It sounds like the perfect job. You grab your camera, hop on a plane, take some shots of yourself having fun, and get paid for it.
At least that’s what I thought in the Spring of 2018, after spending weeks after weeks watching content from Nas Daily, Drew Binsky, Vagabrothers, or Hey Nadine, to name a few.
I was a freelance writer back then, not tied down to a location, and travel was the love of my life. I had become a freelancer just so I could have the freedom to roam. I also had some video editing skills, learned in four years working at a web-tv.
I decided to go for it.
I put my essentials in a backpack, bought a one-way ticket from Lisbon to Krakow, and started my travel vlog: The Incredible Here.
After only two months of traveling in Eastern Europe, I brought the project to an end. I had a lot of fun but also a sad feeling of failure. These are the lessons I learned from this experience, and that I am sharing with you to save you from going through the same.
1. I Didn’t Truly Want To Have a Youtube Channel
I love to travel. And I love to make videos. So I came to the natural conclusion that I would love to make travel videos. This seems logical, right?
Well, it’s wrong.
Once I ordered food from a sushi place that offered Nutella sushi. As soon as I saw it, these thoughts happened in my brain:
Nutella sushi! I HAVE to try it!
I ordered it. But, when the delivery guy left the delicacy at my door and I eagerly went for it…
Nutella sushi? Quite horrible.
Just because two things are good apart, it doesn’t mean they are a good match. I still love to travel, and I still love to make videos. But I learned the hard way that I do not enjoy forcing myself to create travel content to feed a Youtube channel.
For me, the excitement of traveling comes from improvisation. From letting myself roam wild in a new place, without any rules, open to whatever happens. Doing this with a camera, while aiming to create a potentially interesting Youtube video was not possible. At least, not for me.
Don’t get deluded by the life porn you see online.
In my case, I consumed a little bit too many travel videos. You might be stuck watching content on cooking, fashion, or crazy experiments, and feeling the need to create your own content on it.
But ask yourself this question and be completely honest in your answer:
Do you really want to create and maintain a Youtube channel about this specific topic, or do you just enjoy cooking, fashion and crazy experiments per se, and don’t have the need to turn your passion into a project?
An honest answer might save you a lot of hassle.
2. I Didn’t Give It Enough Time To Grow
Success doesn’t happen overnight.
We all know that, right? And yet, we all believe we can be the exception.
On Quora, someone asked how long does it take to establish a successful Youtube channel. The answers vary but, except for the mentions of the extremely rare cases of instant success, they are pretty consistent with the timeframe: a lot of time.
We are talking about, at least, one year of consistent publishing before reaching any kind of success.
I gave it two months.
Two months, and I gave up. Maybe this is related to #1, and the fact that I didn’t truly want to have a Youtube channel. It is also related to travel being an expensive activity, not sustainable for long without a good income backing it up.
The truth is, I did see some progress over those two months. I just didn’t have the patience and the persistence to turn those two months into two years and see that progress continue.
But without this long term thinking, any project — on Youtube, Medium, or any other form of content creation — is doomed to fail. I know this now.
Not all Youtube channels require as much money to maintain as one about travel. And yet, if travel is your passion, you can have a travel channel and make the most of your resources, by creating content about the place where you live, and mix it up with the occasional trips you would do anyway.
In either case, you need to adjust your mindset. You need to think in the long term. When you start it, you need to be ok with the fact that, for the first year, you will work endless hours and get very little in return.
You need to be ok with celebrating 10 views in a video instead of 10K. You need to be ok with $0.01 in revenue instead of $1K. You need to do it for the sake of doing it, out of love and passion, and not because you are in a hurry to turn it into a business.
If you manage to adopt this mindset, you are already ahead of the game when compared to most of the competition. Just keep doing it.
3. I Didn’t Follow Any Rules
Before starting my own Youtube channel, I had spent countless hours watching travel content on other people’s successful channels. But that didn’t mean I knew how to create successful content myself.
And the truth is, I didn’t bother learning.
I created my videos the way I wanted, the way it made sense for me, and the way it pleased me.
In hindsight, I might have been a bit too self-centered in my approach to content creation. I was documenting myself having fun through Eastern European capitals. Which would be ok — if that was the initial goal. It wasn’t.
Even if you think you know everything you need to succeed as a Youtuber, take a step back to assess where you are, where you want to get, and how your journey will look like.
Watch videos from successful people with a critical eye. Identify the ingredients that make their content resonate with people. Read about the algorithms and recent trends. Experiment with different approaches until you find something that works.
Be humble and willing to learn. Even if you know a lot, for sure you don’t know everything. Try to bridge that gap by actively learning from others and your own experience.
My Youtube channel failed but my experiment did not.
My quest to be a travel vlogger took me to 15 countries, gave me some of the most exciting experiences of my life, led me to meet amazing people, and, in the end, I even moved to a new country because of it.
All because I decided to try.
I didn’t become a travel vlogger but I became a happier, richer person for everything I lived. And I have memories I can treasure forever. Like this video, with the highlights of my time on the road.
If you try to create a Youtube channel, I wish you all the luck in the world. But, if you try and fail to meet your initial goal, remember: you will always gain something out of the experience of having tried.