Table of Contents
Welcome back to another creator reflection. This time, we’ll talk about hitting the algorithm and beginning to actually get some views as a small creator.
We hit the “algorithm” for the first time on a channel with only 50 subscribers and almost no promotion. I received 23,000 views on the drone video by making the best video I could make, editing it for retention and SEO’ing the bloody hell out of it.
Went from 50 to 400 subscribers on my main channel… with one video. Massive thanks to everyone who cared enough to not only watch but to like the quality of the video so much that they wanted to stick around for more. I really appreciate it.
Took Casey Neistat’s studio course and observed his process of making a film from start to finish. It was wild.
Made significant changes to my backend content creation systems with new templates, experimental editing processes, improved organization, and developed a new storage schema that works for my long-term referencing and resurfacing of content.
Became comfortable with the basics of lightroom! I’m still very much a rookie with this application, but I’m at a point where I’m no longer scared and overwhelmed by lightroom and after partially tackling thousands of photos, I’m now having fun with the process of editing photos. I also feel like I improved a lot within composition, too.
Feeling extremely confident in my ability to make a good video and target any niche community. My growth abilities for YouTube are just beginning but my potential is insane with this platform.
Improved my ability to use my camera, including levelling up my filmmaking, videography, photography and composition skills. I’m feeling like less of a casual creator and more of a professional every day, but I still recognize that I’m a total rookie and the long path ahead of me in order to get where I want to go and I’m loving the process. Though I didn’t post practically at all this quarter, I had a lot of practice filming interesting things within my reality, including capturing b-roll for visual storytelling, shooting time-lapses from my apartment, capturing moments in the day to day and getting more comfortable with understanding how to use my camera effectively.
Posting less, but making the quality higher. I’ve put in countless reps over the past 4 years while I felt a pull towards quantity. But now that I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of pieces of content, the skills are at a high enough level where I now feel a pull towards focusing on quality and making the content as best as possible.
Posted 10 times on my 2nd channel with both raw videos and higher quality content, but mostly the former. Side note, I love the second channel as a place to put whatever I want — documenting, experiments, politics, mini-films, memes, etc. It’s such a great outlet for expression.
Learning from world-class creators. Going through Casey Neistat’s course absolutely blew me away and gave me so many nuanced insights and an in-depth look at his unconventional processes. Such a tremendous opportunity to learn from one of my biggest inspirations and one of the best filmmakers and storytellers on YouTube. I’ve also been watching a lot of Mark Bone videos and he’s a beast as well. He makes documentary-based tutorials, but I’ve been applying them to content creation and so much of it translates really well. Additionally, I’ve also been studying MrBeast, Airrack and Ryan Trahan, who are arguably the top 3 storytellers on the platform right now.
Listing out potential content ideas as they come to me. Though I’m insanely inactive across all platforms at the moment, every time a decent idea comes to me, I write it down. I have such an abundance of ideas, that I don’t even need to bother with ideation sessions because I have hundreds and hundreds of ideas sitting cleanly in my notes that could be made into great content — whether it be an insightful message, an entertaining reel or a main channel banger that has the potential to explode.
Moving footage from sitting in bins to sequences and making selects. For a while now, I’ve preferred pancake editing because I like to see all the footage and immediately start making edits and adding markers. But it always felt hacky and inferior doing this because 3-point editing is glorified by the editing community for some reason (and I still fail to understand why). Then in late March, I watched a video from local powerhouse filmmaker Mark Bone and I saw him edit in a style similar to what I’ve been doing for a while now — dragging your footage right into the timeline for speed of access. Not only did he talk about how inefficient bins were and why he prefers pancake editing, but he gave me full permission to take my footage out of the inefficient bins and drag them all into sequences. I was elated. Not only do I now feel totally good about doing this now, but I’ve since adopted a style for more advanced content where I have timelines for my “selects” for whatever the category is — location, topic, b-roll, a-roll, etc. and label the content accordingly. 1I swear that getting permission from people whom I respect to use the crazy processes (or so my mind convinces me of) that I utilize is half the reason I go through tutorials and courses..
