I started making YouTube videos fairly consistently in 2023.
I started out making recap videos to help my students learn the most important ideas. The videos were grainy and full of pauses and umms... but students seemed to like having these videos as a resource for studying.
This year I have continued to make science videos but I have also started to document my self improvement journey on YouTube. I certainly am not an expert on the subject but I have learned enough to say that there are benefits that almost everyone can achieve by making YouTube videos.
The benefits are not monetary. If you are making money on YouTube then that money isn't a benefit it is your compensation. The main benefits of making videos, or engaging in any creative endeavor, is the joy you have in creating something. Sharing your talents with others and transforming as a result of sharing your journey with anyone interested in enjoying what you produce is fundamentally why everyone should attempt to engage in a creative endeavor.
Here are the benefits, in no particular order, that I have experienced as an amateur YouTuber:
- Unlimited free cloud storage space
YouTube will allow you to store unlimited video on their platform for free. Like most people I have tons of photos and videos that I have taken that are taking up my phone and emails limited space.
I could pay to upgrade my storage space but instead I am using YouTube's capability to free up some of that cost.
I have taken a ton of pictures of my son when he was born. I recently uploaded the stored pictures, that were just taking up space, onto YouTube and have been making slideshows.
Now the photos are visible to family and friends instead of being locked up on my phone where nobody can see them. My cousins and extended family have watched them and have shared how much they appreciate being able to see Adam's growth over time.
I've incorporated royalty free music from Pixabay to add a nice dimension to the slideshows. The music adds quite a lot to the emotional experience of watching my child grow before my eyes.
If I didn't want to share these photos with the public I could set the video to private and share a link with family and friends. Or I could just keep it for myself and never publicly share it.
I guess YouTube is willing to allow for free riders as a cost of business because so much of the storage space is used for public consumption of videos. I have no idea how long YouTube can store all of the world's videos but for now I am very pleased that my cloud space has been freed up! Right off the bat I think this is an immediate benefit for anyone worth exploring.
2. Defining and documenting your expertise
When I was applying to teach at a new school this past year I was able to demonstrate my teaching ability by sharing links to my videos. The job was looking for someone with experience teaching biology and chemistry. I didn't have experience teaching a chemistry class per se but I had made videos where I taught chemistry concepts. Sending those links was valuable as a way of demonstrating that I could teach effectively. My boss told me that she appreciated seeing the videos because observing me teach a lesson in person had the potential to be a dog and pony show. These videos didn't have special effects or any razzle dazzle, they just showed that I was able to articulate concepts effectively.
Everyone is an expert in something. Whatever you do for a living, odds are you do that thing better than everyone who has never done that thing professionally. That means you possess some kind of expertise that may be of value to others. If you can demonstrate that expertise it has the potential to pay off in a career as you can demonstrate your knowledge to peers or potential employers in a low cost fashion.
Unless you work for a clandestine government agency or have some career that requires you to keep the lowest possible profile I think your career will benefit from making videos where you share and demonstrate your knowledge.
3. If you take it seriously it forces you to improve at lots of things
If you look at anyone's first 20-100 videos and compare them to their most recent videos you will see a myriad of things that have improved. Here are just a few things that I have seen improve for me.
- I am getting better at how I address the audience - my tendency to look away is reducing throughout the videos as I get used to looking right into the camera.
- I feel less self conscious as I get more comfortable in front of the camera.
- I am a bit more animated in front of the camera and less monotone as I figure out the balance of animation and authenticity.
- I've learned the basics of video editing.
- I've been slowly learning how to make banners and other visual marketing techniques to get people to click on my videos.
- I've started to get better at asking people for things. Particularly subscribing.
The last two are interesting. I hate asking people for things. It feels like begging. But people who commit to making videos as a long term hobby or career improve at all of these skills to various degrees.
