That might sound like a lofty goal — especially as a team of one — but I developed a workflow to do it without stressing out, using the help of two part-time Virtual Assistants (VAs).
The results exceeded my expectations for YouTube metrics. Compared to the previous month (when we were publishing once a day):
- Watchtime increased by 60%.
- Views increased by 80%.
- YouTube Subscribers increased by 37%.
There was also a clear ROI, which I’ll explain later.
In this post, I’ll discuss:
- How to use project management for small teams.
- Why I decided to publish so many videos.
- How to define the project and process flow.
- How to do the work and adjust when needed.
- What worked and what didn’t.
But first, a quick background on who I am: I’m a Project Management Professional (PMP) and worked as a corporate management consultant and project manager for 10 years. When I got laid off, I decided to turn my side hustle of Amazon Affiliate marketing and SEO into a full-time gig, and that’s what I do at Niche Site Project.
Why Do It?
First things first, you have to understand why you’re doing a project. I noticed that traffic from my YouTube channel converted to email subscribers at four times the rate of any other source.
Traffic from all sources convert at an average of 4.19%.
YouTube traffic, on the other hand, converted at about 16%.
My business is dependent on email list growth, so it was a no brainer to put more time into YouTube.
Pro Tip: If you’re trying to get your boss to let you work on a project idea, data makes it easier for her to say yes. If you don’t have convincing data yet, develop assumptions that you can test on a small scale first.
You’ll want to outline your goals so you know how you’re doing during the project, and if you accomplished what you intended once you finish.
My ultimate goal was to grow the email list, but I knew a few metrics that would be able to guide me along the way. YouTube analytics are very good for creators, so they’d be perfect as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) along the way.
I wanted to improve the following KPIs on YouTube:
- YouTube Subscriber Count
- Quality (This is subjective but important for other metrics.)
You’ll notice I didn’t specifically note “grow my email list”. Based on the data from the previous 24 months, I already knew that YouTube traffic was converting well for my email list (4X more than other traffic).
By focusing on growth on YouTube, I knew it would help grow the Niche Site Project audience base. So, over time, YouTube growth would be beneficial.
All but the last goal are quantifiable data points. The video quality is a perception and thus subjective, but if the quality is good, the other three metrics will go up. Plus, if you work on something a lot in a dedicated way with the intent to improve, there’s a good chance you’ll do just that.
A Project Management Approach
This was my approach:
- Define the project and outline the process
- Create the team
- Execute the work and refine the process
- Review the lessons learned
This process is not a pure project management implementation that you’d see at the corporate level. It is, however, a model that works well for an individual or small team.
1. Define the Project
I’ve dabbled with YouTube for a few years. In 2017, I started publishing more videos on a regular basis. At the same time, I was watching a lot more YouTube, since my gym had great wifi.
I noticed the YouTubers I watched would typically do a month of daily publishing, and then review the growth. In the few examples that I studied, I saw they grew their channels a lot.
I thought about doing the same thing… and figured, well, why not double it?
2. Review with Peers
I normally work alone, so I like to review my ideas with other people before starting a project.
I talked to a few people who were more experienced about doing a content sprint on YouTube. I asked for advice and if they saw any pitfalls that I may be missing.
I phrased my question in a specific way:
“I’m planning on publishing two videos a day for a month. I’ve researched and have seen a few channels that have done it with great results. I have X, Y, & Z planned for the process. Do you have any experience doing a publishing sprint? Do you see any mistakes or flaws in my logic?”
There were no major issues with the general plan. Great!
Pro Tip: When you ask people about your idea, be careful. Some people imagine whether they could personally do something. If they don’t dream big, they might discourage you from even trying.
3. Outline and Develop the Process
Since I had been publishing YouTube content already, I knew the general process. I also knew what I liked and disliked.
I sketched out this process in about five minutes.
Pro Tip: Do it by hand and save time. You could use a tool or app to design your workflow, but simple is better.
By sketching out the process, it made it easy to identify the tasks that I did NOT want to do. Some things are better for me to focus on, like:
And some things are not fun for me to do, like YouTube admin work. That’s stuff like:
- Video descriptions
- Video tags
- Thumbnail images
I’m also a pretty slow video editor. While I enjoy the process, it’s not a good way for me to spend my time.
Working on things that you’re good at is more enjoyable, of course, but it’s usually more productive, too. I didn’t want to be the bottleneck in the process, so I got out of the way.
4. Tracking and Managing the Project Status
I like tools, apps, and new tech, so I wanted to have a sophisticated project management solution.