Using markers to label segments of your timeline and/or footage, then using the markers search functionality to resurface the segment. Whatever your editing software, find out how to search for markers. It will save you so much time when trying to find a moment in your timeline or footage in a sequence.
Filming all sorts of b-roll and building up a database of visuals. With rare exception, I don’t really vlog right now. Instead, I’ve been filming all sorts of visual footage that can be used for visual storytelling later. In the moving video that’s coming out soon, I said so little on camera as I filmed. I just showed a lot of what was going on and stitched it all together with footage that showed what I’d be talking about later. In fact, my default at the moment is to film a visual representation of something I think I might find interesting or use (in the current project or elsewhere), then capture my thoughts in a journal instead so that if I need my thoughts later, I can access it. It’s far easier to take a visual and connect the dots with a voice-over on top than it is to take rambling talking head footage and try to get a soundbite or connect it to the storyline. Overall, I feel like I’m getting a lot better at filming visuals and b-roll and I’m continuing to lean more into filmmaking instead of content creation. It might seem like semantics but it feels very different in reality.
Posting controversial information even on my feed. This was a push for me but I’m glad I did it. I’ve historically kept controversial topics like politics and world events to my story. But for 2 super important events — the lifting of vaccine passports/mandates and the 2-year anniversary of lockdowns, I put posts on my feed and even went a little tin-foil on the feed. It was challenging for me, but I just said fuck it and did it anyways and I’m pleased with myself for doing so.
Peace processing on any resistance I have to creation. Whether it’s filming others in public, making complicated edits or my creative speeds, when something comes up I have the opportunity to work through it so it doesn’t repeat itself later.
Filming videos in 4K. Though it’s been challenging at times for my laptop, having twice the quality gives me so much more to work within the edit, whether it’s framing, cropping in for memes, easily repurposing to 1080p vertical at maximum quality or manipulating the footage through effects — the extra pixels have done wonders for my content.
What didn’t work?
How little I’ve posted everywhere. I’m pretty dead to the world right now, partially because I’m in a very insular mood and have been for most of 2022. I haven’t made a main channel video since January 2022. On my second channel, I’ve only posted a few times in the past couple of months. On social, I feel so disconnected and I couldn’t care less. It’s more than fine for me to go offline with social or the second channel, but the main channel requires frequent videos because it’s a big part of the business that I’m building and I’m shooting for partnership by year-end (if that’s ideal). I could list some rationalizations and excuses here but the reality is that I didn’t make frequency a priority, I was spread too thin and I wasn’t moving fast enough. I also just don’t care for frequency at all right now, which I’ll touch on near the end of this reflection.
Social strategy. I have barely posted except for politics as that’s the only urgent thing. I’d like to change this, because even though world events are the most important thing for our world right now (whether you can see what’s coming or not), I want to achieve a better balance of talking about self-development, spirituality, creativity, business, etc. Additionally, I don’t feel the need to put anything on my story or post right now because I’ve been in a place where I don’t care to document practically anything online. Plus, I don’t even use social. I don’t even like it. Side note, I also need to heal my resistance to getting flak on posts from “friends” because I think I hold myself back from posting even more of what I want to. I don’t care about arguing with people on the internet and I’m totally willing to not reply to silly strangers, but I feel this weird need to reply to people I know for some reason and it results in less authentic posts so I can avoid the resistance and these interactions.
Photos on social. They’re a total L right now in terms of algorithmic performance. If you like photos and don’t care about eyeballs, go for it. But if you’re serious about growth, video is the move on Instagram right now. If you’re a photographer, it’s time to get creative if you still want the organic performance that Instagram had when it was a photo-sharing app.
How behind I feel with content right now, how crippling it is, and how many half-completed projects I have. I found myself 8 newsletters behind, I have about 25 videos just sitting there to be made for More Josh Moxey. Thankfully I’m up to date on the main channel videos as the active videos are in outline form right now so there’s minimal pressure there. But with photography, for example, I have 2000 photos (variations, of course) that I’ve put off and a whole other camera roll with likely thousands too that I haven’t even bothered to address. And then I’ve got random pieces of writing and tweets that were never published, too. It might sound silly, but I feel so crippled by how much content is there. It irks me inside to start something and not complete it… the trash can and I aren’t good friends. I’ll get there in time through healing, systems and execution, but right now is a tad bit annoying.
