His journey started as a simple doctor vlogging and now he's grown his YouTube channel into a $1.2 million dollar, multi-employee business.
His latest endeavor is a an online course: Part-Time YouTube Academy. I joined the first cohort in October 2020 - and bought the highest-price tier Executive Edition.
Sounds good, right?
Feel free to skip this section to get to the meat of the review.
I highly recommend the course, completed the lessons, and have a growing YouTube channel as a result, and experienced a bunch of indirect growth on YouTube and Twitter from engagement with Ali and the course community.This course will save you tens or hundreds of hours putting together your own DIY curriculum of YouTube, vetting it for quality, making rookie mistakes, and growing your channel more slowly than necessary (less feedback, built-in early adopters to your channel). You can spend some money to save yourself a lot of time and energy.
If you know you want to buy the course already, here's a link to purchase (or hop on the waitlist if you're reading this and the course isn't currently open).
I suggest you watch my YouTube video breaking down each module lesson-by-lesson (13 minutes).
(Hopefully, the quality of the video (especially compared to my first video) may speaks for itself!)
Skip to the section "Free Resources to Invest in if You Don't Buy" so you can start to with some of the best free resources I've found on YouTubing.
10+ hours into that process, you might find that just want to get the same information structured for you in a high quality, low-repetition course with a built-in community of people building alongside you ...but let's be honest: if you're sufficiently motivated, all the info is already out there! And I'm happy to talk through any questions you might have.
In 2019, the startup I was on the founding team of sold for a hefty sum.
4 months later, I left, with a couple years in the bank of personal cash runway, to figure out my next journey.
Today, I'm creating content online around Roam Research and other learning, note-taking, and thinking tools, while teaching myself full-stack software development.
(My long-term ambitions are are to build a company in the education space - I'm especially interested in online, distributed learning combined with live, tutor-based local learning pods.)
Video's an incredibly compelling and accessible medium, especially for teaching others - and I think YouTube's still in the early days, as those who of us who grew up on it age into our peak purchasing + career development years.
I'd been following Ali since I watched his video on taking notes with an iPad Pro, which was so compelling that I immediately bought an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and downloaded Notability - which, to this day, is immensely useful for scalable, high-quality note-taking.
So while I wasn't necessarily Ali's target market at the time (medical students looking for studying advice), when I saw Ali posting on Twitter more often, and then learned he was launching a course (at the same time that I was committing to scale up my content creation efforts), it seemed like the perfect time to pull the trigger.
If you know you're interested in developing a YouTube channel (or scaling an existing one), and you have money to accelerate that learning curve, this is the #1 reason I would recommendthe course.
The video editing course alone made the entire investment worth it to me - I've rewatched and used it as a reference for nearly every video I've made, and the hodgepodge of free YT videos online (unstructured, on multiple versions of old Final Cut Pro software, poorly paced so there's 1-3 minutes of filler at the beginning of every video before you can determine if it answers the question you have) would have been a nightmare to comb through compared to this resource.
As a someone building an online business in a year where most of the world was stuck at home - maintaining social distance to avoid the spread of a novel global virus - it's easy to feel listless.
Each day feels similar. Progress on your goals is incremental. It's hard to get a foothold on your daily rhythms.
A big appeal of buying this course was the structure of live sessions over a 6-week period, as well as the fact that it slowly builds the foundational knowledge for YouTubing in a way that's intuitive and systematic at once.
You're given achievable homework assignments that build upon one another. You develop your skills while learning the abstract knowledge concurrently. Additionally, I had a strong group of 6+ fellow students (ranging from 0 to ~500 YT subscribers) in a Twitter-based accountability group of students in the course. This led to positive peer pressure and a sense of camaraderie that would be difficult to self-generate in the otherwise lonely world of online content-creation.
Since I every year I usually pre-commit a certain % of my available towards online courses and self-education, I had the money to purchase the Executive Edition of the course ($5,000 USD at the time).
This was absolutely worth it for the 1-on-1 time and attention from Ali himself during coaching calls, side DMs, and Loom-recorded video feedback on my individual videos. Hyper-encouraging and very useful, and had the side effect of increased visibility (I got shouted out 3+ times during the course's live sessions and Ali mentioned the possibility of a future collab!)
