YouTube milestone: 100 subs... so what?

Last Wednesday I hit the 100 subscribers milestone on my YouTube channel. I had started the channel 5.5 months ago with the topic being "the Business of Programming".

For the first several months I did the video editing myself. That was way too time consuming. Then I hired two video editors which did not work out before I found a third one that was really good. So the growth on the YT channel has been slower than I intended, which is similar to my experience with IndieHackers.com. Getting views and involvement seems like an impossible struggle against algorithms and apathy. How do you compete with spam-bots?

The plan was simple. Offer value, grow a community, build a SaaS, leverage community to launch the SaaS. Of course must make sure the SaaS is worthwhile but I've been building software for over 20 years so I'm not worried about that aspect.

The challenge is finding the most time-effective and cost-effective way to market a good SaaS. Maybe IndieHackers.com is not the community for that. I'm not sure. I did discover the Founder's Club through "Indie Worldwide" Slack community which I discovered from here. Hopefully that will prove worthwhile.

It would be sad to think that the best value for my time and money would be to simply buy advertising on Google Adsense and Facebook. Or to go with the ancient method of banner ads on PHP group websites.

Today I will invest 6 to 8 hours writing another script and filming another YouTube video. Then I'll pay my video editor $100 to $180 to make it look professional. Will the channel ever gain in popularity sufficiently to be worthwhile for marketing my future SaaS? Currently I have 19 full-length videos and 20 #shorts but I haven't broken through the YouTube algorithm to get regularly recommended yet. Should I pay $69 per week to TubeKarma for them to spam the world to find me subscribers and grow my channel? Is that cheating or the intelligent (only?) way to succeed at the YouTube game?


Frankly I'd rather be working on one of my two SaaS projects. I'm nearing completion on the Landing Page SaaS which was built using the Wizards Toolkit.

Time Investment

Over the weekend I spent half my time working on the Landing Page SaaS, and half the time improving reviewing YouTube analytics and enhancing video thumbnails for lowest performers. The amount of time spent managing a YouTube channel is considerably more than I anticipated. Publishing one video per week takes 15 to 30 hours depending on the topic. This includes researching, writing the script, filming it, then posting links to the videos with supporting editorial on multiple social media platforms.

The amount of SaaS development I could accomplish during that 15 to 30 hours is considerable. So the question becomes: is the investment of time and money into a YouTube channel worthwhile?

Secondary Question

Should I invest the time to find or create a cutesy eye-catching image to add to this blog post? Is that the only way to increase views and attempt to get feedback or am I shouting into an empty well again? Did I just waste 40 minutes of my life writing this post and won't get any response? Should I spend more time finding a nice header graphic or is that just adding to the bad investment of time on writing this post? I've had many posts with and without header graphics and it doesn't seem to make a difference regarding the lack of the comments.

Maybe I'm just bitter and cynical today. Any advice or wisdom from the IndieHackers community would be greatly appreciated.

  1. 2

    Congratulations on 100. Channel looks interesting. I just subbed. Next stop 102.

    I'll speak to the video concerns...

    First glance, stop editing for now. Your editor is certainly doing some useful stuff, for example cutting to relevant screen captures and visual aids. But I also see some nothing-edits in there too. For example, cutting to "topical" b-roll when you say a buzz word of some kind. That's not a value add. And in the greater context of a 99% DIY talking head video, the quick cut away away to professionally shot stock footage is jarring and awkward.

    From a workflow perspective, if it's also causing you friction, then the choice is clear: stop.

    My advice, instead of going for meticulous scripting, editing, etc. go for more of a live approach. Just an in point and an out point, something you could do yourself, then upload. Let the "mistakes" ride. You can always re-visit editing in the future, but it's not serving you right now.

    I like your screen-recording content. This might be a good style to focus on, though preferably unscripted, with a more off-the-cuff speaking style, which would also save you even more time. Any software that allows you to screen record with your face in the bottom right simultaneously will suffice. Then just talk off-the-cuff as you go through an outline, notes, etc.

    OR... even simpler, you could also just go full-screen on you and talk to camera, only occasionally glancing off screen to your notes, as needed. For now though, and for your sanity, I'd pick one style and commit, so there's no editing between formats.

    Keep up the good work. Despite your frustrations, I think you are well positioned to make this channel work. Just remember to iterate on the workflow as much as you are on the content itself. If great additional effort does not yield great additional results, that's a signal to iterate.

    1. 2

      dv, thanks so much for putting in the time to review my YouTube channel and articulate such well-thought advice.

      The whole video editing process has been a huge learning curve. The experts say if you don't have some visual stimuli in your video every 15 seconds you lose viewers. At first I thought that with a programmer audience that would not be the case but my initial videos had severe drop-offs in viewers within the first minute of each video. That's why I have the video editor put in so much b-roll, still images and effects; not every 15 seconds but at least once per minute or so. Plus I recently learned that having camera angles change throughout the video greatly increases viewer watch time. ChannelMakers have done studies and verified this but I don't remember exactly which video it was. It's kind of a sad statement of our society but it's hard to fight the statistics.

