Issue #14

How to vlog: Your simple guide to getting started without expensive equipment

Content Marketing Video YouTube
10 min read

There's no denying that vlogs are the content of the moment. You might be feeling like you should start one, and at the same time, you may also be wondering if it's too late to learn how to vlog.

How can your vlog stand out when there are over 300 hours of footage uploaded every minute to YouTube already?

Well, just as with blogging and podcasting, there is always room for your unique voice and story to be heard through video content. Here's why you should start a vlog, and how to get it off the ground.

What is a vlog?

First of all, what even is a vlog? And how is it different to other types of video?

As I'm sure you figured, ‘vlog' stands for ‘video blog' and it's exactly that: content that you would write a blog post on, but instead you talk to a camera about it.

There are two main styles of vlog: a ‘talking-head' video where the camera is on a tripod (or on a stack of books depending on your equipment budget!) and stays steady while the vlogger talks about a subject, or a ‘follow me around' vlog where the vlogger will take a camera with them and film clips as they go about their day or week.

The rise of superstar vloggers

It's easy to focus on the elaborate side of YouTube we often see in the media:

  • YouTubers selling out arenas in nationwide tours.
  • YouTuber vloggers landing book deals and making it on the bestseller list.
  • Successful vloggers earning six-figure incomes from pre-roll advertising alone, let alone all the brand sponsorships and merchandise profits.

But for every member of the YouTube elite, there are untold more content creators diligently filming and uploading to a more, shall we say, realistically sized audience.

If fame and fortune are your sole reasons for wanting to start a vlog, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Only around 4,000 channels out of the millions that exist on YouTube have over 1 million subscribers. But the great thing about vlogging is that you don't need a million subscribers to both give and receive a lot of value through your videos.

The benefits of vlogging for growing an audience

If you already have a blog or a podcast (perhaps even both), a vlog could open you up to a whole new audience. People like to consume content in different ways and just as some prefer to read or listen to stories or advice, others prefer to watch it.

More people are watching

YouTube is becoming a main source of entertainment with more and more people choosing to watch YouTube videos over traditional television or even Netflix. On YouTube most of the time we're not seeing actors, but real people and their real lives, making the content much more relatable.

Build personal connection

It's much easier to build a personal connection with your audience through vlogging than it is through writing or podcasting. There is something meaningful about seeing someone speak to you, even if it is through video! When you vlog, you're letting someone in to see a little piece of your life or thoughts.

Build audience loyalty

If you've already built an audience elsewhere, vlogging will help you build loyalty by connecting with them on a more personal level. And if you're brand new to the content game, vlogging on YouTube is a great place to start as the platform is also the world’s second largest search engine.

Over one billion hours of video are watched daily on YouTube. That means you'll be uploading your content to a place where people are already looking for it.

I will note here that the one downside to building a following on YouTube is that, unlike with your own website or email list, you don't have ownership of your audience. The only way to deliver content to them is by publishing videos or via YouTube's messaging system, both of which have their flaws.

But this just means that you need to do the work to bring a YouTube subscriber over to your email list. Because of the loyalty, you will build through vlogging, your core audience will follow you to other platforms, so you should think of YouTube subscribers as warm leads for your other projects.

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The best way to build an audience as a new vlogger

It can be hard to grow on a new platform, especially with so much noise and hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube every day. So the best way to stand out isn't to try to make videos that appeal to everyone, but to…

Choose a specific niche

Did you know you can choose your target audience? By making videos that appeal to a very specific target market you'll attract people who are part of that niche and build an audience of people who see you as their go-to source on the topic.

Choosing a niche not only helps you grow because your videos will be more likely to show up in search results for that topic, but when people are talking about your channel to their friends they'll know exactly how to describe it.

They may not have seen a channel like it before (one that speaks directly to them) so they'll be much more inclined to share it in the first place. I've witnessed the power of the niche first hand on YouTube.

CharliMarieTV YouTube channel screenshot

When I started my channel over four years ago I was making videos about anything that interested me: fashion, food, design, DIY projects– you name it. I did well, earning around 30,000 subscribers after three years on the platform. But then I made a drastic shift: I decided to focus my content solely on design. After all, I'm a designer and that's the subject that interests me the most!

I went all in on design videos, and while some of my audience who were there for the lookbooks and craft projects dropped off, I also became known in my niche and attracted tens of thousands of new viewers.

The YouTube algorithm now recommends my videos alongside those from other design channels, and I've been featured on several roundup lists of ‘top graphic designers to follow on YouTube'.

