Zach Mitchem is a TikToker, YouTuber, and the founder of "We Are Video Makers." He makes instructional content to help other creators improve their videos and grow their followings while contracting with large companies to improve their content engines.
We sat down with Zach to deep dive into his suggestions for how new creators can grow their Youtube channels and improve their content quality. We discuss topics like:
- How Zach’s friend and mentor quit a 6-figure job to grow a YouTube channel
- Why premium video quality is crucial to your success on socials
- The outsized value of fluidly understanding the algorithm
"Zach realized that YouTube just makes sense to him; his brain gets it. He built a business out of that knack when he started helping other people."
Quitting a 6-Figure Job to Scaling a YouTube Following
Zach noticed that many content creators discovered their careers through childhood interests; he did too. Growing up, he loved music and wanted a camera very badly.
His family couldn't afford to buy him a camera, but at age 12, he finally got his hands on one.
He was aiming to attend PA school in college, but he'd never forgotten his love of audio and video content. He saw some YouTubers making cool videos and reached out to them.
They said they'd mentor him if he wrote blog articles for them for free. He jumped on board.
Fast Forward 50,000 Followers Later
Zach discovered that his YouTube mentor had quit his six-figure salary job and successfully replaced it with the income from his 50,000 subscriber Youtube channel.
He couldn't believe how lucrative YouTube could be with that size of following.
When COVID hit, Zach decided he'd start working on YouTube because he loved the sphere and figured he'd make money if he played his cards right.
He paid to take some instructional courses and launched his YouTube channel. Looking at the industry, he noticed channels lacking the right strategies to grow their content audiences.
He reached out to some companies with around 250,000 followers on Instagram but only 1.5 on YouTube and said he had tips to help them.
They asked what his rate was, and he realized that he was, in fact, offering a service.
From Content Creator to Content Consultant
Zach started working with marketing agencies and Fortune 500 companies, and his whole enterprise snowballed.
These days, he's pivoted to mostly making content helping creators and businesses grow on YouTube and using that growth to scale their businesses.
He explains how marketing teams don't necessarily understand how to promote growth on the YouTube platform, and that's where he comes in to help them learn.
"I feel like I've been on this crazy journey where doing something for fun suddenly cascaded into working with businesses and growing on YouTube."
How to Systematically Refine Your Content Engine
There are two different types of investments to improve your content over time–
- Invest in Equipment– This includes lights, microphones, a studio, etc.
- Invest in Yourself– Take courses and locate great mentors
Zach notes that while he enjoys his current studio full of expensive equipment far more than his old one, the key to his success is the content he's making.
First and foremost, people interact with passionate creators, not creators with nice cameras.
Zach's Growth Rule: 1% Improvements
Zach tells his clients to pick one aspect of their videos and make it 1% better with every video until it's superior to every other part, and then choose a new focus.
Picking one variable at a time allows you to tweak it in every video, and it's a specific enough focus that people are less tempted to give up.
Creators can pick between editing, audio quality, content, hooking the audience, or a dozen other variables for their 1%.
"Does my expensive setup make a difference? Yeah, it does. But the passion my audience hears in my content is what really drives the business."
How to Scale a Youtube Channel From Zero to One
The most challenging aspects of growing a YouTube channel are–
- Having appropriate expectations
- Gaining an initial audience
- Posting consistently
Many people who start on YouTube think that if they hit 100k subscribers, they'll be successful, but anyone in that bracket is in the top .0045% of channels on planet earth.
Zach recommends a reality check. If a creator has 10,000 subscribers, they're in the top 10% of channels. If they have 1,000 subscribers, they're in the top 20%.
He points out that anyone in the top 20% of an industry is doing well for themselves.
Understanding the YouTube Algorithm
While working up to 1,000 subscribers, your priority is teaching the YouTube algorithm about your content. YouTube designed its algorithm for deep learning; it requires creators to define their content and audience.
That's because 70% of your views come from the algorithm suggesting your video to people. Only about 30% of traffic comes from people searching for the video.
Some channels reach 100,000 subscribers and then die for two reasons:
- People stopped searching for the topics the videos covered.
- The algorithm didn't already understand the creator.
Zach works on many YouTube channels, and he always sees YouTube recommend creators with videos optimized for a definable group of people.
Such channels don't always see viral growth at first but consistently achieve long-term, sustained views and success.
On the other hand, search-based videos have spikes in popularity and prolonged dry periods.
“At the end of the day, the algorithm is one of your best weapons against an overcrowded and oversaturated content marketplace.”
The Value of Premium Production: Audio and Lighting
The hierarchy of production importance is as follows: audio, lighting, and video.
Having a $10,000 camera doesn't matter if your audio is terrible. People will click off if it hurts their ears, so focus on audio first.
Zach listens to many podcasts, and the medium inspires him to create videos that can be listened to like podcasts because the audio is so good.
He has suggestions for "1% Rule" audio quality improvements:
- If you can't spend much money on production value, start with a $30 lav mic
- Do a sound treatment on the recording room walls
- Experiment with microphone positioning
- Play with settings to optimize sound
Why Good Lighting is More Important Than an Expensive Camera
Zach used his iPhone as a camera before he had a camera setup.
People with expensive cameras would ask him what he used because his videos looked so good; he literally used an iPhone, but his thoughtful lighting made everything look amazing.
Great lighting costs far less than a great camera. Almost everyone has a smartphone, so Zach thinks buying an expensive camera should be a creator's final upgrade.
If you don't have a nicer smartphone, buying one rather than a camera is an intelligent choice – if you can't afford a camera that makes your smartphone look bad, the camera isn't worth it.
"1% tweaks put you in the right frame of mind to be okay when things don't go as well as you'd like, but you're surprised and excited when it goes much better.”