5 Top Personal Finance YouTubers Share Their Secrets to Success

Growing big on YouTube is tough. You’ve got to be good at video, sound, lighting, editing, content, and actually speaking coherently. That’s before you even get to the promotion and actually growing YouTube channel!

Luckily, we’ve got some top-notch YouTubers in the FinCon community who are willing to share how they’ve had success.

Read everyone’s responses carefully and you’ll find a very common thread throughout all of their answers.

Chelsea & Lauren – The Financial Diet

Q1: How long did it take you to start gaining traction with video?

Our first video upload was September 1st of 2015, and it really took about a year and a half for it to start gaining some serious traction. In March of this year, we experienced a massive jump in subscribers after being featured on the homepage of YouTube, and have just kept climbing and growing very consistently since then.

Q2: What 3 things should a new YouTuber be focused on?

1. Uploading high-quality videos, consistently. Figure out a schedule that works for you and stick to it!

2. Developing a strong voice/editorial direction on the channel so that it has legs for the long-term — you should know what you want the general “story” of your channel to be as it grows.

3. Directing as many resources as possible to make the channel dynamic and fun to watch. Everything from your set (however simple it may be), your lighting, thumbnail art, and graphics in the video itself should be considered. Lastly, you must have a good audio system — whether a lavalier mic or a standing mic, you want the sound quality to be high. Most YouTube viewers cite bad audio as their reason for clicking out of a video.

Q3: What’s the biggest mistake you see new YouTubers make?

One of the biggest mistakes I see new YouTubers making is mimicking or copying the style of another YouTuber or vlogger. You have to find your own voice! Figure out a format, speaking style and speed, and ‘schtick’ that works for you. How do you want your audience to feel when they come to your channel? How do you stand out from the crowd? What can you offer that’s unique?

Don’t necessarily look to other channels to replicate what’s made their channel successful. Listen to your audience feedback, read every comment, and figure out what works for your channel. Own what you do best, not what you think will perform well, and your audience will respond.

Q4: How important is equipment and what do you recommend?

The right equipment is very important as you grow, but you can start small. To start, crisp, clear, well-lit videos are the difference between a viewer staying engaged and clicking away after just a few seconds. Invest in an inexpensive standing lamp so you can control the lighting in your video without relying on natural light. We use this one when shooting the TFD videos.

Obviously, having a nice camera will make a huge difference as well, but you don’t have to hop right into getting a great model — simple digital cameras are fine as you’re starting out. You can always upgrade your unit as your channel and needs grow. We just recently upgraded from our Sony to a Panasonic Lumix G85 and couldn’t be happier! Also, as I said earlier, the sound quality is key.

A video with crappy, inconsistent audio with some interference is just…unacceptable. Invest in a decent mic and of course an audio recorder as well. We use this recorder for our mics, and it rocks. Highly recommend!

Here’s a video from The Financial Diet.

Jeff – Good Financial Cents

Q1: How long did it take you to start gaining traction with video?

It didn’t take as long as I initially thought. Granted, my video quality wasn’t nearly what I wanted it to be. What I did have was the benefit of blogging for several years and understanding what sort of keywords people were already searching for.

Q2: What 3 things should a new YouTuber be focused on?

1. Video quality. It doesn’t need to be a high-end production, like the Walking Dead, but you’re going to want to have decent lighting, a good camera – a new iPhone would do the trick – and good audio. If people can’t hear you or see you they’re definitely not going to be watching you on YouTube.

2. Solid editing. I think one of the worst things that you can do is upload a talking head video that has no B-roll or images or text at all to break up your content. There are plenty of apps such as iMovie, ScreenFlow or even paid apps on your phone that can edit video and add solid B-roll. Your videos are constantly competing for people’s attention and if they get bored they’re going to leave. Adding B-roll creates pattern interruption that keeps the viewer engaged and more likely to finish your video and hopefully watch more.

3. Be yourself. Doing a video with a shiny Maserati in the backdrop talking about helping people make millions will lead you in the opposite direction of building a solid brand. Be as authentic as possible. Share personal stories. Be willing to open up about your mistakes. People want to connect with people that are being real.

Q3: What’s the biggest mistake you see new YouTubers make?

I think the biggest mistake is not placing a value on other people’s time. People are going to YouTube to get information and to learn. If you spend two to three minutes at the beginning of your video babbling on about nothing then you’re going to lose those views quickly. Your introduction should be short and to the point and make sure that you deliver the content that you’re YouTube title suggests.

Another mistake, which can be applied to blogging as well, is believing that once you hit publish the views are going to come. Like any piece of contact that you publish online, you have to market your video to make people aware that you even exist. This means you need to send an email blast out to your list and share on other social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

You should let certain influencers know that you just published a video that they would be interested in. Relying solely on the hope that people will find you through a YouTube search is a horrible marketing strategy that will leave you scratching your head wondering what happened.

Q4: How important is equipment and what do you recommend?

There’s definitely a certain quality of video that you get using a DSLR camera like a Canon 7D, but then again, if your lighting, audio, and content suck it doesn’t matter how good your camera is. If you have access to good natural light and can record during the day the exterior lighting isn’t needed. If you do need lighting there are inexpensive kits you can buy on Amazon.