Keeping all the footage. My attachment to keeping footage is slowing me down so much right now and I need to fix it, badly.
My attachment to keeping raw footage. This attachment slows me down and causes me necessary stress in regards to how much storage it’s taking up. I need to heal on this because if I want to make serious levels of quantity with videos, I need to get good with making the exports of the video, the audio without SFX/music, bloopers, the b-roll, and then any other necessary exports/moments and then deleting all the footage. I even feel stressed at just the thought of letting go of raw footage. I have some serious attachment to work on because my brain is obsessed with the idea of these super uncommon, super rare situations where I go back in the raw video and find a line or a visual that ages like fine wine. But it’s so hard to predict what that might be, so my brain is like, “ah, let’s keep all of it just in case.” Unfortunately, you can’t do this when you’re trying to be frugal early on and you’re trying to make a lot of content because you’re going to end up with hundreds of TB in raw footage. 2This line lead me to research the future of storage and it turns out, it’s looking like glass storage will be the move soon. That’ll be fun.
Giving too much time and energy to videos that I know won’t do well algorithmically. ie. despite it being edited really well, “The beach is overrated” had no growth built into it from an algorithmic perspective. Nothing to SEO, just a video to develop a connection with my existing audience. That’s what vlogs are. They’re building a connection and rarely getting new people. I want to do both, but I also need to dial into growth videos. After this upcoming moving video, I hope I dial in and return to growth-centric videos.
Letting my obsession with quality leak too much into the second channel. I talk more about this here.
Editing speeds. There are 2 parts to this. The first is that it feels like I’m going slow because of how committed I am to making my own videos great and building videos for as high of retention as possible. On the main channel, it makes sense. But where it stops making sense is when I know a video is not going to do well, but I still treat it like it’s going to hit 1,000,000 views even though it ends up with only a couple hundred due to having a small channel of sub 500 subscribers. As much as I want to put out A+ edits every time, I’m torn because it’s not worth the time to do it for every video. On the other hand, as someone dedicated to excellence, I don’t want to ship anything less than great on the main channel. Though slightly related, the second part to this is that I just generally feel slow with editing because of slower editing habits, attachment to perfection, how many passes it takes, how slow it feels to produce high-quality storytelling videos and how my attachment to quality leaks into places like the second channel. Like I look at vlogging channels like Peter Lindgren’s second channel or Casey Neistat’s 2015-2018 run and I’m just in awe at how high of quality they made it within a day or so. I have a lot to work on here, but as time goes on, my systems evolve and my storytelling/editing skills improve — and so does my speed. It’s a never-ending work in progress.
My back-end system for storyboarding and outlining content. It’s way too hacky right now and I want to change it. Currently experimenting with different formats that I’m trying out in an effort to find the best creative process for me.
The performance of my laptop now that I’m editing in 4K. As awesome as my Dell XPS 7590 has been, it’s struggling in DaVinci Resolve Studio with 4K footage even at quarter resolution and hardware acceleration, especially because I don’t currently have the patience or storage to render out proxy files. Thankfully, I’m finally getting an M1 Max Macbook Pro in the near future and it’s going to change everything. Alternatively, I could just move a lot of my footage to a hard drive and then with that extra space, render proxies while I sleep.
My resistance to pointing the camera in strangers’ faces and in public places and employees in retail/service. I’ve got some healing to do on this because it’s part of vlogging, and even though I’m not formally vlogging like I used to, I still love making a good vlog here and there.
Relying on a screengrab within videos for a thumbnail. Terrible strategy. I need to do a better job of actively shooting for the thumbnail instead of keeping it so secondary because the thumbnail is everything. It’s the storefront before you enter.
Podcast inactivity! The podcast is unofficially just sitting on pause right now, but I’m ready to bring it back somehow. More on this soon.
