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My Best HONEST Advice For Starting a Blog or Youtube Channel

May 29, 2021

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A sunny gal from Cali living in the south of France. I adore slow living, magic, and celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I’m a self-proclaimed Disney nerd (as is my husband!), obsessed with cats and cocoa, and you can often find me swimming with the fishies in the salty sea. Come along and enjoy the magic, the simple joys of life with me...

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Helena Woods honest advice for starting a blog or youtube channel

Hello lovely spirit! Today’s blog post is spontaneously inspired by a few emails I’ve received from some kindred spirits on the Simple Joys Youtube channel. I’ve received many questions regarding how I started my blog, my tips for sharing your life online, and some general advice for anyone who wants to start a Youtube channel or blog (and yes, blogging is totally not dead! It is alive and thriving, friends, and I share more about why that is in this blog post).

Here is my best and HONEST advice for anyone who desires to start a public blog or Youtube channel. I’m givin’ it to ya straight! So, let’s get right into it.

You Need to Know Your Why

Knowing your why is the foundation. It’s the solid earth beneath your fluttering visionary dreams. Having that groundedness is where you want to start any project or undertaking, including a personal blog or youtube channel. I’ve shared here on the blog the importance of knowing your “why ” so that you not only have the motivation to start but the follow-through to keep at it when times are tough, so feel free to check out this post here.  Before even picking a title. buying that domain name and taking those photos, you first have to understand why you’re choosing to spend your days dedicating your time to something. Is making this to serve you or is to serve others? Will it be a hobby or do you want to spend your working days creating content for a living? Who are you wanting to inspire or serve? Get a clear picture in your mind of that person! First knowing what is motivating you will get you started on the right foot.

That why needs to light a fire under your belt.

Right before I started my Youtube channel Simple Joys, I noticed how distraught everyone was during the start of the pandemic, and after I went through my own period of grief, I felt a fiery determination to share how I naturally see the world in order to help raise and lift other people up. I got the idea while in meditation and I started my new channel that afternoon. The need to serve and give and lead by light was my motivator and what kept me uploading in the beginning when no one was watching. But even when I pouring hours of my heart filming and editing, the only people watching my videos being my husband, my best friend and my mom, I still kept going. Because my ‘why” was rock solid. Nothing could sway me from giving up. My “why” is to lift other people up by noticing beauty in the mundane, to inspire one single person to slow down and see their life in a big-picture way. To challenge one individual to question what’s been taught and to go within for answers.

When you start with your “why” you’ll have the momentum to go the distance when you want to give up.

What Do You Love?

The most important to begin with is what you love. Be honest. Create about what you are genuinely passionate about. What do you love to research and learn? What sparks your curiosity and makes you yearn to share things with others? A lot of people go into blogging or making videos thinking it’s a way to earn a lot of money. And lemme tell you: it’s not. Youtube is not a lucrative career and unless you got really lucky and “made it” big on Youtube and have the algorithm consistently promoting your videos, the money is hardly enough to live on. In the beginning, it’s more common to put money into the project than receiving. Self-employment taxes as a Youtuber are killer. Be aware of the realities of earning a living on Youtube before you start, so you can create a game plan financially if it doesn’t work as you’d hoped. Having a balance of realistic practicalities with a visionary can-do-it attitude is the goal!

I believe there are two things that lead to any kind of success in life: enthusiasm and consistency.

Creating a platform takes time and it takes consistent dedication. I’ve been blogging consistently for 5 years, and today I still lose more money from it than I earn. But I love it enough to continue paying these hosting and website fees because writing is my biggest passion and form of self-expression. I think it’s important to ask yourself, “would I do this for free?” Keep in mind that doesn’t mean you should do it for free. Work is work. And work should be compensated. If you’re dedicating an enormous amount of time to your creations, you’re going to want to create a plan to earn income for that work. It only makes sense!

But would you? Would you do it for free? Do you love the process enough that you would take the action steps to do it anyway? If the answer is “absolutely hell yes!” then it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and begin. 

