Yes! I've now reached 280K subscribers on my Youtube channel. It was just 7,000 subscribers back in 2016 when I wrote the original article, and 4,000 subsribers on 19 Nov 2015. The journey has been long and there's still a long road ahead.
The tips and strategies below are from my personal experience and from analysing other successful Youtube art channels. I've used the same tips to grow my channel, and also started a tech channel which now has 35,000 subscribers.
1. Start your channel with the right reasons
Why do you want to start a Youtube channel? It's a lot of work and you probably won't see results for a long time.
Starting a Youtube channel for the right reasons is incredibly important because that will determine how far you can go, and the success of your channel. Everything is easier with the right motivation, and if you can turn your motivation into habits to help you create art, anything, you're on the way to success.
If you are looking for fame and money, be prepared to get disappointed because those are byproducts of the videos you make, and those will come much later. When starting out, your videos won't have many views and you won't get many subscribers. If you are focused on the number of views, likes and subscribers, you will be disappointed everyday when you check your Youtube analytics. How far do you think you can go if you're disappointed each day when you know how much effort you have put into your videos?
Youtube pays around USD $1-4 per 1,000 impressions (views) from Google Adsense. It's unlikely for a new art channel to make substantial amount of money in the beginner. If you get 10,000 views on your videos in a month, that may earn you just $10 to $40. To make significant amount of money, you have to plan your content strategies for the long term.
You may feel very passionate or motivated to start a Youtube channel, but that passion or motivation my die out. The next question is do you have the discipline to keep going?
When I first started my channel, I didn't know if I would enjoy making videos. Now, I'm excited to wake up each day to make videos. If I don't make a video, I would brainstorm for ideas on what to make.
You don't need to have a Yuotube channel. Many artists do not have Youtube channels. But if you don't have a Youtube channel, you're missing out on the potential of how it can help your career.
2. Pick a niche and stick with it.
Picking a niche is important. It's like creating a brand, and this is the brand you want people to remember when they think of you, your art or your style.
After you've picked a niche, don't post unrelated or random videos.
People subscribe to your channel to see a certain type of content. People may not watch videos unrelated to your niche.
My Youtube art channel used to be focused on urban sketching and art supplies. Over the years, I've also added reviews of pen tablets and pen displays. While reviews for the tech products popular, my art channel has started to lose it focus.
People who subscribed to my channel for art don't watch the tech videos, vice versa. So whenever I published an art video, the subscribers that like tech won't watch the art video, vice versa. As a result, the click-through rate is affected, and Youtube will think the video is not popular and hence won't promote it to more people.
Posting unrelated and random videos can really hurt your Youtube channel. And that's the reason why I started a new tech Youtube channel in September 2019 and now that channel has 35,000 subscribers.
Start with one channel. Don't start that too many channels. Creating videos and maintaining a channel takes a lot of effort and time so don't spread yourself too thin.
3. Pick a good name for your channel
What's good? Something that's unique, easy for people to remember.
You can go with your real name or nickname and that will help build your brand. E.g. Mike Crilley.
Or you can have a name that's related to the content you're producing. E.g. Mind of Watercolor.
You can append art to your name to make it more descriptive. E.g. Lachri Fine Art.
Avoid numbers, e.g. like princess1987. It's difficult for people to remember.
4. Develop your skills
Since you're creating an art channel, obviously you'll have to show your art. But if you're not great at drawing or are a beginner, you can always use your Youtube channel to document your progress.
As your art gets better, you'll also build an audience who likes your art. Your progress may also inspire others.
How much success you will have is somewhat related to the level of skill or talent you have. If your art looks great, then there's a good chance your art will be able to market itself by people sharing them.
5. Make sure the video quality is good
Good video quality, or high production value, will attract and retain the audience.
Use good lighting. Make sure you shoot at a good angle to show off your art.
Get a good camera. You can even use a camera phone provided you have good lighting. If you don't have good lighting, consider investing in some lamps. Most cameras record best in better lighting. Make sure people can see what you want to show them. Don't film vertically!
If you want to invest in a camera, get one that can also shoot in manual focus mode. Autofocus is convenient but it can ruin the video when it fails to focus on correct subject.
I highly recommend you invest in a camera that has a 3.5mm audio jack so that you can connect a microphone (recommendations here) to it to record audio. You may also need a USB mic to record voiceovers, but start with mics that connect to the camera first.
Audio quality is as important as, perhaps even more important than, visual quality. You can get those affordable clip-on lavalier microphones when starting out.
Check out this video below on how I actually record my videos, and the equipment I use:
6. Create useful content
Video content can be split into several categories such as educational, entertaining, inspiring and many others.
If you want to create education content, you must have something to teach. There are lots of people looking to learn to create art on Youtube. If you have educational videos, that's what they will look for. Tutorials are also ever green so people will continue to look for them into the future as compared to art products which have a time span.
Create a variety of videos and see what works for you. The more videos you have, the more useful the data points or statistics, and you can use that to brainstorm for more types of videos to make. You can have instructional videos, product reviews, critics, challenges, show your workspace, tools, interview other artists and more. If you only produce the same types of video, people may get bored.
