How Long it Takes Me to Make a YouTube Video

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been putting a lot of time into YouTube lately. How much, you may ask? Well, I had the same question, so I did what any good nerd does and installed Toggl to track my work.

What I Tracked

I didn’t want to drive myself crazy with the details, so I broke my timers into 4 categories:

  1. Writing and research
  2. Shooting
  3. Editing
  4. Publishing (title, thumbnail, description, uploading to YouTube)

I did this over the course of 3 videos:

  1. Stop using the Twitter app
  2. HomePaper First Look
  3. Is iOS 14.5 the longest beta cycle ever?

The Results

I tracked 10 hours and 10 minutes to complete all 3 videos, and here’s how my time broke down across all 3 projects:

Nearly half of the time was spent editing, and a quarter of the time was spent writing. The part you see from the outside of me being on camera only accounted for 18% of the time, or 1 hour 50 minutes.

If you were curious how much shooting it takes to create these videos, the total run time of these 3 videos was 17 minutes, which means 85% of the time I spent in front of the camera ended up on the cutting room floor.

One thing I will say here is that my operation is very much optimized for speed. I could definitely devote more time to each video and come up with more elaborate shots and maybe dive deeper into topics, but (a) I don’t think most people want that and (b) I simply don’t have time to do that given how much I want to share and how much time I have before my day job starts every day.

I say this without ego, and just as a fact, 10 hours of work to push out 3 videos is insanely fast. I’ve been editing video since my dad bought me iMovie in 1999, I taught myself Final Cut Pro back in the days before YouTube even existed and the idea of a “video tutorials” was a pipe dream, and I went to college for TV production where I specialized in editing sports highlight reels. I’ve probably spent close to 10,000 hours in front of a computer editing video in my life, so I’d better be quick at this point!

Oh, and I'm prioritizing timely videos about topics I think people will find interesting, and the visual production values are evolving over time. Other channels have objectively better-looking productions, and they're major inspirations to where I'd like to get.

Different Videos = Different Time Commitments

The 3 videos did a pretty good job of showing the spread of video types I make.

  1. Videos with a fully-written script.
  2. Videos with an outline, but an idea I basically had fully formed already.
  3. Videos with zero script, basically just turn on the camera and go.

The video about quitting the Twitter app was 100% scripted, and it went through a couple rewrites as I figured out the best way to share as much information as quickly as possible. I try to be economic with words on this blog, but you have to be brutal in video. It was 5 hours of work total, with some writing, but the edit took a long time as I had lots of cutaways and frankly it took me a while to get all of the on-camera bits right. I don’t have a teleprompter, so scripted stuff equals me memorizing bits of the script at a time, doing it to camera, and then memorizing the next bit.

The video about the iOS 14.5 beta required a good amount of data collection to see what the answer to the question it posed even was, but then the video and edit was pretty easy from there. I had a general outline and a few key points I wanted to make, so I just did that one extemporaneously to camera.

And then there was the first look at the HomePaper app, which I did zero writing or outlining for. I play with the app for a few minutes and then shot the video. It was simple, but got the job done for what I think people needed from an overview of a simple app. Not every video needs to be 10+ minutes, after all.


My real takeaway is that YouTube is not currently paying me below minimum wage. 😛

That shouldn’t be a surprise, though. The channel is still young, and it’s making a fine amount of money now, but it’s not quit my job money yet. The hope is that this continues to grow and eventually I will need to ask myself if I want to do it full time, but we’re not there yet. If you don’t already, now’s as good a time as any to subscribe to A Better Computer.