YouTube Channel Checklist: 10 Steps to Start Your Channel

youtube channel checklist

You want to finally start your YouTube channel, but you just don’t know where to start.

Don’t worry, I have a YouTube channel that has close to 1 million views and I’ve helped many to start their channels.

Just follow this checklist step by step and you’ll have an optimized channel that GROWS:

1. Choose the Topic of Your Channel/Create a Viewer Persona. 

If you already have a business, you’ll want to create videos that attract your ideal customer. 

If you’re starting a personal channel, make it about something that is appealing to the same type of person.

For example:

  • Personal finance
  • Fitness
  • Health
  • Makeup
  • Lifestyle
  • Gaming

It’s important to choose a topic for your channel because you need people to keep coming back to it if you want to grow.

And this is the best way to grow because every video that you make will be interesting for everyone that follows you and you won’t gamble each time you create a new video.

To help you with consistently making content that your audience likes, it’s useful to create a viewer Persona, which is basically a deep description of the typical viewer that will watch your channel.

Go as deep as you can in your description and include all the details you can think of. 

Give your semi-fictional persona the following:

  • A name
  • A real face (just search someone’s face on Google that you think looks like your ideal viewer)
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Life goals
  • What they do in their free time
  • Fears, hopes, and dreams

You can even include how much they earn per year if you’re looking to build a real business with your channel.

You can simply write down your Persona on a notepad, or use one of these templates and print it so you remember them every time you create a new video.

2. Create and Verify Your Channel

To create your channel, you’ll need a Google account. Then, head to YouTube and log in.

I recommend giving your account your personal name — this will also be the name of your channel. 

You want to build a brand around you, and the best way to be recognized is simply by your real name.

You can add the general topic of your channel after your name so people know what your channel is about when they see your comments on other videos.

Like this:

youtube channel name with brand and topic.jpg

This will also help people who are interested in your topic find you by search — more on this later.

And don’t forget to verify your channel before moving on to the next step.

3. Brand Your Channel

Branding your channel will help people remember your it and know what it’s all about.

Here are all the things you need to create your channel’s brand:

3.1 Profile picture

Head to your Google account to change the picture.

I recommend simply uploading a nice photo of yourself, but you could also use a logo if you’re in a niche that is less about you, like gaming.

3.2 Youtube banner

You can find free templates for your YouTube banner in Canva.

But if you want to make it yourself with a program like Photoshop, use this template.

Make sure to include a motto or catchphrase that instantly tells people what your channel is about.

Here’s an example of a good phrase that is catchy but also tells the purpose of your channel.

pat flynn youtube banner catchphrase

Remember: the idea of the catchphrase isn’t to just sound cool, but to tell people in the best way what your channel is about right when they visit your channel.

Also, including the days that you publish new videos on your banner will help your audience be ready when that happens, and it also helps YOU to be more consistent.

3.3 Insert your links in your banner

Here’s a FACT that you really need to understand even before you start on YouTube:

You do NOT own your channel’s audience, YouTube does.

So what you want to do is send your subscribers to another place in case something happens to your channel.

This way, if your channel is closed, terminated, victim of a bug, or gets Corona, you want to have “insurance” by sending your followers to another platform.

The best way to own your audience is by collecting their emails. 

Offer them something nice but simple for free, in exchange for their email address (a checklist — ehem —, free report, study case, mini-course, etc).

But you can also insert your links to your other social media accounts: Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Just be aware… you don’t own your audience on these platforms either.

The only way of owning it 100% is by collecting their emails

How to insert links on your banner:

how to add social links to a youtube channel banner

4. Optimize Your Channel’s SEO 

What is SEO?

As you may know, YouTube — like Google — is a search engine with over 2 billion visitors per month.

People type questions — AKA keywords, or queries — to find videos that they want to watch:

If you want your video to appear at the top of those results, like this:

Then, you need good SEO.

Good SEO involves optimizing your channel and videos to target certain keywords.

Choose a keyword for your video (e.g. “best makeup for Valentine date”) and insert the keyword in the following places:

  • Video title
  • Description
  • Tags

But it’s not about simply writing the keyword, you need to create a natural description and title that is meant for humans to read.

You only need to sprinkle here and there your main keywords in each of these places and make it sound natural.

Just like this:

keyword optimization for youtube
He’s targeting two keywords: “how to save 50% of your income” and “save money fast”

But when it comes to tags, you’re allowed to simply copy and paste the keywords you’re targeting.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will be the best way to grow your channel.

You also want to do the following to optimize your channel:

4.1 Set your channel keywords (channel tags)

For this entire part, go to your YouTube studio, then, go to your settings:

youtube channel settings location

And click on the Channel option:

youtube channel keywords location

Here, you want to insert keywords that tell YouTube what your channel is about.

For example, here are the channel tags of Pat Flynn’s channels, who runs a passive income/entrepreneurship channel:

channel tags

And you can also include things like your name, country and anything else related to you so people can find you easily on YouTube.

You can also use VidIQ to find what keywords competitor channels are using and steal them >:)

4.2 Watermark

Now, go to the Branding tab:

youtube channel watermark option

The watermark is an image that will automatically show in every video that you publish.

youtube watermark

Some people like to add a logo or image related to the channel, but if you want to be strategic about it, add a red subscribe button image like the one shown above.

You’ll remind more people to subscribe and you’ll get more view-to-sub conversions this way.