I wanted the process to be automated and optimized right from the start.
I’ll come back to this in the lessons learned section later, but for now, know that:
- I wasted a few days trying to automate the process.
- The simple solution is the best to start with, and sometimes simple is just better.
- You can always optimize later.
5. Building the Team
The process helps define the team. I’m a one-person shop, so occasionally, I hire VAs for ad hoc assignments. I was already working with two VAs for YouTube over the previous few months, so it was easy to fold them into this bigger project. Here was the team:
- Project Manager: Doug
- Content: Doug
- Video Editor: VA #1
- YouTube Assistant: VA #2
It was a lean team, and I got rid of the tasks that I was bad at or simply didn’t like.
Pro Tip: Before diving into such a big project, check with your Video Editor and YouTube Assistant to make sure they’re able to do some extra work during the sprint.
About Hiring Freelancers
When I first hired the Video Editor, it took a little time for me to find the right person for my team. I hired three editors for paid trial gigs to see how we worked together, and made sure they didn’t miss deadlines.
I suggest hiring for paid jobs and real work with deliverables that can be used. It’s hard to interview and actually determine if someone can do the job — completing real work is the only way to know.
Workflow and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
The team had been working together for a few months, slowly tweaking the process. So I was confident in the general process. However, I knew pressure testing the system would reveal weaknesses that would need to be refined.
Here’s how it worked:
- I shot a video, then uploaded it to Google Drive.
- I told the Video Editor a new video was ready.
- The Video Editor uploaded the finished video to Google Drive.
- I uploaded the video to YouTube. (More on this in the next section.)
- The YouTube Assistant did post-production work, like creating the thumbnail image or writing the YouTube description.
- I reviewed and finalized post-production work.
As you can see, my process included two handoff points between three team members — simple and straightforward.
Pro Tip: If you’re initially defining the process, then you should draft your best guess for the workflow and process. Then, run through the process a few times and adjust as needed. You will need to adjust, and that’s okay.
Executing on the Process
This part is where you do the “real” work! With all my preparation complete, this part was relatively easy.
In fact, most of the month was far less stressful than normal. It’s funny to imagine, but I talked about it with my VAs and it was the same for them.
Our goal was very clear during that month: publish a lot of videos. So each day we all knew exactly what to work on.
The goal was to have 50% of the videos done before the 30 days of publishing even started. I made a go-nogo decision the day before we started publishing just in case we didn’t have the 50% of the videos done.
It was a mad dash of work for about two weeks, but having half the work done early made the next 30 days much easier. If someone on the team became sick or if something unexpected happened, we would still be able to meet our goal.
Pro Tip: Things rarely go exactly as planned, so add a buffer to your timeline just in case.
In my corporate PM days, it was common to add time to the schedule to account for unplanned issues. If you finished ahead of time, it was great! But, most of the time, there was some external factor that caused a delay. The project schedule could handle it with the buffer time.
Refining the Process
In project management jargon, this is the “Monitor” phase.
For individuals and entrepreneurs, monitoring is skipped often, yet it’s the most important part.
During this phase, you’re looking for mistakes, issues, and opportunities to improve.
People don’t normally like looking for mistakes and being self-critical — even though it’s constructive.
Here’s why you should do it even if it’s uncomfortable:
- You can adjust your process.
- You can improve your results.
- You’ll learn what to do (or not do) next time.
Here’s how we monitored:
- Each week, my team met via video chat.
- We talked about what was going well.
- We talked about what wasn’t going well or could be improved.
We didn’t uncover anything that was causing major issues. Generally, things were going well, so the few things we changed were minor.
Pro Tip: Keep it simple, and create an open dialogue with your team.
The other huge benefit of a sprint-style project is that you learn fast by doing something daily. My video production skills increased massively in just 30 days.
What Didn’t Work
Here are some things that didn’t work so well.
1. Fancy Tools & Automation
I tried to use Google Sheets, Google Calendar, Trello, and Zapier in the beginning to have a sexy calendar view and spreadsheet that was integrated.
(Zapier is a great app that helps you integrate other apps — super powerful, but can be a bit confusing.)
I burned about three days setting it up, which was actually fun, but not worth the effort.
Plus, after I tested it, there were issues with the integration. It was a mess! I decided to just scrap that idea. Simple is better.
The simplest solution was a spreadsheet — here’s a stripped down sample in Google Sheets.
2. Batching Work
I batched a few tasks in the beginning, like shooting several videos in a row. Except, it turned out, I wasn’t batching often enough.
