Starting a YouTube channel after the age of 40, 50, or beyond…
There are many creators on this platform with huge channels who not only are not Millennials, they’re Gen Xers or even Boomers getting hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Starting a YouTube channel in your 40’s or 50’s, or even later, just might be the best thing you ever do.
But while your channel could be one of the ones that take off and get millions of views, it’s more likely to be one that trudges along and barely grows year after year after year. What makes a mature YouTuber successful, and what did they know that we don’t?
The best over 40 YouTube channels all have five things in common, and I’ll walk you through exactly what they are. And it’s not about using a filter to get rid of your laugh lines or makeup tutorials to make you look 10 years younger. That is absolutely not what matters.
But first, I’m just going to address the elephant in the room.
Yes, people are going to make fun of you for starting a YouTube channel at your age.
The first time someone ever commented, “Okay, Boomer,” on one of my videos, I didn’t even know what that meant. I had to Google it. I had to go ask my daughter, and then I was highly offended. I’m like, “I’m not a boomer; I’m a Gen Xer, thank you very much.”
Young kids will stumble across your videos and think it’s hilarious that someone in their 50s is starting a YouTube channel. Or 40’s or 70’s or whatever. But guess what? We have way more subscribers than they do! So laugh it up all you want, Chuckles.
Clearly, there is an audience for the type of content that we create, no matter how old we are.
And this is the first thing that all older YouTubers share. It’s something that they had to conquer very early on in their YouTube journey, but it’s something that so many of us simply can’t get past, and it prevents us from ever having any kind of success on YouTube. And that is being fearless.
Because the hardest part of starting a YouTube channel, is just starting.
No, these successful creators are not Millennials, and they don’t have to be.
There are a ton of amazing YouTube channels by people who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and up. Ketogenic Woman, Busbee Style, Risa Does Makeup, Roger Wakefield, Nikol Johnson, Chalene Johnson, Marie Forleo, Pat Flyn… these are all people who are 40+ and have amazing followings on their YouTube channels.
They’re not trying to appeal to everyone in the world. They are trying to appeal to a very specific target demographic. And chances are, if the creator is 55 years old, the most likely person to want to watch their content is around that same age.
I got the idea of starting a YouTube channel when I was 47, and now I am almost 55.
Recently I posted a poll on my YouTube channel where I asked people what age bracket they were in. Now, I can look at my YouTube analytics and tell, of course, but I wanted my viewers to see that so many of them were also middle-aged and older.
A third of the people were 35 to 45, a third were 45 to 55, and a third were 55 and older. There was one guy that was under 24 and a couple that were 24 to 34. In other words, everyone who watches me is roughly my age!
Are there trolls? Yes. Will people say mean things? Yes.
So rather than fight it or completely give up starting a YouTube channel at all because they were afraid of what people would say, they decided to do it anyway. They took a risk, the risk of being willing to be disliked, the risk of having people say critical things in the comments.
My advice: be willing to let people dislike you and be willing to let people form an opinion about you that you may not necessarily approve of.
They’re going to form an opinion about you anyway, and most of them are not going to say anything at all. The ones that do, and they say something negative, they’re not really your target audience, so their opinion doesn’t matter very much.
Besides, they probably are teenagers who still live at home in their parents’ basement.
The second thing that mature YouTubers all have in common is their reason for doing this in the first place.
The reason they are on the platform. What is your why? Why are you starting a YouTube channel, and what do you hope to achieve? Why do you want to create content for this particular platform? I’m guessing it’s not because you want to be a full-time YouTuber and make a living off of YouTube alone, although you certainly can if that’s your goal.
My guess is that you’re probably trying to build awareness for your business and drive traffic to your business to get you more sales, more clients, and more leads.
I met Roger Wakefield at a YouTuber conference a couple of years ago, and his channel is about plumbing. So I assumed that he was trying to get plumbing customers for his local business. He told me that his way was to encourage kids to go into the trades as their profession. He said back in the ’90s, there was this huge push for everybody to go to college, and Science and Math, Science, and Math didn’t focus on the Arts.
And now, as a result, there’s a huge lack of skilled tradespeople – plumbers, welders, roofers, carpenters. Anyone who goes into one of these fields can pretty much dictate their own prices and earn an amazing living because there are not enough of these people to go around.
That is his why. That is why he makes content for his channel, and that is why he has half a million subscribers.
Ketogenic Woman is a blogger, and she makes revenue from ads and probably affiliate revenue on her blog. She drives traffic to her blog from her YouTube channel. Busbee Style was a professional stylist. Now she has courses that she sells. She drives traffic to her website, where people can buy her programs from her YouTube channel.
This is an extremely effective following to build a brand, make people aware of what you have to offer, make offers to them, and then a good portion of them will turn into customers. They will buy what you’re selling because they know, like, and trust you.
Which brings me to another thing that successful mature YouTubers have in common.
They are really good at holding the viewer’s attention.
And this is definitely a skill that you have to learn.
My first videos were atrocious. They are painful to watch. But this is part of the process. When I started a YouTube channel at 47, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just winging it, and I was trying to figure it out as I went along.