Less, but better equates to a greater channel and more success on YouTube. On YouTube, you don’t need to post every day, nor do you need to post every week. In fact, if the videos are great enough, you could post once a quarter and still win big. Unlike other platforms which care about quantity and frequency, YouTube values high-quality videos that keep people’s eyeballs for as long as possible above anything else. As MrBeast outlined on his podcast on Joe Rogan, a 10% boost in watch time and click-through rate doesn’t increase the views by 10% — it increases it by 5x. By spending more time and putting in more effort on each making each upload that much better, the outcome is exponential. If you put in 3x the amount of work making your videos great, you won’t be rewarded with 3x the views, but instead with around 30x the views. Jimmy continued on, saying that this means it’s easier to make 1 great video that pulls in 5 million views than it is to get 500,000 views with 50 pretty good videos. He even went on to say that using this strategy, he took an anonymous creator from 4.6 million views/month and $24K/month to 45 million views/month and $400K/month in only 8 months by getting them to upload less, not more. Quality over quantity matters. These insights from the biggest creator on the platform fundamentally changed the game for me. Instead of beating myself up for not posting, I feel strangely okay with it. Though I’d like to post a lot, I don’t feel like I’m trapped in this game of having to post all the time, because I’m building a brand around great content. I feel such a pull towards making high-quality videos by spending as much time as needed to ensure they’re great and highly optimized by the time I’m ready to release them. At the end of the day, if you’re going to spend the time making content, it’s in your best interest to focus on making fewer videos that are great than to be frequently posting decent content.
If you want to simplify YouTube success, here’s how to do it. Get people to click on your videos and watch them as long as possible. Thanks to Mr. Beast for crystalizing this down to its most essential form.
It doesn’t matter what your existing niche is — if you optimize your video right, you can enter any niche community and get a ton of views right from the start. I had never uploaded anything related to drones on my channel, but the drone video was clicked on and watched so much (still sitting at 4:30 average watch time all these months later) that with only 50 subscribers, I was able to enter a totally new community and hit an entirely new audience that didn’t exist prior.
Editing for retention matters. If you’re going to put out a video and want it to do well, edit everything based on retention. Focus on making everything as interesting as possible. Say it in less. Add more visuals. Show, don’t tell. Delete any moments that become even slightly uninteresting and throw them in a deleted scenes video. Make the pacing fast. Add quick cuts. Eliminate unnecessary pauses. Add music and sound effects. Cut ruthlessly if it doesn’t move the story forward. Perform multiple passes to make sure it’s super engaging (ie. took me about 7-10 passes with the drone video, and I still could have done more). All of the above requires a lot of work and is challenging, but the effort is worthwhile. Because when you commit yourself to editing videos for retention, you give yourself the possibility of getting a high amount of watch time on YouTube which gives you the best chance of your videos being recommended by YouTube.
Titles and thumbnails are more important than the actual video. Before you can get someone to watch your video, you first need to get people interested in the hook before the hook, which is the title and the thumbnail. In order of importance, the title and thumbnail are first. Then after that, it’s the first 10 seconds. Then after that, it’s the next 10 seconds. And this keeps going until the video is done, then restarts with the next video.
The initial views are a test for YouTube, so give them what they’re looking for. As a beginner, I use SEO to rank within the “new” section on YouTube. Then if the video receives a high enough watch time and click-through rate, it takes it for a ride on the algorithm and starts recommending it to people that have watched similar videos. When you’re smaller, use search to your benefit. SEO is the best opportunity you have to grow when you’re starting out.
In order to hit the algorithm, you have to communicate to YouTube what the video is about and who it’s for. The title, description, tags and other metadata are all an opportunity for you to tell YouTube where they should send your video. If it’s “good enough” (high enough CTR and retention), they’re going to send it to the people they think will watch it, but in order for YouTube to do that, you first have to tell them where they should send it through key phrases like topics, locations, people, communities, organizations, products, companies, and other relevant things that people are already watching. YouTube is a game of communication with the algorithm. It can only work for you if you provide it with the necessary information.
Timelines > bins. Import your footage, make selects, mark the moments and enable marker lists. Then you can quickly go into the timeline to find the footage you’re looking for by quickly searching or scanning, and it will be ready to copy over. Thanks to Mark Bone for giving me permission here!
