Episode 356 — Channel Makers – Nate Black


Episode 356 — Channel Makers – Nate Black 

When Nate Black decided to start a YouTube channel, he had a significant advantage: As an actor, he’d been in thousands of live stage performances and knew how to play to an audience. After leaving the stage, he moved through various jobs until he found a passion for teaching.  

When he launched Channel Makers, a YouTube Channel that tackles the question “How to succeed on YouTube”, the number of subscribers grew from 0 to 25,000 in its first year. He creates original, data-focused informational videos using real-life tests and case studies. Nate helps a wide range of YouTubers, from beginners to established channels. Currently, the number of his followers is over 120K.

In this Podcast, Nate Black, Creator of a highly successful YouTube Channel called Channel Makers, shares his experience and gives advice on how to create and grow your YouTube, discusses YouTube shorts and lives, and the importance of market research.

Channel Makers on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/channelmakers



[03:36] Nate Black Introduces Himself and His Background in Theater

[07:10] Channel Makers and How to Succeed on YouTube

[15:09] The Growth of Channel Makers

[20:41] Nate Talks About His Creative Process

[31:38] What’s a Featured Video and Should You Have One?

[34:07] YouTube Shorts and YouTube Lives

[43:44] How to Do a Keyword Search

[46:34] The Importance of Market Research



Hi, everyone! 

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 356! I’m speaking with Nate Black, the Creator of a highly successful YouTube Channel called Channel Makers. He shares his experience and how to grow your YouTube Channel.

I’m really excited for this Episode. We get into a lot of cool stuff! This will be a really actionable Episode. 

Please take a moment to share this Episode with others.

Let’s dive in! 



[01:15]  Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

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[03:36] Allan: Nate, thank you for taking the time to chat! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?

Nate: Would love to, Allan! In a nutshell, I’m Nate. I run a YouTube Channel called Channel Makers which is about growth on YouTube. I consider mine unique because I’m always diving into the data and giving factual advice as much as possible, as well as finding something new. If I start a video and feel like I’m saying something I’ve said before, I just cut that video. That’s the whole goal of the Channel. For people listening, no matter the variety of careers from which they come, it’s a great group! I love that you’ve built this Podcast for visual effects artists. I love this group! I’m excited for this conversation!

[05:05] Allan: You’re absolutely right! I think that it’s an algorithm and it’s about observation. There is so much false information out there! I think your approach is interesting because it’s backed by research. I’m curious about your background. You have a background in theater. Have you always wanted to be in the arts?

Nate: Yeah, I blame it on my parents. They were both in theater. In my family, we sang together. We would often gather around the piano and we’d sing. It was more natural for us to do community theater. It was a higher priority for us. After that, I did a variety of theater, including touring theater. I do think it’s a bit more unique about my background. And then to put that on YouTube gave me an interesting advantage.

[07:10] Allan: You’re right! I do think that it makes an impact. Some people come from a more introverted background. You have a passion for teaching and you’re more passionate. In some of your videos, you talk about projecting your voice. It makes you more effective as a communicator. How would you describe your channel?

Nate: I would describe it as a simple roadmap to getting success on YouTube, no matter what your niche is. Starting off, it was one of the most competitive channels to make on YouTube: How to Grow as a YouTube Channel. The reason for that is because everyone and their dog, as soon as they have some success on YouTube, they make a how-to video [about that]. Everybody has their unique experience. The flip side of that is you start a channel about that — but you don’t have a big channel. It’s almost like an unbreakable dichotomy. It’s an interesting issue to get around. I didn’t want to pretend when I didn’t have anything to prove it with. I was able to reference other successful channels I was building. But I also wanted to approach it as: This channel is small, but I’m going to out-research everyone else. It was important to me early on to give real insights to the best of my knowledge. I had to test it myself or research it so I could give the most educated information. 

[10:34] Allan: I love that! In fact, you’re right that people will look at those metrics rather than letting content speak for itself. Is that something that people struggle with in the beginning, you think: They aren’t getting consistent growth right off the bat? 