On my fourth YouTube channel anniversary, I'd reached 70,000 subscribers. That's a 40k difference in just one year of committing to a niche!

So the best way to build a target audience on YouTube is to pick something you want to be known for and use that as your starting point for making content.

How to vlog if you're just getting started

There’s a lot to think about when starting a vlog, but there are just a couple things I hear most often when people are asking for advice.

What camera should I use?

This is the question most people ask when they want to get into vlogging.

Our friend Caleb Wojcik has put together a guide to video gear that you can read here, but when it comes to vlogging: the content of your vlog is much more important than what you film it on.

Of course better quality audio and video will make you appear more professional, but even the most beautifully shot vlog in the world will have viewers leaving part way through if the content isn't interesting.

So what camera should you use? Whatever you have access to!

What should I talk about?

Another of the most common excuses I hear from people who want to start a vlog is “I just wouldn't know what to talk about.” Here's some advice from Gary Vaynerchuk, a CEO & entrepreneur with nearly one million subscribers on YouTube and a multi-million dollar business:

Document. Don't create.

His advice is simple. Instead of stressing yourself out trying to think of new and creative content ideas, simply document your life and business.

Share your thoughts and experience. Share what's inspiring you or frustrating you at the moment. You'll still be creating content, but you'll never have to wonder what to talk about. And because you're just being yourself, it will instantly be relatable.

Take a look at the vlogs you love and you'll find that many follow this idea of documenting vs creating. They're sharing a day in their life, their skincare routine, their process for food photography, their thoughts on politics, their review of the latest iPhone. They're being themselves and telling you what's on their mind.

content is king in vlogging

So if you're wondering what to talk about when vlogging, think about what you know about your chosen niche topic (I bet it's a lot). Write down anything that comes to mind– any small piece of your process that could be broken out into a video a few minutes long. Any issues you remember facing when you were just getting started, or that you still struggle with today.

Soon you'll have a list of video ideas as long as your arm, and that's your next year's worth of content sorted. You'll be surprised at how much value your audience will get simply from you sharing your process.

I'm a shy introvert!

Here are a few ideas to help you overcome your shyness:

  • Batch the recording of your videos: From your list of video ideas, select 4 or 5 topics that are related. Batching will help you get comfortable with the recoding process faster. You'll get into the flow more easily avoid awkward pauses, etc.
  • Write down you introduction and practice it until is sounds natural, maybe even ask a trusted friend to listen to you and give you some pointers. If the video intro goes smoothly you'll move to the next part more confidently.
  • Wear your favorite outfit, your lucky socks, or whatever makes you feel more confident.

How often do I have to vlog?

It's all about consistency. Decide on a frequency that works for you and your schedule and stick to it. If you already run podcast or write newsletters this should be no problem for you.

Any other tips?

  • Share your YouTube videos on all your other social media platforms, your newsletters, and even your website!
  • Promote your YouTube videos with an optimized YouTube channel.
  • Don't let perfectionism be an excuse! Forget about music, special effects, or the perfect lighting for your YouTube videos when you're beginning. Have a look at the first and the latest videos of some of your favorite vloggers. You'll see how much they've improved and if they can do it so can you…but have a little patience with yourself.

Stay connected with your YouTube audience

So my best advice for learning how to vlog? Pick up a camera, press that record button, and start talking.

Don't leave it any longer. Share your thoughts. Upload it for the world to watch, and see what happens. With hard work, consistency, and a little vulnerability as you share your process, you'll build a loyal audience who will love your vlogs.

And to stay connected with that audience, an email list is a must.

Sure, YouTube sends notifications to your channel subscribers when you upload a new video, but what about all those casual viewers that never hit the subscribe button? Or what if you want to update your channel subscribers on a project you have coming soon?

Having an email list is the best way to get your news right into your followers' inboxes, free of ads and algorithms.

And the easiest way to start your email list is by creating a free landing page (you can link to this landing page in the description of your YouTube videos, your Instagram bio, and more!)

Check out this video to see how easy it is to create a landing page in ConvertKit…seriously for free.

Take the next step on your creator journey

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Charli Prangley

Charli is ConvertKit's Creative Director. Born in New Zealand but currently living in Valencia, Spain she’s passionate about side projects and helping creatives improve their craft and process. When she’s not designing and leading the Brand team at ConvertKit she's creating content for her design-centric YouTube channel and podcast sharing insights into life as a professional designer alongside tutorials and advice on design tools and concepts.

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