A current iPhone can produce amazing video quality and I’ve seen a ton of successful YouTubers who use nothing but their phone. A few pieces of equipment that I bought that upgraded my iPhone video quality is the Olloclip and an external lavalier.

The Olloclip gives my videos a wider angle lens so that I can set it up pretty close to me, but it gives the feeling that it’s much further back. The external lavalier helps immensely with the sound quality especially if I’m recording outside. Another nice purchase would be some sort of tripod that allows you to set up your camera to do your video recordings. All these things can be purchased rather inexpensively on Amazon.

Here’s a video from Jeff.

Troy – Dollar Dude

Q1: How long did it take you to start gaining traction with video?

Oh, about 3/4ths of a second, give or take. I was one of the lucky ones, as my channel pretty much blew up before it even started. I did a debt free scream on the Dave Ramsey Show in August of 2016, and it’s one that just happened to stick in peoples’ minds (the fanbase affectionately named it the “Debt Free Roar”).

Because of this, I was known in my niche before I had ever posted a single video. I actually had 10-20 people subscribe to me when I had absolutely no content on my channel because people were anticipating my first video.

After about two videos, I started getting mentioned by bigger YouTubers in the debt-free niche who were enjoying my comedy-focused financial content, and that just caused my channel to explode even more. I’m super thankful for this community and I’m honored to be considered part of it.

Q2: What 3 things should a new YouTuber be focused on?

1. Without optimization of tags and titles, no one will find your video. Without an enticing thumbnail, no one will click even if they find it.

2. Content – Once someone is watching your video, a good hook in the first few seconds will keep them watching. And quality content that is interesting, entertaining and/or informative will keep them watching until the end. Stand out. There should be some aspect to your content that your viewers are not going to find anywhere else.

3. Engagement – After someone has finished watching your video, what keeps them coming back? I believe that it’s not only your great content but a sense of community. Things like giving your followers a catchy name or letting them come up with one for you. Being active in social media groups or even forums. Replying to comments. Commenting on the videos of others (and not just “hey, check out my channel”). All of this is engagement, not just on your channel alone, but engagement with the community of your niche.

I believe this is where your focus should be throughout your life on YouTube.

Q3: What’s the biggest mistake you see new YouTubers make?

One of the biggest mistakes I see everywhere is that new YouTubers try to mimic the titles and tags that a large, successful channel has.

Say someone wants to do a vlog-type channel. They take a look at some of the big vlog channels on YouTube, and they see that maybe they have crazy titles or that their tags may not be super relevant to the video. So they think, “fine, I’ll just do what they do” and they come out with a title like “THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY INSANE!!”, not realizing that no one would actually type that in the search bar.

Those big channels they’re trying to mimic are previously established with massive followings already. Small channels on YouTube can’t afford to ignore optimization of their titles, tags, and thumbnails like those big channels can.

Research, research, research. Optimize your tags and titles for video topics people are actually searching for, and the views will come.

Q4: How important is equipment and what do you recommend?

The equipment a YouTuber uses is only slightly more important than the type of pen or word processor an author uses. In other words, not very. There’s no reason to feel a need to break the bank just to get a few videos up. Heck, the smartphone in your pocket is a more advanced and more powerful piece of technology than the guidance computer that got astronauts to the moon and back. In that case, I think it’s more than capable of filming your budget recaps.

If you have the cash to go with a professional setup right out of the gate then knock yourself out, but there’s no need to drop a ton of money on equipment to get started – and you should never use equipment as an excuse not to start.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the most important aspects of a video is audio. People are willing to tolerate a 360p video if you’ve got quality audio. But if your audio is bad, your video is bad – period. That’s why, in my opinion, the first custom piece of equipment a new YouTuber should invest in is a quality microphone. Yes, even before an upgraded camera. Yes, I’m serious.

A lavalier mic that plugs into your phone is a great choice. Since the mic clips to your shirt, the mic is so close to the source that you don’t have to worry as much about your environment. The iRig Mic Lav is a good one to look at here. A good directional mic like the Rode VideoMic Me is also great if you need to pick up not just your voice but someone standing next to you as well.

Here’s a video from Troy.

Sarah – Budget Girl

Q1: How long did it take you to start gaining traction with video?

I started my YouTube channel, Budget Girl, in April of 2014. Starting as a complete novice who knew nothing about best practices, editing or video, it took me about 5-6 months of posting once a week to have daily commenters and people committed to following my journey.

About 10 months in, I started collaborating with other small YouTubers and got more plugged into the community – that’s when my channel started taking off. At the time, I only had about 1,000 subscribers, but I was growing weekly and starting to make money. I currently have 20,000 subscribers and get about 100,000-200,000 views per month, 3 million views total. My channel makes about $700-$1,500 per month from AdSense and the occasional sponsored video.

I currently have 20,000 subscribers and get about 100,000-200,000 views per month, 3 million views total. I make between $700-$1,500 per month from my channel between AdSense and the occasional sponsored video.