Nate: I think what a lot of people do not understand is that the type of channel you’re looking to make greatly affects so much about the future of that channel: from growth rate to the actual cap for the size of the channel you’re going to get. If I choose a niche for a smaller audience, if you’re going to keep on that trajectory, your channel is going to get only that big. That’s your capacity ceiling. It may grow beyond that only as YouTube acquires users in that niche, but in general, people go into it think the sky is the limit. That’s not the case. The type of audience you’re attracting, the nature of why they come to YouTube affects the growth you can expect, the speed of your growth and the spreadability of your videos.

[12:56] Allan: I think that’s such great advice! If you’re experimenting with a channel and then change the direction, do you think it’s better to start from scratch?

Nate: In most cases, it depends on how varied the approaches are. In most cases, you should restart because the interests do not align. Is there a moment I’d want to recommend to pivot? Only if there is a reasonable amount of overlap between the previous audience and the new audience. And we can talk for hours about a successful pivot. But in most cases, build a new channel. And I know it’s rough! It’s more rough to make that dramatic of a pivot, in terms of the algorithm. 

[15:09] Allan: Especially, when it comes to people who are following you, it’s hard to single them out. In terms of your channel, what’s your journey been like? In terms of growth, I imagine it’s more of a bell curve.

Nate: For the typical channel, it looks like:

  • You begin publishing to nobody. Nobody knows you exist and the algorithm doesn’t know what type of audience to bring to your channel.
  • Then, as you start to build your skills as a creator — and you start to show your algorithm, from there individual videos can take off. 
  • That will lead to that kind of growth.

In terms of my own channel, there were a few key moments. In the beginning, it was very, very slow. In a lot of ways, it was flat! Then YouTube shorts started happening. I picked up on that and built content. The channel experienced a spike. And then, another video of mine that caused a spike called “I Stopped Asking People to Subscribe — You Should Too!” It was a new way of thinking about YouTube. There were a few standout videos. As the audience grows, the slope increases. If you’re doing it right, you’ll have content that increases that slope. From there, there is an overall growth trajectory with spikes along the way. In fact, the point is: Many people go into thinking they just need a few viral videos. Viral videos are useless if you don’t know what to do about them. If the channel gets a viral video, it often goes back to where it was before but with a bunch of dead subscribers (people who are following you but not watching your videos). To avoid that, you have to make kite videos which are strategic videos that pull up the rest of your channel and lead to your baseline to pull up.

[18:52] Allan: I like that! You wouldn’t say this week, “If NFT’s is the trending topic, I’ll make a video on that.” Do you want to elaborate on what a kite video would be?

Nate: Sure! There are strategies beforehand, especially as you develop your sixth sense as a creator, especially when it comes to what type of video will do better. There are a lot of pieces that go into that. Then there is the pre-planning. You can strategically say, “This one will bring more audience, therefore I’ll send them to another video that relates to that at the end.” If a certain video performs well that you weren’t expecting to go big, you need to pivot your strategy shortly after. To publish what you already had in your pipeline is almost always a mistake. You need to follow up. At the very least, you want people to watch 2-3 more videos on your channel. That gives them more experience with your channel.

[20:41] Allan: I think a lot of people don’t plan things out. Obviously, you want to plan ahead with the publishing process. How much planning goes into every video for you?

Nate: It varies video to video. It’s often a video that’s based on an interesting idea and I give it a try. Then there is a follow-up for it. Planning varies and it depends on a topic. If it’s a video where I’m observing something, it comes from multiple past thoughts — that might take significantly less planning. I can just sit down and record it. 

[22:26] Allan: Cool! From your experience about what makes a big impact, is it consistency? Or trending topics? Or is it looking at metrics and making more of that topic? You mentioned Corridor Digital before. They talk about how important the thumbnails are (www.allanmckay.com/238). What makes the biggest impact?

Nate: I call it in this sequence:

  • The most important is the idea for the video itself. Is it an appealing idea for my audience or the audience I want to attract? If it’s not, kill it before you produce it.
  • Can I take that idea and make it into an appealing title? Something that delivers that idea successfully? And oftentimes the idea and the title overlap. 
  • The third item is your thumbnail.

