How I Got My First 1,000 YouTube Subscribers
A breakdown of all my tactics as a complete beginner
I reached my first 1,000 YouTube subscribers in less than 12 months.
I’m not a YouTube millionaire or even monetized yet, but I have achieved one of the coveted goals for monetization. To make money from ads on YouTube, you need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in a 12-month period.
For most people, getting to 1,000 subscribers is the biggest hurdle.
After reaching this goal, I took time to reflect on how I got there. Spoiler: it took a ton of work, sweat, and more than a few tears of frustration and failure. This article is a complete breakdown of all the strategies I used to get my first 1,000 subscribers.
It includes both ideas that worked and ideas that didn’t work, how I adapted my approach, and subtle mistakes to avoid along the way.
My biggest hope is that it inspires you to grow your channel, turn an online dream into reality, and create a valuable space for your community to flourish.
Screenshot by Author of Author’s YouTube Channel
Post 100 Videos As Quickly as You Can
I wasted so much time trying to be perfect. I could have had 300 videos by now.
Instead, if you look at my YouTube channel, you’ll notice that I currently have less than 50 videos. When I first started out, I dove down a wild rabbit hole of video making and video editing. I bought expensive editing software, expensive camera equipment, and expensive microphones.
I spent days and weeks trying to master how to use them to make the best videos possible.
It was overwhelming and deeply destructive to my motivation. I barely slept, and both my work and relationships suffered.
I don’t recommend my approach.
Once I realized my major mistakes, I started to publish videos that weren’t perfect. Sometimes I used my camera and sometimes I used my phone.
When I had the time, I would use my expensive editing software, Adobe Premiere Pro. Other times, I would use a free video editing app on my phone, like Inshot.
Before, I obsessed over my thumbnails — but now I make the best thumbnails I can using Canva.
You know what? It didn’t seem to matter to my followers whether my video was professionally edited or not. What they cared about was my content — and I had really valuable content in my niche.
I started creating and posting imperfect videos more often. The more videos I posted with good content, the more followers I gained.
Don’t make my time-wasting mistakes. Instead, make the best videos that you can with the equipment that you can afford. The content is more important than the quality.
Post 100 videos as quickly as you can. You’ll learn more by making and editing videos than you ever will by reading tutorials (including this one) or watching videos on the process.
Of course, my goal with this article is to cut your learning curve down to zero.
- Don’t wait for perfection. You’ll never get there.
- Don’t wait until your videos are perfect. If you don’t have expensive camera equipment, don’t worry. Use your phone.
- If you don’t have expensive editing software, use free editing apps on your phone.
- Post 100 videos as fast as you can.
Experiment Before You Niche Down
When I first started my YouTube channel, I knew that I wanted to post videos about writing.
I didn’t want to niche down any further than that because I wasn’t yet sure what kind of videos my audience wanted from me. To be transparent, I’m still learning.
Maybe that’s part of the ongoing process — learn, iterate, reflect, apply, learn again.
Many new YouTubers make the mistake of making videos simply for themselves or niching down too soon. The problem is that you can make a lot of great videos that no one wants to watch.
My solution was to make videos about all kinds of topics related to writing. I’ve made videos about how to write an ode, how to create sexual tension in fiction, and how to make money as a freelance writer.
I watched my analytics (more on this later). When I saw what videos were most popular with my followers, I made more videos about that topic. I also listened to questions and suggestions from commenters.
I rinsed and repeated these steps over and over again.
- Start posting videos over and over again on a wide variety of topics so you can find out what your followers want.
- Post videos, watch the data, and follow trends.
- When a video takes off, make more videos on that topic or related topics.
Focus on Delivering Unbeatable Value
When I first started YouTube, my entire goal was to monetize my channel to develop another income stream. There’s nothing wrong with monetization.
You should definitely be paid for your effort, advice, and entertainment.
However, my YouTube subscriber count didn’t take off until I made a small but important tweak to my mindset. In short, I switched my focus from what I could get from YouTube to what I could give to a community on YouTube.
This has made all the difference.
When you focus on giving, you:
- Don’t hold back.
- Give all your valuable information away.
- Deliver extremely helpful or entertaining videos.
- You build a community.
- You build long-term sustainability.
- You create lifelong fans (instead of passive followers).
- Focus on giving value not getting money or results.
- Give the very best information or entertainment possible.
- Don’t save your “best” for later.
Break Your Follower Goal Down Into Milestones
Getting to 1,000 YouTube subscribers can feel overwhelming.
It took me less than 12 months, but just know that it may take you less time or more time, depending on factors like your niche, video posting regularity, and even on variables outside of your control like global trends.
I recommend breaking down your goal of 1,000 subscribers into several smaller milestones: 100 subscribers, 250 subscribers, 500 subscribers, and 750 subscribers.
If you wait until you get 1,000 subscribers, you might get discouraged (I almost gave up numerous times).
To avoid burnout, celebrate each milestone. Share your success with your growing community. They will cheer you on and feel part of your success.
- Break your subscriber goal down into milestones.
- Celebrate when you reach each milestone.
- Share your celebration with your growing community.
Optimize Your Videos
Other than posting more quality content, the strategy that has made the most difference in my number of subscribers is optimizing my videos.
Optimizing your videos simply means that you make your videos easier to find on and off YouTube.
When I optimize, I focus on these elements:
- My video title
- My video thumbnail
- My video description
- My video tags
- My video hashtags
Basically, I find high volume, low competition keywords to place in all of these areas of my video. Keywords can be single words like “writer” or phrases such as “best mystery writer”.
They can even be questions: “Who is the best cozy mystery writer in the UK?”
