How to start a vlog and become a vlogger
Vlogging is more than just starting a YouTube channel. It’s also about creating video content that connects with people on a personal level.
What is vlogging?
Vlogging (short for “video blogging”) can be about nearly anything. Vlogs can be criticism, comedy, or educational videos. However, all vlogs and vloggers have one thing in common: They showcase the personality of their creators. Vloggers are more than just content creators. Their channels are personal, and their videos are as much about them as anything else. Vloggers put themselves, or a version of themselves, out there for the world to see. They stand in front of the camera and make themselves vulnerable.
Starting a vlog.
Vloggers, like bloggers before them, talk about themselves, but it usually helps to have some kind of focus or theme for your YouTube channel that will bring in an audience. “Make sure you have a niche or a community that you really want to focus on,” says vlogger James Kim, “and expand outward from that.” Kim, a physician assistant, noticed that there wasn’t an existing YouTube channel devoted to the issues PAs encounter on a daily basis. He moved to fill that niche, and his vlog is successful because he explains what it’s like to live and work as a physician assistant. By doing so, he tapped into a large PA community as a ready-made audience.
Vlogging is also about putting your personality and voice front and center. “What I consume a lot are lifestyle vlogs, people doing their own thing or their specialty,” says Amanda, the vlogger behind the channel Qcknd. “The ones I like are about a person, and whatever makes them special tends to shine through.” Genuine enthusiasm for being in front of the camera is nearly impossible to fake, so one of the first things any vlogger needs is a willingness to share themselves. “If you believe in your work and have fun with it,” says Amanda, “you will organically connect with people. But you have to love it first.”
Most professional YouTubers use a digital camera of some sort, but beginners don’t need the best Canon or Sony video camera with image stabilization. You can start with your phone. Smartphones like iPhones and Androids are capable of shooting at a high enough video quality for YouTube, and while they don’t have external microphones, they are capable of picking up good sound quality. “I would consider an iPhone a digital camera,” says Kim.
Professional editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro allows you to edit any vlog with the same tools that feature film editors use — perfect for desktop editing. Other editing software is specifically designed for mobile users, so you can edit vlogs on your phone.
However, as you progress, it’s totally legitimate to upgrade your gear. If you want to shoot outside or on the go, action cams like GoPros can be very useful. Kim does not have recommendations for any specific camcorders or digital cameras, but he does suggest using one with a small screen that flips up, so you can see yourself. Being able to monitor your actions while you’re filming can help you perform at your best and act as your own director.
Vlogging, workflow, and work/life balance.
Vlogging can be a rewarding job, but there are a few things to watch out for.
As a self-employed content creator, you set your own schedule. You can’t ever be late for work or forced to work late by your boss, but it also means that you don’t have a set time to stop work. There’s no well-defined end of day, no regular days off, no paid holidays, and no paid time off. The only time away from work is the time you give yourself, and it’s easy to start working long or odd hours.
Stay balanced by setting a schedule, giving yourself deadlines, and scheduling time to not work. “A lot of creators talk about burnout,” says Amanda. “I think having a nice, consistent schedule can help.”
Regularize the time of week or day when you will write a script, record a video, edit, and promote yourself. This will help you stay on top of things, and your audience will appreciate it if your videos come at the same time every week or month. With a regular release and work schedule, you can keep a consistent workflow and stay balanced. “One thing that works for me is that my partner has a 9-to-5,” says Amanda. “I’ll try to finish my workday by the time he comes home. And I take weekends off. That creates some kind of work-life boundary. Otherwise I’d just be in my office all day.”
Vloggers also need to decide how much of their real life they want to show or not show. Kim, for instance, does not use the name of his place of employment in his videos, and Amanda doesn’t show the neighborhood where she lives. “Setting strict online boundaries is something I learned,” says Amanda. Trolls, negative comments, stalkers, and doxxing are all very real concerns. Deciding whether or not you want to use your real name, your full name, and how much of your actual life you want to put on YouTube is something you need to figure out early on.
Make it as a vlogger.
It’s easy to become an on-camera creator, but don’t expect instant viral success. Unless you’re already a celebrity, you’re not going to get millions of views on your first video, or even your first dozen. Vlogging is about building a large body of work that your audience is enthusiastic about coming back to. “On YouTube you see a lot of people who look like overnight successes, but really they’ve been putting in the work for three, four, or five years,” says Kim. “Then they have the one video that pushes them over the edge.”
One way to increase your viewership numbers is to keep a large body of work online. When you start making headway with viewership, your new audience will likely dig into your old video catalog. “My biggest advice would be keep going,” says Kim. “It only takes one video to get a subscriber to watch all of your videos. The views compound.” If you’re consistent, putting out quality videos, and enjoying it, though, you can succeed. “If you really have something to show people, they’ll watch it,” says Amanda. “Your people will come to you.”
Answers to some common questions about vlogging.
How do you start vlogging?
If you have a device to record with and a place to upload your content — whether it’s an Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube video — you can start vlogging immediately.
Can I vlog with my phone?
Yes. While some vloggers use video or DSLR cameras, the best camera is often the one you have on hand. Most modern camera phones are perfect for beginning your vlogging journey.
What equipment do I need to start vlogging?
You can start with just a smartphone. A desk tripod to hold your phone or camera steady and a light source to illuminate you are also good, affordable pieces of gear for beginners — though you can begin without them.
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