Back in January 2013, I had a blog on all things French. I gave language lessons and talked about culture, wine, and cheese. I had fun doing it. But my traffic wasn’t impressive and I only made $8,500 through the language trainings I offered.
One day, just for fun, I decided to make a video out of one of my blog posts with my phone. It was one of those things that I didn’t put much thought into. But looking back, it changed the entire trajectory of my business.
I discovered that video was something that I really enjoyed (my audience did, too). As a result, I kept making them. And in under 3 years, my YouTube channel has hit 2.7 million views.
2.7 million views and counting.
However, I didn’t just make cat videos and hope that they went viral. I strategically created my videos to bring people to my site and then get them to sign up for my email list.
This took my business from a hobby to a serious venture. In 2015, I made $169,397 thanks to my growing audience. And I’m confident that I can reach $500,000 soon.
It took me 9 months of trial and error to go from my first video to when I started seeing some traction.
Today, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned so that you don’t have to waste a moment uploading videos that won’t add to your bottom line.
Lesson 1: People don’t care about what you look like
Yes, there are creeps who look for videos for eye candy to ogle over. But a lot of people are also searching for videos to solve their burning problems. If you can deliver, anything you might be self-conscious about doesn’t matter.
I cringe looking back at my old videos. I can point out a laundry list of things I “didn’t do right.”
Don’t worry about making fancy videos when you’re starting out.
But guess what? Nobody cared.
The important thing was this: I proved myself as an expert in my field and built trust with people. This brought new readers to my email list, and they eventually became paying customers.
Getting started wasn’t complicated.
After I discovered video was something I enjoyed, I announced that I would start publishing them every Tuesday.
I picked 4 popular topics I thought would get traffic: French wine, foie gras, Bonjour (simple greetings), and common mistakes foreigners make when speaking French.
Then I started shooting videos on my phone. While they weren’t pretty, they still got as many as 400 views on the days they were published.
Look, you guys have it easy today. The camera on your phone is way better than anything I had to work with back in 2013. So don’t let anything hold you back from starting today.
Here’s what you can do:
- Draft 20 ideas for possible episodes. What are popular topics in your industry? Don’t waste energy thinking about how you’ll pull it off. You’re brainstorming for now.
- Pick the easiest ideas to film. Ones that don’t require props or special backgrounds, and that are easy to explain.
- Draft a simple outline:
The outline should fit on a single page. You want it by your side as a reminder — not something to read off.
Then record the episode on your phone or webcam. Once you’re finished, you can upload it to your YouTube channel and embed the video on your blog.
Congratulations! You’re on the road to stardom!
Lesson 2: Don’t be afraid to get risqué
Once I started putting out videos every Tuesday, people got used to it. Things became too predictable and the novelty wore off.
Which is why it’s important to mix up your content every now and then. As soon as I felt that enthusiasm was starting to wane among my current subscribers, I thought of video topics to get them engaged again. I didn’t want to resort to clickbait and cat videos.
So I did a French lesson around expressions that can have double meaning. Of course, many of them were sexual:
Come on! We’re all adults here.
More than 172,000 people watched that video and it got 300+ comments.
I also covered topics that most traditional language courses won’t touch, but are necessary for getting around and living in France.
A useful video for my ladies out there!
Now instead of my subscribers thinking, “Every Tuesday I get a French lesson from Géraldine,” they thought, “What will she think of next?!?!”
I wanted to create a fun environment where people can learn French. And that’s exactly what not being afraid to get risqué did.
You can do the same thing to keep amazing your audience. What topics are controversial in your industry? Is there anything that everyone believes to be true, but they’re afraid to say?
By creating videos around these topics, you will build a lot of credibility with people. You’re not just a blogger writing behind a keyboard. You’re showing your face and saying this stuff on camera in front of everyone. That takes guts, and people will admire that.
But it’s not about trying to be over the top all the time. That can get old and make it seem like you’re trying to get attention.
You can mix fun and festivities into your episodes, too. For example, around the holidays I always do a French Christmas video.
When I think about it, most of my content falls into 5 content categories:
Stories and curiosities
The Eiffel Tower, French pastries
Addressing pain points
5 mistakes foreigners make speaking French, how to make an emergency phone call
Time of year or occasion
Christmas in France
Comme une Française turns 3 years old
You can use the same categories for your business. Say you’re a music teacher. You can give lessons on festive songs around the holidays. Then, in another video, you can address a pain point by talking about what to do if you’re on stage and your instrument goes haywire all of a sudden. You can also mix in technical videos every now and then.
This is the type of content strategy that will make you stand out in the sea of sameness. Plus, it’s impossible to run out of ideas this way.
Lesson 3: How to make money off of YouTube
YouTube gives you the option of “enabling your channel for monetization.” What that means is that your videos will display ads, and if people click them, you get a few cents. To make this into a viable business, you need a massive amount of viewers. My 2.7 million views wouldn’t be anywhere near enough.
Which is why I don’t recommend this. Instead, I make money by getting people to sign up for my email list, where I can offer them my paid training programs. Anyone who signs up is highly qualified and likely to buy what I’m offering. It’s a major reason I’ve been able to get 965 paying clients.
Here’s how to drive traffic to sign up for your email list.
First, have a call to action at the end of your video that takes people by the hand, shows them how to sign up, and what they’ll receive.
I didn’t do this when I started out, but I always include it now. This step helped grow my email list from under 1,000 to 26,817 subscribers.
Next, I use the text description to get people to visit my site. I simply list where they can find the full video on my site, plus other episodes:
And I only engage with people who comment on my site:
It’s a soft bribe. Anyone who wants their questions about French language answered has to click through.
Once they see how helpful I am, they’re more likely to join my email list. It’s another way of building trust with strangers.
Here’s how you can turn viewers into loyal subscribers:
- Create a stock call to action video (30 seconds long), that you can splice onto any video you record. It should tell people to go to your site and sign up for your email list. Explain exactly what they’re getting. Can you solve a problem for them? Are you sharing secrets? The more specific you can be, the better.
- Make sure all your episodes have text descriptions that link back to your site. Make it clear that you’re happy to answer any questions, but only on your site.
Video content can grow your business
It’s amazing to think that my first video I created on my phone led to a business that has reached 2.7 million people around the world. Especially since I’m in a niche market.
This just proves that the internet changes the game for business owners. No longer do you have to be invited on a TV show to get exposure. You can build your own media empire with nothing more than your laptop.
The best part is the impact I’ve made. People have used my content to ace interviews:
French teachers even use my videos in their classrooms:
(Translation: I’m a French teacher in high school in the US (in a small city in Wisconsin). I show your videos in my class and there’s always something I learn with my students. I’m so thankful, Géraldine!)
I’m curious. Have you thought about using video for your online business? What’s your main obstacle holding you back?
Let me know in the comments and I can share my experiences!