Keywords matter because they are also the search terms people type into YouTube to find videos.
Screenshot by Author of Author’s YouTube Channel
Another word for this process is search engine optimization or SEO.
I use both free and paid tools for my optimization. You don’t have to spend any money to optimize your videos, but if you want to, you can check out resources like Ahrefs and TubeBuddy, which are the tools I use.
But again, you don’t have to spend any money to optimize your videos.
You can do it for free with tools like Answer The Public, Google Trends, Keyword Shitter, or Exploding Topics. I’ll also show you a few other “advanced” techniques using YouTube itself.
- Optimize your videos with keywords.
- Place keywords in your title, thumbnail, tags, and video description.
- Use free tools to find keywords or keyword phrases.
Ethically Steal Your Competitor’s Best Keywords
One of the coolest things that I learned is how to ethically steal or “borrow” keywords from my biggest competitors. Once I knew my topics or niche, this process worked like a charm.
It’s really simple (but can look complicated):
- Go to one of your competitor’s videos.
- Move your cursor somewhere on the page (not on the video itself). I recommend that you move your cursor to the video description.
- Right-click on your mouse or keypad.
- Select “View source code” from the list of options.
Your computer will open a separate tab. Then, you’ll see this jumbled mess on your screen.
Screenshot by Author of YouTube video source code
If you’re like me, the source code is confusing and overwhelming.
I can totally relate. Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a hacker or IT specialist for this to work — you don’t have to understand code at all.
In fact, just ignore the jumbled mess. Once you have the source code open, all you need to do is to click “Ctrl+ F” to run a search.
Enter the word “keyword” into the search bar (just like on my screenshot below):
Screenshot by Author of YouTube video source code
Your computer will highlight the word “keyword” every time it shows up in the code. You can ignore everything else. Scroll down to the highlights to find all of your competitor’s keywords for that video.
You can repeat this same process with all of your competitors and their videos.
Why does this matter?
Your competitor has already done the work of finding keywords for their videos. This is a free and relatively simple way to find profitable keywords by ethically “stealing” them.
- Ethically steal your competitor’s keywords.
- Use those keywords in your video titles, tags, thumbnails, and descriptions.
Note: I’ve found that longer keyword phrases get better results than shorter keywords. For example, “How to Get YouTube Subscribers from TikTok” would probably work better than “Get YouTube Subscribers”.
Find Trending Topics in Your Niche
In addition to keywords, you can find trending topics in your niche by using the YouTube search function.
The process is fairly simple. You type your topic or keyword into the search bar, but this time you filter the results by “this week”, “videos”, and “views.”
This shows the most popular videos on your search term in the past week.
Once you know what kind of videos your competitors made to get tons of views, you can make your own original version of the same video.
Screenshot by Author of YouTube search feature
In the above screenshot, you can see that I searched for the word “write”. Next, I’ll filter the search by upload date, type, and sort by view count.
Finally, I’ll click on the “magnifying glass” search symbol or hit “Enter” on my keyboard to run the search. When I get the results, I’ll ethically steal my competitor’s popular video ideas by making my own 100% original video.
- Find trending topics in your niche by using the YouTube search feature.
- Filter your results by “This week”, “Video”, and “View count”.
- Study the popular recent videos in your niche.
- Make 100% original videos on the same or similar topics.
Include Multiple Calls to Action
It’s good practice to verbally ask your viewers to subscribe to your channel during your video.
A nice pro tip I picked up from another YouTuber, Make Money Matt, is to say something along the lines of “Smash that subscribe button, then comment ‘I subscribed’. I’ll try to respond to everyone who comments.”
That personal touch can make all the difference.
You also want to tell your viewers why they should subscribe. Many YouTubers leave this part out of their pitch. Instead of “Please subscribe”, you can say, “Make sure to subscribe for more videos on how to make money as a freelance writer”.
You can also use a call to action at strategic points in your videos.
As I studied my analytics, I realized that many people stopped watching my videos at the same points.
Usually, there was a drop-off between 10–30 seconds into the video. There was another drop-off after a minute or two into the video.
Most people didn’t watch my entire video. They typically watched between 30-50%.
Therefore, I included a call to action at each one of these drop-off points.
For example, at the 30-second mark, I’ll have what’s called a card appear on the video directing people to another one of my videos. If you’ve watched YouTube videos for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen these messages show up near the top left or right of the video.
Typically there’s some text directing you to another video or playlist.
I include one of these cards at several strategic points in my video. That way, if someone stops watching my video, they are more likely to jump over to another video of mine.
If I get them to watch an entire playlist of videos, even better.
At the end of my video, like most YouTubers, I include options for the viewer to subscribe to my channel and to watch other videos.
- Include multiple calls to action in your videos.
- Verbally ask for people to subscribe during your videos.
- Ask people to comment, “I subscribed”.
- Tell people why they should subscribe: “Subscribe for more videos about…”
Summary of Takeaways
- Post 100 videos as fast as possible.
- Experiment with different video topics and video length.
- Focus on providing insanely valuable content to your community.
- Optimize your video title, thumbnail, description, and tags.
- Ethically steal keywords from your competitors.
- Find trending topics through YouTube search filters.
- Use free software or apps to create and edit your videos.
- Include a call to action in every one of your videos.
While I am very proud of reaching 1,000 YouTube subscribers, I still have a long way to go to reach 4,000 hours of watch time for monetization.
Therefore, I continue to follow my strategy. I continue to create and post new videos, optimize them, and promote them for growth. I continue to focus on offering insane value to my community.
I’m on YouTube for the long haul, and if you are too, I’ll see you there.
Hi! I'm a freelance writer and blogger who runs a portfolio of websites.