some sort of YouTube “fame”.

The following 10 steps will help you do exactly that: They will show you how you can set up your channel in order to create a loyal and interested audience so you can build a successful YouTube channel.

1. Know your audience

Time: 60 minutes

So we’ve already established that focusing on the right audience is important and will in the end even determine your success.

However, how do you even know who the right audience is? How do you define your target audience?

For this part, it really makes sense to open a Google Doc or take a piece of paper and start brainstorming. We’ll be collecting some data.

Now, based on what you’re planning to do with your channel, try to figure out what your audience will most likely look like concerning these factors:

  • Language/Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • ​Education Level
  • Interests
youtube target audience

The goal is to predict an average range, not to include all possibilities. Of course, it’s possible that a 99 year old guy from Cameroon will watch your makeup tips for English-speaking preteens; however, most of the audience for a channel like that will look a little different. Most likely they will be English-speaking, female preteens who are interested in beauty tips. And there you have your target audience.

Finding your target audience is easiest if you have specific topic. In case you don’t have a specific topic, for example because you’re a vlogger, your target audience will probably look very much like you. They will be around the same age, have the same interests and the same education level as you.

Although the short list above is a starting point, it is very helpful to dig a little deeper. Is there anything special about your or your channel? Anything that makes you or your channel different? This might give you more hints about your target audience.

If you’re openly gay, for example, you will likely attract a mostly queer audience. If you have a mental disorder and talk about it (even if that’s not the topic of your channel), people with the same disorder will likely flock to you. If you are a family vlogger, other people with their own families will be more drawn to you.

Even your personality will speak to some people more than to others. So the more you know yourself and your content, the easier it will be to define your target group.

If you don’t know your niche or target audience very well yet, just try to go with your best guesses. Your audience won’t be static, anyway - it will develop dynamically just like you and your channel.

Now, once you’ve figured out who your target audience is, it’s your job to let them know you’re addressing them. The reaction you want to get from your target audience is „Hey, this is a channel for me! If this is any good, I will subscribe.“ So how can you do that? Well, we’re going to cover this in the next 9 steps.

2. Find a good channel name

Time: 1 week

Choosing a communicative name can be a good start. Particularly if your channel is about a specific topic, it’s an advantage if your name alludes to it.

The channel Mixnotes, for example, is about producing and mixing music. If I’m looking for music production advice and I come across their name on YouTube, I will certainly click on their channel.

Choosing a communicative name is not only going to help you portray the right message but also will be more memorable than something more random.

Obviously, not all channels have a specific topic that can be used name-wise. In that case or if you’d prefer a more neutral name, a catchy name without reference to a topic will do: Hartbeat, PewDiePie and Lush are good examples of that. Just make sure your name is memorable and the spelling isn’t too complicated.

3. Create a channel description​

Time: 45 minutes

One of the simplest things you can do to say “hey” to your target audience is to fill out the channel description.

Make sure you mention the type of your channel and the topics of your videos in the first sentence, because this doesn’t just pop up on your channel but also in search.

If you have an upload schedule and are committed to sticking to it, you can put this in the description as well. This helps your visitors get the right expectations.

4. Add channel keywords

Time: 10 minutes

Most YouTubers are aware that you can add keywords to your videos, but did you know you can add keywords to your channel? This option is pretty hidden in the YouTube settings. To find it, you will have to go to “Channel” in the Creator Studio and then click on “Advanced”.

YouTube Channel Keywords

Adding channel keywords will let YouTube know what your channel is about. This will not only be helpful for ranking in the YouTube search, it might also result in more targeted ads (if your channel is monetized).

Be smart about this, though, and only add keywords that are truly relevant. And of course: don’t spam!

5. Upload a banner

Time: 2 hours

One great thing about YouTube is that it is also visually customizable. This gives you the opportunity to communicate the essence of your channel content as well as the vibe of your brand to your viewers.

By creating a channel banner you can communicate all of these things:

  • Will your content be entertaining?
  • Will it be informative?
  • Will it be more personal or more impersonal?
  • Will you talk about turtles or about ponies (I’m team turtle)?