Mr. Beast says, “Make a hundred crappy videos before you can expect to have any success whatsoever.”
And failing is not something to avoid at all costs. Failing is a necessary part of the process. You have to fail in order to see what did not work so that you can make adjustments to your strategy and try something new the next time. Nobody is successful out of the gate, except that one girl who lives in a van and has the white snake, but she’s not over 40, so I don’t count her.
So if there is one thing that I can encourage you to do, and that is spend your time learning to get better at holding the viewer’s attention.
Get better at opening your video with a really good hook that makes them want to lean in and hear more. Improve the editing style of your videos so that you reduce downtime and keep the pacing moving along.
Give them something visually to look at that’s different every few seconds, so we’re not just looking at the same scene on the screen for 15 and 20 seconds at a time. Make the first 30 seconds of your video so captivating that they can’t wait to hear more, and they want to watch all the way to the very end.
I don’t believe that you need to have super high production value in order for your videos to be watchable and enjoyable
…but there needs to be some level of engaging the viewer’s attention that makes them watch at least 50% of the video, if not more.
Let me tell you a perfect example. I have published a video which went out to my existing subscriber base, and it did well enough that the YouTube algorithm decided to show it to more people. For the next couple of days, it got a huge push, and then it completely flatlined.
As I went through and reviewed my analytics, what I determined after reviewing my analytics was that in the first 30 seconds of the video, I did not deliver on the promise of the title and the thumbnail. The way that I packaged the thumbnail and the title made them think that I was going to talk about one thing, and in the first 30 seconds, I didn’t talk about that at all. And as a result, 50% of the people left the video.
Because YouTube got all of this feedback of “Oh, they click on the video, but then nobody wants to watch it,” they stopped promoting the video, and it just died a very abrupt death. This was after I had been on YouTube for years at this point! I was not a newbie! This is a skill that we always have to work to improve.
So instead of reviewing the analytics and beating myself up that it didn’t perform the way I wanted it to, I took that feedback and decided to make some data-driven decisions.
I need to get better at what I say in the first 30 seconds of the video to keep people watching.
What I learned from this was that it pays to spend 80% of the time thinking about what you’re going to say in the opening 30 seconds of your video and 20% of the time writing the script for the rest of the video. It is that important.
So if you are over 40 and you’re thinking of starting a YouTube channel, here is what I want you to do first: WATCH VIDEOS.
I want you to go to YouTube and look at what grabs your attention.
These don’t need to be videos from people in the same space as you; they can be totally different things. Look at the titles and the thumbnails, click on those videos, and watch them.
What keeps your attention, and when do you find your mind wandering and you’re not really paying attention anymore, and it makes you want to go watch something else?
Then take notes.
Write down the things that you are learning because you’re not watching these videos to be entertained.
You’re not watching them because it’s 2:00 in the morning, and you can’t sleep. You are watching them because if you don’t understand what makes good content, then you can’t make good content. You’re watching them to figure out what works really well and is effective, and what doesn’t work so well. We want to avoid those things as much as possible.
The good news is that when starting a YouTube channel and it is brand spanking new, no one is going to see your videos. And at the beginning, I found this to be so discouraging.
I would spend so much time coming up with an idea and then filming it and editing it, and I would put it out, and nobody would watch it. But YouTube is not going to say, “Oh look, Sheila just put out a brand new video on a brand new channel, let’s show it to 8 million people.”
That’s not how it works. When I first started making videos, I would be so excited if I got 20 views in the first couple of days, and then gradually that went up to 50 views, and then went up to 100 views. But imagine if I was brand new and I put out a video and 300 people watched it, and they all went in the comments to tell me how terrible that video is.
Do you think that I would still be creating content today? No. So, it is a good thing that not a lot of people are watching your videos at the beginning. This is when the videos are not very good, and we are learning. We are trying to become better. We are perfecting our strategy, but it’s good that we don’t have a ton of people witnessing how bad we are at the very beginning.
You may ask, when starting a YouTube channel, what gear and equipment should I use to film? Is that something that all of these mature YouTubers have in common as well?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter if you’re filming with your phone or a webcam or a super fancy DSLR or a mirrorless camera with a super expensive lens. The vast majority of your viewers who are watching your videos absolutely cannot tell what you use to film your videos, and 98% of them don’t care even if they could tell.
If I told you I recorded all my YouTube videos with my iPhone 13 Pro, would you throw down your phone and storm out of the room in a huff and say, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe she filmed this with her iPhone”. I say use whatever the heck you want to film with, as long as it is in a high enough resolution that the image is clear, it looks good, and it doesn’t look grainy, but not 4K because I don’t think anybody needs to see these laugh lines up close and personal in 4K, especially if they blow it up and they’re on their big screen TV, right?
Let’s just dial it back a notch. The biggest hurdle for most YouTubers is simply getting out of their own head and getting out of their own way.
Starting a YouTube channel is a big commitment, but I’ll be SO PROUD OF YOU for just being brave enough to start, even though you know you’re not going to be very good at the beginning.
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