Vlogging is the new normal. Toddlers are doing it, teenagers are doing it, moms are doing it, industry experts are doing it… It’s kind of like kung-fu fighting back in 1974, according to Carl Douglas. But what exactly does it take to learn how to vlog? Is there a school of vlogging you should attend? Should you just create a website and fake it until you make it? The answer lies somewhere in between these two.
You don’t need to study a career to become a vlogger, but it’s not as easy as simply pressing the publishing button. You’ll need a purpose, a message, a platform, an audience, and more. But don’t worry, putting all these together is actually not as hard as it may sound. Take a look at this beginner’s guide to vlogging to learn all you need to know about how to vlog, from figuring out what to say to making money off your videos.
What is a vlog?
A vlog is a piece of video that documents a person’s life or expertise, with an average length of around five minutes. The word ‘vlog’ is a portmanteau of ‘video’ and ‘blog.’ In essence it’s just a motion picture version of the type of content you could expect to find on a traditional blog. Vlogs are created to connect with an audience through shared ideas and experiences.
The core difference between vlogs and other types of video content is that the vlogger is the main subject of its content. For example, a travel vlog revolves around the creator’s experiences and thoughts, whether they are shown in the frame or through a voice-over. On the contrary, a travel video focuses primarily on the destination, usually from an objective point of view.
There are two main styles of vlogging: ‘talking-head’ and ‘follow me around.’ On ‘talking-head’ videos, the camera is set on a tripod and remains static as the vlogger talks about a subject or walks the audience through a process. Common examples of this type of vlog include make-up tutorials and cooking videos. On the other hand, ‘follow me around’ vlogs see creators in different locations as they record clips throughout their day. This vlogging style is especially popular for travel videos and dedicated ‘a day in the life’ vlogs.
Can you make money as a vlogger?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Of course you can, why else would there be so many people trying to become vloggers? According to Forbes, in 2019 the highest-paid YouTube vlogger was Ryan Kaji, an eight-year-old boy who made $26M.
While you’ll probably not be making a seven-figure salary any time soon, making money as a vlogger is fairly straightforward and an accessible online business idea. There are four main ways in which you can monetize your videos:
Advertising: Most video hosting platforms offer creators the opportunity to include ads on their videos. Every time someone sees the ad or clicks on it, the vlogger gets paid. While this is a great way to monetize your content even if you don’t have a large following base, you won’t get rich through it. The average pay is around $3 per 1,000 viewers, most of which actually goes to the video hosting platform.
Subscriptions: Depending on the type of vlog content you create, you might be able to charge viewers a subscription fee. With platforms such as Wix Video, you can set up this monetization system with minimal effort. Cooking vlogs and other vlogging experts in their respective fields can highly benefit from this type of content monetization.
Affiliate marketing: Somewhere in the middle in terms of difficulty and pay-out, affiliate marketing is the most common type of collaboration between vloggers and brands. Some businesses partner with content creators to have their products linked on the videos, usually offering discount coupons. Each time a viewer buys something, the vlogger gets a percentage of the cost.
Sponsored content: The most lucrative type of video monetization is also the hardest one to get. With sponsorships, vloggers are paid by businesses to mention their brand in videos. Before you start reaching out to brands with this purpose, however, you’ll need to build a strong following base and online presence.
How to start a vlog
Now that we've answered the question of 'what is a vlog' and you know how to make money from your videos, take a look at this step-by-step guide on how to start vlogging:
01. Determine your niche
The first step to becoming a vlogger is defining the type of content you want to create. Having a clear niche will allow viewers to easily understand what to expect from your videos, which will make it more likely for the relevant audience to subscribe to your channel.
Some of the most popular vlogging categories include fitness, food, make-up, travel, unboxing, and gaming. While you don’t need to stick to one of these fields, it’s important to ensure the type of content you want to create is in demand.
Start by searching for the topic you have in mind on YouTube. See how many videos there are and how many views the top results have. Afterwards, visit the profile of their channels and look at the number of subscribers. If the average subscriber count is too low, you might want to rethink your idea and aim for a broader audience.
02. Watch other creators
Once you have determined the type of content you want to create, it’s time to get inspired. Take the time to look at content similar to what you want to create. Browse vlogs by popularity as well as by publishing date to see how the field has evolved over time. Look up the most popular vloggers in your space and find out what makes them different from the competition.
Learning how to vlog, much like any other skill, comes primarily from paying attention to what people with experience in the field are doing. The more time you dedicate to this step, the more knowledge you’ll have to base your own journey on.
03. Find your voice
Developing a unique voice is crucial if you want to become a successful vlogger. As you enter the competitive world of vlogging, it’s important that you start seeing yourself as a brand and your content as a product. Not only do you need to create interesting videos, they need to be aesthetically appealing and generally entice the audience into watching more.