The Power of a Name

I’m going to be real honest with ya: if your channel name or blog is titled after your name, people won’t care. Sure, your name matters to you! But if someone didn’t know you at all and stumbled upon your name, you wouldn’t spark anything in them. There are a million youtube creators and a lot of people are making similar content in a similar style. You have to find tangible ways to stand out.

One of the most obvious ways you can stand out is in your channel or blog name. I advise anyone starting out to pick a memorable name that – not only represents the energy of your personality and the type of content you create – but your name needs to connect with people. When I started my youtube channel, I had been writing on my blog and Instagram about the “simple joys” for years, but I knew it had to be my channel name because people would resonate with those two words more than just another person’s name. “Helena Woods” is just a name. “Simple Joys” connects. When I see those words online, it sparks something in me because I love the simple joys of life. Similar people like similar things. 

When you comment on your favorite channels (which you should) you want your channel name and your channel profile picture to stick out among the hundreds of other commenters. So many people have found my channel because they saw my channel’s name in a stream of comments, and they were curious by the title enough, to click on my channel.

Picking a Niche – Attract and Repel

When you pick a niche, you want to attract and repel. In other words, you want to attract the people that align with your heart’s message and repel those that will not find value in your content. Be brazen and commit to it! When I started my Youtube channel, I realized that I needed to attract as well as repel a lot of people and to get really comfortable with that. If you are similar to me, and you have a bold character, know that big personalities on the internet may get more hate than quieter personalities and that is totally fine. Go into publicly sharing yourself on the internet knowing that you may certainly trigger people, even if you have the noblest and purest intentions. Trigger away! Anyone who has an opinion and shares it widely on the internet will not be liked by some. The more opinionated you are, the more mean comments you will get. When you begin thinking about branding, colors, graphics, your title, your tone, etc you want to remember to attract people that are right for you and repel those that are not. Stick to your guns. And when you find your niche, you want to incorporate you into that niche. For example, a lot of people who love slow living channels may love minimalism, rural life, farming, off-grid life, cooking, etc. That’s not me. The point is: Go into Youtube with your niche, and then play with it. Find the things that represent who you are and commit fully to them. Simply injecting your natural personality, your interests and hobbies is the easiest way to stand out. There’s no strategizing – you’re just you being you. 

Commenting on Channels – Your First 1k Subs

Yes, you can absolutely comment on your favorite channels to get traction. Starting Youtube is really hard in the beginning and once you pass 1k, it gets a lot easier. This was how I gained my first 1,000 subscribers. I watched my favorite youtube creators in my free time, I had notifications turned on for a few of my favorite creators in my niche and I commented. Know the schedules of your favorite creators and comment early. If you want to be found in the comments, not only does your channel name and picture need to strikingly stick out, but if you provide comments that are genuine, witty, clever or give value to other people, people will be curious enough to go to your profile. Make sure you actually watch the other person’s video and take the time to think of something clever, smart or aligned with what the creator said. There are so many people that comment just to get views on their channel and everyone can see that. Provide value, be genuine. Intelligence and intentionality go a long way. Today, I still always always always comment on every single video I watch. Not only does it support your favorite creators, but it’s important to genuinely connect with others and form a community on Youtube. It’s also an easy and lazy way for people to find you.

If you want to grow past 1,000 subscribers, you then need to step up the quality of your videos. And the next step? Appear in search.

How to Get Traffic? Focus on Search

1. Niche Down Your Topic & Prioritize SEO

First things first, it’s time to prioritize SEO, otherwise known as search engine optimization. Grab your journal or pull out a Google Doc and start writing a list of keywords for your blog or Youtube channel. Keywords are the search words that people search on Google, Pinterest and Youtube. Keep in mind that Youtube is not social media. Neither is Pinterest. They are search engines, and it’s so important to treat them as such. You want to include your keywords in every single of one your titles in the beginning in order for the search engine to begin to recognize your channel as an authority on a specific topic. This is why niching down is so essential in the beginning of your blog or channel. You want to prove to Youtube and Google that you are an expert on a specific topic because then your content will appear in search. One of the things I always ask myself is, “what would someone be searching for and how can I create content to help them on that topic?” Your target, in the beginning, is to appear in search results. 

