Over the summer, I had a simple goal to get better at YouTube videos and work on my channel. I’ve been on YouTube off and on in the past, and just always ran into problems with time and other commitments. This summer was my most recent chance to improve my video making skills. I knew from past failures that I needed to figure out a niche.
When I sat myself down and thought about what kinds of videos I wanted to make on my YouTube channel this summer, I didn’t have any ideas.
I watch a lot of daily vloggers like Casey Neistat and David Dobrik, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make videos like that in an interesting way, at least right now. I’m considering myself new to YouTube, even though my channel is basically over a year old.
Louisville had a lot of sudden teaching problems in the summer of 2018.
I had already committed to working for a nonprofit, teaching Title 1 kids, so I was pressed for time. Then the education situation and teacher strikes happened in Kentucky, which changed a lot of the expectations I had to fulfill for the nonprofit. I also made very little money serving through this nonprofit.
I’ve been through many different financial situations throughout my entire life. I was in free and reduced lunch programs while I was in school. That was why I identified with the teaching job at the nonprofit and why I felt like I should spend six months of my time in service to others who needed it. It’s not like I went completely broke while I was doing it; luckily I had people in my life who at least partly understood that I was doing something bigger than myself for short period of time. My roommate helped with rent for a few months. People paid for my dinner every now and then, and I got a few drinks bought for me here and a few drinks bought for me there. But, day to day, I had to get creative with what I was eating for dinner and how it was getting prepared every evening. Most nights, I stuck with cheap microwavable food.
The cheap microwavable food niche is booming.
There are a lot of people doing cheap food reviews. I searched for videos and read titles, but didn’t watch hardly any. I was afraid I’d copy them.
At some point, it dawned on me that it wouldn’t be too difficult to make YouTube videos about the cheap foods I was eating. It would help the videos be more searchable and I could even learn a bit about SEO. I knew the videos wouldn’t be the most helpful to anyone, but at the very least they would help me form the habit of creating a video every day. I went with it. I posted a new video every day of me tasting a cheap food, like sardines or microwavable roast beef and gravy.
I don’t consider myself a foodie or a food critic. Food was just something to start out on YouTube with.
At first, it felt a bit odd critiquing food just from one or two bites every day. I’ve never claimed to be a food critic or food buff and I never will be. After a few videos, I realized that food is a part of everyone’s life and even if I wasn’t doing videos about food, food would still be a part of my videos and vlogs in some way. As I started to feel more confident and justified in what I was putting on YouTube, I started incorporating new segments and ideas into the videos, like catching up on as much YouTube drama as possible while the food is in the microwave. Eventually, I started including other aspects of my day into the videos. Through focusing on food for content ideas, I was able to pick out details about myself that stand out, like my love of pickled bologna and my transportation challenges.
Eventually I managed to make a video about me holding up a jar of pickled bologna in front of the Louisville skyline.
Picking a niche is difficult, and for years that prevented me from taking YouTube and video creating seriously.
Picking a niche is difficult for many reasons, and those reasons are different from person to person. For me, it was because I didn’t want to risk losing my sense of creative freedom. When I first started the cheap food videos, I was worried I’d force myself into only doing videos about food. Over the next few weeks, my videos had organically grown into something else. My videos grew into me and I grew into them.
While I was struggling to find time to create and also teach in the summer program, I learned a lot about myself and what I was capable of.
There were definitely parts of the summer program that I didn’t care for, but overall it was a rewarding experience and I’m glad I got through it. Before I left, one of my classes surprised me with some crafts they’d made for me. It was the first time a bunch of kids made something for me.
I still had to complete a few things before I was completely finished with my work at the nonprofit over the last few weeks, but getting through the summer program was the hard part. Now I can focus on my creative projects a bit more, get caught up on the literary magazine and small press, and make more money at my other job as a bike courier for the rest of the summer.