I needed to plan things out more intentionally (e.g. outline video ideas, shoot videos). The more work I could batch, the more efficient the whole workflow would be.
With batching I could shoot a week’s worth of videos in a few hours. It saved a ton of time with setup and breakdown of the camera gear and lighting.
3. Pre-Production Tasks
I dabbled in video for a little while but the content wasn’t highly produced — my videos were usually Live Streams of some kind. Producing video at a fast pace taught me a lot in a very short time frame. I never realized how much work goes into a video ahead of time. The more preparation you do, the better your video turns out.
Here are some of the pre-production tasks:
- Outline the video.
- Find references to support the content.
- Find graphics that could help make the point in the video.
- Understand what videos are going to be published in the future so a few videos can reference each other.
It seems obvious after the fact, but I was used to doing things on the fly.
4. Uploading the Video to YouTube was Slow
When the Video Editor finished editing a video, she uploaded the finished video to Google Drive for me to review.
If edits were needed, I asked for updates. If the video was final and no updates were needed, I downloaded the video and uploaded it. The video files are big, so that takes a few minutes each time.
I knew there was some way to move files from Google Drive to YouTube, but I was having trouble figuring it out. (More on this later.)
Several things went well from the start and a few things improved along the way since we tried to constantly improve the process.
1. Working Ahead
50% of the videos were shot before I started publishing them. They still needed to have the post-production work (e.g. thumbnail, YouTube description, YouTube tags), but the bulk of the work was done.
This was a huge mental advantage, as the team started publishing two videos a day. We knew we could do it if we were able to do half of the work ahead of time.
2. Using a Simple Content Calendar
I find it exciting to integrate apps and automate things — but it’s overkill most of the time.
I wasted a few days trying to integrate a few apps when Google Sheets would’ve worked just fine. A spreadsheet didn’t have the fancy visual dashboard, but that wasn’t a requirement.
Pro Tip: You don’t need to optimize every solution. Simply meet the requirements to solve the problem.
I managed several multimillion-dollar projects for a tier-1 telecom company using a spreadsheet. That was the official PM tool at the company because it was simple and everyone had access to a spreadsheet app.
For my content sprint, Google Sheets suited my needs, and no integrations were needed. Always opt for simple over complex.
3. The Workflow
The heart of this system was the workflow. I delegated tasks I didn’t want to do (or shouldn’t do) to accelerate the process. The quality of the resulting work was higher, too.
Each of the steps in the workflow had start and endpoints. Each endpoint triggered the next action (e.g. handoff to the next person).
We didn’t need to adjust the main parts of the workflow, but there was one part that could be helped with the right tool.
4. Zapier for Transferring Files From Google Drive to YouTube
Google Drive has some interfacing capabilities with YouTube, but I was having trouble getting files moved over quickly. Instead of a seamless transfer, I was downloading and uploading big video files each and every time.
It took about 30 minutes on average for each video. Yes, a lot of it was just upload/download time, which is largely idle, but still a waste of time.
I started investigating Zaps on Zapier for YouTube and found the right one.
When the video editor uploaded a video to a specific folder, Zapier would transfer the file over to YouTube. Boom! This was a huge upgrade to the process.
Now, once the video editor uploaded a video, the video transferred to YouTube seamlessly. Then, my YouTube Assistant could do the post-production work. Finally, I did the final check before publishing.
This process is a great example of a sprint of work where I used relevant project management tools from the corporate world in a real-life application with a small team.
I started with a set of goals and some assumptions that I tested on a small scale.
The idea of continuous improvement is applied throughout the process by encouraging open dialogue within the team. We were able to improve along the way which made us more efficient.
Additionally, I noted what could be improved in the future. For example, I knew that Trello could have been a great solution to aid in the project management of video production. I didn’t use it for this project because the rest of the team hadn’t used Trello before.
After the sprint was complete, however, I introduced Trello to the team. It has some benefits over Google Sheets without adding too much complexity.
Conventional wisdom suggests that I should keep publishing more and more videos to grow. But there are other factors to consider besides just growing your watchtime and YouTube subscriber base. And, most importantly, it’s unsustainable over a long period of time if you have a lean team like I do.
However, the benefits are long lasting because the videos can be watched in the future if the topics are evergreen. So, the YouTube KPIs may not grow at the same rate after the sprint is complete, but the Niche Site Project audience continues to grow from YouTube. Another benefit I hadn’t considered is being seen as a YouTube Influencer, so companies and other influencers want to work with me.
Originally published Jun 17, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated June 17 2019