Last October I wrote a post about using Youtube to get design clients, but a lot has changed since then. My channel is now significantly bigger than it was at that time, with over 13K subscribers, over 700K total views and now averaging over 100K more views per month. So I feel compelled to follow up on that original post and add to it. I think I now have a much better handle on why & how this is working for me.
Before I get started, I just want to thank all of you who have watched, interacted with and shared my videos. This much growth in just one year isn’t possible without people passing around your content, so I really appreciate it.
I don’t like giving advice about things that I don’t have any successful experience with, but now that I’m 1 year in with Youtube and have since acquired tens of thousands of dollars in freelance work from the modest amount of traffic my channel gets, I feel like I’m at least qualified to show you how I’m doing it.
Back in October I mentioned that there aren’t many graphic designers on Youtube (compared to most other niches), and it’s still true in August of 2016. I genuinely believe freelance designers are missing out on enormous amounts of business by not being on Youtube.
Upwork recently doubled their fees, and if you’re like me, you’re probably not too excited with that decision (to say the least.) Youtube offers the opportunity to get design work without having your business depend on freelancing sites, and one thing I really like about it is that they actually pay you to do so. Because of Youtube alone, I find myself hardly needing to use freelancing sites any longer. Glorious days.
Tutorials Work Better Than Speed Art
When I first started my channel, I was merely posting time lapse videos of me creating random designs. This brought in a few viewers, but it wasn’t until I honored the request of some of those viewers to start making how-to tutorials that I really started seeing growth with my channel, and I understand now why this happens.
When you post speed art videos, you’re broadcasting a message that says “Look what I can do!” But when you post tutorial videos, not only are you broadcasting “Look what I can do,” you’re also saying “…and let me show you how you can do the same!” With the latter, you’re creating more value for the person watching. The fact that they can create something on their own that they can use in the real world, because of your video, gives them a reason to not only watch, but come back for more.
If you’re going to start a graphic design channel, I would suggest investing in a decent quality microphone and making tutorial videos. Don’t make the mistake I made at first by getting a cheap lapel microphone; get a USB mic instead. When it comes to tutorials, audio is important. You can get away with less than stellar video quality, but if your viewers can’t understand what you’re communicating to them, your videos aren’t going to be of much use.
A decent USB mic costs around $50. For the past year I have been using the CAD U37, which is an excellent device that hasn’t given me any problems yet.
Isn’t This Counter-Intuitive?
The idea of creating tutorial videos may not make much sense at first. If you’re showing people how to use the design software themselves and how to create their own graphics, why would they need to hire you? They can now do it themselves, right?
That may be the case for some viewers. A lot of people will simply take what they need and be on their way (which is fine,) but there will also be a lot of people who need more than what you’re teaching them.
I’ve noticed that many of my clients who’ve found me through Youtube at one point decided they were going to make a logo on their own, which led them to my channel. Once they started following along with a tutorial, they realized just how difficult this is to accomplish. Creating logos, icons, headers, and so on requires a solid understanding of not only the software, but the principles of design as well. It’s something that can only be accomplished by someone with sufficient experience. This is when they realize that it would take far too much time to learn on their own and decide that it would be much more practical to hire someone like me (or you) to do it for them.
This is another benefit of creating video tutorials — it gives your clients a greater appreciation for what you do. On freelancing sites, clients tend to not realize just how much time and expertise creating a nice design requires, and because of that, will think your work isn’t worth paying very much for. You have greater control of that narrative on Youtube though.
The Types Of Viewers You Will Attract
Understanding the types of viewers you will attract is important because it will largely dictate the type of content you should create for them. Every Youtuber is unique in their own way, and, because of this, will attract their own unique audience. Speaking in general terms, I’ve noticed that the types of viewers my channel attracts are as follows…
- Do-It-Yourself Businesspeople – This is the aforementioned client who originally wanted to design their own logo. In my experience, creating tutorials based on logo design tends to attract them. They will usually search Youtube with terms like “create a logo in Inkscape” or “inkscape logo design,” so it makes sense to create videos that cover this topic.
- Design-Related Professionals – Webmasters, web designers, bloggers, photographers, social media personalities, social media managers, internet marketers, etc. These are all working professionals who have a need for graphic work, but because of their business model or where they currently are in their business journey, it isn’t practical for them to hire a graphic designer for each and every little graphic they may need. They’re looking to learn graphic design just well enough to accomplish simple tasks like creating icons, buttons, headers, sliders, and other related graphics. This is why I occasionally make tutorials about gauges, progress bars, download buttons, folder icons, etc. — it keeps this audience happy and coming back for more. Although they may never hire me directly for work, they can (and have) referred business to me when they’ve encountered a client that needs more elaborate and skilled graphic work done, like logos.
