We’re back with more advice from one of our favorite YouTubers, Ali Abdaal. If you haven’t heard of him, Ali is an MD turned YouTuber, entrepreneur, investor, and all-around good guy.
After graduating as a doctor from Cambridge, Ali worked full-time in England’s National Health Service up until 2019. YouTube became his side-chick in 2017, and they decided to go steady after he quit the NHS. That decision proved to be the rocket fuel he needed to explode his sub count to 4.4 Million subs and counting. Now Ali’s yearly income is over the 7-figure mark.
Ali recently closed his Part-Time YouTuber Academy after three years and over 2300 students. Why did he shut it down? Quite simply, he got bored teaching the same thing each week, and it was taking up too much of his time.
Still, Ali loves helping people create a YouTube channel the right way, and today we’ve rounded up his best tips on how to create a successful YouTube channel in 2023.
Ali took his last six years of experience on YouTube and developed a three-part framework that he would follow if he was to start a channel completely from scratch today. If you can get these three things right, then you’re completely off to the races. Who knows, maybe your channel will explode, and you could become a millionaire, too.
Let’s get after it.
How To Create A Successful YouTube Channel In 2023
Now, this framework is here to help you start a YouTube channel with zero experience entirely from scratch. Ali calls it his Part-Time YouTuber Framework. And there are three levels to it.
Level One – Get Going
Level one is simply to create videos. Make your first three videos and get them up on your YouTube account. The framework assumes you’re starting completely from scratch with zero experience. Any guesses what the biggest hurdle is that stops most people in their tracks?
It’s just not getting started in the first place. Most people never take the first real step. They watch videos, they read articles, and they daydream and talk to their friends about it. But it’s easy to get caught up in overthinking things or waiting around for the “right time.” And never actually DO anything about it.
So to avoid falling into that trap, Ali recommends that you just make three videos. Maybe they’re shorts, or maybe they’re videos you don’t even edit. You could just make them on your phone. It doesn’t matter.
Whatever you want to do, just don’t overcomplicate things and do it. Nobody is going to see them.
And don’t spend too long thinking over YouTube channel ideas. Just create a new YouTube channel. You don’t need a channel description either or any YouTube channel art.
Simply get your three videos up. And hey, once you’ve uploaded your first video, it’s official. You’re a YouTuber now.
Treat It Like Dating – It’s A Numbers Game
Your first three videos are kind of like the first three dates that you go on with someone. When you date someone, you’re getting to know them. You’re seeing if you vibe.
And in those three videos, you’ll get some pretty good insight into how you feel about creating videos. Just understand you’re going to be absolutely terrible at it. And it’s okay. Because, as with learning any new skill, it takes ages to get good at YouTubery.
But at least you’ve now taken meaningful action. You’ve started to put your reps in.
Don’t Overthink It
For example: If you’re reading this right now and you haven’t yet started a YouTube channel, I suspect the thing that’s holding you back is probably overthinking. Paralysis by analysis.
And most people usually get stuck overthinking their niche. What the hell do you make videos about? Why would anyone watch your YouTube content? What if you pick the “wrong” thing?
Or the big dream stopper…what will people in your life think?
All of those turning gears get in the way of most prospective Tubers. That’s why level one is to get going and just make those first three videos.
Do You Want To Know The Truth About YouTube?
YouTube is a lifestyle choice. YouTube is a long-game play. What you’re trying to do, what you’re signing up for if you’re going to take this seriously, is making videos every week for the next several years of your life.
YouTube success looks sexy as hell. You can be your own boss and build a YouTube channel, and possibly make tens of thousands of dollars a month. Once your channel is up and running, you earn passive income from your videos. Maybe you’ll even get famous and meet other cool content creators.
While in reality, the process of becoming successful is as unsexy as it gets. It’s just consistently showing up every single week and putting at least one new video up. And sticking with it for years.