For Bloggers: The Power of Pinterest

Dear bloggers, please don’t underestimate the power of Pinterest for getting traffic to your blog! Create graphics with your titles on Canva and pin those graphics that link back to your article. Most bloggers get the majority of their traffic from Pinterest, so go play away!

2. Focus on Titles and Thumbnails

The title of your blog post and video, as well as the thumbnail image (if you’re making a Youtube channel) determines whether you gain a wider audience or not. I hate this fact, but it’s true. No matter how incredible your video is, no matter how value-packed and beautiful your blog post, if the title does not captivate people, the less people you can share your creation with. The sooner I realized and implemented as much attention on my titles and thumbnails as I did the content, the more times the content appeared in organic search results. Take note of trending videos on Youtube and blog blogs on Pinterest. What Pinterest graphics are being promoted on the home page? What similar styles and designs are being shared on Pinterest? For Youtubers, what videos are consistently being promoted to you on your home page? What do the thumbnails all have in common? Are those videos in your niche? Do the thumbnails have text or no text? A clear, captivating or thought-proking image will stand out. 🙂

Some questions I ask myself are….

Is this title thought-provoking?

Does this title spark curiosity and make people wonder?

Does this title show that you’re giving VALUE? In other words, will your viewer walk away from your video with new knowledge or something of value?

If your title provides value and curiosity, you’re good to go!

3. Awareness Will Get You Far

I am not a numbers gal. I loathe marketing and business. I detest looking at Google Analytics and Youtube analytics and would much rather focus on creating art and beauty through my words and imagery. But knowledge really helps get your creations out to wider audience. And chances are you do! You put so much time and energy into creating something, you’ve built the blog, invested money into your passion and you want to serve people! And if you want your content to reach more people, there are a few stats you need to be aware of.

Stats to be Aware Of For Bloggers….

If you’re a blogger, you’ll want to focus on your bounce rate (is your website slow? are the images loading slowly that it makes people click off your site? is your blog post spaced out with the appropriate headings, subheadings, paragraphs? Is your post skimmable? Do you have inbound links to other posts and pages in your site?), unique monthly viewers, organic search. Also, note what other websites are directing readers to your blog. Most bloggers find Pinterest to be the best search engine for traffic, I’d really suggest focusing on Pinterest if you’re a blogger!

Stats to be Aware Of For Youtubers….

If you’re a Youtuber, your clickthrough rate and average view duration percentage is super helpful to know! I remember noticing in my Analytics when I first started out how certain words in my title or certain thumbnail styles would get more results. I noticed how people were dropping off at certain points in the video, and I took note of it and adjusted my strategy! When I began viewing Youtube as a “game” and began playing and adapting consistently with what worked and what didn’t, not only did the journey become way more FUN (most important thing, am I right?), but I had better results too.

It’s all about experimentation. Playing and tweaking with your titles and thumbnails, seeing what works, and then flowing with that and what feels good and right to you in that moment!

4. Have Integrity & Stay in Your Own Lane

Here are a few key tips when starting the blogging and youtub-ing journey. 

Be Unique 

Instead of following trends and re-creating content that already exists online, find your own voice. There is nothing more cringe than thirsty trend-following creators. Some creators will say to hop on trends when they come around, but I disagree. I think it’s a smart strategy, but it’s also inauthentic and dishonest if you didn’t already enjoy that topic prior, and people can sense that. Hopping on current trends just because you want views or attention isn’t honest. Have integrity and be true to what you love and share in the moment what you feel called to. Inject your personality, your honest nature and shine bright doing and talking about things you love. Maybe there is a topic that is trending and you feel passionate about exploring it yourself, be sure to find an original way of sharing it that is different and stands out.  Ignore the noise, put on your blinders, and focus on the truth that is coming from within your own heart.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is everything but that doesn’t mean you have to shlep out content every week. Create a posting schedule that works for you. I started with Youtube making two videos a week, then dropped down to once a week. Now I create a video once every 2 weeks. I personally go for quality over quantity but everyone has their own rhythms for sharing, so just know what works for you, create deadlines for yourself (I find structure is super important for creativity as I write about here!) and just keep going. Start where you are, take one step in front of the other and just keep going. 