Some of these skills might only benefit their ability to make YouTube videos. But some of these skills, like getting comfortable asking for help or improving how they speak, are skills that can benefit you in a variety of areas of your life.
4. You start paying greater attention to details
I am not neat. You can see the background in this video that I am not naturally meticulous.
But now that I see what the camera sees I at least attempt to clean the area around and behind me. This has forced me to think about what other people might think as they see my space. I certainly wouldn't say that the background is spotless but it is better than it was for the earlier video. In attempting to improve my video I have improved my work and teaching space.
I also pay attention to YouTube videos I enjoy, and even ones I don't normally enjoy, and try and notice something that the YouTuber is doing really well. Paying attention to the skills and gifts of others, in an attempt to emulate them, is an incredibly useful tool. It's like someone is giving you a free class in how to do things better.
Honestly everyone around you is demonstrating something that you can emulate if you pay attention. You can learn and grow a tremendous amount just by trying to emulate what you admire most in the people around you. YouTube takes that general principle and allows you to emulate the best in the world for any skill or trait you would like to emulate.
5. YouTube gamifies consistency, which leads to improvement
Most people don't need a new technique to work out, they just need to work out consistently. Most people don't need a new piece of information to understand math they need to consistently do lots of math problems.
Self improvement in our personal lives rarely happens as adults because we don't have a strong motivation to be consistent outside of work. But imposing a deadline of posting weekly has been overall very beneficial to me. I am thinking about what I am doing, writing about what I'm doing and sharing it consistently. I am also writing my novel (Hopefully will be complete in early 2024 - stay tuned!) and I am improving my dishes every weekend. These things won't happen if I don't work on them consistently.
Posting something once a week means that I have to plan to make that happen. There is a virtuous cycle that the YouTube algorithm inculcates. By sharing posts from people who post consistently you have a fun game; you post more, more people get to watch your posts. The more that people watch the more feedback you get on your work, which motivates you to do more.
That gamification means that I am improving at making videos and probably will improve other things that I didn't initially intend to work on but improve by proxy.
6. There is a self correcting mechanism to filming that improves you
You can watch some of the best lecturers on the planet for any subject. You can learn finance, accounting, cooking, how to repair anything, how to build anything. Any project a human being has ever done will have a series of videos dedicated to it.
This year I have learned how to cook healthy versions of the junk my kids like, how to teach chemistry so that high school kids won't hate it, and how to learned how to run a marathon. YouTube has been a big part of these endeavors.
Most of my improvement didn't come from watching a YouTube video it has come from making something and then sharing that process.
My understanding of chemistry has increased as I have made chemistry videos. The act of making the videos means I need to know what I am talking about clearly enough so that I can express it. It also means I know it well enough so that I don't embarrass myself too badly by saying something that is very incorrect or blatantly false.
The self correcting mechanism is present in YouTube in a way that it just isn't present in day to day life. I can't re-watch my teaching to find out if I said anything wrong or if I didn't explain a concept well. But I can re-watch a video I made and say "ugh... I could have done that better". So there is a natural self correcting mechanism that just isn't present in other areas of your life.
So these are six benefits I have gotten out of producing content on YouTube as a hobby. These are the benefits that accrute from any creative endeavor. I think the main difference is that YouTube offers the greatest possibility of sharing with an audience; maybe 100 people read my blog but I have had thousands of people people watch my videos.
If someday I am able to be compensated for the time I take that would be nice but the benefits I am already receiving from making content on YouTube is well worth the time it is taking. The benefits have been accruing regardless of the size of the audience. The goal for me isn't to make money it is to become the best iteration of myself possible. I think YouTube is a wonderful vehicle for personal transformation and everyone should give it a try.
In my efforts to improve at asking people for things I am asking anyone who got value out of my writing to subscribe to this blog and to my YouTube channel. I am trying to share my journey with as large an audience as possible. Just like an empty restaurant deters people from trying a low subscriber count deters people watching. Thank you for helping me out!