Tu Ha An - Dreamlike & Multicultural Illustration

The mistakes that made me struggle on YouTube

Edited by my beloved friend K.L

I am currently working on a BIG filming project, which has been pushing me to look back and revisit my path as a “videographer”.

There was a time, around 2018-2019, when I seriously dreamed of a career in shooting films and making videos. Reviewing my old videos made me realize that most of them aren’t as good as what I’m currently producing, and the funny part is making videos is no longer even my priority. Becoming a freelancer illustrator, I practice making videos less frequently and the working hours I’d spent on each video has eventually decreased by 5 times to make spacefor other creative activities. Yet strangely enough, my video quality didn’t go down as consequences of a lessen investment. It actually improved.

In the article 1 retrospective and 5 reasons that will save you 5 years of your creative life, I explained some of my mistakes in creating contents.

Today, we are going to take a closer look at the main mistakes that made me struggle while creating contents on YouTube, especially during my juvenile years of video making.

Learning from the very best is surely great, but being able to avoid the mistakes that were made by those who’ve struggled is even better, isn’t it? 😁

1.   « Do what you like to see on YouTube »

At the beginning of my YouTube adventure, I totally misunderstood this advice given by many veteran Youtubers.

I thought it was just a matter of reproducing what I liked to watch on YouTube.

Nevertheless, following that misinterpretation, whenever I came across a video with a cool concept that I had the skills to make it, I would jump into a new project. Of course, I never copied ideas from videos I watched, but I often found myself following trends.

And that is how I spent a good amount of time doing comedy sketches, speed drawing on a white board, or even doing singing contents… 😶

The problem with this approach is that it all ended up looking like an imitation. I feel like a child imitating the grown-ups, a fan imitating his or her idols. And even when I came up with new ideas on my own, I had never really thought about what I really wanted to share with my audience out there.

With time, I’ve come to understand more correctly the meaning of “Do what you like to see on YouTube”. In reality, it all comes down to creating the content you want to see being brought to life on the platform, regardless of whether the content is something completely original or it is a subject that has been already explored and you’d like to enrich it further.

In fact, an original idea might be just about the rarest resource on planet Earth as we speak. For any idea we might think of, there might be someone who already thought of it before, even if we are unaware of such existence. What we actually need, is an idea that we’re genuinely passionate about, and our personal take on it will make it different enough to land ourselves an audience, YouTube included.

Still, if you ever feel unsure of what your YouTube contents could be , it might be a good start just by avoiding producing what you don’t like watching on YouTube 😉 Even if what you make is still not totally authentic, even if it still not screaming your creative voice the way you hope for, what you came up with is at least your very personal endeavour.

2. Not embracing my YouTuber identity to those around me

Few years ago, me running a YouTube channel and wanting to turn it into a professional track was not quite established nor widely recognized.

That’s why I was even more worried that the people around me would find me plainly unrealistic or I’d be laughed at.

And although I didn’t hide the existence of my channel, I didn’t vouch for it neither, I always tried to minimize its importance by presenting it to others as a simple hobby. As a result, my YouTuber identity always took a back seat.

Fact is, it was precisely because I gave off an impression that my videos and editing were not a priority that others didn’t mind respecting my time and effort doing these activities neither.

Worst of all, their lack of respect fed into a vicious circle that kept reinforcing my own complex.

One of my most memorable wake-up call was when I started one ambitious video project with a collaborator and back then I didn’t find enough courage to tell him from the start that this project was meant for my YouTube channel. I kept putting off clarifying things, convincing myself that we would talk about it later. Then, by the time my collaborator told me that the project didn’t belong to my channel, I had nothing to claim back what should’ve been mine, since I had never stated my intentions and laid down the necessary conditions for any of this collaboration to take place from the outset.

So: let’s be explicitly consistent with ourselves and with people around us.

On the other hand, of course you always have to embrace your choices, but you should not put all the blames on yourself all the time neither. Sometimes, you just don’t have the right environment to develop a YouTube channel or some other creative works. Sometimes, it wasn’t you. Sometimes, it was the right environment such as a good support network that makes all the differences. In the article How to build a strong support network as a creative freelancer? you will find 3 pillars that I believe are essential to build a support network.

In the future, I intend to write an article specially dedicated to friends of freelance creatives, to help them better accompany their loved ones in this adventure. This idea comes from my English-language article editor, a life-long friend of mine, and a proof that I am so lucky to be well surrounded today.

3. Underestimating my legitimacy to discuss creativity on YouTube

As you may have read in the article Start with why – Why do I start a blog?, I didn’t have any artistic or creative education in my background.

In my daily life, this lack of formal art education never interfered with my confidence to pursue my creative activities. However, when I started making videos on YouTube, I immediately started to doubt my legitimacy to voice my opinions in certain content areas, creativity was one of them.

