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Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, and Youtube is no different. Even though you may be producing, shooting, and editing yourself talking to a camera, the path to growth is by partnering with others.
In this module from the “Starting a YouTube Channel” course on MZed, Kitty Peters shares her recipe for persuading other Youtubers and brands to collab with her on video ideas.
Creating your own YouTube channel can be a very independent, and often solitary endeavor. Whether you’re making a vlog, how-to videos, or focusing on a product niche, it can feel like you’re doing it all alone.
That’s especially if you have set up your studio or production flow as a basic one-camera setup that you talk into. You come up with the ideas, you script the words or deliver them ad hoc, and then you edit the video, promote it, engage with your audience, and then move on to the next idea.
And until you’ve made your channel big enough to support hiring additional help, chances are you’re going to be going it alone for quite a while. This phase can feel isolating, and sometimes downright defeating. (For advice about staying motivated, check out this other module in the course).
But YouTube doesn’t have to be a silo. You not only have your audience, but you can also end up making lifelong friends along the way. After you’ve hit the ground running with a regular schedule of content, others will see what you’re all about and they’ll be excited to partner with you on new video ideas.
As a bonus, once you reach the collaboration stage of your channel, it can be a rewarding boost to be able to work with your heroes. As Kitty says, “It’s just an amazing feeling when you know that someone who has millions of followers is also a fan of your work.”
So how do you pitch a collaboration with another YouTube creator? First, you want to identify others who are in your niche, or at least someone who your audience will be interested in seeing in a collaboration. It’s important to analyze your analytics and demographics and find someone who is also engaging your target audience.
At what point will a potential collaborator be interested in using their own resources to work with you? For Kitty, she began pitching projects when she reached 10,000 followers on her channel, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for a certain metric before others will give you the time of day.
Second, ask your audience for suggestions for who to partner up with. Your followers like you, and they most certainly follow other channels, so it makes sense that they would know who would make a great collaborator for you.
Third, make sure to engage with others before you pitch them. Even more, start a friendship with them. Successful YouTubers are accustomed to receiving a lot of pitches for collaboration, so they can see right through a copy-and-paste form letter.
And finally, have an idea and details ready when you pitch a collaboration. Don’t expect others to come up with an idea for you. Tell them the what, where, when, how, and most importantly, why it’s important to you.
Now that you’re ready to ask someone to collaborate, go ahead and DM them on social media or email them directly your pitch. Keep it as simple and direct as possible – you want to make it easy for partners.
Your pitch should include these points: your goal or idea, your questions or talking points you want them to supply, your potential shoot dates and location spots if you plan to shoot in person, or a due date if you’re asking them to self-record their piece. You want to give them at least two weeks to a month out, and be prepared to follow up with them, since everybody on YouTube tends to have their shoot schedule lined out weeks in advance and can get very busy.
Lastly, make sure to give your partner a simple way to upload their video if they’re shooting it themselves.
The end goal of a collaboration is a video project that is beneficial to both you and your partner. You want them to know your plan for posting and promotion, but you also want them to know what’s in it for them.
“Partnerships are a two-way street,” says Kitty. “Expect that you’re gonna have to give something in return for your collaborations for their time and energy.” She adds, “You never know this one door could open up many more opportunities in the future, so always stay grateful and respectful. They didn’t have to do this for you, but they did. So don’t collab with people just to use them because that selfishness won’t get you far.”
We’re all accustomed to a digital world where we engage with people globally, some of them become close friends and others are merely online acquaintances.
But in the YouTube world, there’s a close-knit circle of video creatives that are all in it together. That’s one of the most exciting reasons to start a YouTube channel – you are joining a network of potentially lifelong friends who are on a very similar path as you are.
There’s much more advice from Kitty Peters in this MZed course on Starting a YouTube Channel. It’s available to stream as an MZed Pro member, an annual subscription that provides over 275 hours of filmmaking education, with new courses being added continually. To watch the first lesson of this course for free – and many others – head over to MZed.com.
What’s your take on collaborating on YouTube? Let us know about your experiences below!
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Slavik Boyechko is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and helps manage MZed.com, the educational workshop subscription platform by CineD. He exercises his filmmaking muscles by doing video production in Minneapolis, Minnesota.