Quick tips for starting your own YouTube channel focused on motorsports…and how you can make money from it.
Besides having the best job in the world—How else would you describe getting to spend your days in the engine and chassis shops of some of the smartest people in racing and getting them to share what they know?—one of my hobbies is making videos for YouTube.
My YouTube channel () started almost by accident. I started shooting video at different race tracks and simply wanted a place to put them to show my friends. Before long I was using the channel to document interesting engine builds that didn’t suit Circle Track’s editorial coverage and whatever else that interested me in the world of horsepower and motorsports.
Somehow, despite numerous mistakes along the way, The Horsepower Monster YouTube channel has developed a following of twenty-thousand subscribers and, through YouTube’s revenue sharing program, brings in enough money each month to treat my wife to dinner, or, more realistically, buy a few car parts.
Recently, my editors asked me to share a few things I’ve learned about building a YouTube channel, and that’s really not a bad idea. YouTube is a great option for racers and teams looking to do a better job of marketing themselves for sponsors and to their fans. YouTube is free to use, you control your message and everyone is familiar with it.
So, here’s a few tips for starting and setting up your own YouTube channel. Much of what I’m sharing here was learned the hard way. Also, my channel is by no means a media powerhouse like Motor Trend’s massive channel (or any untold number of teenage girls’ making makeup tutorials or whatever it is they do), but maybe there are a few tips here that can help you.
Just Get Started – A little hesitant because you’ve never shot or edited video before? That’s probably true for just about everybody on YouTube. Want to see the first video I ever made? You can’t, because I’ve deleted it. But despite its cringe-worthy quality it did help me get started. If you do a little research on videos already up on the website, you will see that quality varies wildly. People don’t watch online videos expecting to find the next Lucas or Spielberg, they just want to watch videos on the topic they are interested in. So get out there, start putting up videos, and make an effort to make each video you put out better than the last.
Equipment – I admit I’m a bit of a gear fanatic. I’d already been a professional photographer for years, so when I got into video I went out and invested in new gear. But honestly, camera gear should be one of the last things you worry about. And I’m living proof. Despite all the money I’ve spent on video equipment, the most-watched video on my channel was shot with my stinking cell phone. (https://youtu.be/XWs5OeVHYso) I was at the PRI trade show when Street Outlaws’ Big Chief unveiled his new race car, the Crowmod, and the only thing I has one me was the phone in my pocket. The success of that video obviously comes from hitting on a subject many people were searching for and has nothing to do with the quality of equipment used to film it.
Editing Software – Learning to use video editing software can be a bit intimidating. But just like video gear, don’t feel like you have to dive right into the deep end. There is good quality video editing software that’s absolutely free, no matter whether you are an Apple guy (iMovie) or prefer Windows (Windows Movie Maker, among others). Before you spend money on any editing software, try out one of the free systems just to get a little experience under your belt. Then you will know what you like and what you don’t before you decide on a software package with more horsepower.
Settle on Your Topic – You can’t be all things to all people—so don’t even bother trying. Find a topic that interests you and stick with it. Don’t worry about trying to produce videos on topics that are the most popular at the moment. If the subject doesn’t interest you, your quality will suffer, and people can always tell if you are just trying to mine for views. There are enough people watching online videos every day on practically every topic. I love oddball engine builds and documenting my own project builds (https://youtu.be/W6b6YQ6Rn7c) and apparently, some other people out there do, too. So find a topic and stick with it, and put your family vacation videos on a separate channel.
Go Ahead and Monetize – YouTube is owned by Google, and the two companies make it very easy to earn money on your videos with ads placed around your work. If you allow YouTube to do it, the company will place ads around your video and share a portion of the proceeds with you. Here’s a link to walk you through the process: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/72857?hl=en Only the most popular YouTubers with millions of views on every video make really significant money, but every little bit helps, right? It is important to note that most advertisers only want their ads associated with videos that won’t offend anyone, so family friendly videos usually seem to do draw more ads than the more mature stuff.
Don’t Steal – Your intellectual property is valuable, and thankfully, YouTube takes copyright violations very seriously. So while the good news is you can be confident other people won’t be ripping off your videos, you must also be careful not to accidentally violate anyone else’s copyrights. For example, a common mistake many new YouTubers make is to put a popular song on their video as background music. YouTube’s algorithms will catch that right away. Instead, pay a couple bucks for some royalty free music that you can use legally. Just do a Google search for “royalty free music” and it will give you hundreds of options. There’s even free royalty free music out there if you look hard enough. Good music can help set the tone of a video, so put the effort in to find just the right track. https://youtu.be/JMqRxjsq01E
Be Regular –This is certainly something I don’t do, but all the most successful YouTubers will tell you that a key to success is providing your fans a steady diet of videos. This means you’ve got to put up new videos on a regular schedule. That requires dedication, and you have to make your channel a priority. Of course, if you don’t it’s not the end of the world. I consider my channel a hobby, so I put up new videos whenever I get around to it. And lately, I haven’t gotten around to it very much. How regular you are with your channel is up to you, but just be aware that regularly posting videos will help you be more successful.
Keep Your Eyes Open – Every video you produce doesn’t have to be a major production. Sometimes quick, simple and fun videos can be quite popular—especially if you see something that’s a bit unusual. When we built a Honda to take LeMons racing for Circle Track a few years ago we splurged to have a local pinstriper decorate our car. While he was working I put a camera on a tripod and let it run while I went and did something else. We took the best clips, sped them up and came up with a time-lapse video of the car we called “Poor Man’s Derrike Cope” getting lettered. It turned out to be a fun video with very little effort on my part.
Don’t Put Up with Idiots –The problem with putting anything online is that it tends to draw the haters and idiots. A strength of YouTube is the online community that will comment on your videos. They start conversations and bring others to your videos. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with idiots. YouTube has a delete option with every comment. If something comes to your video with a legit complaint or question, it deserves to stay. But some “experts” like to criticize people, and the hard work they’ve invested to create a video, in order to make themselves feel better. If they don’t contribute anything and only bring negativity, save yourself the heartburn and simply delete ‘em. Believe me, the legit viewers don’t want to see their crappy comments either.
Get Help – Don’t forget that the videos you produce may help others promote themselves, too, and they can help you draw more eyeballs. Do you shoot videos at your local track? Let them know. Let the race promoter know he or she is welcome to embed the video on their social media. The track gets good-looking media to help promote themselves, and you get more people viewing your work. Win/win. If you document and engine build let any parts manufacturers you mention by name know that they are in your video. Most larger companies have people that monitor any company mentions on social media, so all you’ve got to do it tag them when you post your video on Facebook.
Be Unusual – Race fans already know what a race looks like from the stands, why not take them into the car with you? After all, everybody dreams of being a race car driver. Now you can show them what it’s really like. Advancing technology have made high-quality, small action cameras affordable these days, and it’s amazing some of the shots you can get with them. Invest in a GoPro or similar camera and see what new and unique shots you can get at your next race. https://youtu.be/Ynu01zKFq_0
So there you go. That’s just a few lessons I learned making videos. Now get out there, get busy making great racing videos, and make sure you let us know when you do.
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