To make matters worse, I thought that my French dubbed with a strong Vietnamese accent would only allow me the legitimacy to talk about my experiences as a foreign student in France, and to some larger extents, the cultural difference between France and Vietnam. Besides, this type of contents was of particular interest to my parents, my family and friends, who were enthusiastic about seeing it (especially as most of them are also foreigners in France).

Making contents about cultural differences helped me to feel easier to embrace my YouTuber identity in my entourage (a problem that we discussed in the section #2 “Not embracing my Youtuber identity to to those around me”). Except that… cultural differences weren’t exactly the subject that made my heart sing.

Furthermore, this also brought me back to the trouble #1 “Do what you want to see on YouTube”. I couldn’t see myself making contents on cultural differences forever, but other than this topic, what could be another theme that could make me feel at ease assuming my YouTuber identity to people around me all while being happy making contents about it?

After some long hard thinking, at some points, I realized that if there were no foreigners speaking French with a strong accent dealing with the subject of creativity on this platform, and I want to do it, then this absolutely is what I’d like to see on YouTube. Enough of a green flag for me to make “creativity” the common thread for my YouTube channel without hesitation!

4.   Believing that there are certain rules to follow on YouTube

Each platform has its rules, its practices and its algorithms. Learning how these things work and what viewers want is essential to stand out from the crowd.

However, my biggest mistake when I just started was to think that there were personality standards that I need to acquire. I thought that I always had to appear enthusiastic, vibrant and extrovert-like if I want my videos to be engaging and appealing to others.

Feeling all these burdens, I can’t help but growing more and more grateful to all the quiet and introverted YouTubers for showing that we can still do well while being ourselves on YouTube. At the end of the day, it’s not that because something seems to be prevalent on a given platform that we have to bend ourselves to fit in it!

That is why I am grateful to the quiet, introverted YouTubers for showing that we can be ourselves on YouTube. At the end of the day, just because something is prevalent on the platform doesn’t mean that it is the norm to follow!

5.   Using a rocket to fly to London (!)

Let me explain: for years, I did all my editing on a video editing software called Sony Vegas. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING, including the design of small elements, such as deleting the outline, making a photo collage, or preparing the video thumbnail.

It was of course feasible, and the results were neat, but it was like using a rocket to fly from Paris to London! A rocket is powerful, and of course, hypothetically, it could get you from Paris to London (or to anywhere on Earth for that matters). Sony Vegas did its job. But it was also a heavy lift and extremely time-consuming. Just like how astronauts always have to go through some strict and complex procedures to prepare for a rocket to embark on any given mission, I had to walk through a lot of complexities to make Sony Vegas perform what I wanted it to do as well, regardless of whether the tasks were simple or complicated.

Sony Vegas was powerful, but it wasn’t exactly suitable for the smaller tasks where huge gap in editing power wouldn’t translate into any recognizable differences. In short, I didn’t really have to use such a giant like Sony Vegas for everything! There are simpler tools for simpler tasks that were available for me to use, if only I thought of them! Likewise, if we want to travel a shorter distance than going to the moon, such as from Paris to London, there are options of less power than a rocket, such as planes, trains or cars, that could get us to London with significantly less troubles!

Compared to how I’m working with a new set of more suitable tools for each task, using Sony Vegas back then made me waste 5 times more the time I’d spend for editing, and truth is the time was mainly spent on trivial tasks like inserting elements and not even on more essential jobs like cutting or putting the pieces of videos I filmed together! And those long mundane hours discouraged me enormously, since each project using a rocket could take several months end to edit

Lesson learned: optimize the workflow with the right tools for each job!

At worst, it makes a great blog post topic!

While revising my experiences as a video maker and jotting down these reflections on the mistakes that I’ve made along the way, my last realization is every failure has been actually an opportunity to learn.

Therefore, if you, too, are dreaming of embarking on a YouTube adventure or any other creative journey, I hope you will always remember that it cannot be any more normal than making mistakes along the way. The key for us is to recognize these mistakes, understand them, and learn from them so we could move forward. Whether it was the doubts about our legitimacy, the pressure to achieve some performance standards on the platform, or the use of unsuitable tool that wear us down more than it should, please remember that all things will pass, and every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

And you see, my friends, at worst, it made a great topic for blog post! 😁

You can follow my adventure as a baby YouTuber at https://www.youtube.com/tuhaan . In the coming months, THE big project that I mentioned at the beginning of this article will be launched on this channel, and I hope you will enjoy it. For sneak previews, subscribe to my Creati’letter: https://tuhaan.com/en/home/#en-creatiletter

Keep creating!

Tu Ha An

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