I found out over the years that videos of art Youtubers talking about how they make money online is getting more popular. But please don't make such videos when you're starting out because it will only make you pretentious, just like the 25 year-old-life gurus giving advice on how you can manage your life.
The best videos are those that can connect with your audience on a personal level. If you talk about your struggles as an art beginners, other art beginners can relate to you.
Know your target audience well and make videos for them. You can make videos that you yourself would like to see, but you want to grow a channel so you have to make videos that others will want to see as well.
7. Make use of current events and ride on their marketing mojo
You can create videos that are linked to current events or holidays. Movies are popular! You can create a tutorial on fan art, or a timelapse video showing you drawing one. When the movie Frozen was out, artists all around in and outside of Youtube were drawing fan art for Anna and Elsa.
This will help you get new views and subscribers. When people are excited about movies, they will search for the characters they like. If you have that character drawing video, they are likely to find you through Youtube search.
Pay attention to events as well. E.g. Inktober, watercolour month, Halloween, holidays or festivals. You can create related art during these events too.
8. Have voiceovers or narration instead of subtitles
If your video does not have voice-overs or narration, it's no different from a powerpoint slide and that's boring. Having narration will add so much value to the video.
Subtitles don't work because it's difficult to read subtitle and watch the video content at the same time.
Playing music in the background while you talk is not necessary. If you really want to use background music, make sure it's not too loud and not distracting.
9. Speak like you're talking to a friend. Be conversational.
You are going to sound quite bad in the first few videos and that's to be expected. I cringe when I watch my early videos. But over time you will get better, and you will feel more confident, and sound more confident. This will also carry on over to when you converse with people in real life.
Don't be afraid if you're shy. I'm an introvert and over the years have also gotten comfortable to talking in front of the camera. I still feel awkward when talking to the camera while I'm out vlogging though.
Let your personality show through. If you talk like your boring teacher in school, you're going to bore people to tears and they will click away.
You can also ask people to ask questions or ask them what they think about your video. You'll be surprised at the response rate.
You don't have to show your face in an art video, but showing your face can be advantageous because it adds personality. People like to know how the artist look.
10. Edit out unnecessary parts
Edit your videos to cut out unnecessary parts that do not help the video. You can cut out repeated words. Long segments of drawing or painting process can but cut shorter. Video editing skills can be learned on the job. It also helps to see how other artists edit their videos.
People online don't have much attention span so videos should only be long for the right reasons. Otherwise keep the videos short.
It's better to have a short video where people watch to completion rather than a long video where people drop out early. When people watch a good portion of your video, it tells Youtube that your video is engaging and Youtube may promote it to more people.
11. Use clear thumbnails
Thumbnails are incredibly important.
Having an interesting thumbnail that catches people's attention is very important.
If your thumbnail cannot attract attention, people won't click and your click-through rate suffers, and your views will be limited too. So everything actually starts with the thumbnail. There are many tutorials available online on making attention grabbing thumbnails so learn from them.
There are so many tutorials on how you can make a good thumbnail on Youtube so go watch those tutorials.
It is tempting to gloss over designing a thumbnail and that would be a big mistake. Some videos are successful just because the thumbnail looks great and can get people to click.
Don't use click bait thumbnails because people may click, realised they have been tricked and click away, and that will tell Youtube your video is not engaging.
12. Tags aren't that useful
I found out over the years that tags aren't that useful in promoting your videos. But tags are good for categorising your videos.
13. Don't do giveaways and ask for comments
Youtube has specific rules regarding giveaways so do read them first.
I've done a few giveaways over the years but I don't find them to be useful for promoting videos. The success of giveaways will of course depend on how the mechanics.
14. Share your videos on other social media sites
It may sound logical to share your Youtube videos to other social media websites to get more views, but that can actually harm the success of your video.
If the video you share is not relevant to the audience of the social media platform, people will click and watch a few seconds then click away, and that will tell Youtube your video is not popular.
You should only share your videos when they are relevant. What you want is watch time from people genuinely interested in your content, and those people will watch your video to completion, which indicates to Youtube your video is great.
When I see someone ask a question on a forum and I have a video that answers that question, that's when I will link to my video.
Youtube and its algorithm is great at promoting videos to the right audience so let it do its job.
15. Collaborate with other artists
This will get you new views and subscribers.
Don't think of other artists as competitors. There are hundreds of millions of people on Youtube, it does not mean that if a person follows your competitor, they will not follow you.
You can collaborate with other artists and use cross-promotion to grown both channels! Look for related channels to collaborate with though. It doesn't make sense for an art channel to collaborate with a cake baking channel.
It's good to look for some Youtube creator with roughly similar subscriber count as yours. You can help out each other. If you want to collaborate with a superstar creator, they may not have the time to collaborate with your, or maybe because their time better spent collaborating with other superstar creators.
I don't actually collaborate with artists but this is a strategy used by other creators and it can work. If successful, you can get more audience. Your subscribers who follow the other creators may be surprised to see the collaboration.