      I do like your idea about focusing on one style and sticking with it. Plus making it the unscripted screen-recording content is probably the best way to go. The latest Filmora upgrade makes it extremely easy to do screen recordings while simultaneously recording the "face in the bottom" feature.

      Maybe not for the current video I'm working on, but for future videos I think that may become my new standard.

      Especially thanks for the words of encouragement. And your "If great additional effort does not yield great additional results, that's a signal to iterate." is a gem worth quoting!

      1. 2

        No problem, glad it was helpful. Writing it out helps me too.

        Production value certainly adds credibility and watchability, but editing-for-editing's sake isn't a trait worth aspiring to, and I doubt that's the conclusion of the study you mention. Visual flourish doesn't mean much without solid content to put it on. It means even less if you're gonna burn out doing it.

        If your videos:
        -solve real people's problems
        -do so quickly and clearly (and enjoyably??)
        -and if you can sustain producing them long term

        Then you can absolutely make this work.

  2. 2
    1. It's quite simple to figure this one out actually. Take the time you put into one video, let's say 15 hours. Then maybe you get 20 new people looking at your work, videos, and posts. Is 15 hours worth those 20 new people?
    2. Well, it doesn't hurt to make your post look fancy, but if that is the only thing attracting viewers, then you should be spending more time on the content. The content should be short (in some cases) and sweet with easy-to-follow main points along the way. It shouldn't be long and boring.

    Hope this helps.

    1. 1

      Thanks Brayden, but the formula is not quite that simple.

      What is the value of a viewer? If they do not subscribe then really there is no value for the view. I never expect to generate sufficient revenue from YouTube ads to make that avenue worthwhile.

      For me the value is later (3 months from now?) when I will want to sell my subscribers my Wizards Toolkit which is a low-code development environment targeted towards PHP and SQL programmers.

      Of course I can't build a channel which is solely trying to sell something. So I created a channel which offers value teaching programmers how to be more productive, be efficient working remotely, types of clients to avoid, how to negotiate, what skills to improve to increase their value as coders, and generally things about the business of programming.

      But the funnel is pretty long and tight to find my market on Wizard Toolkit users.

         -> Subscribers
            -> PHP/SQL programmers
                -> non-Laravel fanatics
                   -> those starting new project or open to major revamp of old projects

      Subscription plan starts at $99/year. I expect average client will subscribe for at least 3 years. Some clients will really like the product and make multiple purchases since each license is only good for a single domain.

      So for ease of calculation let's say $400 life-time revenue for each client. How many subscribers needed to find this one client? That is extremely hard to estimate. Maybe 200 - let's use that for the estimate. So each subscriber is worth $2. These are two estimates which could be wildly off in either direction.

      Some of the short videos are less than a minute and took less than 2.5 hours to film and post to social media. Some of these have brought in more views and subscribers than the videos which I consider much higher quality of content and took over 30 hours to create. However to be accurate we should consider the quality of the subscriber. Are the 1-minute subscribers as likely to be my ideal market as the ones that watched the 20 minute video? I'm not sure - maybe.

      The best thing about YouTube videos is many of them will be evergreens, meaning you create them once and they will get views for years. So although I'm grumpy and negative today because I'm "wasting another day filming", part of me knows the video created may slowly bring in subscribers over the next 5 years. And I may have other SaaS offerings which I can monetize.

      Is it worth it? Here's the math:

           15  hours
      x $ 180  my hourly rate to clients
       $2,700  lost potential income
      + $ 125  hard cost for my video editor
       $2,825  total

      If each subscriber is worth $2, I would need 1,413 subscribers from this one video. If I ignore the cost of my time and only consider the cost out-of-pocket for me to pay the video editor, then I would only need 63 subscribers. Am I likely to attract that many subscribers from a single video over 5 years? Not likely.

      grumble, grumble

      Am I still going to be filming that video today? Yes, although I'll be gritting my teeth when not on camera. Why? Well I project that for every 30 clients who purchase the Wizards Toolkit there will be one company that hires me and my Programming Labs team at our hourly rates to help them meet some impossible deadline. Those few jobs will offset the time-investment on these YouTube videos. Plus once the Wizards Toolkit has 100 active clients I expect word-of-mouth will spread and I'll start finding clients from other areas.

      So... I guess I just have to think of building the YouTube channel as a long-term, slow investment in the future of my company. Plus look for ways to streamline the filming process and make it less tedious (which I'll use some of dv's recommendations from comment below).

      ... but sometimes I think just paying for banner ads on a PHP group website would be more effective, less stressful, free up 10+/hours of week for a year, and cost a whole lot less than this cash and time investment in YouTube.

      1. 1

        Hmm, see what you mean. I guess this isn’t too my domain. Anyways, interested in reading future updates!

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