If you're like me and had more money than time to invest in new skills, consider the Executive Edition of the course when it's available. Ali doesn't currently offer 1:1 coaching anywhere else, so I consider this to be a deep discount on his hourly rate.
Here's my take on who should buy the course.
Part of that is due to the course price itself, but the other bit is due to the cost of gear.
You don't need any fancy gear to start working on YouTube (if you have, for example, an iPhone 11 equivalent or greater), but it will massively increase your video quality to purchase a camera, mic, lights, and editing software.
By my guesstimate, my accountability group members bought about $1K of gear on average.
It doesn't need to be right away. But at some point, if you want to grow your YouTube channel, you need to get consistent about producing videos.
And if you do this at a level of quality that the course recommends (vs. stream-of-consciousness blogging on your iPhone), that will take 10+ hours weekly. This is no small task.
This is just my personal criteria, but if you can't come up with at least a handful of interesting (interesting to you) ideas you could make videos about, maybe spend some time on that first.
This course is absolutely appropriate for beginners, but it's geared towards treating YouTube as a business, so I'd recommend brainstorming WHY you're interested in YouTube and come up with 5-10 ideas for videos, even if they're terrible, just to stress-test that conviction.
If you pass all 3 criteria above - congrats! You're ideal for this. If you don't? You can still buy it, but it might just take you longer to maximize the return on investment - and that's ok, too.
Here's the most important things I learned from the course (and what I disagreed with or found difficult in the course):
Consistency vs. quality is a false dichotomy, but consistency precedes quality on YouTube.
The route to making great videos and having a strong channel is publishing videos. Period.
When you look at the average video count → subscriber count when evaluating YouTube channel size, the picture is clear: make more videos, more often, to grow. In both channel size, and video quality.
While Ali constantly shares nuanced advice, interesting theories, and straight guesses (and notes which he's doing each as he responds), the reality is that the vast majority of live Q&A questions, especially for beginners, reduce down to:
Anxious on camera? Make more videos and it gets better.
Not sure what topics resonate? Make more videos and you'll figure it out by the response.
Want better titles? Make more videos, release them with a variety of titles, and see how they do.
Almost everything is just about practice and making more videos, UNTIL you reach a certain scale. That said, it IS helpful to know the nuanced answers and what will be useful in the future. And honestly, sometimes, you just need someone to tell you "don't worry about this yet" to be able to do just that.
I intellectually understood that things like batching types of tasks to avoid context switching friction was useful, but it wasn't until I was forced to try to make, shot, and edit 4 videos in sequence that I appreciated how different the processes felt.
Simple things like streamlining editing processes, filming 4+ videos a day then drip releasing them over time, leaving my gear and lighting set up so I could start filming faster, and more, all come together to make video-creation happen almost automatically.
It's taken about 2 months of effort to get to this point - but it might not have happened for 6+ months (if ever) without a resource like this: full of mental models, go-to's and frameworks that help you approach YouTube work in a systematic way.
This is the course that taught me the immense value of live cohorts.
I've taken over $20,000 of online courses in the past several years. And while many of them are paced out so that content is released in a "week-by-week" drip, I've never actively engaged with other students in the cohort and the instructors while the course was happening, with live lectures and chat.
The learning experience (and the motivation to apply the material and get feedback) was 1000 miles apart. If you can take this course as a live cohort (which is the only way it's offered as of February 2021, but I'm sure it will become self-paced eventually), you should do it.
Overall, I'd say that my chief issues with the course is this:
It's structured and positioned as a universal guide for YouTubers, and while that's definitely true, the course's examples and advice are most easily applied by intermediate YouTubers (which I'd defined as YouTubers with, say, 50-150 videos and 2,000 to 100,000 subs).
So if you're early in your journey, keep these things in mind:
Early on, you won't know what your niche is, and you need to make videos to get feedback from the market (and from your own nerve endings) to find out what works for them and for you.
You can't scientifically find the ikigai-esque niche except by writing, filming, and releasing content, and seeing what sticks over a long period of time.