- Students/Beginners – This is the largest of the audience type you will attract. This is usually a younger crowd that wants to learn how to use the design software, either as a hobby or possibly as a career to pursue. When creating content for this audience, it’s important to come up with impressive-looking designs that they’d want to make themselves using techniques that may be new to them. Most importantly, make sure not to skimp on the details. You never know if a particular tutorial you’re creating will be the first one someone watches, so it’s important to go over all of the major details of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This is why I go out of my way to spell out each individual step of the process. I wouldn’t want to confuse or discourage them. Although this audience may never hire you for work or refer work to you, they’re essential for the growth of your channel. The larger your channel is and the more views you get, the higher your content will rank in search so that when the do-it-yourself businessman or the blogger comes looking for something you have, your content will be served to them, which can lead to you being hired by them.
Obviously there’s many more types of viewers you’ll attract — other graphic designers, people generally interested in art/design, or people who simply watch because they find it interesting — but the 3 listed are the biggest and most important to base your content around.
Additional Tips & Advice
The devil is in the details, so always make sure to pay special attention to the following…
Proper SEO (search engine optimization) on Youtube is essential for being discovered and differs slightly than website SEO. Proper SEO can help your videos rank at the top of search results not just in Youtube, but in Google Search and Google Images as well!
In my experience, the biggest factor in determining how your video will rank is the title. When deciding what to title your video, put yourself in the shoes of the person who would find that video useful and what their search terms may be. For example, if it’s a video where you’re teaching people how to design a donut graphic, the video title should include: the name of the software being used, what graphic you’re creating, what type of graphic it is, and what type of video it is.
So for example, a video titled “Inkscape Tutorial: Vector Donut” would rank much better than if you were to title it with something vague and cryptic, like “Check this out: you can create this!” If someone searches Google Images for “vector donut” there’s no criteria in the latter title that would cause the video’s thumbnail to be displayed in the search results.
Another metric that factors into Youtube’s search algorithm is the description you create for a given video. This is basically where you can elaborate on the video’s title and include additional relevant search terms that would help you rank higher. So for example, the description I would use for the donut video would be “In this tutorial for beginners I’ll be demonstrating how you can create a vector donut graphic using Inkscape.” The words beginners and graphic aid in reinforcing the video’s relevancy for such search terms.
There’s obviously far, far more to learn about Youtube SEO than what I’ve outlined in this post. I suggest investigating this further and learning more.
Channel art is important. Having nice-looking designs when you’re selling yourself as a graphic designer is the obvious reason, but I’m going to briefly touch on a few additional reasons that may be even more important.
Where Can Viewers Find You Outside Of Youtube?
The key to ability is availability, and if you want a viewer to hire you for design work, you need to make yourself available to them. You need to make it very clear where viewers can go to hire you for work. This is why I start every one of my videos out by verbally stating “This is Nick with logosbynick.com…” Right off the bat, it lets them know where they can go for more information about me, my work, my services and how they can hire me.
Another thing I’ve experimented with successfully is having a call-to-action directly on my channel’s header. This lets all viewers passing by know exactly where they can go to have their problem solved if it’s a problem they indeed have. After implementing this a few months back, I noticed a spike in traffic to my site and the number of design requests I was receiving.
This call-to-action also appears when a user hovers their cursor over comments you may leave on videos…
Your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for potential clients to find your website.
Thumbnails play an important role in getting views. If your thumbnail doesn’t clearly and effectively communicate what the premise of the video is, a viewer is less likely to click on it, and if they do they may be disappointed because they were misled by the thumbnail.
Ideally, you should have a graphical element that is present on all of your thumbnails. This helps users easily identify your videos when they show up in the Related Videos or Suggested Videos sections of Youtube. If a viewer liked your video, they likely want to see more. Help these viewers identify which videos are yours with consistent thumbnail branding.
Set A Schedule
In the “About” section of your channel, briefly outline what your channel is about so potential subscribers will know exactly what to expect, and set a schedule so they will know exactly when you’ll be posting. For me, I upload tutorials every Tuesday and Friday. This lets viewers know exactly what they’re in for when subscribing.