If you don’t get those three things right, people won’t watch your videos. It’s dead in the water. The only reason a video would do well is if there is no other content like that. I prefer to be intentional. The other thing I’d say is: Publish as often as you can, especially in the early stages of your channel and still make full effort videos. Some are better than none, but the more often you publish, the more lines you have in the water. The more likely you will have a video that does take off — and the more practice you’ll have. If you’re publishing once a week, I recommend publishing twice a week: You can have one video you know it’ll do well and another that’s more experimenting. The worst is if you publish an experiment, and you follow up with another one that doesn’t do well. It’s hard to pick up from that. 

[27:11] Allan: In terms of people having a full-time job and family, obviously you need to batch your content together. What’s your experience with that? I remember you did something like creating enough content for a year. 

Nate: Batching is something I think every filmmaker should do at some point. It’s not a fit for everyone, but you should try it 3 or 4 times. It’s extremely effective if done well. What I would recommend more is having a blitz where you batch once a month or whatever time frame works for you. You can record a batch and it will free up your time for editing. Many of the videos on Channel Makers were batched. Before that, the 6 videos before my hiatus were recorded within 2 days. It works better for me to pick a week to record videos. That works with my energy and it frees up my capacity to do other things. Having some videos batched can take a lot of the stress off.

[30:11] Allan: At least for me, with the Podcast, I’m always looking out for new Podcasts. I’m really bummed when they stop publishing after 6 episodes. For me, the goal was to start with 6 episodes. And it helps to have a backup of content in case you hit a wall or crap happens in your life. It’s more for your mental state of “I’m not failing.”

Nate: A hundred percent! 

[31:38] Allan: To talk about any YouTube page, when you first arrive at a new page, you see the welcome video. Do you recommend everyone has one? Do you think people should be frontloading what expectations others should have?

Nate: Most of the time, I don’t recommend that people do them. What you’re referring to is the first video that often auto plays when someone visits a new page. Most of the time, people are often at those! Don’t do it! Most of the time, I recommend putting a more recent video that has a really interesting beginning (30 seconds). If you are going to do one of those, there is a right way to do it:

  • It has to be 30 seconds or less.
  • You have to give the best energy in it.
  • Ask yourself the question, “What’s my channel in a nutshell?” If you can do that, then go for it! 

[34:07] Allan: In terms of having a lot of growth early on on your channel, was it about YouTube shorts?

Nate: Yes.

[34:25] Allan: Got it! I definitely recommend for everyone to check out your channel! What would you say about shorts in general? How do they stand?

Nate: They’re still very effective. They spread a lot. They accomplish what YouTube wanted them to accomplish. I think YouTube has it in an odd space. They don’t know if they should be on a full-length channel or their own channel. Personally, I’m slightly disappointed by that. I was hoping they would have more content types. But as the playing field is leveling out, it’s not going in that direction. It’s going more in the Tik-Tok viral direction. Which may be what YouTube wanted them to be. YouTube shorts will only work if they’re making entertaining styles of content. It has to start as an entertaining concept. 

[37:30] Allan: Especially when things are more optimized for watch time. I’ve purposefully stayed away from Tik-Tok. I’m enjoying having time in the day to get shit done. The way you watch those is when you look for distraction. Another thing I’m curious about is: I have heard mixed things about live streams or YouTube lives. What’s your take on that?

Nate: Remember me taking how people don’t realize that the audience they’re trying to get determines their growth? This plays into that a lot. Most of the time, a live stream does not spread beyond your current audience. It’s very rare that that happens. Most of the time, it’s really long form content. And if someone doesn’t know you, they won’t want to watch a 1-hour video. They may watch it if it’s intentional. Most of the time, because they aren’t edited, they’re like a Podcast. The elements that are valuable in it are harder to get to. They’re good for your current audience, however. People will feel like they’re with you live, hanging out and asking questions. For those matters, it can be really awesome. But if all you did was YouTube lives, it’s not going to help your channel grow.