Think about what it is that you can offer your audience that no other vlogging channels can. This can be anything from years of experience in your field, to outstanding visuals. Whatever you come up with, make sure it’s something that can be present in all your videos, or the vast majority of them, and will not get old over time.
04. Invest in gear
The equipment you need will largely depend on the type of vlog you want to create. You wouldn’t expect to use the same tools to travel the world and to bake a carrot cake, right? Furthermore, your technical skills and budget will also play a big role in this decision.
Generally, there are six main pieces of vlogging equipment you’ll need to keep in mind:
Camera: The best camera for vlogging varies significantly depending on the type of content you create. While nowadays mirrorless cameras seem to be an industry-favorite, some may benefit from investing in DSLRs or action cameras. Start by taking a look at the different types of cameras available and then see which model better fits your needs.
Lens: If you choose to use an interchangeable lens camera, you need to understand that the lens you use will have a huge impact on the quality of your work. Of all types of camera lenses, vloggers tend to choose wider angles that require less maneuvering space and enable you to fit more elements in the frame. However, make sure to check other options within your price range before settling for a specific glass.
Tripod: The star of all camera accessories across the majority of genres, having a tripod or stabilizer is an absolute must as you learn how to vlog. No one will spend their precious time watching shaky footage, no matter how great your content actually is.
Microphone: Up there with unstabilized image, bad sound is one of the biggest turnoffs for vlogging audiences. Even if you plan to use free music for videos on most of your content, you’ll need to have a microphone to record high-quality audio whenever needed.
Lighting: If you plan to record indoors, artificial lighting is an absolute must. If you plan to record strictly outdoors, artificial lighting would be a great addition to your gear. It will help you avoid camera noise and ensure your footage is always clear, as well as soften shadows for a more even look.
Editing software: Last, but most certainly not least, you’ll need the right tools to convert your footage into an actual vlog. While professional editors can be quite expensive, there are several free video editing software programs you can use with great results.
05. Define your content
In order to give your channel a homogeneous look, it’s important to establish a set of guidelines from the get go. This will allow viewers to have a clear idea of what to expect when subscribing to your channel, not only in terms of content but also style and regularity.
Start by defining whether your content will be improvised or scripted. Some vloggers prefer to set up the camera and talk away, simply following a brief sketch of the ideas they want to discuss, while others create a detailed shot list beforehand.
Once you have decided on your vlogging style, you’ll be able to assess how long it will take you to create a video and determine a regular posting schedule. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to post a new video once a week at the very least.
06. Edit your videos
If you want to become a vlogger, you’ll need to master the art of video editing. Get familiar with the software you’ll be using and don’t start sharing your videos until you feel the result is good enough. While it’s common to look back at the beginning of your career and be shocked at how much better your work is now, the starting level should already meet the industry standards.
Make sure all your videos are edited following the same guidelines. Use similar types of shots and cuts, as well as similar music styles to create a consistent look and feel through your channel. Many vloggers create their own intro clips in order to be identifiable at first glance.
07. Build an online presence
Your vlogging career should not exist on a single platform. In order to maximize your audience reach, you’ll need to create a strong online presence that expands through several networks. In addition to having a profile in all major (and relevant) social media platforms, you’ll need to create a video website to serve as the umbrella that brings all your accounts together. Furthermore, the unparalleled SEO capabilities of a website will exponentially increase your chances of being found online.
Luckily for you, nowadays building a stunning video website is as straightforward and hassle-free as opening a new social profile. All you need to do is select a professionally-designed videographer website template, upload your content, customize the colors, and you’ll be ready to go.
08. Optimize your content
Once your content is live on the internet, the next step on your career as a vlogger is to ensure that people actually reach said content. In order to do so, you’ll need to learn how to do proper SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which roughly translates to the process of improving web page content to increase its visibility on search engines.
While the importance of SEO practices on websites is common knowledge by now, many are still unaware of the significance of video SEO. Proper keyword research and metadata practices can make or break your vlogging career, so make sure to dedicate a significant part of your efforts to it.
09. Track your performance
Just because your vlogs are finally out there for the world to enjoy, it doesn’t mean your job is over. Keep an eye on how they perform over time to identify areas that could be improved. Pay attention to viewers’ comments and use your other platforms to explicitly ask for constructive criticism.
At the end of the day, the best way to learn how to vlog is learning from your experiences and constantly working to improve your work, both in front of and behind the camera.
10. Collaborate with others
Once you have published a few vlogs and built the foundations of your brand, start establishing relationships with other creators. Don’t be shy to reach out to other vloggers in your field, but put genuine connections above partnership offerings.
There are two main reasons to put friendships above businesses here. One, the content you eventually create together will be much more interesting and fun to watch. And two, in the long run it’s much better to be known as an interesting person than as a money-grubber.