16. Do not spam other people's channel
If you want to be a content creator, be one, don't be a beggar.
Do not ask people to subscribe to you on someone else's video or channel. It's rude! Don't do the sub-for-sub thing. It's waste of time. What you want are genuine subscribers.
Do not ask for a shoutout. Shortouts may not help but harm your channel. A shoutout from a creator not in your niche can lead people to click on your video only to discover they don't like your videos and click away, and that sends the wrong signal to Youtube.
Let your work do the marketing for you. Good videos will get promoted by Youtube so all you have to do is make sure you make good videos.
17. Upload regularly
Upload regularly so that people will know that you're still around. You'll also create an archive of videos that can come back to help you in the future. Each video is an opportunity for people to find through Youtube search.
When you have many videos behind you, it also adds credibility. If you have been creating coloured pencil videos for a long time, then you're likely to be seen as a coloured pencil expert.
When you upload regularly, you also build expectation in people so that they will find the urge to check back often to your channel.
One good way to upload regularly is to create a schedule and stick to it. Let your audience know your schedule so that they can come back on the day you release your video.
You definitely need discipline to upload regularly. Creating a schedule and sticking to the schedule can help develop your discipline. Hopefully you can make making videos into a habit and that will be so much easier for you to make more videos.
Whenever I have video ideas, I will write them down and add to the list. This way I will always have ideas for videos to make.
18. Interact with your community
Youtube is a social platform. Interacting with people can make people relate to you. It can be as simple as replying to comments, or checking out videos on other channels and posting comments.
19. Work hard and smart
This is pretty obvious isn't it? But it's not unfortunately.
If you start a new Youtube channel today, chances are it will take a long time before you can build a sizeable audience or get the views you want to your videos. It will be frustrating to beginners as to why your videos are not successful.
Do not let the unsuccessful videos, lack of views, subscribers get to you. This is where starting a Youtube channel with the right reasons is so important. If you start Youtube channel thinking you can make quick money, quit your job, you have set yourself to be miserable for a very long time before you can even see the results you want. And chances are you'll quit before you even see results.
This is also where iteration is important. Make a variety of videos to see what works and what doesn't. If something is not working, change. Experiment. What's the worst that can happen?
20. Don't use copyrighted music
If you use copyrighted music, your videos can get a copyright strike and all the money earned from Adsense will go to the music creator. You can spend hours or days to make a video but if you use copyrighted music all your efforts will be wasted.
Over the years, Youtube has added many copyright free songs to the Audio Library that you can find under Youtube Studio. Use those copyright-free music when you're starting out instead.
21. Have useful video descriptions
Write helpful descriptions to give viewers an idea of what to expect in the video. This is better than having viewers click the video only to click away after finding out the video isn't what they expected, and this will tell Youtube the video is not popular.
Creating time stamps is helpful too as people can navigate to the particular segment of the video that interests them. This can increase the watch time instead. If you don't have time stamps, people may watch the first few seconds and click away, or they may scrub through the timeline and click away because the video is not relevant to them.
Video descriptions can help with Search Engine Optimisation, but ultimately how well your video will perform comes down to the quality of the video content.
22. Don't join networks
Those networks will take a huge chunk of earnings from you. There are many successful Youtube channels that are not part of any networks. Joining a network isn't going to make your videos succeed more easily.
23. Practice good SEO techniques for writing your title and video description
There are many title writing strategies.
One way is to write keywords so that your videos are searchable. The other is to write interesting titles to grab attention, and hopefully people will click and watch a good portion of the video. Look on Youtube and you'll realised there are titles which are not really searchable but those videos actually are still able to draw in the views.
Experiment with different title writing strategies to see what works for you.
Even if no one reads the description, Google will read the description. Oh, your video will be ranked in Youtube and Google search.
24. Make use of playlists
Group your videos into logical playlists.
This is a great way to get people to watch more videos from you.
If someone likes your video, you can recommend more similar videos to them.
25. Make lots of useful videos
Your videos must give people reason to subscribe and come back. There are so many content strategies out there, some of which I've mentioned above.
If you expect full-time results, be prepared to put in full-time effort. Success does not happen overnight. Luck does not happen everyday. There are many successful artists on Youtube, and there are certainly unsuccessful artists. Successful artists have shown that it is possible to make it online. All you have to do really is to put in the effort.
Don't be distracted by the number of subscribers other artists have. Instead copy their work rate and their strategies. You don't know the amount of work those artists have put in to create their Youtube channel until you've tried to create one yourself.
After reading this article, I hope you take action. Go write down some ideas on videos to make and make them. Don't let procrastination and the lack of action hold you back. Who knows you may discover that you actually like sharing your art online or making videos like I do.
Running a Youtube channel is hard work, but the results can be rewarding in the end. There is a lot of potential on Youtube even when there are already so many artists on the platform.
So try the tips and strategies that I have mentioned above. Be consistent. Work hard and smart.
I wish you all the best.
If you want to learn more about how Youtube and internet marketing works, check out videos from Roberto Blake, Video Creators and of course the part articles I've written on internet marketing for artists.