Pay Attention To How You Feel
And so it’s worth flirting with it for these first three videos and just seeing how you feel. Learn how to hold a camera, how to hold a phone, how to edit a video, how to make a thumbnail, and write a few video descriptions.
After you’ve got three videos up, ask yourself. How do I feel? Did I enjoy the process? Am I excited to do this for the next two or three years?
You can use that feeling to help guide you through your first of two decisions.
Choice Number One – Strings Are Good
Once you’ve got your first three dates in the bag, you have an important choice to make.
And it’s what do you want from YouTube? Are you looking for something casual? Or do you want a serious relationship?
Now, casual is like, I’ll make a video whenever I feel like it.
But if you’re ready to commit and get serious – it looks a little different. At this point, you’ve decided to succeed no matter what, and you’re prepared to stick with it.
And if you really want to build a successful channel, Ali suggests you actively decide to be in a serious relationship with YouTube.
That means just like if you’re in a serious relationship with someone in real life, you want to try and see them at least once a week.
So you should be prepared to make at least one video a week. It’s hard to grow a YouTube channel or a relationship if you treat it casually.
And then, once you’ve committed to taking YouTube seriously, you’re ready to move on to level two.
Level Two – Get Good (Enough)
Ali calls level two getting good. Although it should really say in brackets, get good enough because you make your next seven videos at this stage.
And the point of these seven videos is to begin honing your new craft. The thing with YouTube is there’s a ridiculous amount of things you need to learn to be successful.
There’s titles and custom thumbnails, filming and talking to a camera – and you must structure your content so it makes sense. You also need storytelling and to become reasonable at public speaking if you plan to show your face. And if you don’t want to show your face, then you need to be good at research, writing and animation.
And then video editing, which absolutely takes ages. And understanding YouTube analytics. YouTube search is its own thing, too. It just takes so many skills to be an effective YouTuber.
Again, in this model, you’re starting from scratch. So you need to spend these next seven videos actively trying to improve at making YouTube video content.
You Still Don’t Need A Niche
Crucially. At this point, you’re still not worrying about your niche. Your niche doesn’t matter yet. Your only job is to get better at YouTube.
So your attitude for the following seven videos needs to be – I’m just making videos on whatever I feel like.
Maybe you absolutely freaking love making paper airplanes. So you could make a video about your favorite designs and how well they fly. Perhaps you can’t get enough of the book you’re currently reading. Or you found a pair of socks that’s changed your entire life. It doesn’t matter what it is. You could just make a vlog-style video and share your thoughts or read a poem.
The content isn’t important. What matters is that you’re practicing new skills.
Your Only Job Is To Learn And Upload Videos
And again, to use the relationship analogy, this is where you and YouTube get to know each other better. You learn more about the other person; they learn more about you. And after these seven, you’ll have uploaded ten videos in total.
So ten videos across levels one and two. You’re learning how to create high-quality content but also learning a little about yourself.
Maybe you’ve had to confront your emotions and fear at this point. Maybe you’re worried about what others think and how you will be judged. You might experience self-doubt or the fear of failure. Many emotional hurdles can get in the way of building the life you want.
But once you’ve made it through level two and have 10 videos online, you must make the ultimate choice.
Choice Number Two – Be Honest With Yourself
So you might have chosen to treat YouTube seriously and go steady with it. But there’s another checkpoint here before you take on level three.
Now that you’ve made ten videos, it’s a good time to pause and reflect. And the ultimate choice is: do you want to treat YouTube like a hobby, or do you want to treat YouTube like a business?
And on the hobby to business spectrum, let’s say hobby is zero and business is ten. Where do you land? You’re not allowed to pick five. And hey, this next bit is really important. If you decide at this point that you actually want to treat YouTube as a hobby? Then good for you!
Scoring a ten isn’t better than scoring a zero. What’s important is that you’re honest with yourself.
But if you decide that you want to lean towards the business end of the spectrum. If you decide you want to be a professional rather than an amateur. Then that brings you to the third level.