Q2: What 3 things should a new YouTuber be focused on?

1. Consistency – posting at least weekly is key. It doesn’t have to be on the same day each week, but people get annoyed when channels disappear for weeks/months or are constantly making excuses as to their absences. To better prepare for regular uploading, have a few videos filmed and ready to drop in case of illness, a sudden busy time at work or if you’re in a funk. Think of your viewers as friends – you wouldn’t just quit communicating with friends for weeks at a time.

2. Brand – Focus your videos on a single topic or a small range of topics. It’s okay to do a tag or trend video occasionally, but if you’re a finance vlogger, you probably shouldn’t also have gaming videos on your channel. People should be able to tell what you’re passionate about and what to expect from your channel easily. If you have dual, very different interests, keep those on separate channels.

3. Authenticity – Don’t be afraid to be yourself on your channel. Your sense of humor, set of experiences, and perspective are all unique and valuable. People will relate to you being you, plus, it’s very hard to maintain an alternate or forced persona over the long term.

Q3: What’s the biggest mistake you see new YouTubers make?

Living in a bubble. YouTube is an amazing community and too many people make the mistake of not engaging in it. I did this and it’s the reason my channel took so long to start growing. Find other people making videos in your focus and sincerely comment on their videos, engage with them, make friends, collab – use each other to become better.

Surrounding yourself with people who have similar interests and goals will be incredibly rewarding and in my experience, YouTubers generally welcome each other with open arms. That said, don’t spam other creators or try to use people for their subscribers – that’s tacky. Start by making friends with people with channels of similar sizes and build each other up together.

*Bonus tip: People are rarely used to having hateful things said directly to them and it can be jarring to get your first trolls as you put content out into the ethos. Negative comments can really eat at you if you let them and will stunt you as a creator. My advice is to never engage the crazy. Block/ ban/ report trolls without responding to them – nothing good ever comes from that.

People with criticisms or critiques can be helpful, but don’t dwell on the negative beyond noting potential things you can do better in the future. Don’t dwell on it and don’t feel bad for deleting comments. Also, don’t let the inevitability of haters make you hesitate from posting your work or growing your channel. They are one in a thousand, if that, and the wonderful and supportive people will always vastly outnumber the negative ones.

Q4: How important is equipment and what do you recommend?

I shot over 400 videos over three years on an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5s (purchased when I dropped the 4). I used a cheap tabletop tripod and sat in front of windows for natural light. Windows Movie Maker was and is my editing software. I’ve since upgraded my camera to a Canon G7x, but I still don’t have professional lighting, sound or backdrops. Fortunately for me, since frugal living was my focus, slightly sub-par video was an okay fit for my channel.

You don’t need thousands of dollars of equipment to start. Use what you have or start with a budget-friendly option and upgrade as you become more committed and your channel grows. It’s okay to start simple. One of the best things about YouTube is that small channels have time to grow and improve as their reach does.

You will become more comfortable and natural in front of the camera as you practice, and learn to edit better as you go along. Plus, if you wait until your quality and skill set is on par with the biggest channels, you’ll be procrastinating forever.

Here’s a video from Sarah.

Tai and Talaat – His and Her Money

Q1: How long did it take you to start gaining traction with video?

After we started doing the three things that we mention below, we started seeing traction within the first six months. It blew our minds because we weren’t even expecting our subscribers to start growing that fast.

Q2: What 3 things should a new YouTuber be focused on?

1. Consistency- Treat your channel like a popular tv series. You will have viewers and subscribers that are expecting you to put a video out at a specific time. We put out a video every Sunday at 7pm CST. We have families and couples that sit down around that time to watch our video together!

2. Great content or information. Don’t worry about how many views you get on your video. When you provide great content the people will come.

3. Video quality- You don’t have to spend a lot of money on equipment. As a matter of fact, we would suggest that not be your primary focus in the beginning…just put content out. However, make sure the camera that you are using gives off a nice quality picture. No one likes to watch a video that has a poor visual quality. Some of our videos, in the beginning, were shot with a Canon PowerShot A1300 for under $100!

Q3: What’s the biggest mistake you see new YouTubers make?

One big mistake that we see new YouTubers make is quitting after putting out a few videos and not seeing the numbers roll in. Don’t give up! Our motto is to give great content and value even if we were doing it for an audience of one! If there is one person that’s receiving help from our videos then we did our job! All we ever wanted was to help people, not receive fame.

Q4: How important is equipment and what do you recommend?

In the beginning, we don’t suggest that you spend a lot of money on equipment. Video may not be your thing at first. In that case, we suggest making sure you have great lighting. You can easily do this by sitting next to a window. Or, you can buy an inexpensive light package for under $100 on Amazon. Lighting and picture quality are the most important to us.

Here’s a video from His and Her Money.

And if you’d like to check out more finance YouTubers, be sure to visit our rankings of the best personal finance Youtubers. Also, be sure to read this article where we interviewed newer YouTubers to get their perspective on starting out.


Recent PosTs

money and media podcast

Our POdcast

Passionate about helping people with their finances through your writing, podcasting, or video channel? This show is for you!



Picture of Nick True

Nick True