Stay Honest

This goes without saying but don’t be a sell-out! Once you reach the point of monetizing your blog or youtube channel, don’t say yes to every opportunity that comes a-knockin. I write a lot about why you must define your own success here (one of my favorite posts I’ve written). Don’t bombard your readers with blatant and obnoxious advertising. Sure, take a few sponsors if they fit with your values and what you like and use, it’s important to earn money for the work you’re producing but be conscious of what you’re giving and receiving and be honest about it.

5. Join a Community

Community is key when first starting a blog or youtube channel. Having and building a community of like-minded people who view life the same way you do is truly the biggest blessing one can get from being a blogger or creator, and it’s my favorite aspect of sharing myself online. One of the things I did when first starting out that really helped me get going was joining Facebook groups, Reddit threads and sharing my content there and connecting with others who liked similar content that I was creating. Commenting and sharing with one another on our slow living journeys, simple lifestyle hacks, and just supporting other small YouTubers and creators. Don’t do the “support for support” trends that so many people do on Facebook groups, not only is it a huge waste of time but it’ll hurt your channel and it feels downright icky. But if you find a channel you love from a community, support them and make friends! One can never have too many friends, and the more you engage and connect with other people, the more support you’ll feel on your journey.


I hope these tips are helpful to you as you begin (or continue) on your journey with blogging and/or Youtube. This is my best, honest advice I could give when it comes to just starting out. There is so much more that could be shared but I wanted this post to share the straight-up, basics that I wish I knew in the beginning of my journey. If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more details about equipment, helpful sites and plugins for blogging and other little gems that helped me gain momentum on Youtube, let me know if it is of interest to you in a comment below or feel free to email me at helenawoodsblog@gmail.com! I’m sending you a warm hug, plenty of simple joys and I’m so excited for you!!

Love,

Helena

 

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  1. Brenda says:

    Yay, your blog is back up again! I tried to access it but kept getting a sign that said it was taken over or something. So happy it is back on. Now I can read your article. 💕

  2. Dear Helena
    Thank you so much for this article. I’m totally new in the blogoshere and the world of social networks. I have a project that is close to my heart and to make it happen I chose to follow some trainings on blogging and social networks. It has mostly confused me and I lost sight of the essential: follow your heart. Thanks to your article I remembered that. Thank you for this!
    I see you livee in Corsica! I’m originally from Cap Corse. I don’t live there but it’s my really heart’s home. There are some beautiful places to photograph!
    A very good day to you!

    • helenawoods says:

      Yes! Follow your heart, Cindy! It’s the most important part. Wow Cap Corse!! That’s so wonderful! I haven’t traveled there yet but hear it’s such a beautiful part of the island. Sending you a warm hug! <3 🙂

  3. Cindy says:

    Dear Helena
    Thank you very much for this article. I am totally new to the blogosphere and the world of social networs. I have a project that is close to my heart and to realize it I chose to follow some trainings on blog creation and social networks. It has mostly confused me and I lost sight of the essential: follow your heart. Thanks to your article I remembered. Thank you for this!
    Oh I see you live in Corsica! I am originally from Cap Corse. I don’t live there but it’s really my heart’s home. There are some beautiful places to photograph!
    A very good day to you!

  4. Silvana says:

    Dear Helena
    Thank you so much for this post! It’s so valuable and helpful for me as I have started my blog and youtube channel recently. There are definitely some points I haven’t paid much attention to yet, so I’ll try to incorporate them from now on. =)
    Your work is very inspiring to me (and I’m sure to many others). Thanks for shining your light and telling your story!
    Lots of love from Switzerland!

    • helenawoods says:

      Thank you Silvana! Your words mean so much, I appreciate it! Switzerland wow! I’m going to Lauterbrunnen in a few weeks – such a beautiful country! 🙂

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