Level Three – Get Smart
At this point, your goal is to understand the YouTube game.
So far, you’ve just been trying to make videos you enjoy. But to grow a YouTube channel that could potentially change your life, you need to figure out how this game works.
And so Ali says there are basically three things you need to know. There are only three things that YouTube really cares about. And if you get them right, then you’re headed toward a bright future.
And those three things are:
So First – You Gotta Earn The Click
No one will ever watch your video unless they click on it first. And so, the first step to success on YouTube is earning the click. Your titles, thumbnails, and concepts need to be sufficiently intriguing that someone actually clicks on the video.
You need to find a way to stand out as the smallest needle in the biggest haystack that ever lived.
Get inspired to earn the click from our look into how Beluga blew up his channel in 4 months.
Next – Extend Watch Time
Now the YouTube algorithm cares A LOT about how much of your video viewers watch. Why? Because the algorithm is ultimately trying to serve the right video to the right viewer at the right time.
And so if a viewer stays deep into your video, it means they’re getting continuous value from it. And so, watch time is a great signal for the algorithm to promote your video to similar people.
In addition to the average view duration on each video, the algorithm also cares about a viewer’s total session time. If you can get them to watch a second or third video and keep them online – YouTube loves that. The more time people stay on platform watching content, the more ad revenue YouTube receives.
So you can use quality calls to action at the end of your videos to suggest other videos to watch next. You can also create playlists to help your viewers binge-watch. By far though, the best thing you can do is focus on creating top-shelf content.
So you’ve got people to click on your video title and thumbnail. You’ve nailed your video quality, and viewers are sticking around to watch. So what’s left?
Always Leave Them Satisfied
Now, increasingly the algorithm looks a lot more at viewer satisfaction.
And how can you tell if your viewers are satisfied?
You should regularly hop into your channel’s analytics and looks for signals like average view duration, likes, and shares. And also you know, talk to your audience. There’s a wealth of information in your comment section. And you can ask questions any time and ask for feedback.
So it’s not necessary to get people to watch 100% of your hour-long video. YouTube is scary good at figuring out if your viewer was satisfied.
So constantly work to get the click, get viewers to watch longer, and leave them satisfied. You should continuously level up these skills as you post new content.
It’s Time To Think About Your Niche
It’s strategy time. And this is where you’re allowed to think about your niche.
At this point, you have to think, okay, there are zillions of videos uploaded to YouTube daily. That’s a fact. And so, your video needs to add enough value for the person on the other end to think it was a justified investment of their time and attention to watch.
You need to find a good answer to the question: why would somebody watch my video?
You’re not just competing with the other videos on the righthand side of YouTube in suggested videos, and watch this next. You’re also competing with their phone. You’re competing with things happening in their real life. You’re competing with every other distraction in this person’s life.
Because you’re competing for their attention. And so is everyone else. So this is where strategy comes in. And it’s why having a solid niche is so important.
Target & Value – How To Pick Your Niche
Ali thinks a niche is actually two things: it’s a target, and it’s also a value. At the start of his YouTube journey in 2017, the target for his YouTube videos was people applying to medical schools in the UK.
And the value he provided was helping them get into med school. So he had a clear target and a clear value proposition, which is how his channel grew in those initial days. It focuses your energy on one thing, making it easy for viewers and the algorithm to figure out what you’re about. And you can become a go-to expert in your niche.
So how do you choose a niche?
Basically, what you want to do is figure out what your interests and strengths are. Then figure out what your unfair or competitive advantages are. And finally, who are the people you could potentially help or serve with your content?
And then you kind of combine all those things to evaluate niche ideas. You can say, okay, I could potentially help small business owners manage their finances. Or I could possibly help dentists run better ads on Facebook. Or I could help students in Indonesia get better at studying for their exams.
So spend some time with a pen and paper, or however you think best. Maybe stay in the shower for an entire week. And whatever targets and values you come up with, those are different niches you could potentially enter.
