Want to make money from your YouTube channel?
It begins with getting more subscribers. Because you need at least 1000 subscribers to get into the YouTube Partner Program which is the beginning of earning ad revenue from your channel. Brand sponsorships are also easier to come by for creators with a decent level of influence.
Subscribers are the first set of audience for your videos. How they engage with it determines how much the YouTube algorithm distributes it further, enabling you to get more YouTube views for free.
So here are twenty free ways to get YouTube subscribers for your channel.
Table of Contents
1. Ask Your Viewers Directly For Subscribing
Compared to other social media, people are more considerate with direct asks on YouTube. I’m sure you’ve heard numerous YouTube creators murmur “like, comment, subscribe” at the end of their videos.
Here are the various ways of asking people to subscribe.
- Use a graphic that asks people to subscribe
- Produce a stock footage that you use at the end of every video
Note that the same footage might act as a cue for many viewers to drop off from your channel. And the YouTube algorithm doesn’t like that.
- Shoot a separate CTA for every video
You can get creative in your ask for liking, commenting, and subscribing. Give viewers a reason like “it tells the YouTube algorithm to show the video to more users.”
However, it’s inevitable for people to drop off the video. So don’t worry.
You can alternatively create an extremely short introduction (under 5 seconds preferably) asking your viewers to subscribe.
2. Invite Your Email List To Join You On YouTube
Do you already have an email list of people that have shown an interest in your content? Great job. It’s a preferred communication channel by consumers and a great marketing asset.
Drop your subscribers an email stating you’ve started a YouTube channel. You can also send a link to the YouTube video that you recently published (just like you might have shared links to your latest blog posts in the past).
Here’s Joren Makelle (a freelance writing coach) sharing a link to her latest YouTube video with her email list. She introduces the topic she’s going to discuss before dropping the link.
Giving a reason for people to subscribe to your YouTube channel will make your ask more persuasive. So considering giving exclusive updates and responding to questions people have in the comments.
If you don’t have an email list, I strongly encourage you to start building one (even as a YouTube creator). Here’s my detailed piece on how you can build one through YouTube.
3. Leverage Video Editing To Increase The View Duration Of Your Videos
YouTube wants users to stay on its platform for as long as possible, so that it can show as many advertisements as possible to them. So its algorithm weighs the time people spend watching your video and channel heavily.
As per the YouTube Creator’s Academy:
“The longer you can keep people watching on YouTube because of your content, the more your content may get surfaced.”
So if you want to get your video pushed to the YouTube homepage and distributed in recommendations in its right sidebar, then getting people to watch more is key.
…And how can you help YouTube achieve this goal?
Let me share how to go about this:
If you use a single still frame with you talking throughout your video, then your audience will get bored. You need to spice it up to make a compelling visual story. Here are a few ways to do the same:
Film B-Roll Footage – People connect with authentic personalities on YouTube. Even if you’re an educational creator, you can film b-roll footage of your day or anything that suits the vibe of your channel.
Add Transitions And Effects – When done tastefully, little transitions can break your video so that viewers can keep watching. You need to ensure it doesn’t interrupt the viewing experience, though
You can also use jump cuts between shots where you want to move quickly. Don’t give a fake vigor and pace to your narrative. Marcos Rocha shows you how to fix those bad jump cuts that end up distracting the viewer below:
I would also encourage you to use humor in your videos (corny jokes anyone?) as people are more likely to stick around if they are getting entertained.
4. Release Videos On A Consistent Schedule
There’s no “universal” publishing cadence that will get more views and more subscribers. Theoretically, creating 4 to 5 videos per week might lend you more watch time, lead YouTube to promote your videos more, and get more people to subscribe to your channel.
However, people subscribe to creators that they trust can add value to their lives. The foremost aspect you need to take off is consistency in the quality of your videos. Next comes consistency in your releasing schedule.
If you publish videos whenever you feel like it, it confuses your viewers and prevents them from subscribing to your channel. It also stifles your creativity.
Indeed many YouTube channels are deserted for a year by creators after they reach 100k subscribers (or even more). When creators come back from their sabbatical and publish videos, they fail to get the same level of engagement and viewership that they get.
Remember the YouTube landscape changes quickly. If you’re away for a long time, then the YouTube algorithm (hungry for videos) will substitute the distribution of your videos with others in your subscribers’ feeds.
So prevent yourself from getting burned out by producing videos on a schedule sustainable for you. Remember that quality and adding value to your audience is paramount.
Michael Stevens from Vsauce has grown to 15.5M subscribers by merely publishing 367 videos in 13 years of their YouTube journey. That’s about two and a half videos every month! And this even includes their premium YouTube series, which has been made available only recently.
5. Add Cards Where Your Audience Drops Off For Currently Ranking Videos
Cards are great interactive tools to get your viewers deeper into your channel, spending more time exploring other videos. Textual content creators can consider their functionality much like “internal links” do for a website.
So how to use them effectively?
If a video ranks on your channel, then look at its retention report and note any sharp drops — where a lot of viewers stop watching your video.
Now add a card at this timestamp suggesting viewers to watch a related video to the current one. Choose that video which has an above-average retention rate to increase the overall amount of time people spend on your channel.
Also, ensure you use an appealing custom teaser text to persuade people to click on cards.
Once added, monitor their performance every month through card reports.
6. Ensure Your YouTube Branding Is On Point
You can’t personalize most of the experience of YouTube users when watching your videos. But your channel still gets a bunch of branding tools to customize your look and feel. Here they are with examples of channels using them effectively:
- Channel art – Social media links and descriptions are in place.
- Channel icon – This appears throughout the time a viewer spends on your channel. So it should make an impression. For a big brand, it could be a variation of their logo.
And for an individual creator, it could be their personal picture.
- Channel tagline – Consider this as the value proposition of your channel. If you can hook a new viewer with it, they will subscribe immediately.
- Channel page –
- About section –
- Channel trailer
7. Add A Watermark To Your Videos
Do you know that YouTube lets you add a branding watermark on your videos?
What’s more, the watermark even functions as a custom subscribe button, which lets your desktop visitors directly subscribe to your channel when they hover over it.
An image can be a watermark if it’s 150 x 150 pixels and less than 1 MB in size. You might need to upload to cross-check and play around with the dimension to ensure your image fits nicely as the watermark.
To set an image as the watermark, head over to YouTube studio.
From there, use the side menu to navigate to Settings >> Branding.
Now choose the image from your computer.
You’ll also need to choose the “Display time” for your watermark.
I find it fine to even let the watermark appear for the entire duration of the video. But you can choose to have it appear at a later time as well.
Once you’ve added the watermark, people subscribing through it start appearing in your “Subscription Source” report. Branding watermark comes under interactive features.
If your YouTube videos get downloaded, or if you’re going to share them on other social media natively — which is a great strategy as we’ll see later in the article — then add a transparent logo as the watermark for your video. You’ll need to use video editing software for the same.
While it might mean showing two watermarks, it might get you a better brand recall even when they are watched outside of YouTube.
Here’s an example from one of my channels where I use both the watermarks:
8. Organize Live Streams For Your Audience
If you’re a nonfiction creator, conducting live teaching sessions on a topic that interests your audience is a great way to demonstrate your expertise. You can deliver a tremendous amount of value in about an hour — while building trust and fostering a relationship with your attendees.
You could even pitch your products and services as an add-on at the end of such live streams. Oh, and such sessions remain on YouTube as long pieces of content. Bites from them could also be repurposed into multiple shorter and focused videos.
So live streams can lend you potential revenue, multiple videos for your channel, and new and loyal subscribers.
Not bad, eh?
But to make compelling virtual events out of them, planning and preparation are essential. You need to touch upon the pain points of your audience while demonstrating your authority on a subject. And inform your email list (or other audiences on social media) by sending them a message.
Here’s an email by Pat Flynn (an entrepreneur and affiliate marketer) to his email list sharing that he will go live on YouTube every day at 8 AM during the Coronavirus crisis.
He promises to help, keep the spirits up, and pledges to donate the SuperChat money from YouTube live events. That’s noble and gives a strong reason to subscribe to his YouTube channel.
During the live event, interact with your attendees and try to inspire/help them achieve their goals. Flynn, for instance, went 100+ days straight with his #IncomeStream reviewing websites and YouTube channels of his audience.
What if you’re a fiction creator?
Then, live streams could be used to interact and have fun with your audience. You can share personal stories, publicize your series, and tell your subscribers about your upcoming projects. For example, The Viral Fever, one of India’s earliest popular YouTube channels, live streams occasionally with the cast of their web fictional shows.
9. Create More Videos Related To Your Popular Videos
When you start your YouTube channel, you tend to experiment with various topics and styles. It might involve creating reaction videos, predictions, tutorials, and the like. You’re trying to find the intersection between the kind of videos you enjoy creating and your audience likes watching.
But once you stumble upon videos performing better than the rest, then create more videos on similar subjects.
For example, when vidIQ found their videos around the subjects of “getting more subscribers” got them the most subscribers. So they went ahead and created follow up videos on subjects such as “How to Get Your First 1000 Subscribers on YouTube in 2021.”
To find your popular videos, begin with sorting your videos by “Most Viewed.”
But a more refined approach by finding those that convert viewers into subscribers might work better.
Note any similarities in these videos. Are they all created using a specific kind of editing style? Did you experiment with a new setting that seems to have worked? Emulate these tactics because doing more of what works can grow your channel quickly in the initial period.
10. Use YouTube Analytics To Understand Your Audience
YouTube wants to maximize the amount of time users spend on its platform. For you, it means creating videos that hook the viewers and keep them watching for a long period. YouTube Analytics provides reports to monitor where your audience is dropping off.
The first report you can look at is the audience retention. Note any sudden drops in the graph for your videos. If viewers click away immediately, you probably failed to deliver on the expectations set through the title and thumbnail, or your hook isn’t catchy.
If the viewers are dropping off somewhere towards the later half of the video, you’re probably meandering off topic, or there could be technical glitches related to your production or editing. Address the length and equipment issues.
What if you’re just not converting a sufficient number of your video impressions into views?
This would be indicated by a low click-through rate (CTR). It indicates the need to work on your thumbnails.
You can also look at the relative retention of a video to find out if a specific video is performing better than the rest. It might have involved a specific editing style you can experiment with in your future videos.
11. Listen To The Feedback By Your Viewers (And Build A Community…)
Your YouTube audience should be an active participant in informing your content calendar. After all, they are the ones who will watch your videos.
So how can you solicit feedback?
In the example below, Ahrefs leads the way by posing a direct question using their community tab. They got 410 votes and 21 comments on it!
Once you know what your viewers want, you can consider creating more videos on those subjects. It would have been link building and keyword research/on-page SEO for Sam from the Ahrefs channel.
Also, be accessible and reply to as many comments as possible in your videos. In the first 24 hours, every reply boosts the engagement of your video and increases its chances of performing better.
You can use the community tab to share updates about your videos — or even draft long thoughtful essays like The School Of Life.
Now, all of the above tools to encourage feedback and interact with your audience are cool.
But nothing beats creating relatable videos that instantly connect with your viewers and get them rooting for ya.
The tactics to create such content?
Share personal stories, get them a behind-the-scenes look of your channel, crack niche jokes — anything that forges a strong bond of your viewers with you.
There’s no magic pill for the same.
But I’ll tell ya one thing:
It’s easier to appeal and get LOVED by 1000 true fans than getting liked by 10000 folks.
12. Create Videos Add Subtitles In Different Languages
Do you know the language in which your subscribers speak?
Even if most of them speak in English, creating videos in other languages gives you access to a completely new demographic of audience.
If you’re targeting a narrow audience — which you should — then creating videos in their regional languages will connect deeper with them.
That’s why vidIQ has a separate Espanol channel with a dedicated following.
What if you can’t speak other languages? And don’t have the budget to hire someone for producing them for ya, like vidIQ?
Then consider adding subtitles in other languages. No, I’m not talking about those auto-generated ones. Make them conversational and include cultural references from the local language.
While you can translate them manually using a tool, getting a translator would probably be a better bet.
13. Create Binge-Worthy Content
Netflix has normalized binge-watching on the internet. People love immersing themselves in back to back episodes of their favorite TV shows.
As a YouTube creator, you can take advantage of this viewer habit by creating a series of videos. It lets you beef up the session time for your channel, thereby leading to further distribution of your videos and new YouTube subscribers.
You need not be a fictional creator to produce a series. The Content Bug creates long and educational videos on YouTube. A subscriber described them as “low key addicting.” And numerous other people end up watching them one after the other.
What’s the secret to creating such a binging experience?
One way is you script and plan a complete series of videos. Then create “Series Playlists” for them, recommending your viewers to watch them together.
The other way is by creating videos on related subjects, including storytelling and personal anecdotes, and using drama to create an engaging experience for your viewers.
Beware though while trying to create such videos for your audience. Preliminary studies indicate there are “two distinct realities” to binge-watching. They include “high but non-harmful engagement” and “problematic involvement in TV series watching.”
Keep on your viewers’ good side and choose a valuable and “non-harmful engagement.” They should not feel guilt for spending their time on your channel.
14. Snag Subscribers From Other Social Media
All social media networks are increasingly acting like “walled gardens.” They keep their users to themselves so that they can show them more ads and generate revenue. So they limit the reach of external links — like your YouTube videos — that take users outside of their platform.
On the other hand, almost all social media platforms LOVE videos because it lets users spend more time on their platform.
Don’t you worry, though. There are ways around for you to retain a decent organic reach while still getting some traction back to your YouTube channel.
Start sharing your YouTube videos “natively” on other social media. Alongside it, you can add links to your YouTube channel in the update itself:
Or in the first comment of the update:
Besides the above repurposing strategy, every social media channel can get exposure to a completely new audience.
So if you have the bandwidth, then stay active on another social media platform where you can offer some exclusive content. And occasionally plug links to your new videos.
15. Do Things That Don’t Scale
Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, in one of his viral essays laid down this advice for startup founders: “One of the most common types of advice we give at Y Combinator is to do things that don’t scale.”
His explanation for the statement?
“Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually, it takes some sort of push to get them going.”
Now, this startup advice is also relevant to your YouTube channel. You need to take some “unscalably laborious” steps to scale your growth.
It could involve experimenting with various topics to hone in on your niche. It could involve scheduling some Skype calls with your audience like Jay Acunzo did to learn about them, help them, and serve them better in your future videos.
It could also mean brainstorming ideas for your new videos for hours, and filming for days — just to get those 15 minutes worthy of showing your audience. Just as MrBeast, one of the fastest-growing YouTube creators, confesses.
Or it could mean filming new Vlogs and sitting on the editing desk for hours to publish videos at an unrelenting frequency of one per day.
The specifics of the strategy will depend on your niche, but the principle stays the same: “do things that don’t scale.” And be ready to get bored doing it!
16. Prominently Direct Viewers To Your Highest-Converting Video
Remember how I mentioned you can share a personal story, or give an engaging preview of your YouTube channel through the channel trailer?
Well, there’s another compelling way to use this space. Let the video that got you the most subscribers function as the channel trailer.
Well it’s already proven to convert new viewers into subscribers. So displaying it prominently to new channel visitors might impress them.
To find your video which gets the most subscribers, head over to YouTube analytics.
17. Collaborate With Other Channels
Want to get exposure from an audience that has not heard of you?
Then, collaborate with other creators. Cross-promotion is a great way to expand your audience quickly. The mechanics are simple. When a creator with a similar audience (and likely different content) vouches for your content, then it creates instant social proof. It persuades their audience to check you out.
To find out potential collaborators, you need to find out channels that have a similar:
- Level of influence: If you’re reaching out to a channel with 10x your number of subscribers, then chances of conversion into a partnership are low. Else, you need to offer some other kind of value to them.
- Audience Type: You can check out the interests of your audience and the other channels they watch. Your comments section can also lend you a few interesting creators to collaborate with.
Social Blade is a great tool to discover channels of similar size and demographics.
18. Celebrate Your Journey
When you reach a milestone on your YouTube channel, what do you do?
You should celebrate them and express gratitude to your subscribers. For instance, vidIQ congratulated their espanol teammates for touching 100k subscribers on their main channel through a community post.
What if it’s something as small as reaching 1000 subscribers, or even uploading your 25th video?
Well, it’s a marathon, and no milestone is undeserving. So celebrate them too to stay motivated. Sharing your success — however small — creates a buzz around your YouTube channel. Not only will people appreciate your hard work, but they might subscribe as well.