Many smaller YouTubers only use their name as the only text in their banner. However, you can add other text as well, for example:

  • Topic tags
  • A slogan
  • Your upload schedule

If you film yourself on your channel, also consider adding your face to your banner.

Don’t know how to create a channel banner? You can check out Canva (it’s free) if you want to design it yourself.

An alternative is to find a designer, for example on Fiverr or in the „services“ section of YTtalk where many designers offer their work for free (as long as you credit them appropriately).

6. Upload a profile picture

Time: 30 minutes

Your profile picture doesn’t only display on your channel and under your videos but also in the YouTube search and with every comment you leave under someone else’s video.

Yup, that happened.

For your profile picture, choose your brand logo or an eye-catching selfie/headshot. This will make it easier for people to remember you and to notice you in the comments section.

7. Connect YouTube to your social media profiles

Time: 15 minutes

Connecting your social media profiles to YouTube probably won’t increase your social following by a lot when you’re just starting out. However, if your content is good, a percentage of your subscribers will definitely want to be in touch with you outside of YouTube.

Use this opportunity! These are the people who will like and share your posts on social media. They are your biggest fans - so make it easy for them to follow you.

YouTube social media

Also make sure to link from your social media profiles back to your YouTube channel.

8. Create a channel trailer

Time: 1-2 days

After you’ve filled out the channel information and customized your channel visually, it’s time to create some content. A good way to start is a channel trailer. Why? Because it will give people a much better understanding of what they can expect from you and your channel. The most important topics to include are:

  • Who are you?
  • What will your channel be about?
  • What kind of videos can they expect (reviews, top lists, let’s plays, short comedy clips, documentaries)?

Ideally your channel video is in the style and voice of the content you want to create. So if your channel is funny, don’t be all serious and formal in your video. If you want to make explainer-style videos on your channel, you can make your intro video in an explainer-style, too.

I’d recommend making your intro video short and concise. Why? Because, as a viewer, if I don’t know your channel yet, I don’t want to hear an inspiring anecdote from your childhood for 13 minutes before you tell me what your channel is about. I just want to know whether what you have to offer is relevant for me or not.

9. Channel structure

Time: 25 minutes

channel structur

As soon as you’ve uploaded your first few videos, it’s time to get your channel organized. Not only does a structured channel look more professional, it also is easier to navigate through and will therefore help your viewers discover more of your content.

You have many options as to how you want to organize your videos but a good idea is to think in playlists as soon as possible. Think about which videos you can group together topically, for example by putting all zombie videos in one playlist, all werewolf videos in another one.

Another way is to organize videos by format, for example by making a playlist for reviews and a separate one for tutorials.

10. Keep updating your channel

As your channel grows, it will change. Your original concept might shift in a way that you wouldn’t have imagined. The tone and style of your videos will evolve as you get more comfortable and learn more about your niche.

That’s why it’s important to look over your channel once in a while and update everything that seems a little dated. Make sure you always represent and communicate your channel’s future instead of your content’s past.

If you started your channel with gaming videos but have now switched to vlogging, a gaming-themed design is not going to do your channel any good; it will create the expectation that you’re going to post more gaming videos in the future. Then, when those expectations are not met you will lose subscribers.

Starting a YouTube channel is the easy part…

Of course, even if you’re following all these steps after starting a YouTube channel, there’s no guarantee for success. In fact, all of this is really just a starting point.

In order to get people to check out your channel, you’ll have create kick-ass content and do some serious marketing work. If you want to learn how to do that, make sure you don’t miss my next articles (and receive as a bonus my ebook The Ultimate YouTube Tool Guide): 

Tell me about your new channel

Are you starting a new YouTube channel? I’d love to know more about it. Share your channel in the comments and let us know what you’re planning to do with it.

Last update: 02.06.2018

Written by Anna
Anna spends a lot of time thinking about YouTube, video and the future of TV. She has worked as a composer, actress, director, writer and online marketer. When she's not working on a new creative project, she's probably stuffing herself with vegan burgers. She's German but spends most of her time in Barcelona because they have better beaches.