Building an audience on YouTube is different than an audience on social media. I see a lot of new creators who are trying to approach YouTube as if it’s social media, but it’s not. They spend time making a long-form video and are excited to promote it on their social media. They put up a story or a post informing their audience, only for their crack head, low attention span followers to watch only a minute of the video and exit. The psychographic is completely different. On social, you’ve got your friends, family and colleagues who probably don’t get a shit about your YouTube endeavours and aren’t in your niche. They’re there for the quick scrolls and have low attention spans, which aren’t the kind of people who subscribe to you on YouTube. If you try and bring your existing, low attention span audience from your social media following to YouTube, not only can it really mess up your analytics, but it can also hinder your growth on YouTube because it communicates to YouTube that the people who are watching your video aren’t watching much of it and it tells YouTube that it’s not worth sharing. If you’re serious about building a following, focus on building it internally. My best performing videos to date? Almost zero promotion outside of YouTube, I nailed the SEO on it and made a good title, thumbnail and video (edited with retention in mind). These people find it almost exclusively internally on YouTube through search, next videos and recommendations in their home feed. In my experience, this results in a larger watch time and those who subscribe to your channel are native YouTube users who are psychologically primed for longer-form videos because they’re on a long-form content platform and likely watch more YouTube than anything else. Sure, you can still promote your videos a bit if you want, but the best growth you can have will come internally from search and recommendations via YouTube — not from promotions outside of it to crackhead attention spans.
Even the best of the best get discouraged, deal with creative frustration, and would rather do anything else. But it’s those who stick with it, who win. In his course, I watched Casey Neistat get frustrated multiple times while filming and editing his video, especially in the more run and gun, spontaneous storytelling style. So if you’re feeling discouraged because you deal with creative blocks in your process and would rather stop than deal with the discomfort of finding the next shot or editing that next segment when you’re lost in the chaos, just know this: not only are you not alone, but you’re in great company. Everyone experiences this — even the best in the game.
Your video lives on forever, so make sure you’re satisfied with it before you release it. This is sort of counter to what I mentioned earlier, but Casey Neistat put it so brilliantly: “Your video is going to live on forever. So before you call it done, you have to make sure it’s exactly what you want.” Of course, I instinctively knew this as I frequently consider how my content is going to age hundreds of years from now. But to hear it in the way it was phrased and to hear it from one of my favourite creators gave me permission to not feel the pressure of rushing a video due to subjective timelines or external pressure and instead just focus on making the video better until I’m ready to release it.
Duplicate your timeline to be a braver editor [via Mark Bone]. Very simply put, when you have the option to revert to a past edit, you’re willing to take more risks and experiment because you know you have a safety net. For this reason, always be duplicating your timeline. Whether it’s selects or a main timeline, give yourself the gift of version history. A good rule of thumb that I recently learned is to duplicate your main timeline before you start each day and duplicate it before you make major changes. So far, it’s working wonders. Bonus tip: keep all of your sequences hidden in a sequences folder and keep your latest version in the top level of your project structure to keep the chaos organized.
In controlled environments, film the same action or line multiple times [from watching the making of Casey Neistat’s films]. When you’re in your office or without others in the wild, you have the ability to film the same action multiple times from different focal ranges and perspectives, which allows you to cut it easily, make a seamless continuation, make it more interesting and create an experience that feels like you have cameras everywhere
Shoot with diversity in mind. To keep your video interesting, always be changing up the type of camera, the lens, focal range, focus, perspective, angle, background, setting, etc. This level of contrast keeps the viewer on their toes and intrigued by what might happen next.
Use the bad shots that tell the story better over the shot which is better looking. I watched Casey Neistat opt to use a terrible shot of the floor of a dark room where he was walking for around 8 frames, then delete amazing visual footage a few seconds later that he could’ve used instead with a voice-over, just because the former moved the story forward more. Storytelling over aesthetic every day of the week.
Lean into sound as a tool. You’re about to experience the most seamless cuts of audio from me in future vlog-esque videos and here’s why — I’ll be masking the music cut with an organic sound in the clip or artificially adding a sound to distract you. This is Casey’s secret to how he cuts the music but it isn’t abrupt — it works because it’s masked by the real-world sounds. Lean into over-the-top sounds while you’re filming and you’ll be thankful when you’re in the edit.
Thanks for reading! That’s all for now.
Until next quarter, much love.