Here’s one of my favorite YouTube creators, Rick Beato, reminiscing on his four year YouTube journey with a bad thumbnail screenshot he took.
You can use TubeBuddy to keep track of your YouTube journey and inform you about important events. When you hit a milestone, it automatically pops up in your inbox with a certificate like the one below.
Sharing these on your other social media profiles could also earn the attention from entirely new audiences.
How would you like that?
You can make your celebrations fun. When ScoopWhoop Unscripted, an Indian channel, reached 1M subscribers, it thanked its audience by using a political pop culture reference in Hindi — the native language of its subscribers.
Or you can make them interactive by quizzing your audience about their favorite videos from the last year like It’s Okay To Be Smart.
And as Rick Beato shows us in the post below, they are a great opportunity to bring attention to your products and offer special deals on them.
If you want to make the party extravagant, then instead of just making a community post, reflect on the key viral moments of your channel. Such a “best” video would be liked by your audience and could earn you even more subscribers.
19. Use End Screens
Probably the most obvious YouTube feature to get your viewers to watch more of your videos, visit an external website, and subscribe to your channel is end screens. They appear in the last 5 to 20 seconds of your videos and can include links to other videos, playlists, and include a subscribe button.
For them to integrate with your video, plan for end screens while filming. Preferably don’t cut to a screen with new colors and design because YouTube users are now habitual to move away from videos at that point.
So keep talking while the end screens appear in the frame same as the last shot of your video. Also, point to the position where you want to place the subscription button on the screen.
You can add four end screens. One of them should absolutely be a prompt to subscribe to your channel. The other one could be using the “best for the viewer” option as it’s based on the viewer’s habits and has the potential to extend the session time of viewers.
20. Get Interviewed
In my article on promoting your YouTube channel, I suggested how interviewing influencers could expand your reach. Similarly getting interviewed by other channels and creators could grow your channel as well.
Indeed various podcasts and YouTube shows roll around the idea of interviewing creators. The reason is it’s a win-win for everyone involved:
- the listener gets to tune in to a conversational and easy going show,
- the interviewer can access new insights and expand their network,
- and the interviewee gets free exposure and gets an opportunity to demonstrate their authority in their niche.
Get started with small shows — both podcasts and video interviews — in your niche that interview guest. Begin your search for them by plugging a few of “your competitors’ names + interview” in Google. You might find a few relevant opportunities where you can pitch yourself as a guest on their show.
For example, if I want
What should your pitch include?
Show some proof of why you’re an expert on a topic you want to speak about. And nuggets of your personal story as well as lessons you can share with the interviewer’s audience.
Bonus Tactic #1: Hire Micro-Influencers
Having an existing influence on social media is a great place to start your YouTube journey. The next best thing though is hiring people who do. Now, I’m not talking about those celebrities with millions of Instagram followers.
Instead, those with few thousand followers tend to earn a higher engagement with their niche audience. Referred to as micro and nano influencers, they might give your YouTube channel some nice exposure at relatively cheap rates.
You can browse influencers at Shoutcart on different social media channels and choose from a variety of categories — including lifestyle, fashion music, entrepreneurship, gaming, technology, makeup, sports, hair, and more. Option to sort by price and followers is also available.
The prices for shoutout are heavily dependent on the niche, the engagement of a creator, and their personal preferences. But you can try a few shoutouts for under $100.
Bonus Tactic #2: Use YouTube Search Ads
And with a little extra budget dedicated to YouTube ads, you can get engaged viewers and a few subscribers. But don’t pay simply for views and settle for brand awareness of your channel.
Put your money behind your videos which are already performing well — getting you higher than average watch time and subscribers. Also, consider the top search terms that are driving you the most views. They will be available inside YouTube analytics from the “Traffic source” report.
Once you find these phrases, create a YouTube search ad for these videos targeting these phrases. The result will be you appearing alongside organically ranking videos and as people engage with your video, they are also likely to end up subscribing to your channel.
Your video views, YouTube income, YouTube creator benefits, and lots of other aspects of your YouTube career are dependent on your number of subscribers. So roll up your sleeves and start working on that YouTube subscriber count. Hope the article brimmed you with new ideas for the same.
Which of the above strategies have you found success with? Do you’ve any additional strategies to get free YouTube subscribers? Share them with me in the comments below.