9 Lessons I Learnt after 1000 Subscribers on YouTube

Embracing slow growth

3rd of July 2021, Wellington, New Zealand.

I published a video on YouTube.

I’ve had multiple YouTube channels in the past. The one that taught me the most started with an awkward video.

As of writing this article, I have published 43 long-form and 65 short-form videos. And the 26th of Oct 2022, the channel reached 1K subscribers.

You might think, well, that’s nothing in 16 months. That’s not success.

Well, I think otherwise.

My goal with this article is

  • to paint a realistic picture of how most YouTube channels grow & perform nowadays
  • to give you an example of the dark side of content creation
  • as well as to encourage you to start your own.

So, here are the lessons that my design YouTube channel taught me.

#1. Trolls come

That’s a fact.

Don’t be a people pleaser because the YouTube journey will be miserable if you do. As more and more people started to watch my videos, more trolls came. The view troll ratio is a few thousand views and one troll.

The worst thing we can do is to give power to the trolls. But sometimes, I couldn’t help it. I had to reply. Sometimes trolls blocked me, so I couldn’t block them, so they made it impossible to continue the conversation if I wanted to.

My trolls are usually people with no profile picture or real name. Yeah, it’s easy to be a troll that way.

Trolls come, especially when I create videos about hot topics, e.g. Figma Adobe acquisition and Meta (Facebook’s new branding).

Initially, I decided to leave those nasty messages in the comment section for posterity.

But then I realized, you know what?

This is my channel. I want to build a kind community. So the comments from trolls just didn’t fit into my vision. I decided to remove them.

I got to the point with my troll journey that now, when someone leaves a hurtful comment, I think about it for a few hours. Then I delete the comment. The next day when I woke up, I don’t think about that troll’s comment anymore.

#2. Evergreen content

When I was a total newbie YouTuber, I heard about evergreen content. Evergreen videos tend to do well in search, on the home screen, they show up in the suggested videos section too. Evergreen content performs great. At least, that’s the promise.

But for me, it just didn’t work.

I kept creating ‘how-to’ videos, but they got the lowest views in the first couple of days. And the videos bring only a few viewers, even if I created them more than a year ago. Go figure.

I figured (well, assumed) that because I’m in the product design (UX & UI) space, this evergreen content idea might not be working. Because if I create a video on how to wireframe, the tools & tech I show in the video might be different a couple of years later. So people don’t even click on my evergreen video.

Or there may be something else I’m doing wrong because I know evergreen works for many YouTubers.

In my channel, the most time-consuming videos to create are the technical how-to videos. One of them just got such embarrassing view counts that I wanted to hide it from the channel. About 60 views in a year. 60 views for 16 hours of work. I was super proud of that video, but nobody was watching it.

So, the point is I stopped making evergreen video content.

#3. Falling out of love

It happens quite often. I get obsessed with something and try my best to have that in my life. But no matter how much I try, things just don’t work out. Eventually, I grew out of that obsession. There’s always an important lesson we need to learn when the things we love don’t work out.

When it comes to content making if a YouTube channel doesn’t work out and we give it a fair shot, e.g. 100 long-form videos. Then, we need to learn to pivot, or we need to learn to let go.

My biggest goal is to grow. Grow as a person, become more confident on camera, appear friendly, concise, and to the point when delivering my content.

I want to be a less nervous public speaker and to seem natural. I want to gain more confidence as an English speaker who’s not a native English speaker.

I want to appear friendly, confident and approachable on camera. I want to share everything I know and experienced during my design career. I hope people find value in listening to my experience, and that it helps them not to make the same mistakes.

#4. Everything starts with a blog post

I tried winging it, I tried bullet points, I tried mini paragraphs. None of them was working.

Most YouTubers don’t fully script their videos, but I do. It gives me peace of mind. It lets me coherently deliver my point.

Writing is thinking. It helps me organize my thoughts for a video.

After trying multiple approaches to drafting my content for the video shoot, I realized I needed to plan. Hence why, a blog post is my central content pillar. If I don’t have a blog post related to the video, then I don’t have a video. It’s that simple.

Funnily, I never script my shorts. But I always script my long-form videos.

#5. Video shooting gets easier

Video shooting is the smallest chunk in the YouTube video-making process.

In the very beginning, shooting a video took me about 2–3 hours.

Now, because I script my videos and I’m more confident on camera, it takes me about 30–60 minutes to record the A-roll (depending on the overall length of a video).

B-roll is a different thing. I learnt to storyboard. I learnt to think of shots and images, e.g. I need a 10-sec long video of me walking in the woods. I like to think about the feelings I want to convey to my viewers.

Of course, I make lots of tutorials, which are technical, so there’s not much feeling I can include in those videos. However, I can apply these to my vlog and the more casual-style videos.

I recently finished Matt D’Avella Slow growth YouTube course. I feel more knowledgeable about how to make great video content. But…my skills are still missing, and now I am trying to bridge that gap.

Also, I had a bad few months when I knew I could have done videos and made better videos, but I didn’t. I had a crippling fear that I couldn’t make my artistic vision come to life, so why should I even try? It resulted in me not making videos for a few months.

#6. Hell yeah

See, I do have a spreadsheet with over 400 long-form video ideas. Will I make all of them? I probably won’t.

I started the channel with about 6 (I can’t recall the exact number now) videos in my YouTube vault. I had the spreadsheet mentioned above with over 200 ideas. I had a plan of how I was going to execute them and when and how I was going to record them.

