You might’ve noticed lately that I’ve been posting a lot more of my YouTube videos here in lieu of blog posts. It’s been part of an experiment I’ve been running (albeit in a “lazy researcher” sort of way) to see whether freelancers and solopreneurs like you learn better via video, blog posts, audio, or if there’s a mix somewhere. Basically, is there a way for me to help you learn better? Let’s test and find out!
Consequently, I’ve been doing a lot of research into how the fastest-growing youtube channels connect to their community. Some parts of it have been for selfish reasons; obviously, I want to get my content out to as many people as possible. But I also wanted to learn more about how to connect with my audience in a way that will help them grow too. So far, the biggest takeaway I’ve had is that it’s not just about firing up the ole’ Sony and delivering great content- it’s also about connecting with your audience on a personal level.
But is video marketing worth the effort when you’re a freelancer who’s not interested in building a community? Maybe. Here’s what I’ve found out.
The Case for Building a YouTube Platform as a Freelancer
1. You Can Easily Reach More People Than You Would With Blogging
One of the biggest benefits of YouTube is that it’s a global platform. Whereas a blog can be read by people all over the world, video content is consumed primarily in countries where internet access is prevalent, and people have televisions. This means that you can easily reach more people than you would with blogging- even if you only have a small audience. And if your audience is interested in your topic, they’re more likely to watch your videos than any blog post you could write.
2. Video Marketing Can Be Cost-Effective
Compared to other forms of marketing, video marketing can be quite cost-effective. For starters, creating good content takes time, and while video production costs money, it can also be highly productive when done correctly. If you want to start off with your iPhone’s camera, go for it. But even going for a full-on rig with a dedicated camera, mics, etc., is maybe a few thousand that can be used for years; way less than a Google ad campaign for sure. (Here’s a video I did all about the essentials you need to market a freelancing business)
3. YouTube is a Perfect Companion for Freelancers
The thing I’ve noticed in freelancing is that becoming an authority (or, at least, being seen as an authority) opens up way more opportunities for freelance work than you’re probably thinking. Rather than shouting into the void about how qualified you are to write about X, having a YouTube channel full of thoughtful pieces does the work for you. You’d be surprised how much weight that can carry, especially when times are tough and gigs are hard to come by.
The Things I’ve Noticed About the Fastest Growing YouTube Channels
I’ve followed a few subreddits relating to YouTube growth: /r/newtubers, /r/youtubers, and /r/partneredyoutube, and noticed some interesting things across all three when zeroing in on accounts that are verifiably the biggest growing youtube channel owners:
1. Successful YouTube Channels Build Strong Communities
It’s not just about putting out great content; it’s also about building a relationship with your audience. The most successful channels have taken the time to connect with their subscribers on a personal level, answering questions, engaging in debates, and even posting videos about things that are relevant to their subscribers. Not only does this create goodwill and trust with their audience, but it also encourages them to share your content and promote it to their friends.
2. A Lot of the Growth Comes From Monetizing Non-Loyal Subscribers
I would say that 95% of the growth on the biggest channels is due to converting non-loyal subscribers. In other words, they’ve figured out a way to get people who aren’t necessarily fans of their content to subscribe in order to get access to new videos. This can be done through things like exclusive offers, bonus material, and even contests.
This, to me, is where freelancers shine. If you’ll forgive a little bit of ego-stroking here, I’ve found that freelancers are typically some of the most creative and resilient solopreneurs around. They’re typically quick on their feet at finding ways to optimize opportunities and pulling people into the “know, like, trust” funnel much easier than other types of entrepreneurs. Maybe it’s because you have to be the sales team, too? I’m not entirely sure. Regardless, the ability to convert people who might’ve not originally understood what you’re trying to do is such a cornerstone of freelancing that I think it really goes hand-in-hand with utilizing a marketing platform like YouTube.
