How I Got My First 1,000 Subscribers on YouTube

The College Lead YouTube channel asof 2/16/2021

I learned many lessons from building a startup. Another one that I recently realized is this: don’t let the fact that you have zero qualifications and expertise deter you from diving into something new.

My college consulting business, College Lead, is the latest manifestation of that. Here are the lessons I learned from my foray into content marketing. Here’s how I got my first 1,000 subscribers on YouTube.

🔭 Find Your Niche

First, consider these questions:

  • Who do you want to create content for?
  • What does your target audience want to see that’s not already out there?
  • Are you the person who has the knowledge base or experience to provide this content?
  • Why does making this content matter to you? What motivates you?

I started College Lead with one simple question: how can I increase access to college prep information?

This mission is particularly meaningful to me. As a homeschooler of 10 years, I attribute my success to my immigrant mother who spent countless hours searching for the most rigorous textbooks and classes that would lay a solid foundation for my future. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.

College counseling is not new to me either. At Harvard, I worked for the educational consulting business CollegeVine, where I helped high school underclassmen develop their extracurricular activities, plan their coursework, and study for standardized tests. College Lead was the natural next step.

I’m an introvert with zero experience in video production. YouTube wasn’t my first instinct. In fact, I began with pro-bono, one-on-one consultations for QuestBridge applicants but then realized this strategy wasn’t scalable. That’s when I turned to YouTube and challenged myself to reach 1k subscribers.

🕵️ Know what people are searching for

Most social media content is ephemeral — posts quickly get lost in the ether. Conversely, YouTube is a platform with a powerful search algorithm that surfaces the most relevant content, regardless of its age, to a user. This makes YouTube the ideal platform for an educational business like College Lead.

This was the score for my Common App Additional Information video.

SEO is crucial. A great place to start is AnswerThePublic, but, personally, I found TubeBuddy* to be the most helpful. Its keyword explorer to be essential to my channel’s growth. I used it to optimize my YouTube titles by search volume and competition.

This optimization supports the mission of increasing access to college prep information.

*Affiliate link provided.

🥴 Be comfortable with imperfection

The unfortunate reality of YouTube is that your first attempt at ideating, filming, and editing a video will be bad. This is okay.

I’ve struggled with perfectionism. I had to force myself to push that feeling away and dive first into just plowing through. Even now, I still cringe at my old videos and can’t even last 10 seconds when I attempt to rewatch. I always have tell myself that it will be better next time.

If you can’t get over that hump of posting a video that you might not be 100% happy with, you can say goodbye to your YouTube goals.

🐱‍💻 Figure out where your potential subscribers are

Meme: ‘Only old people still use Facebook’

Social media is a great way to market your channel directly to your target audience and build your understanding of what questions and interests they have.

I am not my target audience. I grew up with Facebook as the mainstream platform. I was surprised to find that teenagers today are elsewhere. I had to pivot my strategy to focus on Reddit, Discord, and TikTok.

I guess I’m getting old. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

🎨 Be creative

There are many ways to solve a problem, and all roads should lead back to your mission.

Once you find your target audience, get to know them: read what questions and resources they share with each other. Even better, interact with them. You can get creative with this.

I tried a mixture of community-based marketing hacks. For example, I noticed that there was a subreddit where students ask each other to rate their extracurricular activities. I recognized that as a need. So, I wrote a 7-page worksheet that helped students rate their own EC’s and provided links to relevant YouTube videos on my channel. After sharing the document, my Reddit post trended for a week.

Collaboration is also a fun way to get creative and reach new audiences. I had a great time working with YouTubers Avanti Nagral, Maggie, Harnoor Singh, Vic Lim, and VinhHuy.

💭 Concluding thoughts

I’ve learned so much on this journey and am excited to continue growing College Lead. If you’d like, share with friends you know might find my content helpful!

Till next time ✌️,


P.S. If you found this article interesting or insightful, consider giving me a follow on Medium! 😊




Just someone who enjoys learning :)

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Kristen Fang

Kristen Fang

Just someone who enjoys learning :)

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