See James Clear (one million email subscribers and a wildly successful best-selling book) on the topic of discovering your niche over time:
EDIT: As of Feb 2021, the course is a 6-week structure (2 lessons a week), not the original 4. This will likely ease the concerns of this point!
If you have no gear, no channel, and little video experience, the simple act of creating and publishing a video is a massive accomplishment.
Early on, I attended a homework session where the goal was, in 2 hours, to a) write a script (30 min), b) record a video (30 minutes), then edit a video (1 hour) in a sitting, while Ali did the same.
It took me 2 hours to write a first draft of my initial script, ~1.5 hours to set up my video and audio equipment (which was minimal!) to record my first video, ~2 hours to film my first video (and felt like it was going to be awful the whole time), and roughly 10 hours to edit that video (~12 minute-long final video). So... yeah. 2 hours was a little ambitious.
Realize that if you're a beginner, you will likely feel overwhelmed and "fall behind" in this course - especially with the video homework assignments. That's ok - expect it to be challenging and feel free to come back to lessons later.
Because of the fact that, "Until 50 Videos, All Advice Reduces to Make More Videos", students just starting a YouTube channel will need to consistently remind themselves to ignore 99% of advice about analytics, finding your ideal customer, monetization, content re-purposing, and many other 'sophisticated' topics that simply won't apply to their early efforts - but will be good to know later.
Students who can't mentally compartmentalize these examples and topics will likely feel overwhelmed OR begin to prematurely optimize metrics that are silly for them to focus on early on (e.g. A/B testing titles before you get thousands of daily video views on new videos; deciding your videos aren't "working" or you need to "pivot" niche before you've made 10 videos, etc.)
As I mentioned already, all of these quibbles (in an otherwise fantastic course) are understandable and not flaws per se, but things to keep in mind if you're not already making YouTube content regularly.
If you'd like to see a video summary of these points, check it out on my YouTube Channel.
The summaries start at 2 minutes and 13 seconds in:
Here's a graph of the course outline for a quick overview:
If this all sounds wonderful but you're not able or interested in paying $1,000+ to massively accelerate your learning loop (and avoid wasting time on repetition and sorting through free materials), don't worry. I still think you're great. And you can always change your mind later.
Here's some free resources to get you started on your journey in the meantime:
How to make money on YouTube in 2020 (and how much I earn)
How to Film YouTube Videos on Your Phone
My Creative Workflow with Notion (Content Creation Templates)
How it Feels to Reach 1 MILLION Subscribers
Video Editing with Final Cut Pro X - From Beginner to YouTuber (Skillshare)
Marcos Rocha (Video Production)
Peter McKinnon (Video Production + YouTubing)
Daniel Schiffer (Video Production + Editing)
Nigel Barros (Video Produciton + YouTubing)
Armando Ferreira (Video Production)
Becki and Chris (Video Production + Vlogging)
ThinkMedia (Video Production + YouTubing)
My YouTube Studio Setup (Peter McKinnon)
How I Make My YouTube Videos (Daniel Schiffer)
How to Film YouTube Videos (Parker Walkbeck)
How I make my videos (Matt D'Avella)
Sony A6400 | Best Camera For Video Under $1,000?
Sigma 16mm F1.4: The Best Lens I've Tested All Year
Best Camera for YouTube? Canon M50 VS. Sony A6400
Best Video XLR Shotgun Microphone?
The ULTIMATE YouTube Studio Setup for $1000
In summary, Ali Abdaal's Part-Time YouTube Academy is an invaluable resource if you want to treat YouTube as a business, are willing to (at some point) commit to publishing 1x video a week for 2 years, and want to radically speed up your learning curve with proven methodologies from a great teacher who's grown incredibly fast on the platform.
As of this writing, future cohort sizes will be limited (e.g. 200 participants - and the first cohort had ~400, so it will sell out very quickly!), so if you're interested, I'd recommend getting on board and risk having to ask for a refund later.
If you're not, the course looks like it's being offered in ~3 month cohort rotations, so you can always wait for a future batch.
Buy the course (or sign up for updates) here:
Thanks, and good luck!