3. Owners of The Biggest YouTube Channels Understand Their Value as A Teacher.
YouTube isn’t the only avenue for video marketing; it’s also an effective platform for promoting other products and services that you offer your audience. For example, if you’re a web developer, you could create tutorials about building websites using YouTube as your primary platform. Or, if you’re a consultant, you could create video tutorials about your consulting services.
Is YouTube Too Saturated for Freelancers to Be Successful?
I’d say no, because of a few reasons:
1. You’re already used to being in a saturated field – Freelancing, especially post-COVID, is a huge market. There are always going to be opportunities for freelancers to pick up new clients, whether that’s through word-of-mouth or reaching out to agencies and larger businesses that might be in need of a quick turnaround.
2. You’re probably already good at promoting yourself – If you’ve been able to build an audience on your own, you’ll have a leg up when it comes to marketing your work on YouTube. All the tips and tricks in the world won’t do you any good if no one knows about them.
3. Part-time freelancing often ends up as a full-time career This is something that many people don’t think about when they first start freelancing; they think that it’s just a way to make some extra money while they figure out what they want to do long-term. But, over time, many successful freelancers have turned their freelance careers into full-time jobs. My point is this: Adding a successful marketing channel like YouTube that consistently promotes evergreen content is a boon for your marketing strategy. Unlike Instagram or TikTok, where the content seems to expire, YouTube content can really last for years.
To Vlog or Not to Vlog: What Your Channel Content Should Be About
To be totally transparent, a majority of the successful channels in those subreddits I mentioned were gaming-focused; hardly a niche a freelance writer or graphic designer would see as useful. However, gaming seems to be a cornerstone (for now at least) of YouTube content, so it’s absolutely worth looking at these biggest YouTube channels (in terms of growth, at least) as a case study. In fact, there were some things I noticed that could be helpful for determining what content to create if you just looked at them in a certain way:
1. “Follow along content” – Most of the gamer channels had “let’s play” or some sort of video that showed them going through a game. That can definitely be repurposed for a freelancer’s channel. Recording how you do something, the tools you utilize, etc., go a long way in establishing authenticity and authority. Some freelancers and entrepreneurs worry that peeling back the curtain in their operations will just make it easier for competitors to steal IP, but I’ve never really found that to be the case. You could rip off my Pinterest workflow, sure, but you’re never going to get it down exactly the way I do it with the text, colors, images, etc., especially over the long term.
2. Answering questions – “How do I beat this level?” or “How do I unlock this thing?” are extremely easy questions to answer for expert gamers and it makes for good video content. The same goes for you: “What’s the best way to do this project?” “How do I make this happen faster?” Answering these basic questions could be excellent content for SERP and help you get new eyes on your freelance work.
3. Sharing advice – Somewhat similar to answering questions, but with a more in-depth approach. Finally, many successful gamer channels were also great at sharing their tips and tricks with viewers. This can be anything from game advice (“This is how I did it”) to general life advice (“This is what worked for me when I was in a similar situation”). It can definitely be helpful for freelancers who want to start building a following without having to put in as much effort on their own content marketing strategy.
4. Vlogging – I put this last because I really think vlogging is more filler content than useful, especially if you’re trying to gain work as a freelancer. Is vlogging useful? It depends. Are you just uploading a vlog because you feel like you “have” to upload content this week? Does it really add value to your community? There’s an argument for vlogging as a way to build community, but when you’re trying to establish yourself as an authority, the community just isn’t there yet. I think it’s probably a better content type for established influencers or those who have a large fanbase that wants more of you, but when you’re utilizing YouTube as a marketing platform to attract clients for your freelance business, I don’t much see the point (at least in the beginning)
The bottom line
There’s something to be said for freelancers who are willing to put themselves out there and market via YouTube. It’s my opinion that video-based marketing is an avenue that pays off dividends, especially on an evergreen platform like YouTube, which makes it worth the effort. However, the key is to find a strategy that keeps you positioned as an authority that clients want to hire and not an influencer that fans want to love. Looking through successful channels has made me realize there’s a distinction there that many overlook (sometimes to their detriment).