YouTube Gurus Share Tips for Making How-To Videos

By Megan O'Neill 

YouTube is a great source for video entertainment, but it’s also a fantastic place for learning about pretty much anything.  Tons of talented creators have uploaded videos teaching viewers about all sorts of subjects and teaching viewers how to do all sorts of things.  Back in January, YouTube announced the winners of their Next How-To Gurus competition—fifteen masters of the how-to video genre.  We spoke with three of these gurus to glean some tips for making how-to videos.

Below we will briefly meet our three YouTube How-To Gurus, find out what their areas of expertise are, what inspired them to make YouTube videos and what advice they’d offer to someone looking to start making how-to videos on YouTube.

My Cupcake Addiction

The first Youtube How-To Guru that we heard from was Elise Strachan of MyCupcakeAddiction.  Elise tells us that she was inspired to start creating how-to videos because, “There were things I wanted to learn, that I couldn’t find online anywhere and the high cost of cupcake and cake decorating classes inspired me to create free, simple, easy to follow mini-classes that the average home-baker could follow when they wanted, where they wanted and refer back to as many times as needed.”

In addition to making YouTube videos, Elise says, “I have an 18 month old who I am a stay at home mum to.  I have a busy cupcake and wedding cake business on the Gold Coast and I also have a packaging arm of the business which I design and import cupcake packaging and boxes from offshore to sell to the public.  On top of all that, I spend countless hours filming, editing, answering questions and interacting with the YouTube community for our YouTube channel.  I wouldn’t say it’s something I do on the side, as I spend over 40 hours a week on the channel, but I am hoping as it grows it will become my sole focus and the other jobs will taper off.”

When asked what advice she’d offer to someone interested in making how-to videos, here’s what Elise had to say:

“Start with something you are truly passionate about, set the standard you want to adhere to and stick to it – don’t compromise on quality because you don’t want to re-shoot a video – and let the YouTube community guide you.  Don’t listen to every negative comment (and there can be some nasty ones!) but if the majority like what you do and the negatives are at a minimum keep doing it.  If there are many, genuine comments about the same thing, look to fix it to create a more appealing channel.  At the end of the day, any How To channel is only as good as its viewers and its content – you’re not going to get a viral ‘Gangnam Style’ hit so you need to make sure ALL your content is appealing so people stumble across you and subscrive, even though they never knew they wanted to learn the skill you teach!”

Meliney Nail Art

Meliney of Meliney Nail Art & Fashion Channel, makes tutorials about nail art.  She told us, “I have always wanted to make YouTube videos because I am addicted to watching them.  But it took me a long time to think about what kind of videos I could make.  Around that time, my cousin came to live with us and she really loved painting her nails, so it really influenced me to try out all the different colors of nail polishes on the market now.”

Meliney says she started looking for videos about nail art on YouTube and, using the knowledge she gleaned on the video site, she came up with a few designs of her own, which she posted to YouTube.  “Once the videos were up,” she says, “all the comments and subscription emails started popping up in my inbox.  Having that feedback kept me motivated to make more videos and I haven’t stopped since.”

Meliney’s advice for wannabe how-to gurus is as follows:

“Make videos that are packed full of useful information and explain it in a way that people of all skill levels can understand.  Close up shots and slow motion shots are also very helpful if it’s something that’s hard to see and understand.  Plan what you’re going to include in your video.  Structure it so it’s easy to follow.  Personality is also important because it distinguishes you from other similar channels.  If people like the way you teach, they will want to watch more of your videos.”

Rachel’s English

Rachel was inspired to start making videos about how Americans speak English when she was living in Germany and studying at a language institute with people from around the world.  She told us, “Hollywood is a great exporter of American English, and I had one friend in particular, from Turkey, who was curious about understanding how Americans spoke English.  We talked about it a bit and it got me curious about how and what we do when speaking…I remember we were talking about the AA as in BAT vowel, and how the tongue should lift in the back, and he made a perfect sound.  Then he said, you’re good at this.  And a lightbulb went off.”

Rachel made her first set of videos out of her bedroom while living in Germany.  “Since then,” she says, “I’ve had many people reach out to me about what a difference the videos are making for them in their pronunciation and their confidence.”

Rachel quit her job in October 2011 and has been working full time on Rachel’s English ever since, which includes YouTube videos, as well as an 8-week course based on her videos and supplemental material.

For those looking to get into making how-to videos, Rachel has this advice:

“Make your videos as simple and focused as possible.  Reference the bigger picture and make it easy for a user to get the bigger picture with annotations linking to other videos, or by putting together good playlists.  Also, get right to the point.  When people click on a video to learn how to do something (in contrast to, say, wanting to kill time with entertaining videos), they want to go right to the good stuff.  Also ask yourself, why is a video better than a text blog with a bunch of steps?  Take advantage of camera angles, zooming in / zooming out, slow motion / speeding through steps, etc.  I assume if you’re interested in making How-To videos it’s because you’ve got some expertise on a topic you’re passionate about.  Let that passion be obvious in each one of your videos.”

Images via MyCupcakeAddiction

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video expert here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.