Finding a good niche automatically answers the question of why someone should watch your video.
Standing Out In The Best Way
And then the next question to answer in the strategy piece is: why would someone watch your video instead of your competitors on this topic?
Because honestly, many niches on YouTube are as crowded as Walmart on Black Friday these days.
Productivity, personal development, entrepreneurship, all this kind of stuff. Ridiculously crowded. And so you need a way of standing out in a crowded market. So the method Ali teaches is that there are two things to understand.
There’s the market, and then there’s your edge.
Learn Everything You Can About Your Market
Before you figure out your edge, you need to understand your market.
Let’s say you wanted to start a new business. Let’s say you decided to open an Italian restaurant on your local high street. You wouldn’t just wake up with the idea and immediately lease or buy a property.
You would do some market analysis. You would see what other Italian restaurants are around and what the other food options are. If there are coffee shops nearby and if they serve food. You’d want to know what sort of people lived and worked in the area and what average incomes were like.
You’d be doing a lot of analysis before you pull the trigger and randomly decide to open an Italian restaurant.
And you should do the same with your channel once you know your niche. Who are the other YouTube creators in your space? How big are their audiences, and how many views do they get? What are they making content about? What makes them unique or stand out?
And once you’ve got a good lay of the land, it’s time to figure out where you could fit in. It’s time to develop your competitive edge or unique selling proposition.
What’s Your Edge?
And keep this in mind. It isn’t necessarily about being better. In many ways, being better is the worst way of doing this. Why is that?
Well, first off, it’s because better is in the eye of the beholder. It’s subjective. But also, it just takes way more work.
But there are loads of other ways to stand out. For example, you can stand out in terms of the depth of research you go into your videos. You can stand out with storytelling, editing, or in terms of relatability and authenticity.
Maybe you’re a male in a female-dominated industry or a female in a male-dominated industry. Perhaps you’re the only person that looks like you covering this topic. And so you appeal to other people just like you.
And so there are loads of different ways that you could stand out in the market. You just need to understand your market and then develop your edge.
Build Systems & Create Leverage
Now that you’ve outlined your strategy, the next problem is that it takes a lot of time to do all of this stuff well. So how are you going to get it all done?
Especially if you’ve got a full-time job. Especially if you’ve got a family and want to maintain your health and social life.
It’s actually hard to make the time to do YouTube well. Unless, of course, you quit your job from day one. But again, we assume that if you’re starting YouTube completely from scratch, you likely can’t quit your day job. Not yet, anyway.
You have to do a lot of stuff to be good at YouTube. And it’s really, really, really hard to do it all in five to 10 hours a week. But Ali learned over the last six years that if you only have five to 10 hours available each week, you can still be successful if you build systems and leverage.
And again, this is thinking like a business. So what Ali wants you to think about is: how do you build systems for your YouTube channel so that you can create valuable content your audience finds interesting and useful within your niche?
And in a way that’s strategically aligned with what you want to do but doesn’t take up much time.
Learn more about how Ali builds systems and leverage with “How To Grow A YouTube Channel The Smart Way in 2023: Lessons From The YouTube Doctor.”
The Fourth Step
That does it for our review of Ali’s Three-Step Framework on how to grow a successful Youtube channel in 2023. Here’s a quick recap of the three stages:
Get Going – Start with three videos and upload them
Get Good (Enough) – Create seven more on any topic and focus on learning
Get Smart – Get the click, increase watch time, and leave them satisfied. Then…
Pick a Niche
Study Your Market
Develop your edge
Create Leverage with systems and people
So what’s the fourth and final stage, you ask?
Never stop learning. And get help when you can afford to. Ali credits his decision to finally outsource video editing as the biggest game changer on his road to success. And he wishes someone had told him to do it after his 10th video.
If you want to learn more about outsourcing your video editing, including how much it costs, check out “How Much Does Video Editing Cost For YouTube?” for more info.
If you want to learn more about YouTube in general, we recommend these fine reads next: