Becoming a content creator is a dream that many people have these days. But it’s far from an easy road to follow.
It takes a great deal of grit, determination, and a commitment to learning and growing to get your channel off the ground. On top of that, there’s also the big learning process of developing your camera and editing skills.
Joining this episode of The Visual Lounge is Sean Cannell, CEO of Think Media, and host of the Think Media Podcast. If you’ve ever looked up YouTube or content creation tips or tutorials, you’ll probably have come across his content.
Sean is one of today’s leading online video experts and the world’s most-watched YouTube strategist. He has been featured on Forbes.com, CNBC, Social Media Examiner, Entrepreneur.com, and Success.com, after growing a six-figure income as a tech YouTuber.
Sean is also an international speaker, coach, and prolific content creator. His mission is to help 10,000 purpose-driven people create a full-time living while making a difference in the world with YouTube.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
Humble beginnings on YouTube
Sean didn’t start off on YouTube armed with lots of experience or fancy equipment. He started in a small town as a college dropout, shooting videos in his bedroom. Sean began video-making YouTube in the early 2000s as an experiment, but it soon became a serious career path for him.
For those who believe they’ve missed the boat when it comes to YouTube, Sean believes that YouTube is even more important nowadays. In fact, he says being a content creator is the fastest-growing small business type.
“Being a content creator this next decade is going to be the best decade on YouTube. A new report came out from YouTube showing that the YouTube economy is responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs, whether that’s people working in the YouTube economy, building software or actually being content creators themselves. It’s pretty amazing.”
In the early days, Sean spent his time experimenting with cameras, video editing software, and making “some really bad videos.” But this was all vital to his learning experience and formed part of his teachings later when he started helping people with YouTube and tech.
Eventually, Sean realized that money could be made on YouTube. So, he started in affiliate marketing and learned how to use that in his videos. Eventually, he earned a small income, which was $2.12 in 2010. While it wasn’t quite enough to retire on, Sean said it changed everything.
“It wasn’t really just a financial barrier that was broken that day. It was a mind barrier. I was like, I just made $2.12 more than my neighbors made online today. This is real. And it was like a proof-of-concept moment. And it had me dream a little bit bigger.”
He started to wonder, what if that $2 became $20 or $200 or even more. And that’s what kept him going.
Commit to learning new skills
It doesn’t matter whether you’re aiming to be the next YouTube sensation or you’re creating content for training purposes in your workplace. The number one thing you need is a commitment to improving and learning new skills.
Sean highlights that to get to the next level, you need to carry on learning and growing. Think of each new level as an entirely different operating system.
“It’s one thing to reach six figures as an entrepreneur, but a lot stay stuck and can’t reach seven because it’s a whole different operating system.”
For Sean, getting to the next level was developing a media company. For you, it might look entirely different, but what’s important is that you keep leveling up and improving where you can.
Say no to perfectionism
A quote that Sean likes to use is “punch perfectionism in the face.” Perfectionism can be a major roadblock to success, especially for creatives and content creators. People get so stuck trying to create something perfect that they never hit publish.
To Sean, perfectionism is “evil,” and it’s a moving target. Perfectionism, by its nature, is subjective and disempowering. Instead, Sean recommends focusing on excellence. He defines excellence as “doing the best you can with what you have right now.”
He likes to mention the George Lucas quote, “no movie is ever finished. It’s only abandoned.” The same applies to YouTube and any other creative project. If you let perfectionism drive things, you’ll never grow.
How to pick a niche
Picking the right niche is critical to success in the content creation world. If you want to earn a living with your content, it’s not enough to just pick something you like. You have to think of the big picture and look at the total addressable market.
“If you have large ambitions to reach a large market, but there isn’t even a large market, well, then your initiative is doomed from the start.”
Of course, not everyone wants millions of subscribers on YouTube, but you need to figure out what your end goal is. Sean began by experimenting because he didn’t have a clear idea of what to do so he did a bit of everything.
He eventually learned the Three Ps framework, which is:
If you can find something you’re passionate about, good at, and can turn a profit, bingo! You’ve just found your ideal niche.
That’s how Sean narrowed his focus down. But what about his other YouTube channels that didn’t fit into that niche? Were they just failures? Sean prefers to see them as learning experiments that helped him gain great clarity.
“I look back and I’m like, why didn’t I see that sooner? It was uncovering that self-awareness, market awareness, the intersection of not just our passions, not just our proficiency, but also what’s profitable. And what I would encourage people is to work on that right now.”
If turning a profit on YouTube is part of your end goal, like any business, you’ve got to do your market research.
Figure out what the market size is like. Is it a growing market, or is it shrinking? What’s the demographic of your audience? The ages, nationalities, purchasing power, and so on? Write it all down and start putting a plan of action together.
Staying motivated in a difficult market
Content creation is a daunting prospect for many. But for those who want to try it, you need a way to stay motivated. Sean believes you need a certain degree of inner confidence and faith that your idea is strong. You also need a commitment to fill in any skills gaps you have.
You also need to recognize that half the battle is staying in the game. Most people drop out and give up, but Sean brings up the Steve Jobs quote, “business is mostly a game of attrition.” So, if you can keep standing longer than everyone else, you’ve got a better chance of growing and becoming a success.
Part of staying motivated and confident is taking care of yourself in any way. That could mean creating a positive morning routine, committing to reading, journaling, staying fit, or meditating – whatever works for you.
“One of the reasons I’m here today is because I just didn’t quit. And one of the ways I did not quit was I actually prioritized my inner health, my inner game, realizing that things start from the inside, and then they start showing up on the outside.”
Deciding what content to create
Even when you have your niche, deciding on what type of content to create can be a constant battle. What videos do you make, and which ones do you not make?
Sean says it’s all about knowing your audience. In the world of tech YouTubers, there’s a huge wealth of information Think Media could create content about. But he knows that you need to set guardrails on what you want to talk about.
It’s about figuring out what your channel or company is truly about, who it speaks to, and getting clear on that.
Sean goes on to share the two skills every content creator needs to overcome this issue of too much choice – prioritization and concentration.
You’ve probably got hundreds of ideas around your head, but you need to prioritize and figure out which is the most important. Once you’ve figured out your priorities, you then need to stay focused and limit distractions.
To hear more from Sean, be sure to watch or listen to the full episode at the top of this page. For more tips and tricks about video and content creation, check out TechSmith Academy for plenty more resources to build your skills.