[41:23] Allan: Especially in our short attention span economy. What’s your take on YouTube Premieres?

Nate: My take with them is they aren’t done very often. When you schedule a Premiere, people can set up for it. You can get some pre-exposure for a video. But I don’t see any significant difference between them and regular videos. I’ll pull us back to the audience’s intent. If people are there to ask questions, a Premiere isn’t good for that. That piece of content isn’t going to change because it’s been pre-made. There may be some questions in the chat. 

[43:44] Allan: Around designing content with intent, I find keyword search pretty elusive. What’s your process for doing keyword research?

Nate: That’s an interesting question! You can build a whole channel on that — and there are channels on that. You can build a channel based on its ongoing appeal to an audience. You have people who will watch every piece of content. If people make content based on keyword research, that doesn’t make for interesting content for an ongoing viewer. If one video is about how to replace the tire on a Ford F150 and the next on how to change the brakes on a Honda Civic. How many people own both vehicles and have those same issues? That’s one approach. For my own channel, I’ll look at keywords but most of the time, I base my videos on an appealing idea. That is where I find more of the ideas when I’m making videos.

[46:22] Allan: Longterm, that works better than trying to grab someone’s attention short term.

Nate: Some of the best videos do both. They appeal to an ongoing audience and win some keyword searches, you got some winning content!

[46:34] Allan: In terms of idea generation, what advice would you give? 

Nate: As a creator, there are a few places. YouTube has two parts: one for you as a creator wanting to do something; the other is following the market and understanding what’s appealing. You can come up with an idea and measure against the market. Or you can do it the other way around. What ideas are doing well on YouTube right now? That’s the simplest way of describing that. 

[47:56] Allan: One big question I have is should you delete underperforming videos? I understand it removes the watched time on your channel.

Nate: Here’s my take on that: Deleting them (or making them private) removes that watch time. You need those watch hours for getting monetized. There are two sides to that. I did that in the past couple of months. I put a couple of videos as private on my channel and right after, I saw a dip in my impressions. I have not been able to figure out why YouTube would do that. If you do have videos that aren’t related to what you’re doing, that can affect it. Or if there are pieces of content that aren’t relevant, you can choose to delete it.

[50:25] Allan: What’s your take on how you refer to your notes when on camera? Do you use a teleprompter?

Nate: I do not script out my videos. I use bullet points. I don’t use teleprompter and there are personality types that do well. YouTube is about connecting with people and personality, and if it feels too produced or rehearsed, it starts to feel unnatural. Often, I’ll have my bullet points. I’ll talk to the camera, look at the computer while silent and I clip that out. In most cases, if I’m doing a story, I’d want to storyboard that thing. If it’s important to get content into a short piece, I’ll wordsmith into a pretty concise sort of thing. Then I review it and then I say it.

[52:36] Allan: You also do a lot of training. Do you want to talk about that and your students’ wins?

Nate: It’s been really cool. A bit of a background on that: I have a program called Project 24. It has a community and a library of resources. It’s very living and it’s always being updated. We have a map. You put a pin in it. When someone is making $1,000 a month from Project 24, I can see that pin. And it’s awesome to see! It’s exciting for me. We’ve started making plaques for people who are making $4K a month from their YouTube channels, we ship those plaques to them. Speaking earlier about the roadmap, you can predict your success on YouTube. It comes down to having the right strategies and knowing your skill sets at the right phase of your channel. If you go to www.ChannelMakers.com, you can learn more about that.

[55:04] Allan: So cool! I appreciate your time. Where can people go to find out more about the cool stuff you do?

Nate: Go to the Channel Makers YouTube Channel. I’m on a hiatus from publishing but it will start back up. 

[55:50] Allan: Thank you again for all this information!

Nate: Thank you!


Okay, what did you think? I want to thank Nate for taking the time to chat! 

I’ll be back with Nick Seavert, Founder of Janga FX. You might be familiar with them because of EmberGen.

Until then –

Rock on!


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