However, a funny thing happened. When I wrote down the video idea, I felt excited. But when I got to the video idea to plan and record (a few weeks later), I lost interest in the topic. That’s when I realized I needed to be passionate about the topic during the time of writing & recording the video.

So, no, I don’t have 6 videos of runway on YouTube. I don’t keep videos in the vault anymore. I focus on the one I’m making in the week or month.

If a content idea is not a hell yeah, then I don’t create a video about it. I need to enjoy the topic and the process. I am not selling anything (yet), so I want to create videos that I am passionate about.

#7. I’m not an entertainer

Let me explain.

Even though I create videos and put myself out on the intraweb, my personality is more introverted. Sure, I can pretend I’m an extrovert when needed, but that’s not my natural tendency.

One of my most successful videos so far was an edutainment video.

I was acting, I put on a persona, and I made hundreds of B-rolls to be able to switch clips every 4–5 seconds to keep the video engaging. I made an engaging thumbnail. I only put a few words on the thumbnail that complimented the video title. I storyboarded the whole video, and I sketched myself doing the actions. I made a list of A-rolls and B-rolls I wanted to shoot. I saw the entire thing in my head. I had an emotion I wanted to convey with my video. And it paid off. It became my best-performing video to date.

The video is not even 5 minutes long. But it was hard work. Fun work but hard.

I’m just a one-woman show. I’m the content planner, the writer, the administrator, the cinematographer, the actor, the editor, the graphic designer, and the marketing & social media manager.

At the time I released that video, YouTube consumed me. I woke up thinking about videos. I went to bed thinking about videos. I spent my lunch break working on some aspects of my videos. I couldn’t enjoy going out because I was thinking about how much I could have done on my videos instead of hanging out with friends. Yes, I wasn’t exactly the life of the party…because I was talking about video creation.

I should have seen this coming because I know myself. I have an addictive nature, and I became obsessed with making videos and making better videos with more and more entertainment. The success of that one video made me even more obsessed.

But then I got sick. I neglected my health because I wanted to make better videos. It sounds silly, doesn’t it?

I had to take a hard look at myself and re-think how I spend my time in activities outside of my day job. That’s when I embraced slow growth.

I can now honestly say I’m perfectly ok with it.

#8. Helping people is the best feeling

Receiving positive feedback on a video is one of the best things in my weeks.

Receiving feedback saying one of my videos helped them to make a decision about which design path to choose.

Receiving comments that my channel is the most underrated & realistic design channel, even though not many people are watching.

I received messages on one of my tech videos saying it was the best they watched, and they watched a lot, and my video helped them decide on which phone to buy.

Receiving emails from lots of (possibly introverted) viewers who instead write me a longer message privately describing how much they appreciate my content.

There’s no other feeling like this.

I appreciate all of my viewers, especially when someone messages me, letting me know the impact of my videos. Messages keep me going.

I read all of my messages and reply to them myself. There’s no automation. There’s no assistant. Sometimes it takes me a week to get to the messages, but I sure will reply.

#9. I won’t be a full-time content creator anytime soon

The thing is, I like my job. I work a regular 9-to-5 job as a designer in tech, and I plan on keeping it for the next 10 years.

Not every 9-to-5 job is terrible.

What if YouTube brings me that big of success that I earn more from content than my regular job? Well, I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon so that ‘danger’ is not approaching yet.

At the moment, I can’t imagine putting all of my eggs in one risky basket. It’s great to take time off whenever I want to. Even though I only have 1K subscribers, I still receive demanding emails and comments because I said I would create a video (and I’ll do that), but the audience expects me to deliver faster. But I just can’t.

The first 1000 fans might be the truest, but there are only so many hours in a day. I want to avoid pushing myself to the edge of burnout. I’ve been there, done that, never again. I’m sad to disappoint my subscribers, but mentally and physically, I can’t deliver everything they ask me to.

I might change my mind if I ever become a full-time content creator. But let’s step into the river when we get to the river. Who knows?

What’s next

It seemed impossible to get 1000 subscribers.

Milestones the channel achieved:

  • 3 Jul 2021 — first video published
  • 3 Nov 2021 — reached 100 subs
  • 14 Jan 2022 — reached 200 subs
  • Mid Apr 2022 — reached 500 subs (the fastest growth happened from 400 to 600, I can’t even tell the exact date when I had 500 subs)
  • 26 Oct 2022 — reached 1000 subs

The growth was slow, and I thought 1K subs would be hard. But actually, getting 4000 watch hours is a challenging task for me.

I am not sure if I can ever reach that right now. I only have 1.2K watch hours in the last 365 days. It seems impossible, exactly how 1K subs did.

Screenshot of my YouTube channel analytics - 13 Nov 2022

It’s still possible to fail with a YouTube channel. So I need to strategize. I should create longer videos so people can watch those. YouTube 2022 is different from YouTube 2016. Nowadays, it’s much harder ‘to make it. But I’m going to try anyway.

How much money did I make on YouTube?

None. Zero. Nill. Nothing. In terms of dollar value.

But, I have an indirect income from writing because everything starts with a blog post.

I also received multiple requests from brands to work with them because they saw my YouTube videos. That’s an indirect income as well. It’s just below $1000, but I’m only getting started.

YouTube is a door opener.

It opened doors for me, for sure. Doors I thought are only open to ‘influencters’.

If you haven’t started your channel yet, I encourage you to do so.

It’s fun and hard work…but you never know where it might take you.