Click here to download your own subscribe button watermark you can use (right click, and save as…).

4.3 Set video description and tags template

This part will save you TONS of time in the future.

On the same window you were previously, select the Upload defaults option:

youtube channel upload defaults

Here you can include a title, description, and tags that you want to include in every video that you upload — you can modify them every time you upload a new video.

Include first the following link to subscribe to your channel. It will send people to a popup to subscribe and it’s GREAT to convert people from viewer to sub:

youtube subscribe link example

To generate yours, go to your channel, copy its URL and modify the link like this:

how to create a subscription link for youtube channel

So we had:

And now we have:

Don’t forget to include the links to your other social media account or opt-in page too.

Finally, you can also go to the Advanced tab and set a category, language and more for your videos.

4.4 About page

Go to your channel’s About page and write a quick description of your channel.

You want to explain to people (very quickly) the BENEFITS of joining your channel.

  • Why should they follow you?
  • How are you going to provide value to them?

Include your main channel keywords, but do it naturally while writing something for humans to see:

good youtube channel about page

5. Download a Free YouTube SEO Tool (I recommend VidIQ)

If SEO sounds a bit complicated to you and like too much work, know that it doesn’t need to be.

There’s a free SEO tool called Vidiq that allows you to find keywords and related tags easily and fast on YouTube.

You only need to create a free account and download the free Chrome extension.

It will unlock a bunch of secret metrics that will help you do some SEO analysis.

For example, it will tell you if a keyword that you search is a good idea since it will tell you the amount of competition that it has and the number of people that search for it:

vidiq score

Keywords that are more on the green side for both meters are the best ideas.

But use it as a guide and not a rule.

Don’t only make videos that the tool thinks are good — again, it’s just a guide —, so make sure to experiment with ideas that YOU think are good for your channel.

There’s also another similar tool, TubeBuddy. It has its own advantages over VidIQ. Check out this comparison to know which one is better for you.

6. Get your equipment ready

Contrary to what most people believe, you DON’T need any expensive equipment to start on YouTube.

You probably already have a phone that can record at least 720p video. 

That’s good enough to grow a following.

You do want to make sure that your audio is decent, as it’s much more important than image quality.

The good news is that a decent lavaliere microphone can cost around $20 or even less.

Besides this, make sure you have good lighting when recording.

Just open your windows and turn on any lighting that you have and your camera will record at the best possible quality.

Later on, you can invest in a cheap lighting kit (around $25-$40) so you can record at any hour of the day.

With this, you have all you need to grow a channel to 100,000 subs and more.

7. Set a Location 

Think about the location you’re going to use to record your videos.

You don’t need anything fancy, but remember that you need a bit of space for recording.

Also, consider decorating a nice-looking background for your videos.

For example, look at these beautiful backgrounds:

They’re nice to the eye, can help you retain your viewers’ attention, and make more people come back often, but it’s completely optional.

8. Create Your Channel trailer

Now it’s time to record your first video.

You don’t need to do anything fancy or over the top.

In fact, keep it as simple as possible.

This is the video that will play instantly when people visit your channel, so make sure to welcome them.

Use this as a guide:

  • Welcome people to your channel very quickly
  • Tell them what your channel is all about
  • Make sure to always focus the video on what THEY get out of your channel, it’s not entirely about you
  • If you want, add an interesting story about yourself and why you started your channel
  • Remind them to subscribe to your channel

To upload it, head to YouTube and click on the top bar:

how to upload a youtube video

Name your video with something simple like “Welcome to my channel — [Channel Name]”

And add your channel tags to the trailer video.

Then, follow these instructions to set it up as your channel’s trailer.

You don’t need to do anything else.

Your videos will automatically appear on YouTube and in search results as long as you include the right tags, title, description, and thumbnails.

9. Learn to Design Thumbnails That Get Clicks

This will be one of the most important skills you can develop as a YouTube channel owner.

You can use a free online tool like Canva to create nice thumbnails.

You can create great thumbnails like these without any design skills:

canva youtube thumbnail templates

Or, you could learn to use Photoshop, which is even better as you can create amazing thumbnails with it.

10. Your Next Step

You’re probably wondering how to get people to watch your videos if you have 0 subscribers.

If you have good SEO, you’re consistent and your content makes an impact on people, your channel will grow ORGANICALLY.

This is your objective, there’s no need to go around promoting links to your channel anywhere when YouTube has 2 BILLION visitors per month and it’s a search engine.

Don’t waste your time on social media unless you already have a large following, or you have an email list with engaged people that want to hear from you.

Keep coming up with video ideas, Vidiq can help you a lot when choosing what video to make, so I highly recommend downloading it (it’s free).

Pro tip: this is a tip that not many people tell you about and it’s one of those juicy YouTube secrets.

You’ll see little progress in the beginning as the first 100 subs are the hardest ones to get.

If you think that your low subscriber count is hurting you, hide it by following these instructions.

But after a while, you’ll see that some videos get more views than others. 

As soon as you recognize this, make another video about the same subject that got tons of views. 

You can give it a different point of view, another angle, or just go deeper into it. 

This will create a snowball effect that makes some channels grow in a very short time.

Include the same video tags as your successful video and your newer videos will get recommended to people who watched the first one.

If you double down this way when you find that a video outperformed the others by a lot, you’ll accelerate your growth exponentially.