Creating a YouTube channel is an effective way to reach new customers, build a loyal audience and act as a showcase for your expertise.
But how do you do this without it becoming a time-consuming and stressful distraction from your main business?
Building your brand
Mark Wickersham is a chartered accountant, public speaker and mentor to some 300 accountants. He also has a successful presence on YouTube, with over 2,500 subscribers and 182 videos to date.
“A YouTube channel builds your name, your reputation and your expertise, so it’s a very important part of brand building,” he says.
It’s also a valuable part of list building as well. When you create a YouTube channel and start populating it with videos, “in the comments section you can give a link of where to go next e.g your website or LinkedIn.
Top tip: Why not create an e-book or downloadable asset in return for an email address and place the link the comment section of your video.
Establishing the time commitment
The investment to think about carefully before creating a YouTube channel is undoubtedly the time commitment.
It also requires abilities that do not necessarily come easily to accountants. “You need some skill to present to the camera. If you were to trawl my channel looking for my first video, I didn’t know how to present effectively and the lighting was bad; it has been a five-year journey of learning and getting better.”
Accountants are famously introverted, Wickersham says, and this does not make becoming a YouTube star a natural career step. “I was very nervous when I did the first one and it was scary – but I wanted to go down this path six years ago because I knew the future [for brand building] was video.
Top tip: As with anything in life, the more you do something, the easier it gets. So getting lots of practice is vital.
How to be successful using video
To make it work, Wickersham says, you need to be committed; he puts up a new video on his channel every week without fail. This leads to the obvious question – how does he find the time?
“The answer is – I don’t have the time. So here’s the power tip. I used to find that actually, creating the video wasn’t what used up the time – it was setting up the lights, the camera, and getting everything ready.” That might be 20 minutes for a five-minute video. “Then you have to get the footage off the camera and upload it. All this can easily add up to an hour, or even longer.”
In response, Wickersham has created an efficient production line for his videos. “I make 52 videos in one day. I hire videographers to handle everything other than the content itself – lighting, cameras, editing. When I book them for the day it means it’s in the calendar and all I have to do is communicate it.”
Top tip: Having someone else do the filming is important when you’re a busy accountant. Just focus on the presenting, and get someone else to do everything else.
It’s normal to make mistakes
If you make mistakes there’s sometimes not time to go back and redo it and in fact, it doesn’t matter if it’s not too smooth – it’s natural and shows your personality.
“To get maximum value from the videos we create, each is then transcribed and turned into a blog post as well. “We promote them both each week across social media. The result is I spend a day of preparation, and a day of filming. The result is a year of solid content” says Wickersham.
Top tip: An accountant starting with good intentions might run out of steam after ten or twelve videos, Wickersham observes. “But doing it this way is the key to keeping it going and enjoying it, without it taking over your life.”
Stars in their eyes?
Could we see such a thing as an accountancy YouTube sensation? After all, successful YouTubers inhabit a universe of thousands of followers and can build lucrative careers.
“I don’t think it’s a career move in our profession because I don’t think accountants spend a huge amount of time watching YouTube videos. I could be wrong, I’ve built up a good following but I wouldn’t call myself a YouTuber.”
This leads to one last tip: don’t try to make money from YouTube directly. Rather, it brings indirect benefits. “Lots of people will say to me – Mark, I feel I know you from your videos, what do I do next? Very often, that means they will then go on to buy one of my courses. So yes, people buy from me after seeing me on YouTube – that’s part of the strategy.”
Top tip: Be consistent and focus on what action you would like someone to take after watching your video.
Being an accountant on YouTube the takeouts
It can be a great way to build your brand, and a useful way to build a list. Get it right and it’s fun to do, a way to harness your creative side and offer advice and help in an unusual way. “We are now seeing some accountants doing this really well to attract clients and demonstrate expertise and specialisms,” Wickersham says.
…and the cons
It takes substantial amounts of time, it needs to be built consistently and it has to be performed well. “It can be stressful, and you need to be committed. Create the videos in batches, and consider hiring professional videographers.” Don’t expect to make money from the videos themselves – the profits come from the indirect, knock-on benefits.
Here are some accountants doing it well:
- Mark Wickersham uploads new videos weekly with a specialism in effective pricing for accountants.
- Globally, Accounts Adda has over 212,000 subscribers and creates entertaining, informative videos
- In the US, Farhat’s Accounting Lectures has published over 1,400 videos
- AAT’s own YouTube channel offers study tips, FAQs about studying with AAT and information on apprenticeships, training and support resources.
Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.