Most importantly, make sure to stick to your schedule. Your viewers will be expecting to hear from you on those days, and if they don’t, they will be disappointed. People wouldn’t like it if their favorite TV shows didn’t come on at their scheduled times, they wouldn’t like it if their magazine wasn’t delivered that month, and they wouldn’t like it if a movie they were looking forward to wasn’t in theaters when it claimed it would be.
Youtube is no different. Your channel is like having a part-time job and it needs to be treated as such. I always upload on my scheduled days, even if I’m swamped with client work, traveling, tired, stressed, sad, or any other reason that would otherwise discourage me.
Commit for at Least 1 Year
When I first started my channel I decided I was going to commit to uploading regularly for at least 1 year before I jumped to any conclusions, no matter how bad it got or how futile it seemed. And it did seem futile at first.
Somewhere around the 4 month mark I was feeling a little discouraged with the progression of things. It felt like a whole lot of work for a little bit of reward, and I even seriously considered quitting. But I remembered my 1 year promise to myself, decided not to break that, and kept going regardless. Somewhere around the 8 month mark I started hitting pay dirt. I was now getting clients on a regular basis. In fact, it was around that time that Youtube became my primary source of freelance work.
One thing that may help to keep in mind is that your channel is like a store and your videos are the inventory. Each video you upload ranks in search, brings in views, shares and exposure. The more inventory you have, the more people you’ll be discovered by and the more views, subscribers, shares and exposure you’ll earn. This pays off exponentially. My channel didn’t have nearly as much outreach with 20 videos as it did with 150 videos. As my inventory grows, what used to feel like a whole lot of work for a little bit of reward feels more and more like a whole lot of reward for a little bit of work.
Don’t measure my timeline against your own. It’s going to be different for all of us. What took me roughly 8 months to accomplish might take you a year and a half, or it might take you 4 weeks. There’s only one way to know for sure.
Persistence and grit is important. I very often see Youtubers who start uploading for a couple of weeks then give up shortly thereafter. If this is you and you find yourself at a crossroad, I encourage you to be curious of what might happen if you don’t give up. That 1 year is going to come and go whether you like it or not, so make the best of it. Even if the worst case scenario unfolds and not a single person watches your videos for that entire year, wouldn’t it be better to know that you committed and gave it your best shot than have regrets and wonder “what if?”
Added Benefits Of Being On Youtube
Youtube is not just great for getting new design clients; it’s useful for much more. Here’s what being on Youtube has done for me so far…
- Get steady, organic search traffic without having to spend a dime on advertising. In fact, quite the opposite…
- Earn additional income by monetizing videos. The money earned from ads that play before and during my videos, although may not yet amount to much, are a nice little bonus. It helps in paying a bill or two, and the payout is steadily increasing each month.
- Building a social media presence, organically. Because of Youtube, I’ve been able to build my following on Facebook, as well as my mailing list.
- Reinforce my position as an authority within the graphic design industry. This is particularly important if you’re trying to get clients through your own personal website as opposed to a freelancing site where prospective clients can read objective reviews other clients have left you. There is no unbiased review section for your website that a client can trust, and testimonials do little to ease their concerns since they’re obviously biased (you’re only going to add testimonials from people who have said nice things about you.) Having a Youtube channel and a social media following helps to mitigate any skepticism a potential client may have about your legitimacy as a professional though. You wouldn’t have the following and attention you have if you weren’t competent in what you do.
Who To Learn More From…
There’s a small handful of influences I’ve been learning from since starting my channel. These people have helped me tremendously, and I’m certain they could help you as well…
- Derral Eves: Derral’s channel is the go-to place for learning more about successfully building and growing a Youtube channel. I binge-watched a lot of his videos when I first started my channel and his advice helped me greatly, and continues to assist me to this day.
- Roberto Blake: Roberto is also a graphic designer who has successfully leveraged Youtube to grow his freelance design business. His channel covers a wide array of topics, ranging from advice on graphic design, photography, SEO, and more recently, building a channel on Youtube. His advice is sound and following it has helped me grow my channel as well as my freelance design business. I would highly recommend following Roberto on Youtube, especially if you’re a graphic designer.
If you know of any other content creators that do an excellent job in teaching about marketing, feel free to share them in the comments. Also, let me know if there’s anything you’d like to add to this article or something you think I could be doing better. I’m always looking to learn more and improve!
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